Phillip Phillips continues dominance of cute, unassuming white guys as American Idol champs
Let me make one thing clear: Phillip Phillips seems like a really nice guy.
Watching him get so emotional during his final, triumphant moment on the American Idol stage, I had tremendous respect for a guy who just stopped trying to sing his final number and walked off the stage to hug his family, minutes after winning the biggest singing competition on television.
But Phillips is also an example of what seriously ails American Idol these days: The backwards taste of its voters.
As a singer, Phillips should lands in third place among this season's top three contestants, behind runner up Jessica Sanchez and third place finisher Joshua Ledet. If there was any doubt, Sanchez destroyed that during tonight finale, going toe-to-toe with the biggest belter in the the business, Jennifer Holiday, on her signature song And I Am Telling You.
(To be honest, too much of that duet sounded like off-the-chain shouting, the musicality of the moment destroyed by two amazing singers breathing fire in an attempt to one-up each other.)
When he isn't coming off like a clone of eccentric rocker Dave Matthews, Phillips is an interesting artist. But on Tuesday's show, two of the three numbers he sang sounded like Matthews knock offs, leaving me puzzled as to exactly what kind of record this guy is going to create when he's finally unleashed in the studio. The ballad he sang Tuesday, Home, was a great start, touching and melodic, fitted perfectly to his style and voice (Sanchez was undone,at least in part, by some uninspired songs chosen for her Tuesday -- something even the judges noticed)
Sanchez is a diva in the classic sense, able to "sing the phone book" as judge Randy Jackson loves to say (the chorus of Idol semi-finalists singing from phone books was a nice touch in tonight's finale). Ledet is another Al Green-level soul belter who can have Nee Yo's career or John Legend's.
Look at the Billboard Hot 100, and you've got to get down to #19 before you hit a singer/songwriter with a guitar -- and he's country music star Eric Church.
Once again, Idol voters -- presumably the middle-aged women who make up the bulk of the show's audience these days -- have chosen a cute, unassuming white guy singer songwriter over performers who seem more in line with the artists currently selling on Billboard's charts.
Already, I've heard from legions of Phillips fans who disagree, insisting he's a breakout artist who will transcend the long line of disappointing white guy singer songwriters who have preceded him. But Phillips is the fifth-straight white male to win the Idol crown; and before Scotty McCreery hit big on the country side, winner Lee DeWyze was the worst-selling winner in Idol history, already kicked off his record label.
Idol ratings Tuesday were down about 30 percent from the penultimate episode last year, as the relentless optimism of the judges -- who seemed to outsource most every negative comment to record label head and unofficial "fourth judge" Jimmy Iovine -- has made the contest's later rounds less than compelling.
Tonight's finale only highlighted Idol's issues, allowing judge Steven Tyler to play a song with Aerosmith so tuneless and filled with muffed guitar notes, I wondered if axeman Joe Perry was too blasted to play. Jennifer Lopez, who has turned Idol into her own personal promotional vehicle, also soaked up the spotlight with another dance tune with vocals auto-corrected to the nth degree.
Tampa Bay area singers Shannon Magrane and Jeremy Rosado made several appearances during the finale, singing in group numbers including a tribute to deceased Bee Gee Robin Gibb.
But most of Idol's finale was just too much -- trying way too hard to convince viewers it is still the massive hit it once was, whistling past the tendency by the show's audience to pick the same kind of winners over and over with diminishing returns.