A long time ago, in a world before iTunes…
In the olden days (i.e. when this year’s final two were still young enough to go trick-or-treating), 19R used to put out a compilation album each season. Due to the glacial pace of things back then, they would typically have the Idols record the songs they sang the first week or two of the finals and release the album a few weeks before the finale. The track listing was always much discussed on the knoll to see if track order indicated or the theme featured favoured the chosen ones. Some of the albums sold quite well, but the Idol powers that be could not help but notice the brisk business in downloads of MP3s for all the songs performed. They smelled money.
Late in Season 5, they started selling MP3s/videos of the Idol performances from their own site. It wasn’t well reported, but it must have been successful enough. The next season, they did not release a compilation album and had the kids record studio tracks each week. These too were exclusively available via the American Idol site, but people were suspicious. At the end of the season, they released songs from Jordin and Blake, the two finalists, to iTunes. A few weeks later, they released all of the songs to iTunes and you could even purchase a massive album of all the songs for the entire season which as a bit cheaper then buying them all individually.
TPTB decided to go with iTunes all the way in Season 7. What ensued was a cat-and-mouse game for weeks where people would find various ways of revealing which contestant was selling better than the others. Loophole after loophole was closed until they were all left in the dark. The exercise was a tremendous success. During finale week, David Cook moved an astonishing 942,000 songs which accounted for 15.7% of all songs downloaded in the US that week. Together, the Idols accounted for 25% of all downloads in the US. One can only imagine how many the sold the weeks we didn’t get numbers. Weekly downloads were here to stay.
That year, they also did something that puzzles people to this day. On Idol results night, they yanked every single season seven song from iTunes. In their place, they left only the songs that had been performed that week and even those were only left up for a short time. Only the coronation song was available for purchase through that summer and early fall.
Me? I kind of like the souvenier compilation albums of yore. They are a nice memory of the season. So, the week before Final two, I always go through the iTunes store and pick out my favourite keepers. I try to listen to them all, because I”m constantly amazed how good some of the songs sound. Some of my favourites come from people I did not even like (in Season 6, I was a Melinda fan all the way, but Lakisha’s “This Ain’t a Love Song” is my favourite from that season. Brooke was my horse in Season 7, but Cook’s “Always Be My Baby” is stunning. I didn’t care for Anoop, but his vocals on “Always on My Mind” are just so pure). I don’t want to miss a gem.
So, I always solicit help from the fan bases. If you could only recommend one song from your favourite Idol for the non-fan, what would it be? I’ve started with my initial lists, but I’m not so sure. Right now, they are just in the order of elimination, so I’m clearly violating the rules for a mix taped that are specified in High Fidelity:
The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules.
13. Ashton Jones – When You Tell Me That You Love Me – Top 13 – We only get one choice here. It’s over produced, but what can you do?
12. Karen Rodriguez – Love Will Lead You Back – Top 12 – I hate the other song, so this one wins by default. The Spanish is a nice touch.
11/10. Naima Adedapo – Umbrella – Top 13 – I find the original of this song annoying, but I like the updates that she did with this song. Her performance was fun and the studio recording reflects it. I like the Reggae feel.
11/10 Thia Megia – Daniel – Top 11B – Some nice emotion and nuance in this version. Her vocals really are pretty. I wish she had waited a few years for Idol.
9. Pia Toscano – Don’t Let the Sun Go Down – Top 11B – Shows off her power vocals. It helps that this song is so awesome to begin with.
8. Paul MacDonald – Folsom Prison Blues – Top 9 – I know that this is not how Cash sang it, to say the least. Cash was a cold, but regretful killer. I liked how somebody said that this version is from the crazy, skinny guy called like Weasel or Flea that was usually funny and seemed totally harmless, but would totally shoot somebody and then smile. This version is infectious, I can’t help but like it. But I like Rocket Man too. My first difficult choice.
7. Stefano Langone – Closer – Top 7 – I’m liking a lot of the boot songs. IDK, I find the studio recordings of his ballads too loungy, so this is the only one I like.
6. Casey Abrams – With a Little Help from My Friends – Top 13 – He just eats this song. Kills it. Awesome. There were a couple of other songs in contention, but this one won out with me.
5. Jacob Lusk – You’re All I Need to Get By – Top 11A Starts slow and then he brings it to church. They did a terrible job with a lot of his recordings making his voice sound thinner than it is, but this one doesn’t suffer from that. Honorable Mention: I’m Into Something Good – It’s insane. Like they both just said “Screw it. Let’s ham it up!”. LOL. Dance With My Father was pretty.
4. James Durbin – I’ll Be There For You – Top 12 – I don’t remember James singing this on the show. At all. But I love this recording. I might switch this to Closer to the Edge because his voice just soars on that one.
3. Haley Reinhart – You and I – Top 5 – Nice jazzy tune. I’ve grown to love this one. I wanted to like Bennie and the Jets (I love it on the show and it is the song that finally got others to like her too), but it lacks the energy of the life performances and that disappoints me. Maybe in a few weeks when the awesomeness of her elimination version fades in my memory.
1/2 Lauren Alaina – Where You Lead – Top 6 – Sassy fun and Lauren really uses her voice.
1/2 Scotty McCreery – Gone – Top 5 – This was just such a fun performance from him and translated well to the studio. Plus I needed something upbeat. This list is a little ballad heavy. But, then I’m tempted to get one of his storyteller songs since that has probably been the hallmark of his Idol run. The River has a gorgeous melody. It’s a shame they didn’t use the live performance arrangement for “You’ve Got a Friend” because that was my favourite performance of his.
What about you? Do you have a best of list from the season? What is the one song from your favourite everyone should own? What diamond’s in the rough were much better than the performance versions? Would it be bad if I left off Ashton’s song?