Everything's Coming Up Davids (Idol 7 final 3)
Ethel Mormon later the star of Gypsy was once the world's fastest typist
I suspect a lot of people aren’t going to remember this week’s final three performances as much as they’ll think of it as the week of Jeff Archuleta. The show confirmed that it had decided to ban David the Younger’s father from backstage discussions about song choice, performance, etc, with the contestants. The story’s been circulating for some time that the seventeen year old singer’s father, also a musician himself, is more or less Gypsy Rose Lee’s mother for the I-tunes era. For those who don’t do Sondheim, that’s shorthand for “stage parent”.
Nigel said something about it not being fair that one contestant was getting help from his “father”, so they decided to address it. I have to say that the timing is fascinating. For one, David chose his own song this week, a Chris Brown number about being someone’s “boo”. The judges both noted that this just wasn’t right for you, Dawg. More significant, it’s the week of the final two and how many people out there are going to now have second thoughts about voting for a teenager with an out of control stage dad? Even the footage from Murray, Utah seemed to pointedly feature David's very attractive mom with virtually no signs of Dad.
I don’t know that Jeff Archuleta is necessarily an out of control stage dad. Apparently no one says he yells or plays weird mind games with his son, he just knows music and doesn’t quite trust people to do right by him. Given what Idol does sometimes, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I’m old and my tastes are hardly current, but you saw Fantasia this week. Red hair, dressed as a character out of the Matrix meets Grace Jones, and screeching around the stage. Yes, I know that the show gave her a career and this is post-Idol, but I remember the Fantasia who could sing. It could be Fantasia’s vision, but I worried that this is what producers sometimes do to pop singers. So if you’re Jeff Archuleta, what do you do?
A few nights ago, we were channel surfing and kept coming back to Danny Bonaduce’s Next Child Star. The final musical performance has the nine year old singing “Alone” by Heart while the 11 year old was doing “So Emotional”, i.e. it was sort of mini-idol. Anyway the gimmick on the show is they pick not just based on the talent of the kid, but also on the “sanest” most supportive mother. The winning mom prayed a lot and was constantly in “we’re proud of you regardless” mode. For being good mom and talented daughter they got fifty thousand dollars and an agent for a year named Ruben Kinkade who is secretly in love with the Shirley Jones character. Anyway, it made me think about David Archuleta, junior Star Search, and how Jeff is now a news item. How many voters out there are thinking the same thing? Of course, there is the matter that the tweens who vote for David fifty times a minute may be the one group immune from that sort of publicity. Still, it strikes me that this was Idol’s version of push-polling.
For those of you doubting the possibility that the press release about Jeff Archuleta wasn’t mildly manipulative, I have a five word answer, the producers picked Dan Fogelberg. Years ago, I had a girl friend who loved Dan Fogelberg. She dumped me very quickly (personally I thought the restraining order was totally unnecessary), but even at the height of the pain I knew that one good thing about the dumping was that I’d never have to listen to Dan Fogelberg sing about meeting old girlfriends in the Safeway parking lot while the Christmas Carols played in the background or whatever it was.
I do tend to think that the voting is more or less on the level, but this year I have wondered about the level of manipulation. How many times and ways did they tell Syesha Mercado that she’d done really well to be third? For some odd reason, Syesha was the one idol contestant in the last five years who literally made me grind my teeth when watching her. Yes I got tired of Mikalah Gordon and Kevin Covais very quickly but only Constantine came anywhere close to hitting the Syesha level for me. I think it was the actress thing and the way she was always over-emoting/playing to the camera. It felt phony and empty. That said, she sang quite well for the last four weeks, she’s nice to look at, and how the hell could they go from this was the closest vote ever last week to you don’t have a chance girl in what thirty seven minutes? Am I the only one who remembers how during this week in season 5, Ryan told us that Elliot Yamin, Katharine Mcphee, and Taylor Hicks each had roughly 33 percent of the vote? And the producers made her sing a song from a cartoon? What was up with that?
In the meantime, I am glad that her run on Idol has given her father a reason to get off drugs. Did her mother ever get to talk on the show?
So how many ways did they point to David Cook? I didn’t see the Omaha auditions. Did we get to see David Cook’s younger brother sing? Boy did they torture the guy. Hey, David’s so nice that he just came along to support you. Now, he’s won the show and you’re Gummo Marx, the Wilson who couldn’t be a Beach Boy, Mike Maddux. Let’s rub it in here on national television a few more times so we can underscore how great a guy David is.
To be honest, I sort of wished they had thrown him a Chakha Khan song instead of yet another non-rock ballad for him to vamp into a rock anthem. A few weeks ago, I did more or less say that David Cook was the one I’d pick of the remaining five. Still I thought David Archuleta was actually going to win, partly because of the way I started hearing form his fans after I came out for David Cook. Btw. Could you have two 17 year olds more physically different than Jordin Sparks and David Archuleta?
I do think David Cook does come off as both poised and genuine when he does get to speak. He has a nice way of honoring the other contestants, not getting overly excited when he gets either praised or dissed by the judges, and he also does seem genuinely touched by the thrill of suddenly being noticed as a performer.
In terms of this being the most talented group ever, I do have to say that I’m sort of wondering how we could hear nine songs form the top 3 and not have a single one that’s all that memorable on the last night they would break out new songs. Amidst all the talk about the show losing steam, one thing has been very clear to me. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter much whether you change the judges, let Ryan talk more, add more backstory, etc. (well, let me suggest just dumping the group sings. Even an I-phone commercial to go with the Ford commercial would be better) , it’s the music that matters. I just don’t know that either finalist has kept something in reserve to thrill America. No amount of pimping by the judges or the producers can make that happen artificially.
Maybe Idol needs a stage dad of its own?
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