Wednesday, May 16, 2007

American Idol: Top 3 results

My access to the NJ.com blog is down at the moment, so I'm just going to post my "Idol" thoughts here. Irritating spoilers to follow...
The judges are wrong. They’ve always been wrong. It’s not a singing competition. It’s never been a singing competition.

Need proof? Look to last night’s “American Idol” results, when Melinda Doolittle – by far the season’s best singer – went home, leaving the far less-gifted Blake Lewis and Jordin Sparks as the final two.

Melinda was one of the best pure vocal talents “Idol” had ever found, up there with Kelly Clarkson, Tamyra Gray, Elliott Yamin and a few others. But as celebrity mentor Peter Noone helpfully explained earlier this season, “Idol” is a voting competition, not a singing competition. You can hit every note, sell every emotion, tackle every genre, and in the end what seems to matter more is whether you have nice hair, or a bubbly personality, or in some other way appeal to young girls or older women, the two largest “Idol” voting blocs.

Melinda seemed to recognize this going in. A former professional backup singer stepping into the spotlight for the first time, she sold the “Aw, shucks, you all love little ol’ me?” for all it was worth – until Simon Cowell told her to stop doing it and act like she knew she was so great.

Her personal hook gone, all Melinda had to rely on was her voice, and while it was brilliant, it was also consistently brilliant. This started to bore the audience and the judges, who both gravitate towards performers who make some sort of “journey” with their talent. Randy Jackson began referring to her weekly as “our resident pro” in a way that made it sound like an insult. Paula Abdul complained last week that Melinda was too consistently good, that she needed to show them something different.

Her only other real Achilles heel was a tendency to come across like a much older woman with older tastes; she would be a challenge to sell to contemporary CD buyers, where Blake (Timberlake-esque dance music) and Jordin (“High School Musical”-esque tween pop) are both practically ready to go in the studio tomorrow.

The producers have to be pleased by this outcome, since they’ve been grudging in their praise of Melinda and haven’t tried to hide the fact that Jordin’s their favorite. In a head-to-head match-up with Melinda in the finale, Jordin’s vocal shortcomings would have been much more obvious, but Blake’s an even more limited singer. Assuming the winner of this year’s songwriting competition delivers another treacly, glory note-filled ballad along the lines of “Inside Your Heaven” and “A Moment Like This,” Jordin’s going to look a lot better than Blake.

A finale without Melinda feels both besides the point and completely appropriate. In the Year of Sanjaya, what sense would it make for somebody with Melinda’s voice to have a shot at winning?

19 comments:

Nicole said...

I am disappointed that the best singer was not in the final. But Idols are now won by who can text message the most and Melinda's fans were unlikely to be familiar with that method of voting, or else unwilling to. It's scary that Melinda's consistency was seen as boring because Blake and Jordin are versions of what is already out there, whereas Melinda was unique. Perhaps she will be like JHud and surpass them all, but in the meantime, the final will be awfully painful, with Blake's overused beatboxing and Jordin's off-key warbling.

Anonymous said...

I've heard a lot of people saying the producers are clearly pulling for Jordin and some speculation that it's even been rigged in her favor. I don't follow the show that closely, so what have the producers said about Jordin?

And I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but it does seem like Jordin stands a much better chance of winning if she's up against Blake and not Melinda. I wonder how much the producers really do manipulate the results.

Adam said...

The fans who know how to text message are also the demographic that buys records.

Anonymous said...

Has there been any type of study of Idol voting blocs? How do we know that young girls and older women are the biggest blocs? Are there numbers, or is that just conventional wisdom based on Nielsen data?

J said...

The irony here is that the kids aren't buying records. The kids didn't push Michael Buble and Rush (!) towards the top of the charts. Amy Winehouse is now making waves b/c she's got the edgier adult contemporary crowd finding her out, while Lily Allen's crowd just d/l'd her CD.

Nicole said...

Actually, I think the kids call them CDs nowadays.... I suspect most will only download the winning single from iTunes and the rabid fans will be the ones to purchase the entire album.

In any case, I don't think any of the final three are able to replicate the fantastic sales of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. It's inevitable that the show cannibalizes itself as it goes on, and unless that Idol can work a particular niche, like Carrie Underwood in country, there are already plenty of more talented "pop" stars out there.

And as evidenced by Taylor Hicks, a rabid fanbase does not always equate massive sales.

KC said...

Rarely is pure vocal talent the criteria for a singer's success, and most recording artists seem to make it on much less unless they are blessed with unique songwriting abilities or a hot band. Melinda lacks that emotional connection to the audience who weren't about to reward her without it. Plain and simple. Honestly, I don't think Melinda has the personality to be a singing star or she would have been one already. I mean Sheryl Crow and Shania Twain were back up singers once too.

