American Idol 6, Week 1: Who Has No Chance?

This American Idol thing is pretty amazing. Not only is it the dominant TV force of the past several years, which is no small feat in such a fragmented market, but it has spawned megahit records, Grammy winners, and even an Oscar winner. I could never have imagined that Fox’s silly little reality show could become the juggernaut that it has. But here it is.

The key, I think, is that it’s something that appeals to a very wide audience. It’s not just obsessive teeny boppers that watch and vote. I’m often surprised by the people that admit their Idol habit. Classmates, family members, and acquaintances of a variety of temperaments and life situations are fans. Even my middle-aged scientist boss watches. One reason for the broad appeal, I think, is that there are usually several reasonably talented contestants that will appeal to people of different proclivities and musical sensibilities: there’s always rock-ish kinda contestants, gospel-style belters, pretty girls who sing ballads, spunky teenagers, quirky personalities, hunky heartthrobs, and so on. Plus, there seems to be a regional rooting factor almost like sports teams (it didn’t matter how weird Carmen Rasmussen’s voice was, as a Utahn, I wanted to see her do well).

This season hasn’t really hooked me yet. I’m not quite sold on any contestant. There are some extremely talented singers (Lakisha, Melinda), some fun personalities (Jordin, Chris Sligh), and some heartthrobs (Blake, Sanjaya), but nobody has demonstrated enough of a complete package that they stand out in my mind as the next Idol.

This week didn’t do anything to change my opinion. The people you would expect to do well in a Diana Ross show did well—Lakisha and Melinda were fantastic—and everyone else kind of coasted. I did like that Blake and Chris Sligh tried to do something, anything, to bring some life to those old songs. Blake fared better, but neither was very good. Still, I hated that the judges criticized them for even trying.

This week’s biggest “what are the judges smokin'” moment came when they suggested that Jordin was in the same league as Lakisha and Melinda. The song was terrible (“gooey” is about right); her performance was alright, but not even in the same universe as the other two. It was very predictable and she was straining to give the song weight it just didn’t have.

Contrary to what the judges keep insisting, this is NOT a singing competition. It’s a popularity contest in which singing plays an important part, along with personality, performance, instinct, looks, and so on. Which is why I can’t predict that Lakisha or Melinda will win this year. They are by far the standouts as far as vocals go, but I don’t know if they have enough else to get the votes.

Last season I correctly predicted Taylor Hicks would win after the second week (we won’t mention what I incorrectly predicted) so I’ll give myself one more week before I try and predict the winner. This week I’ll list those who I can’t see winning at all. In order, from “no chance in Hell,” to “stranger things have happened, but,” they are: Sanjaya, Brandon, Haley, Phil, and Chris Richardson. I can imagine each of the rest of the contestants winning, even if I’m not sold on any of them. This week I think Brandon will go. Sanjaya probably still has enough admirers to keep him around for another painful week or two.

Sanjaya has been the biggest disappointment for me so far. When I first saw him I thought he’d be an interesting contestant. He was a cute kid with a smooth voice and distinctive look. I imagined him bouncing around the stage like a Jackson Five throwback. But he just has no energy and no performing instincts. Poor kid doesn’t know what’s hit him.

My wife thinks it’s a mistake to count Chris Richardson out. Apparently my mother-in-law really loves him. He is a reasonably charismatic performer and a good looking guy, but his voice is kind of weird to me. I don’t see him garnering a lot of consistent support. I could see him going as far as the final four, but no farther.

Who are you counting out?

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32 thoughts on “American Idol 6, Week 1: Who Has No Chance?

  1. I was really surprised that Sundance left when he did, I thought he had a good chance. I can’t see any of the remaining men standing a chance as the weeks go on. It may be cynical, but it seems that the deck has been stacked for a woman to win this year. None of the men come close to the talent that Taylor, Elliott and Chris showed last year. I see four women in the final five, Melinda, Lakisha, Jordin and Gina.

    It’s sad that I’m so in to this show

  2. I agree with you about Chris and Blake. What do you expect them to do with Diana Ross night? Again, the execution wasn’t great, but the attempt was valid.

    I think it’s Melinda’s to lose, more because she has more of the “look” than LaKisha does. But, man, that first song LaKisha sang in the Hollywood round was jaw-dropping.

    I’m pulling for Blake and Chris because I like how unique they are, and they bring something a little different to the table.

    I wish American Idol would have current or even somewhat recent stars coaching the Idols…but alas.

    I wonder who will be the first network to go after a piece of American Idol’s audience will be. Just look at what the other networks are throwing up there against it. It’s embarrassing.

  3. I’ve been waiting for you to start your AI posts Tom!

    It’s obviously going to come down to Lakisha and Melinda. Watching them sing last night, it wasn’t like watching a competition. It was like watching a concert. The other contestants, you’re always aware they’re in a contest. Not those two. I do wonder, though, if having four black girls with pretty much identical styles is going to split the vote among fans of their genre. It might give an edge to the others who aren’t as good, but have distinctive styles.

    Last year was the first season I watched the show, and I remember when they got down to the final 12 thinking, “THIS is the best America has to offer?” And most of this year’s contestants are WORSE than last year’s.

    And seeing Haley and Brandon forget their lyrics was painful.

  4. It will come down to Lakisha and Melinda. It has to. Their singing is just too good. Whatever they lack in appearance doesn’t even matter because their vocals are just that great. Each of them sounds better to me than Fantasia (of the same genre) does.

    I want to know who this season’s Chris Daughtry is – the person who is supposed to win but for some reason doesn’t.

    The men are terrible this year. Sanjaya should be shot.

    And has Randy been smoking the same critical ganja that Simon smokes? I like Randy’s new critical edge a lot.

