Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: David Archuleta, inevitable 'American Idol'

Today's column previews the "American Idol" finals -- specifically, the question of how the show can/should deal with the inevitability factor:

David Archuleta will be the next "American Idol."

This is not a prediction. This is a fact.

If you were to breed a potential "American Idol" winner in a lab, you could not do better than Archuleta, the 17-year-old kid from Utah who effectively ended the competition two weeks ago with his performance of John Lennon's "Imagine."

Archuleta ticks every possible demographic box for the tween girls and grandmothers who are the two dominant "Idol" voting blocs. He's cute but non-threatening, polite and terribly sincere. Think back to previous seasons and how long contestants like one-note crooner John Stevens IV or tone-deaf Sanjaya Malakar lasted, solely for ticking those same boxes.

Now imagine if one of them were a terrific singer -- which Archuleta most certainly is.
To read the full thing, click here. Beatles songs tonight. I love the Beatles. I fear this theme will ruin my appreciation for certain songs.

22 comments:

J said...

Gack. You're trying to make me root for Smithson, aren't you? I couldn't hate this kid more were he in Vampire Weekend. Actually, he looks a little like Vampire Weekend's keyboard player. God, I hate him.

Was Cook's performance that universally praised? I liked it (and I haven't really cared for any of his others), but I thought Castro's Cohen cover was what lit up the iTunes for the week.

Pam said...

I hope David Archuleta doesn't win. I don't care how great of a singer he is, his breathing is severely annoying.

Dark Tyler said...

Now we'll finally get to see how much fun it can be to consistently hate on a seemingly perfect 17 year old kid for three months.

Oh man it's gonna be perfect. And in the finale, before the crowning ceremony, the producers will bring us on stage and Saint David will bless us release us from our hate.

And then he'll duet with Bono.

Adam said...

Here's my take on the tiers of competitors.

Archuleta ... it's just something about his poise ... he just projects a level of readiness well beyond his years. Compare him to Paris Bennett, say, who always seemed like a little girl singing her mom's favorite songs.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I don't know. I absolutely love Vampire Weekend, they've been a permanent fixture in my shuffle for weeks, and Archuleta leaves me cold. In fact, I sort've check out when he's on stage.

I'm rooting for Cook. Not to win and sing that God-awful stuff they make them put out, but rather to finish somewhere along the lines of Daughtry, and go on to have a successful career.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Archuleta ... it's just something about his poise ... he just projects a level of readiness well beyond his years.

He kind of reminds me of a male DeGarmo, actually, but where we're conditioned to mistrust pageant-trained girls, our radar doesn't go off when a boy has been so clearly trained for this moment for so long.

Jenn said...

Alan, I love your ideas for embracing it. It would be much more fun that the fake fake-outs of years' past. Kind of like the Jeopardy Ultimate Tournament of Champions where everyone competed just to play Ken Jennings, and Ken ended up losing. It as good hype and kept things interesting.

Alex said...

As someone excluded from both of his demographics (grannies & t(w)eens), he does nothing for me. People talk about cringing when Constantine sang? I cringe when this one sings. I can't look at him, even if he does have a pleasant voice.

If he does win, I'm interested to see how they'll market him and if he sells a ton of records. I guess they'll try to do a Jesse McCartney thing.

Dan said...

I'm hoping the reference to Amanda Overmyer was a dig at the Patriots and not an actual possible prediction. Amanda Overmyer has about a 0.000000001% chance of winning this thing. She's only made it this far because there are enough "unique" people voting. She'll be gone by the top 10.

Alan Sepinwall said...

It was a joke about the only remaining contestant I feel would be capable of (and maybe interested in) stomping the snot out of Archuleta.

No, Amanda has no chance whatsoever of winning, and if she doesn't pick the perfect Beatles song tonight (preferably an early R&B-influenced number), she could go home as early as tomorrow.

Bobman said...

Way to dig up old sports wounds, Alan....

Anonymous said...

