Three songs into the Top 20 Girls episode last night, the staff of WhatNotToSing.com were sitting smugly on our respective couches, basking in what we thought would be our young website's first true moment of triumph. How we (and the ladies) went from the penthouse to the outhouse in just over the span of an hour is a story worth telling, provided you give us some time to lick our wounds along the way.
In our previous editorial, we'd observed that the "opening night" approval ratings for the Season Seven contestants, at an average of 48.3, was the highest in our database.for any American Idol season. We wrote that if this trend continued, the AI7 group would indeed live up to the producers' billing as the Most Talented Top 24 Ever™. This was, to say the least, swimming hard against the tide of the Idolsphere's collective skepticism, and we admit we turned on our TVs this week with more than a little trepidation as to how our prediction would pan out.
But the ten remaining Guys, bless them, came through with a collective rating of 51.6 – the second-highest ever for a semifinal show. (Semifinal episodes tend to score quite a bit lower than Finals, averaging only around 47 on our 0-to-100 scale. Idol fans remember the Hemmorhages and My Funny Valentines, but their brains mercifully repress the memories of the Copacabanas and Come To My Windows, which are far more prevalent.) Then on Wednesday, Carly Smithson, though proving she's no Ann Wilson, led off the Girls' night with a quite respectable Crazy On You, and Brooke White followed not long after with a highly enjoyable You're So Vain. With thirteen contestants down and seven to go, we felt like geniuses...and better still, we knew the producers usually backload each episode with the best peformances! Bursting with pride, we envisioned ourselves invited to speak on Meet The Press this coming Sunday to give our predictions on the upcoming primary elections....
So what happened? Near as we can tell, the final seven contestants appear to have held a Pollyanna (better known as a "Secret Santa" to those of you from outside the Philly area) to pick songs for each other...and, it also appears that that those seven young ladies don't like one another very much.
We blinked in surprise as Ramiele Malubay wasted her big voice on the overcooked Don't Leave Me This Way. We watched in horror as Amanda Overmyer demonstrated why there is no better classic rock song on earth than Carry On Wayward Son...if you're playing Rock Band with your friends, that is, or singing in front of your bedroom mirror with a hairbrush. Alaina Whitaker could've chosen at least four better songs than Hopelessly Devoted To You from the same soundtrack, let alone the rest of the decade. Towards the end, battered and bruised, we looked at each other and said, "OK, maybe the Girls were still on their flu medication when they chose some of these songs, but at least no one was deranged enough to try All By Myself." And then....
So what have we learned from this ordeal? One, Tim Russert won't be calling us anytime soon. Two, if nothing else, we chose a very apt name for our website. Song choice is absolutely vital to success on Idol, ranking behind only one's vocal skills and (maybe) one's likability factor. Some very good singers turned in some disappointing performances last night solely because they chose the wrong song.
Which begs the question: what are the criteria for choosing the right song? Perhaps its time we fans and analysts formulated a checklist that the contestants can consult. (Rule #1: Unless you're LaToya London re-entering the competition under an assumed name, don't even think about All By Myself.) We're going to work on this list over the next couple of days, so please check back this weekend. If you have any ideas or thoughts as to what rules belong on the list, by all means drop us a line.
Oh, one last point, on the subject of the producers' brilliant idea of instituting themed semifinal weeks and of clearing just 50 songs for the contestants to choose from. All of us Idol fans from across the Internet, open your windows and face Los Angeles. All together now, on the count of three, ready?: "WE TOLD YOU SO, YOU MORONS!"
- The WNTS.com Team