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James Durbin Elimination an 'Idol' Travesty
May 12, 2011  | By David Bianculli

Just when it seemed as though Fox's American Idol had weathered the storm of revamping its judging panel, and built a strong enough season to withstand the dual onslaught of The Voice and Simon Cowell's upcoming The X Factor, the long-running musical competition show shot itself in the foot, and maybe the heart, Thursday night by refusing James Durbin entry to the Final Three.

The fatal Achilles' heel of American Idol, when this show's story is said and done, may well turn out to be its own voters...


By eliminating Durbin, perhaps the most talented and passionate singer in Idol's decade-long history, before the finals, American Idol makes itself less credible just when it needs credibility the most. Don't cry for Durbin -- like other strong singers ousted early from American Idol, he'll do just fine, and have more freedom to pursue his musical dreams than if he'd won the official Idol sash and crown.

But Idol?

Without Durbin's dramatic back story, passionate and innovative song selection and delivery, and amazing range (both vocally and emotionally), we're left with Scotty McCreery's country crooning, Lauren Alaina's beautiful but coltish vocal renditions, and Haley Reinhart's too-cool-for-school screaming and scowling. For the first time since American Idol began, I'm so frustrated by the voting results that I don't see the point of watching the rest of the season.

And, perhaps, after that.

Is this the judges' fault?

In large part, yes. Listen to Randy Jackson, and every performer he witnessed, virtually every week, was "in it to win it!" He proclaimed that phrase so often, so loudly, and so proudly, you'd think he already had a piece of the t-shirt concession.

And on the rare -- VERY rare occasions -- when the judges let harsh reality intrude, and offered critical rather than supportive notes, one of them would try to veto the others. When Randy would say someone's vocal performance was not that good, Jennifer Lopez would say he was wrong. And when Randy and Jennifer agreed that someone was not doing well (as in Haley, Wednesday night), Steven Tyler would say they were BOTH wrong... and would advise Haley not to listen to them.

So the audience, left to its own devices, went for the pretty ones and the more handsome one. Ah, for a show where you could close your eyes and be judged on your voice alone.

Oh, wait -- that's The Voice, and it's over on NBC right now.

No wonder it's a hit...


And no wonder, when James was eliminated last night, he was given time to sing a reprise of his version of Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" as a final curtain call, and to say a fervent "Thank you" to the crowd -- but the program left no time for host Ryan Seacrest to ask the judges, as he had in previous seasons, their opinions of this surprise ouster.

Jennifer Lopez was crying, but to no avail. Because of the viewer votes, and a lack of discriminating support from the judges, James Durbin, Thursday night, was in it to lose it.

And as he lost, so did American Idol.



Carina said:

I completely agree.

Although, I tried to watch The Voice this week, the head-to-head competition, and I almost couldn't finish the show. The padding and set up were interminable. The Voice's biggest gimmick, not being able to see the contestants, is genius. The continuing execution of the show is troublesome and ordinary. I bet there will be a ratings drop off as it comes to resemble other singing shows.

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 1:03 AM

My wife and I were talking about who would be gone when it came down to James and Scotty... we said no way would Scotty beat James out, voters could not possibly be that dumb and shortsighted. Our mouths were hanging open when they announced Durbin lost. And we both said the exact same thing then that you did...that was it... not worth watching the rest of the season. VERY disappointing, like losing a good friend. Back to watching Big Bang and Rules of Engagement!

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 8:28 AM

sue said:

Oh, this is a little overstated. I think the judges being total wimps is definitely causing problems - the singers aren't pushed to do their best and the result is performances that aren't that great, no matter what the judges say. Durbin's "Don't Stop Believing" was boring, screechy,and off-key, but the judges pretended it was awesome. If they had been more realistic about all of the singers all season, it would have given fans a chance to really see when their favorites needed support. Picking on Haley so unfairly riled her fans up this week, and James' fans were caught blindsided. On another note, I was missing Simon Cowell especially last night after Scotty's corny second performance - Simon's take on that mess would have been priceless...

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 9:00 AM


I totally agree with you. I announced my official divorce from "American Idol" on my FB page last. I'm done with it. I had high hopes that Nigel Lythgoe would fix the show, instead he's ruined it. There have been allegations by people who sat behind the judges' table during performance shows this season that Lythgoe would convene with the judges before performances and advise them on what to say about certain contestants. I can't be certain these allegations are true, as I wasn't there, but I do believe them. I've moved on. I do love "The Voice" and will stick with it.

[Thanks, Ronnie! Vent for us, too, when you have a chance. I'd love your extended take on it all... -- DB]

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 9:36 AM

Joseph said:

James was a good singer? Hahahaha. He was off-key for about the last 6 weeks. If the judges had been doing their jobs, they would have told that idiot to stop taking victory laps around the crowd and just focus on his poor vocals instead. Can't wait to see the career he doesn't have. Metal is his only hope, and he's terrible at even that.

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 9:48 AM

Sandy said:

Your critique was spot on. James is an exceptionally talented guy not to mention an inspiration to many people with disabilities. Every time he performed he just sucked you in. Such a raw talent. I just don't want to even watch anymore. The 3 left are just so boring.

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 10:20 AM

Alas said:

I totally agree!!...we sat in shock last night watching the results and could not believe that James of all people was voted off, honestly we felt it WAS time for Haley to go!!. We will NOT be watching the rest of this American Idol if any now that the BEST singer/performer has gone...sorry James, but good luck to you!!...you Rock man!.

