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Clinging to the Tightrope 4/25


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Clinging to the Tightrope 4/25

 

Look, if I try tapdancing right now, my downstairs neighbors are going to murder me. We’re all on the edge, any tiny annoyance could blow things up.

 

But even aside from that… I’m having a reaaaaalll hard time building any enthusiasm for the rest of the season. It’s been very up and down all season to be honest.  The auditions were as pointless as they’ve been for a decade at this point, with a side order of really astoundingly terrible editing.  Then, as has been the case in the ABC era, the season won back a lot of ground with Hollywood.  I was starting to feel hopeful for how things would turn out… then quarantine hit.

 

I was actually still feeling hopeful at that point, because I thought surely they would postpone the season till the fall.  It would be an opportunity for the show to make structural changes to itself which have been DESPERATELY needed for years. Maybe they could even use the hiatus to build more episodes into the season, and capitalize on people’s need for a feel good story. This was the time for Idol to rebuild itself… but no, we’re going forward remotely.  And I just don’t see this being anything other than a desperation tactic which at best maintains the tenuous status quo, and at worst sinks the show.  It doesn’t help that the Hawai’i episodes were mediocre, with few standout performances and many terrible judging choices, or that the clip shows did nothing to maintain my interest in the cast.  But… here we are.  Given there are only 4? Episodes left to go, it won’t be long before it’s time to voice my thoughts on Idol’s future, so I won’t do so here.

 

So, in all of that, what is the impact of the current format on how things are going to play out? I can see a couple factors.

 

  1. Fanbases rule the roost. With only a handful of episodes, it’s going to be very difficult to gradually accumulate fans the way some past champions have.  Fans who have already been built up over the pre-voting rounds are likely to just keep supporting their favorites, rather than fluctuating over time.  The “vote immediately” format already encouraged this, so it may be very hard for the stragglers to rise.

  2. One performance could turn it all around… to a point.  This might seem like a contradiction of the previous point, but WHEN to have your shining moment on Idol has always been a tricky question.  Stand out too early, and you can easily go far but lose steam in the final rounds to someone who slowly and steadily grew over time.  Well, with so few weeks, any big starmaking moment is going to still-fresh when the end of the season comes… if you can produce one in your living room. And can survive long enough to get the chance.

  3. Performance will be limited.  The circumstances of these performances aren’t going to allow much chance to put on a show.  No camera work, no band or other people to play off and interact with, not much space to move around in.  For the most part, people are going to be planted in one place doing their best.  On the one hand, a couple of people who had an advantage in their stage energy are going to struggle to stand out on other factors.  On the other hand, we’re probably going to be getting even MORE balladry than usual, which is going to make people blend together.  If someone can find a way to deliver intensity without having to put on a full scale show, that might make a big impact.

  4. Big vocals are a big question mark.  What kind of recording quality are they going to have? Did the show send them high quality equipment, or are they basically singing into an iPhone? If there’s not much soundwork available, a big belter moment could easily go badly.  If your voice is big enough (and I can say this from personal experience), sometimes the recording device just can’t take it.  If they’ve got some polished recording, then big vocals could make a big difference when there’s not much else to make a strategy of.  Although, even then, the lack of a live band could make things weird.  Sometimes you really need the dramatic backing to sell the dramatic voice.  Going crazy powerhouse with a piano and an acoustic guitar CAN work, but it’s tricky. Contestants whose performance style is already geared towards the intimate might have it easier.

 

So, where does that leave everyone as we go into… whatever is about to happen?  These rankings are going to be pretty rough since so much is up in the air, but we’ll see where it goes. Full disclosure, I haven’t done an in-depth rewatch of the performances in a while as I normally would.  But neither will most of the audience. 

 

In the name of finding drama where we can, lets do a countdown.

 

20. Faith Becnel

 

Who? 

I honestly have no idea what Faith’s selling point is, or why the judges kept her without a question and left Grace/Lauren to a showdown.  She’s had little screentime, doesn’t stand out as a vocalist or a performer, and hasn’t made any interesting choices thus far.  Beyond that, there’s something hollow to her, like she’s doing an imitation of what she thinks a singer is supposed to be instead of being one.  It really showed when she was next to Jovin, who reads as a natural to the core.  I can’t see her making it past the first cut.

 

Which, if past seasons have shown anything, means she’ll probably get a Wild Card.  My curse continues.

 

19. Nick Merico

 

Nick got an early villain edit which rarely goes hand in hand with someone making the voting rounds.  Usually those types get mined for Hollywood drama, and then vanish, possibly with the benefit of a criminal record.  Instead, Nick just kinda mediocred his way through Hollywood and Hawaii, which would also usually signal an unlamented cut.  But here he is, in the Top 20.

 

In a longer season, Nick could actually maaaaaybe have a chance at a mid-pack finish.  Idol audiences love a redemption story, and if he actually started delivering some decent performances, he could potentially ride that for a while before his not-that-impressive abilities petered out.  But I don’t think there’s time for it.  He doesn’t have the good-will to make it through a brutal early cut, and because Hollywood was pretty boring instead of delivering more villainy there’s not even a memorability factor.  His one possible advantage is given his acting past, he might have more money/equipment than most, so if that’s a factor he could look a little better.  That’s going to be a stretch though. 

 

18. Aliana Jester

 

In a season with a lot of similar competitors going head-to-head, the biggest morass of clones is the “teenage belters fighting for attention,” and they’re also some of the contestants most impacted by some of the difficulties inherent in the format.  So, many of them are likely to fall by the wayside.  

 

Of the group, Aliana’s solidly the weakest.  She’s a passable singer, but her closest competition have attracted a lot more attention for their vocals.  The only one of her performances I can really remember is her duet, which I mostly remember for the awkward flirtation.  Aside from vocals, she’s not serving much of anything.  Not much performance energy, no notable song choices.  While her competition are kind of grouped tightly enough that she could jump some steps, there are a lot of steps till she hits Top 10, and not much of a path to navigate them.

 

17. Franklin Boone

 

I like Franklin.  He’s chill, he’s got a nice tone, he makes some interesting choices with his songs.  On a season with some space to breathe, I could see him navigating a path towards somewhere in the midcard, although I don’t think he has quite enough star quality to really dominate the season.  

 

Unfortunately, nice and chill have a hard time when we’re in as cutthroat an elimination process as this is going to be, and the enforced intimacy we’re likely to get is going to make it harder for him to stand out with his style.  He does seem like a seasoned professional, so if people are struggling to adapt to the situation he could pull it together, but given a fairly limited amount of screentime prior that seems like it’s more likely to get him to agonizingly close but no cigar, rather than fully triumphant.

 

16. Olivia Ximenes

 

Olivia’s another teen belter fighting for limited space, and she faces a big obstacle.  Vocally she’s decent, but not as powerful as her competitors.  Her main advantage was being the performer among the bunch, the one who could put on show to narrow the gap, and potentially even slide past the stronger vocalists who canceled each other out.  That doesn’t seem like it’s going to be an option here.

