You know I’m addicted to Idol and XFactor, so now here’s my autopsy on season 12 of AI. For me, there was only ever going to be one winner. The five women of the top ten were lightyears better than the men, and it wasn’t a surprise as the men dropped away one by one. Yes, maybe the order was, but …
The women were dominated throughout by Angie, who demonstrated her confidence in her artistry before we got to the top 10. She was by miles the best musician, and allowing her to release the single of her original song (You Set Me Free) on the day of the season finale attested to the fact that the higher ups at AI knew it, too. I have it on good authority, that this would have been contrary to the very prescriptive contract that she signed at the beginning of the series. That neither Candace’s or Kree’s single were available right away is another give away. Philip Phillips’ Home was available the next morning, but for Candace, you had to preorder it.
Randy Jackson says it’s a “singing competition,” but it’s not. It’s an idol competition, and that can mean many things. I know from the UK XFactor that when you put the outcome in the hands of the general public, crazy things can happen. AI wants to find the next money-spinning artist. The US public has a penchant for country, which explains why there are so many country winners, and probably why most of them have fallen off my personal musical map. Kelly Clarkson is probably the biggest find, followed by Carrie Underwood (although I don’t really care for her music, at least what I’ve heard of it). Clarkson finally proved her mettle when she was allow to make her own artistic decisions.
In my UK experience, none of the XFactor winners has made it with the minor exception of Leona Lewis, but she is not nearly as popular in the US as she is in the UK. In fact, I haven’t heard her name since I moved here. She hasn’t really become the next Whitney Houston, as she’s been billed.
The artists that will make it aren’t the best singers, they are the best musicians (with interesting and unusual voices). Again in the UK, Diana Vickers didn’t make it to the finals, but she landed a roll in Little Voice, a West End musical (London’s Broadway), which was previously a feature film. She didn’t need the record deal to make her career. She did finally release a record, but her voice can be so strange it may never cross the pond. She’s eclipsed the winner that year, in any case.
I’m listening to Philip Phillips’ album as I write. That’s another winner that AI got right. Pundits claim he’s too much like David Matthews or Jason Mraz (who I don’t really follow). I like his album, which contains more original music than other winners have been allowed. Like Angie, he was accused of being over-confident or arrogant, but I think both of them were on a different plane from the rest of the competition, all good singers, but not great artists. Angie was enough of a musician to follow the advice of her mentors on the show, especially Harry, who was all but ignored by the others.
The pundits are in general agreement that Candace may have a couple of hits, but she will never have the lasting impact on popular music that Angie will have. Angie’s camera friendly, and she has a nice voice, but where she will score is in her original writing. Without the yoke of being the Idol winner, she will be free to create – at least I hope whatever record company she signs with believes in her enough to give her that freedom.
Angie may not be another Kelly Clarkson, but where she will score is in her writing – she may make it by writing for others.