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Winning American Idol: country blessing or curse?

Jeffrey Remz  |  May 27, 2011

I am not a fan of American Idol. Never have been. Well, I used to watch it a bit in its early phases, but, in general, I steer real clear of that made for that fantasy TV of musical wannabees.

Nothing changed for me this year, but it was different because the two finalists - Scotty McCreery of South Carolina and Lauren Alaina of Tennessee - are considered country singers. McCreery cites Josh Turner as an influence and even sang with him. In a story in the May 26 New York Times, John Caramanica described McCreery as having sung early on "in an exaggeratedly low baritone with little depth, an able mimic of a singer like Josh Turner, a faint outline of a Randy Travis. But as the weeks progressed, he trusted his true tenor more, and he evolved from shtick to feeling."

The lack of authenticity often is missing among the AI contestants. One feels that they're performing, but not living and breathing the songs. Maybe that's why so few of them end up having a career of any longevity. Over the history of the show, many singers could have defined milquetoast.

I mean do many people still really care about Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen or David Cook?

Based on her first, just released single, Like My Mother Does, Alaina is not what you'd call hard-core country exactly. Carrie Underwood sang with her at the end of AI, and that seemed like a fitting touchstone for her.

There are no guarantees for McCreery and Alaina. Caramanica said "McCreery is the most commercially viable "Idol" winner in recent years, and for once, that's not a footnote."

Caramanica's closing paragraph underscores the problems faced by Alaina and McCreery as they go forward.

"But these match-ups also revealed the weaknesses of the top two finalists. Mr. McCreery sang "Live Like You Were Dying" with Mr. McGraw - at least, the parts not about being in your 40s - and he looked eager, if handily outweighed. Ms. Underwood sang a duet of her hit Before He Cheats with Ms. Alaina, who kept up, mostly, with the vocals but only nominally with the angst. Whoever claimed the title, it was clear there would be a great deal of road to travel before becoming something more than just the winner of 'American Idol.'"

Whether they go the way of Underwood or follow in the footsteps of almost every performer on Nashville Star, of course, remains an unknown at this point. The finalists are young and have a future, but whether it will be what they want to do and are comfortable with or done at the behest of the handlers could well determine whether they have careers.

I will be paying attention to that.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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