 

Is there a way to infuse that energy into her performance without choreographing a full-on routine? Maybe.  If she chooses her song carefully to go uptempo while still staying more or less in place, and her competition mostly chooses to belt their little hearts out, she could advance.  But it feels unlikely.

 

15. Kimmy Gabriella

 

Shock, another of the teens appears out of the crowd!

 

Kimmy’s a better technical vocalist than Olivia or Aliana.  In terms of just pure “look at this high note I can hit, listen to these runs” vocal equippage, she might outdo some of the other belters.  But, bluntly, Kimmy is boring.  The judges have called her on it before.  She’s a vocalist, more than a singer, and it’s hard to make that memorable.  Kimmy’s got a good voice, but not THAT good.

 

To be honest, this is kind of a placement selected by default.  While I don’t see a particularly huge obstacle in her way like the people below her, I just don’t see much of a way for Kimmy to stand out.  In normal circumstances, I’d probably have put her below Olivia at least.  But for the moment, she’s just kind of here, hoping a lot of people above her mess up.

 

14. Sophia James

 

Now we’re getting into the territory where I’m not so confident of placements.  The next couple of people could easily place higher, but the gap between them and the potential Top 10 could be a crack, or a canyon.

 

Sophia’s gone up and down in my opinion over the various rounds.  I liked her reasonably well pre-show, her audition was kind of a mess but part of that was bad editing.  She had some ups and downs in Hollywood, but I liked her Hawai’i performance fairly well.  She’s a solid vocalist, while not feeling like she blends in too much with the belter pack, and might have some interesting choices in her.

 

The main problem I see is that Sophia reads kind of… desperate to me.  She’s that a cappella/theater girl who’s constantly mugging and begging for attention.  Which can work, when you’re in a group trying to stand out for the 15 seconds needed to be remembered.  It can even work on Idol, where you don’t have long to work with and the show will be moving on before you can get too manic.  But it feels like, in these enclosed performance circumstances, she’s just going to be bouncing off the walls like Flubber on uppers.  While other contestants seem like they’re going to have issues with their actual performances, Sophia’s the one who seems most likely to just struggle due to her personality.  

 

If she could rein it in, she’s probably the first person in this list I could actually see making it to Top 10.  But that’s a big question mark right now.

 

13. Louis Knight

 

There are two forces at work with Louis.  One is his audition, which did what it needed to.  Sad back story, good original song, no blatant missteps vocally, high praise from the judges.  That could give him a good start on the fan base, and cute inoffensive white boys already have a certain advantage there.

 

The other side is everything after his audition, which (aside from one Hollywood performance) has been mediocre to awful.  If people have been paying solid attention since the auditions, I think he struggles to get anywhere near the Top 10.

 

So which wins out? Idol common knowledge would say demographics and first impression I think.  If it were a longer season, I could see those pushing him through to Top whatever, and maybe outlasting some better people.  But in the current circumstances, I don’t think Louis has enough oomph to really make people sit up and pay attention, and I’m not sure he was able to steadily build a fanbase through those Hollywood mishaps.  He mainly ranks above some stronger competitors because everyone’s going to be under a lot of pressure, and some are going to flop.  When that happens, demographics become a deciding factor.  Look at the outcomes of the past two seasons Top 14’s.  Most likely though, he goes home.  

 

He’s already home.

 

Man, writing about this season’s weird.

 

12. DeWayne Crocker, Jr.

 

I’ve gone back and forth on DeWayne a lot.  Less based on my personal impression of him, and more based on how I think he fits into the meta-competition of Idol, the interplay of “who’s got a lane to themselves, who’s going head to head, what portions of the Idol fanbase are going to turn out?” That’s been hard to judge.

 

Dewayne’s main advantage is he’s the only male contestant really going in on R&B, which while not the strongest archetype on Idol, usually has someone go at least a few rounds.  Even the girls in similar niches seem like they’re leaning more towards the pop side than real old-school soul.  So DeWayne could have some audience all to himself.  Beyond that advantage though, he’s not that strong.  He’s a solid vocalist, but not as in-your-face impressive as some past exemplars like Joshua or Jacob.  If he were up against direct competition, I’d rate his chances fairly low.  But he’s what R&B fans have got to work with.

 

How will that niche factor play out in these circumstances though? That’s a huge unanswered question.  The performances across the board are likely to be compressed into more similar space, just due to the unavailability of different styles of presentation.  So, anything which makes someone stand out could be a plus.  But will it be enough to overcome the hard cuts ahead? I’m not sure, especially because bloc voting in the current “cast up to X for however many people” has weird results.  I’m not sure DeWayne can make it just on his on power.  But he’s got a potential leg up, though I doubt enough to take him past Top 10 to Top… 5? What’s the next step? He’s also potentially in trouble if Jovin decides to go more in a soul direction, but there’s more to be said on that later.

 

11. Cyniah Elise

 

I want Cyniah to do well.  I think she has the potential to be the most interesting of the teen belters by far, and I find her likable as a person.  Pre-show, she was one of the contestants who most attracted my attention, and I liked her audition.  

 

However, Cyniah has a big problem.  She’s not really a belter.  I really think that her voice is not strong enough for the stereotypical Whitney/Patti style vocals that she’s been giving in the later stages of the competition, especially when compared to her close competitors who are more proficient.  I’ve seen that as her potentially fatal flaw from the beginning, knowing how Idol tends to push black women into a single box, and it seems like it’s been playing out as expected.  

 

In a way, that makes these quarantine performances potentially a huge boon to Cyniah, in a couple different ways.  Just being forced into a smaller scale performance might be the encouragement she needs to go for more fascinating choices, both in song rep and in delivery.  If she recognizes that the setting isn’t conducive to a Whitney moment, and chooses something else, she could suddenly stand out.  And if I’m correct that the Idol staff have been nudging her in the wrong direction, being away from their influence (even if they’re still conferring from a distance) could help her get on the right track.

 

All of this rests on a young person making smart choices, which is… kind of a risky bet.  As much as I’d be happy to see her slip past a couple of the people above her, she could very well fall just short while they continue on default paths that get them farther.  But there’s hope!

 

10. Makayla Phillips

 

To be honest, I don’t really like Makayla.  The pop belter is one of my personal least favorite Idol types, I have little patience for teens still working out their artistic instincts, and Makayla specifically I don’t find to be very interesting.

 

But with all that said, I acknowledge that she has a solid technical voice, without doing TOO much pointless showing off compared to some of her rivals.  Having already been through the reality show wringer, she’s probably more prepared for the stress than most of the contestants.  And the show’s clearly in her corner to some degree.  Of the belters, I’d say she came out of Hollywood the best (though maybe not Hawaii).

 

Of course, that only gets her to Top 10.  I have very few ideas as to how she manages to stand out enough to make Top 5 over more interesting and strongly supported contestants.  Is it possible? Sure. But she’s going to need some out of the box thinking to manage it.

