American Idol: Believe the Crystal Hype?

brent johnson makes a bold statement: he’s not completely sold on the hype surrounding american idol‘s crystal bowersox …

To me, Crystal Bowersox is a conundrum.

Is it wrong to judge the rootsy, dreadlocked American Idol front-runner more harshly than her fellow contestants because she seems to be a more consistent and natural performer than the others? Should I simply be happy someone like this is standing on the Idol stage?

What I really think at times is that we may be over-praising her.

It may seem like blasphemy to say I’m not really a Crystal Bowersox fan. The judges and bloggers are praising her as being Idol’s most raw and real contestant — Crosby, Stills AND Nash for the teen set.

But early on in Season 9, I just didn’t get it. Where most people saw a gritty, soulful singer who commands a stage, I saw someone who mistakes an acoustic guitar and Janis Joplin ethos for authenticity. Simply because someone looks and sounds like they belong in a coffeehouse doesn’t make them Jackson Browne. But as a culture, we think that makes an artist ‘real.’

In Crystal’s case, I quickly found it redundant. Yes, she has a clear, full voice. And yes, she has confidence. Loads of it. And I’ll forgive her for covering ‘Me & Bobby McGee’ on No. 1 singles night. I’d probably, predictably cover a Beatles song if I had the chance to sing any chart-topping hit in Billboard history. But on Rolling Stones night, Crystal — of course — sang ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ as a gospel tune with a twang in her voice. We get it: That’s real, dawg. It would have been cooler, though, to tackle something like ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ — which still has soul but also rocks.

That’s why I favored the quirkier, punkier Siobahn Magnus at the start. She was more INTERESTING. Maybe not as confident and maybe not as consistent, but she shocks and she rocks. David Bowie showed a while ago you can do that without being contrived.

Meanwhile, Crystal also came off as smug at first — like she knew she was too authentic to be part of Idol. Adam Lambert always seemed like he was above the show, but he never displayed it. Crystal did.

But you know what? I’m starting to understand the Church of Crystal.

It started a few weeks ago, on R&B night, when she wore heels and sat at the piano to sing the great ‘Midnight Train To Georgia.’ She sang it well, she playfully laughed with the judges. And she didn’t come off as cliche. She’s clearly true to herself — which is admirable and key to a long music career.

My conclusion? Idol seems to have an issue with hyping it contestants too much. It’s why Siobahn is starting to stagger. We expect her to shriek every performance now. We expect Andrew Garcia to wow us with an acoustic Paul Abdul cover. And we over-praise people like Crystal Bowersox to the point where it gets annoying. If I don’t look at her as Idol’s great white hope — or hype — she’s really something to watch.

And yes, I’m happy someone like her is on the show.

But seriously, the girl needs to rock some more. On Beatles night, what does she do? She does the expected: a solid but too-laid-back swamp-thing version of ‘Come Together.’ What I would have loved? Her throwing some hard-edged soul into ‘Revolution.’

She’s capable of it. Much more than most her fellow contestants.


  1. I like Crystal but she is not my favorite on the show. I do wish she would take more chances and not be so predictible. What I really would like is for her to get rid of those awful dreadlocks!