THE BEST AMERICAN IDOL SEASON — A EUROVISION-STYLE COUNTDOWN (4TH PLACE)

The contestants who finished 4th in all seasons of American Idol have justifiable merits to rank that high.  It’s such a shame that for this exercise, some would earn low points.  For instance, the one who would garner the dreaded nul pwah(n)t in this round is actually better than the 9th placer who garnered 8 points, for instance.

Just like my countdown of the 6th place Idol finalists, I will actually highlight seven instead of the usual Top Three.  So here are the ones taking up the rear, including the one who unfortunately earned the dreaded nul (0) pwah(n)t:

Trois (3) pwah(n)t – Lakisha Jones (Season 6)

Deux (2) pwah(n)t – Josh Gracin (Season 2)

Un (1) pwah(n)t – Anthony Federov (Season 4)

Nul (0) pwah(n)t – Michael Lynche (Season 9)

Several Idol fans and pundits have regarded Anthony Federov as unworthy of his placement, especially in light of the shock boot of Constantine Maroulis.  And I’m certain, they’d rather give Anthony nul pwah(n)t instead of Michael Lynche.  But I’m in the minority who actually liked Anthony’s performances and found his singing generally on-key and his tone sweet-sounding and pleasant.  It was admittedly splitting hairs when I decided that Michael Lynche would take the rear in this group.  And some might wonder about Josh Gracin’s very low ranking, especially considering he actually outsold all of his 4th place peers with the exception of one post-Idol–I just am not impressed with his performances at all and the 4th placers who ranked higher than him have such a stronger body of performances.

Now, let’s highlight the talent starting with:

Quartre (4) Pwah(n)t – Hollie Cavanagh (Season 11).  Some fans and pundits have argued that this blonde British-Texan had outlived her welcome having outlasted stellar contenders like Colton Dixon, Elise Testone, and Skylar Laine.  But there are passionate defenders in her corner who would note that even in her weakest performances, her renowned “big-girl” voice continued to generate moments, and there is the fact that despite the weak middle section of performances, she let loose a series of confident and assured performances from the second Top Seven week to Top Five week to justify her placement.    It is from those series of performances I will highlight what I deemed are her three best:  her trademark piece with Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb”*, her pied-piper-eseque version of Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep Mountain High” and her sublime, intimate version of Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love”.

* It also seemed so apt that this song seems to aptly depict her Idol journey even from the start when she auditioned back in Season 10, and how that song was the one that allowed the judges to send her through to Hollywood that season (though ultimately missing the cut for the semifinals in Season 10) after she nervously botched her first song, Etta James’s “At Last”.  For a contrast from where she started, click here for her Season 10 audition video.

Cinq (5) Pwah(n)t – Jason Castro (Season 7).  This dreadlocked acoustic musician may often had the look of a stoner crossed with a deer-in-the-headlights, but he makes part of what usually turns out to be a wonderfully eclectic mix of personalities that was Season 7.  He might have a slighter voice than several of his counterparts, but he knows how to use it to great effect, and provided a watercooler highlight with his semifinals performance of Leonard Cohen (later popularized by Jeff Buckley)’s “Hallelujah” (which incidentally then stirred up digital sales of the Jeff Buckley version of the song, propelling it all the way to No. 1 on the Hot Digital Songs chart).  I will also highlight his version of Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (done in the style of the late Hawaiian folk singer Israel Kamakawiwoʻole) and Mariah Carey’s “I Don’t Wanna Cry”.

Six (6) Pwah(n)t – James Durbin (Season 10).  I was concerned after watching his audition and in rounds preceding the live competition that he would be like Jacob Lusk and would go over-the-top and out-of-control with his vocals.  But as the live rounds began, I was surprised that he actually knows how to control his instrument, and as the weeks wore on he generated a consistently high quality body of work that it’s almost to the point that he could conceivably usurp Scotty McCreery’s perch as the favorite to win.  Well, the country contingent seemed to be in full force that season and considering Haley Reinhart’s arsenal of Idol “moments”, there was little room for him to advance further (though I wished Lauren Alaina would have been eliminated at this point).  The three best out of a sterling set of performances for me are his emotional take on Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed”, his ferocious take on Muse’s “Uprising”, and his lovely-but-still-rocking take on the Carole King-written hit by the Shirelles, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”

Sept (7) Pwah(n)t – LaToya London (Season 3).  It was supposed to be a showdown of the divas for the finale during Season 3 between this lady and Fantasia Barrino, and I thought this lady’s more controlled, pitch-perfect, well-enunciated delivery in her performances gave her the edge over Fantasia.  But it was shocking that despite sterling performances she was ousted in 4th place, overtaken by the clearly inferior Jasmine Trias and Diana DeGarmo.

