Sunday, May 15, 2011

American Idol Season 10, Top 4 Results Show -- James Durbin Out??

What in the Daughtry just happened? 

I go out of town just once during the entire run of American Idol Season 10 and what do I miss?  Oh, just the most interesting, electrifying and, yes, talented contestant of the remaining four is sent packing.  No, not for a triumphant hometown parade as one of the Top 3 finalists.  Packing as in he's back to doing his own laundry.  What in the what??

In a typical post mortem, you look at every organ, every bodily system to see what failed.  Every so often, the medical examiner will determine that there is no clear cause of death and that might seem like the case here.  James Durbin was well-liked by fans, adored by the judges, treated well by the mentors and producers, had a great backstory and, oh, yeah, he could sing.  But dead he is, at least as far as American Idol is concerned, and so I will explain as best as I can my theory behind his sudden seemingly unexpected demise.

Geller, M.E.

Patient: Durbin, James

Cause of AI Death: Premature coronation combined with excessive, undeserved praise.  Secondary factors, judges' backlash and inconsistent later performances. 

James was a 22 year old white male without a guitar, typically not someone who would survive to the end of American Idol.  Thought he can play, for some unknown reason he did not wield the axe often enough to remind the voters that he fit the criteria for an AI winner.  Indeed, for the past three years, only a WGWG has made it to the end of the show.  His failure to remind viewers that he filled that stereotype was not helpful, but was not a major cause of his demise.

James started out strong, with some surprisingly vibrant, touching, and emotional performances.  But in the last two weeks, he showes signs of strain.  His vocals, especially on the 30 Seconds to Mars song during top 5 week, were shaky, off-key, and erratic.  He bounced back to some extent during his next song, but was overcome with unexpectedly strong emotions which detracted from the vocals.  In the previous few months, he almost never showed any tendency towards being "pitchy" or being anything but in full command of a strong, pure voice.

Some have noted his reliance on screaming and going for the big notes, but that had not shown any signs of injuring him in the past.  They were usually intermittent and had not lasting negative effects -- save for infuriating the Glambert obsessives who declared that there shall be no screamer but Adam and sent their negative mojo to work on James.

No, James appeared robust and able to make it to the end of the competition where he was expected to falter Adam Lambert-style when faced with the overpowering force of a cross-wearing, gramma-loving, God-and-country-singing, Southern-living, country-twanger.  So what killed James Durbin? 

The last two weeks, he was overcome with sure-thingitis.  He believed he was invincible, a lock to make it to the end.  So he stopped worrying about this vocals, stopped taking care that his performances please the audience first (and not just himself).  He went from obscure songs to overdone ones and ignored the fact that each week you have to give the home audience -- and not just your diehard fans -- a reason to support you.  His overconfidence mixed with inconsistent vocals and damaging song choices proved a fatal combination in the end.

While I would not suggest opening a criminal investigation into this matter, I would add that James' demise was not without some questionable circumstances.  Fans of a certain Madam have been supporting Haley Reinhart quite heavily these past few weeks and have been opposed to James taking the place of their dear Adam as the most successful American Idol shrieker.  I wonder whether and to what extent their dislike of James contributed to his early exit.

Footnote:  I should add that I was and still am a fan of James, but even I wrote less-than-stellar reviews of his last two weeks of performances.  I did not for a second believe he was vulnerable as I couldn't, and, frankly, still can't figure out who it is who is voting for Haley.  But I was disappointed with what I thought were subpar performances.  So while his exit was shocking at the time, in retrospect all the signs were there.

But, really, who is voting for Haley?


  1. After the Top 4, I'm still in shock. But I don't know if it's because of who made it or who didn't. Haley must feel like the filling in a Hee Haw sandwich.

    Seriously, Haley has a YT with her family doing "Sweet Home Chicago" that is..well..sweet. Dad knows how to work a blues run on the strat and Haley does a nice vocal.

    All that aside, if I ever become single again, "enjoy holding hands and long walks on the beach" is coming out and "WGWG" is going in.


  2. I, too, was shocked that James was voted off. I fully believed he would go all the way. Who to thank for this early demise? Look to two judges, JLo and particularly Randy, who consistently have given Haley negative criticism, whether it was deserved or not. Criticism is okay if it's given out fairly. It has not. The only criticism Wednesday night was to Haley on her first song, which, although was not her best, did not deserve what she got. Lauren's 2nd song "trouble" other than the first 20 seconds, was horrendous, and lo and behold, she gets praise ??? What? I couldn't believe it. Also Scott's 2nd song "young blood" was not good. He usually does much better. But, again, all is okay.

    Kudos for Haley for speaking up for herself. This is getting old. Finally, Steven had to speak up to drown out Randy, who kept repeating himself. The audience was agreeing with Steven. I believe the 72,000,000 + votes, (about 30 million more than usual,) were people so disgusted with the way Haley was treated that they voted for her. So we can thank JLo & Randy for James leaving earlier than he should have.


  3. I agree wholeheartedly with Neet. Haley was never impressive throughout the season, and I believe the judges deliberately criticized her rendition of the Earth Song to influence the viewers against her. Instead, the viewers retaliated against her unfair treatment and came out in droves to vote for her. James only had one bad night all season when he let his emotional feelings about a particular song ruin his ability to sing both performances but has never been in the bottom three, ever! Last week his performances were stellar so the result night was shocking and undeserved!
    Lady GaGa's behavior was ugly, but a lady she is not, she's successful and gets away with murder. Also I despise any comparison between Adam Lambert & James Durbin. Lambert is dedicated to being a queen. Durbin is dedicated to his fiancee and young son.

  4. I completely agree with the previous post. JLo & Randy pissed off America. Who voted for Haley? Me. 30 times.

  5. me too,since Durbin was voted off.still can't stand Scotty.and Lauren still gets on my nerves.

  6. "judges' backlash and inconsistent later performances" I think Jimmy Durbo left because he was pulling karaoke performances and the judges weren't calling him (or anyone) out on it (or anything else).

    "He believed he was invincible." His confidence and Stefano's seems to be one of the things they bonded over. I just wish James hadn't seemed a little miffed when he had to go. But he's got Asperger Syndrome, so he's not going to be saying socially appropriate things during stressful moments, for such moments distract his behavioral focus.

    "[Though] I wrote less-than-stellar reviews of his last two weeks of performances, I did not for a second believe he was vulnerable." I thought he was toast when he bored me with a standard version of the overdone-in-pop-culture Journey song, even though I love the song and the (original) band, just like much of America does. Besides, it was a "feelings" song, and James is mostly about stage presence and excitement. For Steve Perry, the louder he sang, the more his heart sounded like it was breaking at that very moment, which was remarkable. Durbin ain't that special, so he just sounded loud. More metal, less pop, Jurby.

    "Who is voting for Haley?" Knock knock. Who's there? Not you anymore.