'World Idol' to feature performances, abundance of sniping from judges
By Wade Paulsen, 12/24/2003
Although we have no idea what the final cut of World Idol, to be broadcast by Fox and CTV on Christmas Day, contains, we have now received a number of reports about the taping sessions on December 17. If you can picture a judging panel made up of 11 Simon Cowells, you've got the right image.
After the very first performer, Germany's Alexander Klaws, performed the 80s hit "Maniac," Simon gave his usual blunt assessment: "You must have an amazing personality because people win these things on their personalities. There is not a cat in hell's chance of you winning this based on that performance, because it was terrible." Zack similarly blasted Alexander, calling his performance "radically cheesy, or as we would say in Canada, total fromage."
Subsequent competitors didn't fare much better. Canada's Ryan Malcolm, who performed the Hollies' "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," was not only criticized by Simon, as discussed here, but also by U.K. judge Pete Waterman, who said that Ryan's "sincerity was just a little light" and that he lacked the passion and soul that the Hollies' Allan Clarke had brought to the hit version. Meanwhile, Australian judge Ian Dickson trashed Ryan's performance as "full of neurosis," while also trashing his appearance: "Somebody said you had a Buddy Holly look. I thought it was more like Where's [Waldo] having a day off, actually."
Ryan, in turn, took on the judges in his comments to show hosts Ant and Dec. "It's a gig and they're doing it very well, I think most of them lack personality, because they're just mean."
Jordan's Diana Karzon was the only performer not to sing in English; she sang an Arabic love song titled "Ensani Ma Binsak." The judges gave it a mixed reaction. Typical was Zack's comment: "It wasn't spine-tingling, but I enjoyed it, whatever it was."
Pete Waterman asked Kelly Clarkson to cut out the "trills and fills," a comment Kelly agreed with. "My mom hates it when I trill," she admitted. However, most of the reaction to Kelly was very positive -- including the reaction to her looks, as Polish judge Kuba Wojewodzki told her, "You didn't bring me down to my knees, but Kelly - I'd like to find you under my Christmas tree." The dirty old men among the judges must have been very disappointed that there were only three women among the 11 Idols.
Simon and Zack clashed for a third time over Simon's client Will Young, the winner of the U.K.'s original Pop Idol -- making him the first Idol, as well as a hero among the British gay community -- who performed Robbie Krieger's "Light My Fire," an enormous hit in the 1960s for both Krieger's band The Doors and Jose Feliciano. While Simon said that Will's performance made him "proud to be British," Zach blasted it. "The Bee Gees doing the Doors doesn't work for me. I hate it."
Also not in WIll's corner was Kuba, who said "You looked like Mr Bean singing Jim Morrison. If I was part of the Morrison family, I'd sue you." DigitalSpy reports that Elias Rhabani, the judge from the Pan-Arabic Superstar, claimed that Will couldn't sing: “Maybe you’ll become one of the most famous people in the world if you practice. Maybe you should have singing lessons.” A different perspective, considering that WIll has had several #1 singles in the U.K. since his Pop Idol win.
Kuba went after South African Heinz Winkler, who had been one of the pre-show favorites but didn't get a good reaction for his performance of Aerosmith's "Don't Want To Miss A Thing": "The only thing that's keeping me here is gravitational force and the fact that my flight doesn't leave until tomorrow," Well, perhaps Kuba could have imitated Pete Waterman and walked out, if that's how he really felt.
Even entire countries were slagged by the judges. For example, Simon told 17-year-old Dutch Idol Jamai Loman, the youngest competitor (who sang Elton John's "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word"), "I can sort of understand why you won Dutch Idol. There probably are not that many good singers in Holland."
While Kelly and Will are still favored due to their chart success, a few dark-horse candidates are in play. First among them is Norway's Kurt Nilsen, who sang U2's "Beautiful Day." Even Simon was impressed, although he chose a backhanded way to express his compliments: "We've allowed a lot of ugly people to become recording artists, and that's not a bad thing," he said, flashing a rare smile. Kurt, who was a plumber before his victory, replied in turn, "It's not a modeling contest." Tell that to Ian and Kuba.
Also drawing positive attention was Australian Idol Guy Sebastian, who performs "What A Wonderful World" and was praised for his "charisma and voice," and Belgium's Peter Evrard, a goateed heavy-metal type who is the oldest performer by far (at 28) and sings Nirvana's "Lithium." Depending on the editing, former construction worker Peter might receive sympathy votes for his reponse to Simon, who called him a "heavy metal sell-out" for even appearing on Idol: "You guys made it this way. Who are you to judge me for being unreal, actually."
Aftrer Kelly's performance, Simon expressed his belief that only a few of the contestants were Idol-worthy: "You don't have to be a brain surgeon to realize this competition is ridiculous. The gulf between these singers is enormous - it's like comparing donkeys to racehorses. I honestly don't know why I'm here." Simon, we can answer that question in three words: money and publicity.
After the taping, Simon unleased some vitriol toward the other judges, according to the NY Daily News, especially toward Zack, whom Simon called "a failed artist who doesn't know what he is talking about." He also felt his fellow judges derived their on-air personas from him: "Every one of these people has based themselves on my character. They think it's cool to be me." Or, at least, to make your money and have your book deal, Simon.
The amount of criticism was too much for some of the contestants. Australia's Guy, for example, told the Melbourne Herald Sun: "I must admit I was disappointed. I thought this was going to be a beautiful thing, a celebration of music from around the world, of different cultures coming together. Instead we got a slagging match that upstaged all the idols." The producers also seemed worried that things may have gotten out of hand; one of them said that the show would undergo "heavy editing" before broadcast
Following the show, Antigua gambling website BetWWTS,com set new odds. The U.S.'s Kelly Clarkson remained the favorite at odds of 5/4 (i.e., win $5 for every $4 bet). The U.K.'s Will Young remained second at 2/1. Rising to third was Australian Guy Sebastian, making a major jump to 4/1, while Canadian Ryan Malcolm took fourth at 10/1. Rounding out the top 5 was Norway's Kurt Nilson at 12/1, who moved up from last in the pre-show odds after the reaction to his strong performance.
The rest of the field was handicapped as follows:
6 (tie). South Africa's Heinz Winckler and Germany's Alexander Klaws (15/1),
8. Holland's Jamai Loman (20/1),
9. Poland's Alicja Janosz, simply called Alex , who performed the old Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice song "I Don't Know How To Love Him" from Jesus Christ Superstar (25/1),
10. Belgium's Peter Evrard (25/1), and
11. Jordan's Diana Karzon (30/1).
Now all we have to do is wait until Christmas Day, so that we can see the World Idol performances -- and the subsequent editing -- for ourselves.