On last night’s Mormon-fueled “American Idol” auditions in Salt Lake City, we got an Osmond, a tone-deaf Goth girl, a whole bunch of toothsome white people, one heartwarming hippie trainwreck and, without a doubt, my favorite contestant of the season: Megan Corkrey, a gorgeous, newly single mom with a mean sleeve of tattoos and a voice that — to borrow a phrase from former New York Times music critic Kalefa Sanneh — sounds like “carved steam.”
Of course, Sanneh was writing about Feist at the time, which sort of goes to my point: Megan Corkrey was far and away the best contestant last night (perhaps even the best of the season so far), she is beautiful and inspiring, and possesses a subtle, lithe little voice, but there is no way in the world she is going to win “American Idol.”
Why? Because, well, would Feist ever win “Idol”? It’s a show designed to showcase big, throaty voices, capable of hitting the highs and doing runs and filling rooms and carrying tunes like “Mandy” on Manilow Night. It is not exactly a place for the subtle. Corkrey’s voice doesn’t seem capable of any fireworks. She’s got a warbly, tea-kettle set of pipes: quirky and sharp, malleable, would sound great wrapped around an acoustic guitar or a burbling synth line. She’s more suited for a small club, not the stage of the Kodak Theatre. Can I see her fronting my new favorite band on indie label Saddle Creek? Yes. Winning “American Idol”? No.
Which means that basically, Corkrey is this year’s Josiah Leming: talented in ways that are missed by “Idol” judges and viewers, possessing a voice that appeals to some, not all (in a piece last year, I compared Leming’s voice to Conor Oberst’s; I think Corkrey’s is more Regina Spektor). And that’s why I’m saying there is no way she can win. You could probably argue that Leming would’ve made it past Hollywood Week had he not made the disastrous choice to dismiss the house band and butcher “Stand by Me,” but you cannot believe for a second that he would’ve made it much further. He just didn’t fit into the “Idol” mold … and neither does Megan Corkrey, despite my wishes (hopes?) to the contrary.