Remembering my favorite seasons of American Idol.

Since Trump got elected, I feel as if a magnet has been taken over the country’s hard drive.  I barely recognize America as my country anymore, and feel almost like I live in an occupied country.   Politics has taken over my mind.   Things I used to care about — like movies, entertainment television, novels, and other “frivolous” pastimes — hardly seem to matter anymore.

But all this obsessing over current events and the political situation all gets a little too much sometimes, and it helps to remember simpler times — like my interest in the singing competition reality show American Idol that lasted from 2006 through about 2009 or 2010 (after that year the show–and my interest in it–went south).    My interest was renewed somewhat in 2014, because one of the contestants, Caleb Johnson, was from my city and went on to win.

I wasn’t that interested in American Idol during its early years (it began airing in 2002 as a summer replacement show), though perhaps I should have been, since two of its most famous winners, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, went on to become major stars who are still making hit records today.   No contestant since has matched their level of success, though several have done well for themselves and have careers in the music industry.

I assumed American Idol was too cheesy to capture my interest (and I won’t deny it could get pretty cheesy), but because my kids were in their early teens and used to watch it, by default I began to watch it too.   The first year I did was in 2006.   It was season 5, the year Chris Daughtry made the Top 4 (and everyone was sure would win).    I watched reluctantly at first, but soon Daughtry, a hard rocker with a post-grunge style very much in vogue at the time,  became my favorite contestant so naturally I had to tune in every week.   I was devastated when he got a shock boot in 4th place.    I didn’t expect that at all. No one did.

In my opinion,  Daughtry’s cover of Fuel’s “Hemorrhage” was one of the best performances ever on this show.

Chris Daughtry’s shocking elimination in 4th place.

Daughtry’s shocking elimination was mitigated somewhat by the fact he became quite successful, with a string of mainstream pop-rock hits over the next few years.

Daughtry’s hit “Home” was used as the elimination song in season 7 every time someone went home (the song played over a film of the contestants’ “journey” on the show.)

The next year I didn’t really have a favorite contestant and didn’t get into it quite as much. A 16 year old named Jordin Sparks won that year.   I would have preferred third placer Melinda Doolittle, a former gospel singer, but that wasn’t to be.   Doolittle’s style probably was a little too old fashioned but she outsang everyone else that season.

2008 (season 7) had its first bona fide rocker win — David Cook, whose style was similar to Chris Daughtry’s.  No one thought Cook would win, but he knew how to play the game, and seemed to top himself every week.  He never had any bad performances. He could cover just about any genre, and make it his own by rearranging the song or by using someone else’s rearrangement that suited him.   2008 was the first year the contestants were allowed to use musical instruments, and David Cook was the first of a long line of white guitar playing male rockers who would keep winning for the next several years (some say this led to the show’s demise).   I was over the moon when he won, because I’d been rooting for him since the auditions and at that time, no one took him very seriously or thought he had any chance at all.

 

Cook’s own rearrangement of the Mariah Carey song “Always Be My Baby”

A performance of his own song, “Anodyne,” which was not on the show, but he performed at many of his concerts on tour.   I’m including it because I love the song, even though the quality here isn’t that good.

The next year, 2009, was the year Adam Lambert, a gay glam rocker, almost won.   Like David Cook, he never had a bad performance, and was creative and innovative, with impressive, unforgettable performances, usually with elaborate stage sets and lighting.   He had a voice that could hit unbelievably high registers, much like Chris Bellamy from The Muse (who was one of his mentors).  Season 8 was a very talented year (some say the most talented year) — all of the Top 4 were great, so it was hard to pick a favorite.   An inexperienced but talented singer named Danny Gokey had a soulful, raw gospel-tinged voice, and most people thought either he or Lambert would win, but neither did.  Gokey finished third.  On finale night, a quiet, unassuming folk-rocker named Kris Allen, who had been building momentum during the last episodes of the season, took the title.   Adam Lambert fans were devastated and shocked.   I wasn’t all that happy with the outcome, as I would have preferred either Lambert or Gokey, but I could see why Allen would take the title. He was very likable and talented in his low-keyed way.

My favorite Adam Lambert performance — a slowed down arrangement of Tears for Fears’ Mad World.

