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Posted by on May 17, 2007 in Arts & Entertainment | 21 comments

The end of Melinda Doolittle

(Sign of the Apocalypse #46 at The Reaction.)

I’ll admit it. I’ve watched pretty much all of American Idol this season. And it has been clear for a long time that the best of them all, by a lot, was Melinda Doolittle. Sure, she had her neuroses. Sure, she seemed a bit old, or old-fashioned. Sure, she didn’t always seem to reach the high standard she had set for herself with some exceptional early performances. But compare her to the rest of the mediocre top ten. Or compare her to Blake Lewis and Jordin Sparks, the other two of the final three. Jordin is young and raw, and has a great voice, if one that she has not always been able to control and that lacks precision. Blake is genuinely likeable, and did quite well with the beatboxing routine, but he has little to no range, seems cold and detached, and has been inconsistent. And Melinda? She was the consummate professional, an artist, the one who got it, the one who wasn’t just acting, the one who truly seemed to belong on that stage. And now, yes, now she’s done, voted out by the American people, leaving us with two amateurs, whatever their respective talents, to compete for the title.

It’s all a big joke, was my response upon hearing Ryan Seacrest announce last night that it was the end of the line for Melinda. And I stand by that. It’s one thing for someone like Sanjaya to make it far. He was a joke, and viewers were laughing at him even if they were voting for him. And of course it’s hardly to be expected that there would be much talent even in the top ten. It must be remembered, after all, that American Idol is a singing, beauty, and showmanship competition for amateurs. Most of it, even in the final weeks, is nothing but glorified karaoke, a shameless popularity contest. But this is what set Melinda apart. And, probably, why she didn’t win. She was above it all. One week the judges even lamented that they had nothing bad to say about her. In the end, that’s not the sort of idol Americans — or at least those who vote, vote, and vote again — want. She was too much of a sure thing.

Still, Melinda has proven herself. What does it matter that she didn’t win it all? She was too good for American Idol anyway.

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Copyright 2007 The Moderate Voice
  • aisle

    Melinda is a great singer. But she is a Jazz singer, a breed that has only niche appeal. I could never imagine her having a million-selling record.

  • Melinda was a very good singer, but she lacked charisma.

    In the 6 seasons I’ve watched the show, the best singer has NEVER won. Had they, the winners would have been (in order) Tamyra Gray, Clay Aiken, LaToya London, Bo Bice, and Elliott Yamin.

    That said, like Diana deGarmo had the best potential in Year 3, so does Jordin, and Blake is actually the best artist of this year’s mediocre bunch. Not a one of the three would have made Top 4 last year.

  • T-Steel

    Melinda is hardly just a jazz singer, aisle. She is a VERSATILE singer that can handle many genres. She reminds me of a young Gladys Knight with some Natalie Cole thrown in. I know one thing, I would pay solid dollars to see Melinda in front of a rock band. She has the vocal tone and prowess to do some damage.

  • AustinRoth

    Cos – who in season 1 was a better singer than Kelly Clarkson? Tamrya? Please. She was good, but she does not have the range, timbre or control of Kelly.

    I remember driving home, and my wife calling and saying that Kelly had just sung Harry Nilsson’s ‘Without You’, and it was incredible. My reply was that as he had a pure 8 octave range, there were maybe 10 professional singers in the world that could do it complete justice, but I was sure she did an ‘OK’ enough version.

    When I finally heard it, I was blown away. She hit all the notes, with subtly, control, etc.

    Quite frankly, AI got insanely lucky for her to be on season 1, cause otherwise the talent level since (except eventually Carrie Underwood and maybe Chris Doughtry) has been mediocre to slightly above average.

    Without her (pardon the pun), I don’t think the show would have gotten as big as it did.

  • There have been only three truly great singers on AI before this season- Aiken, London, and Yamin.

    Clarkson’s a teenybopper. Please. Doolittle is far better than Clarkson ever was. Without the manipulation of studio pros, Kelly is just another wannabe. That first season was ATROCIOUS! I recall watching after the Top five, and even Tamyra would not have made Top 6 the last two or three years.

    And Yamin is a jazz singer. He was th ebest singer on AI last night.

    Kelly Clarkson? Yeah, and Jessica Simpson’s even better.

  • Just watch Idol Rewind, and you’ll see that Kelly was lucky she was in Season one, or she’d still be playing Tejas bars.

  • PS- the show is called American IDOL, not SINGER, for a reason.

  • AustinRoth

    Cos – anyone who thinks Bo Bice should have won has no business criticizing other’s musical tastes. Talk about a bar band singer.

  • Yes, you’re right. He was so much worse than Country Barbie- er, Carrie Underwood.

    Stick to politics, AR. The arts are beyond you. Bice’s a capella song in the semis was, along w Blake’s Bon Jovi song, the gutsiest move in the show’s history- as well as great singing.

  • AustinRoth

    Well, lets see. Who has sold millions of albums? Who has won Grammys?

    Hmmm. Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood (who I don’t like, but who I do give credit to). Bo? Nope. Album tanked, critically ravaged.

