I know there are a lot of people (“the Voice of Reason” specifically) who view this past season of “Idol” as a failure. And sure, there wasn’t a lot of drama this year. But in terms of talent? I’m not sure any season has equaled what we just watched.
At worst, Phil is the fourth “least deserving” winner, behind (in chronological order) Ruben, Taylor, and Lee (who is without question not only the least-deserving winner of this show, I continue to this day to question what sane, rational person would pick him over Crystal. I mean, DID YOU NOT LISTEN TO THIS, YOU DUMB ASS FOURTEEN YEAR OLD GIRLS WHO HAVE HIJACKED THE VOTING THE LAST THREE YEARS?!?!?!?! I have rarely been accused of being “sane” or “rational”, and even I think people who voted for Lee are bat sh*t crazy, save for his immediate friends and family and hometown folks, of course.)
So, since there were 13 finalists this year, here then are my 13 favorite “Idol” moments from this past season, with the caveat (as always) that I don’t watch a second of this show until they hit the Top 24 (and then rarely miss a moment of it afterwards …)
13. Jessica “The Sanchize” Sanchez covering “I Will Always Love You”, Top 13 (Whitney Houston / Stevie Wonder night). When this ranks 13th? You had one helluva season. For the record, I’m fine with Phil winning because (a) The Sanchize screwed up her finale song choice worse than any other contestant ever in the finale save for maybe Blaker (which wasn’t his fault – “This is My Now” is not exactly in his vocal range or musical taste), and (b) like Mindy Doo in season six, she peaked too soon. The Sanchize was so good, so soon, that there was no room to grow and get demonstratively better (like Phil did, like Haley did last year, like Blaker in my favorite season to date). Yes, I am flat out saying that you need to be “just good enough” until top 8 night. Kind of like a bowling league – you always tank night one to screw your average and build up handicap points. You bowl just bad enough to eek out the victory. The Sanchize threw a 298 on night one. Not a good idea.
12. Heejun Han covering “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx, Top 11 (Year You Were Born night). This haunting anthem that Heejun covered is pretty good. Although I still don’t get “The Voice of Reason”’s infatuation with this guy. I didn’t find him funny – I found him to be annoying as holy hell, in a Sanjaya-esque kind of way. (Albeit with a better voice than Mr. Malakar).
11. Joshua Ledet covering “No More Drama”, Top 3 (“Sweet, I Got a Homecoming!” Night). For the most part, I hate over-dramatic performers who extend a 3 minute song into 4 ½ painful minutes of riffs, raffs, and other assorted ridiculous vocal tricks that roo-een the song for me. Josh is the most blatant violator of this I’ve ever seen on this show … but in this one instance, it worked. I wish the Final had been Josh v Phil. (OK, that’s a lie: I wanted Colton v Skylar, with Phil an acceptable alternative to one of them.) The only other time all season I actually enjoyed a Josh performance was …
10. Joshua Ledet covering “When a Man Loves a Woman”, Top 11 (Year They Were Born). I absolutely love the hell out of this song. Josh did a perfectly adequate job whizzing all over it. OK, fine, he did a tremendous job with it. Other than these two performances though? Every time that kid took the stage, I grabbed an adult beverage and began drinking heavily.
9. Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine, “Islands in the Stream”, Top 8 (Songs of the 1980s). The duets rarely worked this year … but this was really good. I thought these two had tremendous chemistry together. Some pairings are so good, that no matter how sh*tty the song is, you just clap like a trained Pauler … I mean, trained seal, along in delight. Loved that they nailed this classic. (Although, and I’m just chucking this out there, how epic would the two of them nailing “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” have been? That won a Grammy in the 1980s. And it’s also number one on the “Songs Stevo Irrationally, Inexplicably, and Unbelievably Loves the Hell Out Of”-o-Meter. Ooh, I could so milk a post out of that “Steve-o-Meter”! Something to file for later this week.
8. Colton Dixon covering “Piano Man”, Top 10 (Billy Joel). For about six weeks, this was the ringtone to my phone, it was that good. It got booted for a week by something better (a song to appear in about six more slots, give or take a slot) … and then really got booted by the clutch performance of the season …
7. Phillip Phillips “Home”, Top 2. I’d argue Phil and The Sanchize were neck and neck at the quarter mile to go mark. Jessica totally bombed on her single pick, while Phil nailed his. And so I’m going to walk out on a two inch thick twig and make this prediction: “Home” will be the surprise smash hit of 2012. This is the best “Idol” debut single since (and please, dear God, don’t strike me with a bolt of lightning for what I’m about to type) this is the best “Idol” debut single since the contestant I call “Asshat” Archuleta released “Crush” four years ago. This song is really good. Possibly in a surprise “charts top 100 all summer long” kind of way.
