I have a true confession. Last year, I didn’t watch the American Idol finale. In fact, I barely watched the last half of the season. I do not know whose acid trip it was to put Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey on the same panel, but that person deserves the business end of a taser. Or maybe I’ve just been watching too much Veronica Mars as of late. I guess I’ll let you be the judge.
Speaking of judges…how do I love this group of judges, let me count the ways:
1. Harry Connick, Jr. rocks my face off. He not only brings some much-needed tough love to the panel, but he also brings a snarky sarcastic sense of humor to the proceedings that helps me stomach the cheesier moments. My favorite HCJ moment to date? When he promised this dude that if his original audition was good enough, he’d cradle him like a baby during a second song. Was it a “weird incentive” as Keith said? Absolutely. But what comes after is just pure television magic.
2. Three has always been an ideal number of judges. Four is WAY too many and has been since the dawn of time. Because I’m sure cavemen watched reality TV.
3. J-Lo gives me hairspiration and make-up envy. Love her style. I also love that in addition to being the fairy godmother of the group, she also is fine to wear a sparkly romper fit for some sort of awards show while her male cohorts are sporting a t-shirt and jeans. You go, J-Lo.
4. Turns out, Keith Urban has a sense of humor! Behind those awkwardly shaped locks and adorable accent lies a funnier version of himself. He had to dig deep. And he had some help.
5. The feedback, of course. That’s the whole point of having judges in the first place, right? And if you’ll permit me, this will be my first rabbit trail of the post. [Begin rabbit trail.] On The Voice all of the celebrities go to GREAT LENGTHS to proclaim that they are COACHES and not JUDGES. However, I find the difference to be mostly semantics on the performance night. Sure, it’s mostly a time of affirming how great they all are at choosing talent but there’s helpful critique that’s passed on just the same as on American Idol. I think it’s stupid. That’s all. [End rabbit trail.] I am beyond thrilled that these judges seem to have their collective head on straight and are good about communicating helpful tips and tricks to these wannabe super stars.
6. All the judges are current artists. I think it gives them street cred. Since we were eight seasons in before I realized that Randy Jackson was once a part of Journey, this is of particular importance to me.
7. The absence of one Randy Jackson and his “In it to win it!” ridiculousness. Ew. Stop it.
At this time I’d like to raise my hair clip (I don’t wear hats) to those in charge of the major makeover that Idol underwent between last season and now. For a behemoth the size of this franchise to turn the ratings around it’s very necessary…and in my estimation it’s working. That won’t keep me from making fun of certain elements, of course. Let us assess the changes:
- The graphic refresh. They’ve integrated design and imagery everywhere, and that’s a good thing. However, do we have to continue to use the Brady Bunch split-screen like we’ve just cracked the technology? I found it a bit much in the auditions but luckily they are tapering this back now. (Here’s a story of a lovely lady…)
- The ever-changing auditions. Now there is the addition of guitars to the traditional unaccompanied voice. And now, to whomever decided that we should major on the singers with promise rather than the weirdos that are chasing their 3 minutes of fame I’d like offer you a long intense look of gratitude followed by a virtual hug and a thank you note. We’ve had enough William Hungs to last us from now into eternity.
- The top
thirtytwenty. Okay, this one I don’t understand. Bringing five extra contestants to the live shows with no intention of moving them along? That seems cruel, even for Mr. “After the Break” Seacrest.
- The tunnel ‘o clapping. The Idol-hopefuls that got the nod over the course of two nights ran/speed walked/meandered through a tunnel that was lined by clapping people. I’m slightly baffled, but since this change is mainly cosmetic I’m going to let it go. I only have one life to live.
- Randy Jackson as mentor. Sniff. I already miss the hard-shelled Jimmy Iovine and his permanently affixed baseball cap, set on delivering the truth whether we liked it or not. And I wanted to refuse to even acknowledge that this happened in the universe but I find myself unable to skirt the issue. We will NOT be referring to Randy Jackson as the Dawg father ever again, Ryan. Do you hear me? You lost approximately 85.3 cool points even thinking that joke up.
