Hollywood, CA. Fade in on a lone figure sitting atop a blood-red throne in the middle of a sinister, palatial corporate office. The figure is Nigel Lithgoe. He begins to sing:
This is a Man’s World
This is a Man’s World
But It Wouldn’t Be Nothing, No-thing, NO-THI-ING!!!
Without a Woman Or a Girl
This is Hollywood Week.
You guys, this year’s Hollywood round was the craziest damn thing I’ve ever seen. I guess in order to really explain I have to backtrack a little and explain where I’m coming from. I am a female musician who has devoted a good few years of her life to the academic study of music, and even more years pondering and speculating about the social implications of gender. Given all that, perhaps it’s natural that a good chunk of my consciousness is regularly devoted to various ruminations about music and gender and how the two are related.
I started this blog because I am an unabashed fan of the whole reality-music-competition genre, but I’m sick and damn tired of seeing really lovely, talented women getting shafted in favor of (in my own personal, highly subjective opinion) far less talented male contestants. It’s been 6 years now since Jordin Sparks
stole Melinda Doolittle’s crown became what may well be the last ever female American Idol. When season 10’s Haley Reinhart – whose thrilling and improbable phoenix-like rise from perpetual-bottom-three-dweller to third place finisher I will forever assert as proof that God does in fact watch American Idol – rocketed into the top 4 alongside front-runner Lauren Alaina, they were the first pair of female contestants to make top 4 in 4 years. It’s a crazy discrepancy that, whatever anyone may argue to the contrary, has no basis in the level of male vs female talent brought into the competition. There have been way too many sick lady vocalists over the years who sang their fucking faces off only to be sent packing in favor of guys with little more than a nice smile and a basic grasp of the concept of pitch. (See: Skylar Laine, Pia Toscano, Crystal Bowersox, Allison Iraheta, Carly Smithson, etc etc etc). My own personal bias aside though, I would argue that the overall success of female vs male Idol alumni speaks for itself. If you take the record sales, the musical prolificacy, the major awards, the starring roles in film and television, and stack them all up by gender, there’s no denying that the guys pile is pretty puny despite their disproportionately large numbers.
Aaaaand end tirade.
The reason this season’s Hollywood round was so nutso bananas for me to watch was that finally FINALLY Idol seemed to notice all of the things I wrote above and more that I’ve been yelling at my television set and ranting about to my long-suffering family and friends for years. By separating the guys from the girls throughout Hollywood, and with no small bit of help from the post-production team, Idol painted a very clear picture of the top contenders which depicted the guys as distinctly less-than the girls. With a sparse couple QUITE notable exceptions (I’ll expand on that momentarily) the guys’ week of Hollywood performances was highly underwhelming, while the girls’ week highlighted several very promising contenders for the top spot. Who knows what difference that will make among the tween-age power-voters, but I certainly appreciated the effort to even the score. And if they keep it up, who knows? This year might indeed be the year the great WGWG regime comes toppling down…
Which brings us to our finalists. I’ve compiled here my current top 10 ladies(ish) ranked as always by naught but my own personal preference:
1 Janelle Arthur: At this point my top three are very nearly at full-on three-way-tie status. Janelle was arguably THE most “pimped” contestant of the week, and usually that gives you a one-way ticket to Eyeroll City in my book, but Janelle legitimately killed it all week long and deserves all the praise. The distinction that really got her the top spot this week was the sweet sincerity, grace and humor with which she dealt with obstreperous group-mate Kez Ban. J’adore.
2 Candice Glover: Candice Glover. Gaaawd where to start? First of all can I just say how much I love that all the other contestants seem to know that they’re, like, barely worthy to be in her company? That voice is so crazy, and she’s so fabulous and it’s all just fabulous and fabulous and fabulous. It’s been too long since we had a true (female) diva on the Idol stage, and Candice is ready to make her mark. I love how unapologetic she is about that too, all: “Yeah, I’m here to win. I’m fantastic. I deserve this.” Hit Em Up Style had me grinning from ear to ear, and fuck if there was there anyone else in that group because I only saw Candice. One thing is abundantly clear – That. Girl. Is. On. Fi-yah!
3 Angela Miller: Holy hell, Angela Miller! Did I not say I had a feeling about this girl? I just knew there was more there than we saw at her audition and she spent the entirety of Hollywood showing just that. Her first round solo was spot on, her group solo was gorgeous, and then with the original song… She just keeps getting better, and I don’t think the peak is even in sight yet. Her tone is so clear and her little runs and inflections so effortless. I’m so excited about this girl, man. I’m excited to see her come into her own a little bit more and to find out who she is as an artist. I cannot wait to see where she goes from here. I think this is going to be a fun one.
4 Nick Boddington: Alrighty-o, here it is. For the first time ever, I am choosing to bestow an honorary double X-chromosome to my favorite of the dudes, because this guy is too fucking awesome not to be counted. So welcome to the girls’ club, Nick! I remember Nick, like Candice, came out of nowhere last season with a ridiculously awesome Vegas showing and then infuriatingly got cut directly after. I love his unassuming personality and I love those cartoonishly wide bright, bright blue eyes that make him look like he’s permanently surprised, but most of all I just LOVE that crisp, beauuuutiful soprano tone. I would (and hopefully will) buy this guy’s album in a heartbeat and play it til my ears bleed.
5 Cristabel Clack: I liked Cristabel a lot in her audition, but I remember thinking that her vocal was missing an element of depth, of soul, and I remember being especially peeved about that because she said she was a worship-leader, so by all accounts she such should have soul for days! Then out of nowhere and in the unlikeliest of places (in the midst of a trainwreck of a group performance of a song I pretty much loathe) she sold me. Moar please.
6 Kree Harrison: And the Siobhan Motherfucking Magnus award for most promising contender to come crashing out of total oscurity in the very last round of Hollywood goes to Kree Harrison! Kree managed to infuse Grace Potter’s haunting lyrics with every bit of the emotion they require, which is no small feat. And even after Honorary XX Nick Boddington put this song to shame not one week before! I’d love to see this momentum continue.
7 Rachel Hale: First round solo was fantastic. Must dock some points for her “last chance” performance at the very end, which I can’t pretend wasn’t a bit of a mess, but then she did at least choose a Haley Reinhart original, so I can’t be too mad at her. 🙂
8 Melinda Ademi: I was tempted to write Melinda off at first, but between her group solo and her final solo she proved she’s more than your average teen pop star-wannabe. She’s got a cool vibe, a big voice, and she’s not afraid to go uptempo.
9 Tenna Torres: Failed to wow during the brief snippets we saw of her this week, but if the judges kept her around there must be more to the story we’re not seeing, right?
10 Kamaria Ousley: Okay so maybe I ran out of people I really care about and I just really like her glasses.
And so it’s on to Vegas, where hopefully no Candice Glover/Nick Boddington-esque judging travesties will happen this year (especially not to Candice Glover or Nick Boddington!!).
Til next time,