Tonight, the clock struck midnight and our sweet-singing, dark horse, Cinderella Elliott Yamin left American Idol.
I'm sad to see him leave for a plethora of reasons, but mostly because I'll miss hearing him sing every week. But that's the way show works. Someone has to go. A lot of contestants have hoped to use the program as a springboard into careers in the entertainment field. A select few have gained post-show fame, but the past five seasons are littered with people who've mostly faded from our collective consciousness.
For the fame-whores of the series, being on the show was the apex of their entertainment career, and struggle as they might, it's highly unlikely they're ever going to achieve the rollicking success they desire. And for others, the true performers of the series, they'll never attract such a huge and immediate audience again.
The AI contract is a killer, and that's part of what keeps so many of the contestants from taking off. The AI and 19E producers won't allow anyone to upstage the winner (and the runner-up) by releasing anything before the show can siphon off the majority of the commercial revenue. Meanwhile, we as a nation have a short attention span and once 15 minutes runs out on someone, it's a bitch of a marketing battle to drag them back into the spotlight, because we're already focused on the next batch of people we can consume.
However, part of the reason I loved Elliott is that this never seemed to be about fame for him. Even performing was slightly secondary to what he was there for: Singing. Out of all five seasons, he's the most pure singer the show's ever seen. I'm sure there'll be plenty of articles written tonight/tomorrow that say that's what led to his eventual demise -- that he had the voice, but ultimately not the entire package as a performer.
But that's also why I have zero worries about Elliott's future. He'll do the tour this summer and then have to ride out his AI contract until he's free to pursue other options. I don't know if fame and fortune will be calling him, but from this point on, I'm pretty sure that singing will be part of who he is. He should have a plethora of palatable options. Smaller labels like Blue Note could do wonders for him and produce an album that'd be not only a commercial success, but also an artistic one. He could so easily slip into the now-hip and trendy (and lucrative) Vegas club and lounge scene and enjoy singing in that sort of more intimate setting.
Because that is the kind of voice he has -- intimate. It's soulful and strong, and he makes surprising and delightful choices within all the material he picks. But the texture in his voice makes it moody and sexy, and the tone and timbre has a warmth that makes it personal.
I've already written in embarrassing detail what's so hot about Elliott, and what's so cool about him. It's fun to root for a dark horse, and it's even more fun when Cinderella has enough talent to blow all other contenders off the stage. As for Elliott as a person, he was so classy on the show that it intensified all those desires to see him succeed. He came off as a mother-loving, happy-go-lucky, grateful, humble and endearing guy instead of one of the stock characters we've become accustomed to. Talented, nice, unaffected. Those are the kind of people I can't help but root for to succeed.
We have fucked up ideas about success in this country. If you're not a superstar, you suck. But most of us aren't superstars. Worse, most of us spend our lives wallowing in crappy jobs, making just enough money to get by and so we can buy some useless shit while we count the minutes until we can punch out and get on to a more bearable part of our day. But even those tolerable and sometimes enjoyable parts are rarely spent doing what we love, or have a passion for.
Cinderella wanted an escape from her crappy life where she was unappreciated and worked to death. What she got was a rollicking party where she dressed in some shoes that'd make Manolo blush, and everyone made a fuss over her. But when the clock struck twelve, she was sent back home like an utter mess. But the best part of the story wasn't the party. The best part was that she wasn't completely forgotten. The next day, that fabulous shoe led her prince back to her, and her dream came true.
Elliott's voice isn't going to vanish just because his time ran out. Maybe there'll be outrageous money and adulation around the corner. But if not, I have a sneaking suspicion that he's still going to fulfill his greatest dream. All the other performers this year can shake and dance and bedazzle as they like, and I wish them all the best. But singing, pure singing, that's the glass slipper of American Idol that only Elliott Yamin can claim. I think deep down, if he's half as grounded as he seems, Elliott would be really happy if he could spend his life as a professional singer. With that as a benchmark, I'm pretty sure that his ever-after has just begun.
It may be midnight, but the best part of the story is what happens the next day. Sing on, CinderElliott. Plenty of us will still be here to listen. Sing on.
I'll do a full recap of tonight's results show tomorrow sometime. But I figured since Elliott showed so much grace tonight that I'd try to switch it up and show a little class and grace myself. Don't worry. It won't last. Classy isn't exactly my glass slipper. The mocking shall continue.