American Idol

As a guest judge for American Idol (it was requested I do this), I watched the regular performance show and then the results show this past week. I jotted down a few notes so I could remember how it all went down. It was an unusual show in some ways and I will take advantage of that the best I can.

The Audience: 3 out of 10

The audience did poorly this week. This was obviously by design. Normally when a judge is going to make any sort of critical comment they first preface their comment by telling the audience that they are going to boo. Even if a judge forgets to tell the crowd this, they will boo at the slightest hint of a negative comment or even a helpful suggestion because it is pointing out that someone might have been ever-so-slightly less-than perfect. I have to think this was a producer decision because when they laid into Lazaro there was not a sound from the audience AT ALL. I have never seen this before and it was consistent in the past that the audience loudly object to any negative comments toward any contestant. There was no audience reaction at all to negative comments this week. This suggests to me that they have been booing on cue like there is normally a flashing “BOO!” sign to tell them to do that. The audience did react and cheer whenever Randy Jackson raised his voice throughout a sentence so that “Cheer!” sign must be working. Overall the audience behaved like they each partook of a cozy warm spoonful of melted heroin. Because they showed up and sat in their seats, and because they did cheer appropriate to the performance before them I give them what points I can.

Ryan Seacrest: 8 out of 10

I feel embarrassed that I was able to spell Seacrest’s name correctly. First I typed it, then I checked it on Google. He is one of the most capable hosts ever on TV, like it or not. He always holds himself well regardless of what is going right or wrong and gives a sense of constancy to the show. I knock off a couple points for lacking the regular snarkiness he normally has. Like I said, this show was different somehow as if everyone was told to tone down certain aspects of the show this time around. Seacrest is not my favorite personality by a long shot, but I hate him less than most other emcees.

Keith Urban: 9 out of 10

Not only is this guy as genuine and nice a person as you could possibly hope for your next door neighbor, but he is absolutely honest with his critique while coming across as being caring and helpful. That he did not criticize Amber who went grossly off pitch a total of four times in one song tells me that his opinion is bought and sold like all the others. Still, he is the most likable, genuine, and honest personality on the panel.

Nicki Minaj: 7 out of 10

I was also able to spell her name without checking first. What is wrong with me? What points she loses for talking through her nose in that annoying nasal voice is made up for by her genuinely pretty face. She seems to put too much emphasis on the contestant’s quirky fashion choices and behavior to match, but her saving grace is that she is most pointed in saying exactly what she thinks, good or bad. She would have scored higher if she hadn’t sold out with her vote to Amber who didn’t deserve supporting. Nicki makes the show fun with her nicknames for each contestant.

Randy Jackson: 5 out of 10

Randy is one of the best bass players on planet earth. I’ve seen him perform and closely studied exactly what notes he played and how they fit into the performance. I respect him greatly for this. As a judge and personality, he is a middle-class white man trapped in a black man’s body. He seems to be in denial of his whiteness with all this “dawg” and “dude” nonsense that is awkward at best. Not once this week did he use his two main catchphrases, “that was pitchy” and this person is “in it to win it”. Randy was off his game. When he is not obviously trying to be black, he is trying to be caring and helpful and supportive while being honest. But his general demeanor makes me embarrassed to have him on my TV in my living room.

Mariah Carey: 1 out of 10

Mariah gets one point simply because she has one of the best voices on the planet. I don’t like her genre of choice but her performance on MTV Unplugged many years ago is one of a handful of my all-time favorite recordings — “I’ll be There”. She seems deathly afraid of saying anything negative about any of the contestants. She also seems deathly afraid to say anything because it might mar her mystical diva status. In that it takes her six paragraphs to state one simple idea she is marring herself plenty. Lazaro with his severe stuttering is more eloquent. As Mariah tries to be perfect she fails to be human — in a bad way.

The Show’s Theme: 3 out of 10

I’m sorry, but songs by Burt Bacharach & Hal David is not for this group of relatively young people. The style of most of their hits is too dated for these performers and most any audience that dwells on top of the soil instead of beneath it. Nice songs, well crafted songs, but they are not vocal-competition-level songs.

I always think that most of the time the contestants should choose their own songs to do instead of performing something they have never heard. The second round was songs the contestants wish they had written. I take it back, the contestants should not choose their own music because, like the show’s producers, they themselves don’t know what sort of song shows off their own voices. By and large this show was one of the worst I have ever seen in song choice and performance level.

You might wonder why I waited until now to review the contestants. That is because in a two-hour show they are performing for about a total of 20 minutes. When I am not taking notes to write a blog article it takes me about 40 minutes to watch this show which I always record and fast-forward through the crap. That two hours is mostly commercials and judges talking and montages about the contestants. I don’t care if the contestants are people, I want to see them perform. I don’t care if Lazaro stutters when he talks, I care about his tone and phrasing when he sings.

