Kalan Porter New Canadian Idol
ABOUT AN HOUR after being crowned the new Canadian Idol, Kalan Porter is in the bathroom attached to his dressing room, getting ready for the after-party - already in full swing at a downtown Toronto nightclub. A CTV staffer, who's already been to the party and back, reminds everyone in the room to bring their ID. "I'm not really going to get carded, am I?" jokes a very of-age wardrobe person. Without missing a beat, 18-year-old Porter peeks his head around the corner and, toothbrush in mouth, asks, "Will I?"
After winning the second Canadian Idol title over Saskatoon jazzy singer Theresa Sokyrka, the shy but remarkably composed Medicine Hat, Alta., native has spent the last hour talking to the press, signing a recording contract with BMG and making the rounds backstage, shaking hands or sharing a hug with every behind-the-scenes person. Impossibly sweet and angel-faced, he's the kind of guy people want to take care of. Yet he's more comfortable doing things for himself - from hanging up his own clothes post-show to carrying his own oversized bag into the after-party. His handlers won't let him do the latter, although they're happy to see he's taken an interest in travel accessories. "At the beginning of the show, I used to carry my things around in plastic bags," says Porter, motioning to a ratty blue grocery bag packed inside his new, nicer luggage. "I've had that one since I made the top 155."
Porter is the son of a cattle rancher father, Rick, and a stay-at-home mom, Janet, and is the oldest of three. It was his family that pushed him into auditioning. Classically trained in piano, violin, viola and voice, he's played in various ensembles, including an orchestra and his family's own rock band. This past year, he was studying commerce at Medicine Hat College and had scheduled an audition for the strings program at McGill. "I realized that's a lot of work," says Porter, explaining why he decided to skip it. "You have to really want that, and I just wasn't sure, because I like all kinds of music."
Instead, he ended up at a much different audition. In April, Porter stood before the Canadian Idol judges in Edmonton, looking extremely nervous and about 12 years old. But he floored the four music vets with a mature, smouldering rendition of House of the Rising Sun. They predicted right there that he could win the whole thing. And from the start, he was the one to beat - unlike last year's winner, Ryan Malcolm, who was voted off in the first round and then brought back as a wild card.
But Porter, who benefited from a school-girl voting block - mesmerized by his curly blond locks and sad blue eyes - now has a long road of credibility-building ahead. It's not fair to judge him by his first single, Awake in a Dream - easy-listening pap written without any of his input. And don't hold high expectations for the quality of his first album, to be penned (by a team), recorded and rushed out before Christmas. But somewhere down the line, Porter just might turn into an artist of his own making.
For now, though, all he has to do is make an entrance. Arriving at the bar for the post-show bash, the car door opens and a bouncer immediately slaps an under-age wristband on the idol. Carded at his own party.
Why I Got Idolatrous: Five things that made season two way more fun than the first
When the inaugural American Idol winner, Kelly Clarkson, and the runner-up, Justin Guarini, put out the vomit-inducing flick From Justin to Kelly, it became official: the Idol franchise must die! Of course, it didn't - even Canada had jumped on the bandwagon, producing one Ryan Malcolm, a singing waiter whose manufactured music career has become a bit of a joke thanks to his schlocky debut CD and off-putting arrogance. Surely there was nothing the country needed less than a second Canadian Idol instalment. But this year, the show took a dramatic turn for the better. And here are five reasons why:
1. JACOB HOGGARD
Donning tight pants and a sweater vest for a tongue-in-cheek - or, in his case, ring-in-lip - version of Paul Anka's Put Your Head on My Shoulder, and a full-body blue leotard for his inspired performance of David Bowie's Space Oddity, Sir Hoggard (as knighted by host Ben Mulroney) is the first Idol contestant to push any boundaries. "You see these competitions and a lot of it is just making sure you sing good and look sad for the camera," says Hoggard, 20. "I didn't want to do that." As the true star of the show, Hoggard will have no problem getting a record deal, his own TV series or a big screen offer, and he will probably fare better (as a musician or actor) now that he doesn't have to put out one of those rushed, lame Idol albums.
Looking a tad uncomfortable, six Canadian contestants together tackled Gordon Lightfoot's Canadian Railroad Trilogy - with instruments. It was a franchise first and a step in the credibility direction for the show and its performers - although it would have been an even bigger deal had they been allowed to use instruments while competing.
3. GORDON LIGHTFOOT
It's hard to imagine why this Canadian legend agreed to be feted by the idols - except for the fact that he got his start in a Kiwanis festival singing contest. Unlike other guest stars, Lightfoot didn't gush over the mangling of his life's work. Showing dignity and professionalism, he gave the wannabe entertainers a lesson in artistry.
4. JON DORE
One day this brilliant comedian will be a guest on Saturday Night Live or The Tonight Show, and he'll look back and think, "Was I really Ben Mulroney's sidekick?"
5. CANADIAN HUMILITY
Unlike its American sibling, the more folksy Canadian Idol doesn't take itself too seriously. Mean judge Zack Werner occasionally shows emotion - something his self-righteous U.S. counterpart, Simon Cowell, seems incapable of. Mulroney can take a joke (even one as disconcerting as getting a wet willy from Hoggard). And the contestants, especially Hoggard and winner Kalan Porter, show genuine, unabashed affection for each other. What the show lacks in musical integrity, it makes up for with heart.
Maclean's September 27, 2004