Month: June 2012

Season Nine Recap

Wednesday night’s crowning of Lee Dewyze brings the 2010 season, and an era, to a close. Simon Cowell, the dominant personality on the judging table and the most polarizing personality on the show, is leaving to produce “X-Factor”. Musical director Rickey Minor is also leaving to take over the same role with the “Tonight Show” band.

Before I get to Simon I want to tie up a few loose ends, and put a cherry on the season. I have some lists, links to my personal Top 30 performances and a short final observation for each contestant.

First, the lists: Billboard voters’ poll of their all-time favorite Idol contestants:

Males:

1- David Archuleta

2- Adam Lambert

3- David Cook

4- Clay Aiken

5-TaylorHicks

Females:

1- Carrie Underwood

2- Kelly Clarkson

3- Katherine McPhee

4- Kelly Pickler

5- Allison Iraheta

Billboard’s top 24 Idol artists by sales and airplay combined:

24- Allison Iraheta

23- Diana DeGarmo

22- Danny Gokey

21- William Hung

20-KimberleyLocke

19-TaylorHicks

18- Blake Lewis

17- Bo Bice

16- Kiatherine McPhee

15- Elliot Yamin

14- Josh Gracin

13- Jennifer Hudson

12- Adam Lambert

11- Kris Allen

10- Ruben Studdard

9- Fantasia Barrino

8- David Archuleta

7- Kelly Pickler

6- Clay Aiken

5- David Cook

4- Jordin Sparks

3- Chris Daughtry

2- Carrie Underwood

1- Kelly Clarkson

Next is a capsule look at the season, through a list of my favorite performances with links to youtube so that you can watch them. As always, they are all virus free and safe. I ranked my top 30, and I’ll count them down one by one:

30: Casey, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”, top 9R:

The judges didn’t get it, but I loved it. This is an example of the judges dismissing what they don’t understand. Because none of them knew this song, they couldn’t understand just how cool of a re-arrangement this was. I’ve been caught doing this myself, usually by Sean. I don’t want to hammer on the judges for this. They can’t know everything. Trust me, this was exceedingly cool. If I was still playing, I would steal this arrangement for myself.

29: Siobhan, “House of the Rising Sun”, top 16:

Siobhan is on the list a few times already. Because of that I thought about leaving this performance off, but (1) Slezak called this his favorite performance of the semifinals by anyone, and (2) you can see the other contestants, in the foreground, lit up like Christmas trees while she was singing, and (3) It was at LEAST one of the 30 best of the season.

28: Alex Lambert, “Trouble”, top 16:

Alex was getting so much better, and so quickly, that he might have made the list a few times had he not been prematurely bounced. Ellen, you hugged the wrong guy.

27: Didi, “You’re No Good”, top 11:

This song was better than the reviews as well. I listened to it a few times, and once I got over that it was a weird song for Didi I came to really love it, and I came to love the idea of Didi singing it. The studio version is fantastic.

26: Lee and Crystal’s auditions, back to back in Chicago:

I recapped these kids in the Chicago Auditions page. I loved Lee (called him a standout) but I dismissed Crystal for her crappy rhythm and went off on a rant for several hundred words about the lack of standout female contestants in season 9. Oops.

25: Leah Laurenti’s audition:

“Blue Skies”, beautifully sung. Blue notes, perfect pitch and phrasing from a kid that was scared out of her wits.

24: Lee, “Treat Her Like a Lady”, top 10:

Lee’s first big performance, the one that made him a top three contender.

23: Siobhan, “When You Believe”, top 7:

Siobhan’s last great performance. Her beautiful version was unjustly hammered on by the judges, because she isn’t Whitney Houston. Was Whitney competing this season? This was one of their most unfair critiques, in a season when Siobhan just couldn’t buy a break from the judging table.

22: Crystal, “People Get Ready”, top 7:

Crystal broke down at the end, and she struggled for a few weeks after this.

21: Lee, “Hallelujah”, top 4 :

I liked it, but the judges almost peed themselves over it. I only ranked it this high because it was so important to the final results.

20: Crystal, “You Can’t Always Get What you want”, top 12:

Vintage Crystal, and a damned good arrangement.

19: Didi, “Terrified” in Hollywood:

I had this one a lot higher, but I dropped it down some because Katherine McPhee just blew Didi’s doors off with her own version.

18: Crystal, “Maybe I’m Amazed top 3:

Crystal pulled out some incredible range, and added some scratch to her voice that she hadn’t used before. I ranked it this high mostly because I really love this song. It was kind of weird, her using the male gender, but whatever.

