I do not intend to blog American Idol every week this year. I may not blog it at all after this week, because frankly we both have better things to do with our time. The show has lost much of its spark, and it’s hard to find something new to write about mediocre performers every week. Besides, American X-Factor is just around the corner.
So here are my first impressions of this year’s boys. I may also write about this year’s girls, but frankly the girls always seem homogeneous in the first week.
Clint Jun Gamboa
Clint has the look of a bitchy personal shopper, the sort of person who discourages you from buying the clothes in his shop because he thinks you’ll dilute the integrity of the brand. He also picked up a reputation for sneering self importance during Hollywood week because of his attitude to some of the other contestants, but it’s possible he was edited unkindly. Even so, he lacks likeability. He confidently belted his way through Superstition, a song choice so obvious and banal that it ought to cost him votes.
Jovany (yes, that’s how they spell Giovanni here) is a shipbuilder with killer abs, who looks like he runs numbers for Big Frankie. He may in fact have been built in a shipyard by ancient magical fishermen with unlikely dreams of Billboard chart success. Their dreams remain unlikely. He sang a syrupy ballad that only a grandmother could have loved.
Jordan also came across badly in the Hollywood shows, but I don’t think he can blame editing. I think he’s just arrogant without anything to back it up. His performance of OMG was slack and boring. He told the judges it wasn’t his type of music, but we were told this season that the contestants wouldn’t have to attempt genres they don’t fit, so what happened?
I don’t remember this kid at all from the auditions. He looks like a soft serve version of last year’s abtastic Tim Urban. Evidently he’s an easy listening melody radio kind of a guy. America has an endless appetite for that kind of pablum, but it has to be done well, and this was not. (Steven Tyler reminds us that Tim is usually behind a piano. Now I remember him! He was much better behind a piano.)
Brett is one of the more interesting contestants, in true love-him-or-hate-him tradition. He looks like Mick Hucknall’s daughter, so naturally I’m inclined to hate him, but I’m trying to force myself to like him because he is at least interesting. Unfortunately his Light My Fire was disappointing, but probably not career-ending.
In the auditions James was referred to as perhaps the best Idol auditionee ever, which is a bit rich for a second-rate Adam Lambert impersonator. Durbin is so comfortably in Lambert’s vocal mould that it’s impossible to see him as anything but derivative and inferior, yet he conducts himself as if he were a true original. For this reason, I dislike him. But he did sing Judas Priest, and that is an Idol first.
Robbie has a look of loose-limbed desperation, of puppyish love-me enthusiasm, of nerdy water-thinness. Yet he sings surprisingly well. He has tone and emotion. It’s middle-of-the-road, but likeable. I’m a little surprised. I think he may be a serious contender.
Scotty has the most distinctive voice on the show this year; an impressively low and textured country rumble. When he’s in his zone he’s so effortless that it’s almost a caricature, and it’s very unexpected coming out of a kid who looks like Alfred E Neumann. He completely occupies his genre and can’t move out of it, but he’s one of my favourites.
The better looking of the two very Italian boys, but as a singer he’s in the same league as Jovany. His rendition of Just The Way You Are is painfully strained, with some ill-advised attempts at falsetto and some very poor enunciation. He seems completely unaware of his failure to deliver, so he’ll be this year’s dumb pretty contestant who hangs around too long, and sadly he’s not that pretty.
Another of the odder contestants this year, Paul doesn’t quite fit into any contemporary category, but his performance of Maggie May confirmed my one sure theory about him; he came to us from the 1970s. He’s a folksy, slightly creepy troubadour who got lost in the timestream. He might be David Essex.
Jacob Lusk makes me smile from ear-to-ear. He’s something we haven’t seen on Idol that I can recall; a glorious, flamingly theatrical big black man with a gospel-by-Broadway voice that reaches the cheap seats. One almost wonders why he’s not on RuPaul’s Drag Race, such is his gift for emoting, performing, and shooting glances that are more expressive than most of the other singers’ voices. He’s my favourite, and I hope America appreciates him.
This year’s most unexpected contestant. Casey is amazing behind a double bass, and it’s a relief to see that he’s still damn good without it. Despite his resemblance to Grizzly Adams, Casey is an accomplished jazz wailer. Sure, his I Put a Spell on You is a little Appalachian for a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins number, yet it’s still convincing. The man makes zoot suit dungarees sound like a good idea. Terrific.
Obviously I want to see Jacob and Scott do well this year, but if the winner is going to come from the boys, I think it’s going to be Robbie or Casey. The first one sent home should be either Jordan or Stefano.
The girls perform tomorrow night. Or possibly just the same girl, twelve times.