Are the American Idol 2010 finalists ‘mediocre’?

The most frequently used word to describe the American Idol 2010 finalists is ‘mediocre’. I’m seeing it written all over the web where people are debating this ninth season. Along with the phrase ‘worst season ever’.

TV critic Alan Sepinwall has denounced [[American Idol (2010 Series)|this year’s American Idol]] as ‘underwhelming’. He calls the remaining finalists a “bland collection of singers”, with the possible exception of [[Crystal Bowersox]] and [[Siobhan Magnus]]. Here’s an excerpt from Sepinwall’s article:

And this bland collection of singers (hurt by several talented people like Lilly Scott and Alex Lambert being cut at the end of the semifinals) has come at a particularly poor time for the “Idol” franchise. Simon’s leaving after this season, Ellen has replaced Paula, and the only thing that might have kept the audience from placing the judges under a microscope would be if the contestants were a whole lot better than they’ve been so far.

Sepinwall goes on to pick apart the confusing comments from the judges, most evident on the genre battle between Kara DioGuardi and Simon Cowell over what style of music [[Katie Stevens]] should sing.

Writing for Cinemablend, Doug Norrie runs with the “one of the worst seasons ever” comments, citing his lack of connection to any of the finalists as the problem.

The talent has been decidedly subpar, the performances have run toward the middle/lower end of the spectrum and the contestants exhibit very little personality. My biggest problem in this season though, is my lack of horse in the race. I have very little rooting interest. In past seasons I’ve always found myself wanting a few contestants more than others. Danny Gokey, Jason Castro, David Archuleta, Christ Daughtry, and Melinda Doolittle and Blake Lewis were just a few folks I latched on to and wanted to see each week. I can’t really say that this year, to the point that I’m not even watching all of the vote-off shows.

More cries of mediocrity are levelled by blogs such as The Pop Eye, and by EW writer Michael Slezak.

Here’s the thing, and I’m talking to you American readers once again. If you wanted to hear the absolute worst ever singing contest, you should have tuned into last year’s X Factor. That was a joke. Poor singers, awful judging and a deadly over-reliance on celebrity guests to compensate for the lack of talent singing for a record contract. Well, you have all this to look forward to, America. Once Simon Cowell tombstones American Idol, you’ll have to watch a pathetic, watered-down version that relies in tabloid sensationalism rather than real talent.

I’ll agree with you – not all American Idol’s contestants this year are contenders. Katie Stevens can barely hold a tune. Tim Urban is eye-candy, but he can’t back it up with a good singing voice, or interesting performances. Andrew Garcia and recent eliminee Paige Miles both sounded more interesting on paper but underwhelmed on the live shows.

However, I reject anyone who says that Casey James is a mediocre performer. He’s a fantastic guitarist, has a powerful, bluesy voice, and a distinctive look. He’s young enough to be attractive to the ladies, but old enough to know where he wants to go as an artist. And there’s a clear market for the type of music he’s making.

Likewise my other three front-runners: Crystal Bowersox, Michael Lynche and Didi Benami. Yes, I said Didi Benami. All these guys have a fantastic sense of identity. And you can depend on them to be excellent on the night. Close behind them are Lee DeWyze and Aaron Kelly. Both great singers, but lacking a certain something onstage that makes me want them to win.

Siobhan Magnus. Possibly overrated. This screaming routine has to stop. On the face of it, she’s quirky and individualistic, but her reliance on a gimmick each week has me worried. Hasn’t she deduced that it’s praiseworthy once, but not necessarily with every song she sings?

You may still be comparing Season 9 with Season 8. The Glambert, the Gokey and the Allen. Sure, nobody on this year is as flamboyant or as memorable as Adam Lambert. Should we expect them to be? No, because we’d complain every bit as much if Idol went looking for a Lambert clone.

Maybe it’s because people are lamenting the loss of Simon Cowell. Yes, you have every reason to be worried. But not about American Idol, about X Factor that might just replace it. From recent experience, if this is Idol at its worst, then it’s still better than most of the X Factor series’ that we’ve had in the UK. Count yourselves lucky.

