His hair was bleached blond. His shirt was brown plaid. His pants were blue denim. And he did not wear his trademark hipster knit cap. And, oh, there was no panel of judges to stare him down, either.
Alejandro Aranda, the “American Idol” runner-up whose unique voice, infectious confessional-style song lyrics and considerable musical abilities, was not exactly pleased when he was greeted by a sea of cell phones capturing his likeness as he sat on a small stage with his guitar. “I’m 100 percent scared of the Internet.”
But the Pomona, Calif., resident and former dishwasher who turns 25 in August might have to simply accept the fact that his unusual humble and authentic vibe on the glossy reality show has attracted quite a following as he embarks on a seven-date summer tour that kicked off in Washington, D.C., on July 8. Consider the tickets for the show that was held in a shabby chic bar/concert venue known as DC9, which holds 250 standing individuals, sold out in seconds online.
Country singer Laine Hardy, 18, may have officially won “American Idol.” But judge Katy Perry was right when she said Alejandro forever changed what is a essentially a karaoke contest that usually relies on songs previously performed by others. She and her fellow judges Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie encouraged him to sing his own compositions, seven in all, on the show’s 17th season. And, unlike the majority of contestants, he kept his personal back story mostly to himself.
So how does this shy guy handle the spotlight – one that is only going to get more intense when his in-the-works album comes out and he goes on a 30-city tour this fall under the banner of his alter-ego Scarypoolparty.
At the moment, it is clear Alejandro is trying to adapt to his growing profile while keeping his stage persona low-key and laid-back. “How you guys doing,” he asked after singing one of his “Idol” faves, “Out Loud.” Later, he seemed mystified that somewhere there was a display of his “merch” in the back of the club – mostly T-shirts with his Scarypoolparty logo.
As for the concert itself, he was far more chatty than when he appeared on “Idol.” Maybe it was because he was amongst his supporters who sang along to the lyrics of his songs and chanted “homie, homie, homie” – which is what his fans are called. He introduced his mentor and collaborator Twin Shadow. At one point, a man’s voice opined, “You’re a star, Alie!” He is definitely getting used to the idea but might not be quite there yet.
Who are his fans? The demographic range was widespread, from college age to middle-age, with a few tweens and oldsters, too. There might have been more males than females but not overwhelmingly so. And Alejandro knows what they want: “People say, ‘I want an album.’ It takes time. It’s coming out and I want to cherish it.” One thing he couldn’t do on TV was swear. So he made up for lost time, saying “f*** it” several times – often drawing laughs — while throwing a few “sh*ts” around, too.
He tries to play a new untitled number, but is somewhat embarrassed when he says, “I am so out of tune — sorry,” referring to his guitar. He then adds, “I’m not boring you.” Later he notes he is starting to sweat. He then has a flashback to “Idol.” “The amount of lights for TV – it makes it so hot.” Alejandro also warns, “OCD people out there, my mic is not straight.” He seems to resent that it appears he was nothing until “Idol” found him. He worked a long time on his music and wasn’t born yesterday, he insists.
Of course, it is mostly about the music – but the one hour or so set left most wanting. He did his “Millennial Love,” which seems to be inspired by social media – something he could do without. “I only use Instagram,” he admits. He sang at least two other unnamed new songs along with “Tired of Running From You,” “Out Loud,” “I Miss You,” “10 Years,” “Poison” and “Tonight,” his just-released single.
Slick, Alejandro is not. But his intriguing guitar strumming, ethereal voice and humble presence might lead to quite a career even for a second-place finisher. Just ask Adam Lambert.