How David Changed the AI Game

I had an epiphany tonight watching Idol’s Top 3 performances. It wasn’t just my usual flashback to David’s Top 3 performance of Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes.”

You know, the performance that officially transformed me from a regular fan of David to an outright Obsessive-Disorder-David fan.  🙂

Unlike that moment, when I was moved beyond all comprehension, no one really did it for me tonight for this Top 3 night. Yes, I was impressed with Joshua’s Fantasia-like gospel take of Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama” and was relieved that he neither ruined nor outshone David on “Imagine.” And while Jessica Sanchez impressed on “I’ll Be There,” she had no “moment.” Neither did Phillip Phillips to be honest, but then, being the WGWG, he does what he does well, and that’s all that’s needed.

Without any fanfare, I can predict that he will win Idol this year… unless voters really surprise us.

So, all this is to say: I had an epiphany.  All this time when complaining about the WGWG winner on Idol ever since David’s season, which gave us a David Cook win, I had been thinking that the other David is responsible for this slate of  generic winners. Now I realize that it is David Archuleta himself who might be responsible for this trend.


Who was looking at David Cook when all anyone could talk about was this phenomenal teenaged singer with the magical voice by the name of David Archuleta?  Heck, after singing “Imagine,” that’s all anyone could talk about.  David Archuleta gave us the watercooler moment on Idol.  Had David not been so damn good, his main competitor David Cook would never have stepped up his game.  Moreover, he would be doing the exact same thing Phillip Phillips has been doing this season, but doing so would have guaranteed that he got voted off early in the competition, rather than winning the whole shebang. Cook had to surprise us all by rocking out some pop/R&B hits; it was the only way he could wrest control of the competition and steal David’s shine.

In the wake of Cook’s win, it seems like AI voters have now gotten caught up in a certain style of musical performer: the WGWG.  And we have to really thank David for causing the archetypal WGWG to step up his game just to win.  Because of Cook, the others – especially someone like PP – can now simply coast.

Something else.  Before David, the soul-singing power-belters used to dominate the vocal stylings on this show.  But David changed that game too.  During his season, David added nuance, emotional delivery,vocal control, and an uncanny sense of when to let loose and when to rein it in.  He demonstrated vocal subtleties and melodrama when needed. He gave us melisma and beauty.  Granted, Melinda Doolittle demonstrated some of the same vocal mastery during her season the previous year, but with David, he took the vocal gift beyond just soul, jazz, and R&B.  He brought it to pop music and standards.  He showed us what true vocal genius was.

After David (or what I will simply call American Idol A.D.), the other vocalists simply don’t measure up. They don’t know how to do vocal subtlety, or they oversing (like Joshua tends to do at times) or fail to dig deep emotionally (a flaw of Jessica’s).  When the singers can’t “wow” us in the wake of A.D., what do we end up with?

You guessed it: WGWG.

We always have the alternative in the guitar-playing performer with okay vocals who offers us something else.

So, I’m kind of resigned to another WGWG winner this year.  I’m hoping that Joshua demonstrated just enough vocal talent to overcome, and I’m feeling like Jessica got thrown under a bus tonight, but at least with this epiphany, I get why the winners have looked the way they have these past years.

Obviously, we need a real Game Changer in the next season if we’re not going to go for “diversity.”

Posted on May 17, 2012, in American Idol. Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. HG,

    I knew you would not let me down. I knew you would post after someone sang Imagine on Idol A.D.

    Interesting take on the trend towards WGWG and I think I agree. There was just something missing despite the pretty good talent I was seeing tonight. I would love to see Joshua or Jessica win, but in my opinion, Joshua over- sings, and Jessica doesn’t consistently connect with the music. They both seem to lack subtly. I do have to say I find P.P. the most entertaining because there is a joyful quality to his performance. At first he seemed like a Dave Mathews copy cat but now comes across as more genuine. With P.P. It’s kind of like settling for fun if you can’t have great.

    My take on the contestants is based on spotty viewing. Only season seven hooked me. The picture above documents the when and why of what hooked me and progressed to my first ever and only fan experience.

    As always, loved reading your post.

    • I agree that there was really no “wow” performance last night. I started out being a big Jessica fan but I just lost my enthusiasm for her. I still think she has a beautiful voice. I also like Josh but I am not that excited about him. Jimmy has made it clear that all 3 will get recording contracts so I don’t really care who wins. I guess the one who sells the most albums and concert tickets long-term not just short-term will be the real winner. I am not sure if that will be any of them. I have never ever like the WGWG on AI but I do like P2 and I think you just explained why I do. P2 is also not the best singer but he is by far the most entertaining . “but with David, he took the vocal gift beyond just soul, jazz, and R&B. He brought it to pop music and standards. He showed us what true vocal genius was.”——So true hg. That is why we all miss him on AI this year and every year since he S7.

  2. I’ll write more when I get off of work but I wonder if Taylor Hicks was the actual game changer. His harmonica playing had some viewers thinking of him as the “real” musician that season. Reading AI blogs, P2 seems to get that recognition this year. In Shirley H’s recdnt interview with Cook, she told him he was popular because his presence on the show was organic and that he was a real musician. P2 is given that same benefit of doubt.