 

9. Grace Leer

 

Grace has some unique advantages going forward in the competition, which could get her some traction despite a kind of middling early presentation.  She’s now the only fully country contestant among the women, which is alway a hefty advantage, and while Dillon and maybe Jovin are in that same territory, neither is as clearly in the Idol Country Cube as Grace.  She also has a strong boost in terms of fan activation, as the only person who people have voted for already.  That’s gotten iffy competitors through a few rounds in the past (Ben Briley, Jermaine Jones), and combined with the country factor it gives her a solid chance of making Top 10. She’s also had some fairly solid performances thus far, so she doesn’t seem like she’s necessarily going to fall on her face and mess things up.

 

However, I’m not sure the format is going to do well by her abilities.  She’s a decent vocalist, but seems more like a performance-oriented contestant, and there’s not going to be much opportunity.  To be fair, I think she has a better chance in her repertoire of translating that energy into the performance without having to run all over the place than Olivia has.  But she’s at a disadvantage if we’re just going on vocals and interpretation, and I’m not sure the early voting benefit will carry through past the next round.  A lot is going to come down to how activated the country audience is.

 

8. Lauren Spencer-Smith

 

Well, Lauren has one big benefit to recent events: We no longer have to specify WHICH Lauren we’re talking about.  Maybe that’s more of a benefit to me, but don’t I deserve something good?

 

Like a lot of people in this middle muddle of maybe Top-10ers, Lauren’s had a bumpy ride.  Coming into the show, she seemed like a plant: Juno nomination, viral video, precocious teen singer.  That meant expectations were high, but also that opinions could potentially turn against her (like they have against past ringers like Joanna Paciti, or even ones who got on the show like Carly).  Then she auditioned and it was… meh.  Not helped by another awful editing job, but nothing that impressive in what we heard.  Hollywood was ok, but I was writing her off as another of the teen belter blob who’d likely struggle to make headway, especially with the plant problem.

 

Her Hawai’i performance though was one of the best, with the benefit of being strong in the middle of a generally unthrilling round.  She delivered one of the best vocals thus far, and about 100 times more personality than we’d seen up to that point.  So she’s burst out of the blob to be the belter who might beat the belles.  Help, I think I’m stuck in a loop.

 

Will she be able to translate that into more than Top 10?  I’m not sure.  She could be poised for the kind of breakout performance that puts her into the finale.  But there’s ground to make up, and that plant issue is always lurking in the background.  Plus, where IS she, given that she’s Canadian? I’m not sure that makes that much difference to voters, at least without a long competition to build resentment.  But it is a little odd if she’s coming to us from British Columbia.

 

7. Francisco Martin

 

Francisco is frustrating.  He’s got a good voice, he’s passionate.  He’s got good taste in music.  But he’s been SUCH an emotional mess that it’s hard to get invested in him.  I know Idol audiences love a growth arc, and kind of love a mess who becomes not a mess.  I don’t really.  I like to see competent people doing their thing.  But hey, what do I know.


In light of that, the isolation of this format might be a blessing for Francisco.  It’s weird and high pressure, but maybe the security of being at home will let him focus and overcome his nerves to give performances at full power.  If that’s the case, people could unite behind him and push him deep in the competition.  Or he might crumble under the pressure without guidance.  It’s a big question mark.  More than anything else about him, it’s going to be what determines his fate.

 

6. Jovin Webb

 

Jovin is probably my favorite contestant of the season.  He’s distinctive, charismatic, a real joy to watch as a performer.  I appreciate the intensity he brings to his vocals without making me terrified that he’s going to fall apart.  He also has a gift for crossing a lot of genre lines, without coming across as scattered.  I’d really like to see him in at least the Top 5.

 

I’m not sure I can put him there yet though.  It mostly comes down to storyline.  While he had a strongly received audition, with an emotional story backed up by a great performance, it’s been a while since then.  He was strong in every Hollywood round, and solid in Hawaii, but didn’t necessarily get a ton of focus in any given round. It feels like, while he’s not in danger per se, he could have an issue overcoming the built up fanbases of his closer competitors. That genre versatility also makes it a bit tricky to triangulate who he should be courting.  Does he stick with the Southern rock/blues vibe of his audition, where he basically has the field to himself? Try to dip more into country or old school soul, where he basically only has one competitor? Trying to cover too many bases is risky, especially with so little time to do it in, but if he could combine two of those bases, it would be potent.  Especially since he seems self-assured, and ready to deal with the challenges of this format.  I hope he can grab the attention needed.

 

5. Samantha Diaz

 

Prior to the change in format, I don’t think I would’ve put Sam lower than 3rd.  She’s one of the contestants who’s received the most attention to the show, with a ton of focus on her story and background.  She was strong in several rounds, with a great first Hollywood performance, unexpected but fun Hawaii song, and a solo performance of I’m Here which was maybe the best performance of the season.  After that I looked at my husband and said “She just gets it.  Most of these contestants don’t even know what ‘it’ is, but she understands it at her core.” It’s that depth of feeling and connection that sells a song, that you can’t teach someone who doesn’t feel it.  It makes her a serious contender for the win, especially with the kind of story Idol loves.

 

BUT, I can’t critique Francisco’s nerves without also remembering that her audition was an almost uncomfortable struggle with nerves, and on a couple of occasions she’s needed security blankets to keep her going.  She’s been more consistently strong than he has, but it’s still a cause for concern.  Especially because, while Francisco seems like his nerves are from the pressure of expectations and can find focus in more private efforts, Sam feels like she feeds off a crowd.  Just performing in her living room might not give her the feedback she needs to really lock into a performance.  

 

The other question is that story.  Given her background of struggles, what kind of situation is she going to be in for recording these performances? It doesn’t seem like there will be much space for her to work with.  At the same time, this could go both ways.  While she might be working with limited resources, it could be a reminder of her story which amps up the emotional impact of her efforts and puts people in her corner.  If she becomes the image of what Idol is supposed to be in a time like this, and she can keep tapping into her emotional resources, she could go all the way.

 

4. Jonny West

 

This is a BIG leap from where I would’ve put Jonny for most of the season, and maybe the biggest uncertainty I have about a placement. Jonny impressed me a lot pre-season, both as a songwriter and a singer, and his audition was good.  But his audition was also yoked to a storyline with Margie, in which he kind of seemed like the less focused-on sidekick.  While his Hollywood performances weren’t (aside from the duet) TERRIBLE, they weren’t really that impressive.  Most of the attention was on his relationship with Margie, and it was getting old. 

 

Once she was eliminated though, he seemed to blossom in Hawaii.  It was best vocal thus far, and he sold the song a lot more strongly than previous efforts.  It also kind of turned the storyline into something more palatable, just a note in his background. That gives him some momentum coming into this round.

 

The main factor in this placement though is that Jonny just feels like the kind of performer who would benefit from these constrained performance circumstances.  He comes across as very internal and introspective, very self-contained.  He’s maybe the most suited to just playing in his living room, and the momentum could open the door for him to really impress doing so.  I’m not confident exactly, but I’m interested to see what happens.

