Saturday, April 12, 2014

American Idol: Final Eight, 2014

American Idol has been going for a couple of months now and I don’t recall seeing any mention of it on Facebook.  I haven’t read anything about the ratings this year, but that can’t be a good sign. 

Ooops!  That’s “American Idol” and “Facebook” in the same paragraph.  There goes what’s left of my credibility after five years plus of writing this blog!  But I never claimed to be an intellectual or some kind of hipster.  I could claim that I was doing sociological research, but that’s not true.  I am proudly low-brow, although I do enjoy some of the finer things in life.  I do not place Facebook or American Idol among the finer things, but I enjoy them nevertheless. 

This week was the final eight, which is really too grand a title for this group.  To their credit, they do seem like a nice bunch.  Some previous seasons of the show have been dominated at this stage by a mix of the obnoxious and the dimwitted.  So a nice bunch week after week is refreshing, but it would be much better if more of them could actually sing. 

Malaya can hit some of the notes when she is in full afterburner mode, but at any level below that she is all over the place.  Her tone is consistently disagreeable.  She’s as cute as a button, and she seems very smart and decent, but I don’t think that she can really hear music.  She’s only sixteen years old, so maybe she’ll learn.  Some day, but not soon, I fear.

Dexter is a chunky farm boy who can almost sing.  He seems like a nice guy, and I’m sure he’s a big help at harvest time.

Gina is a cheerful girl who has a pretty good voice, but she doesn’t know what to do with it.  This week she sang “I Love Rock and Roll,” the Joan Jett song.  It was just awful.  Having a good voice and being a good singer are two different things.

Jessica Muse sings in the manner of a wedding singer going through the motions for a small payday.  I keep expecting her to introduce a groom dancing with his mother.  She sang “Call Me,” by Blondie.  It was very ordinary and devoid of emotion except for a pasted on smile.

Sam Woolf is so cute that he just may win the whole thing on that basis.  He sang, “Time After Time,” the Cyndi Lauper song.  He did a pretty good job.  He can sing, but he’s too shy to really let the sound out, he chokes it back as he’s singing it.  He can play the guitar pretty well, and the young girls understandably love him. 

Alex will be the most frustrating of this group.  He has real talent, the only one of the eight about whom that can be said.  He’s a performer, but as the judges have noted he has yet to figure out entertaining.  He wears an expression that is equal parts surprise, annoyance and disgust.  But he can sing, even if his voice is not exactly pleasant, and he’s a very good guitarist, and he comes up with his own very nice and very ambitious arrangements.   He is also, unfortunately for his chances, a poor wooden thing, prone to making odd faces and striking awkward poses.  Even his clothing looks uncomfortable. 

C.J. is another chunky guy who seems very nice.  I’m sure that he’s a good friend, and a good neighbor, and a helpful workmate.  He misses so many notes you wonder what key he’s looking for. 

Caleb is another one who can really sing, he’s an old-school, jet-propelled rock and roll belter.  He goes way up and he never gets lost.  Did I mention that he and Alex are kind of chunky too?  I think the rock n’ rollers usually get bounced about now.  If Caleb would lose the Veronica Lake hairdo and about twenty-five pounds he’d do better.   He’d be great fronting a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band that played biker bars. 

So I watched this mess and I wrote in my notes that the singer to be dropped this week would be either Malaya or C.J.  This insight amazed me in a way.  I mean, how did they end up at this point with the only two black singers in the competition being among the only black Americans who cannot sing at all?  That would seem to take real effort. 

And that’s the way it happened, I know my American Idol by now.  Malaya and C.J. were the bottom two, and Malaya was sent home. 

Of the remaining seven, Alex would be the clear winner if it were all about the talent.  Music, however, is never just about talent, particularly on American Idol.  Sam is the only one that is in the Idol mold, physically.  He has matinee idol looks, but I don’t think there is time to make him into a comfortable performer.  Harry Connick, Jr., one of this year’s judges for the uninitiated, suggested that he look up Ricky Nelson on YouTube for tips on how to play the sweet, attractive teenager with a guitar.  At the after party for the contestants Sam asked everyone if they’d ever heard of Ricky Nelson, and no one had.  They acted like the advice was ridiculous, on that basis.  Too bad, because if he could channel Ricky Nelson effectively he’d be playing to his own strengths and he’d win this year hands down.

Goodbye Malaya!  You’re a fine young woman and you’ll do well in this world, although probably not in the music field.  

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