17: Siobhan, “Think”, top 20:

I’d have it higher, but the scream ended up being Siobhan’s worst enemy. Had Siobhan won or at least made the top three, this would have been way higher.

16: Thaddeus Johnson, “Man in the Mirror” in Hollywood:

You have to skip to about 1:30 to get past the crap and to Thad singing, I couldn’t find one that was edited. It’s worth it. Thad was one of the best male singers of this years’ crop, possibly THE best in hindsight, but his mother was just unbelievably obnoxious and Thad is only 16 and somewhat erratic. The judges decided that they didn’t want the grief.

15: Crystal, “Come Together”, top 9:

The Didgeridoo got most of the attention, butCrystal’s performance was fantastic.

14: Vanessa’s audition:

Our hick chick was one of the coolest auditions ever. Idol isn’t always about winning the title. For some it’s about getting that one “yes”, to validate their existence a little, have some excitement in their lives, and have a story to tell their grand-kids. No Idol contestant in Hollywood came from further away.

13: Lee/Crystal, “Falling Slowly”, top 4:

Amazing, especially Crystal. Don’t be surprised if Crystal sings a lot of harmony on big stages, doing duets and other things. She is, by nature, a harmony singer. Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Patty Loveless, Jennifer Warnes, there have been some very cool lead/harmony singers. Crystal can hold her own with the best of them.

12: Andrew, “Straight Up in Hollywood:

I wanted to add “Sugar” from the first round of the semis to the list for Andrew. He was terrific, but Simon went first and he buried Andrew for no reason at all. He didn’t hate how he sang, he hated that he didn’t improve on this song. It was really unfair in retrospect, and it killed Andrew’s season. Andrew, I think, will be ok. Lee loves him, and don’t be surprised if they tour together next summer.

11: Crystal, “I’m Alright”, top 4:

I probably have this higher than most would put it, but I know every inch of this song andCrystalbent into an incredibly cool shape.

10: Siobhan, “Living For the City in Hollywood:

I’ve listened to this one so many times that it’s getting old to me, but the contradiction between the sad little geek with the granny glasses and the thrift store dress, and the kid with the bright eyes and that HUGE voice on the stage will never get old. Siobhan still does this song in her concerts.

9: Lee, “A Little Less Conversation”, top 9R:

I like “The Boxer” more because of the impact, but this was his best pure performance of the season.

8: Lilly, “Lullabye of Birdland” in Hollywood:

My personal favorite among the Hollywood auditions.

7: Crystal, “Natural Woman” in Hollywood:

Lilly was my favorite, but this was the best and most important Hollywood audition. It catapulted Crystal to the top of everyone’s power rankings. Oh, and the audience joined in, then they gave Crystal a standing ovation at the end of the song.

6: Lee, “The Boxer”, top 7:

One of my favorite Lee performances, and as it turned out Lee’s signature song of the season.

5: Casey, “Jealous Guy”, top 9:

The studio version is even better. I liked it so much that I added the original version to our jukebox and it made the top 3 in plays within a couple of weeks.

4: Didi’s audition:

It just doesn’t get any sweeter, does it? Didi nailed a very tough melody while her blood pressure was roughly 800 over I’m having a stroke.

3: Crystal, “Long as I can see the Light”, top 16:

Back from the hospital, Crystal’s best song of year among a long list of terrific performances.

Until her last one.

2: Siobhan, “Paint it Black”, top 12:

I thought that this would end up number one for a long time. Nobody all season came up with a more creative arrangement, or a more theatrical performance. Her almost primal banshee run at the end was probably the most electrifying moment of the season. That last dark look into the kid’s eyes, as she sang the last phrase, put the perfect cherry on the top.

1: Crystal, “Up the Mountain”:

Just watch it. If it doesn’t move you, get someone to beat on your chest.

Notable ommision: Lee’s “single”. I despise U-2 anyway, and the song arrangement sucks. I’ve heardhammond organs that write better songs than Bono does. Everything about their songwriting bores me. They just don’t aim themselves at musicians. No guitar licks, no harmony, no cool chord progressions, no cool rhythms, just nothing that I can get interested in. Sorry. (rolls eyes, takes a drink and winks at Kara)……

Ok, Simon……

I am not going to rant about the guy, not now. I’ve done that plenty already. While I don’t like what he added to the show, I don’t hate the guy. He is a cold fish, but not truly mean. He is arrogant, but he can be personable. He is good at what he does, even if he isn’t as good as he thinks that he is. I won’t miss him on Idol, but I might peek in on X factor.

