Wednesday, May 4, 2011

IN IT TO WIN IT:  We only saw one performance tonight from someone who went all-out to demonstrate his or her worthiness in a reality competition, and that was Rob Mariano. That's the Survivor I've been missing, the one in which deprivation and physically grueling challenges created drama.

I'm basically done with Idol this season, and have gone from fast-forwarding the intro packages to skipping the judging to now skipping most of each performance as well. The show that I want to see -- and the one that this Iovine-added season promised to deliver -- is one which sought and created the next contemporary artist. The show took a fatal turn away from that path two years ago when Kris Allen outlasted Adam Lambert, and the ascension this year of the G-Rated Lambert and two uninspiring country artists has not improved matters. Nor have the singers themselves (save Haley, I guess) improved all season long. As Matt Zoller Seitz aske yesterday, "When are the chrysalides going to open up and release the beautiful butterflies?"


  1. victoria11:02 PM

    I thought Haley was awesome tonight, full stop.

  2. isaac_spaceman11:17 PM

    That's a lot of eggs to put into the Adam Lambert basket.  He may not have been mainstream Idol, but he also wasn't the next contemporary artist.  For Your Entertainment

  3. Watchman11:26 PM

    Could someone please steal David A's dead, dead eyes and implant them in Scotty...or at least inject him with Botox so he would quit the dang eyebrow thing?

    Haley has been far from my favorite, but that was hands down the performance of the year.  We watched it three times.

    The Lauren who auditioned could have hit the high notes in her parents' song.  This version didn't even try.  For all the talk about this year being so special, it's been very mediocre.

    And Jacob.  Please.  His singing hurts a lot more than love does.  Hopefully he is finally through.

  4. Amen to that.  

  5. Yup.  House of the Rising Sun was far and away the best performance of the night, and arguably the best of the year.  And You and I was in a clump of very good performances (including Lauren's first performance and Scotty's first performance.)  I thought that the country kids' second performances were fine.  Both of James' performances were awful.  Jacob's were worse that awful, and I hate-hate-hate-hate-hate what he did to Love Hurts.

  6. victoria11:56 PM

    Someone on Slezak's site referred to him as "Jacob 'Love Hurts and So Do My Eardrums' Lusk."

  7. Daniel Fienberg12:06 AM

    How can you say that nobody has showed improvement this season when Scotty McCreery has learned how to how the microphone properly a full 75 percent of the time. GEEZ.


  8. I saw one person tag it as "Lusk Hurts."

  9. Has anyone else come closer in the three post-Cook seasons?  (Arguably, Siobhan Magnus had the most mainstream-friendly look and voice of the rest.)

    As I've said before, the resounding judicial rejection of Naima's efforts at contemporary swagger told the audience that it was okay to keep supporting mediocrities.

  10. Fred App8:25 AM

    I have to disagree. Haley's second performance was terrific. I think she and James both have shown tremendous growth throughout the season. James started out as a screech masquerading as a singer, and in that sense he was a poor Lambert knockoff. But he's emerged as a real artist whose talents go beyond that. To me, Lambert was cabaret and very choreographed; he was an undeniable showman, but he never invested the kind of emotion or sincerity  in a song that James did with "Without You."

  11. Jenn.8:28 AM

    No one has come closer, but that's a bit of a low baseline. Seasons 8 & 9 were the first two seasons where no one (including Adam Lambert) has sold at least one million records. Both Kris and Adam had a strong hit single (with Adam tacking on a second moderate hit). But Season 9 has put up no competition on the "put forward a contemporary artist" measure, unless Casey James does really well when he finally releases his CD.

  12. KCosmo9:14 AM

    Agreed on House of the Rising Sun.  I loved Without You - I actually want to download the studio version to see if he managed to match the emotion with a few more accurate notes.

  13. Scott9:45 AM

    And I have to disagree with you (and KCosmo, below) about "Without You."  Sure, the emotion was there, but the singing was awful, and I thought on both songs James reverted to "a screech masquerading as a singer."  But thank you, James, for reminding me that someone else had sung "Without You" on Idol, because that allowed me to go back and find this, which is, well...

  14. Fred App10:30 AM

    I'm going to have to disagree with your disagreement (and I promise to stop here, lest we bore everyone else). I've always loved the Nilsson version of this song best, because when he hits the power notes, it's a cry of desperate longing, not a vocal exercise to show off his range. I concede that James hit some bad notes and threw in a gratuitous screech, but to me, his version was more honest and true to the lyrics than Kelly or Mariah's diva turns. (Smiling at the audience while singing how you can't live without someone is almost as bad as dancing around when you're stuck in Folsom Prison or when you're a poor boy livin' for the city.)

