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Friday, March 23, 2012

American Idol: Top 9 Evaluations

Lately, we’ve been pretty serious here at the blog, so let’s liven things up a bit by talking about a subject we Americans care about infinitely more than free speech and ideological exchange: American Idol.

As a self-proclaimed pop culture critic, it’s only right that I comment on our most American of American institutions – mediocre singers vying to be named prom Queen on national television. (Come on, we all know singing ability is the least important criterion for winning American Idol.)

So as neither a music expert nor pop culture expert, I now give you my non-expert opinion of the Top 9 American Idol contestants of this season.

In no particular order, except reverse alphabetical:

Elise Testone:
Personally, her musical style doesn’t appeal to me, but there’s no doubt this woman can sing. With the current popularity of gritty female vocalists, she’s got an actual shot in the music industry today. She’s a legitimate talent and I wish her the best at finding success after she gets kicked off Idol because she’s not a cute boy or country singer. There’s no way in you-know-what that she’ll win this competition.

Jessica Sanchez:
She’s cute. She’s stylish. She can sing ok. It’s just not my thing. I’m not sure exactly what the producers are trying to do with this girl, because there’s not much room in the music world for a teenage ballad singer. You either have to be a precocious 9-year-old or a 40+ comeback artist to appeal to the audience that wants an album of over-sung ballads.

Phillip Phillips:
Our first real contender here. He’s a boy and he’s adorable which means he could go all the way. And I’m actually ok with that. He seems like the most authentic of the contestants, as though he’d be just as happy plucking away in a circle of ten-year-old cousins at a family reunion. Believe it or not, southern soul is my second favorite musical genre behind alternative rock, and there’s actually a hint of it in his performances.

Although, for some reason it always surprises me that he wears shoes. I don’t know why. He just seems like the type of person who doesn’t wear shoes a lot.

Joshua Ledet:
He can sing. Seems like a super nice guy. He likes crawfish. I don’t think I would, what with their long tentacles and prickly legs. I also don’t know what I’d do with an album of gospel-style pop songs.

Skyler Laine:
She doesn’t even try to be pop country. She’s just country country. You already know how I feel about country, so I’m sure you know how I feel about her performances. But then, the rest of Idol nation strongly disagrees with me and they actually vote, so she’ll probably win or come close. She also wears the biggest earrings I’ve ever seen. I can’t decide if they help or hurt her balance.

Heejun Han:
And now we get to the most controversial of the contestants. There’s a lot of speculation out there about Mr. Han. Is he legitimate, but quirky? Or is he trying to make a mockery of the show. Personally, I don’t care. This show lost its legitimacy long ago. The selection process and voting have nothing to do with raw talent.

I actually find his antics hilarious. His pre-interviews and rehearsal clips are the only ones I consistently don’t fast forward through. (For the record, I can watch a 2-hour episode of Idol in 10 minutes.) He gives life to this tired show. Would I buy his album? Heck no. Would I invite him to every party and BBQ I could? Hope you like grilled steak, Heejun.

Colton Dixon:
Now, I know what you’re thinking. He’s probably my number one pick, my champion. You couldn’t believe I didn’t start with him. After all, he’s already been crowned this season’s Alternative Rock god. And to you I say, you didn’t listen to my alternative rock suggestions, did you. The only thing about this guy that’s alternative rock is his skinny jeans.

I knew we had a problem when he explained last week that he was going to do “Broken Hearts” like the hard rock song that it was. Oh.

Now, to be fair, by Idol standards the presence of an electric guitar automatically grants a song “hard rock” status. But by my standards, that makes it the same pop/rock-lite performance Idol gives us every year from the many other Idol faux rockers. Fitting that he was thrilled to “hook up” with that hard rocker we all know as Chris Daughtry.

I don’t know what it is about him, but something rubs me the wrong way. If there were a slope of authenticity he’d be at the opposite point of wherever Phillip Phillips fell on that scale. That’s actually not a bad thing in terms of the music industry and is probably why Mr. Dixon will end up a huge star and Phillip will go back to playing town picnics. Colton seems very self-aware with a practiced fake humility that could take him all the way to the top whether he wins this competition or not. Here’s a guy who’s been told he’s amazing all his life and believes it.

See, I understand him so well because he’s a younger, male version of me. It’s creepy, really. We both have the indie piano rock thing going, including the dark emo make-up and streaky hair color. We even have the same clear, slightly too pretty voice to authentically do the music we’re trying to do, right down to the same Sinead-break at key moments. The clip of his original song last week could have come from my own songbook of melodic over-the-top angst.

So, ok, maybe that’s why I don’t like him. I’m just jealous and mad that we’re not collaborating in our own faux rock indie piano band. (Call me, Colton!)

Hollie Cavanagh:
See “Jessica Sanchez.”

Deandre Brackensick:
He seems like a sweet kid, and since I’m sure he reads my blog, I don’t want to be too critical. So let’s just leave it that. Sweet, sweet kid.

So there you have it. This season’s Idol Cheat Sheet. Why do I have the feeling I ticked people off a whole lot more with this post than with last week’s?

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