Finale in Sight!

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If anyone who watches America Idol didn’t see the obvious favoritism shown toward Haley Reinhart last night, they’re blind. Not only was she given the “pimp spot” for the fourth week in a row, but her father was allowed to perform with her on stage. If Idol isn’t going to keep the show fair, they should just give Haley the crown and save people the trouble of voting. I feel for the other two, who are just as talented if not more. No, it’s not “country Idol,” but the producers and judges knew full well who both Lauren and Scotty were as artists when they chose them for the Top 24. They shouldn’t have chosen them, only to show them such blatant disrespect at the end. Perhaps they didn’t expect them to get this far or maybe they didn’t expect the level of artistry shown by two teenagers, but they got what they bargained for: They’re both very talented. One of them, however, will likely fall tonight.

Another interesting thing about the show last night is the level of attention they gave to their mentor, Beyoncé, who showed just what Idol is about: A mediocre singer who brings sex to videos made from horrible songs. And I’m not leaving Ms. Lopez out of that. She is beautiful and a very talented actress, but her lack of singing ability is always covered by the dancing, thumping music, and audio tuning. No wonder the music industry is a mess. Haley fits right in with what they like. Since Britney Spears is dying out, they likely see her heir apparent in Haley. I hate to tell Haley, but she won’t have any choice in what she does once they own her. She will be singing through audio boxes, prancing around the stage half naked, and singing electronic-laden, thumping music. Good luck with that. Success will last as long as it takes to find a newer model.

Last night, the final three had three song choices: Their own choice, the label executive’s choice, and the judges’ choice. While the fix was obviously in for Haley, the boot was in for Scotty. He was given the first slot, also called the “death spot” by Idol fans, and the judges couldn’t have chosen a more boring song: She Believes in Me by Kenny Rogers. I couldn’t help but cringe when I heard the choice. Scotty is so much more entertaining on playful songs, and they know it. They’ve told him that enough time themselves, yet when they have the opportunity to give him a song that really allows him to shine, they chose one in the very vein they’ve downplayed over and again. Whatever. I will say this about Scotty: I would buy his CD, and I don’t like country. I appreciate that he is a real artist and not some manufactured pop fluff. He gave me Goosebumps on “Amazed,” his own choice, and showed that he can really sing. I love the way his baritone naturally slips in and out when he is singing, and I appreciated his playfulness on “Kiss Me or Not.” Honestly, I was surprised that Jimmy didn’t also try to sabotage Scotty, but he made a good choice for him. Scotty pulled out the acoustic guitar, and he looked like a real artist last night (not that he hasn’t before). Again, Scotty is the real deal. No matter what happens here, he has firmly set himself up for a long, successful career in country music.

Scotty’s female counterpart Lauren would be in the same boat as Scotty except she’s female, so she got a good choice from the judges: “I Hope You Dance.” The song was a big hit for Leeann Womack, and Lauren did a good job with it. No surprise there—the song is definitely in Lauren’s “zone.” Lauren is a good singer, but she has to be very careful that she doesn’t sound like a handful of other female country singers. Lauren is, however, only 16 years old, and she will continue to mature, both chronologically and musically. One thing that propels Lauren along is a very strong likeability factor. You can’t help but root for her. She chose “Wild One,” which is a lesser-known Faith Hill song for me. Lauren also does well with the “playful” songs, even if her outfit was a bit “whack.” She made up for the wardrobe faux pas on “If I Die Young,” which was Jimmy’s choice. Though she stumbled a bit midway through the song, she overall did a decent job. Like Scotty, whether Lauren wins the title or not, she has a solid footing in a country music career. If I’m being perfectly honest, Lauren and Scotty would both be better off not winning and landing instead in the hands of someone who specializes in the type of music they do so well. I don’t know that someone who works with the Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, and 50 Cent can really do these two justice. Lauren and Scotty aren’t “top 40 pop/hip-hop” material. Both are real artists. The most moldable of this threesome is Haley, and they pulled out all the stops to make sure we know that.

For the fourth week in a row, Haley was placed in the “pimp spot.” The bias toward her is palpable. No matter how much she forgets her lyrics or mumbles when she sings, the judges heap praise on her that is so sticky sweet that my teeth hurt just listening. I really don’t have a lot to say about Haley. I think it’s obvious at this point that I’m not a fan; however, some people apparently enjoy what she does or she wouldn’t still be there. Likely, she will do well in pop music, as few pop artists have anything of any significance to say in their music, making it of little consequence that she has no musical identity. It’s all about the beat and not the content. Again, if I’m being totally honest (God, I’m starting to sound like Simon), the most entertaining part of Haley’s performance was when she skidded across the steps during “What is and What Should Never Be,” a Led Zeppelin song. Haley’s performance of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” Jimmy’s choice, was nasally, off-key, and just not that good. Her performance, enhanced by the wind machine, was mediocre, at best, though the judges continued to heap praise on her. Okay. I don’t, however, fault those who like Haley. As I have said time and again, music is subjective. Haley is attractive, and she comes across as a bit of a “daredevil” on stage by trying songs that are not necessarily traditional to Idol. Getting her dad a gig doesn’t hurt either. For Idol, she may well be the best winner, as I’m sure Idol producers are considering their two most (only) successful winners, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.

Interestingly, two of the three remaining contestants resemble the most successful Idol winners: Lauren sounds a lot like Carrie, and Haley wants to be a rocker chick like Kelly (though she doesn’t have Kelly’s pipes). I won’t all be surprised if these two are left standing, as Idol has made no secret that it wants another female winner. Looking at the entire 10-year span of Idol, however, the show has had two other female winners, Fantasia Barrino and Jordin Sparks, neither of whom has fared much better than the male winners. But, looking at the male winners, it really is no surprise that they haven’t done well. Ruben Studdard tanked, Taylor Hicks was a joke, Kris Allen was a milquetoast, and David Cook was ruined by the music saddled on him. And how long has it taken them to release a second album for David? He’ll be good and forgotten, and the label and show have no one to blame but themselves. The real problem with Idol, however, all boils down to the voting. I’ve said it a thousand times, and I will say it until I’m blue in the face: Unless and until Idol producers eliminate the unlimited voting, a true reflection of who will do well in the real world will not be reflected in their winners. Taylor Hicks won, but Chris Daughtry was the star; Kris Allen won, and Adam Lambert skunked him in sales and popularity. Seriously, is Idol really a good barometer of talent? As it stands, no. It’s merely a popularity contest. That’s why, even with better talent and new judges, the show has ended up being just as boring as before. At least Jimmy Iovine remained unbiased in his song selections and chose what he thought best suited each contestant. Overall, I will say he did a good job. Will Idol try to reinvent itself again next year? I doubt it. They love the drama. In the end, it may well be that Simon was right and Idol has run its course.

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