I watched every single episode of the first eight seasons. I was a super Idol fan through Kris Allen’s win. Nine lost lost me before the end. Ten I watched off and on for the new judges. Eleven I skipped almost completely. I came back this season to check out the new judges. First, overall season ten impressions:
Randy Jackson. Why is he still a thing? Seriously though. I’ve been done with him since the “dawg pound” in season two. I get that he can’t do anything else, but he must have naked S&M pictures of Nigel Lythgoe somewhere that he’s made it through all the cast changes. He’s a waste of space, time and generally just makes me crazy. I do like that he finally can’t name drop Mariah since she’s there. “In it to win it?” Right, because all of the others are in it to lose it. This season he’s just filling a chair as a buffer. It genuinely distresses me that he still has a job with this show. I fast forward through every single word he says.
Ryan Seacrest. It’s his fault we have the Kardashians. I cannot forgive him for that, and I fast forward him as well. Brian Dunkleman – I’d take you back!
Keith Urban. He’s not extremely entertaining, but I genuinely believe his enthusiastic reaction to honest performances. I believe he means what he is saying and he doesn’t seem to be trying to hard to play for TV. It makes him boring, but he’s usually right on, if occasionally rosier than is truly correct.
Mariah Carey. Yes, she’s a diva. She came off that way in the auditions, but not as dramatically as I expected. It mostly comes across to me as a star who knows she’s a star. In the auditions it occasionally felt false, but it’s becoming more honest in the live shows. She’s grown less interesting for being unwilling to offer much criticism.
Nicki Minaj. I hate her and I love her. She’s the only interesting aspect of the panel. It depends on which Nicki is responding. I hate the cutesy, the false adoration, the playing for TV “I love you” thing, but the other half of the time she is completely honest and I agree with her. She has several times just said someone was terrible – when they were – and I appreciated that she doesn’t care and says it. Don’t get me wrong – she’s crazy – but even before being a talent show, this a TV show, and she is the only possibly entertaining part because she is unpredictable. Whatever deal was made that meant she and Mariah will not or cannot interact has ruined the potential for entertaining judging interactions. Though her mockery of Keith is kind of amusing. She makes me want to pull my hair out, but I’m glad she’s there.
OKAY – the top ten. My thoughts, stream of consciousness as I watch.
Curtis Finch, Jr. – “I Believe” – I’m not buying what he’s selling. All that performance did was make me wish it had been Fantasia. He is the hollow cruise ship version of what she did so authentically. He seems so impressed with himself while he sings, where she always felt completely committed to the song. I will also never get over what a jackass he was during the Group round when he was in that group with little redhead Charlie and he basically said “I’m not here to help anyone else, I’m here to win.” While that may be true, it does not fly with that authentic gospel tone he’s pretending to give. And he’s halfway to doing the drag performance of his own performances.
Janelle Arthur – “Gone” – Good strong performance. Not particularly impressive. I’m preferring her on ballads. Great energy and comfortable performance. I do like her honest unpretentious comfortable country vibe.
Devin Velez – “Temporary Home” – He has my favorite of the remaining male voices. I think he’s sweet. He just walks out, unassuming, and then sings his face off. I loved the bilingual element of his previous performances. This wasn’t his best vocal so far, but he’s solid. It would be hard to sell him as modern pop, it would land in adult contemporary. If they are smart they will introduce him as a Spanish-language artist and give him songs Enrique Iglesias can’t sing and let him be a big-voiced, big romance song latin star.
Angie Miller – “I Surrender” – I lerrrrrrrrrrve this girl. She’s my winner easily (and I didn’t even see the original song they keep raving about.) The mix of rock and pop in her voice and that she doesn’t get shouty is impressive. I do love her best at the piano. She gives great face for the camera, much like Kelly Clarkson always did. Playing Kelly’s version right before wasn’t particularly fair, but she did it extremely well herself. Those anime eyes and that big hair – she’s definitely a package, and yet doesn’t feel fabricated. She’ll have to be careful as she gets praise to not let the doe eyes go crazy or she’ll end like Melinda Doolittle with everyone annoyed that she’s so surprised by the compliments every week. But yeah, she’s my choice.
