THE BEST AMERICAN IDOL SEASON — A EUROVISION-STYLE COUNTDOWN (5TH PLACE)

Unlike the utterly exciting batch of 6th place finalists, the finalists who placed 5th (with the exception of one) are generally an extremely inconsistent bunch, peppering some strong performances with some botched jobs or snoozers.  Unlike the seven I chose to highlight in my previous countdown, I’ll only highlight four this time.

So, here are the 5th placers ranked from 5th to 10th:

Six (6) pwah(n)t – Matt Giraud (Season 8)

Cinq (5) pwah(n)t – Trenyce (Season 2)

Quartre (4) pwah(n)t – RJ Helton (Season 1)

Trois (3) pwah(n)t – Jacob Lusk (Season 10)

Deux (2) pwah(n)t – Chris Richardson (Season 6)

Un (1) pwah(n)t – Scott Savol (Season 4)

Now, let’s highlight the four highest ranked 5th placers on my list, starting with…

Sept (7) pwah(n)t – Paris Bennett (Season 5).  She got a status of a possible front-runner from her audition, as she sang  the Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away” and added Billie Holliday’s “Take Five” as a lovely bonus.  The latter song particularly excited several Idol fans and pundits.  None of her subsequent performances was able to recapture the magic of her audition, but she has left a solid body of work that you can enjoy listening to.  Besides her famous audition, I’ll also showcase her takes on an old standard, “These Foolish Things” and Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia”.

Huit (8) Pwah(n)t – George Huff (Season 3).  He was the last male standing in Season 3, and he left behind a more consistent body of solid work than Paris that is why I have to rank him higher.  It’s hard to find YouTube videos of his journey in American Idol so I could only highlight two performances–his awesome performance of Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot” (with heavy bouncing thigh workouts), and his take on Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds (Take A Look at Me Now)”, the latter a song that has been butchered and mutilated by several semifinalists and finalists–so far his is probably the best rendition of that song in Idol history.

Dix (10) Pwah(n)t – Brooke White (Season 7).  She’s the first female singer who was permitted to play instruments as she performed (she plays guitar and piano).  She has a sweet, earnest tone in her singing and her artistry is in full display as she plays her instrument.  It’s such a shame that in latter weeks she started to have meltdowns, especially as exhibited with her botched job to Madonna’s “You Must Love Me” for Andrew Lloyd Webber week.

She at least went on to a steady folk-pop career, now as part of a duo called Jack & White.  Let’s celebrate her Idol highlights with Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”, the Beatles’ “Let it Be” and her acoustic take on Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield”.

Douze (12) Pwah(n)t – Skylar Laine (Season 11).  Dominating this group by a huge margin is this country-blues firecracker.  Her weakest performances would probably be considered one of the highlights of any of the other finalists in this group (or any typical finalist, for that matter), that’s how formidable her body of work was.  She shares the same trait as last season’s 2nd placer, Lauren Alaina, that they both are in the country genre, and both dropped their actual last names (Skylar’s real surname is Harden, while Lauren’s is Suddeth).  But I dare argue that she is leagues better and more interesting than Lauren (or even last year’s champion Scotty McCreery, for that matter).  It’s rare to find someone who is able to infuse her own personality on every single song, even if she is simply being faithful to the song’s melody.  But of course, what she’s best known for is her “unbridled” energy, as displayed in numbers like the Faces’ “Stay With Me”.

She may not be pretty as Carrie Underwood, but I have a strong feeling given the right material and the right support she could become a major country superstar and leave Scotty McCreery in the dust.  She could be like Reba McEntire’s successor (and maybe after her obligatory contract with 19 Entertainment expires, Reba can swoop right in and take her under her wing), a bluesier, feistier, ballsier version of her who can deliver on an eclectic mix of material from sweet sentimental ballads, to rootsy bluegrass or folk numbers, to rousing barn-burners (hope to hear several of those). to maybe even a few contemporary pop-country ditties thrown into the mix.

My three favorite peroformances of her that I’ll highlight are her scintillatingly rousing semifinal performance of Faces’ “Stay With Me” (“Come on! Get up! Get up now!”), her tender-to-diva-rrific reading of “Wind Beneath My Wings” (most popularized by Bette Midler), and her more authentically rootiser, countrified version of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.

Skylar’s 12 points helped Season 11 pull away further from the pack in the lead.  Let’s now take a look at how the other seasons stack up:

1. Season 11 – 56 points

2. Season 10 – 45 points

3. Season 5 – 42 points

4. Season 7 – 40 points

5. Season 4 – 39 points

6. Season 3 – 31 points

7. Season 8 – 28 points

8. Season 9 – 22 points

9. Season 6 – 18 points

10.  Season 1 – 14 points

11.  Season 2 – 13 points

Garnering the dubious honor of receiving nul (0) pwah(n)t?  “High school student” Aaron Kelly of Season 9.

As expected, Season 4 dropped back to 5th place after accounting for Scott Savol’s weak rating, and Season 5 came roaring back up again to third.  The next countdown features some exciting heavy hitters, and I have a strong feeling there would be a shakeup in the rankings in the next round (SPOILER ALERT: Season 5 will clearly soar up the rankings).  But I’ll post that after we learn the Season 11 results this week.

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