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American Idol – Final Four Frenzy, Judging the Judges

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American Idol season 5 is creeping toward a momentacular finale with only four contestants remaining out the original eleventy-hundred thousand hopefuls who filled the stadiums and soup kitchens of America to audition last summer with hope in their hearts, a gleam in their eyes, and a song in their lungs.

ChrisElliottKatharineTaylor Burr-headed post-grunge rocker Chris Daughtry, velvety-throated soulster Elliott Yamin, statuesque formalist Katharine McPhee, and graying southern roots-rocker Taylor Hicks make up the peculiar quartet left vying for the title.

None have a real universal appeal: Daughtry and Hicks are clearly charismatic genre artists with narrowish but intense fan bases, while McPhee and Yamin are quite talented singers but rather nondescript personalities who neither inspire nor rankle. I do not sense a Kelly Clarkson amongst them; but on the other hand, I would likely not have sensed a “Kelly Clarkson” from among Kelly Clarkson had I watched the show’s first season.

My take on the season thus far, which I have followed closely but not religiously (let it be here stated that I have blown off most of the results shows in favor of televised baseball or basketball games, or the enduring peace of a blank screen) is that the overall quality of the performances has been up all season long, but that there have been fewer of the Mother-of-Pearl-did-you-hear-that? moments of stunning, clock-stopping sweetness that have graced seasons past.

I have also noticed a rather alarming calcification among the judges: their personalities, patter, and judgmental proclamations seem to be set in stone, with Randy doin’ the dawg, Paula showing enthusiasm and cleavage in equal measures, and Simon tossing cold reality on the fire with the catch phrases “karaoke” and “Holiday Inn.”

Yet it is Simon’s opinion whom the show’s most rabid fans, the voters, value over the other judges by far. A study released last week by research firm Pursuant found that 58 percent of voters respect Simon Cowell’s opinion the most, followed by Randy at 26 percent, with poor loopy Paula — whose opinion only 6 percent of voters value most — ignominiously bringing up the rear.

Interesting that the show’s voters — 73 percent female, 39 percent from the South — would so value Simon and devalue Paula, while among non-voters the figures are virtually unchanged for Randy (25%), but are notably altered (down) for Simon (40%) and (up) Paula (22%).

Perhaps the voters have decided that Paula is more cheerleader than talent evaluator, while the more casual viewers give her greater creedence as a former popstar? Or maybe the voters have decided that since she likes everyone, she isn’t a whole lot of help in deciding who to vote for each week.

Regardless, the final four will face off on the music of Elvis Presley and be “critiqued” by music mogul and the former Mr. Mariah Carey, Tommy Mottola, tomorrow night.

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About Eric Olsen

  • Eric Olsen

    hey, I win! This story has now officially received the most views ever without receiving a comment – the tree has fallen in the forest

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Well, sure, but then you went and ruined your own perfect streak.

  • Eric Olsen

    I still have problems with impulse control

  • Rene

    You clearly would have sensed a Kelly Clarkson had you viewed the first AI. She clearly was a stand out from the beginning of the show and it became evident that with her consistent performances week after week that she was a front runner for the title. This year’s AI is really lackluster by comparison.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Rene, I appreciate the input and you could well be right. Why was the vote so close between Kelly and Harpo Marx, do you think?

  • Rene

    If you compare the singing between Sideshow Bob and Kelly, I’m confident that you would agree that Kelly is by far a superior vocalist. I’m really not sure why the vote was so close other than he got a lot of the female votes. It really should have been between Kelly and Tamyra Gray if you base it on singing alone. I’m just glad the right person won.

  • Eric Olsen

    in retrospect, it seems self-evident!

  • http://www.filteringcraig.com Craig Lyndall

    This is the first season that I have followed, and I have been less than impressed overall. Most of the performances don’t hold up in the real world and I haven’t really heard any kind of unbelievable growth from the contestants.

    It feels like there really isn’t the kind of guidance that these up and coming singers need.

    Their song selections have stunk a lot of the time and hearing Chris Daughtry say that he had sung his song 6 times on the day of the show and that he was fatigued just totally blew my mind.

    I am a singer in a local rock band in the Cleveland area and even I know not to so much as hum a tune before warmups on the day of a show. You only have so many performances in your vocal chords in a day and someone on that show should be helping these developing talents with coaching and tips.

    Allowing Chris to sing 6 times on the day of a show makes it seem like the show is failing in that department, and as a result failing its contestants and the audience.

  • Eric Olsen

    I am enjoying your AI coverage Craig! I agree, it sounds ridiculous that they are singing that much the day of a show. Part of their regimen is to weed out the “weak,” I think, but that is into the sadistic range.

    Personality is the ingredient really missing this year

  • w. lynch

    For the second time, I am really shocked that the top two ended up the bottom two!!!! One just has to question the politics and integity of the show! What is going on?
    FOR CHRIS: You continue to pursue your rightful place. It is out there for you and everyone knows that! I am not sure what will happen next season to the IDOL Show. It has definately taken a odd turn somehwere. Paula is falling apart on stage. Simon (the one everone loved to hate) is being ganged up on by the other two judges, WA’S UP! Simon always tells it like it is.. I would like to see him be his self again!

  • http://gratefuldread.net NR Davis

    Friendly advice from a complete stranger: Mr./Ms. W. Lynch, there are humans out there who think the top and bottom two were just right. That means they voted politically and have no integrity? Or perhaps it could mean that many people just as smart and principled as you have tastes that differ from yours. I understand the pain of losing Chris is still fresh, but you might consider that fact.

    NR Davis

  • http://yahoo.com Lori B

    I too was shocked that Chris was voted off. I thought for sure that he would win the whole thing; not because he was my favorite (I like Elliott) but because he seemed to be getting the most support and attention. I think what happened is that many people felt he probably didn’t need their vote and as it is coming down to the wire, voted for the person they felt was in danger of leaving. All the same..I was shocked!