We’re just about a week away from the start of Season 12 of American Idol.
So what better time to take a look at the best and worst of 2012 on our three favorite singing shows.
This blog marks the start of a week-long series looking back at 2012. Tomorrow: My picks for the best Idol videos of the year gone by.
The good: Idol offered up an entertaining and — to a large degree — unpredictable Season 11. Hollie Cavanagh in the top four? Who would have suspected that when the finals opened? Three guys going home consecutively in seventh, eight and ninth place? Leaving four girls in the top 6? That hadn’t happened since Season 3. And the final 7 — Colton Dixon, Skylar Laine, Elise Testone, Joshua Ledet, Jessica Sanchez, Phillip Phillips and Hollie — was filled with solid performers. The battle between the final three should have been as suspenseful as Idol has offered up in a long time. But …
The bad: The white guy with guitar won for the fifth straight year, and Phillip Phillips was nowhere close to being the best singer on the show. And in one of the most blatantly unfair twists on Idol in years, he was served up “Home” for his final performance. Jessica Sanchez was offered a turkey called “Change Nothing.” Then, apparently unaware of the sappy depths these coronation songs can reach, Phillip actually complained that his was “too pop” and not the type of song he’d prefer to release as his first single. Several thousand downloads of “Home” later, he changed his tune. All that said, a solid debut album helped redeem his selection as Season 11 winner.
The good: The two brightest stars from American Idol once again proved their durability in 2012. Kelly Clarkson scored another monster hit with the single “Stronger,” topping about every chart a pop single can. In mid-November she became the first former Idol contestant to release a greatest hits album, optimistically entitling it “Chapter One.” And why not? Carrie Underwood released her fourth studio album, “Blown Away,” which debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 and Billboard’s country albums chart. It has already generated a pair of top two country singles. And, to cap off the year, Kelly and Carrie both nabbed nominations for the 2013 Grammy awards.
The bad: The list of high profile former Idol contestants losing recording deals surpassed the number enjoying chart success. Those parting ways with their record companies included Season 7 winner David Cook, Season 8 winner Kris Allen, country cutie Kellie Pickler, Season 10 sensation Haley Reinhart and Season 9 runner-up Crystal Bowersox (winner Lee DeWyze had already been dropped). Season 9 standout Pia Toscano parted ways with her label before ever releasing an album. On the bright side, Kellie and Crystal have landed new deals with smaller companies and most of the aforementioned released music worth hearing in 2012.
The good: After two years of mostly non-judging, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler parted ways with American Idol. Good riddance. Both did a little more judging in Season 11 than in Season 10. But they proved best at using the show to promote their own endeavors. Then Steven had the gumption to say Idol wasn’t his “cup of tea.” When did he figure that out? After sleeping through Season 10? Idol replaced them with three new judges — Keith Urban, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. They can’t do less judging, right? And early indications are that Mariah and Nicki might stage an attention-grabbing sideshow.
The bad: For some reason — continuity is the only one I can come up with — Idol decided to keep Randy Jackson for a 12th season. He was supposed to be an anchor of the last panel. He was the same cliche-spouting Randy, offering little we haven’t heard for 11 years now. Oh, he toned down the “in it to win it” comments, but used the “you could sing the song book” critique so often, contestants spoofed it in one of the most humorous segments in the Season 11 finale.
The good: The Voice aired in the fall for the first time and found its groove in Season 3. A new twist allowed coaches to steal singers from a rival’s team and added much needed flair to the battle rounds. The show switched to an Idol-like finals format, eliminating contestants more gradually and giving viewers more time to develop favorites. And the show crowned its first potential breakout star — not to mention a deserving female — in Cassadee Pope. The 23-year-old from Florida had three of her Voice performances top the iTunes singles chart and seven straight songs crack the top 10. It all added up to a fall ratings bonanza for NBC.
The bad: Then there’s The X Factor, where Simon Cowell decided new judges named Demi Lovato and Britney Spears would boost disappointing Season 1 ratings, then replaced Season 1 host Steve Jones with a Mario Lopez-Khloe Kardashian-Odom tandem. Nothing worked, ratings dropped and the failure to find much top flight talent made the show’s over-the-top production more ridiculous than a year ago. When the confetti settled, the show had a winner in Tate Steves from a genre Simon hates and from an Over-25 group whose mentor wanted nothing to do with the older contestants just a couple months earlier. Oh, and Simon had flushed his last shred of credibility down the toilet by touting the notoriously bad Emblem 3 boy band as “superstars.” They finished fourth.