Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Back in the Bloggle Again

Alright, after a week plus of Spring Break and Easter celebrations, it's time to get back on the blog, if only to get Duke lacrosse off the top of the page. The whole situation in Durham is messing with my head, so let's move to a safer topic for now, American Idol.

AB in White Hall, Maryland, wants to know why AI has been so bad the last two weeks. His query email arrived before last night's show, which was an obvious improvement over the past few, but, that fact not withstanding, I had to point out the basic flaw in his question, his assumption that we should expect this show to be any good to begin with. However, if we are making a relative comparison, I think that the reason is quite simple. The show is bad when the contestants are not up to the level of the material, which is why Idol producers should avoid themes of great recording artists like Stevie Wonder and Queen. All those shows made me think was, "Boy, Stevie Wonder and Queen have recorded some fantastic songs over the years, and these people can't even come close to matching them." And because the performances are so bad, the younger generation that never heard the originals is even less likely to seek them out.

Now, you take a show with last night's theme, "American Songbook" as interpreted by that great American crooner, Rod Stewart, and you have something the Idol wannabes can sink their chops into. I mean, if you can't belt out a few bars of Cole Porter or George Gershwin, then you really have no business being on American Idol. Also, these songs have been done by so many different singers that there is not usually a definitive version that the Idols had to live up to.

But before I get to the contestants, a few words about Rod Stewart. He was great. Watching him leer over Kellie Pickler as if he were doing a quick mental calculation comparing her to his latest blonde girlfriend (the successor to Britt Ekland and Rachel Hunter among others) and hearing him strain to bite his tongue gave me several laughs that had my sons asking me what was so funny. I don't know how much he helped the Idols, but he was far more entertaining than Barry Manilow and Kenny Rogers.

Now to the performances. Chris added to his solid resume with a raspy yet soulful rendition of "What a Wonderful World." Singing while sitting on the stage steps spelled doom for former contestant Kevin Covais, but Chris has a pretty healthy rocker cred account to draw on, so he should be okay. I was happy to see him lose the eyeliner that he sported last week, I guess as a tribute to Queen, and, even as he cleaned up his look for the classic song, he still had the chained wallet to appeal to the Harley Davidson demographic.

Paris was also very good, probably good enough to avoid elimination this week. She didn't have to give a showy performance that forced her to act like someone or something she is not, and her hair was pulled back so there was no chance she could flip it across her face as she had done in earlier shows. Taylor took a little while to really get going on "You Send Me," but the song took off once he got his energy cranked up. I still think he can win, but only if he can turn in performances that blend the strength of his personality with his voice.

Elliott, on the other hand, never got into "It Had to Be You." This was our wedding song and I honestly think our band did it just as well. Elliott has a great voice, but he doesn't quite bring the showmanship, and, as the Doc said, "I like him best when he sings with the microphone in front of his face." Ouch, babe! Kellie was not much better, other than her segment with Rod Stewart. She did not seem to get the song, "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," and badly missed several notes.

I thought Ace would be similarly challenged by the genre, but he surprised me. In direct contrast to Elliott, Ace wrapped his limited vocal talent into a pretty package in "That's All," his best showing since he did George Michael's "Father Figure." Ace only has to sing well about once a month to survive because he reminds the Doc of a young John Travolta, and one of my younger sisters compares him to Rob Lowe.

Finally, to the surprise of no one, Katharine brought the house down with "Someone to Watch Over Me." When she stands still and sings, Katharine, much like Paris, gets it done.

All in all, last night's show was sort of like watching a Nora Ephron movie, complete with the soundtrack. If it's a good one, it's tolerable and even enjoyable. If not, it's torture. My prediction for tonight: Paris, Elliot, and Ace in the bottom three and Elliott goes home.

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