A redneck shindig

I have come to praise Haley Reinhart, not to bury her.

Thy judges dast ruin thyne sleep whist in feted contemplation of thy evil deeds; ast thy noble Nigel hath decreed; Lauren ist thy chosen one; if thy rendered deed dost create thystench of grievous miscarriage, dost thou dane damn Nigel withst faintest praise whilst Haley lives? Nigel is an honorable man; doest thyne grieve for Haley, who dane dreamest of ambition beyond thyst place? As thy thain bury Haley doest she harbour dreams of life, to thine expense of thy honorable Nigel’s wish to fill thyst coffers? Doest thou recoil at thy thain thought of ye fair maiden’s youthful errors, and ask thain Gods to prevail upon Nigel thy integrity of wisdom to putst thy fair maiden to the sword? Thoust asketh heroic deeds oust thy honorable Nigel, and thy task hath thine thwarted at thy very gate of thy dreams; and thus Nigel’s mighty sword hast claimed thy bloody reward….

I apologize with great kneecap skinning humility to anyone who actually reads Shakespeare, but I got on a roll…..

What an amazing run Haley had!!!! She went from reject (last year) to filler (audition rounds) to fodder (Hollywood week) to afterthought (Semifinals) to bottom feeder (Finals to Top 11) to deep sleeper (Top 11 redux to top 9) back to bottom feeder (Top 8 to top 7) to popular underdog (top 6) to internet sensation (top 5 to top 4) to the most dynamic and interesting performer of the season (top 3), coming up a week short of making the finale. She was one spot from getting dumped the first two weeks of the finals, bottom three two other times, and she didn’t make the top half of the voting until final six week – and yet when she got dumped the internet blew up in outrage.

How did she do it?

– She was consistently good enough through the early rounds, never delivering a bad performance but never being exactly brilliant, either. She tended to be a little bit sloppy with her phrasing and sometimes she was dynamically out of touch, but her intonation was very good.

– She gave the first real glimpse of her stage presence potential with her catty, jazzy semifinals performance of “Falling”, while pulling out several vocal tricks to overcome a lack of confidence in her range at both ends.

– She delivered “Blue” in final 13 week with flawless intonation and showed a couple more vocal chops, notably the ability to hit falsetto jumps flawlessly.

– She sang “Bennie and the Jets” in final 11 week redux, showing that she could do more than just growl and play-act around the stage; for the first time (that I noticed) she showed some power in her upper range and consistently good rhythm. Up until then I didn’t think that she had all that strong of a voice. She had the growl; now she had the killer scratch. You all know that I’m a total sucker for the killer scratch….

– She backslid a bit the next couple of weeks, overdoing the growl on “Piece of my Heart” and getting dunned for her lack of connection to “Call Me” (translation: sing better). She didn’t catch the mood that Debbie Harry delivered on the original, or do something that could be called an improvement on the original. Her rhythm wasn’t as good as it had been, and the questions about whether she was really ready for this level of competition came back.

– She gambled with “Rolling in the Deep” on top 7 week, delivering a dynamic performance, yet found herself back in the bottom three for the second week in a row – but the news came at the end of a amazing, moment-worthy duet with Casey Abrams on results night. She began to get serious attention from the hard core Idol fans on the internet after those back to back special performances, and her “Rolling in the Deep” performance has gone over a million hits as of yesterday. I need do some digging; to find out how special getting a million hits is for an Idol performance. It was important enough to get mentioned on her Wiki page, and I’ve seen a lot of Idol wiki pages; I’ve never seen that particular note before.

– Top 6 week she was again amazing on a duet with Casey (I feel the earth Move), overcame microphone issues on her solo song, and for the first time was in the top half in the voting.

– Top 5….. She was talked into doing an unreleased Lady Gaga song, and the judges hammered her for the choice (Jimmy’s choice) while carefully avoiding any mention of how she performed the song. She came back with her signature moment of the year, and maybe THE signature moment of the year, with her version of “House of the Rising Sun”.

– Top 4….. She got killed for her “Earth Song” (overly killed according to an internet that was completely in love with her by now), but redeemed herself with a powerful performance of “I (Who Have Nothing)”, and survived to sing another week.

– Top 3…… She gave what might eventually be called her most epic performance when she got to choose her song, killing a Led Zeppelin song despite taking a prat-fall in the middle.

She was sabotaged by the very people that were tasked with helping her at the end, and while that really bothers me I have to give them some major props for making Haley relevant in the first place. I think Jimmy was a huge help to Haley behind the scenes, drawing her talent out and getting her to work harder at her craft. The judges’ criticism damaged her in some ways, but at the same time Haley was the only contestant other than Scotty (more on him later) who steadily improved throughout the finals. She listened to them, and she used their criticism to get better. Massively better.

