Friday, May 13, 2011

American Idol Top 4 Results

Who should have been eliminated (tough call, but based it on vocals alone): Scotty McCreery
Who I predicted would be eliminated: Haley Reinhart
Who was eliminated: James Durbin

So many thoughts. And like all other Blogger users, I was unable to post for a period of time, when I could have been a bit more organized with those thoughts after watching the episode.

Is Jordin Sparks going to try to be the new Beyonce? Why would Steven Tyler do that terrible song without Aerosmith? Why was Haley Reinhart basically used last week as part of a two week long process of pimping a new Lady Gaga song? Could James Durbin actually be a viable country singer? How come Lauren Alaina, who did not want to sing an Elvis song about being evil, have no qualms about singing about loading a shotgun and looking and sounding quite fierce in the process? (Haley got the parts about beer and cigarettes.)

Last night was the season's third real big surprising results night episode, and the elimination of Durbin will go down with the elimination of Pia Toscano and the almost elimination but then save of Casey Abrams as things that shocked many. Last night's result certainly caused much Idol despair to my parents, who take all of this tv show stuff very seriously. It was also not the result I wanted to see, as I thought Durbin, though at times somewhat inconsistent, was the most interesting performer left and the best suited for my personal musical tastes. For many years, I have wanted to see a Durbin be voted out, but not this particular one.

In another sense, the fourth place finisher for James now has him in the company of another rock contestant who finished just off the medal stand (and Tamrya Gray as well going back to the beginning.) James may not have the immediate music industry opportunities that Chris Daughtry had a few years ago, and may indeed now not even get a major record deal, but without a first or second place finish, he may get the chance to make more of the heavy metal record he wanted to make, instead of the Adult Contemporary direction that Jimmy Iovine and Interscope wanted to push him in. It could also be that James, who has a bit of a background in this area, would be someone who should just start off doing musical theater or just playing small venues doing some kick-ass hair metal. I think he would be really good at continuing to do cover songs.

While I was surprised James was voted off, I was not shocked. This has been the most unpredictable season ever, and there are several factors at play. Of course, the fans of his were perhaps complacent that he would be safe, while the fans of the always vulnerable Haley and suddenly after last week vulnerable Lauren were ultra motivated to save those girls. The way that Haley was treated this week by the judges certainly gave her quite a push from voters. Part of me believes that could be what Idol wanted to happen all along. There are always more theories to those sort of things than the Kennedy assassination.

As for James, he also had a bit of a bad week the week prior, and while he was safe then, it could have caught up with him this particular week. I thought he was good on Wednesday night (and had him ranked at the top), but his performance of "Don't Stop Believing" was just nothing to write home about. The judges seemingly never criticized him during his whole Idol run, contributing to the feeling of voting invincibility that may have been felt, and Randy Jackson's recent over the top pushing as the contest being James' "to lose" almost certainly produced a backlash, as has been seen in seasons past. Was that Idol's intention to have happen?

I also think that James being from a place like Santa Cruz, California did not lend itself for a home town or a home state to push out a big local vote, the way that the remaining southern contestants have, and he probably was not getting the local coverage, the way that Haley Reinhart is here in Chicago.

Additionally, a past Idol front-runner, Adam Lambert, to whom James was often compared to, either fairly or unfairly, had in recent weeks, taken the step to publicly criticize Durbin, and urge his fans, many of whom are quite sheep like, to vote for Haley. Thus, a lot that had been fans of both singers, who often delivered loud notes on stage, suddenly dropped their backing of James.

So, now we are left with a final three of singers all under 21, and two of them being High School students. That is a first for American Idol. The beginning of the season saw the girls get voted off in rapid fire procession, but if this were a Star Wars saga, it could be called the "Estrogen Strikes Back", as all but one of the guys have now been picked off even more brutally. Weeks ago, people like me were saying a girl may never win American Idol again, and now they have two out of three chances.