  5. I think the only ones who stand any kind of a chance against Melinda and LaKisha are Chris and Blake.

    And yes, I’m embarrassed I know that much.

  6. I got over my embarrassment last year after finding out the everybody watches this show.

    I think Susan’s point of the women splitting votes is a valid one. It’s the only chance the guys get.

    As much as I want Sanjaya out, I thin Brandon’s gone.

  7. There’s no arguing that Lakisha and Melinda aren’t the cream of the crop. And I agree with what Susan says—when you’re watching them you’re watching professional performers. But the best singers don’t always win (see LaToya London). I think both of them can be beat in a popularity contest. I wonder if people will get tired of the same old thing from them each week, no matter how solid and professional they are.

  8. As an aside, Does anyone else wish that theme nights would go away? Why make them perform music that they would never record in the future?

  9. “some heartthrobs (Blake, Sanjaya)”

    Really? Sanjaya? To whom? He’s such a little girly boy. I honestly thought he WAS a girl last night at first glance & I watch (addicted) all the time! Maybe I was just different as a teenager. I liked my boys gruff and manly even then…

  10. Well, I’m not exactly an authority, but I figured his hair and his smile would melt some little girls’ hearts. Also grandmothers. He’s definitely not a hunk. But cute, right?

  11. Good point Tom—I was mentioning to my husband last night that it’ll be interesting to see how Melinda and LaKisha handle the different genres they’ll be given throughout the season. I was impressed that LaKisha held herself back a little last night and didn’t just belt the whole thing. I think they’re both humble enough that they’ll take instruction from people in the know (like Diana Ross).

    I don’t have a problem with theme nights. I think it’s interesting to find out who is more versatile, who can make a style more their own, etc.

    I think it’s funny how Simon is always talking about if you just heard the performance on the radio, you’d switch the channel. And that’s what’s really important to him—he wants to sign someone who will get airplay. And maybe that’s part of why they have the different theme nights. Well that, and having a superstar on originally probably really boosted ratings. Not sure the shows needs star power now.

  12. Susan, can you explain why at all? I’m really curious. Esp. YOUR daughter! Ha!

    Cute as in….a lost puppy dog? Maybe, if I stretch and block his horrid smile & hair out of my mind and constantly chant “wait. he’s a girl. I mean NOT a girl” in my head over & over. He’s just so, something to me.

    Haley needs to leave last week. Brandon, I feel, is gone tonight. Sanjaya has Vote For the Worst behind him, so I give him a couple of more weeks. I don’t get Chris R. at all, but that’s just me. (see: I like manly men with deeper voices than mine). I like Chris S & Blake, but think they are trying to do something right now that they shouldn’t. They should just play the game and then in the top 6 try to modernize the drek they are given. I predict Stephanie to be the first diva to fall, most likely in the next 3 weeks. Lakisha will be the surprise boot (ala Tamarya & Chris Daughtry). I’m still feeling out the rest of the season…

  13. He’s cute, gorgeous hair, nice smile. He really does have a sweetness about him.

    I haven’t broken it to her that he’s gay yet.

  14. I wouldn’t mind the theme nights if they chose artists/styles that were a little more modern. Last year’s episode with Queen was just painful.

  15. Tim J, Thank You NOT very much for reminding me of Queen night.

    On one hand – Kellie Pickler torturing bohemian rhapsody.

    on the other – Elliott Yamin singing Somebody to Love.

    *sigh* I miss Elliott.

    I really really wish Chris S had sang “I’m Coming Out” last night with that subtle, dry tongue in cheeck promise he had.

    and I was hoping Jordin would do Upside Down, but no luck there.

    Stephanie? What were you thinking? You are a singer. Pick a singing song. Yeesh.

  16. “Upside Down,” you mean the song that goes “Upside down you turn me, you’re giving love instinctively,” or whatever? I thought that was Donna Summer. Have I been wrong all these years? That song and “I’m Coming Out” were songs we’d make up dance routines to during recess in elementary school.

  17. yep – upside down is by Diana Ross (written about female impersonators, I’ve heard)

    funny you bring up Donna Summer though, because I thought someone should do “She Works Hard for the Money” until my husband reminded me it wasn’t Diana Ross.

    He also had great fun inventing a giant voice for Jordin Sparks whenever she stood next to Seacrest.

    “COME HERE LITTLE MAN. I WILL CRUSH YOU NOW.”

  18. Also guilty of recess dance routine action – see your I’m comin out and raise you a funkytown (lipps inc!) and pop muzak. (K-Tel’s hits of the 80’s, anyone?)

  19. Jennifer–My favorite part of this year’s show is seeing the games Jordin does to Ryan with the height difference, whether it is slouching down like last night, or standing on her toes like she did last week.

    Susan–I’m not sure Sanjaya knows he’s gay yet.

  20. Tonight I’d like to see Soft Cell perform “Tainted Love” and then have Diana Ross break out the “Where Did Our Love Go?”

    But it won’t happen.

  21. You mean when he calls their singing “pitchy”? Paula does that too. Is that not the correct usage? They also sometimes say they have tuning problems, which seems weird to me when talking about vocals?

  22. Randy bugs me.

    I always want to smack him upside the head with a super thick thesaurus.

    Regarding the term usage: And to think, Randy & Paula put out a “How to Sing” dvd.

    Explains a lot.

  23. Re: “pitchy”

    Neither Randy or Paula have good enough ears to know if the singers are sharp or flat so they say “pitchy” to cover it.

  24. At first I was mad that A.I. would try to be cool by doing a Modest Mouse song, then I realized I should direct my anger at Modest Mouse for letting such a lame, stupid rendition of their song to be done. Maybe I should be annoyed with their label and not with them. Either way, that was ridiculous.

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