Friday, February 29, 2008

I Choose the Songs (Idol 7 Round of 20)

I was singing in the bathroom before getting ready for work this morning when my wife stopped me.
“No no Dear! You can’t go to the office singing that.”

“Singing what?”

“Whatever that is, it doesn’t suit you. It’s all wrong for your voice. You’re more jazzy but soulful. “Betty, Don’t be a Hero, Don’t be a Fool With Your Life” just doesn’t work. I know you’re giving it a contemporary feel by changing Billy to Betty and that’s dope, but I don’t know man….Just being real.”

“You don’t love me anymore,” I started to cry. “Don’t you remember when I sang The Night Chicago Died on our second date?”

“Honey, I still love that memory, but it was twenty years ago. Since we’re talking the seventies, there are so many great songs that you can turn into something “today”. How about Alone Again Naturally, Knock Three Times on the Ceiling, Brandy, Torn Between Two Lovers? The seventies were such a great decade for music. You’ve got to know by now that it’s all about song choice.”

“Dear, you didn’t even mention You Light Up My Life.”

We both bow three times at the waist towards that framed autograph portrait of Debbie Boone that sits above our stereo.

“Why thank you dear. It’s sweet of you to say that after all these years.”

I begin to sing,

“I choose the songs that make the whole world cry, I choose the songs that make…”

“See dear, now you’ve got it….It’s all about song choice.”

This doesn’t exactly explain what happened to Garrett Haley during sixties week when he apparently was told that his three choices form the list of fifty were taken by others and he was more or less told that Neil Sedaka was all they had left. I’m not trying to create any Bad Blood here, but if Garrett’s story is true this song choice bluster is about as bogus as Robbie Karaoke and Amanda Overmeyer as hardcore rockers? Here’s a list of 50 mediocre songs from an era that happened fifteen years before you were born, find the one that’s best for you in “Is 2 hours long enough for you?” I suppose if America is built on “choice” as the libertarians insist, that’s pretty much America’s notion of choice as it applies to regular people. Buy any computer you want as long as it’s a PC or a Mac. Watch any movie you want as long as it has George, Denzel, Brad, or Leo playing the male lead. Have it your way as long as it’s a hamburger. Vote for any candidate you want as long as it’s someone who has raised 60 million dollars or more. Ooh… I hear laughter in the rain.

Okay, here’s my other question. After all these lectures about “It’s all about song choice”, who the *(#$* chooses the songs for those cheesy group sings on Wednesday night? If those are the same people who hire the vocal coaches for the show, I have this theory about why so many of these young people make such iffy song choices. Maybe some idiot’s filling their head with really stupid suggestions. Did the earth move for you too?

At least for this week, they did stop saying “most talented cast” ever. I think it had something to do with the FCC’s decision to come down on false advertising, but that might just be a coincidence. I was on E-Bay the other night and someone was selling an “Authentic Rocker Detector” once owned by Randy Jackson. There were like four bids on the item all by someone named S.C. Halfmoosehead. Basically it works by measuring the amount of edgy electricity in the air at a concert.

Years ago, I bought a battery-powered stud finder from the hardware store. I had to return it for a refund because it kept directing me to hammer nails in my own body instead of the drywall. Anyway, they apparently still sell really well in the back of Cosmopolitan magazine. There’s a bogus version that they sold to the producers of the Bachelor a couple years ago and it turned out to be a “Dud” detector instead.

As I understand it, the Authentic Rocker Detector got put on E-Bay when the producers used it this Tuesday and Wednesday during Robbie and Amanda’s performances and they kept trying to replace the batteries because the meter wouldn’t move off zero. If you’re going to bid on it, be warned. E-Bay can be a little slow about false-advertising. I do think if you act fast though, you can still bid on an Authentic Rocker bandana, drag racing car, and two fake and lightly-used Bret Michaels outfits.

a small hint: Genuine rock stars do read. Often they used to make a point of being seen reading things like Baudelaire or Yeats to project a sense of gravitas. The spirit of rock is after all about rebellion, pushing boundaries, a sense of freedom, and questioning conformity. It comes from the inside. It doesn't come from costumes, harleys, or the rush of drag racing. I just don't see Kurt Cobain breaking out a biography of Jim Morrison so he can blueprint his performances. I do see Courtney Love doing that, but...

also, why don't they do real "Things American doesn't know about me" like when I was seven years old I drowned a cat, I had to have sex with my agent who used a connection to get me through the audition rounds, I have hepatitis B and killed my best friend when I shared a needle with him. You want real rock stars...


Michael Johns: Really good tennis players don’t hit the ball that slowly or with strokes like that. If you’re a fan, I wouldn’t worry. Beckeye has apparently already voted for him three million times.

