Friday, April 15, 2011

American Idol Season 10, Top 8 Results Show -- RIP Paul McDonald

Friends, American Idol fans, blog readers, lend me your ears;

I come to bury Paul McDonald, not to praise him.

The manic drunk chicken dancing and thin croaky singing that men do lives after them;

The high wattage smile and Mariachi-inspired outfits are oft interred with their bones;

So let it be with Paul. The noble AI voters

Hath told you Paul was quirky, fun, different:

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,

And grievously hath Paul answer'd it.

Here, under leave of the AI voters who finally grew sick of the shtick.

(Apologies to any Shakespeare fans out there)

I promised a eulogy of Paul, so here goes.  Paul McDonald came to American Idol a twenty-six-year-old with a dream.  The lead singer and guitarist of the band Grand Magnolias, tired of peddling their records and tired of the grind of trying to be discovered in the music industry, took his unconventional voice to an AI audition and made it all the way to eighth place on Season 10 of American Idol.   Prior to being on AI, Paul had recorded three albums, had a website where he sold merchandise, including a replica T-shirt of one of the gaudy outfits he later wore on AI, and had been touring with his current band and their earlier incarnation, Hightide Blues, for years.  Not taking the hint, he decided that all he needed was wider exposure.  But after making it to the top 13 of American Idol, he ended up the first male contestant eliminated.
That's about all the neutral material I can handle.  If you've read any of my prior recaps on this season you know that I'm not a Paul McDonald fan.  I've been wanting to see him gone since his first opened his mouth and croaked something only faintly resembling notes while gyrating insanely around the stage.  Finally, that moment came.
I did not have the courage of my conviction following the performances Wednesday night to come out and predict Paul as the first male on whom the hammer would fall this season.  The closest I came was saying: "No, I'm pretty sure it's Paul.  He went first and he was awful, even on the Paul scale."  But could Mr. Toad's Wild Ride really be over so soon?  No.  If the AI voters kept him over Pia and Thia and other talented women whose names don't rhyme, he had to have at least a few more lives left in him, I assumed.  I'm sure there were more insane sartorial choices waiting to be unveiled.  Maybe he had his own suit made of raw meat like Lady Gaga?  Who knew what else might be lurking in his clothes closet of horror?  The man never met a rhinestone he didn't want festooned all over him.  So that would keep him around longer than he deserved, I figured.
But, finally, the audience realized that Paul's story was the opposite of the Emperor's New Clothes.  The outfits were real, it was his vocal talent that was illusory.  True, he managed to fool them for a while, but it was just a matter of time before his high octane antics, the outfits that Cee Lo Green might call "too much" and the sloshed gyrating, failed to hide the obvious flaws with his voice.
I have to give the guy credit.  Paul was smart.  Go with your strength.  And for Paul it was never his singing.  What Paul had in abundance was crazy.  Crazy outfits, crazy dance moves, crazy vocal choices, crazy hair, crazy white teeth.  He put on a show that was one part Vegas off-the-strip, one part multi car pileup, and one part One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest.  Stir with a swizzle stick.  Paul is an entertainer and, from the messages I've received, there are actually -- no, hang in here, I know it's going to be hard to believe, but I'm not lying to you -- fans of his who are sorry to see him go.
I know.  More crazy, right?
I've tried and put myself in their shoes and it's a tight fit (and not just because I have Italian feet that would be great for grape stomping, not so much for high heels).  What I saw as desperate, they saw as exuberant.  The whisper thin, shaky vocals that made me run for the Chloraseptic to try and help the poor guy, they heard as inspired.  He was Rod Stewart, they'd say.  I'd answer with maybe Rod Stewart's asthmatic, strep throat infected, "special" cousin.  Sometimes strained, sometimes reedy, sometimes raspy and always pitchy, I would have thought this was a voice only a grandmother could love (and read the interview with his grandmother where she confesses to being the one who told him he could sing).  But, no, he does have many fans out there.
His defenders would tell me, he has nodules on his vocal chords, that's why he sounds so hoarse.  To which I'd reply, A ha!  So I'm right about his voice being awful.  You're just giving me the anatomical explanation.  How then to explain why the judges NEVER MENTIONED anything was off about his voice?  Why then continue to defend what my ears are hearing?  And, if this is true, then why does every pre-Idol video I see of Paul have him sound exactly the same?
Paul is probably a really nice guy.  He might even be a good songwriter and musician.  If I try and ignore his vocals, some of the video I've heard of his pre-Idol original music isn't half bad.  But, and I'm sorry to invoke the dreaded Simon Cowell here, this is still (if only now in part) a singing competition and I could not ignore what my ears hear.  And, mercifully, the AI voters finally couldn't either.

Paul's official site:
Grand Magnolia's YouTube channel:


  1. I love Paul McDonald's unique style, and wish him much success in the future. Also love his incredible smile, no-one on Idol can match it!

  2. The judges never said anything about Casey James being sick either, so why would they say anything about Paul's vocal chord?

  3. Thank you to who wrote the first comment. I am only pleased that not many people follow 'burnthismedia', I wonder why. Is this retaliation for Simon's critique to Casey? But then, who cares, we can't all be boring.

  4. Paul seems like a nice guy (and kind of entertaining) but sorry, Casey J. has a much better voice and he's not boring to me. Oh, and I love Burnthismedia!

  5. To those who say I'm too tough on Paul, these are quotes FROM PAUL during the reporters' interview with him today, as relayed in MJs Big Blog: "I’m actually not very good at singing other peoples’ songs." "Some of the song choices that I did were probably not the best ones for me." "I didn’t feel comfortable a whole lot of the time…it felt like it wasn’t me all of the time." And the best quote of all, which is precisely what I've been saying: "It is a grueling schedule and my voice has been kind of out of it most of the competition. I’ve been touring for so long, and I’ve got issues with my voice. Sometimes I can get away with it–gives it that raspy kind of 0ff-key vibe (laughs)"

    Voice out of it, issues with my voice, raspy off-key vibe. That'll hold up in court. I rest my case.

