bill bodkin looks at the last four standing on the revamped American Idol …
So if you’re ever in an American Idol pool, don’t ever and I mean ever, listen to me.
In 2010, I picked Didi Benami and Andrew Garcia to make it to the final four. Didi got booted within the first month and Andrew, while making it to the Idol tour, fizzled out with a string of horrific performances. Luckily, I saved face by picking Crystal Bowersox and Casey James to also make to the final four, which they did.
This year, I predicted that Pia Toscano would resoundingly win the show with Casey Abrams, Paul McDonald and Naima Adepo making it to the end. Well, I was really, really wrong.
Naima Adepo fooled us all, going from sassy lady sings the blues to a performer who wore outlandish homemade costumes and had a penchant to throw ill-choreographed dance numbers into her performances. She seemed to forget she was competing and instead used Idol as a showcase for her own personal style — something that should be saved when you’re in the finals, when you have to show your identity as an artist.
Paul McDonald flamed out by becoming a one-trick, raspy-voiced pony. I thought his quirkiness and unique tonal quality would help him carve out a niche on the show. Instead, he sounded like a cat with a sore throat and a love for wearing terribly ornate suits that Steven Tyler would take a pass on.
Casey Abrams reminded me a lot of Siobahn Magnus from Season 9 — someone who didn’t look the Idol part, but had such a tremendously unique voice that it made you stop and listen. However, like Magnus, Abrams became overly reliant on his uniqueness — his snarls and growls overtook his performances turning them into near Henry Rollins-esque anger fueled spoken word.
And then there was Pia Toscano, the Chris Daughtry of this season — a talented singer no doubt, with looks and polish of a pop star. However, unlike Daughtry’s elimination, which still is a head scratcher, Pia’s elimination came from her lack of a persona. She was the ballad girl, who looked good, but seemed a little too on autopilot.
And this brings us to our final four: heavy metal enthusiast James Durbin, country crooner Scotty McCreary, the bluesy Haley Reinhart and good ol’ country girl Lauren Alaina.
James Durbin — That Metal Guy
Why He Could Win: James Durbin filled the role that I felt
Paul McDonald would: the guy who fills a unique niche. We’ve seen it before — Jason Castro with reggae, Casey James with blues, now we have James Durbin with heavy metal. At first glance, Durbin seemed like an Adam Lambert clone, a lanky San Fran native with a penchant for wailing on the high notes. And like Lambert before him, Durbin was not afraid to wander into the world of hard rock. Durbin has a flare for showmanship, setting a piano on fire, singing in the crowd, bringing a marching band drum line to back his performance. Two performances set him a part from the crowd: his version of Sammy Hagar’s “Heavy Metal,” which featured heavy metal icon Zakk Wylde on guitar and his emotional performance of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” These two songs showed his range — his devil horns in the air, full of bravado side and his more sensitive side. The formula for any good metal head (see any hair band from 1985-91). He’s got the talent, the showmanship and range to win it all. He’s charismatic and likeable — something Adam Lambert was not.
Why He Could Lose: Heavy metal is not and has never really been an accepted genre by the mainstream. The audience he can sell records to is much smaller than the country market two of the other potential Idols could be selling to. And while people may dig his enthusiasm and creativity, I still think the metal community will not enough votes to overcome the country community. In terms of performance, Durbin has turned in a few weaker than normal performances the past few weeks and negative momentum could adversely affect him.
Haley Reinhart: The Little Soul Sister
Why She Could Win: Haley is the opposite of Durbin in terms of momentum — her bring-down-the-house version of “House Of The Rising Sun” was a rousing success. She also has the market on the Adele/Duffy/Amy Winehouse raspy blue-eyed soul sister market that is white hot right now. She also is the most improved Idol contestant, one who should’ve been eliminated Week 1 with her terrible performance of LeAnn Rhimes’ “Blue.” She nearly warbled her way home, but every week she’s shown improvement and has won the audience over to the point of becoming a big fan favorite — closing out more than one show. She’s also advanced further than any other female Idol contestant in recent memory who sings her style of music
Why She Could Lose: She’s probably one of the weaker performers of the four. Her style as Simon Cowell would say “is very karaoke.” Her pipes are impressive but not interesting. She has a very vanilla, middle of the road, appeal. Outside of her performance last week, she hasn’t done much that’s been memorable, more passable than anything. She doesn’t leave an impression and this could hurt her chances of winning.
Scotty McCreary: Hardcore Country
Why He Could Win: He’s pure country and people love him.
His twangy bass vocals seem to melt the hearts of women everywhere. Don’t ask us why. He’s also broken out of his nervous shell, oozing country charisma like a seasoned pro. He really has a great ease on stage, which makes him so loveable to the country community. He bridges the gap between the old school stump-thumpin’ country with the newer, pop-savvy country sound. Country is beyond hot right now, and this could land him in the winner’s circle. Honestly, all he needs to do is amp up his performances and he could easily win in a landslide.
Why He Could Lose: The dude lacks range — both vocally and thematically. He seems to only know how to sing a song one way, which causes him to struggle when he has to go out of his comfort zone. He’s got a lot going for him right now, but if he stays status quo, he’s either going to be surpassed by his competitor’s creativity or fail due to his own limitations. Also, you’ve got another country singer, Lauren Alaina who has more pop-crossover than Scotty, which will hurt him because if these two end up in the finals, the mainstream audience will lean more towards a pop star.
Lauren Alaina: Carrie Underwood Revisited
Why She Could Win: Introducing the new Carrie
Underwood. Lauren has really come into her own the last month or so, showing she can do the whole boot scootin’ country thang and the pop crossover ballad. She’s the most Idol-looking of the four finalists. Her potential, in terms of record sales, is probably higher than the other three finalists. She’s a good old country girl, with all-American looks and sound. You know, like Carrie Underwood, the highest grossing American Idol winner ever.
Why Should Could Lose: While she has been on a role as of recent, it always seems as though she has to fight through her songs. She always seems to have a rough patch (outside of her excellent ballad last week) in her performances that get smoothed out by a fantastic end. One of these times, she won’t be so lucky. Mariano Rivera doesn’t get the save every time, does he? The same fate could lie for Lauren.
Who’ll Win in the End: I’ve been wrong the last two out of three seasons, picking David Archuleta and Adam Lambert as the big winners, while I scored a bingo [2 points for an Inglourious Basterds reference in an Idol piece] by choosing Lee Dewyze. This year, it’s a tough call, probably one of the stronger final fours in a long time. But if I had a gun to my head, I say it’s going to be a “country strong” year and Lauren Alaina wins the whole thing. But then again … I’m usually wrong.