 

3. Julia Gargano

 

Julia’s another favorite of mine, just in terms of the kind of singer I like and who I’d personally pick to vote for. She was the person who really grabbed my attention before the show, with a really distinct voice and some great original songs.  Her audition was also very strong, and her Hawaii performance was great, although some of the rounds in between weren’t so impressive.  While I don’t really believe it’s a factor in who DOES win, she’s probably the contestant who would have the best chance of making a successful career with Hollywood Records (although how good a chance that is would still be hard to say).  I could see the show getting behind her.

 

I also think, like Jonny, she’s well suited to these performance circumstances.  While she’s not as in her own head as he is, she seems comfortable just delivering what she has to offer on her own with a piano and an intimate atmosphere.  My biggest worry about her previously, that she might be pushed for more aggressive vocals than she’s capable of, doesn’t seem likely to happen at this point.  She could be formidable.

 

Is she going to suffer from not getting that much focus on her personal life and story? Maybe.  While she’s been good, I’m not sure if she’s gotten enough attention to be secure.  While I feel like she’s strong enough to make Top 10, she can’t afford to slip for even a moment if she’s going to overcome other contestants’ back stories.  But there’s a chance here.

 

2. Arthur Gunn

 

Arthur, at this point, is probably the presumed winner.  He’s singing a popular style of music well, and has a memorable story as an immigrant trying to make it big.  There’s also something charming about him which people have latched onto.  He’s been consistently raking in much higher social media numbers than anyone else.  The show is clearly in his corner, since he’s received a ton of attention in most rounds.  He’s the one in front right now.

 

Presumed winners rarely win on Idol though.  Not NEVER (Carrie, Scotty, cough).  But it’s difficult to maintain that level of support beginning to end through a season.  People start taking you for granted, and start uniting behind someone else.  The short, awkward season might work in Arthur’s favor though.  There’s not much time for anyone else to build the momentum to challenge him, or for people to start getting bored of him.  He could easily ride his current wave to the end.

 

I’m not sure about Arthur.  There’s something which I kind of miss in his performances, though it’s hard to put my finger on it.  While he performs well, I’m not sure he’s particularly unique, which makes me tune out a bit.  It’s honestly a bit frustrating that I can’t articulate more clearly why I’m not fully behind him.  He’s not as clearly content to just deliver average performances straight till the end as Laine was.  But he does somewhat feel like Laine in that I have a hard time imagining him doing something which really blows me away.  It could happen.  And if it doesn’t happen, he could still win.  I wouldn’t hate it, but I’m not sure I’d love it.

 

1. Dillon James

 

While Arthur is the presumed frontrunner right now, there’s something which just says to me Dillon’s going to take it.  He’s also grabbed a ton of attention, both for his performances and his story, but stayed a bit in Arthur’s shadow, as well as some of the other drama bombs happening around him in Hollywood.  Never quite in the center spotlight, but always on the edge, jumping out to more prominence in the Hawaii episode.  He also delivers a lot of things which are vote getters on Idol: country-adjacent, good looking white guy, sad backstory which he’s overcome.  On paper, he seems like a major threat for the Idol crown, despite hanging back a bit.

 

I think what sets him apart though is that all those standard traits are a bit… twisted.  A bit askew.  He’s in the vague region of country, but he’s not at all a standard Nashville country type.  He’s almost a throwback to the “Western” part of Country and Western, the lonely cowboy prairie song thing that doesn’t hit the mainstream anymore.  The good looking guy has a giant chest tattoo, and kind of looks like a cult leader.  Kind of has a cult leader air about him in general.  That backstory is a lot darker than the average Idol sob story.  It kind of makes you do a double take.  And when you need people to remember you, and remember to vote, that can be potent.

 

He also has the same benefit that Julia and Jonny have, of feeling like the kind of performer who would be happy just singing in his own world, and letting people tune in as they choose.  It kind of goes hand in hand with that off-kilter vibe, like you’re getting a glimpse of something you weren’t expecting to see, but you want to watch more.

 

I wouldn’t put money on ANY outcome in this weird format.  But my gut says Dillon takes it.  We’ll see what happens.

 

Less than a day till the weirdness kicks off!

Edited by muse273
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Muse,

 

Thank you so much for providing your power rankings. I've really enjoyed reading through your power rankings for years now, especially since you really seem to know your stuff! So I am so happy that you decided to post power rankings for this season after all. Just seeing the title of your post on the forum brought such a huge smile to my face. Anyway, I agree with you that I'm having a tough time mustering up much enthusiasm for the rest of this season given what the format is going to be like. Simply put, I just don't think shows like Idol work nearly as well virtually as they do in front of a live studio audience, with contestants performing on the stage with a band. I feel the show is going to lose a lot of its luster with the format they'll be using. Plus, I really do think it is a bit unfair to the contestants, especially given that I thought this was one of the most talented group of contestants that the show has had in a long time. I also wonder what will ultimately end up happening with the winner this season. Which is a shame, because I thought there was a chance that Idol could get a pretty good winner this year before the pandemic hit. But, alas.

 

Anyway, I certainly disagree with you about Dillon winning the whole thing. While I really like him myself and find his story to be so inspirational, especially at a time like this, I honestly doubt he's even going to make it to the Top 10. That's because Arthur, Francisco, Jonny and Louis are more popular than he is and as you wrote, with this format, popularity is probably more important than ever if a contestant wants to advance. I agree with you about Julia and Just Sam. I also agree with you about Makayla and Sophia. However, I am surprised that you're not as enthusiastic about Lauren Spencer-Smith. Because I think she is an absolutely incredible vocalist and much better than Madison was last year, who you were really high on! I'm really hoping that she doesn't get lost in the shuffle given her immense talent. But, we'll see what happens. I will say that I am interested to see how everything will come together with this new format, even though I'm not too confident that it's ultimately going to succeed.

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I agree with your top two. I totally see it coming down to them. I think Arthur will take it because he seems to have a huge fan base, and he only has to make it to through four voting rounds to get there. 

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Postponing the season to the Fall wasn't realistic.  The experts are saying that it will take a good year before things are normalized.  It would have left the show and contestants dangling.

I also disagree about Dillon James.  He has a sob story and those never win.  Neither does anyone from CA.  Also, the label does not need another Country winner.

Arthur Gunn not only has the fan base, but he comes from the heartland of the Country and almost all Idol winners are from the Mid West or South. 

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12 hours ago, muse273 said:

Clinging to the Tightrope 4/25

 

Look, if I try tapdancing right now, my downstairs neighbors are going to murder me. We’re all on the edge, any tiny annoyance could blow things up.