I think season 8 was the last really good season of American Idol.   I watched halfheartedly for the next couple of years, and finally stopped watching at all — and so had my kids, who were entering their 20s and had other interests.

In 2014 though, my daughter mentioned that a boy she had known through her friend in high school (they did not attend the same high school) had made it through the auditions.  His name was Caleb Johnson.   He was a hard rocker with a style reminiscent of the classic rock of the 1970s.     Of course I tuned in to check him out, and saw that he was very good and had a style I enjoyed.   His range was huge.   I didn’t expect he’d go that far though, but every week he kept making it through the rounds, until he made the  Top 3 and a big “homecoming” (a tradition where the Top 3 contestants emerge from the “Idol bubble” and return to their hometowns to be greeted with parades and fanfare) was held here, which I attended.  That was a lot of fun.    I still didn’t think he’d win, but he did.    Unfortunately his album didn’t do very well, but as far as I know, he still makes a living making music and performing at various charity events.

Caleb Johnson’s cover of Aerosmith’s Dream On.

American Idol’s final season was last year, but I didn’t watch any part of it except the finale, because of the tributes to the original judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson, and many of the former contestants.   I don’t even remember who won.    The show has a good legacy, and was cancelled at the right time, after a 15 year run.  It’s peak years seem like the distant past, even though it really wasn’t all that long ago.

 

#TBT Throwback Thursday – Kelly Clarkson, Since You Been Gone #idolfinale

It’s the end of an era. 15 years was a good run. I actually watched the last hour of the finale tonight (for nostalgia’s sake) I hear Obama even opened the show (I missed that) but at least I got to see the part where all 3 of the original judges came on. The show hadn’t been good in several years, but tonight it went out with style. Farewell, American Idol.

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The Tony Burgess Blog

In honor of the end of American Idol, I present the original Idol Kelly Clarkson’s video for “Since U Been Gone”.

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End of an era.

simon_paula_randy

The mother of all singing competition reality shows, American Idol, started its 15th–and last–season tonight.  I won’t be watching it though.  I don’t have TV and have little interest in watching it anymore anyway, but for a few short years, during the height of its popularity, I really got into it.

I began watching in season 5, because my daughter, who was about 13 at the time, was into it. That was an especially good year (maybe one of the best) for talent.  I thought rocker Chris Daughtry was going to win (and he was my favorite that year), but he was shockingly eliminated in 4th place.   It didn’t matter though, because for a few years, he and his band, Daughtry, became pretty successful and had hit after hit on the radio.

There was always plenty of drama too, and the original three judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, had great chemistry onscreen without eclipsing the contestants, the way later judges tended to do.

I soon found myself addicted to this silly show, and for about four years, watched it regularly every Wednesday and Thursday.  I had my favorite contestants and actually voted for them.

But once Paula left (after season 8), it was all downhill after that.  Paula was the “good cop” to Simon Cowell’s “bad cop”  and was always nice to contestants, even when they were terrible or had no talent.  Simon was acerbic and sarcastic, but always entertaining and seemed to motivate the contestants to do better.  Most of them seemed to care more about winning Simon’s praise than anyone else’s. As mean as Simon could sometimes be, he was always honest, and when he liked someone, he let them know.

The year after Paula left, Simon followed.  The show never recovered.  There were a few years of revolving judges, and a few bad ones.  The show lost ratings every year and never produced another star or even anyone coming close to being a star (Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood are probably the most famous alumni), but it still managed to hang on.

I think there are several reasons why American Idol lost ratings in recent years.

  •  the loss of Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul
  •  too much emphasis on judge antics and filler instead of the contestants
  • the success of “cooler” and more contemporary singing competition shows like The Voice. 
  • the record industry in general not doing as well because of the economy
  •  network television being less popular today
  •  the novelty just wore off

It’s a little sad to see this show that was  once the #1 water-cooler topic and always at the top of the ratings, and one that my kids and I enjoyed so much,  become a shadow of what it once was.  It’s been dying a slow, painful death for a while now, so I’m glad to see it finally being put out of its misery, but it does seem like the end of an era.   I may tune in for the finale this season, just because.

