Thursday, February 23, 2006

American Idol 5 round of 24 (review)

"Easter Island Idol Judge Simon from 875 AD"
Okay, I’m going to get attacked in every conceivable way for this, but what do I make of the fact that there’s a good chance that this year’s female American Idol Constestants could probably literally beat up this year’s males?  Put Brenna Gethers and her claws in a steel cage wrestling match with Kevin, Radar O’reilly does Ted Mack, and what do you think’ll happen?  

Let’s try a little thought exercise. It’s clear that the Amazon Idol women would have the makings of a very good basketball team.  They have two for real basketball players in Becky Maxim Twin and Ayla “You Don’t Need This” (see Nikko Smith) Brown.  Paris Bennett and Lisa Tucker could easily be the names of point guards in the SEC.  Mandisa could stand in for Charles Barkley.  Did anyone see the arms on Heather Cox?  If it was between her and Gedeon for the rebound, who do you think comes down with the ball?  

Now part two, do any of these guys look like anyone you’d pick in a football or basketball game.  How do I say this?  You let 12 guys pick any song they want as America’s first impression of their Idolness and the choices include Michael Jackson, George Michael (Father Figure no less), Elton John, Barry Manilow, and Melissa Ethridge (who actually is the only one on the list who appears to have much interest in women).  

I know that American Idol might regret having let Matt Rogers into the competition, but the whole football player thing had a certain appeal that was until they showed the clip of the guy taking a bubble bath.  Bucky Covington looked like he was rescued from the set of a Deliverance remake.  I don’t know what to say about Elliot, other than he looks more like the kids who might have been shooting up at one time instead of shooting baskets.

Beyond that, do I even need to go down this list that starts with Peter Makar Brady and includes Sway, shorter than Ryan,  in a White Hat and Shoes singing falsetto for three very long minutes.  Maybe I could get some minutes out of Bobby Bennett maybe covering Mandisa in the paint while comparing manicures, but yikes !  I wouldn’t call this a group of guys’ guys, not that there’s anything wrong with that. :}  

Compare this to last year when it came down to Bo Bice and Carrie Underwood as singing representatives of their gender.  I mean whatever one has to say about Scot Savol, gender bending was never the question. Identity as a space alien was always a possibility though. Even Constantine and Anthony seemed like the sort of guys who might at least pretend to care about who won the Super Bowl or maybe in Anthony’s case the World Cup if the Ukraine made the qualifying round.  I’m not as sure about Anwar My Space. Robinson. I’m also almost certain that none of the current guys had to worry about a potential conflict with the NFL combine tryout in Indianopolis this week.

I’m not at all sure what’s up with this gender inversion thing this year.  About the only theory I have at this point is these guys were chosen to prevent another Paula scandal.  If any of about 9 of these guys came forward claiming to be another Corey Clark, there’d be some serious credibility issues to deal with first, not that Clark didn’t have a bunch of his own.  I’m still trying to imagine a secret rendezvous between Paula and David Radford with Paula maybe giving the guy dance tips.

I think one possible reason for this is that while AI seems to have opened up to the white rocker thing, and let’s think real hard here about the actual sexual identities of say David Bowie and Mick Jagger, it’s closed out the most “macho” current male musical style hip hop/rap.  I don’t know what that leaves exactly, but I don’t get the impression that any of the male finalists are fantasizing that they going to win this then chase them some super models.  Then again, the single most successful male star to come out of the show is probably Clay Aiken.

In the meantime, you get a few of these teenagers pretending to be young Sinatras, but the big missing ingredient is that there’s none of the sexual swagger that made Frank a star with the bobbysoxer generation.  Well, oddly, these guys seem to appeal to that generation it’s just that they’re now in assisted living facilities.  So if I’m getting a game of flag football together, Chris Daughtry might be the first guy chosen and that’s after I choose like three of the women.  If on the other hand, they wanted to recast for this generation’s Village People, several of these guys look ready for training camp or at least likely to get a call back.  

I’m still amazed that Pride Groups were mad at Simon for attacking all the potential drag queens during the auditions and accusing the show of being intolerant of gays.  I know Stonewall supposedly help break down prejudices both among gays and the population at large against drag queens, but think about the male finalists this year, think about Ryan Seacrest, Barry Manilow and Elton John as guest artists, AI might be anti-drag queen, but it’s hardly anti-gay.  Actually, when Simon and Ryan get into it at points, my mind can’t avoid but go there.  

While I’m in this vein, I have to mention this.  I think there’s been some talk that while Gedeon, the Shout guy, with the 46 tooth smile and the strangely careful elocution, could actually sing but seemed vaguely creepy.  I just ask that you think about the real Jackie Wilson and  Michael Jackson who copied Jackie, Little Richard,  or Chuck Berry. If you put any of them on American Idol, they’d have sent off similar vibes.  In their day though, we mostly knew them through records and an occasional very managed appearance on American Bandstand or something like it.  The real stars may very well not have stood up to Reality TV. had they been pushed through the same process.  

I suspect for instance that someone like Diana Degarmo would have a totally different image sans her “bot” exchanges with Simon.  Had she appeared in the mid-fifties, they could have fixed up her album covers, given her a better back story, and bribed some DJ to play her records over and over.  Though in Diana’s case just ten years later in the sixties, she probably would have been Julie Budd.  Think though about what would have happened to a young Elton John or the slightly odd Brian Wilson had either artist shown up on American Idol as a teen-aged unknown.  

I don’t know how many ways I’ve been politically incorrect in the above paragraphs, but I should probably talk about the actual singing and choose a team for that. So in no particular order, here goes. Please understand that I’m not one of those people who claims to have extensive musical training or anything resembling perfect pitch.

