THE BEST AMERICAN IDOL SEASON — A EUROVISION-STYLE COUNTDOWN (9TH PLACE)

Arguably, most of the contestants who placed 9th in American Idol are generally weaker than the ones who placed 10th, and several were noted for horrendous butchering of some revered classics.  If I used a grading system instead, contestants ranked from fifth downwards would probably get my lowest grades for almost all contestants.  I feel a bit sad about this because a couple of those ninth placers have roots in my country, the Philippines.

To break the eighth place tie for Season 9, I have to rate Katie Stevens as inferior to Andrew Garcia, because even if Andrew screwed it up mostly in the live rounds (with the exception of a pretty acoustic cover of Chris Brown’s “Forever”), he had moments unlike this girl’s generally forgettable performances.

Sept (7) pwah(n)t – Nikko Smith (Season 4)

Six (6) pwah(n)t – Megan Joy (Season 8)

Cinq (5) pwah(n)t – Gina Glocksen (Season 6)

Quartre (4) pwah(n)t – Ramiele Malubay (Season 7)

Trois (3) pwah(n)t – Katie Stevens (Season 9)

Deux (2) pwah(n)t – EJ Day (Season 1)

Un (1) pwah(n)t – Camille Velasco (Season 3)

Here are my Top Three 9th place finishers, starting with:

Huit (8) Pwah(n)t – Heejun Han (Season 11).  Yes, in terms of vocal ability Heejun Han is the weakest link in his season’s Top 10–but if you pit his body of work against the performances of his 9th place peers, he delivered more solid performances than them.  And yes, technically Nikko Smith is a better singer than Heejun–but Heejun is one of Idol‘s most unforgettable personalities, while Nikko’s persona and performances were generally milquetoast.

I know Idol fans all over have maligned his interpretation of Billy Joel’s “My Life”, but though I acknowledged the comedy bit backfired and he veered off-pitch, he actually conveyed the song’s message effectively as he clearly understood the lyrics he’s singing.  Besides, his performance isn’t too far from the way Billy Joel would actually tackle this song in his concerts, especially in his latter years.  And yes, this performance is significantly better than, say, Ramiele Malubay’s version of Heart’s “Alone” or Camille Velasco’s version of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.

Heejun’s best musical performance was during the week he was eliminated when he performed Leon Russell’s much-covered chestnut (though typically credited to Donny Hathaway) “A Song for You”.  Yes, nothing compares to Elliott Yamin’s definitive rendition, but Heejun’s effort was more than solid (though not standing ovation-worthy, I have to admit).  It helps that as Heejun admitted in a radio interview, he had been singing this song for several years when he was trying to make it in South Korean showbiz.  So below is that performance…

Dix (10) Pwah(n)t – Mandisa (Season 5).  This force-of-nature gospel diva was one of my favorites of Season 5, and I was expecting her to go as far as Top Five.  She was consistently top-notch and 98% on-pitch in her performances, plus a polished and confident performer.  But unfortunately she was clearly out of her element during Country Week performing Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine”.  But then again, even that performance was mostly in-tune and solid.  She was never in danger of elimination in prior weeks so this was a shock boot.  Anyway, at least she has a thriving gospel recording career post-Idol, being able to consistently sell over at least 150,000 copies of her albums in a currently depressed albums market.  Amongst her strong body of Idol work, I will highlight her performance of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” during Top 16 semifinal round.

Douze (12) Pwah(n)t – Pia Toscano (Season 10).  Many Idol pundits believed that based on her performances during the live rounds, a Top Five slot would be guaranteed.  Sure Nigel Lythgoe pointed out after her shock boot that Pia was never a front-runner, but take note she was never in the bottom three prior to that boot.  She has the gift of great looks combined with a knack of consistently staying on-pitch during her performances (well, maybe that one exception when she was distracted as she sang her swan song).  Some Idol pundits may regard her as bland and boring as she tends to stick mainly to ballads (a backing track dance remix to Whitney Houston’s ballad “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” doesn’t count as she still sang it ballad-style).  But the way she performed them are unquestionably top-notch and impeccable, and that should amount to something.  For me her best performance was her rendition of the Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You” during the semifinal round, and to show that she can perform other than ballads, I’ll also showcase her group performance of ‘Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” (featuring eventual Season 11 villainess and semifinalist Brielle Von Hugel) during Hollywood Week.

The recipient of the dreaded nul (0) pwah(n)t in this group?  Season 2’s Corey Clark, disqualified because he failed to disclose a previous criminal record.

Here’s how the 11 “teams” (or seasons) stand after we factor in this group:

1 (TIE).  Season 11 – 20 points

1 (TIE).  Season 10 – 20 points

3. Season 5 – 16 points

4. Season 9 – 13 points

5 (TIE). Season 4 – 12 points

5 (TIE). Season 6 – 12 points

7. Season 7 – 7 points

8. Season 8 – 6 points

9. Season 3 – 5 points

10. Season 1 – 3 points

11. Season 2 – 2 points

Thanks to Mandisa’s contribution, Season 5 is the biggest mover in this round.  Will the ties be broken after we factor in the 8th placers?  Will we see some clearer leaders in the next round?  Stay tuned!

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