Tonight, Casey James walked the plank. You probably don’t need me to tell you that Casey was eliminated, you probably already knew, but I have to justify asking you to read this. This sets up what is probably the correct result, a Crystal/Lee finale.
Tonight’s show was filled primarily with footage of the final three contestants going back to their hometowns. Justin Beiber sang a couple of songs, and Travis Garland (more on him later) also sang.
Before I get to the show, a thought:
Adam Lambert ruined this season.
Don’t shoot me; I’m Adam’s biggest fan. That’s the problem. Adam wasn’t really an amateur when he auditioned last season. He was a veteran of 16 years of musical theater, and he had been performing for large enough audiences that the Idol stage was candy to him. He had no fear, and he was salted in many ways that amateurs can’t possibly be. He knew how to block out a show, and how to set up the lighting and camera angles to enhance his performance.
He knew the dynamics of competitive performing. He knew how to choose a song as a vehicle to show himself off. He knew at a much deeper level how to work a crowd, and how to draw whatever emotion that he wanted out of the crowd. He could make them scream, he could make them cry. He knew how to emote, and how to express himself. If the band screwed up, he could adjust seamlessly. He knew how to start it off, and how to end it. He was a consummate professional, vastly more experienced than all but the most seasoned performers in any arena.
Idol isn’t supposed to be looking the next Adam. Frankly, there aren’t very manyAdamsavailable (and most of them are already superstars). If the bar for being a strong Idol contender is Adam, nobody on this year’s show would be a contender, and nobody on any season would be a contender. Kelly Clarkson was probably the best contestant ever, other than Adam. She would look comparatively weak next to him performing on the stage even now, let alone back when she was a 20 year old waitress. Carrie Underwood would look like an unpolished, rough diamond next to him if it was still 2005. Carrie is amazing now, and in my opinion the most improved performer ever that got their start on Idol. Five years of steady and remarkable improvement later, five years of awards and platinum albums later, five year of network shows and magazine covers, sold out tours, super bowl performances later – and Carrie is now so good that she is ALMOST as good as Adam was when he first walked into the audition room.
The bar can’t be set at that level. Adam can’t be the bar. Enjoy him, but set the bar a bit lower, ok? The real bar, the best of the best, needs to be set somewhere around the level of the following contestants:
David Cook: David was a bartender who almost didn’t even audition. His professional experience was mostly in bars, and doing some writing.
Kelly Clarkson: Kelly was a waitress, and Idol’s shining star who put the show on the map by being as good as the pros before she was a pro.
Carrie Underwood: Carrie was also a waitress, and she was very much a raw and undeveloped talent when she auditioned. Her success post-Idol wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t dedicated herself to personal improvement. Some of it wasn’t important (she lost a lot of weight, too much weight for awhile before leveling off at a good level recently) and some of it was hugely important (she took lessons and made herself into a singer worthy of comparisons to Faith Hill, who incidentally also made drastic improvements on the fly, after becoming a star).
Fantasia Barrino: Fantasia created moments on the show with a voice that isn’t your typical big church voice, by yanking as much pure emotion out of herself as anyone possibly could.
I’d call that a pretty good “fantastic four”. Adam has to be set aside, put on a pedestal to appreciate, but not be compared to. The show is about amateurs, isn’t it? I love Adam’s performances, and I am excited that he is on his way to superstardom. I was glad that Idol got him, but Idol won’t be served by using him as the standard. It will just create more and more discontent and disappointment.
Ok, now compare Crystal and Lee to the above “Gold Standard”:
Lee sings like David Cook, though he isn’t as polished as David was on the show. It’s not a mismatch. Cookie had some pitch issues at times, and he was dunned for his lack of personality a time or two as well. They share similar personality traits, and I see no reason why Lee can’t do what Cookie is doing, and is doing very well.
Crystalis not like the other Gold Standard girls. She might become the fourth Gold Standard girl. She is unpolished, but none of these kids were polished when they were on the show. Kelly was almost dumped inHollywoodby Simon, and Carrie was out of tune on even her most powerful performances, her moments like “Independence Day”.Crystalhas a voice capable of making an album that even 19 Entertainment can’t screw up. I hope. I think. I pray…..