However, I do think that the lone male, Scotty McCreery is now in an even stronger position to be the ultimate winner, and the first teenage male to win the show. There has been at least one other teenage male in a past season who fell just short and I think was a lot more versatile vocally than Scotty, but that may be the subject for another blog. Scotty can be grateful that he is left with the opposition he now faces.

Truly, anything can wind up happening next week, when the kids will sing three songs each, but I think the similarities between Scotty and Lauren in age and their country genre, will mean that one will fall short of the finale, and that Haley, of all people, should find a way to advance, but likely would then fall short a week later. Based on gender and the fact that he is facing two girls, I think Scotty is more likely than Lauren to advance next week. I have a hunch I may not really like almost all of the songs that will be done next week, but the competition aspect should be fascinating. If not for Scotty, Lauren would now be a heavy favorite to win it all, and with Pia and James now gone, the path for a Scotty victory looks pretty reasonable to see.

I will have more of a chance to talk about Haley's Idol journey in a future posting, but it is amazing that she has lasted as long as she did. If last year's Lee DeWyze Top Three Homecoming Parade took place approximately ten minutes from where I live, the Haley event will take place all but about five minutes away. She is to be paraded down a street in Wheeling, Illinois and then, as Lee did, perform a free concert at Arlington Park racetrack. I will not be there though, as I will actually be at Wrigley Field at the time, watching the Cubs play an extremely rare Saturday night home game. I suppose the schedule indicates that there is no chance for Haley to be at Wrigley to sing the "Star Spangled Banner."

Haley should get a good turnout here in the suburbs, but I think the crowds for both Lauren and Scotty will be larger, and that (just as Idol will probably want it), will be more emotional. Lauren will cry at home like there is no tomorrow (and folks will say it is a sign she is too emotionally fragile) and I think Scotty will also be unable to avoid the tears in North Carolina (which the same folks will say is endearing.) I am not all politically correct of course, but there is a bit of a gender double standard involved. As for Haley, maybe she will cry a bit, but she comes across as a bit more emotionally guarded (not that there is anything wrong with that either) and her lack of weeping may hurt her.

Speaking of crying on American Idol, let's wrap up with James. His elimination and farewell performance were certainly emotional and one would have to be sort of heartless to not feel for him. We learned early on that he is afflicted with Tourette Syndrome as well as Asperger's, a high functioning form of autism. As the season progressed though, I think most people were able to look past the Tourette related facial ticks that he sometimes had. For his part, James managed to get far more comfortable in front of a camera, and his disability became far more of an afterthought.

Going back to the auditions, and the Hollywood round, the AI edits were such that most people thought that James was severely overpraised by the judges and also a bit of a temperamental diva. He really did look like a jerk in need of comeuppance during Hollywood week. I would never expected he would gain the fans he did and make it to this point. Of course though, few people thought once he did gain steam, that he would only make it to fourth.

In addition to his impressive voice, sincere passion for music (yes, give metal a chance!), James, a young man with a fiancee and a son, managed to win many over. It is perhaps fair to say that perhaps this sudden fame could have gone to his head a little bit, but to me, I cannot help but feel good for him. He was crushed at first last night when Seacrest told him he was leaving, but as he prepared to sing and after he finished, he was completely genuine about how "amazing" the whole experience had been to him.

It goes without saying that he probably had all sorts of struggles and difficulties growing up with the conditions he had, but perhaps because of them, came across to me at least like an emotionally open and unfiltered person. I do not know what lays ahead for him in the world of music, but because of American Idol, his life should be better than it would have otherwise been, especially since we were told that he was unable to afford to buy diapers for his son when he auditioned. I hope he and his fiancee Heidi prepare well for the future and wind up staying together.

Finally, I hope that all those who deal with special needs such as Tourette's or autism, and their devoted families who often have a very difficult job, will look at James Durbin's run on American Idol as evidence of what can be possible.