    Or are you one of those who believes success means no artistic integrity?

    Finally, I have over 19,000 songs on my iTunes (in just about every genre that exists), I go to 20 to 30 full concerts and another 30 or 40 small venues per year; I am an annual member of both the Austin Symphony and the Bass Performing Arts Center; I play bass (concert and electric), my brother is a guitarist; my aunt plays cello with the New York Philharmonic; my uncle plays French Horn with the Denver Symphony; and my great-aunt was a touring piano soloist until her death.

    I DO think I know a bit about music and he arts. I just have different tastes than you (and don’t mistaken one a capella performance with overall ability).

    You are correct about Blake, though. That was a brilliant performance. But, as with Bo, it didn’t make him the year’s best singer. It just was one good performance.

  • ‘Or are you one of those who believes success means no artistic integrity?’

    No, but financial success has no equivalence with artistic success. Were that true Steven Spielberg wd be a better filmmaker than Ingmar Bergman, Dan Brown a better writer than William Kennedy, and Fifty Cent a better musician than your average Symphony violinist.

    It’s great that you have all those tunes. But, there is a diff between quantity and quality. Taste is what one likes. Excellence is an objective look at something. I like Godzilla films- they ain’t Kurosawa though. That you equate financial success with artistic success says alot, and not positively.

    I did say Melinda was this year’s best singer, but a singer is just an interpretive artist. They are nothing w/o a creative artist. Blake, and Bice, are musicians first, singers second. I doubt Carrie or Kelly could even string a couble of good verses together. Carrie, at least, is a babe, and younger Faith Hill, so all ain’t lost.

    But, w/o handlers, she’d have ended up a trophy wife.

  • And she still might!

  • kritter

    I loved Melinda, but she struck me as a throwback to the Gladys Knight era. She is a huge talent but may have not won over the show’s younger viewers who undoubtedly kept Sanjaya on for so many weeks. I think she wasn’t fresh or hip. Blake is hip, Jordin is fresh and young- the girl next door. But, I think Kelly blew them all away. Like Melinda she had a powerhouse voice, but unlike Melinda she looked more like a pop singer.

  • AustinRoth

    Cos – I don’t want to keep this going, because as you said, musical tastes are subjective. However, it is at least an indicator of some talent to have commercial success, critical respect, and win a Grammy (especially before you have been around so long they are making up for screwing you over when you were young).

    I also absolutely second the issue of a creative artist vs. a singing talent. Again, though, Kelly does write some of her material.

    Finally, you can have quality AND quantity. In fact, I don’t care how bad anyone’s taste in music is, you have that many songs and albums, just by accident you will have a fair amount of good music.

  • T-Steel

    Grammys are/can be bought. Billboard positions are/can be bought. Every AI winner has appeared in top positions on Billboard regardless of sales. The ONLY AI winner that has reach album sale status comparable to non-AI artists is Carrie Underwood. And that’s because country music artists routinely put up INSANE album sales because of rabid, supportive fans. No other genre of music supports its artists and fans like country music. Plain and simple.

  • AustinRoth

    T-Steel –

    Thankful = 2M+ US album sales

    Breakaway = “only the fourth album in history to stay in the Billboard 200 Top 20 for a consecutive year, as well as being certified five-times platinum in the U.S.”

    I say that is more than comparable to ‘non-AI’ stars.

  • T-Steel

    LOL! I’m not laughing at you AR. But just hearing the the whole Billboard “Top 20 for a consecutive year” is just hilarious. Those of us who’ve worked in the music biz (I worked for Vivendi Universal for 5 years) know how easy it is to buy the Top 20. Heck they even auction the positions off to the highest bidder sometimes.

    I don’t count “Thankful”. AI made sure her album was “bought up” by the record company. They didn’t want a failure. “Breakaway”… HMMM! Seems like I missed that one. Time to do some checking around.

  • AustinRoth

    Well, I cannot comment on Billboard, but 2m+ followed by 5M+ sales (US only), not counting singles, is nothing to sneeze at. Combined, more than Miss Underwood.

  • C Stanley

    cosmoetica Says:

    May 17th, 2007 at 3:21 pm
    PS- the show is called American IDOL, not SINGER, for a reason.


    Still, the ones who are good singers or artists are also getting a public showing which has led to some recording contracts, so even when they don’t win it doesn’t matter.

    And the show is what it is: entertainment (mostly). Personally I’m finding the banter between judges, host and contestants is getting really stale, and the “Simon is a meanie” thing is way past its ‘sell by’ date.

    And, I’m getting a bit tired of the pattern of a couple of talentless eye candy contestants plus one dorky guy making it to the midpoint of the season (at least they usually are out by that time). Probably not much that can be done about that, though.

  • I agree w T-Steel.

    The music biz is like the publishing racket. MFA programs and workshops promote their own graduates, rather than good writing, and similarly, connections play a part.

    I don’t think Kelly Clarkson is a bad singer- but Ella Fitzgerald, Karen Carpenter, or Judy Garland she ain’t!

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