Idol ‘It’ Factor



This season’s Idol contestants came to the auditions prepared to win. Younger and more talented every year, they came with guitars, with stage presence, and with training. So it makes me wonder, where will the show go from here?

At this stage in the game, the final nine are all winners. They will all go on to certain fame, whether they become ‘The’ American Idol or not.

It is not unlike, for us writers, being on the New York Times best sellers list or in the top 100. Do you really need to be #1 or are you happy being a best seller? Being number one would be nice, but again, where do you go from there?

The judges are getting tougher in their commentary. They have to, because the name of the game is who will become #1? So tonight, we will discover which contestants America decided sink to the bottom three. All performed well, as they should at this stage, so we shall see.

The judges focused on tone, bravado and pitch, tell the contestants to bring something new to the performance, a standout factor. It reminds me of what agents are always saying they want to see in a manuscript. What they want is that next great thing, but they cannot tell you exactly what that is. If you are a musician, you could learn from watching American Idol. You could soak up the expert advice doled out by the judges. You could learn from the mistakes and successes of the contestants. You could learn what makes a star a star, or could you?

The infamous ‘it’ factor is impossible to describe but most agree they recognize it when they see it. I think it is like trying to catch a shooting star. Why do we feel the need to put a name on it, to package it and to sell it?

Advertisers spend their days mulling over data, trying to pinpoint what ‘it’ is. When all the while most of us are uninterested in how it is, just that it is. We listeners, viewers and readers, know when we hear a song or watch a program or pick up a book, that we are either moved by the content or not. Some would say we’re drawn to that conclusion.

Q. Does desire to believe leave you open to be deceived?

A. Maybe our desire is to be deceived.

If so moved, then we want to connect to it or to its message in some way. Ah, but here is the decisive factor: we also want to be entertained. See we are a tricky bunch. How we connect to the message is an individual thing, yet it is also a universal thing, because despite our unique experiences, we all share our common humanity.

There is enough negativity in the world, is there not? I would rather focus on the top three or four entertainers from last night’s show, those contestants who moved me and gave the most entertaining performances of the night by my standards: Dexter, Malaya, Jessica and Caleb.

On Dexter’s performance, I disagree with the judge’s comments that he sang Boondocks just like Little Big Town. Maybe a mixed genre music fan like myself, does not hear that song all of the time, so for me, it was Dexter’s. I doubt the country music fans would mind even if it did sound like a cover tune. And yes, we are drawn in by his story, as American as apple pie.

Great tune anyway:

Malaya’s range, power and voice control are amazing for such a young girl. So if she wins the competition, in a year from now, will all that makes her special fade away? What will Hollywood do to her individuality once her star is in the net?

Jessica continues to prove herself the consummate performer. She seems to have a maturity and edgy life experience the others lack, which shines through her performances.

When the lights are down Caleb transforms into a mature, hypnotic, hard rocker with a voice to match. It is as if he is channeling the lyrics.

Entertainment factor? That next great thing? It factor? Well, I’m still thinking about those performances. So yes!

Park this Rig on American Idol

The Top Ten Motor On…

I’ve decided American Idol is my current guilty pleasure. It presents such a departure from the rest of my life. So about last night…well darling, if you didn’t tune in, allow me to summarize:

Winning, while typically the result of exceptional skill sometimes comes by way of default; meaning that your opponent simply did not bring his or her ‘A’ game.

What the heck happened? Several of the show’s best contestants simply fell apart at the seams last night. Here’s how it all went down. I’ve added a star system, like in Orion’s belt, from zero to three stars, three being the best.

1. First up was M.K. with excellent pink hair and a strong start, singing my most favorite “Pink” song. Then her performance went sideways. I hope because of this one gaff, folks don’t send her packing. She has a great sound, although, her demeanor during the remainder of the program, will likely land her in the bottom three.

2. Dexter, sorry country dude, I was not digging this song choice. Even when Florida Georgia Line sings “Cruise”, the song is little more than a repetitive, monotone verse. Of course, this is true of most top ten hits, so that is the challenge. Dexter may be cruising to the bottom three.

3. Jena sang “Clarity” with authority and nailed it. With her unique sound, she pulled out a fabulous performance.** Two stars!

4. Alex, my favorite throwback, sang an up-tempo version of “Story of my Life”, which was a nice surprise since he tends to slow things down too often.**Two stars!

5. Malaya’s rendition of the Bruno Mars song, “When I was Your Man,” was strong, confident and emotional. ***Three stars! Loved it!

6. Caleb, I love you man, I just wasn’t Gaga over your song choice. Caleb can sing any song and make it his own so why did he choose that song? * One star

7. C.J. is a sweetheart but his tone was off throughout the entire tune. Looking in my crystal ball I see, C.J. in the bottom three.

8. Jessica mesmerized with her take on “Pumped up Kicks.” Although, I have to say, now that I’ve finally heard the lyrics to this deeply disturbing song, I won’t be humming it anymore. Kids, just because any song with a good beat and a mumbled catch phrase can capture America’s interest, does not mean that it should. Good job Jess anyway.***Three stars!

9. Majesty, held her own, with an often too quiet “Wake Me Up”. She’s still one of my top picks but I am not sure this song kept the crowd awake.*One star.

10. Sam, America’s heartthrob, sang “We Are Young” with perfection. Is it possible to be too perfect? America will decide.**Two stars!

Of course, I’m just a fan, so what do I know????

I was very happy to see Jennifer Lopez take the gloves off on the judging. She and Keith have both mastered what I’ll call the ‘pump up, let down’, which is when you say something nice to someone right before you release the hammer. Bang!

Although I still don’t really hear Keith when he talks, it’s all just butterflies and unicorns. I’ve noticed he has a ‘tell’, when he begins his comments with “how are you tonight, baby?” you know it’s not going to be pretty, even if it still sounds nice. Sometimes, I could swear Keith is even saying the exact same thing as Harry, but Harry receives a barrage of boos from the crowd and Keith gets a new paper audience sign that says, Hug me Keith. It was great fun watching ‘the boys’ trade personas. But even while acting as Harry, when Keith spoke, it was all butterflies and unicorns again.

The show has an awesome new vibe, but what’s up with Ryan Seacrest? He’s not one of the show’s producers, but he acts like the rich kid who throws a party and then every other minute reminds everyone that he paid for the beer. At least Simon kept him in line.

Sometimes I miss Simon, his arrogance was oddly attractive, but it was a distraction how everyone hated him so much. Simon laughed all the way to bank. I guess being hated pays off unless you are trying to become the next American Idol.

Good luck top ten!