EW Idol Cover Story
This week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly includes a cover story on American Idol. You can also read it online. The spin contained therein is that this season’s Idol is just–like–totally unpredictable, man:
”It’s the only year there hasn’t been a front-runner, ” says Cowell, whose Idol contract runs through 2010. ‘You could argue the ones who should do well would be Kellie, Taylor, and Chris. Based on technical merit, you’d have to give it to Chris and Katharine. It’s a strange year and because of that, I’m enjoying it more.’ Shockingly enough, judge Paula Abdul agrees with Cowell: ‘It’s exciting that Simon can’t say who’s going to win on the first day, like when he predicted Carrie Underwood…. I always hear, ‘I like the bald-headed guy, ‘ ‘I like the gray-haired guy.’ Even if you don’t know their names, people know the personalities.’
Jackson won’t commit to naming his pick, but he will go so far as to predict that a boy will win. Considering the fact that Bucky, Ace, and Elliott have been shaky from the start, we’ll assume he’s expecting Taylor or Chris to take home the title. ‘I don’t think anyone has it in the bag yet, and I hope none of them think that. They’re all confused. They read too much of the press and they think they have it. Any one of them could go home any week.'”
Except that Simon has been predicting that Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler and Taylor Hicks are Final 3. And that Katharine McPhee “won’t win”. And that Ace Young is going home soon. But, ya know. Anybody could win…
Simon also sez:
” [why Mandisa got the boot] The audience is much more savvy than they ever were before, and I don’t think they’re judging the show this year like previous shows. They’re listening very, very carefully — and rewarding and punishing accordingly each week.”
Way to flatter the audience, Simon. There are unexpected boots every season. And that one wasn’t so unexpected. Her boot really followed a typical pattern–she had several bad performances in a row, no significant fanbase built up to see her through (she probably lost some gay fans due to the Beth Moore controversy), and producers who were no longer pimping her–Simon came out on the Howard Stern show and flat out said she couldn’t win. So, no Simon. Viewer voting = business as usual.
“The show has its own formula, which includes plenty of unscripted insanity courtesy of the judges: There’s Paula’s random fits of hysterics, Randy’s ever-harsher critiques, and Simon and Ryan’s bitchy feud. The high jinks at the judges’ table, in fact, often threaten to overshadow what’s happening on stage. ‘The show has become a soap opera, ‘ says Seacrest. ‘There are times when the wheels are falling off the vehicle and times when the vehicle is speeding up. You become numb to things that seemed strange in seasons 1 or 2.”
Oh, there’s plenty of insanity on the show, but I don’t believe that any of it is “unscripted.”
And finally, Ryan said this:
“‘The contestants have become politicians, ‘ says host Ryan Seacrest, who’s gotten more serious (and more brunet) this season. ‘They learned very quickly when to look surprised or sad or happy, how to work the audience. There is a real formula to winning American Idol and they’re all trying to figure it out.'”
Ahhh Ryan–a very astute observation (‘cept that some producer prolly told him to say that). The contestants who advance the farthest are the ones who understand that the competition is about so much more than singing. It’s also about creating an engaging and likeable personality. A contestant’s interactions on stage with the other contestants, with Ryan, the judges, the band, the contestant’s family members–are just as important as their performances. A smart contestant successfully walks a fine line between remaining spontaneous and authentic–while working to ingratiate themselves with the viewers. I’m not surprised that each successive season has produced savvier Idols–who are more aware of what a true campaign the competition really is.
EW Handicaps the Top 8
The newsstand issue of Entertainment Weekly also contains a chart that handicaps the remaining Top 8 (at press time). Reading a few of the observations made me wonder if the EW reporters and I were inhabiting the same planet. Kellie Pickler “actually can sing” and “rarely performed in front of an audience” (erm, she’d competed in pageants and been on TV). Paris Bennett is “like a G rated Fantasia” (“Fever” anybody? And those Beyonce moves were not G rated). Taylor Hicks has been “unfairly made over by Idol stylists who’ve cut his hair and cleaned up his wardrobe. It’s time to put the hick back in Hicks!” (Now, that’s just stupid).
Here is what EW predicts: Chris Daughtry 2-1, Kellie Pickler 3-1, Katharine McPhee 7-2, Taylor Hicks 4-1, Paris Bennett 10-1, Elliott Yamin 12-1, Bucky Covington 50-1, Ace Young 100-1. They predicted that Ace would go before Bucky. So–wrong already.
Where are they now?