Sidebar – I’m really hating this “sing songs by former idols” thing. A number of these performances were iconic the first time, and it’s incredibly unfair to attempt to “show how great an impact Idol has had” while forcing these kids to mimic other idols.
Paul Jolley – “Amazed” – Bless his heart. It’s not that his theatrics are false, he’s a cheeseball in life. It’s not fake, it’s just overdone in the way that happens to lots of big choir boys who learn to show how hard the are singing while they are singing. Even more than Broadway (and I wanted to punch Jimmy Iovine in the face for his Les Mis slam), it’s more like Contemporary Christian Music, praise and worship style. It’s sort of permanently stuck in earnest sincerity, rather than letting the emotion and performance be colored by the actual lyrics of the song. Ummm, that key change in the middle was definitely wonky. He has a big old voice, and it’s pleasing. It definitely will not play in pop country like that, so he’ll either come out of the closet or he should be in Christian music.
Candice Glover – “I Who Have Nothing” – Seriously. Seriously though. She sang her face off. It’s the first true diva voice on the show in longer than I can remember. I always go back to that this show is a singing competition, and I’ve always been frustrated that we get to the finals and there are always a few who aren’t really amazing singers. There are great venues for singer/songerwriters or folksy singers, but this show is about amazing voices. Hers truly, truly is. This was exquisite. The first tonight that truly outperformed the original Idol performance. A continuing and stronger connection with the audience and she’ll win. Probably the most vocally talented contestant, with the vocal quality I like best, in years.
Lazaro Arbos – “Breakaway” – Sweet Lazaro. I love him. He’s so sweet. He has the same problem with every song. His lower register in the first half of the song always feels wobbly, and it’s like his just biding his time to get to the second verse/bridge/chorus so he can get into his upper power register. He always has some degree of pitch problems. He’s a committed performer, and probably has a lot of fans (me among them), but he will not be able to hang vocally with this group for long. I also HATE the reliance on the back stories to get people to like contestants early in the process, so I ignore them when judging performances. That said, I do love his story for being a unique kind of obstacle to deal with.
Kree Harrison – “Crying” – She is exquisite in her simplicity. She doesn’t need to, and doesn’t try to, do anything but sing. It feels like old country in a relevant way that would be a counter-point to the uber-produced pop country of Taylor Swift. I believe every note, I believe every word and she lets the melody be the star because her voice can do anything. I loved it. Perfect song, she’s rather flawless every time, and she always goes a little higher and a little further than I think she will.
Sidebar – “You could sing the phone book” – can we retire this phrase? It doesn’t make any sense. There isn’t a phone book song. It doesn’t have a melody. Even “You could sing Happy Birthday” would make more sense. Sidebar complete.
Burnell Taylor – “Flying Without Wings” – He’s cute and quirky and the awkward hand choreography will go away with some practice. He’s not as bombastic as Curtis, but I far prefer his voice and delivery because I believe it. He’s also even cuter out from behind his nerd chic. He makes interesting choices vocally at times as well. This underwhelming for where it falls in the evening, but it was well done and lovely.
Amber Holcomb – “A Moment Like This” – In the coveted final spot, there are statistics that show that no contestant who sang last has ever gone him the next night until the top four I believe, with the song that made this show a genuine hit. It was kind of perfect. It was less Beyonce and more controlled than some of her others, and it fit beautifully. She has a little bit of that “it comes really easy” so it doesn’t look hard thing that can occasionally look like you’re not working hard enough. I have a special place in my heart for Kelly, for this song, for where it came in my life, and I still LOVED this vocal.
In summary, it won’t happen because of who still votes for this show, but the final four should be all girls. Honestly, four of the best female voices – in quality, none of them have annoying sounds in their upper or lower registers – true diva voices in four very different styles. It’s a real vocal competition, with no Christina Aguilera-isms or yelling or forcing to be found! I’m genuinely excited for the first time in years. Candice, Amber, Kree and Angie – they are far beyond the others. There isn’t a boy who can hang with them, though I’ll throw my boy vote to Devin.
Winner of the night – honestly, the viewers, because possibly the best first night of finals ever for vocal consistency and maturity of performance.
Should go home – Curtis. Ugh. Can’t stand him.
In trouble – all of the boys, though I would say Paul and Janelle in the most danger. Hopefully Curtis, possibly Devin or Burnell.