The American Idol won, the Malaysian idol limped out

JESSICA Sanchez and Jennifer Holiday are such powerful vocalists. I was blown away by their duet of ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’. That performance was the best of the American Idol Season 11 finale last Thursday, which saw a line-up of megastars on stage.

After watching the show, I googled more of Jennifer Holiday’s hits on YouTube. Oh boy, what a clear powerhouse she is! Think Tina Turner and Gladys Knight.

Jessica might not have won American Idol, losing out to Phillip Phillips in the finale, but to me the 16-year-old darling was the one who stole the show with her sheer talent and poise that night.

It was obvious that the final 12 guys were not in their element as their rendition of three Bee Gees hits, in tribute to Robin Gibb, went flat, flat, flat. Jessica and Jennifer Holiday, a guest star at the finale, probably saved the evening with their duet and deservedly received a standing ovation.

I’m an American Idol fan. I started following the reality TV show in its fourth season in 2005. That year, farm girl Carrie Underwood was the winner. She has gone on to win five Grammys since then and is considered the second most successful American Idol after Kelly Clarkson, who won the inaugural show in 2002. The hit ‘Jesus, Take The Wheel’ remains my favourite Underwood number.

American Idol is a show that searches for the best solo singer across the United States. Since 2002, American Idol has organised auditions across the nation, and after many close-fought difficult rounds, a winner is chosen at the end. The audience, through telephone, online and SMS voting, along with the judges, select the best singer among all the contestants, and that person is crowned the American Idol. Of course, the participants have to go through some very tough times trying to be the best, not forgetting accepting failure and tolerating the sarcastic comments of some judges.

So did my favourite singer win this season? Let’s put it this way. Phillip was not exactly my favourite singer of the season but there was a time when I commented on Facebook that I would like to see Phillip and Hollie Cavanagh get to the final.

It was the top four week and the tussle was between Phillip, Jessica, Joshua Ledet and Hollie.

In that Facebook remark, I stated that I have this strange habit of rooting for underdogs and I would be happy to see Hollie and Phillip in the final. After Hollie was booted out that week, I had expected Phillip to go home during top three week. But that was not to be. The early judges’ favourite, Joshua, was sent packing instead and it was an unexpected Jessica-Phillip final.

Frankly, I thought Jessica was the better singer, not only because of her range but of the overall package. Somehow, Phillip strikes me as an ordinary guitar player who actually sounded quite boring at times.

But American Idol is a reality show and the votes count in the end. Season 11 saw a record-breaking 123 million votes cast and Phillip won because he received more votes than Jessica – as simple as that!

It’s obvious that the 21-year-old Phillip has a more solid fan base than Jessica, the first contestant of Asian descent to be in the finale. It could also be because females are more likely to take the trouble to cast their votes than men and in this case, it’s possible that Phillip has many fans among the girls.

Still, Jessica was a happy girl in the end for she knew that she would go far in her career.

And why do I love watching American Idol? For the music and songs and its entertainment value – it’s a class act. There must be a reason why American Idol is one of the most successful reality shows ever in television history.

That reminds me – whatever happened to Malaysian Idol? I remember there were only two Malaysian Idols – Jaclyn Victor and Daniel Lee – and the show abruptly ended some years ago. Could someone shed some light on this?

There is one fallen idol whom I want to talk about this week – our top badminton star Lee Chong Wei.

Poor Chong Wei – he limped off in tears after suffering a serious ankle injury during a Thomas Cup match last Tuesday in Yuhan, China. Our 29-year-old star shuttler landed awkwardly after just five minutes into the match against Denmark’s Peter Gade and was forced to retire.

Even without Chong Wei’s injury, which is a recurring problem, Malaysia did not go to Yuhan expecting to bring the Thomas Cup home. There was no excitement in the air in the days leading to the cup finale. We seem resigned to the fact that it would be impossible to win the cup.

It has been 20 years since we last won the Thomas Cup. I remember the euphoria that night in 1992 when Malaysia beat Indonesia 3-2 to take the elusive trophy. We also beat mighty China in the semifinal.

Along the way to that 1992 final we hosted in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia also demolished Denmark and England in the group matches. Korea led the group and we were placed second for a crossover clash with China who came out tops in another group. Just look at how far behind we are to Korea today. The Koreans were once everybody’s whipping boys. Today, it seems that they are just behind China in team events.

What did Korea do right in the development of badminton that Malaysia did wrong? I don’t know. Ask BAM (Badminton Association of Malaysia). They are responsible for badminton in the country and they should know what’s wrong. Or do they?

Look, the Koreans must be good. If not, why did Malaysia engage Korean doubles specialist Park Joo Bong as coach? Why didn’t he stay long as the Malaysian coach? What did Park do right with his fellow Koreans that he did not do with his Malaysian charges? Or has it something to do with the Malaysian style of running sports organisations – too many people want to meddle. We have officials, managers, coaches (add in the masseurs) who want to have a say in the management of our national team. There were legitimate complaints brought up by the players in the past.

Then, what about the attitude of our players? With Chong Wei out, I was glad that Liew Darren and Hafiz Hashim stepped out with the correct attitude and gave their all but they were simply not good enough against the Chinese. Darren certainly performed better than he did at the recent Axiata Cup where his lackadaisical display was frowned upon.

To me, Koo Kien Keat was the biggest disappointment of all. We only knew too well of his ‘showmanship’ style of play (bunga-bunga in the local lingo). He went on the overkill with his trick shots and was deservedly punished. If I were his partner, I would have given him an earful there and then on court.

Kien Keat also has an attitude problem. He tried to bring his poor fashion sense into the game, which didn’t work for me at least. He keeps changing his hairstyle and hair colour. That is unnecessary. People come to see good badminton, not the colour of your hair.

And worst of all, Kien Keat went to the Thomas Cup wearing ear studs. The moment I saw him with those awful studs, I knew he was going to lose. And he lost all right, bringing his partner and the nation down with him. Come on boys – do not wear earrings.

Phillip Phillips did not. He is a clean, pleasant guitar playing 21-year-old guy whom everybody would want to love. You can bet such a character would still be his normal self even after winning his million-dollar recording contract as the new American Idol.

I’m just not sure what would become of our racket-playing athletes if they were to win RM1 million. The likes of Kien Keat would probably go for a facelift and buy a Porsche.

No, I don’t see Malaysia ever winning the Thomas Cup if characters with attitude issues are in the team. We need committed team fighters and some of our boys are just not the type of quality needed to get the job done. – Borneo Post

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