Lazaro: 2 out of 10

I know what Lazaro’s problem is when singing. He has a tremendously limited vocal range. There does not seem to be a song where the highest pitch he can hit is adjusted for and then the lowest note of the melody is remarkably below his range so that he goes way off pitch. He was voted off this week after two markedly horrible performances. The band changed key and it took about four measures before Lazaro did as well. Horror. While the group “Vote for the Worst” and their huge bloc of votes is what kept him in this long, the weak talent of the male pool that made it to the TV competition in comparison to what was available showed that the deck was stacked so a female would win without a doubt. Where was JDa? If I could put on a black dress and sparkly silver high heels and perform like him then I would certainly do so, and my wife would understand.

Amber: 3 out of 10

Amber has a very pretty face. Amber is very skinny. Hopefully someday there will be a meeting of meat and bones. She belongs as a lead in a Disney children’s TV show. Amber has one tone of voice and one level of volume and she is pretty good while she stays there throughout every damned performance. In one song she went drastically off pitch four impossible-to-ignore times. The judges did not mention it because the producers want to push her forward; yes, it was that obvious.

Angie: 5 out of 10

Angie has double the musicianship of Amber vocally, she has two tones and two volumes which both work, soft and belting. Angie makes love to the camera with her eyes on close-ups and the producers must absolutely love that. Her vocal quality and sense of pitch are both good, but the sonic barrage is nonstop. For the vocal power to have meaning there must be silences intermingled and she does not seem to get that. Also her teeth are too big and I don’t understand how her lips can come together when she closes her mouth, there must be an overbite that is not obvious.

Janelle: 6 out of 10

Janelle was not very good this past week but she has been much better. I am not rating the judges or contestants only on this past week but overall. She is sort of cute in a way I like and the ever-present high-heeled cowboy boots really work for her. She has a potent vocal weapon in that she can hit one note and smoothly slide into a note above it in a way that is powerful and compelling. She is the girl next door. After this last week, I want to move.

Kree: 8 out of 10

Kree is ordinary looking and a true artist. Her sense of phrasing, use of silence between short vocal passages, and her variety of tones of singing voice are all wonderful. She has the makings of a genuine commercial artist and I expect her to be a success in the music industry, unlike all those listed above. I am not a country fan, but I am a Kree fan.

Candice: 10 out of 10

There is no such thing as 110 percent. If you give 100 percent then you have given everything and then drop down stone-cold dead. Only because of this reality does Candice not get more than the allotted ten. Candice is neither pretty nor unattractive, she is a force of nature. She is a master of phrase and intonation. She uses silence to punctuate her vocals. She has tremendous power, can put an edge to her voice, can be sweetly soft, has a great variety of tones of voice. American Idol has never had this good of a talent on the show before and that accounts for each individual performance of hers throughout this entire season. Candice is too good for this show and should be a major recording artist and performer. That she is not consistently rated as the obvious winner by the judges each and every week is a travesty. My only criticism is that she should never wear pants, they make her look fat. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? The show ain’t over until the fat lady sings. The competition was over — or should have been — the first time she took the stage. She is that good.

4 thoughts on “American Idol

  1. OK now I’m going to be late but I couldn’t stop reading. I haven’t watched any of the series here in Sydney except for last night so I mostly knew who you were talking about. A quick watch of Candice singing Don’t make me over on Youtube and I am sold. Goosebumps. And yes the slightly shiny pants are less than flattering.
    Thanks for being so nice about the Aussie by the way. I find Nicki Minaj too over the top nice, making everyone possibly think they are going to win including some who have already gone. Actually I did watch one other episode and liked Devin but I guess he’s long gone too. He gave me goosebumps too but maybe it was the song, which I forget. Loved this. Hilarious. Not sure I could cope with being on the receiving end of your opinion though 🙂

    • It would depend what you are aspiring to. Context. If you are trying to win a recording contract in order to become a superstar performer as these contestants are, I am not going to mince words. If you are instead trying to get up the nerve to sing one karaoke song at a small party then I would be more prone to coddle and support. I take into consideration the level aspired to and compare that to what you can currently do.

      If you want your work presented on the world stage then your talent and level of craft must match that level or you are certain to fail. Sadly, most people are not willing to pay the dues of properly learning their craft despite having the talent to succeed otherwise. Those people with such talent and lack of craft are sometimes subjected to my honest opinion; otherwise, I don’t bother beating a dead horse.

  2. Thanks for the tonality explanation – it does add a lot to my interpretation of the performances. I just couldn’t my finger on why neither Amber or Angie don’t effect me in any way.

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