  15. I didn't watch last night, but I think Lambert's "Tracks of My Tears" and "Mad World" both had a TON of emotion. 

  16. I rather feel like What Not to Sing's numbers capture the night:

    1.  Haley Reinhart, House of the Rising Sun---92
    2.  Lauren Alaina, Flat on the Floor---84
    3.  Haley Reinhart, You & I---76
    4.  Lauren Alaina, Unchained Melody---75
    5.  Scotty McCreery, Gone---69
    6.  Scotty McCreery, Always On My Mind---56
    7.  James Durbin, Without You---52
    8.  James Durbin, Closer to the Edge---46
    9.  Jacob Lusk, Love Hurts---39
    10.  Jacob Lusk, No Air---9

    I might quibble on this.  Perhaps I'd put Scotty's Gone a touch higher, mark James' two songs down a bit more, and have Love Hurts quite a bit lower, but isn't this the story of the show?  The women had good nights, especially Haley.  Scotty had a good night, with some demerits for notes in the second song.  James had a weak night and fully deserves to be in the bottom two.  And Jacob was awful.  I never want him singing on my TV again, particularly not a song that I love as much as Love Hurts.

  17. isaac_spaceman11:05 AM

    A show where people vote, and especially one with AI's demographics, is incapable of finding a cutting-edge star.  If you had put a prefame Gaga and Cee Lo into the final ten, how long do you think they'd last singing other people's songs, with tweens and 55-year-old women as the principal voters? 

  18. I suppose the question is whether including such performers in the mix would lure the people who actually but music back into the voting pool.  Obviously, Lambert still made it to the final two despite such barriers.

  19. no one wants to talk survivor?

  20. Keep in mind that hardly anyone - Idol or otherwise - is selling a million records these days. Adam Lambert's been successful, though not to the extent that I anticipated. I'm surprised at the judges' unwavering support for James Durbin, since I don't think he's marketable at all. He just seems like a very poor man's Adam to me. 

  21. I thought James' Without You was awful, one of the worst performances of the finals so far. I appreciated the emotion he showed, but I often listen to Idol rather than watch it because I have it on while I'm surfing the Internet and don't always look at the screen. Since I wasn't watching his tears, I could only hear his missed notes. 

    I've believed that Slezak was a bit too much of a Haley cheerleader for the last few weeks, but I have to agree with him this time. I thought she gave the two best performances of the night, though I liked her first one even more than her second.

  22. I just watched it again on YouTube, and I was a bit too harsh in that last comment on James. That Without You performance actually was pretty solid until it went off the rails in the last 30 seconds. I still think it was on of the weaker performances of the night, but it wasn't one of the worst of the final rounds. 

  23. isaac_spaceman1:10 PM

    Nobody would have predicted success for Gaga ahead of time.  If you're looking for one Gaga, you need to look at hundreds of proto-trendsetters, all but one of whom is going to fail.  Twelve proto-Gagas on AI wouldn't guarantee you an actual Gaga, but whether you have 11 or 12 failed artists, they are guaranteed to chase away your tweens and grandmas.  Is there any scenario in which you can imagine millions upon millions of music fans flocking to Idol to replace the tweens and grandmas? 

    It goes back to the systemic flaw.  A game show or popularity contest is just not a viable way to find an artist.  Mass pop stars and (sorry, some of you) pop-country stars are more commerce than artistry, and I don't mean that to sound as perjorative as it does.  Fans of the former of those genres are insensate to issues of originality and manipulation.  Apologies for this generalization, but many fans of the latter are traditionalists, resistant to anything more than incremental change, unoffended by formula and packaging, and, as a group, prone to gravitate toward established consensus rather than away from it.  I'm not saying everybody, but enough.  So Idol caters to the people who are okay with it catering to them.  I think it would cater to rap too (rap fans seem to be a lot like pop and country fans, actually), except that popular rap would scare away huge parts of the Idol audience. 

  24. victoria1:31 PM

    You love "Love Hurts"? How did I not know that?

  25. bella wilfer1:33 PM

    Sorry, sorry, west coast time!  Let's talk Survivor!  I actually wondered if Rob was playing up his collapse post-challenge to seem like less of a threat.  I'm disappointed that this season has gotten so boring - despite my massive Mariano love, I wish there were a real challenger to his inevitable win.  I guess we'll see who makes it back from Redemption...?

  26. Adam C.1:54 PM

    Let's just let Mariano's IC win sink in for a minute.  That was impressive.

    At what point is it strategically advantageous for Rob to send Grant to Redemption?  Isn't Grant the only one with a credible shot of beating Mike and Matt in a final duel, thus ensuring that Zapatera jurors can't just cast votes for one of their own or the "nobody believed in me" comeback kid in the final three (assuming it is indeed a final three)?

  27. This show can't deliver a Gaga, but can it at least locate a Katy Perry or Rihanna?  An Usher?  Can it find someone who can sing and dance and perform contemporary pop songs?

    I don't need it to find the cutting edge; just give me someone who can at least fit on the current assembly line.

  28. That presents too many problems -- you're letting Grant bond with future jurors, score points as The One Betrayed (or I Took One For The Team) and let Rob absorb all the Robfather heat.

    My question remains whether Grant et al will want to bring Rob into Final Tribal if he doesn't earn final immunity -- do they think that no one will vote for him because of his reputation/manipulation?