 

But even aside from that… I’m having a reaaaaalll hard time building any enthusiasm for the rest of the season. It’s been very up and down all season to be honest.  The auditions were as pointless as they’ve been for a decade at this point, with a side order of really astoundingly terrible editing.  Then, as has been the case in the ABC era, the season won back a lot of ground with Hollywood.  I was starting to feel hopeful for how things would turn out… then quarantine hit.

 

I was actually still feeling hopeful at that point, because I thought surely they would postpone the season till the fall.  It would be an opportunity for the show to make structural changes to itself which have been DESPERATELY needed for years. Maybe they could even use the hiatus to build more episodes into the season, and capitalize on people’s need for a feel good story. This was the time for Idol to rebuild itself… but no, we’re going forward remotely.  And I just don’t see this being anything other than a desperation tactic which at best maintains the tenuous status quo, and at worst sinks the show.  It doesn’t help that the Hawai’i episodes were mediocre, with few standout performances and many terrible judging choices, or that the clip shows did nothing to maintain my interest in the cast.  But… here we are.  Given there are only 4? Episodes left to go, it won’t be long before it’s time to voice my thoughts on Idol’s future, so I won’t do so here.

 

So, in all of that, what is the impact of the current format on how things are going to play out? I can see a couple factors.

 

  1. Fanbases rule the roost. With only a handful of episodes, it’s going to be very difficult to gradually accumulate fans the way some past champions have.  Fans who have already been built up over the pre-voting rounds are likely to just keep supporting their favorites, rather than fluctuating over time.  The “vote immediately” format already encouraged this, so it may be very hard for the stragglers to rise.

  2. One performance could turn it all around… to a point.  This might seem like a contradiction of the previous point, but WHEN to have your shining moment on Idol has always been a tricky question.  Stand out too early, and you can easily go far but lose steam in the final rounds to someone who slowly and steadily grew over time.  Well, with so few weeks, any big starmaking moment is going to still-fresh when the end of the season comes… if you can produce one in your living room. And can survive long enough to get the chance.

  3. Performance will be limited.  The circumstances of these performances aren’t going to allow much chance to put on a show.  No camera work, no band or other people to play off and interact with, not much space to move around in.  For the most part, people are going to be planted in one place doing their best.  On the one hand, a couple of people who had an advantage in their stage energy are going to struggle to stand out on other factors.  On the other hand, we’re probably going to be getting even MORE balladry than usual, which is going to make people blend together.  If someone can find a way to deliver intensity without having to put on a full scale show, that might make a big impact.

  4. Big vocals are a big question mark.  What kind of recording quality are they going to have? Did the show send them high quality equipment, or are they basically singing into an iPhone? If there’s not much soundwork available, a big belter moment could easily go badly.  If your voice is big enough (and I can say this from personal experience), sometimes the recording device just can’t take it.  If they’ve got some polished recording, then big vocals could make a big difference when there’s not much else to make a strategy of.  Although, even then, the lack of a live band could make things weird.  Sometimes you really need the dramatic backing to sell the dramatic voice.  Going crazy powerhouse with a piano and an acoustic guitar CAN work, but it’s tricky. Contestants whose performance style is already geared towards the intimate might have it easier.

 

So, where does that leave everyone as we go into… whatever is about to happen?  These rankings are going to be pretty rough since so much is up in the air, but we’ll see where it goes. Full disclosure, I haven’t done an in-depth rewatch of the performances in a while as I normally would.  But neither will most of the audience. 

 

In the name of finding drama where we can, lets do a countdown.

 

20. Faith Becnel

 

Who? 

I honestly have no idea what Faith’s selling point is, or why the judges kept her without a question and left Grace/Lauren to a showdown.  She’s had little screentime, doesn’t stand out as a vocalist or a performer, and hasn’t made any interesting choices thus far.  Beyond that, there’s something hollow to her, like she’s doing an imitation of what she thinks a singer is supposed to be instead of being one.  It really showed when she was next to Jovin, who reads as a natural to the core.  I can’t see her making it past the first cut.

 

Which, if past seasons have shown anything, means she’ll probably get a Wild Card.  My curse continues.

 

19. Nick Merico

 

Nick got an early villain edit which rarely goes hand in hand with someone making the voting rounds.  Usually those types get mined for Hollywood drama, and then vanish, possibly with the benefit of a criminal record.  Instead, Nick just kinda mediocred his way through Hollywood and Hawaii, which would also usually signal an unlamented cut.  But here he is, in the Top 20.

 

In a longer season, Nick could actually maaaaaybe have a chance at a mid-pack finish.  Idol audiences love a redemption story, and if he actually started delivering some decent performances, he could potentially ride that for a while before his not-that-impressive abilities petered out.  But I don’t think there’s time for it.  He doesn’t have the good-will to make it through a brutal early cut, and because Hollywood was pretty boring instead of delivering more villainy there’s not even a memorability factor.  His one possible advantage is given his acting past, he might have more money/equipment than most, so if that’s a factor he could look a little better.  That’s going to be a stretch though. 

 

18. Aliana Jester

 

In a season with a lot of similar competitors going head-to-head, the biggest morass of clones is the “teenage belters fighting for attention,” and they’re also some of the contestants most impacted by some of the difficulties inherent in the format.  So, many of them are likely to fall by the wayside.  

 

Of the group, Aliana’s solidly the weakest.  She’s a passable singer, but her closest competition have attracted a lot more attention for their vocals.  The only one of her performances I can really remember is her duet, which I mostly remember for the awkward flirtation.  Aside from vocals, she’s not serving much of anything.  Not much performance energy, no notable song choices.  While her competition are kind of grouped tightly enough that she could jump some steps, there are a lot of steps till she hits Top 10, and not much of a path to navigate them.

 

17. Franklin Boone

 

I like Franklin.  He’s chill, he’s got a nice tone, he makes some interesting choices with his songs.  On a season with some space to breathe, I could see him navigating a path towards somewhere in the midcard, although I don’t think he has quite enough star quality to really dominate the season.  

 

Unfortunately, nice and chill have a hard time when we’re in as cutthroat an elimination process as this is going to be, and the enforced intimacy we’re likely to get is going to make it harder for him to stand out with his style.  He does seem like a seasoned professional, so if people are struggling to adapt to the situation he could pull it together, but given a fairly limited amount of screentime prior that seems like it’s more likely to get him to agonizingly close but no cigar, rather than fully triumphant.

 

16. Olivia Ximenes

 

Olivia’s another teen belter fighting for limited space, and she faces a big obstacle.  Vocally she’s decent, but not as powerful as her competitors.  Her main advantage was being the performer among the bunch, the one who could put on show to narrow the gap, and potentially even slide past the stronger vocalists who canceled each other out.  That doesn’t seem like it’s going to be an option here.

 

Is there a way to infuse that energy into her performance without choreographing a full-on routine? Maybe.  If she chooses her song carefully to go uptempo while still staying more or less in place, and her competition mostly chooses to belt their little hearts out, she could advance.  But it feels unlikely.

 

15. Kimmy Gabriella

 

Shock, another of the teens appears out of the crowd!

