Introducing Idolpundit!

January 11, 2010

As you may recall, last year Jason and I did significant blogging on American Idol. This is a music blog, and while some may not care to admit it, Idol is music. On rare occasions, it’s even music of a very high caliber (Adam Lambert’s “Tracks of My Tears,” for example).

At the same time, the posts didn’t really fit. This is a record-geek sort of place, and the mass injection of pop culture that these posts delivered made for an odd and not entirely appropriate combination.

Because of this, we have elected not to cover American Idol here this year, even though those posts were among our most popular.

Instead, I am pleased to announce the launch of our sister site, Idolpundit!

If you’re an Idol viewer visiting because you liked our coverage last year, you’ll find all of our old Idol posts there. Jason and I will provide the same sort of coverage this season. We’ve also got two new writers who I think you’ll like a lot.

So drop on by and spread the word!

Below is just a small taste of the awesomeness you’ll get at Idolpundit.

Nikki McKibbin – “Cry Little Sister”


On the future of Adam Lambert.

June 4, 2009

It’s been a long time since I followed the British music press, but when I did, I seem to recall a crazy level of hyperbole. Bands were routinely called “the best band in the UK” or “the best band since [some legendary musical act]” before anyone had ever heard their first album, based on a couple of hot shows or maybe an early single.

Many of those bands ended up amounting to absolutely nothing, but by that time the notoriously fickle press was already several best-bands-in-the-UK down the road.

I’ve never seen anything comparable here in the States, but the coverage of Adam Lambert, this year’s American Idol runner-up, is giving me flashbacks of the days when I used to peruse NME at the bookstore after my college classes were out. Before the contest was even over, Lambert had appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly solo. The judges, music journalists, the larger media, and bloggers routinely tossed around words like “superstar.”

Superstar? Adam Lambert hasn’t put out anything other than Idol iTunes tie-ins and a single of that Kara DioGuardi song that everyone hated.

Despite this, I am on board with the hype, although more cautiously than many. I used the word “superstar” myself, but hedgingly, asking, “Are we witnessing the birth of a superstar?” I wrote that Adam was a major talent, but, of course, major talents are not always successful.

As a follower of American Idol since the beginning, I’m inclined towards caution. I’ve seen a number of Idol winners or runners-up who seemed to have promising careers ahead of them falter either right out of the gate or when it was time for a follow-up album after the hype of the competition had died down and we, like the British music press, had moved on to a new set of contestants.

It would be a travesty if this happened to someone as talented as Adam Lambert who already commands world attention. To prevent it, Adam should take a long hard look at the rise and fall of Bo Bice.

Bo Bice had a ballsy Southern-rock sound that was popular enough to get him to number two during the show’s fourth season, exactly where Adam finished. Like Adam’s sound, Bo’s was new to the show. Although Bo wasn’t as consistent as Adam, his performances could also be electrifying (most notably here).

But when it came time to make an album, according to All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Earlewine:

They threw everything that worked for Bo on the show out the window — the Southern rock, the blues, the classicism — and shoehorned him into a bland alt-rock setting somewhere between Nickelback and Bon Jovi. Clearly, the idea behind this is that what appeals to the show’s audience won’t appeal to the record-buying public, particularly to teens, but instead of building on the audience Bo had on the show, The Real Thing alienates them.

This approach, or something similar, would kill Adam’s career just as surely as it killed Bo’s. Not that Lambert wouldn’t be able to make a comfortable living between modestly-selling albums and a stage career, but his opportunity to become a superstar–a Mick Jagger, a Steven Tyler, a Freddy Mercury–would be squandered, likely for good.

In order to not get his square peg shoved into one of the music industry’s small set of round holes, Adam needs to take control of his career. He needs to insist on picking his collaborators, and he needs to fight for quality material. He needs to refuse to sing songs that do not meet a high standard. He needs to not let the suits, with their preconceived and narrow notions of what will and will not be successful, push him around.

