So this week's Idol theme was a Salute to the Grand Ole Opry. Sort of. Two songs were attributed to Garth Brooks, two for Carrie Underwood, and two for Martina McBride. Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless and Willie Nelson rounded out the representation. I can't criticize the depth of the representation because country music is an area I am not all that familiar with so I don't want to overstate my expectations. Fortunately, for our purposes, this week isn't about song choices. This week is about Identity.
Last week, success relied on avoiding being boring while on the stage. This week that theme is extrapolated as the contestants should begin to establish an identity that the public can latch onto. Some contestants already have pretty firmly established identities. Kris Allen is The Cute One; Lil Rounds is the R&B one (racist? A little bit); David Gokey is the one with the dead wife -- he has been able to drop that part of the image and latch on to the faith leader role; Scott McIntyre is the blind one; Anoop is the overachiever. Yes, some of these identities are on the cynical side, but when has American Idol ever been about nuance?
Matt Giraud, Megan Joy Corkrey, and Adam Lambert all are in a cultivation phase. Matt's original identity was that of a dueling pianist with an R&B twist. However, Scott is leeching away at the piano identity marker which could hurt Matt in the long run if Scott sticks around too long. Megan has yet to settle on an identity of any sort on the show but is the selected one for Vote For The Worst. She has dropped "Corkrey" from her name which may not hurt her as it doesn't seem diva-like in her intentions. Right now she is moving in the direction of becoming the Bad Luck Kid which could keep her on beyond her expiration date.
Then there is Adam Lambert. I actually liked his "Ring of Fire" performance, though I can see why it would infuriate others. It immediately reminded me of Blake Lewis and his rendition of "You Give Love a Bad Name" and Daughtry's version of "Walk the Line". The major difference between those performances and Adam's is that the other performances were later in the season. I think if this was week four or later, Adam probably would not have gotten dinged so hard by the judges and the public. Adam does not fit nicely into any of the Idol boxes which makes risk-taking far more dangerous. Adam needs to define his own box before he gets too experimental.
That leaves this week's bottom three: Allison Iraheta, Michael Sarver, and Alexis Grace. Allison has almost the opposite of Adam's problem. Idol is going to try to stuff her into the "She's Only 16 and a Rocker Grrl" box. I don't think she wants either of those identities and even if she did they are not going to help her win. Age is irrelevant and rocker grrl's have had a terrible track record on this show. Not only that, but she has already played the "Alone" by Heart trump card. I'm a huge Allison fan but I fear she is not going to be around much longer.
Michael Sarver is also in big trouble. His identity has been the Oil Rig Roughneck, which I don't really expect to resonate with the Hannah Montana crowd (aka the majority of voters). Also, I think there was an expectation that Grand Ole Opry night should be in his wheelhouse and Sarver only gave a so-so performance. In other words, he should not have landed in the bottom three on his gimme week and he did. However, during tonight's result show he talked about his daughter and how much he misses her, so if he is able to cultivate that into his narrative he might be able to regain some traction.
And then there's Alexis Grace. I liked Alexis but she was in big trouble this week. "Jolene" is an awesome song but did not seem to mesh with who the real Alexis is. During her send off video they showed the clip of Alexis at her audition and Kara advising her to dirty up her image. In retrospect, this was poorly delivered advice. I think what Kara was going for was grit, which Alexis did need, but trying to get Alexis to move toward Christina Aguilera during the "Dirrty" years was not the right move. Also, this version of "Jolene" seemed almost antithetical to Alexis' previous performance of "Dirty Diana". Sadly, I think this was the right call.
So, week one is about establishing yourself as a performer. Technical precision is not as big a deal so long as you are not boring. DO NOT BE BORING. If you survive to sing in week two, you need to establish your identity. If people can't remember your name, they should be able to describe you with a phrase like "the cute one" or "the blind guy". If you can't be described in fewer than six words, you could find yourself on the seal.
What are your thoughts on this week? What songs are you hoping for during Motown Week?
Oh yeah, I'm writing for Gawker now
5 years ago