  3. Another great post, HG. David is a musician too – he plays the piano. I’m thinking that David may end up being the real winner of season 7. I’m hoping he comes back and takes off where he left off. I think David will have more opportunities than Cook in the future, but we shall see.

    Changing the subject, but Kari tweeted this:
    David Archuleta ‏@DavidArchie
    After seeing the BENCH FIX Billboard for the first time in Manila —–>
    I’m so glad that Kari is feeding up pictures and videos!

    • Grammyj, I too think that David will be the real winner of season 7 in the long run. Nothing against the winner. What is planned for him while he is away will be a big factor on his future return to his music career, imo. So far…Kari is doing a fabulous job.

    • Have to add the picture that goes along with that video:

      LOL!! David face! LOVE IT.
      Kari is so awesome to keep sharing little things like this with us.

  4. RIP Donna Summer.

    • So sad about her. I read she was never comfortable with the sex symbol image she had at the start of her career.

  5. I’m starting to think Joshua’s singing of Imagine turned out to be an unexpected gift. It awoke the sleeping giant of people suddenly remembering just how great David’s version was in comparison. The end result is fresh buzz once again all across the web from tweets to various idol review blogs. At this rate David may end up more popular than when he left.

    Thanks for the David pic and short vlog Grammyj and Ali!

    • That is good to know that David is getting that kind of buzz. I think it is going to be a close vote between Joshua and Jessica tonight. I have no idea what way it will go other than P2 being in the finale.

  6. Saw this posted in the FOD Comments and thought it was interesting. I’m thinking David was influenced in many ways by his close association with artists such as Rocket Summer and Civil Wars.

    • that’s an insightful article. i still remember when david and rocket summer went to see beyonce in concert.

  7. I just watched the video clip of our smiley guy looking at his billboard. It reminds me of the “gosh …. where did they all park” clip. 🙂

  8. Would love to comment but am currently completely overcome by the “And So It Goes” video which I haven’t watched in far too long. Great blog HG.

    Once they’ve had the greatest singer of a generation, what is left? WGWG.

  9. Well, Jessica made it into the finals! I thought is would be Joshua. Of course Phillip made it in. Looks like we will have WGWG winner again, but I do like Phillip. It would be quite a surprise if Jessica would beat him.

    • I agree grammyj. I like both P2 and Jessica but based on just last night I would have preferred a P2 vs Joshua finale. I honestly think all three of them will be fine as they will all have recording deals and they are all very talented. We all know that it doesn’t matter who wins given AI’s past track record with winners. lol I thought Joshua did an amazing sing off tonight. I think P2 has this win locked up and I am OK with it.

  10. I liked this tweet:
    Ben Chan ‏@BCbench
    @kariontour BENCH misses you guys too. You’re so professional and perhaps the easiest team to work with. Hope to see u soon again.

    Hope David works with Bench when he gets back. I love the big billboard and Bench photo shoot.

  11. hell0g0rge0us

    Wow, Jessica v. Phillip 2. Jessica can wipe the floor with him singing wise but performance wise? Let us wait and see…

    In other news, RIP Donna Summer. We’re losing our great music artists this year.

  12. hell0g0rge0us

    OMG! 😆

    Saw this comment over at MJs from someone called “Black Swan”:

    On one hand, my brain is saying… P2 could come out next week and completely suck on all three songs while kicking a dog on the stage and then telling America to kiss his you know what while Jessica has 3 moments and P2 will still win in a landslide.

    On the other hand, my heart is saying… this could very well be the year that a girl finally breaks through and all Jessica needs to do is have an outstanding night of “I Will Always Love You” and “I Am Telling You…”

    So, I am obviously torn on what could potentially happen.

    The cynical Idol fan in me says… do NOT bet against the dude.
    The Idol fan in me screaming for a change says… believe. This is the year.

    Pretty much my own sentiment…

  13. I almost feel sorry for whoever wins after watching Adam Lambert, because except perhaps for country music, I cannot believe such awesome voices which shine on the show are reduced to performing inane melody and lyrics when they get into the industry. Don’t even talk when you turn on the radio. If Melanie Amaro (x-factor) has no place, how can Jessica? I don’t even know which genre would best fit Phillip or Joshua? (I think Joshua knew his time was up because he was very subdued tonight.) I have purchased a few tracks on Itunes from each of these singers. Holly has an awesome studio voice btw!

    I guess I have a bee in my bonnet because since the David drought, I have been listening to great classic singers – Aretha, Dionne Warwick, to name a few, and their beautifully written and constructed retro songs on YT.

    More and more I believe David was right to go independent, but of course you have to play the game – visiting radio stations etc. for some time before you can it seems. Sigh…

    • I agree with you joymus. The music that is popular today and played on the radio is mainly not good. Not a lot of great songs being written and played on the radio in my estimation. I don’t think David will go back to a major label when he gets back. He tried and after Crush he couldn’t get radio play. I still haven’t figured out how an artist can get their song played on the radio. The only sure way I’ve seen is to somehow get Z100 to debut your single live on their station. That worked for David, Kris Allen, and Jordin Sparks on their first singles.

      • Kris Allen’s second album is being released next week. It will be interesting to see how it does. I have my doubts about it.

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