 

Kimmy’s a better technical vocalist than Olivia or Aliana.  In terms of just pure “look at this high note I can hit, listen to these runs” vocal equippage, she might outdo some of the other belters.  But, bluntly, Kimmy is boring.  The judges have called her on it before.  She’s a vocalist, more than a singer, and it’s hard to make that memorable.  Kimmy’s got a good voice, but not THAT good.

 

To be honest, this is kind of a placement selected by default.  While I don’t see a particularly huge obstacle in her way like the people below her, I just don’t see much of a way for Kimmy to stand out.  In normal circumstances, I’d probably have put her below Olivia at least.  But for the moment, she’s just kind of here, hoping a lot of people above her mess up.

 

14. Sophia James

 

Now we’re getting into the territory where I’m not so confident of placements.  The next couple of people could easily place higher, but the gap between them and the potential Top 10 could be a crack, or a canyon.

 

Sophia’s gone up and down in my opinion over the various rounds.  I liked her reasonably well pre-show, her audition was kind of a mess but part of that was bad editing.  She had some ups and downs in Hollywood, but I liked her Hawai’i performance fairly well.  She’s a solid vocalist, while not feeling like she blends in too much with the belter pack, and might have some interesting choices in her.

 

The main problem I see is that Sophia reads kind of… desperate to me.  She’s that a cappella/theater girl who’s constantly mugging and begging for attention.  Which can work, when you’re in a group trying to stand out for the 15 seconds needed to be remembered.  It can even work on Idol, where you don’t have long to work with and the show will be moving on before you can get too manic.  But it feels like, in these enclosed performance circumstances, she’s just going to be bouncing off the walls like Flubber on uppers.  While other contestants seem like they’re going to have issues with their actual performances, Sophia’s the one who seems most likely to just struggle due to her personality.  

 

If she could rein it in, she’s probably the first person in this list I could actually see making it to Top 10.  But that’s a big question mark right now.

 

13. Louis Knight

 

There are two forces at work with Louis.  One is his audition, which did what it needed to.  Sad back story, good original song, no blatant missteps vocally, high praise from the judges.  That could give him a good start on the fan base, and cute inoffensive white boys already have a certain advantage there.

 

The other side is everything after his audition, which (aside from one Hollywood performance) has been mediocre to awful.  If people have been paying solid attention since the auditions, I think he struggles to get anywhere near the Top 10.

 

So which wins out? Idol common knowledge would say demographics and first impression I think.  If it were a longer season, I could see those pushing him through to Top whatever, and maybe outlasting some better people.  But in the current circumstances, I don’t think Louis has enough oomph to really make people sit up and pay attention, and I’m not sure he was able to steadily build a fanbase through those Hollywood mishaps.  He mainly ranks above some stronger competitors because everyone’s going to be under a lot of pressure, and some are going to flop.  When that happens, demographics become a deciding factor.  Look at the outcomes of the past two seasons Top 14’s.  Most likely though, he goes home.  

 

He’s already home.

 

Man, writing about this season’s weird.

 

12. DeWayne Crocker, Jr.

 

I’ve gone back and forth on DeWayne a lot.  Less based on my personal impression of him, and more based on how I think he fits into the meta-competition of Idol, the interplay of “who’s got a lane to themselves, who’s going head to head, what portions of the Idol fanbase are going to turn out?” That’s been hard to judge.

 

Dewayne’s main advantage is he’s the only male contestant really going in on R&B, which while not the strongest archetype on Idol, usually has someone go at least a few rounds.  Even the girls in similar niches seem like they’re leaning more towards the pop side than real old-school soul.  So DeWayne could have some audience all to himself.  Beyond that advantage though, he’s not that strong.  He’s a solid vocalist, but not as in-your-face impressive as some past exemplars like Joshua or Jacob.  If he were up against direct competition, I’d rate his chances fairly low.  But he’s what R&B fans have got to work with.

 

How will that niche factor play out in these circumstances though? That’s a huge unanswered question.  The performances across the board are likely to be compressed into more similar space, just due to the unavailability of different styles of presentation.  So, anything which makes someone stand out could be a plus.  But will it be enough to overcome the hard cuts ahead? I’m not sure, especially because bloc voting in the current “cast up to X for however many people” has weird results.  I’m not sure DeWayne can make it just on his on power.  But he’s got a potential leg up, though I doubt enough to take him past Top 10 to Top… 5? What’s the next step? He’s also potentially in trouble if Jovin decides to go more in a soul direction, but there’s more to be said on that later.

 

11. Cyniah Elise

 

I want Cyniah to do well.  I think she has the potential to be the most interesting of the teen belters by far, and I find her likable as a person.  Pre-show, she was one of the contestants who most attracted my attention, and I liked her audition.  

 

However, Cyniah has a big problem.  She’s not really a belter.  I really think that her voice is not strong enough for the stereotypical Whitney/Patti style vocals that she’s been giving in the later stages of the competition, especially when compared to her close competitors who are more proficient.  I’ve seen that as her potentially fatal flaw from the beginning, knowing how Idol tends to push black women into a single box, and it seems like it’s been playing out as expected.  

 

In a way, that makes these quarantine performances potentially a huge boon to Cyniah, in a couple different ways.  Just being forced into a smaller scale performance might be the encouragement she needs to go for more fascinating choices, both in song rep and in delivery.  If she recognizes that the setting isn’t conducive to a Whitney moment, and chooses something else, she could suddenly stand out.  And if I’m correct that the Idol staff have been nudging her in the wrong direction, being away from their influence (even if they’re still conferring from a distance) could help her get on the right track.

 

All of this rests on a young person making smart choices, which is… kind of a risky bet.  As much as I’d be happy to see her slip past a couple of the people above her, she could very well fall just short while they continue on default paths that get them farther.  But there’s hope!

 

10. Makayla Phillips

 

To be honest, I don’t really like Makayla.  The pop belter is one of my personal least favorite Idol types, I have little patience for teens still working out their artistic instincts, and Makayla specifically I don’t find to be very interesting.

 

But with all that said, I acknowledge that she has a solid technical voice, without doing TOO much pointless showing off compared to some of her rivals.  Having already been through the reality show wringer, she’s probably more prepared for the stress than most of the contestants.  And the show’s clearly in her corner to some degree.  Of the belters, I’d say she came out of Hollywood the best (though maybe not Hawaii).

 

Of course, that only gets her to Top 10.  I have very few ideas as to how she manages to stand out enough to make Top 5 over more interesting and strongly supported contestants.  Is it possible? Sure. But she’s going to need some out of the box thinking to manage it.

 

9. Grace Leer

 

Grace has some unique advantages going forward in the competition, which could get her some traction despite a kind of middling early presentation.  She’s now the only fully country contestant among the women, which is alway a hefty advantage, and while Dillon and maybe Jovin are in that same territory, neither is as clearly in the Idol Country Cube as Grace.  She also has a strong boost in terms of fan activation, as the only person who people have voted for already.  That’s gotten iffy competitors through a few rounds in the past (Ben Briley, Jermaine Jones), and combined with the country factor it gives her a solid chance of making Top 10. She’s also had some fairly solid performances thus far, so she doesn’t seem like she’s necessarily going to fall on her face and mess things up.

