American Idol 5.0 - crunch time!

So after the fun-filled first few weeks of auditions and the histrionics of the first Hollywood knockout phase, things are starting to get serious. Tonight the 44 remaining contestants get whittled down to the final 24 in the unkindest cut of all - the last one before individual contestants really start getting the spotlight and the idiots that comprise the American voting public take control of their fates.

I think it’s been a great season so far. Difficult, though, to identify too many characters I’m rooting for at this stage. Certainly my #1 pick at this point would be the gray-haired dude (hereafter to be known as Clooneyboy) who has an amazing voice but seems a strange fit for this competition. I think his voice will carry him through for a while, but it’s hard to see how he will survive long in the final rounds as he’s just not the type to appeal to the legions of brain-dead 14 year-old high school girls chain-voting on their pink Moto Razr phones who make up the majority of the show’s constituency.

I also really like the girl whose mother was in Sounds of Blackness. Probably the strongest female voice in the competition.

Beyond that… who knows? It was sad to see the loss of the little cowboy dude because his whole experience seemed like something torn from the archives of the Make-a-Wish foundation, but he fucked up last night and so he had to go.

I will be VERY glad to see the departure of those two arrogrant loudmouth twins who seem to have no sense of when to keep their mouths shut for their own good. If I hear either of them say “Can I just say something…?” one more time, something is getting thrown at the TV.

(SPOILER: I did read something to the effect that a background check on these guys turned up some shady criminal dealings in their not-so-distant past, so maybe they can fill the “kicked off for being a scumbag in real life” slot that seems to now be obligatory on every season of Idol.)

Thoughts? Comments? Predictions?

You really can’t tell who the favorites are until they’ve each had at least one turn on the ‘regular’ show, singing a song. The shows now are about spotlighting odd personalities (hence the focus on the loudmouth twins), not necessarily stand out talent.

I suspect the Clooney guy will make it a fair stretch, because he’s gotten a lot of camera time so far, has a good voice, and stands out as being different. Different is good competing against 20-40 other people who are often hard to distinguish. Different starts to be bad when you get to the final 5 or so, and a singer has to have a strong appeal to the opposite sex to move on (though season 2 was an exception, because both Ruben and Clay were so much better singers than the others, and the judges were singing their praises strongly every week).

I remember seeing that Simon thought an Irish-born singer from the Boston show looked strong this year, but she has gotten little camera time so far - I’m not even sure if she’s still in the competition, though I imagine she is…

I hope all those Rat Pack guys make it through.

The Rat Pack kiddies were adorable. I’d trade them all for Clooney dude, though.

They are going to circumcise the contestants? That’s new.

Clooney guy has got my vote for now… I tend to root for the darkhorse until they get canned and then look for someone who actually has a chance of winning… There’s also the skinny kid with glasses that stikes me as another choice for someone fun to root for until they get canned…

Ace (the long haired “Constantine” pretty boy) should last a while, but hopefully will go sooner than later… A couple of the rocker guys stood out as well… Most of the girls have not stood out to me though, except for that really annoying woman who I just can’t stand… neither can Simon, but she might make good television so they keep her on… we’ll see…

I’m rooting for Clooney and the guy that was humming “The Final Countdown” on his way up to be judged.

I knew something was up with the twins when there wasn’t a single of them at the halfway point.

Glad to see at least two of the Rat Pack make it through. I’m curious to see how they do trying to sing other songs.

I thought the concern for the younger contestants was interesting. Did this happen in previous seasons? The 16 year old girl seems like she has a chance to go far.

On the guys side, I’d say that Ace Young, the pretty boy, has got to be a favorite. It helps that he appears to be able to sing. The teenage girls will falling over each other to dial his number. Chris Daughty, the main rocker dude, is my personal favorite. It’s nice to hear a guy sound like a guy. I was pretty impressed with the little we heard from Elliot Yamen (the other kinda rocker guy?) as well. I think you guys got the grey-haired fellow nailed. He’ll make it middle of the pack and then won’t be able to show the range he’ll need. I’m glad he made it, though.

On the girls side, I’d say that Kellie Pickler (Carrie Underwood 2) would be the favorite. She so similar to Carrie (hot, cute, and innocent) that it makes you wonder if it will help or hurt her. This sets her apart from the current contestants but makes her compete with the winner of the last contest. Parris, the 16 year old with the famous grandmother, is probably my favorite girl. Her voice is pretty amazing, even more so for her age. Something tells me she should have waited a year or so. At 18, her voice might blow the others away. I’ll hope that Becky stays in it for a while, if only for the eye candy.

