Sunday, March 4, 2012

'American Idol 11' - And the winner is...

Will Phillip Phillips be the fifth WGWG to win 'Idol?'

This week, the Top 13 perform the music of Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston. Interesting in that in previous seasons, contestants have been warned to stay away from songs from these two icons in that they are almost impossible to perform without coming off as karaoke. Of course, 'Idol' is framing this as a tribute to the late Ms. Houston, while potentially boosting ratings. Gee, what better way to honor an iconic vocalist than to allow singers to butcher her classic tunes on national TV!

No matter. If the past four seasons are any indication, the rest of this season may only be a preamble to the coronation of the fifth white guy with a guitar (WGWG), Phillip Phillips.What, you say? Isn't it too early to make such a rash prediction?

Anything can happen, of course, and quite honestly, I'd be happy to be wrong, but facts are facts. A female hasn't won since Season 6 when Jordin Sparks took the crown. And how did that happen? Well, Jordin ran virtually unopposed against Blake Lewis. Jordin was young and appealing, and her only competition, Melinda Doolittle, got knocked out in the third round. Blake was irreverent and his bee-bop schtick had long worn thin. By the end of the competition, he was calling in his performances and his finale performance of "This is my Now" was one of the most delightfully horrible finale performances ever! He could not win after that!

The WGWG winning streak began with Season 7. David Cook, perhaps the best of the WGWG, was a breath of fresh air in the 'Idol' karaoke wonderland. His taking classic tunes and twisting them up was inventive, and he struck a chord with viewers. He was a nice guy with a cool, indie vibe and his win was well-deserved.

Kris Allen followed, and although he was almost completely overshadowed by Adam Lambert, in the end Adam was just too out there for mainstream America. Lee DeWyze (who?) took the Season 9 title from Crystal Bowersox because he was male. There's really no other reason I can think of to explain his win!

Last season, two country singers, Scotty McCreary and Lauren Alaina, made it to the finals. Scotty was the frontrunner all season and was better than Lauren. Plus he's a guy. And, while some may argue he does not fit the WGWG profile, he's white and he plays a guitar. End of argument!

Phillips is the perfect successor, and actually, may well be the best guitarist and most interesting of  the lot. And, even though he's not a country artist, he's from the South and that fact will certainly bring votes his way no matter what he sings. He's got all the qualifications.

Consider the competition. This season, there are four R&B singers in the mix (Joshua, Jermaine, Jeremy, and DeAndre).  Of the four, the most impressive vocalist is Jermaine, but as we've learned, 'Idol' voters are more concerned with how "cute" the guy is than how well he sings. At six-foot eight inches tall and 280 pounds, Jermaine cannot conceivably be considered "cute!" Nope, the audience seems to love DeAndre and Jeremy has stolen the hearts of the judges, J'Lo especially. Joshua and Jermaine will most certainly fall in the early rounds, and one of the other two will make Top 6 at least.

What's ironic is that young, black male artists are what's hot in popular music today, yet only one black male has ever won the show (Reuben Studdard, Season 2) and only a couple (George Huff and Michael Lynche) have made it out of the basement. There have been any number of black female contestants who have done well in the competition, but 'Idol' viewers have never embraced a good R&B male singer. Other shows ('The Voice' and 'X-Factor') have not ignored this demographic, but but 'Idol' seems bent on finding the next Bieber rather than nurturing someone who could be a legitimate force in the music biz. There are probably any number of reasons for this, but I'm not going there!

So who's left? Colton? I think he will appeal to the Lambert set, and may well end up challenging PP for the title, giving us a repeat of Season 9. Heejun? Much as I love him, and I truly do, he is the weakest of all the male vocalists, and I think his self-deprecating humor will eventually become tedious. But, because he's gotten so much air time, he'll be around a lot longer than he deserves to be, and will most likely last longer than Joshua or Jermaine. Top 7, I say.

As for the women, Jessica Sanchez would be my bet for the top finishing female, coming in third. At this point, I think she's the only female who has even a chance at the Top 2. Skylar could beat her, though, just because she's the only pure country artist in the lot. And 'Idol' voters seem to love their Southern country artists.

As for the rest, Hollie Cavanaugh is a good vocalist, but a rather boring personality. Elise could be a spoiler, but may be too polished and mature for 'Idol' viewers to relate to. I see Erika and Shannon eliminated this week.

So what can we expect this week?  PP will come up with some kind of inventive, indie-rock Stevie arrangement and the judges will fall over themselves to praise him,  The R&B quartet will do traditional arrangements (hope Jermaine sings "Sir Duke"). Heejun should be okay with this as well. I have no idea what Colton will do to Stevie!

Elise and Jessica will be fine with Whitney, and I'm betting Skylar will sing the Dolly Parton version of "I Will Always Love You."  I don't think Hollie has the vocal "umph" to do any justice to Whitney. And, while Shannon and Erika can pull off a Whitney song, I think they're both doomed no matter what they do!

All of this is pure speculation, of course, which is all part of the 'Idol' game for those of us who continue to watch this show.  As for me, I'm getting ready to do my 'Idol' poll picks for the season, so we'll see if I'm right!!!

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