American Idol reached its 300th episode last night, a pretty big milestone for a reality competition and an even bigger landmark given this year’s level of talent.
There’s simply no comparing this season’s top three – Danny Gokey, Kris Allen and Adam Lambert – to the contestants from Season 1.
Remember pink-haired Nikki McKibbin? Didn’t think so. She was the “professional” karaoke singer turned mediocre rocker who managed to beat out diva Tamyra Gray for the third place slot.
Danny would easily blow her away with his raspy vocals and teddy bear demeanor in any karaoke bar. While his first song of the night, poorly chosen by Paula, was forgettable, he finally had the shinning moment his fans have been waiting for, with his stunning interpretation of “You Are So Beautiful.”
Justin Guarini, the heartthrob of Season 1, is nowhere close to as charming as Kris. He may have wowed the judges in 2002, but if he auditioned this year he would have been eliminated early on.
Kris first sang Randy and Kara’s choice, “Apologize.” It was a decent replica of the original, but he really solidified his spot in the finale with his acoustic version of Kanye West’s “Heartless.” Strumming on the guitar with no backup vocals or band, he was sexier and more charming than Justin could ever be, even on his perfect curly fro days.
Kelly Clarkson has definitely been one of the most successful Idol winners, but her voice pales against Adam. While his washed out jean jacket, guyliner and need to show off his falsetto is getting old, every single performance has been miles ahead of Kelly’s best rendition of her signature song “Respect.”
Last night Adam sang Simon’s choice “One” by U2 followed by Aerosmith’s classic “Crying.” There is no question he will be competing in the finale next week. But it would be interesting to see just how talented he is without changing up a song or bursting into his high-pitched wail.
Minus poor outfit choices and mediocre song selection, the biggest difference between Season 1 and Season 8 is originality. Each of this year’s top three, for the good or bad, takes a song and makes it his own. They prove they are artists who will have careers long after Idol, which is more than can be said for Justin’s short stint with fame staring in From Justin to Kelly.