Sunday, May 06, 2007

American Idol: The Home Stretch

I had to read about the horrors of Sanjaya's unexpected departure while I was abroad, which significantly dampened my enthusiasm for this program. Operation Die Melinda Die now reaches full swing.

I was starting to like Phil and his Young Dad Done Good role, as the church-going working class guy who works hard and sings harder. However, you just can't get on stage and sing "I'm going down in a blaze of glory" when you've been on the bubble for several weeks and expect to get away with it. Now that LaKisha has developed a bit of an ego to go along with her inconsistent performances, I was sort of hoping that she'd head home instead of him. If nothing else, Phil carried the best shot of duplicating the "Elliot Yamin visits his hometown" moment and providing all of us with a good cry.

So it comes down, as expected, to Blake and the Divas. After his season-defining performance from last week, even the thickest of record executives have to be seeing money in Blake by this point. He can sing any style, he never has a bad week, and is an obviously gifted writer/arranger. And he's cute. And his presence on the show has led to the words "Ableton Live" being spoken on American Idol for the first and likely last time. I would normally get on the guy's case for using such an overplayed intro (the sound of dropping a needle on a record) but that's wholly original to 98% of the AI viewing audience (and I'm 99.5% sure that he knows it) so it's easily forgivable. Now what strategy must be used to ensure that he earns his spot as the rightful winner of the competition?

I sincerely believe that Melinda is one tongue-lashing away from going home. With Sanjaya gone, Jordin is gaining steam as the loveable underdog, with the added bonus being that she's really really good. Melinda still has the personality of a wet burlap sack with the body to match, so all it will take is one week of chopping her down to size, Daughtry-style, for her to be gone. Last week presented a great opportunity for it because she stunk up the joint trying to be a rock star (coming off like a bank teller stopping by the karaoke bar on the way home from work and getting dragged up on stage for some Bon Jovi after two or three cocktails). Tina Turner should be ashamed to have her good name compared to what we saw last week. You could hear Melinda straining on every note, trying to force breaks into every phrase in which to insert her usual melisma-pap. No Melinda, this is rock music, you don't get to practice your vocal calisthenics with this stuff. As off as Jordin was (BTW, how can someone who was weaned from birth on Bon Jovi music do such a poor job of song selection? There were a million power ballads she could have chosen.) at least she tried to alter her voice to better fit the style (and might have succeeded had it been in a more suitable key for her).

What happens now? It looks like LaKisha is next to walk, and then it's a question of who picks up her votes. I would imagine that Jordin and LaKisha's fans have a lot in common, appealing to younger viewers and people who like a bit of soul and grit in their singing, as opposed to Melinda's more refined style. We have no idea who was in the bottom three the past two weeks (well, besides Phil and Chris) so it's hard to tell who has the momentum right now. Oddly enough, I think Blake has his best chance against Melinda in the finals, so that he can pick up more of the youth vote in addition to his existing base ... assuming I'm right about Melinda losing out on the youth demographic. Best chance for him, heart attack city for me because I'll have a week of nightmares starring the words "YOUR new American Idol -- Melinda Doolittle".

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