EW visits with some former Idols. The online article features 6 Idols. The newsstand version features 10 more. From the newsstand article: Constantine Maroulis gets testy (no kidding, he appears seriously pissed at the interviewer), Jennifer Fuentes joins the circus (Jennifer who?), Kimberly Caldwell thinks she has a “knack” for hosting (cough), and Jon Peter Lewis makes a killing in real estate (Hee).
Last two EW items: An online interview with Idol stylist Miles Siggins. Fun fact: The weekly clothing budget for each Idol is $400.
And Popwatch, in honor of this weeks Brian May flap doodle, posts this song parody. Whoever wrote that? Stop writing song parodies. Now.
The Perils of Paula
Ok, ya have to keep in mind that it’s the NY Post’s Page Six reporting this news. But according to this gossip item, there are witnesses who insist that Paula was not assaulted at a party. Two witnesses contacted Page Six to tell them that, “Abdul looked ‘drunk’ and ‘out of it’ and was the one kicked out of the party with ex-boyfriend Dante Spencer.” And, according to Page Six, “Insiders theorize she concocted a story to counter witnesses’ claims that she’d been tossed from Xenii for being ‘falling-down drunk.'”
Apparently, the man who allegedly assaulted her has since been identified. He’s talent agent Jim Lefkowitz. His lawyer’s statement: “The press accounts of the so-called altercation between Jim Lefkowitz and Paula Abdul at Xenii last Sunday morning are completely outrageous and utterly false. Mr. Lefkowitz did not have an argument with Ms. Abdul nor did he have any physical contact with her whatsoever . . . he was merely an innocent bystander at an unfortunate incident.”
Speculation is that the matter may be dropped. Lefkowitz has yet to be contacted by police.
How much you wanna make a bet those “witnesses” were set up by Lefkowitz’s lawyer? Uh huh…
Set your DVRs!
And in other Pauler news, she’ll be hawking jewelry on QVC:
“Recording artist and American Idol judge Paula Abdul will debut her debut latest collection April 21 on QVC.
Abdul will hawk the collection on two shows filmed before a live studio audience at QVC’s headquarters in West Chester, Pa., set to air at 1 a.m. and at 9 p.m., EST.
Abdul began designing jewelry inscribed with inspirational words and symbols, as gifts for American Idol contestants. The collection has grown to include multiple charms, pendants, earrings and bracelets in a combination of metals and textures.”
This Wired news story on AI Domain name squatters is a few days old, but worth posting. Brings me back to the good old days of….January. Remember? The big game back then was figuring out WHO was in the Top 44/24. Good times! From the article:
“The names for the show’s top 12 finalists this season were already registered as .com internet domains before viewers even started voting for their favorites.
Speculators apparently secured the names of contestants Ace Young, Chris Daughtry, Bucky Covington, Elliott Yamin and Mandisa.
The domains are parked with management companies Sedo, GoDaddy.com and NameGiant, and lead to sites with banner ads and advertising links.”
The domain names mentioned in the article–chrisdaughtry.com, buckycovington.com and elliottyamin.com were registered in January, after Idol chose the Top24/44.
Idol producers registered aceyoungofficial.com, christopherdaughtry.com, williamcovingtonofficial.com, buckyofficial.com, elliottofficial.com and mandisahundley.com and domain names for all the Top 24/44 on December 9 Through NetNames UK. Why they didn’t register the contestant’s “stage” names when they had the opportunity is a good question.
The domain name, aceyoung.com, was registered in October. Mandisa.com was registered in August. Those dates put the idea that the names were snapped up by Idol squatters into question. Who really knew about these contestants back in the summer and fall? More from the article:
“Kenneth Freundlich, a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in entertainment industry matters, wondered why the hit TV show allowed the domains to be taken by cybersquatters.”
That’s an obvious question.
Oh look! They mention net super-sleuth Chris Ambler:
“NetNames registered some form of contestants’ names in December, after the season started airing but before the top 48 finalists were announced. This allowed for blogger Christopher Ambler (NSFW) to leak a list of likely finalists on the internet in February before the names were made public.”
Such good times. I’m getting all verklempt now. Hee. And this:
“But this approach also has critics. To Freundlich, producers grabbing domains on contestants’ behalf is worse than letting cybersquatters snatch them. He said the appropriate thing would be to tell contestants during the audition process they ought to register their own domains.
‘The contestants should be the ones who own the names, ‘ he said.”
Obviously Mr. Freundlich does not understand how American Idol works. The contestants sign such restrictive contracts they barely own themselves, let alone their own domain names.
Speaking of squatters. Back in February, somebody registered domain names for a bunch of Hollywood contestants. Some of these contestants were very surprised to find out that their names had been snapped up. Registering your own domain name before you audition? Probably a good idea.