And what a week it was ... at the conclusion of Hollywood week, it looked like the boys were set to be the class of the show, just like the past two seasons. There's a guy who carries an odd likeness to Jack Osborne*, an incredible R&B/soul crooner who had already sung background for the likes of Christina Aguilera, a guy who calls himself Sundance, an Asian guy, an Indian guy who looks like a lock to play the Anthony Federov cuteboy role (drawing 90% of the 12-and under vote), etc. Twelve fairly distinct characters, all somewhat developed before the show had even properly started. In contrast, the girls' side had a couple of potentially show-stealing divas (shades of Season Three) plus quirky/skinny white girls A through G.
But as everyone now knows, the tables have turned completely ... the boys looked bland, ordinary, and indistinguishable from one another, while the girls were simply sensational in pulling off the best collective round-of-24 performances in the history of the show. Then there's Antonella ... needless to say, when I saw the headline "Racy photos linked to Idol contestant", there was no doubt in my mind who the culprit would be ... and I'm starting to smell a rat. AI is edited with scalpel-like precision. They air exactly what they want us to see and nothing more. Any scene that makes the final broadcast is a measured attempt to manipulate the viewer into forming a specific opinion about a contestant. During the group phase, they made a big deal of showing her flirting with boys instead of rehearsing. They never showed her doing anything remotely remarkable onstage, in fact, they took the opposite tack by showing her forgetting her words (a sin which got about ten others kicked out before her) and generally making her look untalented compared to a more polished singer once it was down to the final two hopefuls from the final forty. FOX has gone out of their way to portray her as the age-old reality show villain/bitch, and now we're supposed to believe that they knew nothing about her racy past despite having done a thorough background check? Many times in past seasons, we've seen AI gauge the internet/gossip page reaction and feed those storylines back into the show itself. In this case, I have a feeling that they're manufacturing their own controversy by trying to stir up a grassroots campaign to get Antonella kicked off the show, only to have her notoriety keep her on air as people flock to their phones in droves to keep the girl they love to hate on their TVs.
As always, I'm amazed that people are stupid enough to sing dreary ballads in their first week on the show, but what about those who get their song selection exactly right? Antonella somehow succeeded at this task -- one that many other Idol contestants consistently fail to do properly. "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" is perfect for this stage of the competition**. 1) everybody knows the song, 2) it's a sweeping power ballad with a huge chorus that you can really belt out, 3) it was originally sung by Stephen Tyler, who can be easily outsung. Many contestants appreciate #1 and #2, but #3 is always overlooked, as evidenced by the number of Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin songs that are performed each and every season. A good performance of a song by an average singer will almost always sound more impressive than a very good-to-great performance by an outstanding singer -- for example, look at the guys' side, where Blake sang Keane, barely broke a sweat, and still smoked the rest of his field (I doubt we've seen 1/3rd of his potential thus far ... there's little doubt that he's going deep this season).
* wait a minute, did Chris Sligh really leave a comment here: http://diaryofmusicalthoughts.blogspot.com/2006/05/american-idol-gala-extravaganza.html
** as is "Brass In Pocket" ... which turned out to be another lost opportunity