Caleb Johnson “Fighting Gravity” video

Last March I started watched American Idol (after several years of skipping the show due to loss of interest) when my kids told me a young man they knew from high school and who lives in our town had made the Top 13.   In fact, one of my daughter’s best friends from middle school had been in this boy’s band when they performed locally (she also auditioned for American Idol several years earlier and got to Hollywood but was eliminated before semifinals).

The young man’s name is Caleb Johnson. Every week he made it through to the next round. When he made it to the Top 3, we attended his homecoming here in Asheville, not only a great deal of fun (I almost got trampled though and lost a shoe in the process!) but also fantastic publicity for our city. A little over a week later I remember sitting with my daughter as we bit our nails almost to the point of bleeding on finale night.

Well, he did win, in spite of most people thinking his equally talented competition (Jena Irene) would. Signs of congratulations went up all over town and it was front page news in the local newspapers. It was a HUGE deal here (not a whole lot happens in Asheville, haha).

Caleb is an old-school rocker, very Journey-esque. He even sounds a lot like Journey’s lead singer, Steve Perry. I didn’t buy his album (which didn’t sell very well) but I just love his new release from it, so here it is. Caleb works with kids suffering from cancer, and there is some very emotional footage here of a young cancer patient going to the “other side.”

I hope you like this as much as I do.

The grandiose, deluded narcissist.

deluded

The website Sociopath World, a blog by and for sociopaths (and psychopaths), is full of intriguing articles and blog posts about sociopathy and related disorders, such as Narcissism.

Naturally, I clicked on the section on Narcissism and among many entries about remorseless criminals, sadistic murderers, and narcissistic psychopaths, I found this hilarious but sad little gem about Mary Roach, a long forgotten American Idol auditionee, a young woman who shows every trait of narcissism you can imagine and is pitifully deluded about her singing ability. If there was ever a poster child for NPD, Mary was it.

The 9 Psychiatrically Recognized Traits of NPD:

–Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
–Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
–Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
–Requires excessive admiration
–Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
–Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
–Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
–Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
–Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

It’s only necessary to have five of these traits to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder; Mary appears to have more than five, if not all of them.

I decided to post about poor forgotten Mary Roach rather than another depressing article about a murderer, cult leader, or abusive parent, in part because the subject matter is lighter and even funny in its sad way, but to show just how deluded and out of touch with reality “normal” everyday non-criminal narcissists can be.

Given that reality shows are swarming with narcissists, Mary wasn’t that unusual on a show like this, but even in an environment where narcissistic traits are probably beneficial if not actually necessary, Mary’s particular brand of narcissism stands out for its complete disconnect from any semblance of reality.

I’m also posting the original write up from Sociopath World because it’s so spot on. (Some of the dialogue in the video is most likely scripted, but I have no doubt Mary is very high on the narcissist spectrum).

Famous narcissist? Mary Roach
A friend sent me this. Obviously it’s hilarious, but it’s also a really good example of what if feels like watching a narcissist at work (to all of your narcissist readers that this blog apparently attracts?). There’s something so blatantly ridiculous about the way they act and how disconnected they are from reality.

Mary is absolutely immune to criticism and when confronted with the truth about her singing, she immediately assumes that her critic has a personal issue with her that is driving the criticism as opposed to merely stating the obvious truth. One of the more obvious narcissist qualities is that when the judges start playing with her, she doesn’t fight it or immediately defend herself but plays along. She wants it to seem like she is in on any joke that they might be having and even if the joke is at her expense she would rather have the attention (even negative) than cede the spotlight. When they give her the goodbye, she keeps the conversation going, although it means rehashing their worst criticism of her. She also feels compelled to turn the tables and judge them for their appearances, as being smaller, thinner, prettier, and “hot.” She doesn’t need to criticize them necessarily — it is enough that they seem interested in her assessment of them. Of course they did not ask her for her opinions on them, but she manages to misunderstand a direct question and act as if she has some unique vision that warrants sharing.

It’s so funny to watch this because I know someone who acts exactly this way, even down to the little awkward mannerisms, especially the shrug at 4:50. The world is just not ready enough to appreciate their talents, but ain’t no thing. These people can’t be kept down for long by haters.