Bryan’s Diatribes Against Pop Culture: David Archuleta

Really, this type of column is overdue. And really, American Idol is overdue as a victim to diatribes. I could have done one in the show’s opening weeks, about the structure of the tryout shows are well-worn. Mark Donohue at the Toaster Network had a good suggestion that the producers should value — we really should be seeing every single person that goes to Hollywood before Hollywood. Part of the reason for the show’s success is that in invokes a sense of ownership between viewer and contestants. The more contestants we see, the more ownership involved, and the more success the show has. How do these producers have jobs?

And, really, I should have done a diatribe against Paula Abdul long ago. Do you find it insane that you live in a society that, within the last year, had Paula Abdul as a central character in TWO shows (her reality show and Idol)? I’m not okay with this. But to write that diatribe properly, I would have had to TiVO the entire season, and kept arduous notes the 9,831 times that Paula said something that was so stupid it was noteworthy. As I sit here now, I can only think of one: last week, when she threatened to rip off David Archuleta’s head and hang it from her rear view mirror.

Which brings us to David Archuleta. This season on Idol, Ryan Seacrest has literally shoved down our throats that it is the “most talented season ever.” When we got down to 24, I thought collectively, that argument made sense. Now, Archuleta’s “Imagine” is one of the only resonating performances of the season.

And for that reason, everyone, EVERYONE, assumes he is going to win, or as Simon said last night, “definitely be in the final two.” Um … what?

Don’t we see a parallel here to last season? How is the path Archuleta is headed down not the same as Melinda Doolittle a year ago? That path is: use a big voice to blow it out and outshine competition early, establish yourself as a favorite, never reach a bar you did in February again, and gradually lose connection to the audience. And what Simon was trying to say last night when he said Archuleta was getting a little gloomy — which was the complete wrong word, as Simon was then implying that one of the greatest written songs of any British artist ever is gloomy when it’s actually a song of hope, but whatever — was that Archuleta has only sung ballads so far well. Eventually, something upbeat is going to have to happen.

Hell, Doolittle and Archuleta even have that annoying “I can’t believe the judges just gave me a positive response” look in common.

In the end, Archuleta’s biggest problem will be cultural relevance. What kind of music will he record be? The first person I thought of was Robin Thicke, whose voice is too high, but you get where I’m coming from. And I can promise you Archuleta will not be featured on a 50 Cent album any time in the next ten years. So, who?

Outside of being the Sonny to Miley Cyrus’ Cher, I don’t see it. David Archuleta can sing like crazy, but this assumption that he is going to win Idol now, 3 months early, is ridiculous.


8 Responses to Bryan’s Diatribes Against Pop Culture: David Archuleta

  1. Jon says:

    Great column Bry, I completely agree and was absolutely livid at Simon’s “final two” comment last night. I see Archuleta as the “fraternity puppy dog” of the competition…inevitably cute and well-liked, but there will come a day for him to die.

    That said, if you’re arguing against his viability as an actual recording artist, then who from this season can be the breakout success story in terms of sales?

  2. Bryan says:

    Well, I haven’t watched enough of the girls, but I think there is some potential there. I like Syesha Mercado a lot … or I did in the early rounds .. both as the show’s best looking female left, and as an actual performer. Don’t know how she’s done in recent weeks, though. And then … maybe Brooke White from the female side, if retro becomes big again? Probably not, though.

    On the guys side, I’m with Simon in thinking Michael Johns is going to break out of his shell and come up big. This is a series, like any playoffs in sport, where getting hot at the right time matters … and he’s been getting through on potential. If he blows up, I could see him blow right into a top 40 album.

  3. Bryan says:

    BTW, I just re-watched David Cook’s take on Lionel Richie for the second time on YouTube, and I agree with Randy … it just might be able to be a hit right now. But he’s the type that would fit much better as the lead singer to a band than off on his own — which is to often the downfall of guys on American Idol. Girls don’t face that same problem, unless your name is Amanda Overmeyer, and by band, I mean cover band that plays gigs in a 20-mile radius.

  4. rascal says:

    hey Bryan – I think the only way to process Paula is to laugh. Someone posted yesterday that AI should distribute decoder rings so that we can all understand what in the hell she’s talking about.

    I think you’ve missed one critical factor in the Archuleta/Doolittle parallel that I predict will change the nature of the outcome in a fundamental way: Melinda never had the tenacious tween-girl (and their mothers and grandmothers) support that David has. And unless he really screws it up, loses his voice, or gets outted as a gay male stripper (I can dream, can’t I?), he’s unlikely to lose that support.

  5. Jon says:

    btw, paula was much more than just stupid last night. she was blatantly, blatantly on something.

  6. Bryan says:

    Good point Rascal, re the tweeny influence David commands. When we think of AI, we certainly do think of tweenies, so for fun, I want to go through and see what a tween-girl would have done in the first six seasons:

    Season 1: Kelly or Justin. I think they split here. Justin as the ‘good-looking’ pop guy, Kelly as the big singer and other pop artist.

    Season 2: Ruben or Clay. They, absolutely, would have chosen Clay here, and they were responsible for Clay selling any copies of his first album.

    Season 3: Fantasia or Diana. I was drunk for most of this season I guess, because I don’t remember Diana in the slightest. But since she was 16, I think tween-girls pick her.

    Season 4: Carrie or Bo. No contest, they pick Carrie. Did anyone pick Bo?

    Season 5: Taylor or McPhee. Again, they go female pop singer over that dude with gray hair. How the FUCK did Taylor ever win AI

    Season 6: Jordin or Blake. Answer: Sanjaya. Kidding. Sort of. Of the final two, I think they would pick Jordin, but that’s not definitive. The younger half of tweenies pick Jordin, the older Blake, I’d guess. But I’ll say Jordin.

    So the first season they split, but in the next five, the tweeny candidate (if only I could do this type of analysis for CNN about Obama-Clinton) won just twice, and just once definitively. So even still, I don’t think David Archuleta wins Idol. If he does, I think his success is more Taylor-Fantasia-Ruben than the others.

  7. rascal says:

    First I’ve seen that analysis laid out out so clearly–nicely done, Bryan! Certainly gives the lie to any of the prevailing “single factor” theories, including producer conspiracy (I’ve always thought that one was the weakest).

    I’ve not been an avid AI devotee, I think I watched all or most of 1 and 2, and at least some of 4 and 5. I was a little bit of a singing sensation when I was a kid/teen, and I now work in the entertainment and advertising industries as a director, and I’m here to say that David Archuleta will not only win this thing, he will win it BY A MILE. As in: not even close.

    David is the nearest thing ever to what this contest was designed to produce: good-looking, wholesome, broad appeal with incredible musicianship (he is unerring in this department, IMO) and–importantly–soul.

    What will he record? Who knows. Maybe he’ll be a new category, his own category. Justin Guarini in his re-cap blog said of David today, “I think we’re watching history folks.” I agree.

    Oh, and his slightly-less-than-perfect performance this week? Turns out he has strep.

  8. […] of boy/girl nights and into the seventh season’s long-awaited Top 12 — which, as Bryan complained about yesterday, is just another extended diversion until David Archuleta makes the Top […]

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