  29. bella wilfer2:30 PM

    Well, look at who's left: Ashley & Natalie, who will bring Rob because they feel like they owe him (those girls are not playing the game AT ALL), Philip, who believes he can beat him in the finals, and Grant.  Grant is the only wild card - he has quite the bromance with the Robfather, but he also seems bright enough to realize that the only way he wins is if he boots his ally.  So - a tough situation for Rob - does he boot Grant next, saying "it's so you win RI," knowing that risks Grant bonding with the others, winning RI, and then having favor with the jury, or does he keep Grant around and just keep trying to beat him for immunity?

  30. Adam C.3:05 PM

    So maybe the play would be to minimize Grant's time with the future jurors by saving the move for the last possible tribal council before the final RI duel -- open question is, do they even know when that will be?  I seem to recall that Probst said something on one of his EW Q&As to the effect that in the final episode, they still have 8 Survivors with a chance to win. In any case, we have just one more Wednesday ep (5/11) before the Sunday 5/15 finale.  

  31. Jenn.3:19 PM

    When done right, it is a thing of beauty.  And then there's when Jacob sings it....

  32. What I'm assuming is that next ep is the same as this one -- one person leaves RI, one person joins it at the end.  So final Sunday starts with 4 in tribe, 4 on RI, and I figure what happens is that after 4 beccomes three, there's a final RI challenge to send someone back in the game at 4. (Or it could happen at 5, meaning that whoever's booted at final four has no chance back in.)  Either way, there's a lot of eliminating to do before Final 3 -- four people between RI and the main tribe.

  33. isaac_spaceman4:03 PM

    I don't see the grandmas and the tweens finding the next Rhianna or Usher.  Or maybe you think that Jacob Lusk kid is it. 

    Katy Perry is a product of exactly two things that are indispensable to her success:  Maxim-cheescake plasticine sexiness (with the fake controversial stuff and the literal Barbie styling and the childish speaking voice) and teams of shrewd producers.  Anybody, but anybody, could get the latter, but Idol voters just don't cotton to blatant attempts to leverage sex appeal.  The Scarnatos, Lee Cooks, Toscanos -- when the hemline comes up, the hammer comes down.  And Perry on Idol without tiny plastic dresses would just be a lousy singer with no angle. 

  34. bella wilfer4:12 PM

    I very much hope it happens at 5... I'm so worried one of the Zapatera RI residents will win RI, then win final immunity, and take it all.  That feels like an unfair ending somehow.

  35. I'm going to fight you on this one:

    1.  The grandmas and tweens let Cook beat YDA (and his dead, dead eyes), and had Adam Lambert surpass Hokey Gokey (while kicking out a blind guy in 8th). Nor has a single country singer even made the final five in years.  So the voting public is not as un-hip as you make it out to be.

    2.  I see your Scarnato and point to Reinhart this season. This may, may be a change. Or she's just more talented than the "sexy" singers which preceded her -- and most previous female singers are either pageanty balladeers, rockers or folksy types.

    3.  They don't like sex appeal when it's appealing to guys like (but not specifically) you and me. They were fine with Casey James and Lee DeWyze, however.

  36. slowlylu7:28 PM

    I am so torn about this season. On one hand I want Rob to win as he has played the longest most consistent old school Survivor game (as in pre-Hidden Immunity Idol pre Redemption Island).
    On the other hand Matt, with his ability to survive endless Redemption Island challenges and play a what you see is what you get social game indicates a certain Survivor ability.
    And finally on my alien third hand you have Philip whose crazy behaviour is now framed in the "I was just playing crazee" to get placed in the final two.

    I think the final three will be Rob (who'll lose the vote), Philip and Matt. Matt will win the jury vote with Rob runner up.

  37. Haley was awesome last night. I'm totally rooting for her and would love a James/Haley final two. Probably won't happen with the country kids in there, but I'm hoping.

  38. alwaysfiredup3:18 PM

    He's got to boot Philip next.  Rob has a surfeit of allies at the moment.  The girls will be happiest if he boots Philip.  Sending Philip to RI makes his divisiveness their problem.  It also re-solidifies his bond with this top 4, which will be important when the RI folks return.  (I am presuming there will be more than one.)

  39. alwaysfiredup3:21 PM

    I don't see Rob allowing Matt to get that far if he can at all help it.  I think it will be Rob, Grant and one of the girls in the final three.  Everyone hates them all equally, while Rob has been the undisputed social leader and one of the top immunity challengers.  The other two were hangers-on.  It's Rob's best chance at winning the game.

  40. alwaysfiredup3:28 PM

    "have gone from fast-forwarding the intro packages to skipping the judging to now skipping most of the performances as well."

    Yep, that's exactly how my trajectory has gone too.   If judges had been doing their job and finding something to critique instead of something to compliment, several earlier players might still be around.  Scotty is obnoxious.  James Durbin is wearing out his welcome.  There has never been a market for Jacob Lusk.  Lauren Alaina has a fantastic carrie underwood-type voice but isn't inventive and isn't confident enough in herself, which may derail her.  Hailey is the favorite almost by default.  I liked HOTRS but I think she could have done better, it was at the same emotional level all the way through.