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 10:40 AM

Sonia said:

One of the most serious problems Idol has is having the 'songwriters' week where everyone has to sing the songs of some out-of-date and passe songwriter.
Daughtry was voted off after a Barry Manilow fiasco, and recently James had to endure the Carole King snore-off. Has no one awakened to the fact that these are 'today's performers' that need to be able to sing in their strongest genre to perform at their best? Why make James sing Carole King and not make the rest sing hard rock? Then you would see what these "winning" artists are 'not' made of. American Idol needs to wake up, "dog".... Somehow I can't picture Steven Tyler singing Carole King and sounding good either...or is it just me? Just let the contestants pick a year and let them sing. If the judges can comment, then they should also vote.

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 10:40 AM

Kim said:

Yes, something seems really wrong here. A lot of people think James was "set up" to go home this week. Many, many people are complaining that they could not get through on James' phone lines to vote that night. I am one of those people. How could someone who was never in the bottom 3 all season and topped all the polls Thursday morning as the best and most likely to win suddenly lose his voters that night?

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 10:53 AM

Couldn't agree more! I lost interest when one of the most talented signers I've ever seen on the show, Pia, was eliminated early. I am baffled that Haley is still there, unless it's because she' succeeding in getting the male vote by trying to cover up her lack of singing talent by dressing and trying to act sexy.

Makes me question the legitimacy of the whole show. And if you read the history, there have been plenty of times when Idol's legitimacy has been questioned. I would NEVER have guessed, if in fact this was legitimate, that Haley, Scotty, and Lauren would be still there, at the expense of such talent as Pia and James.

I'm done!!

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 11:12 AM

jenna366 said:

James Durbin is so much more talented and passionate and amazing than any of the 3 competitors left - I'll wait until the finale to watch again to see James only. First Pia, then James gone - there is something wrong with the voting system big time. I love you James. God Bless you and your family. Your star will shine so brightly - believe me!

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 11:27 AM

Amy said:

"Jennifer Lopez was crying, but to no avail. Because of the viewer votes, and a lack of discriminating support from the judges, James Durbin, Thursday night, was in it to lose it.

And as he lost, so did American Idol."

That says it all.

My husband and I voted religiously for the whole time slots each getting in enough to go over 700 votes via txt this week. It's lazy fans who don't vote that wreck everything. I know ppl/fans who said they didn't vote because last time they did it "cursed" their fav. LMFAO... yeah right. Go to hell.

But James is a star and doesn't need this silly show anymore. I'm just glad we were made aware of him by this silly assed show. FOX ratings for American Idol will PLUMMET now.

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 12:09 PM

Kae said:

I absolutely agree. James deserved to win and though I like Scotty and occasionally Lauren as well, they aren't good enough to keep me watching. I have lost all interest in idol at this point. It's a complete waste.

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 4:25 PM

Benita said:

I respectfully disagree. All I saw with James Durbin was showboating and all II heard was too much screeching. He was never given proper criticism by the judges to correct his numerous pitch problems. As for originality, Adam Lambert did it all better, two seasons ago. James also suffered from being way too full of himself, also not helped by the judges all out refusing to tell him he was anything but great.

The judges shot their Wonder Horse James in the foot by constantly kicking the talented Haley every time she was judged. People pick up on that, if judging had been more even handed, James might still be in the competition.

Long live Haley.

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 4:49 PM

Mara said:

I wish they would somehow allow only one vote per phone. Is that naive? I feel like some fans (with modern technology or sheer will) end up voting hundreds or thousands of times. Doesn't this kind of defeat the purpose of voting at all? I very rarely agree with "America" and its votes, and this year I got no satisfaction from the judges either. I agree with your assessment completely. It even got me missing Simon (only momentarily).

I said that last year's Idol would be my last, but late this season, I got sucked in again by the talk of this amazing group of talented singers. And there surely was that, but after all the buzz, we're left with these three? It's just not worth caring anymore...

Comment posted on May 13, 2011 5:41 PM

James has been my favorite from the very beginning, but he'll do better without having to adhere to the Idol machine going forward.

I'm thinking it'll come down to a Haley-Scotty final, with Haley taking home the crown. I dunno, though, Scotty has a huge fan base. It's anyone's guess at this point.

Comment posted on May 14, 2011 12:19 PM

Curtis said:

I don't watch Idol because we haven't been able to pick up the local Fox station over the air. Also, having been a pro and semi-pro musician for the last forty years I have an aversion to karaoke. A lot of the singers that I have heard post - Idol (winners or also-rans) I must say are pretty good. Because this has stirred up so much angst even among friends of mine I went to youtube to watch clips. I have to say I am in complete agreement with Joseph above. This person has a horrible voice. He's screechy and not in a good Robert Plant kind of way, and can't hold a pitch. He also does a lot of that wavering note thing that apparently substitutes for emotional delivery these days. It's too bad Simon's not on anymore. The kid needs a boot.

Comment posted on May 15, 2011 11:08 AM

I could not believe what I was seeing Thursday night. James had never been in the bottom three. Haley and Lauren had. I love Scotty, for I love Country and he does it best, but James GONE. NO WAY. I was never so surprised, BUT I will be here waiting in the wings for his first Cd. I have never been a Heavy Metal lover. I am 80 and old enough to be his Gramma, but I loved him and the music. WOW. I also will buy Scotty's CDs, but not any of the others. They were talented but Boring.

Comment posted on May 16, 2011 12:04 PM

elise said:

This program is a popularity contest, not a talent show. And while I called a win by Scotty on someone else's FB page the first night he was on(because I did not want to admit to my own friends that I watch the show...for my kids, dontcha know?!) I am not sure that he can beat out Lauren, who seems to be turning into the new sentimantal favorite in Jame's place.... I'll still call Scotty. He has a presence and appeal that I, for one, cannot deny. But it'll be close between him (he?) and Lauren. They all have bright futures regardless of who wins; I'm calling that, too.

Comment posted on May 22, 2011 3:41 PM
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