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Published: Friday, 3/12/2010

After shocking 'Idol' elimination, is Bowersox safe?

Welcome to the Blade blog Culture Shock, a three-times-a-week riff by Pop Culture Editor Kirk Baird on pop culture news, events, and trends. The blog will appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings here, with the odd night or off-day posting if something is merited.

Crystal Bowersox surviving Thursday night's American Idol to become one of the show's dozen finalists wasn't shocking.

Who isn't joining her was.

Lilly Scott, the 20-year-old quirky indie girl with a fresh voice, was one of two women cut from the contest based on viewer votes. Joining her as former Idol contestant was 19-year-old Katelyn Epperly.

Meanwhile, on the guys' side, it wasn't much of a shocker. Eliminated Thursday night were Alex Lambert, 19, and Todrick Hall, 24, both from the Dallas-Forth Worth Metroplex.

As for the women, Epperly wasn't the weakest singer among the group. She has a decent voice, plays piano, and looks a bit like Meg Ryan during her "America's Sweetheart" days in the early 1990s. Those are good traits that could have kept her around a few more weeks. But really, was any consideration ever given to her as a serious contender?

That was never in doubt about Scott.

Two weeks ago she blew away three of the Idol judges with her performance of Sam Cooke's classic "A Change is Gonna Come."

"By far the best performance of the night," Ellen DeGeneres said. "By far."

And now Scott's off of the show.

Artistically, her elimination from Idol doesn't make sense. Scott was good but not great Tuesday night with a performance of Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces," which Simon Cowell said lacked "the wow factor" and "could have been a risky thing for you to do funny enough."

But the other judges were enamored with her and her performance.

Perhaps Cowell knows the show's viewers better than the other judges — or me, for that matter, because I saw little risk of Scott being dropped from the show because of that performance.

Not with a 17-year-old Katie Stevens struggling to find who she is as an artist. Stevens has a great voice, and if she auditioned five years from now — which she can no longer do after making it to the top 24 — she probably would have made a serious run at winning it all. But right now she lacks the poise, polish, and experience of an American Idol.

Not with an average-at-best Lacey Brown, 24, who should be thankful she's still around. Each week I think she's going home, but the church singer from Amarillo, Texas, keeps hanging around — perhaps by divine intervention. To be fair to Brown, her performance this week was her best yet.

Not with another 24-year-old Texan, Paige Miles, who struggles each week, even with what Cowell thinks may be the best voice of all the women. Miles can hit the soaring notes effortlessly, but she's hasn't connected with a song or the audience yet.

And not with the apparently one-trick pony 23-year-old Didi Benami. She's been a consistent disappointment after a flash of musical talent and potential during the Hollywood round with a memorable version of "Terrified," a song written by Idol judge Kara DioGuardi.

But even with all of their flaws and questionable Idol potential, those four women are now among the dozen finalists, including six men. Meanwhile, a shocked Scott was left wondering why she, and not one of them, was cut, as a stunned Bowersox and the other 11 remaining contestants looked on in disbelief.

"It's surprising, a lot of incredible talent is going home tonight," Scott said after learning the bad news. "I don't know what America wants to hear. I don't. I just know there's an audience out there for me."

And there is, on some indie label.

So, what does Scott's exit mean for Bowersox?

Well, good and bad:

Good in that probably her biggest female competition is gone. Bad in that Scott is also the closest singer resembling Bowersox, which makes you wonder if the 24-year-old Elliston, Ohio, resident is as safe as many — including me — thought.

Bowersox and Scott are independent artists with a strong sense of who they are as performers.

Both clearly care as much about the music as they do the vocals — neither has performed without playing an instrument.

And both are the most unIdol-like performers on the show this year. They don't smile as much as the other contestants, and seem a little uneasy having to perform the group numbers each week as though they're a member of the Osmonds. In a pop show full of mostly pop performers, they stand out as the indie-folk-rock souls they are.

Not fitting in is what ultimately cost Scott a shot at the Idol crown. Clearly, America doesn't want someone unique to the show, or she would still be around. I'm not sure that bodes well for Bowersox.

Two days ago on this blog I said Bowersox can win it all. After Thursday night's shocker, now I'm not sure.

It's not that I doubt her talent; I doubt the viewers.

So, can Bowersox win? Sure she can.

But will she win? I would like to think that remains a strong possibility. But I think if you were to ask Scott that question, she may have a different answer.

I feel like Culture Shock has been taken over by TV. Or was, until after the Oscar broadcast Sunday night, which not just leaves American Idol and the weekly Bowersox report, as the blog has become.

Not that I mind.

Bowersox's success on Idol is big news for Toledo. And if she wins, it'll be the biggest thing to happen to the town since, arguably, Katie Holmes tied the knot with Tom Cruise.

Meanwhile, some non-Idol thoughts:

I love Conan O'Brien's Twitter adoption of a young Michigan woman, and the positive impact it's had on her life. Hopefully, after his 30-city comedy tour this summer, he'll find time to be the best man at her wedding.

I also love the fact that Betty White will host Saturday Night Live, the successful conclusion to an Internet campaign started, presumably, by a White fan.

Agree or disagree with a posting? Lemme know. Have a topic or suggestion? Lemme know that, too. Send an e-mail to kbaird@theblade.com

or call 419-724-6734.

LINK: For all of Kirk Baird's Culture Shock riffs



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