There was a time I used to love American Idol, before everything about it started to annoy me. These days, The Voice is my singing competition of choice, but even I have to admit that them doing two seasons year is quickly burning me out. But you know what? At the end of the day, you can’t deny some of the talent that comes out of these TV singing competitions. Just two weeks ago, American Idol season 8 winner Kris Allen released his third album, Horizons, and it got me thinking about all the other alums who came out of Idol or Voice, whose career I still follow and music I still listen to.
- Kelly Clarkson, Sober – Too obvious to put Kelly in this list? Who cares? Let’s be real, it all started when Kelly won that first season of Idol and moved on to international success. It would be easy to put one of her massively successful singles, but instead, I’m going with my favourite Kelly song of all time.
- Kris Allen, In Time – As previously mentioned, the winner of American Idol season 8 just released a new album and “In Time” is one of my favourites off of it. People may have wanted to Adam Lambert to win that season, but I was a fan of Kris’ from the get-go and have absolutely loved everything he’s done since the show.
- Tessanne Chin, Count on My Love – I’ve loved The Voice from the beginning, but Tessanne’s album (which got released in June) is the first Voice winner’s album I’ve actually bought. She’s an amazing and unique talent, and the album does feel like its an extension of the person you met on the show.
- Chris Cauley, She Can’t Take My Love – Chris appeared on the second season of The Voice and immediately impressed me with his rendition of “Grenade.” Though his time on the show was short-lived, I was so impressed by his voice that I continued to follow his music. So glad I did and helped fund (through Kickstarter of course) his EP My Turn which was released last year.
- Dia Frampton, Walk Away – She may have been known as one half of the sister duo Meg & Dia prior to being on The Voice, but Dia made a name for herself and took it to second place in the first season. Her album Red was one of my favourites in 2011, with its eclectic mix that still managed to personify Dia as an artist.
- Will Champlin, Eye of the Pyramid – Will came in third place in season 5 of The Voice, and that was after being stolen twice during the run of the show! His album Borrowing Trouble was released in June and like Tessanne’s album, it’s what you would have expected from him if you were a fan of his during the show.
- Jordis Unga, Hold on Me – I first remember Jordis from when she competed on a show called Rock Star: INXS and one of my favourite songs she did on that show was “The Man Who Sold the World” by David Bowie – that was 2005. Flash forward to 2012, where Jordis re-appears on my radar, appearing on season 2 of The Voice. Like Chris Cauley, I backed her Kickstarter, and “Hold on Me” is one of the songs that is featured on her album A Letter from Home.
- David Cook, Life on the Moon – I think it’s safe to say that David kind of ruined how I watch American Idol, in the BEST way possible. That is to say, season 7 of Idol was a game changer and that’s because David regularly remade the songs he performed on the show so they didn’t sound exactly like the original. I mean, who can forget his rendition of “Always Be My Baby“? Classic. Since then, he’s released two full albums and I actually wanted to include his song “Laying Me Low” which is a little bit more recent, but because Spotify doesn’t have it, I picked my favourite song from his first album.
- Tony Lucca, All My Friends – Tony had a pretty decent career/following before going on The Voice. I wish I could say I’ve followed his career for a long time but The Voice really was my true introduction to his music (I only knew of him previously as a former Mickey Mouse Club member). He released an EP under Adam Levine’s 222 Records label, but has now gone back to his indie roots and has released another EP Drawing Board on his own.
- Melinda Doolittle, You’re the Reason (U.R.Y) – One of the best talents to come out of Idol and she needs to get more recognition. Melinda is simply amazing and this song, from the album of the same name, features her flawless vocals over a modern R&B sound that still has a little old school feel to it. So in other words, it’s awesome.
- Ben Hazlewood, Twice – Ben surprised me on the first season of The Voice Australia and it continued post-show. I was incredibly impressed by his EP Loveless which turned out to be a very solid collection of pop songs.
- Diana Rouvas, If We Never Said Hello – I feel like it’s a pattern with me, following the careers of more non-winners than actual show winners, but that’s because there’s just so many talented singers who deserve recognition. Diana is another alum from the first season of The Voice Australia, who has such a soulful yet cool voice. I’ve got one of her original songs here, but may I suggest you check out her rendition of Beyonce’s “Love on Top”? Just as good, if not better than the original (yeah, I said it.)