6. Skylar Laine “Wind Beneath My Wings”, Top 8 (Songs of the 1980s). If anyone doubts that this girl has talent, just click and listen. This was ridiculously good. And I absolutely paid $1.29 on iTunes for the privilege of hearing this whenever I want to.
5. Elise Testone, “Whole Lotta Love”, Top 9 (Personal Idols). Whoa, a chick taking on Led Zeppelin? And nailing it? Oh hell to the mo’ fo’ yes!
(And if you’re looking for the next dark-horse Idol contestant to establish a massive career despite not getting a homecoming (aka “finished top three)? You can do worse than laying odds on Elise to be that person. There’s four of them that have made it big (at least three major post-Idol hits, either in theater, film, or music) despite crapping out early: Daughtry (duh; finished fourth in Season Five); Jennifer Hudson (finished seventh in Season Three); Josh Gracin (fourth in Season Two); and Kellie Pickler (sixth in Season Five). Elise absolutely has the talent to join that damned talented group.)
4. Colton Dixon, “Love The Way You Lie”, Top 7 Part One (Songs of the 2010s). When Colton is your seventh place finisher? And it’s a legitimate seventh place finish – not a “whoa, his voters got lazy” type of seventh place finish, but a “yeah, he probably was the seventh best singer” finish? Sweet freaking Jesus this season had some talent.
(If I’m being totally honest? I liked “Piano Man” better. I absolutely loved how Colton took a depressing drinking song and made it into an upbeat anthem. But this? Covering a song whose chorus at least every person alive has heard (Eminem and Rihanna used it for their “Love The Way You Lie”)? And actually delivering a “holy f*cking sh*t!” epic moment out of it? Get you ranked higher than the song I liked better.)
3. Skylar Laine, “Tattoos On This Town”, Top 6 (Queen / Contestant’s Choice). In the interest of full disclosure, I love this song. I also love the two songs remaining on the “Stevo Favorites of 2012’s Idol Season” list. Having said that, congrats to Skylar for being the highest ranked non-winner choice for this season, and this effort was epically good.
2. Phillip Phillips, “Volcano” by Damien Rice, Top 4 (California / Songs They Wish They’d Written). A lot of my favorite music is not exactly “mainstream”, which probably explains why I pay $20 / month to XM radio, and listen to Pandora all day at work rather than local radio*.
(*: at least until 11am. Then, depending on the driving stories of the last 24 hours, either I stick with Pandora or put on Rush, then Radioactive, on 980. Most days? Talk radio come 11am. This election is so damned crucial to our nation’s futu – I will stop. I will not turn an “Idol” post into a damnation of the inept f*cking idiot currently in the Oval Off – again, I will stop. (stevo struggling to stop …))
Ben Harper, Damien Rice, Our Lady Peace, Remy Zero – not exactly household names, but it’s what I love. And this song, which I’d rank third if I had to rank Damien’s efforts (behind “Rootless Tree” and the hauntingly epic “9 Crimes”), I honestly thought would be THE Idol Moment of Season 11 for me. Hell, even Slezak declared it his favorite Phil moment of the year, and Michael Slezak is pretty much the Bible of American Idol commentary.
It was good … it was surprisingly good … but in the mother of all shockers, it wasn’t my favorite Idol Moment of Season 11. Instead, that came one week later, with arguably the most inspired Jimmy Iovine pick of his long career …
1. Phillip Phillips, “We’ve Got Tonight”, Top 3 (Just Try To Survive and Advance Night).
OK, Idol Nation, can we just dump Randy Jackson and make Jimmy the third judge already? This guy’s choices the last two years for the eventual champ were beyond inspired – Scotty getting “She Believes In Me” last year, and Phil nailing Bob Seger’s haunting classic this year. (I refuse to admit the Kenny Rogers / Sheena Easton version exists, let alone that it hit number one thirty years ago. It’s sh*tter than sh*t.)
In the wrong hands (see Rogers, Kenny; Easton, Sheena), this song is a crappy karaoke song that you’d rather lose five years off of your life to avoid having to listen to. In the right hands? It perfectly captures what Bob Seger was trying to capture 35 years ago – a guy trying to take the relationship with the girl he loves to the ultimate step: the first night “sleepover” (ideally with as little sleep as possible. Cue the Dusty “damn skippy!” voice …)
Phil got it. Jimmy knew he would.
Congrats to Phil for winning this year’s “Idol”. You weren’t my first choice, but you were in the top three. And please, do your part to make “Home” the top selling single for the third straight week by going to iTunes and paying $1.29 for it. You won’t regret it – this song is epically catchy, and I’d wager that even my non-DMB / Ben Harper / Damien Rice / Foster the People / Gotye loving readers (which is virtually all of them) will actually enjoy the hell out of this effort if you give it even 2/1000ths of an impartial fair first listen …