I predict Jordin likely will take the prize unless Blake, with his limited voice, uses his producing savvy to come up with something extraordinarily original.

CC said...

I'm happy about the finals. Melinda may technically have the best voice, but she lacked charisma, excitement and star quality. I think Jordin and Blake could have "it". Nowawdays great vocals aren't even important - it's the arrangement, the sound and the charisma of the performer. Not to worry though. Melinda will have an album - CD - soon enough. Heck, Paris Bennett and Kellie Pickler do. So does Catherine McFee, and gee, what about Chris Daughtry? His CD is already platinum. As far as I'm concerned, nobody's a loser on American Idol anymore.

Undercover Black Man said...

Melinda should sing straight-up jazz. Old-school... standards... like Nnenna Freelon or Vanessa Rubin. I'd pay to see her in a jazz-club setting.

Dark Tyler said...

I'd love to see her release a rock album. But I'm sure she's taking the boring route, the absolutely wrong one, the one indicated by Randy "Johnson" when he selected some generic Whitney thing for her. Ugh.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I would have picked Jordin-Blake as my dream finale, right now I have grown to flat out dislike Blake and to just kinda like Jordin, so eh.

Still glad Melinda's out, though, for old times' sake. :P

Kris Eton said...

Melinda was too old for this show. Not in age, although she is 29, but in style. It doesn't matter if you are technically the best singer, it's all about being the "American Idol." Which is someone who will be putting out a top 40 song. This would NOT have been Melinda.

Also, you have to remember that many, many big time singers do NOT perform live anymore. Their sound is created in a studio. They can repeat the phrases over and over again to get it just right, and then use the 'perfect' version in their concerts and lip sync along.

I think Jordin will win because she *does* have a beautiful voice. Range is not always so dang important. Everyone does not need to be a Whitney Houston or a Celine Dion. Jordin can sing. She's adorable. She's accessible. That is a big reason why she is still standing there on the Idol stage.

Same with Blake. He doesn't have the best voice. But he's modern. Original. Different. Young.

How many times has the 'best singer' been booted off near the end of the competition? No one should be surprised Melinda is gone.

Fred App said...

I hate to sound like an old fart, but I'm sorry. If Blake has "charisma," then the word means a heckuva lot less than it did when I occupied the demographic of American Idol voters. If the setting were different -- if, say, you were watching Blake perform in a bar or a small club, rather than on national TV -- I don't think you'd walk away thinking, "Man, that's a star in the making." I think you'd say, "Eh. Decent karaoke. I wonder if I can get him to play my frat party."

Alan Sepinwall said...

it's all about being the "American Idol." Which is someone who will be putting out a top 40 song. This would NOT have been Melinda.

Well, that wasn't Taylor, either, and it didn't turn out to be Ruben or Fantasia, for that matter. The show has a spotty track record of producing a winner who can be a legitimate radio presence, with Kelly and Carrie doing well and the other three all being upstaged in some way by a rival from their season. (Clay sold better than Ruben, though he's faded a bit, too; Jennifer Hudson beat Fantasia out for the Oscar-winning role; Chris Daughtry's selling rings around Taylor.)

As I say at the top, I recognize that it's not a singing competition, and I've been saying all season that Melinda would be a challenge to market to today's music consumers. But the finale's going to be much poorer without her.

aimee said...

Agreed, Alan. In fact, it'll be so much poorer without her that I don't give a rat's ass which one of the others wins. They've both got so-so voices, with Jordin's a bit better than Blake's.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, both Ruben and Fantasia have had moderate-to-good success on the R&B/hip-hop charts. I'd say they're both as "niche" as Carrie, in a field that's a lot more crowded.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but the show is called American IDOL. Finding someone who can do well in a niche market isn't what the show was meant to be about.

Frankly, Blake is the only person since Kelly who I can see having a legitimate career in Top 40. Jordin is talented, but I don't see her doing any better than Kimberly Locke did a few years ago.

Dark Tyler said...

Blake is the only person since Kelly who I can see having a legitimate career in Top 40.

You mean Carrie. :P

In an era where the High School Musical OST outsells every single release of 2006, Jordin could actually sell a lot.

Blake, though? Nah. A whole album full of Casio sounds? You can get away with it if you're The Knife, but Blake is no Knife, he's just a guy who likes to spend time singing in his bathroom. I mean, come on. He's not contemporary (more like the '80s) and he's not original. He's... nothing, really!

Undercover Black Man said...

Dark Tyler, I can't argue with you. But Blake did provide one of the most memorable moments of the season for me... which was vocal-turntablism breakdown in "Virtual Insanity." That one rocked me back in my seat.

Anonymous said...

bring back Rock Star: INXS (but not Super Nova)