'American Idol' Postmortem: Thoughts, Best Performances, and More from Season 11
THIS... is the "American Idol" postmortem! Here, we dissect the 11th season of FOX's vocal competition behemoth and cover the good and the bad. Read on for thoughts on the past season, questions about the next one, and video of the best performances of the year.
Season 11 of "American Idol" is over, and if you're a FOX executive, it was a worrying one. The show lost nearly a third of its viewers from last year to this one, bringing up questions of where the show will go in the future. Of course, "Idol" is still pulling about 20 million viewers a week even after that ratings dip, but the concern is whether the show will continue to hemmorage viewers.
What could the show change to keep people watching? The judges always seem to be the first place that these shows look; the "Idol" judging situation has been a bit of a revolving door in the past five years, and "The X Factor" decided to shake things up after the first season underperformed.
Jennifer Lopez is thinking of leaving, which might end up hurting a bit. Lopez has a degree of star status that makes for an audience draw, but at the same time she doesn't provide so much at the judge's table as to be irreplaceable.
What the show needs, in my opinion, is another Simon Cowell. The three current judges are afraid to give any criticisms, partly because they're too nice and partly because they are assaulted with boos from the audience at the slightest critique. But when you take out those critiques, it hurts the contestants since they don't improve, and it renders the judges nearly useless.
The other problem facing the show is the contestants, or more specifically the winners. The victory for Phillip Phillips marks the fifth year in a row that the top spot has gone to a young, attractive white male from the South/Midwest (following David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze and Scotty McCreery).
The reason behind that is the army of younger girls who watch this show and vote. But how does the show counteract that and end up choosing a star that can potentially carry on a music career? You haven't heard much from Allen, Cook and DeWyze, but how about Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks and Kelly Clarkson? "Idol" might have to take a tip from "The Voice" and start weighing the audience vote against a vote from the judges in order to start crowning more deserving winners.
Season 11 Analysis:
What to make of this year's contestants, and our eventual winner Phillip Phillips? It was clearly a year in which the women were stronger singers than the men (for the most part): Skylar Laine could have easily made the final, or even been a winner, in other years, and Elise and Erika deserved more love than they got.
But personality was on the side of the men, as Heejun Han charmed his way into the latter part of the competition, and Phillip charmed his way all the way to the win. Even Jessica, who was perhaps the strongest vocalist of the entire crowd, just wasn't that interesting in interviews. The exception to this gender rule was Joshua Ledet, who could sing like crazy but was the most inept on-camera personality of the bunch.
Much of the online reaction claims that Phillip shouldn't have even made the top 3, much less won the whole thing, and that he got there on his looks. There's plenty of truth to that. But in Phillip's defense, when he was on, he was on. His performance of "We've Got Tonight" came at exactly the right time, and was very good. His coronation song, "Home," is an anomaly in the world of "American Idol" coronation songs: it's actually a really great song. When Phillip actually put in the effort, he was great.
That said, performers like Colton and Skylar were eliminated before they should have been, and if you consider the entire run of performances, Joshua probably deserved a spot in the final over Phillip. But this is "Idol," and it isn't always fair, is it?
"Home" -- Phillip Phillips
An obvious choice. This performance helped nail down Phillip's win, and it has the rare honor of being a coronation song that's actually good. The song is perfectly suited to Phillip's style, and if he can get more songs like this written for him (or, you know, write his own), he could have a good career.
"And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" -- Jessica Sanchez and Jennifer Holliday
Another no-brainer. Jessica sang this song pretty well on her own, but when you add in Holliday, it becomes something really special. Yes, Holliday makes some funny faces when she sings. But are you hearing the sounds that are coming out of her mouth? Jessica hangs with her admirably. This duet nearly brought the house down, and for good reason.
"Love the Way You Lie" -- Colton Dixon
Colton was always best sitting in front of a piano, and you could easily say that "Piano Man" (natch) was his best performance. But his cover of "Love the Way You Lie" did something special: it made me like a song that I normally don't like at all. Colton made an error with his Lady Gaga switch, but had the stuff for the finale.
"It's a Man's Man's Man's World" -- Joshua Ledet
Joshua could easily have been in the finale as well, and this performance proves it. His showmanship, mixed with his powerful voice, makes him fun to watch, and the fact that he dedicated this song to his mother near Mother's Day made it a sweet gesture as well. This is Joshua at his finest, though he was close to his finest each and every week.
"Stuttering" -- Jessica Sanchez
Yes, Jessica's "I Will Always Love You" was very impressive, and deserves a shout-out as well. But that was so obvious. Of course if you can sing a big, belting song like that, you're going to get a big reaction and a ton of votes. People clearly didn't like "Stuttering," because it came on the week that Jessica was forced to sing for survival and lead to the judges using their save. But I loved this performance, as it showed Jessica's control and restraint, and seemed one of her more emotionally connected performances. You got the impression that she was singing a song she loved. It wasn't big, but it was good.
"We've Got Tonight" -- Phillip Phillips
If there was any hope of Joshua Ledet making the finale, it was dashed to pieces when Phillip sang "We've Got Tonight." The song was given to him by Jimmy Iovine in the Top 3 round, and it couldn't have been more perfectly placed: it closed out the night, and proved that Phillip can indeed stick to a melody and does indeed have a more vulnerable, sensitive side... which, of course, his legion of screaming fans love. Take it as proof that Jimmy might be the only person on the show who knows what he's doing.
What Do You Think?
What were some of your favorite performances? Do you think Phillip should have won the whole thing? What would you change about next season of "American Idol" to make it better? Let us know!