WAIT! WHAT?? STEVE PERRY CAME OUT OF SECLUSION TO MAKE AN APPEARANCE ON IDOL???? You can literally – literal literally not slang hyperbole literally – count on your hands the number of his public appearances IN A DECADE. Not only that, he provided the critique to My Girl Gabby’s rendition of the classic Don’t Stop Believin’ by lying saying to her that “it was the most amazing version I’ve ever heard.” And here The Missing Mean Judge thought it was overwrought and pageanty.
“You’re in the sales business now.” – Lionel Ritchie
Putting my Steve Perry fan-girling aside, tonight was all about me not grading (I didn’t), not critiquing (I did, anyway) but seeing who could sell me as someone who could – as Katy echoed what I’ve said so many times – leave the Idol bubble and compete in the real world. Three rounds, three songs, three opportunities to impress me. And, yes, somebody sold me.
All of the Idolists were bad in Round One singing their first singles. Much was made by the judges about the Idolists’ lack of familiarity with the new songs but Round Two made it clear what the Idolists real problem was – all the big-name songwriters wrote songs that were bad fits for the Idolists. This was apparent when we saw them more comfortably being themselves in Round Two.
In Round Two the Idolists reprised a favorite song from the season. Caleb did some country song and sounded great. My Girl Gabby (MGG) did her take-over-the-stage thing with Miranda Lambert’s Little Red Wagon. My Girl Maddie (MGM) performed her own original song and sounded better than she did on the song that was written for her.
Each did a great job selling themselves: Caleb with his immaculate old school country voice; MGG showing what a wonderful stage performer she is; and MGM putting her special singer-songwriter persona on display. I’ll call that round a draw between MGG and MGM with Caleb only slightly behind.
Round Three was the hometown visit round and even The Missing Mean Judge has a soft spot in his heart for the hometown visits. It’s the Idolists’ reward for being amateurs succeeding in a weekly nationally televised environment with the prize being the adulation of those closest to them. I always enjoy it.
Caleb did a competent but not special version of Fulsom Prison Blues. MGG did the aforementioned Don’t Stop Believin’.
And then Maddie Poppe became my winner by closing the show with a haunting performance of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. She sold me.
I do try to wear my wanna-be music critic or record executive hat throughout the competition. And that requires me to consider potential along with performances. But it is a competition and actual performances should matter a lot, especially when they are as consistently excellent as Maddie’s have been all year. She is a talented singer-songwriter with a wonderful ear for how a song should sound. And she can deliver that sound with captivating stage performances.
If My Girl Gabby wins, I’d be fine with that, too. She has a more commercial sound and look but that also means she’s competing in the real world with lots of artists with a commercial sound and look. Despite being the more mainstream Idolist, the road to commercial success may be harder for her.
We’ll find out tomorrow night who is our next American Idol. In the meantime, I have this sudden urge to listen to some Journey . . .
 Rascal Flatts, Elle Henderson, Julie Michaels