Random question, Alan. Will you be reviewing John Adams on HBO?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Random question, Alan. Will you be reviewing John Adams on HBO?

Unfortunately, yes. (I found much of it a snooze.) It'll be published on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

How do we know the dominant voting blocs? Speculation based on evidence, or has there ever been any type of analysis done? Just curious.

Nicole said...

I thought his Imagine was good, but I don't think it means he wins this. AI super fans watch from the very beginning, while the rest of the population will only really get into it tonight. If he keeps picking songs similar to last week, he will be seen as not singing up to his potential and that may be more damning than when other singers meet their lowered expectations.

The backlash is already there in the fandom forums and it may also work against him if his performances aren't all 100%. America likes its male singers a bit more macho and he may be another Clay Aiken if Carly, Brooke or Michael step up.
I'm not saying Archuleta is gay, but I do think Aiken's fey tendencies is what ultimately kept him in the number 2 spot.


David Cook is another Blake, interesting, and will stay for a while, but not strong enough to be in a final. I also don't understand the deal with Castro (not Fidel). I have heard much better versions of Hallelujah and attribute the high iTunes downloading to high schoolers who haven't heard the original Jeff Buckley.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The backlash is already there in the fandom forums

And there was tons of on-line backlash against Fantasia and Carrie and Taylor and pretty much every winner, other than maybe Kelly. During season four, I don't remember seeing anyone anywhere on-line having anything complimentary to say about Carrie (save her performance of "Alone"), and yet she won by such a large margin over Bo that Seacrest didn't even bother to say how big it was.

People picked their favorites a long time ago, and what happens during the finals often has very little to do with who wins the thing. Taylor had season five won from pretty much the moment he turned up and the Soul Patrol got organized.

I'm not saying Archuleta is gay, but I do think Aiken's fey tendencies is what ultimately kept him in the number 2 spot.

What kept Clay in the number 2 spot was the producers underestimating the number of phone lines they would need for that year's finale. Even the producers have all but admitted as much, noting that he was killing everybody in the votes every single week until the finals, when the phone lines got jammed and it was really luck of the draw who got through and who didn't.

Undercover Black Man said...

Well... it's finally time for me to start watching the new season of "Idol."

This'll be my first look at any of them, including Archuleta... and it's Beatles night! Can't wait! Who will murder "In My Life"?

Nicole said...

People picked their favorites a long time ago, and what happens during the finals often has very little to do with who wins the thing.


Now you have depressed me, because I had a glimmer of hope that this was based on performance and talent and not on who can round up the biggest fan base. It sounds like a musical version of the presidential race. And except for Kelly and Carrie, no one has really produced (out of the winners anyway).


The original concept of Pop Idol probably doesn't fall prey to this because with a smaller population, there is a greater chance that the votes are closer and that the playing field is a bit more level. I know that Canadian Idol has had some close ones because one year the difference was a bit over 100,000 votes between first and second.

I do agree that he's been well-trained. It does seem a little too perfect that he was able to sing for Kelly and that curly haired guy next to her.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Now you have depressed me, because I had a glimmer of hope that this was based on performance and talent and not on who can round up the biggest fan base.

Sorry. But the wisest comment ever made about "American Idol," on "American Idol," was when Peter Noone last year told the kids, "This isn't a singing competition; it's a voting competition."

Tom said...

Now you have depressed me, because I had a glimmer of hope that this was based on performance and talent and not on who can round up the biggest fan base.

Isn't that true of the music business in general? I think AI works precisely because of this fact. There are always better singers than what those that are currently charting. AI isn't looking for "great artists" though.

I enjoy AI for the drama. I would never buy a record from any of these people.

Matthew L said...

Good article - and I thought the "Embrace It" suggestions were laugh-out-loud funny. Very enjoyable to read.

Here in NZ, we're a few weeks behind - the last episode here was Hollywood week - so I haven't seen Imagine yet. Guess that will be something to look forward to.

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing about this guy, so I tuned in tonight (Beatles night), and he sucked. That's what everyone's talking about?