Few low-level American Idol eliminations have been met with the hue and cry that accompanied the April booting of Pia Toscano, a comely, big-voiced belter who hails from Howard Beach and who was given this year’s ninth-place trophy. The notion that Idol is a “singing competition” really stuck in the minds of Tom Hanks and Snooki, although whether those outraged fans actually picked up the phone and voted for Toscano after her manic, winded version of “River Deep, Mountain High” way back when was never verified by the many so-called journalists who joined in with the celebrities’ complaining.
That Toscano’s Idol run didn’t last long wasn’t all that surprising. Not only was her voice all power and no nuance, harkening back to the era of the megaselling diva—your Célines, your pre-Emancipation Mariahs, your still-dignity-possessing Whitneys—it was even more out of place on a show that had come off crowning three back-to-back slightly bashful white dudes, and that would go on to crown a fourth a few weeks later. That so many supposed Idol-watchers were so upset about her getting booted makes me wonder if people were taking the ’90s revivalism embraced by hip-hop fans and aging Gen Xers to a new level, one where they sat around and reminisced about the music they heard in Genovese back when that chain of drugstores existed.
All of which is to say that last night the Idol tour kicked off in Utah and to celebrate, a press release was sent out touting not the first-place winner or even the second, but instead saying that Toscano had signed with Interscope (Idol‘s new major-label home after the departure of the Sony-affiliated Simon Cowell) and would premiere her first single, “This Time,” at the show. It’s a midtempo Ester Dean track with lyrics about becoming a butterfly and beating back those who might speak ill of her, although given the reasons why she exited from Idol early there’s nothing in there about people not saying things about her. It also has one of those awkwardly swooping choruses that has torpedoed a lot of other performers who have been forced to sing, move, and breathe at the same time.
More than anything, the track brings to mind “Tattoo,” the first single off season-six Idol winner Jordin Sparks’ debut album. She’s off trying to run the world Beyoncé-style now, which leaves an opening for generically attractive female singers tepidly trying to replicate the “Irreplaceable” era, and I guess since the producers of Idol are pretty sure a female contestant is never going to win again, they’re putting all their eggs in this Queens-born basket.