Thursday, April 23, 2009

Idol Rules: Top 7 Redux

Let me share with you a couple of tweets that one of my friends posted during last night's results show:

way to go america, your entire bottom three is the brown people. i hate you. if allison goes, so do i.

just because you already voted for one person of color recently doesn't mean you used up your quota!

I find this response to be somewhat baffling. The underlying assumption here seems to be that the voting public should be considering the demographic balance of the remaining contestants when making their selection. For a show that is a popularity contest disguised as a singing competition I fail to see how last night's results are based exclusively on racism.

Lil Rounds needed to go home last night. It has been obvious the last few weeks that her passion for this competition has been extinguished and she was just trying to skate by. There are two issues at play here. First, she was put in the (arguably racist) Whitney/Mariah/Mary J. box where she had to be this season's "diva" (an incredibly loaded term). However, I think Lil's ultimate problem was that she is not a pop singer. That is not to say she is not a singer, she just lacks the bravado of a pop star. For example, let's take Josh Groban and ABBA. Josh Groban is a singer, but he isn't really a pop singer -- if he tried to do a cover of "Dancing Queen" it would be a hot mess. Conversely, if ABBA were to phonetically learn "You Raise Me Up" it would probably cause a rash of some sort in your earhole. Both Groban and ABBA have enjoyed success at their ends of the singing spectrum, but Idol is at one end while Lil is at the other.

Then there is Anoop. His race has nothing to do with why he was eliminated. His odious personality was the cause of his elimination. Performance-wise, he has shown improvement the last couple of weeks yet he kept finding himself in the bottom three. Obnoxiousness outweighs a good performance -- it is a popularity contest, after all. Frankly, I'm a little surprised he lasted this long.

Allison's appearance in the bottom three was disappointing but not all that surprising. You have five contestants left: Adam, who is probably still the frontrunner; Danny, who is a weakening contender; Kris who is the dark horse of this competition; Matt, whose fanbase was probably working overtime trying to keep him alive due to the save; and Allison who has been middling in the eyes of the electorate. The third person in the B3 last night was going to be Allison or Matt and it will be one of those two who go home next week, so I don't believe her skin color is playing a role in her appearance last night.

I'm guessing if Matt was in the B3, this post would not be happening. It is unsettling to see the contestants of color on the danger side of the stage, but the reasons they were there had very little to do with their skin tone.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Boyle-ing Point

This Susan Boyle thing is really starting to creep me out. For those of you who don't know who I am talking about, let me give you a rundown.

Susan Boyle appeared on the program Britain's Got Talent last week. She sang the song "I Dreamed a Dream" from the show Les Miz. After her performance, the audience was cheering and the judges all gave reviews that led to three "Yes" votes for moving her on to the next phase of the competition. Pretty typical reality show sequence of events, but that doesn't explain why Boyle is being described as an internet sensation. Some other facts to color the scene: Boyle is 47, unemployed, and, in her own words, lives with a cat and has never been kissed.

And then she broke the interwebs.

The consensus is that Boyle gave a good performance on the show. Many would say excellent and I have yet to see a review that called it anything less than good, so let's go with the less extreme opinion. However, that's where the joy ends. Many of the blogs that I subscribe to have shared their positive opinions on the Susan Boyle Experience and have since been inundated with flame wars about the varying degrees of opinions and the application of semantics.

People have taken offense at Boyle being referred to as "older". 47 is older than me, so I would describe her as older. But those in their 50's, who do not consider themselves "older", have expressed contempt for that term being applied to someone younger than them. There's "older" used as an adjective of comparison, which seems to be the more common usage in this case, and "older" used as a pejorative adjective which I don't think has been the intention of any use of the term.

The other issue that has come up is physical nature of Ms. Boyle. She is not ugly, she is not glamorously beautiful, she is just...average. I don't have any of her measurements, but she appears to be average in just about every dimension. If anything, she is the human manifestation of beige. This has created intense debate about lookism, particularly in the realm of talent based reality television. It is an interesting conversation topic, but the vitriol is getting a bit much.