- The workshop. As a preamble to the big “live shows”, Randy brought in all the support staff for one massive last-ditch effort to make sure all the contestants had the tools to succeed. This was actually a pretty great idea and bringing Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry in was a stroke of genius. But…spiritual mentors? That made me laugh out loud.
- Rush week. Having never been a part of a sorority, I guess I’m not the best person to speak to this but I found their analogy to be a little thin. I guess they can call it whatever they want as long as they don’t make the contestants play beer pong or carry around a chicken for a week as a prerequisite for fame.
There is quite a bit of talent this year and I like that there’s more variety in types of artists presented. Even now, though, I can’t help but feel that the “big voices” of the competition are more highly favored. For instance, my two favorites Kenzie Hall and Briston Maroney were passed over for the likes of Emmanuel Zidor and Bria Anai which is a travesty that I cannot even speak of right now. Which takes us right into the performances.
The Best: The winners of the night had to be Majesty Rose and Jena (GEENA!) Irene. Actually, I loved Jena’s performances throughout the process and I think she’ll go far despite the fact that last night’s offering had a lack of nuance. Still, out of all the performances of the night, I think these two girls rose to the occasion. I like Majesty’s easy style and her complete ownership of the stage. It was as if she’d been doing it forever and her confidence and uniqueness shone through.
The Worst: Bria Anai and Marialle Sellars. Good gravy. I have no words! Okay, I have a few: atrocious pitch, overreaching song choices, and awkward stage presence. I just can’t. I can’t! No amount of sparkly lip stick can cover those glaring errors up.
In Other News: I’m not sure about this love fest that the judges have with MK. She’s got a good tone and a cool vibe, but her lack of breath control was really noticeable but never mentioned in the critique. And her pitch is not consistent. And I fast-forwarded through Jessica’s performance. She seems like a relic left behind from another season. A good voice, to be sure, but nothing original that I’ve seen up until now.
The Best: Alex Preston and Sam Wolfe. I’m not a huge fan of country and I felt that the country offerings from last night were only fair to middling, so here you go. When I listen to Alex, I really dig his style, musicality, and interpretation of music. I know this is terrible, but I have to close my eyes and listen because when I watch him sing I get super distracted by his weird hair, his super tiny mouth, and his semi-awkward eye contact. Sam Wolfe, on the other hand, looks like he just walked off the set of High School Musical. I half expect him to break into “We’re All In This Together” at any point, which is I think why I like him. Because he doesn’t go that direction and everything about him from song choice to delivery is so refreshing.
The Worst: George Lovett and Emmanuel Zidor. Hot mess, party of two! Let’s set aside for a moment the potential for a wardrobe malfunction at any moment during Emmanuel’s time on stage (seriously, those pants were hanging on by a THREAD). Harry was absolutely correct about the role that adrenaline played in that performance and the whole thing was very hard to listen to and look at. And Emmanuel’s tendency to under enunciate drives me absolutely batty. Not really what an entertainer is going for, I would think. George just exhibited a lack of confidence and polish as he approached the song which made the time he was on stage not sit quite right. Emmanuel may be saved by a wild card tonight but I think George is done for.
In Other News: Caleb, Caleb, Caleb. I actually think he’s pretty talented at his genre of music but the hair. THE HAIR. What was appealing on the lovable Tim Riggins is NOT on Caleb. This is another contestant that I have to utilize the “ears only” method of watching the show.
It was astounding to me the number of contestants that chose to sound excited at Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert’s feedback and then completely disregarded it come “go time”. I don’t have hard numbers on this, but my gut tells me it’s a whopping 78%.
Which brings us to the end. I’ll leave you with a few quotable moments from last night’s show:
Ryan: “What’s special about this group of guys, Jen?”
J-Lo: “This group of guys, and I think the girls too, we just have a new breed of kind of musician and singer coming up. And I think because the world has changed, they’re exposed to so much different kind of music because of the internet, you know. And someone who you would expect to come out and sing country from the way they look is singing soul or R&B. It’s just a different world and I think you’re gonna see that reflected tonight as you did last night with the girls.”
Kudos to Ryan for keeping a straight face through that speech. Seriously, J-Lo? The internet has been around for a while. And I don’t think you really answered the question.
Keith on his southern accent: “I’m really from the south, man. Like the SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE south.”