American Idol 8: The Afterthoughts

I have always been an avid follower of AI (and singing contests in general), having seen seasons starting from 3 (it has nothing to do with the fact that one {actually, two} of the finalists were Filipinas. Rather, it’s because that was the year we signed up for a cable subscription). And yet for some reason, I am not too enthusiastic about this season. The probable reason for this is the lack of any real competition within the show, compared to the previous season where everybody had their time to shine (hell, the first Beatles week was easily one of the best AI episodes ever). Sadly, I find this season way too monotonous and predictable.

But then, just when I thought the season will end up as it is, something unexpected happened, and it ironically occurred at the last minute. Kris Allen scored a major upset over the heavily-favored Adam Lambert.

I was glad, not necessarily because I favor Kris over Adam (actually, I do). From a neutral perspective, in the final matchup, it was anybody’s game, since it was basically a battle between fanbases, meaning that each one will already have a predetermined number of votes coming from their respective supporters, making it harder to sway the numbers in favor of one candidate (yes, there are many ways to legally manipulate the results of an election).

It didn’t help that the final matchup could possibly be one of the most intense in AI history. Instead, it ended up as one of the most boring ever. Adam could have upped the competition by rocking a bit louder during the first part, rather than his choice which, as Simon Cowell had criticized, was just too theatrical. Meanwhile, in the second part, their performances were oddly anticompetitive. And for the final song, the song wasn’t bad, the problem was that it just sounds inappropriate for both singers. In my opinion, nothing can match Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice’s final song.

For the record, I think Kris deserved the win. My initial impression of him was that he was just a random cutie who happened to be merely good at singing, possibly reaching as far as the Final 5 only. But surprisingly, I discovered that he has a unique capability of “Kris Allen-izing” his songs, that is, he can make the songs his own. In fact, his voice and singing style is unmistakably similar to Jason Mraz. Also, following a fad introduced in the previous season, it’s an advantage for any Idol wannabe to be able to handle any musical instrument, whether it’s an acoustic or electric guitar, piano or hell, even an harmonica (although extreme attachment to any instrument is also a liability, as shown last year by Jason Castro, who is practically married to guitars, an obvious sign of lack of versatility). IMO the performance that gave Kris the win was his repeat take on Ain’t No Sunshine. With a piano accompaniment and an extremely difficult song, Kris had sung a song only he could possibly pull off. I had goosebumps the first time I heard it, and unlike other repeat performances (like Jasmine Trias’ Inseparable), it was still impressive.

On the other hand, I find Adam Lambert extremely overrated. Granted, he manages to kill the competition every week, but that’s only because he is a very professional performer. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Here’s the thing, he can assume the role of any character and pull it off brilliantly, but it results in an over-the-top and un-genuine performance. Still, it doesn’t matter whether Adam won or lost this one, he won’t need the victory anyway. At least it’s fun to see the reaction of bitter fans on many forums and sites, who had been bullying the supporters of the others from the start. Serves them right.

Because this season was dominated by fanatics, Danny Gokey was cast into the role of the talented singer that everybody hates, in particular the supporters of the other two who constantly drop criticisms out of jealousy and insecurity. It’s a shame, considering that his performances were consistently on top, and he has several moving performances, including the season-opener performance of Hero. I wasn’t shocked when Gokey got eliminated, I knew that he didn’t have a dedicated fanbase, I assumed that most of his votes came from neutral viewers, and supporters of the other two went on an intensive campaign to squeeze him out of the competition. No wonder the vote turnout reached 90 million, the highest ever recorded. And it’s not even the finals.

Anyway, the dominant gender this season was obviously the males. The females were hopelessly underrepresented in the competition. The last position attained by a female singer was in the Final 4, courtesy of Allison Iraheta, whose performances can be summarized as “unbelievable performance from a 16 year old,” the same tag applied to Jordin Sparks last year. I was disappointed with Little Lil Rounds, because she started strong and has a unique singing style, quite R&B’ish in quality, unlike the others who were power belters. Unfortunately, during the main competition, Lil was badly stricken with identity crisis, choosing inappropriate songs that failed to show her potentials. The other problem with the girls was that there were way too many female rockers. What AI needs is not another Kelly Clarkson. I was saddened when Tatiana failed to make it to the Final 12 13. Hell, I didn’t even expect Katrina Darrell (AKA Bikini Girl) to come soft during the group competition. They could have provided the much needed variation among the girls.

As for the rest of the boys, I don’t understand the judges’ inclination toward Matt Giraud. I don’t understand why they have to constantly remind him that he has a beautiful voice, it’s not as if the others don’t have that too. Additionally, several twists were implemented in this season, and they all went to Matt, in a way. For instance, after the wildcard round, Matt (and Anoop) were called last, resulting in Final 13 rather than 12. The other twist was the judges’ decision to save one person who is about to be eliminated, and it’s Matt. No surprises there. Matt also experienced identity problem early on, by trying to emulate many current artists, resulting in him murdering songs like Viva la Vida and You Found Me, two songs I’m extremely addicted to right now. At least the problem was cured as the show progressed, when they were forced to sing old songs.

Meanwhile, Anoop Desai was one of the early contenders. The problem was that he was downplaying the competition early on. By the time he decided to get serious, halfway thru the contest, I think it’s already too late. At least his last two performances were two of the best this season.

Michael Sarver was the genuine fatherly figure Taylor Hicks should have been. (To be honest, after all these years, I still think Taylor Hicks is lying about his age. I could be wrong, but I don’t care).

On a final note, I like Kara Dioguardi, the new judge. Her comments makes more sense than Paula’s, and they provide the much needed contradiction to Randy and Simon’s comments.

One comment on “American Idol 8: The Afterthoughts

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