Over the next five days, I’ll take a look back at 2010, American Idol style.
Today, my picks for five Idol highlights of the year that’s about to conclude.
Coming up later this week, the worst of Idol (Tuesday), the top albums of 2010 (Wednesday), the top Idol songs of 2010 (Thursday) and the best Idol videos of 2010.
Now, for the highlights.
Let’s see. She started off the year with her new album in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 and at number two on the country charts, having previously topped both. Before January ended, she collected her fifth Grammy. She was named the Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year. She was named one of CMT’s five Artists of the Year. “Play On ” yielded three number one country singles; single number four is at number four and still climbing. The album went platinum. She appeared on a hit TV show and in a movie. She got married. Billboard ranked her tour among the 25 most successful of the year. And she just received another Grammy nomination. Wow. Quite a year for Idol’s season four winner.
Proof that talent does win out in the end. A year after his unfathomable loss to Kris Allen, a whole lot more people were talking about Idol’s season eight runner-up than its season eight winner. OK, so Adam didn’t run off a string of smash hits from “For Your Entertainment.” He still had four songs hit Billboard’s Hot 100; “Whataya Want from Me” reached number 10. The album stayed on the Billboard 200 for 50 weeks, long after Kris’ had departed. And his Glam Nation Tour was a success here and abroad. Let’s face it, the guy’s entertaining.
Idol finally booted its long-winded fourth judge, and not a moment too soon. Known mostly as a songwriter pre-Idol, she helped ruin the season eight finale by helping write a crappy coronation song; then unwisely decided to flash her bikini bod alongside Bikini Girl. She spent much of the early part of season eight making goo-goo eyes at Casey James. She was, flat out, annoying. If ever there was a case of addition by subtraction, this was it. Great move, Idol.
I happen to agree with the critics who have proclaimed season nine one of Idol’s worst. Crystal was the proverbial jewel in the rough. Not to mention probably the best singer-songwriter the show has discovered or uncovered. From the moment she belted out “Natural Woman” during Hollywood weeks, fans knew Idol had a genuine talent on its hands. Of course, anyone who had listened to her original material already knew that. And her debut album, “Farmer’s Daughter,” is true to her artistry, something that doesn’t always happen when Idol finalists release their first album.
I’m putting Nigel here for now because changes were needed after a season nine marked by Simon Cowell’s farewell, declining viewership and shoddy production values (embarrassingly pathetic, really, for TV’s most-watched show; the ill-conceived Shakira–Rascal Flatts duet in which the latter’s mike didn’t work was a real classic.) And Idol’s new executive producer seems intent on shaking things up with younger contestants, fewer instruments and a couple of changes that are even more welcome — fresher themes offering contestants a chance to sing more relevant music in the genres they excel at. Here’s hoping Frank Sinatra tunes are gone for good. But what Nigel needs most of all: A dynamite cast, something Idol hasn’t found since season seven.
Coming tomorrow: Idol’s worst of 2010