Danny Gokey can go suck a lemon. I’m here at my computer, having listened to each of Gokey’s American Idol performances from this season on The YouTubes, and I am at a loss. I do not get it. Well, sorry – I get it. I understand why the masses are Gokey fanatics, I understand the appeal of his powerful rasp, his everyman demeanor, his designer glasses. His wife died – it’s hard to actively dislike someone when such a tragedy has befallen them in the past year (I’m doing my best, though). He’s got some things going for him, not the least of which is an appealing voice. But, I’ve watched these performances over and over, and listened to the judges’ mostly overwhelming praise (Simon gave him a pounding a couple weeks ago, though for reasons I can’t fathom; that performance sounded exactly like all the others), and the hype doesn’t match the product. This is why Danny can go suck a lemon – his praise has been almost completely undeserved, and it represents one of the great American Idol hypocrisies: contestants are judged on unequal plains. They are not held to the same standards, and if the Idol judges and producers have, for some reason or another, deemed you worthy, you get considerably more leeway than others.
If Danny Gokey were a food, he’d be tofu. If he were a character on Saved By the Bell, he’d be Jesse Spano. If he were a planet, he’d be Mercury. If he were a letter in the alphabet, he’d be “t.” If he were a sitcom, he’d be Step By Step. If he were a soft drink, he’d be RC Cola.
Danny Gokey has talent, but it’s the type of talent that a person is born with, the type that is already cultivated, the type that doesn’t require its owner to strive for improvement. Gokey’s singing ability was pre-ordained, only requiring gross repetition. He is a voice, and that voice is all he is. He has no performing ability. The dancing is at best a distraction, at worst an abomination. Megan Joy obviously gets the award for worst dancer this season, but at least her bad dancing was interesting and self-referential. She was knowingly ironic. Danny, on the other hand, is trying. Trying really hard, and it doesn’t work.
What has been working, in my estimation, is pretty much everything Allison Iraheta and Matt Giraud have been doing. I’ve enjoyed all of their performances more than any of Danny Gokey’s (save for Giraud’s disastrous Coldplay rendition) and, yet, the judges have been tough on Matt and Allison while hailing Danny’s Gokeyness at all turns. And it’s not even just a matter of subjective opinion. When Danny Gokey strayed into the arena of country music last week, they gave him props for jumping genres successfully. Then they turned around, in the same episode, and crushed Matt Giraud for doing the same thing.
I hate conspiracy theories, but it’s no secret that American Idol chooses their favorites early and pimps them ruthlessly throughout the season. Danny has been a judges’ pet since day one. It makes sense – dude has a good story, he’s safe (palatable for consumers of all ages – both a 16 year old girl and her mother could conceivably enjoy Gokey’s bland style), and he doesn’t bring the overt sensuality to his performances that the likes of Matt Giraud and Adam Lambert routinely do. But, if American Idol believes in Gokey’s universal appeal, there shouldn’t be a need to artificially inflate his worth. We saw the same treatment with David Archuleta last year (Archie fans, you still out there? Can we have some irate Archie Kool-Aid drinkers in the comment section just for old times’ sake?). The judges forgave his missteps and sermonized his greatness with fervor. The same path is being taken with Gokey, which makes it clear that, if 19 Entertainment had their way, Gokey would be this year’s ultimate Idol champion (especially now that Lil Rounds has fallen out of contention).
Danny Gokey seems like a nice enough guy. He got a lot of mileage out of the tragic story of his now deceased wife, even though it was brought up relentlessly to the point of near shamelessness. As sad as something like that is, it’s meaningless in the prism of American Idol as a competition. His wife’s fate has no bearing on Danny as a singer. And, yet, you get the feeling that ever since his story was told on national television and the resonance it captured with audiences, American Idol has decided that Gokey is their guy. He deserves his spot in the final eight, and you can count the number of better pure singers on this year’s season with one hand. But, he’s not better than Matt Giraud, or Adam Lambert, or Kris Allen, or Allison Iraheta, even if the judges would like us to believe otherwise. If the judges ever want to make me dislike a contestant, all they have to do is hype that person undeservedly. Well, you did it, Idol. I’ve taken up permanent residence on the Anti-Gokey train, and will not disembark until Seacrest gives Danny some bad news on results night.
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-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of FOX)