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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

American Idol Jumps the Shark: Boots the Show's Best Singer in Sarasota Gal Syesha

My love hate relationship with American Idol just turned to hate again. Dscn0193_2

Not just because they kept me out of all the shots of Syesha Mercado's triumphant homecoming Friday, even though I was just out of camera range for most of what they showed tonight. Or because they let former Idol winner Fantasia perform a song so wack even Simon Cowell could only stare, slack-jawed and amazed, that she had dumped such a load of nonsense on TV's highest-rated show.

No, my hate rises this time because Idol has once again ejected its best singer and performer before the singing and performing competition is actually done -- booting Sarasota gal Mercado in a way that felt a bit like an inside job.

I've said before that Idol wants a rocker to win this one, and that attitude was evident Tuesday, as Cowell kept complimenting scruffy rocker David Cook even though it seemed he had given up trying to bring anything new to his performances weeks ago. Andy Gibb-in-the-making David Archuleta has always looked a bit hollow -- a wide-eyed smile plastered on his face like he'd snuck into Paula Abdul's vicodin.

Syesha was the only performer left who seemed to be fulfilling the show's mission -- flowering into a bona-fide stage presence before the camera's eye. But she was always a bit of a misfit; the contestant who refused to go down, no matter how many times Cowell and the producers tried tripping her up.

On Tuesday, it came down to song choices. Producers stuck her with Gia Farrell's Hit Me Up -- a jittery tune from the Happy Feet soundtrack that was so odd, even Cowell and Randy Jackson were joking about how silly it was. Archuleta and Cook got songs right in their wheelhouse; a sugary sweet Syeshabody ballad and a rocking Aerosmith tune, respectively. Syesha got a song about penguins.

No matter. She's got a voice strong enough to power a Fantasia-style R&B album, and performance chops sharp enough to hang on Broadway, where most Idol also-rans eventually land.

But it's possible Idol may have created another Daughtry -- kicking off the performer mostly likely to maintain a career in their lust to chase a more desirable winner -- this time, a rock star named David Cook.

I think Archuleta's going to win this thing next week. But the real loser is Idol, which has proven to all of us still watching that maybe it doesn't deserve to be a TV phenomenon anymore. And, given the way the show's ratings are dipping this season, it probably won't be for much longer.      

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:46pm]

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