Thursday, March 10, 2011

American Idol – Ba-Ba-Ba-Boring!

I had a night off from work last night and decided to catch the debut of Season 10 of American Idol on Fox TV. I had boycotted Season 9 after one of my favorite judges, Paula Abdul, left at the end of Season 8 after she was not given a fittingly respectfully and equitable pay raise to her counterpart, Simon Cowell. Edging Paula out in Season 8 was Kara DioGuardi, who awkwardly dominated as a fourth judge and left poor Simon no time to talk. Now that Kara had also left the show, I was willing to give American Idol another shot.

Sadly, judges Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres have also left this year, so the judges bench has been restocked with two fresh new faces, amazing performer Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, and entertainer/entrepreneur Jennifer Lopez. Returning consistently each season has been judge Randy Jackson, former bassist for Journey and Grammy Award winning producer, manager, singer, and music industry executive.

Sadly, the new lineup of judges is appearing a bit lackluster and kind of um… boring.

American Idol Season 10 judges: Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, and host Ryan Seacrest.

I can’t say I don’t like the judges. Actually, they are all quite likable, extremely knowledgeable, and with time, perhaps they will become just as entertaining as The Original 3: Randy, Paula, and Simon. What they lack is dynamics.

The problem lies in that Steven, J.Lo., and Randy are pretty much the same critic. They don’t seem to differ on opinions and always agree with each other. This can’t be possible – someone up there is afraid to say what they feel. They need to let go, say what they want, and accept that this will mean that some American Idol fans will love them, while some will beg for their firing. Excitement equals higher ratings. Higher ratings equals job security. It's ironic how that works.

What the new lineup lacks is a “Simon,” someone with that over-the-top, opinionated, gloves-off, naked criticism which makes you curse and swear when you don’t agree with him, then promptly grab your cell phone at the end of the show and call the number for that poor, abused contestant, pressing buttons until your fingers bleed.

Loopy, but smart, Paula was truly my favorite judge. I sometimes watched the show just to see what ridiculous thing she might say next, then spent the next day chatting with friends about it over coffee. Her on camera playful romantic chemistry with Simon was a fun soap-opera-esque side story to the show.

Randy was overshadowed by the two stronger personalities, but did not fail to add interest, introducing new vernacular to my vocabulary, such as “pitchy” to describe “singing off-key,” and sweetly telling contestants, “Yo, dawg! It was a’right,” implying that their performance was not so spectacular. Being the first in line to offer criticism, his colorful evaluations helped soften the blows of what was to come at the end of the judges row: Simon.

What was truly refreshing about The Original 3, was that they seldom agreed. When Paula didn’t like someone, they were really, really bad. When all three loved a contestant, you knew that singer was on their way to stardom. With the current 3 judges awarding praises like gold medals at grade school sports competitions, and offering only candy-coated criticisms, I must instead turn to my gut and my passel of friends for insights into what was right and what was wrong with each singer’s performance.

Hosting the show again for a 10th year is disc jockey Ryan Seacrest.

A welcome addition to this year’s Idol is longtime recording engineer, producer, and chairman of Interscope-Geffen-A&M, Jimmy Iovine, who works as sideline mentor and coach to the contestants. His thoughtful advice to the singers helps to set the stage and inform the audience about what characteristics they should look for in the performances.


Who does TVgrrrrl pick to win Idol this Season? After seeing only one show (due to my hectic work schedule), my favorite is:

Casey Abramsage 20 from Wilmette, IL – who rocked out on the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends” with intense energy and emotion. The boy has “star” written all over him.

However, I was also impressed with (in ABC order):

Naima Adedapoage 26, from Milwaukee, WI – who is the complete package and thoroughly entertained us dancing and singing “Umbrella” alone with no backup vocalists (unlike many of the other singers)

James Durbinage 22, from Santa Cruz, CA – who’s young voice was quite sweet on “Maybe I’m Amazed” and will no doubt become a force to be reckoned with as his voice ages;

Jacob Luskage 23, from Compton, CA – who moved me on “I Believe I Can Fly” with heartfelt emotion;

Thia Megiaage 16, from Hayward, CA – who’s silky sweet voice killed the ballad portion of “Smile,” then surprised us with a uniquely interesting dance jazz arrangement on the latter half of the song; and

Haley Reinhartage 20, from Wheeling, IL – who exhibited wonderful vocal control on “Blue.”

Of course, that’s just one show and over the many years of watching Idol, I’ve learned that while some performers seem to become invigorated by all the constant work and attention, excelling to unimaginable levels (such as Clay Aiken), others fall apart. One thing is for certain: This year’s Idol contestants do not disappoint. America seems to have a bottomless resource of quality vocal talent and I’m sure some hit makers will come out of this year’s bunch.

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