BTW, here’s what I used to connect the names to the faces.

I’m digging Clooneyboy more and more because he has a great voice that doesn’t sound generic, and he also appears to be a bit nuts. I hope he can hold on until at least the final 12.

SO glad to see the loudmouth twins get kicked off for being criminal scum. OWNED!

Simon’s comments about being too young and green at 16 to really compete irritated me. If that’s a concern, raise the minimum age! Don’t penalize people for it.

I also like the little 16 year-old munchkin dude, but he won’t survive long. Long-haired Bucky should nail the red-state NASCAR vote and go far. Oh, and the Vin Diesel dude is pretty good, too. I’d like to see a rocker actually win this time. Carrie Underwood beating Bo last season left a very bitter taste in my mouth. It’s time to redress the balance and have a rockin’ dude who can throw down some PWNAGE best all these safe, giggling bimbos. If I had to call it right now I’d say Ace has the best shot. Rock star looks and a really good voice = Idolness.

I think Clooney guy could have a lot of trouble once they have to start singing different styles every week. I can’t imagine him imitating other singers. If he can take songs and do them in his own style, however, he could be interesting to watch.

The “Sway” kid looks like he’ll go far, if he can stay in tune. He’s got a really interesting-sounding voice.

Ace already looks destined for a top 6 slot.

Damn, Becky is hawt.

I disagree on Sway - I was surprised he made final 24. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention when he sang something very well, but the couple times I did see him, I was unimpressed.

Becky is nice eye candy. She’ll last for a while on that alone.

I doubt the little 16 year old dude will make the final 12 unless the judges make a BIG push for him. He looks about 11.

Agreed. I think one of the big weaknesses of the show this season has been its focus on them. Simon berating about their hissey attitude was the only part of their story that I liked.

There’s some truth to it, though. A lot of 16 year olds are still finishing off puberty. Hey, I now have a deep voice!

I don’t think this is going to happen anytime soon. The last song, which both contestants sing, is always some awful pop song. The song from last year was horrible and, even though I think Bo was better overall, Carrie can sing awful pop songs better. Can you imagine Diesel singing that one?

Scared to admit I’ve been watching it, too… that said, I’ve generally watched the show through to this round in previous seasons, and then stopped because everyone starts singing slow love songs instead of more upbeat stuff.

I think Ace has to be the favorite… I think he’s got a solid voice and he seems to have used it fairly well in a variety of song styles. I also like Katharine McPhee and Paris Bennett–they both seem to have fairly unique and strong voices.

Yeah, what’s interesting is that while being different and interesting seems to be rewarded in the intermediary rounds and the run-up to the final four or five contestants, once you get to that climactic stage, contestants are forced to gravitate toward the middle in order to stay in the game. Bo went from being fairly edgy and rocky in the early going to being the clean-cut pseudo-rocker that you could take home to grandma. It’s a shame, but probably quite an appropriate indicator of how popular culture works. In the end, the pleasing and predictable will always succeed with a wider audience than the daring and different.

Ace bores me to tears. He’s generic-pretty with a safe voice. Sadly, that’s what will take him to atleast the top 12. I much prefer Clooneyboy and Chris. Chris could easily be groomed into the top 12, but I don’t see Clooneyboy lasting that long.

Phil: Sway was on a few times, and he was never 100% in any of his performances, which worries me. But at the same time, there were moments in those performances where his voice had a really unique, interesting quality to it, one of the two or three best I’ve heard out of this crop.

If you’re a producer casting singers for a pop record – a job I’ve actually held :) – that’s what you get excited about. Making pop records is all about capturing a performance – you’d rather try to coax three memorable minutes out of someone with a unique voice than have someone who’s pitch-perfect all the time but has a generic, bland vocal tone. And I’m sure that’s exactly why Sway is sitting in the top 24 right now.

Interesting point, Sluggo. I’m sure this is what saw Fantasia through to victory two seasons ago. But how do you explain Carrie Underwood, the Queen of Generica?

What happened to the obligatory “punk hair dye” girl this year?

Well, they made up for it with the ratio of goofy guys, I guess.

What I’m talking about doesn’t really have much to do with the final winner. It’s about how the judges came to this top 24 – they’re going to come up with a combination of people with unique voices and lots of potential, as well as some pretty faces with decent voices that they think could be marketed.

As for who actually wins…once it’s in the audience’s hands, it’s a crapshoot. There was really no way the audience could botch Fantasia – she was miles ahead of everyone else. But as for Carrie, I guess the audience connected with her. I didn’t think she was tremendous, but I thought her performance of “Alone” was arguably the most memorable in the first 4 years of the show.