‘Idol’ Top 20 Revealed: It’s Not Reigning Men
It’s no secret that the “American Idol” powers-that-be want a girl to win this season. Or that they’ve wanted a girl to win for at least three seasons. In the past, they’ve tried various transparent tactics to orchestrate the result they so desired—saving Jessica Sanchez from early elimination in Season 11, creating a dramatic overcoming-adversity storyline for Lauren Alaina at the Season 10 finale, aggressively hyping the female contestants at every opportunity throughout Season 9—and nothing has worked. But now I think crafty Nigel Lythgoe and company are onto something. This season is the season when they've finally figured it out: Hey, if they don’t want another “WGWG” to win, then they just won't put any “WGWGs” in the top 20 at all. Eureka! Problem solved, right?
You see, after this Thursday’s final Vegas round, Season 12’s top 20 was officially solidified—and now, interestingly, among the 10 remaining boys there is nary a Phillip Phillips or Lee DeWyze wannabe in the bunch. There’s old-school R&B (Vincent Powell, Curtis Finch Jr., Burnell Taylor); new-school R&B (Cortez Shaw, Elijah Liu); adult-contemporary pop (Lazaro Arbos, Nick Boddington, Devin Velez); and, despite the addition of Keith Urban to the judging panel this year, only one country boy, Paul Jolley (who actually comes across as adult-contemporary pop much of the time). The closest contestant to the cute-folk/rock-boy mold of recent seasons is Charlie Askew, but let’s face it, that crazy kid is in a category all his own.
It’s all too obvious what the producers and judges are trying to do here. It was obvious weeks ago, when they cut Dustin Watts—a hunky firefighter with a strong country singing voice, the kind of contestant who would’ve had cougars and tweens alike speed-dialing in droves. It was obvious last week, when they cut Adonis-esque country stud Jimmy Smith (or when they cut Ken-doll clone Johnny Keyser, although he really did deserve to be eliminated). And it was beyond obvious this week, when they cut Josh Holiday, a piano-playing singer-songwriter who performed a (surprisingly decent) original song and kind of looked like David Cook’s little brother while doing it. Josh seemed like the type of guy that wins “Idol” every year—i.e., he seemed like a genuine threat to this season’s girls—so of course, the judges got rid of him, pronto.
While this new diversity among the boys is a good thing for “Idol” in some ways (sure, I suppose it’d be nice to see someone win who isn’t a plaid-flannel-swathed amalgam of “Idol’s” past five champions), it may be a shortsighted move on the producers’ part to not include any contestant who could appeal to “Idol’s” core power-voting base—especially considering the series’ slumping ratings nowadays. But perhaps "Idol's" even stupider move is how the show has crammed the top 20 with so many subpar male singers—of any genre or ethnicity—just to make the girls look that much better and further skew the odds in the ladies’ favor. C'mon, are these really the 10 best male contestants that the judges could find in the entire country? Really?
And that brings me to my final point/complaint: If “Idol’s” producers want this to be a “girls’ season” so badly, and if there really was so much more standout female talent than male this year, then why adhere to the show’s silly gender quotas at all? Why not just have the top 20 consist of, say, 15 girls and five guys? Why must it be 10 and 10? Next week, when this top 20 is instantly, brutally trimmed to a top 10, comprising five extremely talented girls and five not-quite-as-talented guys, Nigel Lythgoe may be second-guessing his casting strategy this season. But it will be too late.
Okay, venting session over. I feel slightly better now, after suffering through one of the more tedious “Idol” episodes in recent memory. Seriously, some of Thursday’s guys practically seemed like day-one Hollywood Week rejects from Season 2, and the most interesting thing about the entire episode was watching Zoanette Johnson dance like a madwoman in the aisle and namecheck the Smurfs. But my recapping must be done regardless, so here’s a full rundown of the final 10 boys who competed in Vegas this week:
Mathenee Treco – When in Vegas, do as the “Vegans” do, I guess. So Mathenee did some Elvis Presley, of course. I suppose that was a better cover-song choice than Liberace. And as a hotel entertainer by trade, Mathenee certainly seemed at home on the Mirage resort’s Vegas stage. Perhaps a little too at home. His performance of “A Little Less Conversation” was fun and energetic, and he really sold it, but it had the faint whiff of ripe Vegas cheese. He had such a modern, cool look, but his hokey performance just didn’t match. “You have the voice to make a connection, and sometimes the entertainment can get so big and so assaulting that I’m missing you underneath there,” said Keith Urban. “It didn’t feel current; it felt very cheesy and karaoke,” said Nicki Minaj. “The song choice was so wrong for you. It makes me question what kind of artist you want to be,” said Randy Jackson. (Mathenee answered that he’s in fact influenced by classic rock and hip-hop. Okay, then. I guess that’s why he covered that great classic-rock/hip-hop act, Elvis. Facepalm.) Mariah Carey then embarrassingly admitted that she was unfamiliar with the Elvis song (DOUBLE-facepalm), and then she kinda/sorta invited Mathenee over to her house. At least I think she did. But in the end, she didn’t invite him to the top 20. Mathenee got the boot.