Can he do it? I think he can. Unlike many prior contestants, Adam has been working in the entertainment industry, if only its fringes, for years, so he likely knows the ropes better than most and hence is less likely to get steamrolled.

I also think the Record People are less likely to steamroll him. When Bo Bice got Bo Biced, the show was still in its early phases and The Powers That Be were focused on producing pop stars. The success of Carrie Underwood demonstrated the narrow-mindedness of this approach and since then we’ve had both country and rock Idol success stories. And I get the impression that the Record People think Adam Lambert’s sound will be plenty commercial as it is.

But I still don’t trust them, and neither should Adam. In order to realize his potential, he needs to take control. I pray that he does.

American Idol, 2009 – Episode 40 (5/20/09)

May 20, 2009

Idol LogoSince there are only two contestants left, a separate post for my weekly power rankings seems pointless, so I’ll just do it here.

Power Rankings:

  1. Adam Lambert
  2. Kris Allen

Who Should Win

Adam Lambert. I thought Kris was better last night, but if we’re picking our new American Idol based on the body of work created over the course of the season, Adam gets the prize.

Who Will Win

Kris Allen. A solid night and the mass movement of former Gokey voters to Kris should put him over the top. I’m not rooting for him, but I can be satisfied with that result.

One of the things that I like about this show is that nice guys can finish first. The music industry can be a nasty, backstabbing, evil thing. But American Idol can, if the contestants can make it through the judges’ and producers’ manipulations, provide a platform for some talented nobody who isn’t a lying, thieving vampire to get the shot he deserves. I don’t know either Kris Allen or Adam Lambert personally, but the online gossipers and the journalists who interview people from their hometowns and such all seem to have the same thing to say: Both of these guys are very nice people. And that makes me happy.

They say the same thing about Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta, Matt Giraud, and hell, almost everyone from this season. They say it about Kelly Clarkson. They say it about David Cook. They say it about Jordin Sparks and Carrie Underwood and many others. That is a wonderful thing, a thing not to be overlooked.

Of course, there’s always the chance that one or more of the folks I’ve been so kind to in this post insists on only getting brown M&Ms soaked in Perrier backstage, prior to screaming at some stagehand and demanding a private dressing room for his poodle. I may be being much too romantic here. I hope I’m not. Talented people who are also good people should finish first once in awhile, and my sense is that, through this show, sometimes they do.

My blog will be very late tonight. Mom and Pops Winslow are in town, and after dinner with them, I have to prepare for an interview that takes place tomorrow for a job I badly need. So I have no idea when I’m going to be able to watch the show. When I do, live DVR blogging and spoilers will be below the fold.

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American Idol 2009: Jason’s Episode 39 Recap

May 20, 2009

Idol LogoI wasn’t going to do a recap of last night’s performance by the final two, but after reading Gordon’s live blog, I felt compelled to respond.  My response?  Gordon is smoking large amounts of delicious crack rock.

Last night’s episode was good in spots, but overall, it was fairly disappointing.  I guess I will review each performance round by round.


In this round, the contestants get to pick their favorite performance from the season.  I hate it when they do this.  Shouldn’t we get a new performance here?  As evidenced by Archuleta’s performance of “Imagine” during last year’s finale, something usually gets lost during a repeat performance of these songs.  It could be that the initial surprise of any vocal tricks or arrangement adjustments has worn off, but these rarely seem to be able to compare to the first performance.  Until now.

Adam Lambert:  Adam wisely picks the Gary Jules version of “Mad World” for his favorite performance.  This was the performance that had many people proclaiming Adam Lambert to be a genius the first time around.  I actually did not like it as much as many other viewers did, preferring instead his earlier performance of Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of my Tears.”  That said, I think Adam’s performance of “Mad World” last night was more restrained, more emotional, and more affecting than his original performance.  I could have done without the fog machine and Hellraiser jacket, but Adam sang the song very well.

