‘American Idol’: It’s Still A Singing Competition, Or So The Judges Say

Paige Miles on American Idol (FOX)

Paige Miles on American Idol (FOX)

Even if the exact outcome was by no means a certainty, tonight’s ‘American Idol‘ results were not surprising by any stretch of the imagination. Last night’s “Billboard No. 1 Hits”-themed episode was full of off-key, off-everything performances of songs that had been done on ‘Idol’ many times before, performed by singers who had somehow managed to survive this far in the competition despite more compelling personalities like Lilly Scott and more interesting vocalists like Alex Lambert getting sent home.

But then again, how much of a singing competition is ‘Idol,’ really? The opening production number was an awkward stroll through Wham!’s 26-year-old hit “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” during which the vocals sounded both canned and Autotuned. (Let’s just point out right now that Wham! lead singer George Michael needs no electronic enhancement of his vocals. Here is some excellent evidence of that fact.) The three performers featured as the evening’s “entertainment” — Demi Lovato, Joe Jonas, and Tuesday night’s mentor Miley Cyrus — would have been eviscerated for their pitchiness and awkwardness by the judges’ panel if they hadn’t already possessed varying levels of fame before stepping on the ‘Idol’ stage.

Singing is a secondary concern. It’s all about stardom, charisma, catching the eye of the increasingly restless Simon Cowell, which is why it probably wasn’t too surprising that the consistently disappointing Paige Miles was the one who went home at the end of the night; her performance of Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” on Tuesday was alternately histrionic and sleep-inducing, the latest misstep in a season where she’d seemingly only made the wrong decisions. It wasn’t even all that shocking that, after it was announced that she’d received the lowest number of votes last night, the sharp-tongued Cowell told her to not even bother with auditioning for the judges’ mercy; her lackluster performances simply hadn’t cut it in the eyes of the panel. (And besides, how will the drama of the elimination episodes be propped up if there’s no possibility of a last-minute judges’ save jolting the competition during, say, Top Eight week?)

So yes, the Top 10 has been set, and as a result so has the lineup for the summer tour. And oh boy, will it be a doozy. Andrew Garcia, he of the insanely devoted fanbase and one-trick pony, will probably do three versions of “Straight Up.” Tim Urban, who after backing into the competition on a technicality has grinned and aw-shucksed his way past singers much better than him, will only need to smile bashfully in order to make the girls in the audience faint en masse. Lee DeWyze will close his eyes and pretend that he’s onstage at a hometown dive. Katie Stevens will smirk and preen, wondering all the time if performing in front of a sign that says “I’m young, and I have a sick grandmother” would help her reception. Crystal Bowersox will likely be OK, warming the audience with her earth-mother glow. But that’s how the season has gone so far, hasn’t it?

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So yes, tonight’s episode was a disappointment, even if the result was one of the “correct” ones that could have come after last night’s dreadful episode. The one aspect of this episode that might have made the producers happy? Siobhan Magnus, the awkward glassblower from Cape Cod whose shattering screams have vaulted her into the competition’s most upper echelon. Tonight, she had a few friends in the audience, and in the grand tradition of online ‘Idol’ fandom her bloc had named itself — they were called the Shavombies, and so devoted to their collective cause were the women within the group that they’d made themselves up to look like they were undead. Now that’s devotion — the sort of devotion that could, even in these paying-for-music-averse times, add up to something resembling record sales.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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