She clearly made a major splash in her opening semifinal performance, blowing everyone away performing Eric Carmen (via Celine Dion)’s “All By Myself”.  I will also highlight two performances that were precursors to her eventual career in musical theater, West Side Story‘s “Somewhere” and Funny Girl‘s “Don’t Rain on My Parade”.

Huit (8) Pwah(n)t – Allison Iraheta (Season 8).  This spunky, pink-haired, teenage rocker was not highlighted during the audition rounds, but she made her presence majorly felt in the semifinals with her killer performance of Heart’s “Alone”.  It’s a major challenge for me to select only three to highlight from her arsenal of awesome performances, but the last three performances she did were major standouts.  So what if the last two performances were during the week she was eliminated?  I resent the voting fanbase for allowing Danny Gokey to stay (with his legendarily horrendous slaughter of Aerosmith’s “Dream On”) over the sterling performance given by this lady.  Well, anyway, here are her performances of the old standard “Someone to Watch Over Me”, her solo performance of “Cry Baby” (originated by Garnett Mimms and the Enchanters, but is now more associated with Janis Joplin), and her duet of Foghat’s “Slow Ride” with Adam Lambert.

Dix Pwah(n)t – Tamyra Gray (Season 1).  She was the first person ever to be considered a “shock boot” in American Idol as the media and the public assumed the finale will be a showdown between her and Kelly Clarkson.  She has the perfect combination of beauty, style, and vocal talent that would’ve made an ideal, quintessential pop idol.  Fourth place is such a major insult for what she has contributed to this show, and she also deserved a better break post-Idol, but so far was not granted the success she deserves as a performer.  As a consolation, though, she co-wrote a No. 1 hit with Fantasia’s Idol-winning song, “I Believe”.

Her series of live performances on the Idol stage were so consistently strong (with the exception of “New Attitude” which was the factor that may have led to her shocking ouster) it was difficult for me to select three highlights.  But hopefully this selection would serve her well:  her semifinal performance of the Dreamgirls classic “And I’m Telling You (I’m Not Going)”, her classic take on Luther Vandross’s version of “A House is Not a Home”, and as a contrasting take, her hyperactive version of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher”.

Douze Pwah(n)t – Chris Daughtry (Season 5).  With his eventual multi-platinum selling success as the leader of the band that carries his surname, it’s obvious that this guy will rule the roost amongst the fourth placers.  He was the major favorite to win in his season (it was expected to be a showdown between him and Taylor Hicks or Katharine McPhee), that despite solid performances during Elvis week it was perceived as a major injustice that he was booted that week.  He at least joined in the illustrious company of James Durbin, Tamyra Gray, and LaToya London as front-running shock boots.

Like Tamyra, he has an exceptional body of work that highlighting only three would be a bit of an injustice.  But the ones with the biggest buzz were his semifinal performance of Fuel’s “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)”, Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”, and as a contrast, his romantic take on Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” (featuring funny mentoring session with David Foster and Andrea Bocelli).

How does Chris Daughtry’s 12 points affect the standings?  Here it goes:

1. Season 11 – 60 points

2. Season 5 – 54 points

3. Season 10 – 51 points

4. Season 7 – 45 points

5. Season 4 – 40 points

6. Season 3 – 38 points

7. Season 8 – 36 points

8. Season 1 – 24 points

9. Season 9 – 22 points

10. Season 6 – 21 points

11. Season 2 – 15 points

Season 5 finally has made its presence felt and surged past Season 10 for 2nd place.  Will the upward momentum be sustained and will Team Season 5 finally overtake Season 11?  This is especially since the next round features Elliott Yamin.  But then again, Elliott has a formidable contender with a powerhouse female vocalist from a not-so-well-regarded season (currently languishing in the bottom rungs but could benefit from her contribution).  Expect my next post after the outcome of the Season 11 Top Three is accounted for.

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