  6. carolyn collins@jesssmomApril 15, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    wow..bambambam! boom. My sympathy to the Paul fans. i know what it feels like when the person you really wnated to win goes home. but i can't disagree with anything stated by 'burn this'. not every one agrees, but i definitely agree with Shari on this one. our differences make life interesting, not enemies. if you like Paul's singing i won't hold it against you and you won;t hold it against me if i do not like to hear him. he's a nice guy. I wish him well. btw your descriptions made me chuckle,Shari

  7. beautifully said Shari!I could have never ,never said it better.please I wish people would not compare Casey James to any
    of thse contestants on this show he can't be
    campared to anyone let alone on this's as if Casey was always way to good to be on this crazy show.these judges need to get their act together and start earning there millons.
    don't they understand what their duties are?they are suppose to critiqe these people.not just praise them every week.there is definitely a problem if they are all perfect.remember there's pop rock and country where does each person fit in if they don't they go it's that simple you go where the money is.and these 3 places are it.who can sell music like Kelly C.Carrie U.Chris D.use these people as your guide.let the gospel go let the jazz go and take it from's not that hard people....

  8. I don't hold any animosity towards Paul. In the early days he did have a beautiful, delicate tone to his voice. And listening to his audio, he just translates really well to radio. Very soothing. Now if we're talking Casey Abrams lol...Can't stand the growls and the bearish muggings and the off-keyness in between. Waste of a save.

  9. OOOOUUUUCCCCHHHH SHARI!!!! Was Paul really that bad?? Please don't hold back :) Not my fav but again OUCH! You did warn us afterall.

  10. My Mother always said "If you cant say something nice, dont say anything at all." In other words, Shari, shut up!

  11. I am so going to love to post this. :P JAY LENO obviously liked him! I don't ever remember any AI booted contestant OR winner singing this many songs on Leno, performing for and with the audience, and generally rocking the house like he did last night! Did I mention I am enjoying this?! Love you Shari! :P

  12. Wow, Shari, I used to love reading your blog's when you were raving about Casey James. Still loving him! Can't wait for his album. But I was shocked to see how much time and energy you spent ripping on Paul. I definitely think he's been struggling with his voice and that it was time for him to go home, but the hatred seems so intense. (Don't you remember when Casey was stuggling a bit with his cold and pnemonia? ) Why so angry about everybody? It's like a totally different person. I used to enjoy reading your blog last year.

  13. Cyndee MNCyn Thank you for your comments. The Grand Magnolias 24 on itunes. Only cost £5.99 to down. Spread the word, lets try and get it to No1.

  14. I think Paul made a mockery of the show and the judges aided and abetted him. Thanks to their refusal to be honest this will probably he the last year of a show I really enjoyed. I tried to "keep it real" by saying what I thought (humorously, with a little bite) since the judges weren't. It's what I did with Thw Sing Off and will do with The Voice. Read those recaps and you'll see I have no trouble praising good performances but I'm not going to lie to my readers - you're always going to get my honest opinion. What's funny about all thus us that Paul ADMITTED in his post-boot interviewehat I've said about his voice. He was entertaining on the show as was Naima. But a good vocalist he wasn't.

  15. Musical taste is obviously subjective, and that applies to appreciation of the contestants on American Idol. The one thing that the casual Idol fan doesn't maybe ever know is the breadth of pre-Idol experience some of these idols have. It never ceases to annoy me that the Powers-That-Be often focus on fluff (i.e., paint salesman schtick) and ignore the actual music at moments I think would be important. Exhibit 1: Casey James' Keys Lounge performances during last season's homecoming. We got to hear a few notes of Crystal and Lee but not one gorgeous note of Casey before his send off. Casey was cast as the cougar eye candy and they never took him seriously enough as an artist. Thankfully, his management and label get him and he will be living his dream thanks to exposure on Idol.

    I remember last season when Siobhan was booted I was neither shocked nor sorry to hear her shrieking wail for the last time on the Idol stage, but I recall the media shock! and angry voices blaming some of the survivors that they deemed less worthy. A lot of that anger was directed at Casey James, whose voice they pronounced inadequate much to my disagreement. Casey wasn't a traditional Idol voice and while he seldom hit a bad note, he was called a goat or a lamb by whoever wanted to denigrate the unique qualities of his voice (i.e., Kara).

    It happens every year. This year Paul has a lot of that. One person hears Paul's voice as a creaky door that need oil, while another person hears a quirky tone with a pleasant bit of grit. Some of us hear both. I happen to like Paul's original stuff, which I never would have heard had he not been on Idol for a while, but I'm not sorry he's gone now. Even if I enjoy raspy, edgy voices like Ray LaMontagne and Paolo Nutini - and now Paul McDonald, he needs the vocal rest.

  16. I don't know what to think anymore about the voting on this show what ever it is it's absolutely ruining this show.everyone blames voting on tweens but i'm not so sure.I can't believe the tweens would be voting for Lusk or even Abramms it's like there's an audience or
    people who know they can ruin the show by voting for people like Abramms and Lusk hate to say it but as a joke.I enjoy this show so much but it's all messed up.Naima was so intertaining and was really very good.Thia had a beautiful voice should could have improved throughout the shows.but Lusk and Abramms will never be heard on rock,pop,or country.I wanna here someone that has won on the popular radio stations.Lee D.has never been played nor Crystal on any station thatI've listened to.jazz gospel singers really have no place in the top 10.