Thursday, May 17, 2007

Doolittle Doo Late (American Idol 6 final 3)

At the end of her singout, Melinda Doolittle brought on the Idol backup singers to finish the chorus of I’m a Woman with her. It was the sort of sweet moment that characterized maybe the best technical singer to have ever made the finals on the show. It seems as if she was letting the world know, “This is where I came from and I’m proud of it.”

Various folk are now coming up with any number of reasons why Doolittle who appeared to be a lock for the final fell short. That’s not really the issue though. A final without Melinda Doolittle just doesn’t seem quite as legitimate. I don’t disagree with those who wondered if she was “contemporary” or “sexy” enough to sell CD’s, but my question is "Does anyone consider Blake Lewis or Jordin Sparks a better singer than Melinda Doolittle in an absolute sense?" There are reasons Doolittle might have gotten voted off, but there’s a part of me that asks “Okay, but look who they voted for instead.”

I suspect that there were very few folk that didn’t like Melinda at least second best of the three. Of course, that’s not how the system works.

Yes, the Belmont College grad might be better off as the Idol who got robbed than with all the restrictions that come with being the actual winner. Still, the show is suddenly facing a credibility problem.

1. Sanjaya Malakar, maybe the weakest technical singer to make the semi-finals, finished sixth. Melinda Doolittle, maybe the best, finished third.

2. The mysterious power of the judges to sway the voters faltered. Simon Cowell worked very hard on Doolittle’s behalf on Tuesday night. Last week, the judges panned Blake Lewis.

3. Interest in the show appeared high this year, but once Sanjaya got voted off, actual interest in any of the individual singers was surprisingly low. In previous years, I’d seen any number of Bo Bice, Taylor Hicks, Yaminions, John Stevens, Jasmine Trias web pages and fanatics appear. I even came across an Anthony Federov board that still appeared to be active this year.

This year, I got more hits for Kellie Pickler than for either finalist. It may have had something to do with my comparing Kellie to Anna Nicole Smith. Still, consider this one. I got more hits for Sherman Pore, the elderly man who got to sing for his sweetheart during this year’s Los Angeles auditions, than I did for Lakisha Jones or Phil Stacy. The only finalist who had more searches on my site than Kellie Pickler was Sanjaya. Obviously, the google math is more complicated than that, but it was pretty telling. How’s this for telling?

Quick, come up with a name for a Melinda Doolittle fan. How about a Jordin or a Blake fan?

Idol’s cultural power is tied to two oddly different things. There’s the number of people who talk about and watch the show. Nielsen Idol remains very high. The second factor is the show’s capacity to create stars. It’s hard to say which is cause and which is effect, but this season ran into a problem. I don’t think any finalist caught the public’s imagination as someone they’d be interested in after next Wednesday.

In the meantime, I’ve yet to hear anyone say “I can’t wait to buy a Jordin Sparks or Blake Lewis CD.”

I wasn’t wowed by Maroon 5. In fact part of the Wednesday filler this year has been to expose more “today” acts to the Idol audience. There’s no nice way for me to say this and I confess I’m an old guy, but I honestly don’t remember anything Akon, Pink, Robin Thicke, and Maroon 5 sang. In fact, seeing them on the show made me think “bathroom break” and in the case of Robin Thicke, I thought it without necessarily visualizing the porcelain facility at the end of the hall. That said, the scary thing to me is that Maroon 5’s Adam Levine still has so much more stage presence than Blake Lewis, even with his dad, that I can’t really imagine Blake getting there.

Probably the highlight of the Wednesday show was learning that being a finalist on last year’s Idol came with what appeared to be terrific dental insurance. If Melinda comes back to sing some Wednesday next year, will she reappear with Audrey Hepburn’s neck? There was something reassuring about seeing Elliot Yamin. He sounded good, even if it seemed like he had to sing for an extra two minutes, and that reminded me how weak this year’s male contestants had been. He also got to say about five minutes worth of thank yous and good lucks in about two and a half minutes.

Elliot managed to be grateful, exuberant, diplomatic, generous, and genuinely thrilled to be there in a way that seemed entirely natural. It’s a gift, one that none of this year’s finalists had. Jordin is very poised, but it’s a bit stagier. I don’t mean to imply that she’s fake. It’s more that she’s aware of the camera. Take for instance, her moment of rebellion when she stage whispered to Ryan that Simon made her sing a 30 year old song and now he’s telling me I shouldn’t sing a 40 year old song. Jordin was still facing the audience as she did it and every syllable was perfectly articulated.

