Idol’s Back and Still Good, Dawg Pt. 3

(Finishes replaying Dominique’s audition for the fourth time)

When I like an audition, I put a star by their name. If I really like them, they get two stars. And there’s the rarified air of three stars earned by Idol hopeful Dominique. He goes by just that name, has a James Harden[1] beard, and a smooth enough voice to absolutely slay Donny Hathaway’s A Song for You. I’m not projecting anything about Dominique’s future but I’m hoping ours includes more TV time with him.

The other person I really liked tonight was Amalia Watty who impressed me immediately by saying she was going to sing Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love, showing respect for the creator of the song rather than Adele for whom the song is more often associated with[2]. Oh, and she was really good, too.

Like I always am about four shows in, I’m ready for audition season to end and to get down to the business of winnowing out pretenders from contenders. I suspect we’ll get hit with a lot more contenders in Sunday’s final audition round than we’ve seen to this point. With comments about them possibly coming, for this blog entry I’m going to share several over-arching observations about this season so far.

JPEG image-8A7FE4B73F7E-2The new network and production team is really staying on brand. This is the show – the ONLY show – that has turned dreamers (multiple) into indisputable, established stars. We got a mid-show video montage of Idol’s Mt. Rushmore as a not so subtle reminder. And the messaging of chasing the dream has been consistent throughout the first four shows.

The show has also stayed on brand by showing “bad” auditions that have been a noteworthy – and at times controversial – part of its history. Yes, there are many rounds of pre-auditions before any Idolist gets to the judges, so these bad auditions are chosen in advance for airing on TV. To me, it’s important that we see some of these. The brand of the show is come-one, come-all and if that’s the case, we should see the broad spectrum of the dreamers who come.

With that said, these suspect auditions are treated more humorously and less cruelly than in the past. Even those auditions that are good but not good enough are being treated in a kinder, gentler way than in the old Idol. While staying on brand, the rebooted Idol seems to be responding to past criticism in a positive way.

A few other improvements are worth noting. The judges seem to be working as a team rather than independent entities. They may not always agree but they always appear to be working together. In addition, there has been a lot of emphasis on working with the Idolists and more actively coaching them than past panels of judges. The judges talk a lot about hoping to unlock the potential of some Idolists or honing the raw talents of others. With Boot Camp, Hollywood, and the live shows coming, it will be interesting to see if this collaboration with each other and the contestants continues. I hope so because it’s very enjoyable.

Also, it’s becoming clear that while Katy Perry was the big “get” of a current pop star for the show (and ABC paid dearly to get her), Lionel with his stories, name drops and self-proclaimed singer/songwriter/producer status is clearly going to play a big role in shaping Idol’s reboot. And with two big dawgs on the set, Luke Bryan is doing a fantastic job of carving out a lovable identity for himself while not needing to fight for any limelight. It’s coming to him, anyway. Overall, the chemistry between the three of them has been off the chain.

Finally, there has been a decision by the producers to show us many singers who are also songwriters. For a show that has been essentially a glorified karaoke show, I find this very interesting and am quite curious to see what role, if any, songwriting will play in the reboot.

Yes, I’m anxious to move past the auditions to the real competition but I am thoroughly enjoying the old and improved Idol. What are your thoughts?

__________________________________________

[1] NBA superstar for the Houston Rockets

[2] And now I’m waiting to get a real hard time about being hypocritical from a friend with whom I have had LONG-running debate over whose song I Will Always Love You is. She says Dolly Parton because Dolly wrote it. I say Whitney because she made it SO iconic. To said friend, if anybody comes on Idol and says they’re going to sing Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, I would have mad respect for them giving props to Dolly. But I’ll stand my ground and say that Whitney took complete ownership over Dolly’s song in a way that Adele didn’t do with Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love, as good as it is.

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