A Letter to the American Idol 10 Judges

Dear American Idol Judges,

I can totally understand how upset you were that Pia was sent home this week. She is a beautiful girl and also has an amazing voice. Her commercial prospects are obvious and I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear from her. However, I think you’ve overlooked the basic reason why Pia was sent home. What I saw this week was apparently what America saw, and subsequently voted for.

First of all, you were proved completely and utterly wrong two weeks ago when Pia defied you and went once again for a ballad. Face it, her interpretation of Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun go Down on You” was not only a perfect song choice for her, but we all could feel just how much that song meant to her when we heard her sing it. That was probably the first time that we actually saw her truly “bring it” with her performance. Sure, she stood there and didn’t slather herself all over the stage, but that wasn’t what the song needed. She gave us what we wanted to hear and that’s why she was safe that week.

Then this week she finally took your advice and went for an up-tempo song. This was her first mistake. She should have stayed true to herself and gone with another ballad. After her performance, you actually hinted at the problem with your comments when you mentioned that she needed to start working on her “moves”. You see, no matter how amazing your voice is, if you can’t connect emotionally to the song, you’re going to seem stiff during your performance. That also comes through in your voice. So, in essence, America heard the emptiness behind flawless vocal tone and perfect delivery, and that was what kept them from casting more votes for her. Judges, you said you were shocked and had no idea “what went wrong”. In truth, you probably should be blaming yourselves for her going home, since you were the ones to lead her astray. In all fairness, she also should take on some of the blame for listening to you.

But we and the contestants do listen to you, so you really need to start paying more attention to some of the details that the voters are beginning to notice, and the contestants need to be advised of. For instance, with all due respect to young Lauren, I felt that her “Natural Woman” should have landed her in the bottom three. Watch her performance again, and you’ll see that there was absolutely nothing behind her eyes during that song. She’s far too young to understand what the lyrics mean, and there was just no passion there. She basically “dialed it in”, and the Country/Western voters were what saved her. But that will last only just so long – remember they have Scott to vote, so if Lauren doesn’t start grabbing us, don’t be surprised if she goes home soon.

If you were wondering why Jacob Lusk was in the bottom three this week, you shouldn’t be. Once again, you’ve become starry eyed over his talent and ignored the fact that he was off key for the whole opening of his song. That he was so into the lyrics and message was what kept him on this week. But if he wants to continue to be safe, he needs more coaching with using his earpiece (you did see that he took it off as he was starting to sing, didn’t you?). That he’s toned down his dramatics which calms his over-the-top vibrato and is showing more vocal control is to his credit. On the other hand, next week is “At the Movies” week and if he isn’t careful, he could fall into his own trap and forget to hold himself back, which would be his undoing. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if he did get cut next week – he’s somewhat annoying and I never saw his appeal.

By the way, the AI nemesis “Vote for the Worst” is claiming that sending Pia home and keeping Paul in was a VFTW miracle. That they haven’t figured out is that they are totally ineffective and couldn’t change the outcome of their own bowel movements by eating a case of prunes. That aside, and say what you will about his raspy voice, he gave an electrifying performance this week. He totally connects with the audience, is always picking songs that he can identify with and this comes through to the viewers.

Lastly, the only reason why Stefano was in the bottom three is because, well… someone had to be there. I’d say that if you want to keep him from getting cut you’d better advise him to push it even further with playing to the cameras. If the public doesn’t feel what he’s feeling when he sings, he’ll be going home next, because the Latino vote isn’t enough to keep him safe.

So please, American Idol Judges, start working a touch harder because your job is so much easier this year. The “Adam Lambert Factor” has finally kicked in and we’ve got people who really do know how to make these songs their own – in other words, we’ve got artists here and not just a bunch of singers. Of course, we know there can only be one winner so none of the cuts will be easy to take, especially with such a talented group of people. What you need to do now is encourage these newbies to boost their entertainment values and step up their emotional connections to the songs so that we can both see and hear these elements when they perform. If you can do this, and be honest with them and the American public when you see this is missing, you won’t be so surprised and shocked when the next elimination is announced.

Yours,

Davida (American Idol Critic) Chazan