On Monday, I took a look at the five best things to happen in the world of Idol and its imitators in 2011.
Today, the worst.
1. The X Factor misses the mark
Simon Cowell promised us a mega-hit. What he delivered was a mega-miss — overhyped, overproduced, like American Idol on steroids. Simon and company forgot just one thing: Talent worthy of chasing the show’s $5 million prize. Low-lights included 13-year-old Rachel Crow belting out the Rolling Stone’s “Satisfaction” and the ego known as Astro sulking on stage because he landed in the bottom two and still being allowed to remain in the competition. The worst part: This American Idol rip-off masquerading as something new and fresh will be back in 2012. The X Factor got just one thing right — big-voiced Melanie Amaro was crowned the winner. And credit for that goes to fans, not the show’s creators.
With Simon Cowell gone, no one expected the judging to be as harsh on Season 10 of American Idol, but this was ridiculous. Over-the-hill rocker Steven Tyler liked every performance once the finals started. Every single one out of more than 100. Jennifer Lopez did a better job of hawking herself than judging anything. Randy Jackson and his “in-it-to-win-it” mantra was a joke. The judges on The Voice and The X Factor weren’t much better. The only real judging taking place in 2011 was on the little-watched Platinum Hit, where Jewel and Kara DioGuardi harpooned would-be songwriters on a regular basis. I learned a new appreciation for Kara, and I’m shocked to be typing that.
Flash back to April 7, Idol’s rock week results show. We were treated to a performance by Constantine Maroulis, star of “Rock of Ages.” Which made sense until he sang a ballad, “Unchained Melody,” in a performance so overbaked it made the wildest Jacob Lusk performance look timid. Iggy Pop tried to sing, too, cavorting around the stage shirtless at age 64. Then there were guest appearances by Gwen Stefani, who turned Pia Toscano and Lauren Alaina into fashion disasters; and Russell Brand, who seemed intent on showing us why we should avoid his remake of “Arthur.” And it all ended with the elimination of Pia, perhaps the best pure singer of Season 10 and the fifth straight female finalist to get the boot. An hour of avoid-at-all-cost TV if ever there was one.
She’s the best singer-songwriter Idol has discovered after 10 years. Her debut album was the best we’ve gotten from a finalist since Season 7. But as of October, Crystal Bowersox was minus a record label, dropped by RCA/Jive after “Farmer’s Daughter” failed to sell. In fact, it’s sold as many copies to date as Scotty McCreery’s album sold in its first week. Crystal took the development in stride: “I’m going to be making music, if it’s on my own label or if it’s with somebody else,” she told TV Line. True to her word, she’s working on a six-track EP to be released in 2012 and has promised fans a free download of the first track and “six untouched, rarely or never heard original pre-Idol recordings.” But it’s still a shame there isn’t a spot on a record label’s roster for someone so talented.
David Cook’s post-Idol album went platinum in the blink of an eye. His second post-Idol album, “This Loud Morning,” disappeared from the Billboard 200 in the blink of an eye. I’m pretty sure that’s not what David had in mind when he included a song called “Rapid Eye Movement” on the disc. I’ve written before that the album has too many similar tracks to be wholly successful. Nothing too loud. Nothing too soft. Everything building to the same big chorus. But it’s not that bad (eight weeks on the Billboard 200; just 100,000 copies sold in five months). And anyone who thinks David has lost his touch didn’t see him perform at the Pullo Center at Penn State York in early November when he rocked the house. Some fans at the show said they think radio holds the Idol stigma against David. Perhaps. The lead single, “The Last Goodbye,” sounded just fine. (For more photos from his York concert, go here.)