For this twelfth season of American Idol, Fox have been pulling out all the stops in order to boost ratings. From a whole new panel of judges to changing the structure of how contestants get to the live stages, American Idol has been dramatically altered to appeal to more and more people. Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban have been welcome additions; Minaj for her bluntness and hilarious facial expressions and Urban because not only does he understand music but he explains the technical aspects in a way that it easy to grasp. He is obviously passionate about his craft. Mariah Carey is clearly passionate too but she is entirely far too long winded and doesn’t even know what she is trying to say at times. Randy Jackson, on the other hand, was once the most charismatic and interesting of speakers but has essentially devolved into a Simpson’s character, spending most of the episodes waiting for a opportunity to spout a catchphrase.
In seasons past, American Idol has generally presented thirteen top finalists, twelve from the Hollywood round and one wild card voted in by the public. This year we got a top ten instead, with the show effectively taking two weeks of voting away from the viewer. After Hollywood, the unusually high sum of forty contestants remained, so the show had a ‘sudden death’ round, with ten females competing one night and ten males competing the next night, and vice versa for the following week. Only five from each group progressed, depending on the judge’s choice. Then the top twenty performed, with a public vote eliminating ten and leaving us with our top ten. It seems like Nigel Lythgoe wanted to prolong the Hollywood stage, without giving up the atmosphere of the live stages but it felt like it dragged on for aeons until we got to the week by week live shows and public vote. And those are really the best parts of the show and I don’t think a sudden death round added anything to the show, especially if it takes power away from the viewer for an extra two weeks.
This year there wasn’t even a wild card selection. The only addition vote that the viewers were given was between two people and it was to decide who would go on tour. What was the point in that? Most people will never see the American Idol tour and will have no idea who Audrey Cleland. Now the big shocking twist is that there is an additional week. It is a pitiful twist compared to last year where American Idol fixed Jessica Sanchez almost elimination. Perhaps that is why they have been more careful with the judge’s save this year. Or perhaps it is just because this year has been more predictable. Candice Glover and Kree Harrison (or Rose, as I call her, because of her uncanny resemblance to Melanie Lynskey from CBS’ Two and a Half Men) have stood out from the very beginning, Amber Holcomb has been consistent throughout and continues to improve and Angie Miller fills the niche market of mainstream alternative rock with a peppering so Christian rock. The only contestant that even seemed likely to be saved was Janelle Arthur but by that point the competition was so stiff that Janelle wouldn’t have lasted another week even if she had been saved.
One of the better improvements for this season has been the decision to reveal where everyone is ranking on a weekly basis. The X Factor USA, also shown on Fox, began listing contestants rank week by week just to show how close your favourite contestants were to going out and now American Idol have begun to rank them similarly. There is no scoreboard for American Idol but I do enjoy knowing who the bottom two and top two are, although some might argue that it takes away the suspense of know might win because we can clearly see Candice Glover has been consistently high in the rankings. In fact, this previous week marks the first time that she had been in the bottom two for the entirety of the live shows. It is good as well as the votes for this non-elimination week will carry over to next week. On the one hand, Candice and Amber will have to work harder to pull themselves up but I also expect the majority of voters to come back and vote Candice out of the top two. So then, who is in danger of leaving?
Oddly, it seems that Amber Holcomb is the most likely to leave at this stage in the competition. I can see Angie or Kree falling down into the bottom two to accommodate Candice’s rise but I don’t foresee Amber’s position changing much. Amber is probably the most diverse of the current four and both her voice and style have the potential for international success. Despite that, she has ranked in the bottom three times since the start of the live shows this season. Audiences and viewers just aren’t taking to her despite her strong vocal skills and legs that could rival Stacy Keibler.
At this stage, it seems as though Candice Glover and Kree Harrison are the most likely to win the competition. Candice has an extremely powerful voice and has a good sense of what kind of songs she can sing and that viewers will enjoy. As Randy and Nicki said on Wednesday’s performance show though, sometimes she does tend to over use the technical skills of her voice. Impressive as they are, it sometimes detracts from the song. Conversely, Kree also has a very strong voice but she is much more likely to just sing the song. She just sings it so well that you forget it isn’t her song and this is a singing contest. However, despite usually selecting good songs, her choices in this past week were drab and uninspired. Hopefully, this week is a return to form.
If audiences continue to bore of Candice’s power and skill, or Kree misses any more steps with her song choices, Angie Miller could be the dark horse in this competition. Rock, even alternative rock and Christian rock singers have often done well in American Idol but don’t usually win. She strikes me as this year’s version of Colton Dixon, although she has managed to outlast Dixon by three weeks. Personally, I think Angie has the weakest voice of the four and is the most niche in terms of style. She doesn’t have the power or range like Candice and she isn’t quite as diverse as Kree. I think she will survive another week but I think the road to overall victory is just too steep for her.
And that is the top four for American Idol’s twelfth season. It is an interesting bunch because although I can only realistically see two of the group having any chance at winning, any one of Candice, Kree and Amber could win and I wouldn’t be terribly upset. Not that I get upset over reality TV shows. Honestly.