 

However, I’m not sure the format is going to do well by her abilities.  She’s a decent vocalist, but seems more like a performance-oriented contestant, and there’s not going to be much opportunity.  To be fair, I think she has a better chance in her repertoire of translating that energy into the performance without having to run all over the place than Olivia has.  But she’s at a disadvantage if we’re just going on vocals and interpretation, and I’m not sure the early voting benefit will carry through past the next round.  A lot is going to come down to how activated the country audience is.

 

8. Lauren Spencer-Smith

 

Well, Lauren has one big benefit to recent events: We no longer have to specify WHICH Lauren we’re talking about.  Maybe that’s more of a benefit to me, but don’t I deserve something good?

 

Like a lot of people in this middle muddle of maybe Top-10ers, Lauren’s had a bumpy ride.  Coming into the show, she seemed like a plant: Juno nomination, viral video, precocious teen singer.  That meant expectations were high, but also that opinions could potentially turn against her (like they have against past ringers like Joanna Paciti, or even ones who got on the show like Carly).  Then she auditioned and it was… meh.  Not helped by another awful editing job, but nothing that impressive in what we heard.  Hollywood was ok, but I was writing her off as another of the teen belter blob who’d likely struggle to make headway, especially with the plant problem.

 

Her Hawai’i performance though was one of the best, with the benefit of being strong in the middle of a generally unthrilling round.  She delivered one of the best vocals thus far, and about 100 times more personality than we’d seen up to that point.  So she’s burst out of the blob to be the belter who might beat the belles.  Help, I think I’m stuck in a loop.

 

Will she be able to translate that into more than Top 10?  I’m not sure.  She could be poised for the kind of breakout performance that puts her into the finale.  But there’s ground to make up, and that plant issue is always lurking in the background.  Plus, where IS she, given that she’s Canadian? I’m not sure that makes that much difference to voters, at least without a long competition to build resentment.  But it is a little odd if she’s coming to us from British Columbia.

 

7. Francisco Martin

 

Francisco is frustrating.  He’s got a good voice, he’s passionate.  He’s got good taste in music.  But he’s been SUCH an emotional mess that it’s hard to get invested in him.  I know Idol audiences love a growth arc, and kind of love a mess who becomes not a mess.  I don’t really.  I like to see competent people doing their thing.  But hey, what do I know.


In light of that, the isolation of this format might be a blessing for Francisco.  It’s weird and high pressure, but maybe the security of being at home will let him focus and overcome his nerves to give performances at full power.  If that’s the case, people could unite behind him and push him deep in the competition.  Or he might crumble under the pressure without guidance.  It’s a big question mark.  More than anything else about him, it’s going to be what determines his fate.

 

6. Jovin Webb

 

Jovin is probably my favorite contestant of the season.  He’s distinctive, charismatic, a real joy to watch as a performer.  I appreciate the intensity he brings to his vocals without making me terrified that he’s going to fall apart.  He also has a gift for crossing a lot of genre lines, without coming across as scattered.  I’d really like to see him in at least the Top 5.

 

I’m not sure I can put him there yet though.  It mostly comes down to storyline.  While he had a strongly received audition, with an emotional story backed up by a great performance, it’s been a while since then.  He was strong in every Hollywood round, and solid in Hawaii, but didn’t necessarily get a ton of focus in any given round. It feels like, while he’s not in danger per se, he could have an issue overcoming the built up fanbases of his closer competitors. That genre versatility also makes it a bit tricky to triangulate who he should be courting.  Does he stick with the Southern rock/blues vibe of his audition, where he basically has the field to himself? Try to dip more into country or old school soul, where he basically only has one competitor? Trying to cover too many bases is risky, especially with so little time to do it in, but if he could combine two of those bases, it would be potent.  Especially since he seems self-assured, and ready to deal with the challenges of this format.  I hope he can grab the attention needed.

 

5. Samantha Diaz

 

Prior to the change in format, I don’t think I would’ve put Sam lower than 3rd.  She’s one of the contestants who’s received the most attention to the show, with a ton of focus on her story and background.  She was strong in several rounds, with a great first Hollywood performance, unexpected but fun Hawaii song, and a solo performance of I’m Here which was maybe the best performance of the season.  After that I looked at my husband and said “She just gets it.  Most of these contestants don’t even know what ‘it’ is, but she understands it at her core.” It’s that depth of feeling and connection that sells a song, that you can’t teach someone who doesn’t feel it.  It makes her a serious contender for the win, especially with the kind of story Idol loves.

 

BUT, I can’t critique Francisco’s nerves without also remembering that her audition was an almost uncomfortable struggle with nerves, and on a couple of occasions she’s needed security blankets to keep her going.  She’s been more consistently strong than he has, but it’s still a cause for concern.  Especially because, while Francisco seems like his nerves are from the pressure of expectations and can find focus in more private efforts, Sam feels like she feeds off a crowd.  Just performing in her living room might not give her the feedback she needs to really lock into a performance.  

 

The other question is that story.  Given her background of struggles, what kind of situation is she going to be in for recording these performances? It doesn’t seem like there will be much space for her to work with.  At the same time, this could go both ways.  While she might be working with limited resources, it could be a reminder of her story which amps up the emotional impact of her efforts and puts people in her corner.  If she becomes the image of what Idol is supposed to be in a time like this, and she can keep tapping into her emotional resources, she could go all the way.

 

4. Jonny West

 

This is a BIG leap from where I would’ve put Jonny for most of the season, and maybe the biggest uncertainty I have about a placement. Jonny impressed me a lot pre-season, both as a songwriter and a singer, and his audition was good.  But his audition was also yoked to a storyline with Margie, in which he kind of seemed like the less focused-on sidekick.  While his Hollywood performances weren’t (aside from the duet) TERRIBLE, they weren’t really that impressive.  Most of the attention was on his relationship with Margie, and it was getting old. 

 

Once she was eliminated though, he seemed to blossom in Hawaii.  It was best vocal thus far, and he sold the song a lot more strongly than previous efforts.  It also kind of turned the storyline into something more palatable, just a note in his background. That gives him some momentum coming into this round.

 

The main factor in this placement though is that Jonny just feels like the kind of performer who would benefit from these constrained performance circumstances.  He comes across as very internal and introspective, very self-contained.  He’s maybe the most suited to just playing in his living room, and the momentum could open the door for him to really impress doing so.  I’m not confident exactly, but I’m interested to see what happens.