- Carrie Underwood, Undo It – I wasn’t a huge fan of Carrie’s, thought she was a great singer on Idol and she deserved to win, I just wasn’t that big on country music. I slowly became a fan after the release of “Before He Cheats” and by the time she released her third album Play On, which features “Undo It” I was a convert. I still can’t do the REALLY COUNTRY songs, but give me a country song with a rock edge and we’re good.
Another year has come and gone, and with that, a look back on some of my personal favourites in music, movies, and television.
FAVOURITES IN MUSIC
- Maroon 5 – Overexposed: Not gonna lie, M5 is kind of here by default. There was no way that I wasn’t going to include them, even though I have made it known that this album wasn’t exactly my favourite of theirs. However, with songs like One More Night, Lady Killer, and Tickets being standouts on the album, I can sort of justify picking it among my favourites of the year.
- Tyler Hilton – Forget the Storm: It was a long-running thing between my friend and I, complaining that Tyler (alongside Justin Timberlake and Michelle Branch) was taking TOO DAMN LONG to release his sophomore album (his debut was released in 2004). This year, Tyler FINALLY made good on his promise to release new music, with him independently releasing the album. The outcome was a great mix of several musical influences.
- Delta Goodrem – Child of the Universe: I’m still including this album, despite the fact that it hasn’t been officially released in North America. Delta returns with her fourth album, that plays with some different sounds for the singer-songwriter. The album features some piano-driven songs that Delta has been known for, but she also has some songs that very much play up the pop sound.
- Kris Allen – Thank You Camellia: I kind of loved this album, and I find it a damn shame that Kris hasn’t found bigger success. I enjoyed his self-titled debut after his Idol win back in 2009, but Kris was able to really take his time with this record and personalize it. Camellia ended up being a very solid collection of songs, that found him collaborating with Jason Reeves on the first track “Better With You”, as well as rocking it out a little with “Monster.”
- Dia Frampton – Red: Okay, so I’m cheating a little bit here. Dia’s album came out in December of last year, but because of my travels, I didn’t get a chance to listen to it until the beginning of the year. That being said, I think Dia made such a great album, really showing off all her musical tastes, with touches in everything from pop to dance to hip-hop to country.
FAVOURITES IN MOVIES
For the record, I am ridiculously behind on movies, particularly the movies with awards buzz, so this list is kind of lacking.
- Pitch Perfect: When the movie was initially released, I didn’t think much of it, even though it has music and singing and I am such a sucker for it – but after watching it, I totally get it. The movie was fresh and funny, and the soundtrack (consisting of all the movie’s performances) was fantastic. And seriously, the riff-off in the movie was pure perfection (says the music geek who loves a good mash-up or…10)
- The Hunger Games: I finished the entire series of books before watching this first adaptation, and it completely lived up to the books. Don’t dismiss it as a tween/teen thing, because fluff it is not.
- The Avengers: I have never been a comic book geek, but I myself have to admit that I have a soft-spot for superhero movies. Give me a superhero that’s at least cool, with a decent storyline for a movie, and some cool looking special effects, and I am in. The Avengers is the culmination of several years’ worth of Marvel movies, featuring Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, as well as Black Widow and Hawkeye. With Joss Whedon at the helm, Avengers turned out to be every fanboy’s dream and a good time for all movie viewers.
- 21 Jump Street: I was barely alive when the original TV series initially aired, but with most people, I knew this was the show that jump-started Johnny Depp’s career. This year, the show was adapted for the big screen starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, swapping the crime drama of the series for a buddy comedy movie. The result was pure hilariousness, and a great role for Channing to show off his comedic chops.
- The Cabin in the Woods: Horror movies aren’t my thing, because for the most part, they kind of suck (I’m talking movies from the past decade). The more buzz that I heard about Cabin, the more intrigued I was by it. When I finally got around to watching it, as a movie fan, I must say I really liked it. It is not your atypical horror movie, at times playing up those cliches, and at times surprising you in its direction.