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  1. BeckEye

    Thanks for the shout-out, even if you are calling me out as a complainer…ha ha.

    I think I’ve just become more grumpy as the AI seasons have gone by. I guess if I really think about it, every season has its 4-5 really good performers surrounded by fodder. But even that fodder seems to have been better in years past. Or maybe I’m just getting old and can’t remember. I was never a big fan of Season 5 either. But I thought the last two seasons were really good.

    I’ve never seen the X Factor, but I’ve heard it’s terrible. Admittedly, I’ve only heard this in an interview of Damon Albarn, whom I worship and adore.

  2. Gerard McGarry

    Yes, you’ve been outed as an Idol hater! Seriously though, we’re coming at it from different perspectives – I’ve barely watched American Idol in the past. I made a concerted effort to tune in this year and try to give it my best coverage.

    However, compared with last year’s sham of an X Factor (every other year is a bad year for X Factor), American Idol 9 is actually quite a good singing competition. The prospect of X Factor – with all it’s sensationalism and pantomime between judges – replacing Idol really does frighten me.

  3. Jon27

    I have always been an American Idol fan and still watch it even though this is really the worst year. And it’s not really just the contestants. Ellen is really not adding anything but jokes, Kara is getting really annoying, and I don’t know why Ryan is pushing and in everyone’s faces this season. The guest performances are also lackluster, surprisingly. Usher and P.Diddy was were awful with autotune and mediocre singing. And I was really excited about their performances. 

    So with a really disappointing year with AI, I checked out X factor. The whole 2009 X factor series videos are all available on youtube easily so it was worth taking a look about this talent competition that will compete with American Idol.  And after watching the live performances and contestants, I was hooked.  It is an amazing show and I really don’t know how AI is going to survive with it. 

    I don’t know how the author of this article can say they are all poor singers when that is really not the case.  Sure there are some that can’t hold a tune and have awful performances, but there are great singers more so than the current AI contestants. For example, Joe McElderry, the eventual X factor winner, has a fantastic voice and can really feel the emotion of the song (Check out his “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” or “She out of my life” performances). He grab my attention and I was blown away by some of his performances; something that I have not gotten yet from American Idol.

    Although some of the X factor contestants are horrible and wonder how they got into this singing competition, this is always the case with any of these shows. There are a couple of contestants that just won’t make it compared to the others.


    In general, if you compare performances on X factor vs. AI, AI is most of the time boring and dull. There is no excitement; the AI contestants are mostly standing there and singing all the time. Although it should be about finding someone who has an amazing voice, it is also about finding someone that can be a world class artist and that takes more than just great singing, but also performing.

    1. Gerard McGarry

      Thanks for your comment Jon, but a couple of YouTube performances doesn’t qualify you as an expert on X Factor. I’ve watched every series so far, and I know how much the show relies upon contrived confrontation between the judges, the ‘mentoring’ aspect is utterly ridiculous – Cowell himself can barely remember his own contestants’ names.

      As for the staging and performances – Brian Friedman creates over the top spectacles to distract you from just how pathetic the singers are. At the same time, the weaker singers are drowned out by the backing singers.

      The bickering between judges gets so ridiculous, it distracts from the contestants themselves. Sometimes the judges’ comments will get totally forgotten about in a blast of petty comments. It was far worse when Sharon Osbourne was there because of her insistence on storming out, huffing and throwing glasses of water round people.

      And just to wrap up on this one…check out the review of the X Factor live tour by another of our members, Yum Mum. Even Joe McElderry disappointed her – and she’s a big fan of X Factor.

      Really, unless Simon Cowell is planning to run X Factor USA radically differently to X Factor UK, it’ll have no comparison with American Idol. Seriously. If this is your weakest season of Idol so far, then consider yourselves lucky – X Factor in my experience is a pale immitation of Idol. It would be a crying shame if it killed Idol off.

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