The lesson of this week's American Idol ejections: viewers hate forgettable singers more than awful ones
If the worst singers are the ones getting kicked off every week, why are these vocalists -- and us viewers -- forced to endure one more rendition of the tunes which got them ejected in every results show?
(I know, Idol needs to fill an hour. But couldn't they just ask Danny Gokey to sing another generic pop-country song?)
Consider Thursday's rendition of The Climb by irritating teen sprite Haeley Vaughn (above, to the left of Lacy Brown). Already cursed with a precarious connection to any song's key, Vaughn could barely get through this soaring ballad after getting the hook; even though, as pugnacious judge Simon Cowell made painfully clear, Vaughn was the only person in that room who didn't know she was going home by the show's end.
Still, I don't blame Vaughn for being confused. Because -- with Vaughn as a significant exception -- viewers at this point aren't kicking off the worst singers.
They're kicking off the most boring ones.
Case in point: ejected singer John Park. There's no way his treacly, trying-to-be-soulful version of John Mayer's Gravity was the week's worst male performance (that award goes to Sanjaya-in-training Tim Urban, who must be surviving by the good grace of the Vote For The Worst Web site). It was, however, one of the most boring -- and idiotic, given that the judges had already warned him about tossing off gooey ballads.
Coming right behind him was righteous church singer Jermaine Sellers, also ejected after singing the one song you're guaranteed to hear in any hotel lounge on any night, Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On. Ditto with the first female ejectee of the night, Michelle Delamor, who suffered from another malady Cowell usually nails right away -- looking too much like a generic backup singer.
Sellers' cardinal sin was blaming everyone else in sight for his shaky vocals and atrocious song choices -- just after pretending that his jokey attachment to a "onesie" undergarment wasn't creepy as Nick Nolte hanging around a high school parking lot.
The best result from this week's performances was the emergence of St. Petersburg-raised Michael Lynche as the competition's strongest male singer, thanks to a powerhouse version of James Brown's It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World that judges were still raving about, two days later. On the ladies' side, dreadlocked street urchin Crystal Bowersox is becoming the girl to beat, despite a mystery illness which forced the guys to sing Tuesday in a last-minute switcheroo.
Meanwhile, Idol producers continued their long tradition of botched moves in the live show. Earlier episodes featured judges who didn't know when to speak and cameras which might switch on without warning; Thursday night, a stage manager shouted at host Ryan Seacrest loud enough for the audience to hear -- isn't there a more professional way to get the point across?
Regardless, Thursday's results provided a serious warning for talented-but-borderline snoozy singers like Alex Lambert and Didi Benami.
Zac Effron clone Urban and Lacy Brown may be worse performers, but as long as they're charming the voters, the better vocalists may wind up on the chopping block first.