Kris Allen:  For some reason, I was kind of expecting to hear Kris perform “Heartless” tonight, because in my opinion it has been his most relevant performance to date, showing his ability to take a current pop hit and successfully rework it to suit his style.  However, I think Kris actually made the right choice in picking “Ain’t No Sunshine.”  First, Kris just performed “Heartless” last week, so it wouldn’t have seemed as fresh.  Second, “Ain’t No Sunshine” was the first performance from Kris that made people recognize him as a genuine contender for the top spot, and having a reminder of that moment was a good boost to Kris’s underdog status going into tonight.  Finally, Kris actually outdid himself, turning in an even stronger performance than his first.  Kris did a lot tonight to remind us why he’s there, and he also showed how much he has grown over the season by improving on one of his standout performances of the season.

WINNER:  KRIS (barely!)


Ah, the dreaded producer’s pick, a job that used to fall to Clive Davis before his old, scaly ass got the boot from the show.  Now the job has been given to producer Simon Fuller, and someone needs to take it away from him, pronto!  Perhaps credit Obama for this, but for some reason we get a couple of late 60’s protest songs from two of the greatest male soul singers of their generation, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye.  Why?  Both songs are iconic, and neither belongs on a glorified pop karaoke contest like Idol.  And here’s why.

Adam Lambert:  Who in the hell could have possibly thought that Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gonna Come” was an appropriate choice for Adam?  Seriously, Simon Fuller, what were you thinking?  Was it some sort of sly reference to the plight of the gay population as they fight for marital rights, much like African Americans fought for voting rights in the 60’s?  No matter the reasoning, it was stupid, and Adam did the best he could with it.  Despite a few moments that sounded overly screechy and took away from the melody, there were some more restrained moments that actually showed a gospel side to Adam’s voice that had not been heard up to this point.  It was an uneven performance, but I think the good just slightly outweighed the bad.

Kris Allen:  Kris was saddled with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On,” and here’s one of the areas in which I think Gordon is smoking crack when he says that this song doesn’t have enough melody.  What?  Seriously?  Kris takes the familiar acoustic route on this one, and I don’t think I would blame the song for this performance’s ultimate failure.  No, I think Kris Allen is to blame.  This is a powerful song, and Marvin Gaye was able to convey genuine pain, confusion, and sadness in his untouchable rendition of this song.  When Kris Allen performs it, the song just sounds like a bouncy little pop tune with little emphasis on the weight of the lyrics or the message they contain.  It was a coffee house performance, and I was not impressed.



And even more dreaded than the producer’s pick is the always cringe-inducing Idol song.  There have been many bad songs in the past, such as Jordin and Blake’s “This Is My Now,” but that was absolutely topped last season with David Cook’s “Time Of My Life,” which actually contains lyrics about a “magic rainbow.”  Not kidding.  For the past couple of seasons, these songs were submitted to the Idol songwriting contest, which has apparently gone the way of the dodo.  But not to worry, because Kara DioGuardi, the queen of insipid pop drivel, is on the show and has contributed a song for this year’s Idols to sing.  It’s called “No Boundaries,” and it makes me want to strangle a puppy.  This one even manages to be particularly insensitive to residents of our recently storm-plagued Gulf Coast, containing an inexplicable line about “Weather(ing) the hurricane.”  Nice.

Adam and Kris:  I will quickly review both singers together, because they were both saddled with this terrible pile of dreck.  No singer could work with this song, and it was proven by both Adam and Kris.  Adam missed several notes and seemed lost, while the song was in the wrong key for Kris’s voice.  The music itself was much more suited for Kris’s singing style, but the key issues keep him from gaining a solid edge.  Both singers went down in flames on this one, and I hope that Kara will not be back next season to contribute more awful crap like this, not to mention her worthless, rambling commentary delivered with her ridiculous finger-wagging and head-bobbing.


So that makes the final count 1-1-1, and we have a tie ball game!  Who’s going to win?  I can honestly say that I do not know, but I actually have a feeling in my gut that it will be Kris.