FAVOURITES IN TV
- Let’s get this out of the way first – shows that I have loved/been a fan of and have continued to love over the past year: Nikita, Fringe, Happy Endings, So You Think You Can Dance, The Voice, How I Met Your Mother, Community, Hart of Dixie, Once Upon A Time
- Arrow: Action, drama, good looking people, a little bit of humour. I’ve said it before and I will say it again until it becomes reality, this show is the perfect schedule companion to Nikita.
- Nashville: I’ve said it before, I’m kind of a sucker for anything that includes music. Despite the fact that this is settled in the world of country music (granted, my tastes have been widening over the years), all involved have put together a great show that welcomes you in, regardless of whether you are a country music fan or not.
- Suits: This year, in its second season, Suits really stepped up in their story-telling. Not to knock down the first season, which was good, but this year, they turned it up a whole other level. Gripping drama, with a great deal of charm, charisma, and humour, the show surpassed White Collar and Covert Affairs as my favourite show on the USA Network.
- Parks and Recreation: I really hate to admit this, but this was the year I caught up with Parks. I had watched the first season when it aired, and wasn’t particularly impressed with it, so I didn’t continue on. Man, was that a mistake. After watching season 2 during my travels, I continued catching up on the show every chance I got, until I caught up to what was airing in S4. I am so happy I gave the show a second shot, because no other comedy on the air can be simultaneously so hilarious and so endearing.
- Homeland: The plot about a war veteran suspected of being a terrorist, sparked very negative/eye-rolling responses in me. However, after hearing such great buzz about the first season, I sat down and watched it over the summer. When the show came back for its second season, I was committed to it. Fantastic writing, and without a doubt, award-worthy acting from Claire Danes, Damien Lewis, and Mandy Patinkin, the show breaks all the TV rules of you should tell a story. What most shows would’ve done in 5+ seasons, Homeland did it in under 2.
DISAPPOINTMENTS IN 2012
Just for a little bit of a change, I thought I would include some music, movies, and shows that disappointed me over the year.
- Music in general has disappointed me this year. Looking back at the music I’ve collected this year, I bought a lot less than previous years. I’m almost certain that half of this year’s music that I have is all from The Voice (U.S., U.K., Australia).
- Glee: The show continued its descent into ridiculousness and lazy writing/creative music ideas. What I’ve come to finally realize is that I much prefer when Glee covers older songs and when they re-arrange the songs. Over the past year (maybe even 2), Glee continues to cover songs that are currently on the radio, which irks me to no end because I already don’t like 3/4 of the stuff on the radio, and they don’t even do anything different to the songs. I feel like the final straw was them doing Gangnam Style for “Regionals” and that this was the song they gave lead vocal to Jenna Ushkowitz’s Tina – can you say racist much?
- Smash: Continuing with the music theme, Smash did not remotely live up to its fantastic pilot. The plus that it had was that it featured original music for its musical. After that, it was just ridiculous. Characters like Ellis and Leo were downright annoying. We’re supposed to like Debra Messing’s character Julia, but she did some really stupid things (and wore a lot of scarves). Don’t even get me started on Uma Thurman’s arc on the show. There’s an overhaul for season 2, with a bunch of dispensable characters gone, and some fresh blood in both newcomers (Jeremy Jordan, Andy Mientus) and familiar faces (Jennifer Hudson, Sean Hayes). However with Joshua Safran (previous showrunner of Gossip Girl) taking over for Teresa Rebeck as showrunner, I still have my reservations.
- True Blood: Speaking of ridiculous, season 5 of TB was pretty frickin’ bad. All that religion, cult, Lilith stuff that went down was terrible. I can’t even bring myself to remember anything else about that season.
- Prometheus: Straight up, I didn’t like it, didn’t get it. For being scientists and stuff, these people were pretty stupid, doing the typical movie things you should never do (ex. NEVER split up from the group!) There was also, for me at least, a complete lack of character development – we never fully understand why any of these characters are doing what they’re doing.
- Rock of Ages: I had VERY low expectations for this movie and somehow they managed to make it even worse than I thought. I watched the movie because I’m a fan of Julianne Hough, but you have to admit, the rest of the cast was so incredibly random – Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones? Random. The movie was just all over-the-place.
So there you have it, some of my pop culture favourites and disappointments of the past year.