Judging from the message boards, this year’s buzz is about Gray Charles, aka Taylor Hicks who is some odd caricature of Randy Newman or network tv’s notion of an “original”.  When I think musical original in the pop vein, I tend to think more along the lines of Tom Waits.  Taylor Hicks claims Joe Cocker, but I can see him with much longer hair and white suit as a very very hyperLeon Russell, which is not at all a bad thing to be in a show like this where I generally don’t remember half the finalists. He’s distinctive, competent, and seems driven by his own sense of what he likes vs. trying to fit some AI mold.

This is weird while I thought she was very good, I don’t remember Katarine Macphee’s actual singing other than she did a Barbara Streisand song.  What I do remember is that she had a really appealing goofiness after the judges did their thing.  I also think the whole body image thing she has while looking perfectly attractive is actually going to play well.  It gives her this scent of vulnerability.  Yes, she has a voice teacher mother but she’s ever so slightly self-conscious about it.  She has the look for album covers and videos, but she lets us know that she’s ever so insecure about her lower body.  Beyond that she can actually sing though I’m not sure she connects emotionally when she’s singing as well as she seems to pull it off when she’s not.  

Lisa Tucker looks and sounds vaguely like Irene Cara’s daughter.  She took on this huge pained ballad from a soon to be Jennifer Hudson movie and her voice surprisingly had the depth and layers to bring it off.  She’s also a confident performer and I think she’s very very talented.  Still though, she was a little young for the material as if she was singing about pain she could only imagine happening some day.  Let me ask this one provocative question about her though.  If she were white, would we be accusing her of being a prettier version of Diana Degarmo?

Ace Young apparently can’t decide whether he is a Bee Gee or George Michael’s stand in for a reconstituted Wham.  The camera likes this guy.  He’s pleasant enough as a singer/entertainer.  I think the 19E people are already convinced they can make some money off this guy regardless in much the same way that they pre-figured that Carrie Underwood would sell.  This is a horrible thing to say, but if you locked Ace in a room alone with Becky O’donahue, why do I get this weird feeling they’d come out talking about how to maintain their hair in front of the spotlights?

Paris Bennett makes me think she’d be a great candidate for a “teen” version of idol.  She also has a great voice, but why would I buy Paris Bennett when I can still listen to Gladys Knight? She mined the vein really well and managed to throw in some more contemporary-looking dance moves, but no I don’t buy for a second that the love of her life is leaving on a train for Georgia.  If it comes down to 16 year olds, I just think that Lisa Tucker is the only one out of Paris, Kevin, and Peter Brady who might seem credible rather than this kid who’s really poised and sings well.  

I don’t include Bobby Bennett as an actual voice.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that he’s William Bennett’s clandestine Las Vegas love child.  I imagine between ten thousand dollar bets at the roulette table, Mr. Virtues had some tryst with a showgirl and Bobby spent his childhood watching lounge acts in second line casinos.  Eventually, something like Stockholm syndrome happened and we got this reincarnated but less talented version of Jackie Gleason.  My wife pointed out that we both started laughing uproariously when this guy started into Tony Clifton (Andy Kaufman) does  Copa Cabana and that we hadn’t laughed together like that in quite some time (wow scary thing to admit about my marriage  there :}).  That’s got to be worth more than endlessly listening to people who sing well but not really really well.  Again, how many name pop singers actually sing well every time?  Can you say Ashlee Simpson?  I say give the guy one more week and let him do the Fanny Brice thing and come out and sing a ballad straight up that makes Randy  cry.  I almost said makes Paula cry, but after three sesons of watching I’ve concluded that that’s completely unpredictable. In the meantime, he’s a better Miykalah Gordon stand in than that Claws Girl singing Sunshine of My Life for her mom.  

I can’t decide whether Mandisa is doing a stint on American Idol or making a run at being the next Oprah.  She can definitely sing and while I’m not a big Heart fan, I thought she pulled off the trick of getting across the I’m not just Jennifer Holliday, Nell Carter, Shug Avery (the book version) or even Jennifer Hudson (now playing Jennifer Holliday), but repackaged and given a single name.  Even better, she’s one of the few female finalist who doesn’t qualify for conventional babe status.  If you put about five of them together and made them a couple years older, I think you’d be thinking they were waiting for a rose at the end of the show instead of for people to dial a toll free number.  Better yet, she had that Oprah moment with Simon that would have made Doctor Phil proud.  If it wasn’t scripted, it should have been.  

Some others I’d like to hear again.  Elliot, when he hit the a capella bits of the Stevie Wonder, I was honestly kind of impressed.  Chris seemed fine and Patrick Hall I think maybe chose the wrong song because they told him it was gay icon theme night for the guys.  On the female side, Ayla Brown, Kinnik Sky (just for the name if nothing else), and Melissa Mcghee.  

Candidates for Survivor 12 Tone Scale, Tonedeaf Island.  David, Bucky, Stevie, Heather, Brenna, and Earth, Wind, and Falsetto.  

more American Idol reviews


At 3/04/2007 04:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay so Im a year or so late in the response but wow I just love your writing. I had followed a link here earlier this morning and then just kept clicking links and reading more!

I thought it was a hoot that when you wrote this story, that you mentioned Taylor Hicks first who won, and then spoke of Kat who got 2ed place. It looks like even way back when, that you were right on the money with the order you spoke about the top two anyway. Now I have to go look at what order you wrote about this years ;)

At 3/04/2007 12:47:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks for taking the time to look at the old posts etc. It's always a great feeling to hear that someone enjoyed them.
The Taylor-Kat thing was purely an accident.
My opinion this year so far is that Melinda Doolittle is the best singer I've seen on the show in 4 years of watching it.
That's really different though from who's going to win or even finish second.


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