We have seen first the boys and then the girls perform, and now it’s time for the unkindest cut of all, as the top 24 becomes the final 13. It will be unlucky for some, but who will survive the semi-final cull and remain with a chance of winning the ultimate prize? All together now: this is … American Idol.
So this is it, the final show before we proceed with the serious business of the weekly live competition. It’s a two-hour extravaganza of drama, sing-for-your-life performances … and lots of corny interviews and video montages to serve as padding, because really we know that this is just another excuse for Fox to sell a whole bunch of top dollar advertising air-time. (Cynical, moi?)
Anyhow, J-Lo has thankfully ditched the Bacofoil outfit, while S-Ty is wearing a delightfully frilly pink shirt teamed with vintage jeans that are shredded to within an inch of a public indecency charge.
The magic of television
So here’s how it goes down. First of all, the public vote will determine the top ten: five boys, five girls. Then the judges will pick six of the remaining fourteen to perform one final time, after which they select three wild-cards to give us our final 13. Supposedly, this half-dozen will be singing for their lives, whereas of course in reality the judges will have known the result of the public vote in advance and pre-selected who they want to go through. The last sing-for-your-life segment is merely to give the viewing audience a sense of closure.
At least now it is clear why the previous two shows were pre-recorded last weekend. All 24 contestants would have been told that they might need to perform one last time, and pre-recording the semi-final shows will have given them the extra couple of days they needed to select their songs, do their on-stage rehearsals and complete all the other little hidden production preparations that go into creating that magical illusion we call television.
Anyhow, we will pass quickly over the various montages and interviews. Here is how the results of the public vote panned out.
The top 10
Our host and Master of the Overly-Dramatic Pause™
Kermit the Frog Ryan Seacrest calls the contestants forward in twos and threes to discover their fate.
First we start with the boys. Scotty McCreery and Robbie Rosen are summoned to join Ryan. The deafening cheer which greets Scotty’s arrival tells you everything you need to know. He is through, while Robbie is sent back to his seat to hope for a shot at a wild-card. Next up come Clint Jun Gamboa, Jovany Barreto and Jordan Dorsey. Clint is given bad news – watching his smug little face crumple is the highlight of the entire show – as is Jordan. Which means that Jovany … uh-uh. Nice fake-out there.
Now it’s time to start putting the girls through the wringer. Our first pair are Pia Toscano and Lauren Alaina, two of the stand-outs from last night. So it comes as no surprise when Ryan tells both of them they’re in the top ten. Which means, to keep the tension high, you really don’t want to be next up – it’s ta-ta to Tatynisa Wilson and auf Wiedersehen to Julie Zorrilla. Staying with the girls, Ryan calls up the trio of Kendra Chantelle, Ashthon Jones and Karen Rodriguez. K-Rod gets the nod, and a crestfallen Kendra and Ashthon are sent back.
Just to keep us on our toes, Ryan alternates between boys and girls the rest of the way. Casey Abrams, Jacob Lusk and Tim Halperin are brought into the spotlight. The writing is on the wall for Tim and you can see from his face that he knows it, as the other two are shooed in to the top ten as we always knew they would be. Next up is a toughie: Naima Adedapo, Thia Megia and Lauren Turner – and it’s Thia who goes through. Brett Loewenstern versus Paul McDonald? Hello Paul, sorry Brett.
Which just leaves two girls and two boys, with a brace of places up for grabs. As it turns out, both are easy to predict. Rachel Zevita, after her disastrous performance the previous night, was never going to beat the so-so Haley Reinhart. And Stefano Langone was always going to lose out to James Durbin’s Adam Lambert lookalike.
Ten down, three to go.
I can only imagine what it must have been like to be one of the remaining 14, as one by one six are called out to perform one last time in the hope of grabbing one of the three wild-card spots. As each name is announced, the odds of being given that one final shot slowly dwindle away to nothingness. By the time Ashthon (And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going) and Stefano (Smokie Norful‘s I Need You Now) have been called forward to perform, we are down to four possibles from the remaining twelve. And after Kendra (Georgia On My Mind) and Jovany (Jon Secada‘s Angel) have had their turn, there are four very nervous girls and four similarly concerned boys praying for that last 50:50 shot at finals glory. In the end, Naima (For All We Know) gets the last nod for the girls, eliminating Lauren Turner, Julie and Tatynisa. And Robbie (Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word) is the final boy, which casts Jordan, Clint and Tim adrift.
