Say what you want about the remaining men of American Idol‘s ninth season — call ’em lackluster; call ’em uninspired; or if your name happens to be Randy ”200 percent” Jackson, call ’em ”pitchy” — but in two short weeks, more than half of ’em will be taking to Idol‘s big stage as part of our illustrious top 12.
In other words, if you’re planning to see the 2010 Idol summer tour, there’s a solid chance you’ll be enjoying/enduring a set from six out of the following 10 dudes: Jermaine ”conversations with God” Sellers; Lee ”waistband showing” Dewyze; John ”what hath Shania wrought?” Park; Michael ”guess what? I made a baby!” Lynche; Aaron ”softer than a chinchilla’s eyelashes” Kelly; Todrick ”are we sure he’s a dancer?” Hall; Tim ”power of expectations” Urban; Casey ”life is easier after my meeting with H.R.” James; Alex ”voms before singing” Lambert; and Andrew ”we should all have our lives defined by 60-second Paula Abdul snippets” Garcia.
I know, I know… that’s a lot of information to process. But I suspect we’ve all got it easy in comparison to the aforementioned contestants. Over the first two weeks of semifinal competition, we’ve seen the weight of the judges’ conflicting instructions, the burden of early expectations, and/or the load of barely masked insecurities prevent each of the 10 remaining men from fully embracing whatever potential they might have to follow in the illustrious footsteps of Ruben Studdard, Bo Bice, Chris Daughtry, Elliott Yamin, David Archuleta, David Cook, and the other men who’ve transformed themselves from wide-eyed wannabes into bona fide stars under the critical eyes of 30 million TV viewers. Of course, given the ever-present yin and yang of the Idoltaurium — oh, and it most surely does exist! — one could almost divvie up the men’s lineup into pairs whose Idol ”journeys” reflect opposite ends of the competitive spectrum. In fact, let’s do exactly that — with an emphasis on each of our dawgs’ strengths and weaknesses, and what it’ll take for them to make it to the finals. We’ll start with…
The kid who has no idea how good he is… Admit it: At least half the fun of Alex Lambert stems from the almost quaint notion that there remains at least one person in this world who, unlike, say, the entire cast of Jersey Shore, didn’t pop out of the womb with a mic-pack clamped to his umbilical cord, craning his neck to try to achieve his best camera angle. Because honestly, Alex Lambert is not an amazingly talented vocalist in the vein of (to name one example) the raven-haired season 8 contestant with whom he shares a last name. Not yet, anyhow. Tonight, on John Legend’s ”Everybody Knows,” Alex mumbled his way through the ends of a number of phrases — almost like he was a little skittish about delivering the meaning behind the lyric — and that final falsetto note was so charmingly off-kilter, Alex himself couldn’t suppress a sheepish expression before he’d even finished it. I’m hoping as he rehearses his songs going forward, that Alex reads the lyrics aloud, free of melody or musical accompaniment, to get a sense of the cadence, of how they’d be spoken conversationally.
And yet all issues aside, Alex’s vocal tone is impossibly lovely: It’s like listening to Joe Cocker, only smoothed out with a sheet of super-fine sandpaper, decades of venue-related grit and life experience brushed away to something smoother and decidedly more innocent. As Kara* correctly noted, it was impossible not to root for Alex, particularly after viewing his guileless interview package and hearing him admit to having vomited from nerves before his Top 24 performance. ”I didn’t know where to put my hands,” Alex said, before explaining he’d tried so hard last week to be likable, that he’d almost had the opposite affect. In an era where most Idol contestants arrive at their auditions with a MySpace page of original tracks and prior experience in front of stadium-sized crowds — if not a previous reality TV gig — it’s kind of refreshing to ponder the idea of a contestant whose caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation could play out in a matter of weeks. Yeah, okay, Alex still has a long way to go before he can start planning his Idol summer tour, but even if he flames out in two or three weeks, he’s already brought more joy to the stage than the next contestant up for discussion could if he lasted (heaven forbid) till late May.
NEXT: Jermaine has no idea ”What’s Going On”