If you have ever watched “America’s Next Top Model,” they have a way of referring to models as either “commercial” or “editorial.”  Commercial models are more conventionally pretty and better suited for mainstream ad work, whereas editorial models are more edgy and appropriate for high fashion and avant garde campaigns.  Obviously, Kris would be the commercial model, and Adam is the editorial.  Kris has so much more mainstream appeal than Adam, whether it be his boyish good looks, his shy southern charm, or his safe and inoffensive vocal delivery. Adam seems to be much more on the love-him-or-hate-him side of things.  While both singers failed with Kara’s horrorshow song, Kris would have benefited immensely from a simple key change, while the song itself was just not suited to Adam’s style.  This is the type of album that the winner will have to make, and Kris is much better equipped to handle this dreck than Adam.  For that reason, I think Kris should win, lest Adam be drained of every single ounce of the flamboyant personality that made him such a hit this season.

American Idol, 2009 – Episode 39 (5/19/09)

May 19, 2009

Idol LogoWell, here we are! The last game of the season for my second-favorite sport.

And I have to say, this is a good one. That Adam Lambert is here is no surprise, of course–he’s almost the only thing the media has talked about since about two weeks in to the voting rounds. The surprise is Kris, the cannon-fodder who could. Despite the judge’s ridiculous and constant pimping of Gokey, the much more deserving Kris has made it to the end game. I’m not rooting for him this week, but I salute him for turning this competition back into a competition. I would like to think that the rejection of their pet Gokey would cause the producers and the judges to be a little more hands-off next year. Yeah, I know that’s ridiculous, but a man can dream.

The media is, of course, being their ridiculous selves. Did you think the elimination of Gokey would stop the inane Red State versus Blue State stories? Of course not. Kris has now taken on the Gokey role. Hey, media! Screw you! Politically I’m slightly to the left of Ann Coulter, and I’ve been supporting Adam since the top eleven. Stop with your stupid stereotyping. “Red Staters” are not scared by Adam’s apparent homosexuality. Who do you think bought all those Queen and Judas Priest albums? “Red Staters” often like stuff that rocks, and Adam often rocks.

That said, Kris has a real shot here. I don’t think the Gokey voters are going to go to Adam, and there were a hell of a lot Gokey voters. I question their taste, at least I did while they were voting for Gokey, but they like their music on the mellow side, and that is what Kris provides and provides well. We shall see!

Live-blogging and spoilers below the fold once the show starts at 7:00 Central, and our weekly polls once the show is over. I am going to be running a little late tonight, though, so it won’t be nice and synchronized like it usually is.

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American Idol, 2009 – Episode 38 (5/13/09)

May 13, 2009

Idol Logo(Live blog, spoilers, and our weekly poll results below the fold. It will actually be a DVR blog tonight.)

I try to avoid song spoilers, but I was on some site and, out of the corner of my eye, caught that Danny Gokey would be singing “[Something] Little Sister.” I scrolled down quickly to avoid learning more.

It didn’t occur to me that it would be “Dance Little Sister,” although it should have. The only song I could think of called “[Something] Little Sister” was the one embedded below. I knew that was preposterous, but how awesome would it have been?

“Cry Little Sister” by Gerard McMann (The Lost Boys soundtrack)

With that nonsense out of the way…

Who Should Go Home

Danny Gokey. As I wrote in my power rankings post for this week, if there’s a more overrrated contestant in the history of Idol, I can’t think of who it might be. Danny has either put no effort into actually learning how to sing like a pro, or is incapable of learning. I suspect it’s the former–unwarranted praise can do that to a person.

Who Will Go Home

Danny Gokey. Wishful thinking? Quite possibly. But here’s my logic:

Danny’s fan base started out huge, and has remained huge. But I don’t think he’s attracted new fans. I believe every elimination (with the possible exception of Scott MacIntyre) strengthened the fan base of a contestant who was not Danny. Recently, Adam has picked up most of the Allison fans, and Kris has picked up most of the Matt fans. It is entirely possible that these fan bases have grown large enough to push Danny down to number three and out of the contest.

