American Idol: Step It Up or Shut Up

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Season 9 of Fox’s hit television series, American Idol, which premiered last January, is a shining example of a show that’s swirling the drain.

If you watched season 8, you may have been captivated like I was: the talent, the drama, the duets, the voices, Allison Iraheta’s signature maroon hair, Adam Lambert’s astonishing vocals—now that was Idol at its best.

Although I wasn’t thrilled that Kris Allen won last May, I could live with it. I was much more than satisfied with Adam Lambert’s debut album, For Your Entertainment, and I started this season with high hopes that the show could again bring forth true musical talent to America.

Then I started watching.

Frankly, I’m shocked.

I’m never excited for the audition rounds because it’s easy to lose track of the truly good singers in the sea of horrific poseurs. Hollywood Week is typically anticlimactic, but even still, I was appalled.

The Top 24 seemed to be divided largely into two categories: Average and Dreadful.

I haven’t done the exact math, but I’d say more than 75% of the voices I’ve heard this season have had absurd pitch problems. If I hear a judge use that term one more time, I’m gonna Bowersox somebody right in the face.

Among the Average contestants, the talent ranges from “barely mediocre” to “marginally decent.” However, even the best “marginally decent” people this season are still just average.

What irks me is that many of this season’s contestants seem to get pats on the back for singing at least two notes right (Ellen hugging Tim Urban after his “meh” performance of Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah). And praising mediocrity is quite sad.

Another issue I have with this season is the way America is voting. This show has become such a popularity contest, which is not its purpose. It’s a singing competition! Do you really think Lilly Scott, Katelyn Epperly or Alex Lambert didn’t deserve spots in the top 12? Do you truly believe that, say, Paige Miles or Tim Urban or Andrew Garcia or Katie Stevens or Lacey Brown deserved a spot more than any of those three did?

This season has found only one person who truly has season 8-worthy talent: Crystal Bowersox. She’s comfortable on stage, she has clearly identified herself as an artist, and she has an unbelievable voice. I feel like every episode is the Crystal Bowersox Show.

And although this show purports not to be a popularity contest, many outstanding singers from past seasons at least had entertaining personalities, like Fantasia, Kellie Pickler, and Blake Lewis. Tuning in to this season’s contestants is as exciting as watching Ryan Seacrest get a spray-on tan.

The only one with a personality is Siobhan Magnus, but that’s only because she’s quirky and compared to the cardboard cut-outs she’s competing with, she’s downright riveting.

Aside from the contestants, the judges are an essential part of making this competition interesting. Many people (except me) were saddened to hear that Paula Abdul would not return as a judge this year, but Ellen DeGeneres is actually not such a bad replacement. She’s funny, she’s personable, and for the most part, she’s spot-on with her critiques.

Kara DioGuardi, I must admit, has gotten much better at judging. Last season, I would laugh hysterically at her arbitrary comments, but I think she’s actually giving much more practical, useful comments this year.

One of the best comments I thought she gave was when Aaron Kelly sang Lonestar’s I’m Already There during the top 8 guys round. She said, “[the song]’s about a man calling home to talk to his kids on the phone, and you’re 16 years old. It’s not relevant to your life.” I’m not conscientious at all about lyrics relating to singers on this show, but I think she had a really good point there. I don’t think any sophomores at Staples are calling home for their kids just yet.

Simon Cowell, once again, gives the most accurate, pointed comments. I think the show will go in a downward spiral when he leaves at the end of this season.

And Randy Jackson? I’m like, “Yo, so lemme break it down, dawg. Whaaaaaaat?!”

They’re great judges on the live show, but in my opinion, they did a shoddy job choosing the top 24. There were plenty of eager, talented contestants I saw throughout the audition process who would have been much better than our top 24, possibly Shelby Dressel and even Angela Martin.

That is, unless the top 24 we got were actually the best people the judges saw out of the 100,000+ who auditioned. In that case, it’s terrible that America’s talent pool has dried up into a little puddle. Unless someone worthy of competing during season 8 comes along next year, I think maybe it’s time for Idol to end. This season is really that bad.

There’s a weekly vlog on Entertainment Weekly’s website called Idolatry, which features the brilliantly snarky Michael Slezak and the hilarious Kristen Baldwin (who’s now on maternity leave) giving their opinions of the previous week of Idol. On Idolatry’s Mar. 20 vlog, Slezak summed up this season of Idol when he spoke about how the far the standards have been lowered: “The bar is no longer a bar. It’s now a trench that you can just step over.”