I do think she has potential. After all, I can’t remember how old she is, Randy never seems to mention it, but I’m pretty sure she’s still pretty young. Still, moments like that make me think Little Miss Sunshine where the girls in the pageant had been genetically engineered to be robotic in a way that appears completely spontaneous.

Blake does bits of what Elliot does in his non-singing persona, but he too appears to self-consciously play the audience. Do you honestly believe that Chris Richardson is going to be Blake’s best friend a year from now? It didn’t help that his Mariner’s game version of the National Anthem made me think Tina Wu of the Bachelor. Unlike Elliot Yamin, I wonder where the center is with Blake both personally and artistically. Is it because so little emotion comes across when he tries to sing straight? Just Imagine that.

Melinda Doolittle - I’m not a big fan of the three song format for the show. All the extra time makes it too easy to see the flaws and limitations of the performers. The old show biz adage is to always leave the audience wanting more. With all the extra hours of programming this year and the hype for Idol Cares, I’m not sure I’m feeling a compelling need to hear more of anyone from this year. Maybe it was because she started good, but Melinda Doolittle lost the ability to surprise me some six weeks into the show. If there’s one artistic criticism, it’s that she was so reluctant to leave her wheelhouse. It seemed to start with British Invasion week when she did a ballad from Oliver. While she did very well with Bon Jovi’s “Have a Nice Day”, she also opted to act kind of Disney goofy about being a rocker instead of taking the challenge on straight.

Randy Jackson’s choice of Whitney Houston for her was a fascinating sort of curve ball. Melinda handled it well enough musically, but she didn’t seize the stage, something that Jordin does a bit better. She was fine with Tina Turner, but “I’m a Woman” was just a reminder that she had an older style. If it were a presidential debate, it was like a candidate who needs the youth vote spending the last five minutes of her time talking about social security reform. Also, the attempt to be sexy just doesn’t work with her.

It was fascinating to see Melinda at home. Belmont College, her all black church, the little Tuesday night parody of Randy Jackson (Johnson) spelled homey, hardworking, talented, self-effacing, supremely competent. I used this line about AJ Tabaldo back in the semi-finals, but those are the things America secretly hates in its entertainers. We want someone who’s going to be in rehab three years from now.

Blake Lewis- I confess. Even when Sting was singing it, I always found Roxanne one of these weird songs like Bobby Gentry’s Fancy. I thought he did well with Maroon 5 and Robin Thicke. I just think he has this “jester” quality in his performing that gets in the way. It’s about “fun”, but it never penetrates to the heart.

Idol now has its finalist with a full-on “contemporary” sound. Good luck with that guys.

I do think that Blake comes across as a very likeable individual who really is enjoying his time in the public eye. Would I expect people to listen to him without video? I don’t know.

Jordin Sparks- Virtually everyone seems to be conceding this to the some time anti-choice activist, “big-girl” model, with the exuberant personality. More than anyone, Jordin Sparks, the performer, continued to grow while on the show. To be clear, I mean artistically, though some of the camera angles make Jordin look like a remake of "Attack of the 50 Foot Idol". While it’s easy to see the potential of the Jordin of “I Who Have Nothing”, you can also see the potential downside with “Wish Upon a Star”and “Hard for the Money.” At her best, Jordin really does grab the stage and hints at emotional depth that would seem impossible for a performer so young. At her worst, she shrieks, glows, and yodels as she strays surprisingly off pitch at points and as if her sustain pedal won’t lift up. You remember Nuke Lalouche from Bull Durham? There is such a thing as bringing brought to the big leagues too early, even if you have major league stuff.

Should she win, I just hope the producers have the sense to handle her carefully rather than insist that she go Super Nova immediately. I have my doubts. The show worked very hard to promote Jordin as the “potential” winner. It very well may backfire over the long haul. I don’t think she’ll be back singing at anti-choice rallies by the Winter of 2008, but I’m just not sensing a huge hunger to hear her music yet.

Final question- Have you heard anyone say “I just can’t wait for that final with Jordin and Blake!”

We may be seeing Sanjaya and Melinda get an awful lot of time in that finale extravaganza. It’s like one of those years when the Florida Marlins win the world series. It clearly happened, but no one outside of Miami is going to remember it all that well.

Other Chancelucky Idol Reviews

Sir Linksalot American Idol articles

SirLinksalot MelindaDoolittle American Idol



At 5/17/2007 04:01:00 PM, Blogger benny06 said...