I won’t dwell on the individual performances. Let’s face it, they are largely irrelevant because you know the judges have already made up their minds. We get a brief interlude while we are ‘treated’ to the video for J-Lo’s new single, I’m Gonna Cash In, Sucka (or something like that) and the judges go through the charade of pretending to make furious and heart-felt deliberations, and then – without too much in the way of dramatic pauses (as is always the way with live shows, we’re running long) we are told that Ashthon, Stefano and Naima are the judges’ three wild-card choices.
And there you have it. Six boys, seven girls – our American Idol season ten top 13.
Thoughts, predictions and random peregrinations
Six random observations before we embark on the long road to discovering the winner:
1. Is this the year of country? – Country singers haven’t fared particularly well in recent seasons, but judging by this week’s shows the volume of support from the Sect of Scotty™ appears greater than for any other contestant, and he seems to be a genuinely nice guy as well as having an awesome voice. Expect the producers to find a way for him to do a country song no matter what the weekly theme is. Song from the year they were born? Country. Disco week? Country. The songs of Aerosmith? A country arrangement. Similarly, Lauren Alaina, arguably the strongest overall package among the girls, is neatly positioned as a country-pop crossover with broad appeal. Could she be Idol‘s answer to the vomit-inducing Miley Cyrus?
2. The early favourite usually comes second – Coming out of the semi-final round, there is usually a clear favourite who most people assume is the likely winner: Crystal Bowersox, Adam Lambert, David Archuleta, Bo Bice. They usually finish second – at best. So if my guess that Scotty is the early favourite is correct, this may not bode well for him. Idol viewers love a winner who goes on a journey throughout the season more than they do someone who is presented as the finished article from day one.
3. Who is this year’s Lee DeWyze? – Or, for that matter, Kris Allen or Taylor Hicks. On a number of occasions, the eventual winner is someone who maintains a low profile during the early rounds, emerging as a contender only when we reach the final eight or so. Out of this season’s crop of 13, that might be someone like Haley Reinhart. Only she won’t win. But it might well be someone other than the obvious four current contenders: Scotty, Jacob, Casey and Lauren.
4. The best pure singer doesn’t always win – You don’t win Idol without having an exceptional voice, but equally in years where there has been one outstanding pure vocalist, they rarely win: Clay Aiken, Melinda Doolittle, Adam Lambert, arguably also Katharine McPhee and LaToya London. An Idol winner needs to have other qualities: versatility, personality, and preferably a good back-story. In short, the winner of Idol is generally the contestant with the biggest fan club, not the biggest voice.
5. How big an influence is Justin Bieber? One of the key trends this year has been the dominance of youth, reflecting the producers’ desire to focus more on younger talent. They lowered the minimum age to 15. And now eight of the final 13 are aged 22 or under – Lauren and Thia are both 16, Scotty a year older. Conversely, Naima and Paul are the only finalists aged 25 or over – and I doubt either will last long in the competition. There is a clear reversal of the trend of recent years, where four of the five most recent winners have been aged 23-plus. Like it or not, the shadow of Bieber hangs over this season.
6. Where have all the gospel divas gone? – In every season of Idol, there has been a strong representation of gospel singers and diva-style singers with booming voices. Season three was perhaps the high point of this trend, with Fantasia Barrino winning, LaToya London finishing fourth and seventh-placed Jennifer Hudson going on to win an Oscar for Dreamgirls. This year, that category of singer has been almost completely absent, with Ashthon being the closest any of the girls get to it – and, of course, Jacob Lusk. But we have seen very few other examples even in the early stages of the competition. Was this a deliberate ploy on the part of the producers to move us into other genres?
As for predictions, for me the 13 finalists split into three distinct tiers as follows:
Favourites: Casey, Jacob, Lauren, Scotty
Dark horses: Ashthon, James, Pia, Stefano, Thia
Also-rans: Haley, Karen, Naima, Paul
At this stage, I’m backing Lauren to win. So that’s cursed her, then. But then that’s part of the fun of watching Idol, right? Just when you think you’ve got it all sussed out, a dark horse emerges or one of the favourites crashes out unexpectedly. From next week on, that journey begins.
American Idol posts
Link: American Idol website