From day one, I’ve been sure that come late May, Eventual Winner Phillip Phillips would take home the American Idol sash and tiara.
Phillip has so much going for him: Not only is he yet another WGWG (white guy with guitar) keeping in line with the most recent winners (David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Scotty McCreery), but the producers even pimped out Phillip with the final audition slot in the premiere episode. He’s talented, he has sex appeal, he’s from the South (which is a huge advantage), and he’s prone to bromance (see: Heejun Han, see: Phillip stroking Colton Dixon’s head in his lap). In a nutshell, Phillip appears to have the teen girl vote in his back pocket.
However, I sense that the tide’s been turning, and someone else may end up with the crown: Jesus’ Homeboy Colton Dixon.
Colton has been playing the Idol game and he’s been playing it smart and hard. He knows exactly who he wants to be as an artist, knows exactly how to play to the cameras, exactly how to dress, and exactly where to aim his smoldering looks. And his song selection is key. Colton grooms his arrangements meticulously, playing with tempo, singing songs by both men and women, flipping some songs on their head, while leaving others intact. While he doesn’t haven’t the best voice in the competition, he has yet to deliver a weak performance. The judging works in his favor as well. Notice how last week Colton coyly griped how the judges have never given him a standing ovation. And notice how Jimmy Iovene once called Colton the “third horse” in a two-horse race of Jessica and Joshua. America loves an underdog.
Phillip, on the other hand, appears to refuse to play the game, lest he sacrifice his artistry. He churns out more of the same, fairly consistent, performances each week. But the more he exhibits a laissez-faire attitude with his performances, the more tired his talent appears, and the more tuned out a fanbase can become. One needs to grow on Idol, but Phillip has yet to venture out of his world of gray.
I discussed my Colton revelation with my American Idol partner-in-crime, Jonathan Yu, and where we stand so far, as we pass the halfway point of this season’s finals:
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Jonathan A. (Me): So I’ve been thinking: perhaps Colton might win it all.
Jonathan Y.: I can see it, yeah, unfortunately. But that would literally be the worst possible outcome for this season, because it would just mean oh, really, it’s just business as usual again.
Jonathan A.: I think it’s a little bit different, because Colton is so clearly playing the game.
Jonathan Y.: Which is even worse, to me anyway.
Jonathan A.: I wouldn’t say it’s worse [and certainly not for a lack of trying]. Scotty and Lee are definitely worse. I mean, they did very little to push themselves. At least with Colton, he’s trying different things each week (granted, while still coloring in his own lines).
Jonathan Y.: I suppose I do appreciate at least the effort, but I guess I don’t find the things that he’s trying necessarily all that “new.” He’s trying different things each week, yeah, but each thing is just stuff we’ve seen before. Like I feel like even though judges love him for being “himself,” what his self comprises of is a rehash of past idols.
Jonathan A.: I see what you’re saying. I think it is hard, though, to look at the bigger picture when only critiquing the current crop of contestants. And that’s why Colton is breaking out. Sure, he is not delivering anything truly groundbreaking in Idol‘s history, but in playing the game against everyone else this season, he does stand out. I guess we’re not really arguing against Colton, per se, but rather, Idol‘s machinations.
Jonathan Y.: Oh yeah, I do think he stands out, more so than many of the others, who all are more or less genre singers.
Jonathan A.: So let’s start breaking out this week, everyone else! What a potentially exciting week we have.
Jonathan Y.: Yeah, and potentially disastrous as well. Oof. But I am optimistic, for sure. I think with last week, we are finally seeing new sides of some contestants (minus Hollie. and Phil. and maybe even Elise). But I thought it helped Joshua break out a little.
Jonathan A.: For sure. If there’s anything frustrating thus far in the season, it’s that Phil and Hollie continue to deliver the same thing week after week (which isn’t a bad complaint to have).
Jonathan Y.: I would say that my real complaint is that while they are both delivering the same things week after week, only one of them is punished for it.
Jonathan A.: Very true, very true. Although, it’s much more discernible with Hollie and her song choices.
Jonathan Y.: Yeah, it’s true. I can’t really tell the difference between a good Phil performance and a bad one apart, which I think speaks volumes.
Jonathan A.: It definitely does. I can pick out one Phillip performance that I truly enjoyed, “Still Raining.” Everything else is the same.
Jonathan Y.: Yeah. Same, same, same.
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So what about the other five contestants? Do they have a fighting chance to win the title? When taking into account Idol‘s history, it looks like it’ll be an uphill battle. Each one the other contestants has fallen into the Bottom Three at some point in the season. No Idol winner has ever fallen in the Bottom Three, save Fantasia.
It’s clear that Jessica Sanchez is the most brilliantly talented of this year’s uniformly talented contestants. Then why did she end up receiving the lowest number of votes last week? Jessica gave a solid performance of “Stuttering” that was safely ensconced between a train wreck and a showstopper. Her voting base simply sensed no danger and became complacent. But will voters suddenly light up the phone lines in future weeks, now that Randy has chastised them? That remains to be seen and is mostly out of Jessica’s hands. But what Jessica can do and needs to do in order to stay in the game, is move audiences, rather than simply impress them. That being said, we are starved for a female Idol winner and Jessica might have the best chance of the remaining females.
Hollie Cavanagh is technically proficient, yet utterly lost on stage. Elise Testone can’t seem to catch a break with younger voters. And despite a rollicking “Runaway Baby,” Joshua Ledet hasn’t seemed to connect with the audience at large either. I’m still rooting for Skylar Laine, the country crooner with the powerful pipes. I wish her the best of luck in avoiding the one-two punch of Phillip and Colton. May the odds be ever in her favor.