I really liked the group interview. I get a kick out of it because they are spontaneous and talking straight, with no cue cards. I am interested in them, so I am interested in what they have to say when it’s not choreographed. By contestant, here is what I got out of the interview:
Casey– He actually mentioned that he felt like he had won the lottery. I have always thought the same thing. Casey is the closest comparison to the world of music that I lived. Casey later got a big laugh about the contestants taking any and all comments from the judges for personal growth. He slyly tiptoed around what happened in his audition, when he was asked to take his shirt off.
Lee– Lee didn’t say anything that was surprising, but he explained about how he is struggling with the demands on his time, and how that makes it hard to stay connected with his old world. This is obviously a common problem, maybe the largest downside to sudden fame and fortune.
Crystal– She talked about most of the same things, but she does have one unique issue, which she was very eloquent about: Her diabetes. She thanked Idol for the care that she is getting because she is on the show. She said that she has never been healthier, and I think she was thinking about what her life was going to be like if she never got out of the world that she was in. Young people with diabetes don’t live long and healthy lives without the kind of care thatCrystal is getting now, and some serious discipline with their diet and lifestyle. I don’t know for sure, but the videos that I have watched ofCrystal from her pre-Idol life don’t show a kid that was taking very good care of herself. Idol might not have saved her life, but Idol gave her a much better focus on taking care of herself; and the tools to do it.
Ford video next. Ok, let’s move on.
Homecoming video for Casey James–
It must be just amazing and mind blowing to experience that. When Casey left this small town to audition, he was a guy that sang and played in bars. He is too good looking to have ever starved for attention, but coming back and seeing thousands of women that a year ago wouldn’t have even noticed him going crazy over him? It’s just surreal. Casey hasn’t really changed, but the perception of Casey in others’ eyes has undergone a metamorphosis that has to be almost impossible to get his head around. Tiger Woods wishes that he had the kind of female attention that Casey is going to be getting until he decides to settle down. Did I mention the lottery? Lucky bastard….
He made a special trip to the hospital that saved his arm, so that he could continue to play the guitar. This was, to me, a much bigger deal than they could show on tape. He would not be where he is without a doctor pulling off a miracle just to give him a chance. Casey knows this. He struggled to avoid choking up when Ryan asked him about the doctor, and he was trying to say that it was so much sweeter to be able to tell that doctor just how much his miracle had mattered. He said that, if he had just gone back as a bar band guy, it would have been nice but no big deal. Coming back as a star, playing his guitar with that miracle of an arm, gave the doctor a hand in something very special. Grammy Award winning songs have been written about lesser acts. Expect Casey to have a song on his first album about it, and expect it to be emotional.
Travis Garland performed next. He is an internet sensation, discovered by someone who I am not going to bother looking up. He is, as best I can describe, what a white Irish kid with questionable rhythm would sound like if he was impersonating Michael Jackson. He did a duet with some girl who was dressed like Daisy May, who apparently forgot her microphone. The performance was a mess, mostly an attempt to distract us from the fact that the kid can’t sing any better than somewhere around 10 thousand kids that are singing in the shower as I am typing. If Travis ends up being some huge superstar, let me know. I won’t hold my breath.
This kid isn’t any good, and the money they wasted setting up that horrible performance was probably more than they pay all ten Idol contestants for the entire Tour. All flash, and not one iota of substance. Just crap. They should have just given him the money and told him to go to college.
This kind of arrogance irritates me. This wasn’t an unveiling of an unknown diamond in the rough, as they want us to believe. This was a vacuum cleaner sales pitch. It was all about some egomaniac, that I still refuse to look up, thinking that he can create a superstar out of spam and Velveeta, and figuring that he can sell the packaging. That is an incredibly cynical and small minded attack on Idol’s process. Idol contestants go through a ringer, not a processing plant. Idol’s singers sing live, with no net. This kid lip synched to a crap song, with a dozen hot dancers to distract from the show. I can’t possibly have hated it more, and I feel for the kid. It’s not his fault; he is just living his own dream. For his sake I hope that they can get him on the shelves at WinCo, or maybe Rainbow food outlet. People will buy him if he is on sale, and maybe he’ll make a few bucks before his expiration date. Just stock him next to the pork and beans.