 

3. Julia Gargano

 

Julia’s another favorite of mine, just in terms of the kind of singer I like and who I’d personally pick to vote for. She was the person who really grabbed my attention before the show, with a really distinct voice and some great original songs.  Her audition was also very strong, and her Hawaii performance was great, although some of the rounds in between weren’t so impressive.  While I don’t really believe it’s a factor in who DOES win, she’s probably the contestant who would have the best chance of making a successful career with Hollywood Records (although how good a chance that is would still be hard to say).  I could see the show getting behind her.

 

I also think, like Jonny, she’s well suited to these performance circumstances.  While she’s not as in her own head as he is, she seems comfortable just delivering what she has to offer on her own with a piano and an intimate atmosphere.  My biggest worry about her previously, that she might be pushed for more aggressive vocals than she’s capable of, doesn’t seem likely to happen at this point.  She could be formidable.

 

Is she going to suffer from not getting that much focus on her personal life and story? Maybe.  While she’s been good, I’m not sure if she’s gotten enough attention to be secure.  While I feel like she’s strong enough to make Top 10, she can’t afford to slip for even a moment if she’s going to overcome other contestants’ back stories.  But there’s a chance here.

 

2. Arthur Gunn

 

Arthur, at this point, is probably the presumed winner.  He’s singing a popular style of music well, and has a memorable story as an immigrant trying to make it big.  There’s also something charming about him which people have latched onto.  He’s been consistently raking in much higher social media numbers than anyone else.  The show is clearly in his corner, since he’s received a ton of attention in most rounds.  He’s the one in front right now.

 

Presumed winners rarely win on Idol though.  Not NEVER (Carrie, Scotty, cough).  But it’s difficult to maintain that level of support beginning to end through a season.  People start taking you for granted, and start uniting behind someone else.  The short, awkward season might work in Arthur’s favor though.  There’s not much time for anyone else to build the momentum to challenge him, or for people to start getting bored of him.  He could easily ride his current wave to the end.

 

I’m not sure about Arthur.  There’s something which I kind of miss in his performances, though it’s hard to put my finger on it.  While he performs well, I’m not sure he’s particularly unique, which makes me tune out a bit.  It’s honestly a bit frustrating that I can’t articulate more clearly why I’m not fully behind him.  He’s not as clearly content to just deliver average performances straight till the end as Laine was.  But he does somewhat feel like Laine in that I have a hard time imagining him doing something which really blows me away.  It could happen.  And if it doesn’t happen, he could still win.  I wouldn’t hate it, but I’m not sure I’d love it.

 

1. Dillon James

 

While Arthur is the presumed frontrunner right now, there’s something which just says to me Dillon’s going to take it.  He’s also grabbed a ton of attention, both for his performances and his story, but stayed a bit in Arthur’s shadow, as well as some of the other drama bombs happening around him in Hollywood.  Never quite in the center spotlight, but always on the edge, jumping out to more prominence in the Hawaii episode.  He also delivers a lot of things which are vote getters on Idol: country-adjacent, good looking white guy, sad backstory which he’s overcome.  On paper, he seems like a major threat for the Idol crown, despite hanging back a bit.

 

I think what sets him apart though is that all those standard traits are a bit… twisted.  A bit askew.  He’s in the vague region of country, but he’s not at all a standard Nashville country type.  He’s almost a throwback to the “Western” part of Country and Western, the lonely cowboy prairie song thing that doesn’t hit the mainstream anymore.  The good looking guy has a giant chest tattoo, and kind of looks like a cult leader.  Kind of has a cult leader air about him in general.  That backstory is a lot darker than the average Idol sob story.  It kind of makes you do a double take.  And when you need people to remember you, and remember to vote, that can be potent.

 

He also has the same benefit that Julia and Jonny have, of feeling like the kind of performer who would be happy just singing in his own world, and letting people tune in as they choose.  It kind of goes hand in hand with that off-kilter vibe, like you’re getting a glimpse of something you weren’t expecting to see, but you want to watch more.

 

I wouldn’t put money on ANY outcome in this weird format.  But my gut says Dillon takes it.  We’ll see what happens.

 

Less than a day till the weirdness kicks off!


First of all, I’m so glad that you decided to do this power rankings list after all!  That said, I have to agree with Mytake that postponing the season just wasn’t realistic under the circumstances.


I had different rankings than you do in some cases, but I respect your opinion enough to alter my opinion somewhat.  I don’t think that Dillon is going to win, however.  Make the Top 10?  Probably.  Make the Top 5?  Possibly.  But win?  I’m not so sure.

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14 hours ago, muse273 said:

I enjoyed your take on this seasons top 21. I agree with most of it. The point you made "If someone can find a way to deliver intensity without having to put on a full scale show, that might make a big impact." could be a game changer and hopefully spark some much needed enthusiasm. We'll soon see! 

 

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17 hours ago, Winterfan said:

Muse,

 

Thank you so much for providing your power rankings. I've really enjoyed reading through your power rankings for years now, especially since you really seem to know your stuff! So I am so happy that you decided to post power rankings for this season after all. Just seeing the title of your post on the forum brought such a huge smile to my face. Anyway, I agree with you that I'm having a tough time mustering up much enthusiasm for the rest of this season given what the format is going to be like. Simply put, I just don't think shows like Idol work nearly as well virtually as they do in front of a live studio audience, with contestants performing on the stage with a band. I feel the show is going to lose a lot of its luster with the format they'll be using. Plus, I really do think it is a bit unfair to the contestants, especially given that I thought this was one of the most talented group of contestants that the show has had in a long time. I also wonder what will ultimately end up happening with the winner this season. Which is a shame, because I thought there was a chance that Idol could get a pretty good winner this year before the pandemic hit. But, alas.

 

Anyway, I certainly disagree with you about Dillon winning the whole thing. While I really like him myself and find his story to be so inspirational, especially at a time like this, I honestly doubt he's even going to make it to the Top 10. That's because Arthur, Francisco, Jonny and Louis are more popular than he is and as you wrote, with this format, popularity is probably more important than ever if a contestant wants to advance. I agree with you about Julia and Just Sam. I also agree with you about Makayla and Sophia. However, I am surprised that you're not as enthusiastic about Lauren Spencer-Smith. Because I think she is an absolutely incredible vocalist and much better than Madison was last year, who you were really high on! I'm really hoping that she doesn't get lost in the shuffle given her immense talent. But, we'll see what happens. I will say that I am interested to see how everything will come together with this new format, even though I'm not too confident that it's ultimately going to succeed.

 

I'm touched to know I can improve your day during these blah times.

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10 hours ago, mytake1 said:

Postponing the season to the Fall wasn't realistic.  The experts are saying that it will take a good year before things are normalized.  It would have left the show and contestants dangling.

I also disagree about Dillon James.  He has a sob story and those never win.  Neither does anyone from CA.  Also, the label does not need another Country winner.

Arthur Gunn not only has the fan base, but he comes from the heartland of the Country and almost all Idol winners are from the Mid West or South. 

Not only that, but he sang a lot more oldies, which puts him in the same line as Maddie and Laine. For whatever reason, those throwback singers have been thriving in the ABC era, and that vastly favors Arthur.

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