The judges have to be given a failing grade for this season overall, though they were entertaining and they had some good moments. They abdicated their responsibility to give honest criticism to the singers early, and once they gave that up they ceased to be relevant. I don’t like the idea of the judges being too important, but they do have their role on the show. It’s their task to point out the fixable problems that the contestants have, and make sure that they give even grades for each contestant so that they compete on a level playing field. They are tasked with pushing the contestants to get better, and work to get the most out of their talent.

How much better would Casey, Jacob, Lauren, and several others (Stefano, JAMES for chrissakes) have become with some tough love? They were allowed to run around the house wildly, crap on the floor and never learn to use a spoon, and all the judges ever said was “you are sooo CUTE!!!!” None of them ever learned the basic rules of performing from the judges (some of them learned it on their own), and how to dig deep and make it perfect. They just blathered on, made stick figure pictures, finger painted and made guns out of legos, and the judges just smiled and kept giving them gold stars. There was no recognizable growth from anyone other than Haley and Scotty.

I hope all of the mucky mucks, including Nigel, learned from their mistakes this year. They did make some very good decisions. The most important one was taking double the normal amount of singers toHollywoodand adding an extraHollywoodround. I’ll have much more to say about that part of the show in my final wrap-up next weekend. For now….

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What to expect next week:

Lauren-

She ain’t gonna win, but she has a chance to make some hay while she is still on a 20+ million viewer show. The sense I get from her is that she might be able to nail a single song, maybe two, with a week to prepare; but she will be performing three songs again next week and probably a duet with Scotty. Good luck with that. Lauren will sound amazing with her tone, and make a ton of mistakes; just like the last several weeks. She is going to be a day short (the Finale performance show is Tuesday, not Wednesday as it has been all year), and she will have a ton of finale stuff to figure out as well. I’ll be amazed just to see her smiling instead of walking around with a rope and a chair, looking for a good place to loop it over. She ain’t ready, but she sure as hell is working her butt off to be as ready as she can be. I feel that I have to give serious props to Lauren for handling all of this when she auditioned for the show before she was old enough to drive a car.

Scotty-

With three songs to perform, a duet with Lauren, several songs with the various acts that show up for the finale results show, and one less day to figure it all out, I’ll be impressed if he just remembers his own name. It won’t matter, though. Scotty is going to win; he is flatly too far ahead for Lauren to catch him even if she craps out Lady Gaga’s stage performance chops. I expect that he’ll be uneven on Tuesday, since he has to learn about 10 songs in the next 5 days in between the constant interviews, but I expect at least one really cool performance. Scotty has grown into a very good performer in a short time without much help from his handlers; who mostly see dollar signs when they look at him.

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Ok, why did Idol want this so much?

Lauren isn’t weak or fragile, she’s just inexperienced and full of raging teenaged hormones that drag her around like any normal teenager’s hormones would. She’s young, and as a natural result of her age she is immature, overly emotional and insecure. I get why they felt she needed kid gloves, but they kid gloved her way past where she should have finished based on her performances. She’s going to have a terrific career no matter where she would have finished, and the proper result should have been in the 4-6 range.

Pushing her to the finale, with Scotty already a lock, didn’t serve anyone’s goals. Idol is stuck with two singers who are primarilyNashvilletypes. Most of the country will mentally and emotionally check out, with no horse to ride.

I am having a hard time figuring out if there is any point to watching the finale performance night myself. As my friend Bob Gregory wrote me, there is no reason to expect anything special or new. Lauren will sing what she sings, sound beautiful but flawed, and Scotty will sound like Scotty. No Casey with his nutty performances, no Pia with her physical and vocal gifts, and most of all no Haley with her fearless, “What will she do next?” wild card dynamic. The pre-finale show is going to be a snooze.

I have every confidence that Idol will be well served by these two commercially viable singers, and it will be good for the Idol brand to back them as they sell millions of records. I am fine with Lauren in the finale, as a singer, and I am certainly on board with Scotty. Idol succeeded as a relevant tool for the radio.

I’m not so sure Idol succeeded as a reality show. Haley gave them a chance to have a dynamic finale, with dramatically opposing styles. If Lauren was going to beat her fair and square that’s fine, but Idol manipulated to get Lauren in over Haley. That’s their business, and it’s their franchise, but did they make the best decision? I will look up what the finale performance show’s ratings are. My guess is that they will be down some, and I believe very strongly that they would have gone UP if Haley was the one going up against Scotty. Lauren might be the more obvious recording star, but Haley was the best Idol contestant for the entire year. Losing her will hurt the ratings.