Next was Crystal’s homecoming: First thing that I noticed is that she had the presence of mind to bring a camera. It wasn’t a digital camera, it was one of those disposable ones that you can buy at Walmart for four dollars. I don’t think I ever really noticed it directly before, butCrystal really reminded me of my sister Alison in this video. Looking back, while Crystal isn’t the same type of lead singer that Alison is she is very similar as a musician, and she reminds me of my memories of the younger Alison as a person, in how she looks at the world. Alison was always an incredible harmony singer, and THAT girl, the one who pulled everything together and made the song work.Crystal has that, in spades. I love her lead singing, but I love her musicianship even more. It’s what I cared about more than anything in my own experience, and it brings me home.
Crystalhas one hell of an arm. She threw a perfect strike when she tossed out the first pitch at a Mud Hens’ game.
Lee’s homecoming was next: Lee has a damned good arm, too. He threw a strike at the Cub’s game, with some serious mustard on it. He visited his old grade school, and that was nice. I got a little bit emotional myself when he sang “Homeward Bound” in front of thousands of hometown fans. Lee is maybe shy and he sometimes rambles, but Lee is honest and without guile. When he was singing I first noticed his parents singing along and smiling, with sweet looks of contentment on their faces. Lee himself, when he was singing the last verse, choked up and lost himself in the moment.
It was real emotion, the kind of emotion that the Red Sox evoked in me when they made their ridiculous comeback in 2004, but ramped up a thousand times because he was the miracle himself. Lee was feeling everything, knowing himself in a moment that he could not have, in a million years, imagined himself in. He was lucid and eloquent when he thanked everyone, bringing it all down to a low speaking voice and telling them that this was the best day of his life, and that they were the reason why. There was no stammering and rambling then. He knew exactly what he wanted to say.
Justin Bieber sang next. I almost skipped it because I was all emotional about the Idol homecomings. I’m glad that I didn’t. This kid is pretty good. His rhythm is extremely strong for such a young kid (his voice hasn’t even changed yet, for chrissakes), and he shows a lot of professionalism. He took the drums over at the end, to show off. He wasn’t great, but he was pretty good and a hell of a lot better than I was when I was six , or whatever age he is. I’m not sure why they use a flange on his microphone, but it didn’t sound bad. He is young enough that I thought about the idea of a celebrity Idol show. How cool would that be? Get young stars to go through the meat grinder, and compete with the judges driving them crazy with “artistry” and “be true to yourself” and hammering them on song choice when they sang one of their number one hits. It would be hilarious, and those singers would give us some incredible performances along the way.
No drama, but it was interesting anyway. Lee’s celebration when he was the first one to make the finale left no doubt that Lee wants to win. He was as excited as, well – the Red Sox in 2004. Ryan didn’t take any time to build drama; he just namedCrystalas Lee’s opponent in the finale.Crystalsaid, “Safe? I’m safe?!??” and then hugged Casey and said “keep playing”, then she ran over to Lee and hugged him hard, wrapping her legs around him.
What I really liked was that so much of the nervousness that everyone suffered from all season just flat left the stage, and I think it was when they all got to see their “going home” footage that took it away. Casey wasn’t bummed that he lost. Crystal and Lee weren’t worrying about the next judging, not at all. They were celebrating. This was like making it to the World Series. There will be some partying tonight, for both contestants, and they will probably celebrate together.
Whoever wins next week they both won, and they know that. While Adam was gracious in defeat last season, he had to know that he was jobbed. Nobody will feel jobbed this season. One will win, and one will lose. Neither will feel jobbed.
Casey sang “Daughters” as his final song. He didn’t sing all that well, but who cares? We are past that. He brought a kid out of the audience to join him on the front and center stage. He sat with her, and sang out the rest of the song. She said something to him in the guitar break, and I really wish that I could read lips. I rewound it a few times to try and get it, but I couldn’t.
The kid looked to be around four years old, just cute as all getout. She was dressed like Siobhan was when she sang “Any Man of Mine”, with the flowery dress. She didn’t get all excited and jump up and down, though. She was quiet’ and STARING. I know that look from a kid. She was memorizing something, so she won’t forget it. When I see that look from a small child, I just hope I don’t have my finger in my nose. It’s like the kid was taking a picture.
Casey has a lot of the same problems that Bo Bice has, because his style isn’t mainstream right now. He does have several things going for him: His looks, his charm, his musical skills, and the fact that the studio just loves him. Some people are photogenic, and they always look good in pictures. Some are camera friendly, and they make good movies. Casey is studiogenic, and he always makes good recordings. He should have a nice career, and if he can find a market he could have hit records. Tastes change, and you never know what will be hot in 2012.