I thought Blake should have been voted off instead of Melinda.

At 5/17/2007 04:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can hear it from me first- I can't wait to buy a Blake cd! I am thrilled he made the finale but wish he would have been there with Melinda.

At 5/17/2007 04:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been saying for weeks that I wanted a Blake/Jordin finale. Melinda is a very good singer but she just isn't interesting to listen to, or to watch. There are dozens of singers out there just like her. I do understand that she is a very humble person but she carried the deer in the headlights reaction to positive feedback to the extreme. It got old really fast. I think the finale next week will be the best ever. Sure hope Sherman Pore is there. Now there is a CD I am going to buy! So glad he got a contract out of it.

At 5/17/2007 04:47:00 PM, Blogger Tanya Espanya said...

Tell me again, what magazine do you write for?

I made a comment on another blog that I'm so sick of this show and am basically only watching it so I can read the posts here and here - I forgot to add your site, too!

u rock!!!!!!
i heart u!!!!
where's the crying girl with the braces?!?!


At 5/17/2007 10:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A week or so ago, I saw a split screen still with no sound of the three 'finalists' for Idol on Countdown. I paused my vcr & picked Jordin as the one who has the most tv 'it' of the three. So even tho I never heard any of them sing a note, the visual 'it' factor seems to have been borne out even tho everyone seems to agree that Melinda sings much better.

At 5/18/2007 07:18:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I suspecdt more people voted for Melinda, but more people voted multiple times for Blake and Jordin.

It's nice to hear from a Blake fan. Despite what I've said about him, he can be fun.

I remember Melinda being asked about Idol Cares and she used the word "huge" like a dozen times in three sentences. I suspecdt that she doesn't speak well extemporaneously and the astonished look was also kind of a cover for that.

thanks for the kind words. Just think, maybe your "tapeworm" can grow up to be just like the crying girl.

Mr. Pogblog,
Dick Clark used to have a theory that TV audiences respond to people with big heads. Taht's why Pat Sajak was chosen for Wheel of Fortune. I do notice that of the three Jordin has the largest head.
She's also the largest person of the three, but big heads and big eyes apparently translate into tv friendly faces.

Jordin also has the most expressive face of the three.

At 5/20/2007 10:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just like the rest of the world, American Idol is a looks and popularity contest. It's not a singing contest. If it were, expert judges would decide the winner, not the general public. It sure makes things interesting though.

At 5/21/2007 09:49:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

In some ways, this season was sort of a triumph for singers who didn't have conventional sexiness. Lakisha was fourth, Phil STacy tied for 5th, and Melinda was 3rd....that's actually pretty good.

Jordin and Blake aren't exactly centerfold material either.

I think the thing that hurt Melinda was a combination of "not having the look" and "not having a great stage personality". If she had one or the other, she likely would have won.

At 5/24/2007 05:37:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

I wish I had your brand of analytical skill Chancelucky. Another stellar review and shame on your for making me laugh and think yet again.

At 5/24/2007 07:27:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

Female Blake fans are called "Blaker Girls." I like Blake, but if anyone calls me a Blaker Girl, I'll stab them in the face with a pen.

Melinda's departure wouldn't be so hard to take if the judges and people involved with AI didn't keep trying to impress on everyone that this is a "singing competition." Everyone knows that it's not. I just wish that they would be upfront about it. Simon kind of screwed himself, because he's always the first person to dismiss someone if they're not perfectly skinny or not beautiful, and here he had Melinda, a little chunky and kind of plain jane but with an amazing voice. He LOVED her. He wanted so badly for her to win, but the viewers went by the criteria the he and everyone else in the pop world when it came time to vote - who's the youngest and most attractive? Fortunately, Jordin can sing, but she's certainly not as good as Melinda. But as I've said in my recap, Melinda will be so much better off not winning. I'm sure she's already gotten a million offers.

At 5/29/2007 02:34:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

As always, thanks for your kind comments.

I think seeing Melinda singing in the final with her old bosses told me all I wanted to know. She simply seemed happy doing it and she was really good at it.

I'm sure she would have been fine on "This is My Now", but it would also have been more than a bit sad to see her saddled with that crud.

At 7/21/2008 06:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great new for the fans of Melinda. She will released her first album in fall and working on Holiday CD. it new website who replace the first one who have been done for Melinda in the beginning by Tyler. Come join us


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