Well, I certainly planned to write more about this season of American Idol. But numerous things impeded my efforts throughout the season. But I suppose better late to the party then not to show up at all.
I especially enjoyed this season because I feel the amount of talent was better spread this year than in previous seasons. While there are no David Cooks or Adam Lamberts this year, the competition between the top 12 has been far more fierce. Last season, I felt that there were 3 contestants who deserved to be considered possible winners. I was always impressed with Scotty McCreery's voice, but he didn't excite me as the winner. I thought that James Durbin and Pia Toscano should have been the two to vie for the title (with Scotty finishing 3rd).
This year, there have been at least 6 contestants I felt stood the best chance. Unfortunately, three of them have already been eliminated (Skyler Lane, Colton Dixon and Elise Testone). But the four who are left are not so bad, either. For this week, here is my top 4:
4 -- Holly Cavanaugh
Holly has improved every week she has been there. However, even though she has an incredibly powerful voice, her stiffness on stage had been her downfall. That all seemed to be improving these past few weeks. My biggest knock on her (and this goes for Ms. Sanchez, as well) is that she is basically just singing these songs as they had been recorded in the past. If the winner is based in their karaoke ability (which some claim it is), then she does belong near the top. But to me, the greatest AI contestants have been the ones who truly make the songs their own.
3 -- Jesssica Sanchez
As with Holly, Jessica has an amazing voice. But again, she does nothing different with the songs she sings. She did show me something this past week with her cover of Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful." But it wasn't earth shattering. Since her first appearance in the top 13, she has been tremendously consistent - remarkable in the fact she is just 16 years old. I also do not buy into her outward innocence and humility. That act got old for me once she introduced her alter ego, "BeBe Chez" Ideally, I should move her up to #2 because I actually believe she will be in finals. But if it were up to me, she would be just outside looking in.
2 -- Phillip Phillips
Phillip is a very intriguing singer. What I like about him is his honest approach to his music. Win or lose, he's here because he really loves to perform and create. However, P2 is limited vocally. This showed dramatically when he attempted the chorus of "Time of the Season" by the Zombies this week. But his passion and joy seems to allow him to overcome his shortfall. He is also unafraid to reinterpret his song choices. The other one who had that great a talent this season was Colton, who left the competition way too early. I'm torn as to where to place Phillip this week. He did not perform as well this past week and should have dropped a spot or two. But he is exceptionally popular with the voters and in this competition, that's all that matters. I still believe he has a great shot at winning the whole thing, but based on his past few weeks, he really doesn't deserve it.
1 -- Joshua Ledet
From the first time I saw Joshua perform (Hollywood week, I believe), I was very impressed. His voice harkens back to the days of Motown and his personality shows that he is truly humbled by the attention he receives. While he doesn't stay too far from the original music he performs, what Joshua does do is add tremendous emotion and intensity. In my eyes, Joshua was always among the top two each week (Colton was my favorite). But this week, he solidified himself by not only the way performed the Bee Gee's "To Love Somebody," but by the fact he performed it so incredibly after only learning the song 15 minutes earlier. As Steven said, that is the mark of a true artist.
Since this is my first post about AI this season, I am going to critique the judges as well. To be honest, they are a joke. The show desperately needs someone like Simon Cowell. To his credit, Jimmy Iovine saves the show. I'm assuming that because he is the founder and chairman of Interscope records, he can not be a judge on the show. However, his critiques are always spot-on and honest. I wish I could say the same for the three real judges.
Randy Jackson is, well...Randy Jackson. Since Simon Cowell left, Randy has been thust into the elder-statesman role. He clearly has toned down his style in these past couple of years. But he is still way too hyper and unserious. His catchphrases are still way too overused ("In it to win it!", "gotta have it!") and his outfits are simply weird (but not as weird as Steven Tyler's). Still, he is the senior judge and does know the industry. I just wish he would name-drop so often.
In a contest between Jennifer Lopez and Paula Abdul, I'd have to say Ms. Lopez is the better judge. She's certainly the more sober of the two. My biggest issue with Jennifer is how highly she thinks of herself. Of course, she is a beautiful woman and knows the music industry well. But, unlike Paula, she seems to flaunt it too much. Now, in fairness, she does not do it as much as shamelessly as Kara DioGuardi did. So I guess that's good. However, like Paula, her purpose is to be the soothing contrarian who always looks for the best of each contestant. However, when you have all three judges doing that, it takes away the appeal. When Paula did it, she was protecting the contestants' egos from the beating Simon would often deliver. Now, she just becomes a redundant voice in the crowd.
As for Steven, I've not been terribly impressed. However, he has had some very strong comments during the season - especially his words of warning to Hejun Han. But these gems are way to far between and it often seems like he is mailing it in. Steven is definitely a colorful personality. But I'm not sure what, if anything, he adds to the show.
So, who do you think will be in the Top 3 next week?