The main problem with Simon’s public perception is similar to the problems with the public perception of George Steinbrenner. George bought the Yankees at the perfect time, and he was the main guy for over 30 years. They won, so George got the credit. This is all normal, and in most cases fair. For a guy like me, though, who looks a little deeper, there are some problems with simply anointing George the King, and the savior of the Yankee dynasty.

I won’t bore you here with those details, but Simon has some rats in his own cellar. Simon wanted Kelly Clarkson bounced inHollywoodin season one, but Paula talked him out of it. He turned down Chris Daughtry at his audition, and Casey James this year. He didn’t want Didi, and he didn’t want David Cook. He flat killed several singers this season; singers who could have made this season a good one, not a mediocre one. His handling of Andrew and Didi, not to mention Siobhan, were questionable when you consider he had such a huge conflict of interest. Do I believe he was trying to sabotage the show? No, not really. I think Simon is basically an honest guy. He is just stubborn, and he is fairly limited in his own expertise when it comes to modern music. He wasn’t trying to cheat. He was just wrong. ALOT.

Simon has clear ideas of what constitutes a great pop singer. He wants big notes, and he wants big voices. He wants Whitney, he wants Aretha, he wants Mariah, he wants Luther Vandross, but don’t you DARE actually sing their songs. He will hammer a singer every time for:

-Singing something middle of the road

-Singing something without a glory note

-Singing something he doesn’t recognize

-Singing something that he does recognize, but old (unless it’s old song week, which it seems to be a lot lately)

-Singing anything happy

-Singing a song from one of his favorite artists

-Singing a melody without changing it, unless it’s from one of his favorite artists. If it is, you are already screwed.

If a singer combines more than one of these traits, Simon will get mad.

Going forward, the show should be fine without Simon as long as they keep their eye on the prize. Make the show about the singers, not the judges. They really need to go back to three judges, but will they have the stones to let Kara be the hammer?

Final recap, the contestants:

Many of these kids will find some fame outside of the studio. Several former contestants have scored gigs as hosts and reporters, and there are always reality shows.

Crystal and Lee will be recording stars, though Lee might take a few years to get his intonation and stage shows where they need to be. Casey has a chance to get some love as well, but he might be best served by moving to country music. Mike Lynche is not going to be a recording star, but he might end up being one hell of a tv personality. Aaron Kelly will probably get some offers inNashville, and eventually do fine.

Siobhan, who knows? My best guess is that she will get an album out, but she needs to give up on pleasing everyone and channel her inner Amy Lee and Annie Lennox. That’s her best shot. Tim Urban will be hosting something somewhere. Katie needs some time, but she should have a career in a few years. Andrew will be opening for Lee next summer I think, and put out a very nice album. Didi will get an album out, but I don’t know if she can do much better than Brooke White did. Brooke is still touring, but she is also taking on some TV hosting. She is good at it. Didi is a lot like Brooke, so her career prospects are about the same.

Paige will probably go back to teaching, but she might have some other offers. She got her voice back and she was impressive at the finale. Lacey Brown might get an Indy album out, and it might be pretty good. Lilly will get an album out, but it’s hard to say if it will get any backing from the major labels. Alex Lambert is already doing a reality show. Todrick will be in the business for years at least as a dancer and choreographer. Katelyn is working with Lilly, so they might be able to get something going together. She will be in the business somewhere.

Michelle Delamor will probably do a gospel album, and be singing for years below the radar. She might end up hosting as well. Haeley Vaughn I dunno, but I love her talent. She needs some years to put it together. John Park will be never seen again, but he should have a nice life. Jermaine Sellers, I have no clue. He has talent, but obvious blocks to getting something done with that talent. Janelle Wheeler is already hosting, and she is perfect for those kinds of gigs. Ashley Rodriguez, I believe will resurface sometime. She is better than her first round ouster, and she has a chip on her shoulder now. Joe Munoz, who knows? Tyler Grady, appearing at a bar near you soon.

It wasn’t the best season ever, but the talent was there. Simon’s short timers disease wasn’t the only problem; the voters did more damage in the semifinals than I can remember, and they didn’t really get it right all year. There were more political movements than performer movements. Still, we got a full season out of Crystal, most of a season out of Casey and Siobhan, and we at least got to meet Lilly, Alex, and several other sweet singers who didn’t last as long as they should have. Taking everything into account, it was as enjoyable for me as any other season. I’m signing off for this year, so thanks for reading, and sharing the journey. See you in January.