The fact that Kris completely upstaged Danny last night did not hurt this prediction at all.

Am I right? Let’s find out. Poll results below the fold at 8:00 Central. Live DVR blogging, results, and, of course, spoilers, below the fold when I get a chance to watch.

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American Idol Power Rankings (5/12/09)

May 13, 2009

Idol LogoNo surprises in my rankings this week. The surprise to me is that the rest of the world seems to be finally noticing how good Kris Allen really is, to the point where some are predicting an upset.

I noticed that Kris was good early on, and I think the reason I noticed was because I was putting together these rankings and having to justify who moved up and who moved down. Even if no one reads the damn things (although I know some people do), I’ve enjoyed the exercise.

For the record, I had Kris ranked #6 (of 13), #4 (of 11), #4 (of 10), and number three from the top nine through the elimination of Allison last week. (Reminder: Power rankings are not predictive, they are a measure of quality.)

Without further ado:

  1. Adam Lambert. I disliked the arrangement on “One,” but the singing within the bad arrangement was quite fine. “Cryin'” was much better, although why they felt the need for a female backup singer on the verse I’ll never know. I think he may have been coasting a bit this week, but a coasting Adam is still top of the heap.
  2. Kris Allen. Will Kris get a slot in the finale? If he does, he’s earned it. I didn’t think it was possible for me to like “Heartless,” but it turns out there was a song buried in there after all.
  3. Danny Gokey was good last night…relative to Danny Gokey. He lacks Adam’s singing chops, he lacks Kris’ subtlety, and he lacks both of their creativity. If there is a more overrated contestant in the history of this show, I can’t think of who it might be. He should have gone home weeks ago, and I pray he goes home tonight.

Former Housemate Mike sends along his thoughts. I am surprised that he could see the keyboard and monitor through the voluminous clouds of crack smoke, but he managed to successfully type this up anyway.

I guess we agree on one thing–Gokey has been consistent.

Former Housemate Mike’s Power Rankings

I want to start with saying that this top three is with a heavy heart, because NO ONE, including Adam, was better to me overall than Allison. This is a travesty, to me, without her. That being said, let’s see some surprises…

  1. Kris Allen. I can’t believe this is happening. Kris won tonight by a mile. His “Apologize” was not great but very good. But, for the first time this year, in the first round tonight, he kicked Adam’s ass. Period. Then his “Heartless” REALLY put Adam on the hot seat, and you’ll see how I feel about that. Kris was pristine tonight. I never really liked Kris remotely before tonight. I would have been glad to see him go home every week before now. He hit the world’s biggest grand slam tonight. The exact opposite of Adam.
  2. Danny Gokey. Solid all year. Never really offended me. His opposition had more to prove/disprove tonight. He wins right now on consistency.
  3. Adam Lambert. Last week, after Allison finished last, I said that the final would now be anti-climactic. It would be Adam kicking some dude’s ass. I stand corrected. I didn’t think Adam could blow it. I stand corrected again. His “One” performance was dreadful. He jumped from the beginning right to the most important line at the end of the song with such awkward indulgence. Then, to make it worse, he blabbered on with vocal stylings to over-emphasize the “sisters and brothers” line that really made me borderline nauseous. If he had done just a little more with the actual song, it would have shown both respect and understanding of what it really is to cover a classic. He’s shown this before, so tonight blew my mind. Then came “Cryin'” and he did the same freakin’ thing. Abrupt jump from section to section. Terrible. Yes, his voice rocked as usual. But his arrangement and awkward indulgence reminds me of just how non-accessible he can be. He flat out blew it. No one should be surprised if he loses this week. But they still will be. And they will be stupid for that, because the reasons are clear.

…and then Former Housemate Mike touched a finger to his nose, winked, took one last puff of the crack pipe, and was gone. The sweet, burnt plastic smell of crack was the only sign that he had ever actually been there.