There's nothing that bothers me about Susan Boyle personally. Her performance is a joy to behold, which also seems to be part of the general consensus. If anything, the presentation is a bit overwrought, but that is a fault of production and outside of her control. However, all this joy is eradicated as soon as people have shared their reactions on the web. Civility is beginning to go to the wayside because one person's joy does not necessarily synch up with another.

What I'm taking from the clip is that extraordinary talent should be celebrated, regardless of the source. Why does that celebration need to be shouted down by other celebrators?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Idol Rules: Top 7

I've been skipping out on the last couple of weeks of this section of the blog mainly because there wasn't too much to write about. Megan Joy and Scott MacIntyre were on borrowed time and the themes weren't that interesting either (songs that are available on iTunes and songs from the year you were born).

This week, however, SUCKED so there should be plenty to write about. Spoilers abound, so if you are still unaware of tonight's results read at your own risk.

Top 7 week revolves around the theme of fatigue. For the contestants, this is their 7th competitive week. That's seven weeks of rehearsals, 6 Ford commercials, countless interviews and public appearances, as well as being sequestered with the same dozen people the entire time. On the flipside, the audience is getting pretty fatigued as well. The show has been on twice a week since mid-January with over 48 hours of programming so far. That's 2 days worth of Coca-Cola product placement, off-key auditions, and Tatiana. It has taken 6 weeks to get rid of all the dead weight on the show and it is now reaching the point where a quadruple elimination sounds like a good idea.

The show tends to compound the fatigue by having the top 7 theme be something incredibly tedious. In the past it has been Billy Joel (season 2), Barry Manilow (season 3), the Great American Songbook (season 5) and this week's theme of movie soundtracks. Granted, this week's theme is pretty vague yet we end up with 6 ballads, two of which are attributed to Bryan Adams. The group sing this week was "Maniac", which would have been awesome if someone, anyone, had performed that on Tuesday. Instead, it was one snoozer after another with Adam Lambert being the only high energy performance. Then, because the show refuses to invest in a stopwatch, only two judges would critique each performance. This could have worked if Simon critiqued all the performances and they rotated who the second judge was. Instead, Paula and Simon critiqued the odd number performances while Kara and Randy flapped their gums for the even number performances. And the show still ran over. Way to go.

There is one thing to look forward to with the Top 7 elimination: Solomon. Two groups of three would be formed on stage. The last ungrouped contestant would then be asked to join which group s/he thought was safe. Yes, it's manufactured drama, but depending on who the show made Solomon could make things interesting. I could see Danny or Anoop being totally assy about the whole thing while Matt or Kris would likely be devastated. The last couple of seasons Melinda Doolittle and David Archuleta were the Solomons and they refused to make a choice. Maybe that's what the show was trying to avoid by not doing Solomon this year. Thanks, show.

This week's bottom three were Anoop, Matt and Lil. It should be noted that the two guys were evaluated by Randy and Kara. It was then revealed that Matt was on the block this week. He might be next week also because the judges decided to save him. In other words, this tedious week was pointless. Not cool show. Also, we're going to be stuck with a Top 5 situation which always makes the show awkward.

But that's a couple weeks away. Next week is disco which could go really well or really badly.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Idol Rules: Top 9

This installment is a bit late this week because I had to think off what sort of political lesson could be gleaned from this week's episode. Well, it's almost 72 hours later, which leads me to think that there really isn't anything all that surprising about the how's and why's that caused Megan, Anoop and Allison to be in the bottom three. The three of them gave performances that ranged from bad to tepid and they were in the front half of the broadcast which doesn't help them in the memorability department.

However, I did find myself surprised that Megan was eliminated this week. If you followed my Idol Tweets on Tuesday, I predicted that Anoop and Allison would be joined in the bottom three by Matt and that Anoop would be going home. I also stipulated that VFTW, Vote for the Worst, would be able to keep Megan in the competition one more week. I think if this was any other season, that prediction would have held up with a larger pool of mediocre performers to sloosh through.

In short, I'm kind of phoning it in this week since there really isn't much analysis on how to best navigate the theme of "pick a song that was downloaded by somebody that one time". At least, there's nothing that hasn't already been covered in the previous weeks. Hopefully "Songs from the Year You Were Born" (AKA De Facto 80's Night) will offer some more insight.