Review of American
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 5/24/07
The 6th season of American Idol was the worst since its first season- in terms of talent level and excitement. Yes, the eventual winner, Jordin Blake- a seventeen year old prodigy, has far greater long term potential than that season’s winner, Kelly Clarkson, but if one looks at the last seventeen year old to make the finals, Season 3’s Diana Degarmo, it’s clear that Jordin was a cut below in talent level, even if she has more marketing potential.
The season started off with the usual few weeks of auditions, but this year far fewer eventual finalists had profiles, and there was a greater emphasis on the worst and weirdest. The result was that viewers cared less for this year’s crop of singers, and given their lesser abilities, this assured the ratings nosedive that the season endured. The Top 24 were also barely profiled, and then that three week interim period was dominated by the vocally mediocre but slutty debacle of Antonella Barba- an average looking brunet guinette who thought taking nude photos of herself at national monuments and deepthroating her boyfriends was a good way to loosen up her vocal cords. By the end of that round, the Top 6 boys were Phil Stacey- a so-so singing bald military man, who was this season’s Chris Daughtry, and acquired the nickname ‘NosPhilratu’ (for his vampiric looks). There were two Chrises, as well. Chris Richardson was an off-key nasally singing Justin Timberlake clone, and then there was Chris Sligh- a Jack Osborne clone with great chops and a real musical ability at arranging songs. He made it to the finals because of his good sense of humor, and was an early favorite; just as Jason ‘Sundance’ Head was. Sundance was an early favorite, but didn’t even make it to the Top 12. Instead, a fey Indian named Sanjaya Malakar did, and soon became a lightning rod for criticism of the show. A black backup singer, Brandon Rogers, also made the Top 12. The final male was a beatboxing blond boy from Seattle, named Blake Lewis.
Universally, the girls were thought to be better this season. The finalists were Stephanie Edwards- a solid black singer, the eventual winner, Jordin Sparks, Haley Scarnato- a sexier version of last season’s Katherine McPhee, who hung around for a few weeks by hiking up her skirt and showing off her long, luscious legs. There was also Gina Glocksen- this season’s rock chick with pink hair, Lakisha Jones- this season’s fat, black gospel singer (think Frenchie Davis- who unlike Antonella Barba, was kicked off of Season 2 despite never performing fellatio on camera; Jennifer Hudson, and Mandisa Hundley), and Melinda Doolittle- a black homunculus of a woman who was clearly the best pure singer this season. Yet, she had little charisma, but soon became a favorite of Judge Simon Cowell- always a good thing, as it has become clear that AI is not a singing contest but a marketing vehicle. The favorites were clearly Melinda and Lakisha, for the girls, and Chris Sligh for the boys.
The Top 12 round saw Brandon Rogers eliminated, after flubbing some words. So did Haley Scarnato. The standout performance that week was Sligh’s re-arrangement of the horrid love ballad Endless Love. He was panned by the judges while Blake Lewis proved almost as interesting in arranging music as Slight did. The Top 11 round saw the demise of Stephanie Edwards, while Blake aced The Zombies’ Time Of The Season. Chris Sligh did the same group’s She’s Not There, and, after several weeks of being panned- and beating out Sundance Head for the last boys’ spot, Sanjaya did The Kinks’ You Really Got Me, as a young blond girl cried her eyes out- one of the key moments from this season. Lakisha refused to stretch herself on ‘60s night, singing the awful Shirley Bassey tune, Diamonds Are Forever, from a James Bond film. That week saw Sligh give a shout out to the Vote For The Worst website.
Thus, even though he was clearly the best male singer, and had a big fanbase, and was never in trouble before, the next week he was voted out. Interestingly, he had audio problems with his mike, as he sang a song by The Police, Every Little Thing You Do Is Magic. After that, the show became even duller, as the judges, especially, became predictable. Paula Abdul was her usual worthless elf, while Randy Jackson, after improving a bit the last few years, took some huge steps backward into utter uselessness. Even Simin Cowell started too blatantly trying to steer the contest- giving approving comments each week to Melinda- whether or nott she was great, good, or not that good.
After Sligh’s demise, Gina Glocksen left, then Haley “Legs’ Scarnato. Top 7 week saw the Bottom 2 as Lakisha and Sanjaya, and Sanjaya fell, although I was tired of Lakisha’s dull and predictable performances. At only 17 years old, and despite the criticism, Sanjaya has a tremendous upside, as a singer, whereas singers like Lakisha are a dime a dozen. After Top 6 week’s publicity stunt to boost ratings and feed poor kids in Africa and America, the following week saw Phile Stacey and Chris Richardson fall, as Blake Lewis gave the performance of the year- reworking Jon Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name, into a hip hop beatboxed riff. Lakisha finally got the boot the next week, as the top 3 were Melinda, Blake and Jordin. Many fans were surprised when Melinda was cut, but I predicted a Jordin-Blake finale the week after Chris Sligh was voted off. Lakisha, Melinda, and Jordin were battling over the same demographics, while Blake was clearly the best male singer left, after Sligh’s demise.
Doolittle could be great, but there were times she was clearly a backup singer, and exuded no confidence. This is why the show is called American Idol, not American Singer. Despite that, Melinda gave a great rock performance of Ike and Tina Turner’s Nut Bush City Limits. But, Jordin was just as good, and had a more appealing personality. Also, after the charity week stunt, where host Ryan Seacrest pretended that Jordin was eliminated, only to give her a reprieve, you just knew the show’s allegiance had switched from Melinda to her. The last performance show saw Blake reprise his Bon Jovi classic, but by the third song- a treacly ballad, it was clear that Jordin would win. Blake could barely contain his vomit, whole the young Jordin embraced the song, and was crowned American Idol the next night.
No, there were no breakout performers this year. None of this year’s contestants are likely to have the sales success of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, nor Chris Daughtry. Similarly, Only Melinda Doolittle might have the chops to join Clay Aiken. LaToya London, and Elliott Yamin as the show’s lone great vocal talents, and while Blake Lewis and his Bon Jovi song will join Bo Bice’s semifinal a capella song, In A Dream, as one of the two gutsiest moves in the show’s history, he is not the musician Bice nor Daughtry are. Chris Sligh might be, but with the weight of the AI colossus against him, who knows what success he will have?
Season 7 will tell whether this year was merely a downward blip in the ratings juggernaut, or whether it was the beginning of the end for this decade’s television phenomenon. My guess is the latter, although the show will still last two or three more seasons. The American public is notoriously fickle, and after two straight seasons of improvement from the lackluster third season, Season 6’s regression is a turning point. Simply put, the judges should be less concerned about personalities, and putting good singer on stage. the personalities and back stories will emerge by themselves. The worst example of this cynical manipulation was putting the talentless Antonella Barba into the Top 24, as the last choice, while a far more talented young woman- perhaps the only good white female singer this season- whose name and story were never even scratched, was cut.
Doing such one season may earn the show a pass, but a second straight season of mediocrities will mean that AI really has jumped the proverbial shark. But even if it has not, this season was one dull slog. here’s till next January!
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