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When an Actual “Idol” Shows up on “American Idol”

So how about something completely different for the day?

I don’t tend to write a lot about entertainment or pop culture, mainly because my tastes are a bit outside of the mainstream and truth be known, there’s probably only two or three of you that read my work on the regular who actually know the bands I listen to, most often.

Christian metal, folks.

That being said, I just wanted to write something for fun and discussion, and I think it’s time to talk about the revival of American Idol, the long-running singing competition that sparked a whole genre.

But Susan, you’re into heavy metal. Idol is not metal!

I know, and you’re right.

When the show first began in June 2002, I think I watched a handful of episodes, just out of curiosity. I believed then that it was an interesting concept, but scoffed at the pop-infused sameness of each act.

And yes, it has been that way for the entirety of it’s existence. The winners have all been cut from either the same pop music mold, or the occasional country music voice.

Anyone who has listened to today’s version of “country music” but are otherwise familiar with George Jones, Merle Haggard, or Hank Williams understands that the line between mainstream pop and country today is razor thin.

The show initially ran from 2002 to 2016, covering 15 seasons. There was a brief hiatus, but in March 2018 ABC brought the show back, with all-new judges: Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan.

I didn’t watch last season. It was apparently quite forgettable.

Speaking of which, does anyone remember the winners from previous seasons?

I only remember a handful of the winners from the show, over the years. I believe Kelly Clarkson was the first winner.

Some guy named Reuben (something like that) won the second season, but the runner-up, Clay Aiken, has actually gotten more notice, since then.

Carrie Underwood, Phillip Phillips, Scotty McCreery… and that’s about it. Those are the only names I can recall from a long list of AI winners.

Again, it may be because I’m just not into what the producers of the show consider “idol” material. Offer up another Bruce Dickinson or Geoff Tate and I’m right there.

This current season, however, something changed. I got roped into watching it on the final audition show, when they were down to the last night of weeding out who would go on to Hollywood.

I want to talk about the current crop of contestants, and I’m making my prediction today.

Alejandro Aranda.

If you have watched, then you know why I’m calling this whole game for him.

If you have not, he’s a 24 year old dishwasher from Pomona, California. He’s quiet, rather reserved and unsure of his own skills, it seems, and he is blowing up in a very big way.

When Aranda first auditioned, he said he came to music late in life. He was homeschooled, took up the guitar, piano, and singing. He pushed himself by becoming a street singer.

I have to add, he has a unique finger-picking style, and plays the piano like a virtuoso.

He named Trent Reznor, Chopin and Bach as his influences.

He played guitar and sang an original song for the judges and blew them away. He even played a bit on the piano, at Lionel Richie’s request.

Luke Bryan said he felt he was in the presence of greatness.

Katy Perry called him “the winner.”

Lionel Richie likewise gushed that it felt as if they were the lucky ones, to get to hear him.

I’ve seen them give such lofty praise before, but this time, I can understand it.

To date, we’ve seen Aranda make it through with several originals, as well as covers of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” Coldplay’s “Yellow,” and his take on Post Malone’s “I Fall Apart.”

I don’t listen to any of those artists, but I listened to Alejandro Aranda’s version of their songs, and it worked for me.

It’s not like he’s a standout because there’s no one else with discernible skills on the show.

It’s quite the opposite. In fact, some are saying that the current crop of contestants, now down to the top 10 are the most talented to come out of the show in years.

Since I have barely watched at all through the years, I can’t say if that’s hyperbole or not, but I can vouch for the talent I’m hearing now.

There’s the bubbly 17 year old, Madison VanDenburg, being hailed as the next Kelly Clarkson.

(Is the world really clamoring for that?)

Walker Burroughs has a light, pleasant, Howdy Doody appeal, wrapped around some solid vocals.

Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon has an amazing voice and the kind of story that tugs at the heartstrings of the “woke” crowd. He was brought up in the church, came out as a gay man, rejected by his family for his life choices, now surrounding himself with his new boyfriend, supportive friends, and his talents.

Wade Cota is a favorite of mine, for other reasons. He’s a big, boisterous, gritty-voiced former heavy metal singer, now doing more pop/blues influenced tunes. And he loves his mama.

Laine Hardy is in my pick for potential top 3 contenders. He’s a handsome kid from Louisiana, with a bayou sound and an Elvis-swagger. This is his second shot at the Idol stage. The last time, he didn’t get quite this far, so it’ll be interesting to see where he ends up.

But if you follow social media (He can be found with the screen name, Scarypoolparty), across Twitter, YouTube, Spotify, Sound Cloud, and Instagram, nobody seems to be burning up the world like the shy cholo from Pomona.

Aranda’s audition video for the show has had over a million views. In fact, all of the video clips of his performances get passed around like a drug, to the point that after each performance, they hit the top trend on YouTube.

No other AI contestant has quite that same buzz.

It probably helps that he has been quietly making music with his guitar, the piano, and a computer program in the comfort of his home, then releasing them on social media for several years.

All of those tunes are being dug up now like buried treasure, and the world is asking how he stayed hidden for so long.

So what we know about Aranda is that he fell in love, she rejected him, and now, as he put it, he writes music that reminds him of her.

Some of his Instagram posts are full of melancholy and admitted self-doubt about his looks, his talents, and his loneliness. It’s encouraging to see some of his fellow contestants on the show rally around him with positive, loving words. In fact, he’s started taking down some of his more depressing postings and replacing them with more upbeat or positive lines.

Someone must be talking to him behind the scenes, as well as all the love he’s getting from fans and his new friends. That’s a good thing, because this boy is about to hit the big time, in a big way, and if your head is not right going in, the clingers and corrupt influences of that life can destroy you.

We’ve all seen major talents taken from the world far too soon, because they couldn’t handle life in the spotlight.

Best of luck to him. He’s got a career, no matter where he ends up at the end of this season, but I’m calling it. The “…next American Idol is…” Alejandro Aranda.

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