Jason Castro: Last week we loved the guitar. This week we’re telling you to dump the guitar. We just give this advice to help you in the competition. In the meantime, just trust yourself.

David Hernandez: Someone claims to have pictures of this guy as a chorus boy in some sort of gay club. I don’t think the gymnastics bit with the leotard helped dispel that one. Fwiw, I think it would be great if it’s true and the guy goes deep into the top 12. I like his performances though Pappa Was a Rolling Stone’s really should be the B side for In the Ghetto.

Chikezie: One sign that the music’s not good on the show is when they take to multiple Simon jokes. I counted three. Brooke White turned Simon into Warren Beattie. David Hernandez started thanking “God” after Simon praised him and then Chikezie aiming “You’ll know my name” right at Simon. They’re taking the “Idol” part of the show way too seriously. Also if the show goes completely Simoncentric, it’s going to go flat very fast.

The joke got him some votes. He has a nice voice. I find his Simon repartee sort of funny. I’d still never go out of my way to buy a CD or mp3 by this guy. If it’s sYESha….this guy’s CHikEZIE.

Jason Yeager: Very earnest, nice voice, if they ever remake Adam Sandler’s “Wedding Singer” and cross it with “Big Daddy”, this is the guy.

Luke Menard: You’ve been on tour for six years, look a bit like Orlando Bloom….Shouldn’t you be doing better than this?

David Cook: If American Idol doesn’t work out, you can play with the Stanford Band at halftime for the rest of your life. If you can tackle Kevin Moen, I’ll pay for the gig. (apologies to non-Stanford-Cal fans). All Right Now indeed. I liked the crossword puzzle bit. The backtalk with Simon was a bit “egregious”, but that goes with the “rocker” mien. Anyway, Randy who tells me that he’s been around real rock bands says that you’re the real rocker on this year’s show.

Danny Noriega: Elvis and Karen Carpenter back to back. I just wish he sang better. The whole bit with the “ish” was very funny. My theory is that he’s Simon and Ryan’s secret love child.

David Archueleta: Okay, I liked Imagine. It was sort of like a guy version of Celine Dion doing the song on stage in Las Vegas. He conveniently skipped the verse about “No more religion, no more possessions, etc.” A lot of people say, you shouldn’t mess with “Imagine”, I tend to agree. Still, when Blake Lewis did it straight it was pretty dull. This was better even if it violated the spirit of the song which is sort of about a world beyond “ego” and doing it this way was all about the singer.

In the meantime, they’re clearly trying to turn the kid into some sort of teen idol. Girls screaming…He’s incredibly sweet with his good friend from junior star search Alexandrea Lushington. He also has that weird “safe” vibe that old time teen idols used to have. Not sure what to make of it…but it feels like Hannah Montana Idol.

Carly Smithson: Now she’s a barmaid in an Irish pub. Next week, we’ll learn that she shops for and pays for her own groceries. She was good doing Heart. I think the lingering thing is “Why didn’t she sell the first time? And what’s missing?”

Kristy Lee Cook: Isn’t Linda Ronstadt country rock? Why’s she talking about doing “country” some time in the future? Maybe it was the silver lame, but she also finds some pretty awkward looking body positions on the stage. She’s very thin, so there are times she looks sort of pretzel like. Other question, why do the judges keep coming to her rescue? I hope she gets her horse back.

Alaina Whitaker: I wasn’t hopelessly devoted to her, but I was surprised to see her get voted off. This is my odd theory. She kind of came into the contest as a Carrie Underwood clone and she got into that territory (not country but girly ballad) and wasn’t at the same level. Some have mentioned that in the battle of the blondes, she might have sung the best but maybe looked the least like a magazine cover prospect. All that said, I don’t blame her for being so upset when she got eliminated. It made for good TV, but it felt sort of unfair. Didn’t Melinda Doolittle do the OCD thing last year? Inviting that comparison on top of the Carrie Underwood comparison probably didn’t help.

Ramiele Malubay: She went disco…it didn’t quite work, but it felt like the judges protected her. She might have earned that though.

Syesha Mercado: The actress bit actually made me cringe. She went down tempo and I was hoping to see a bit more emotional depth and musical individuality. I’m wondering what happens when she catches a theme outside the soul r&b thing she does.

Brooke White: I kept thinking…Wow, she sounds and looks just like someone singing in a coffee house. For whatever reason, Simon never mentions coffee house folk singers in his diatribes. Carly Simon (as opposed to Simon C) has better control of dynamics and maybe because she wrote it used the drama in the pauses in the song much more effectively. Still, it was nice to hear something different on the show.

Asiah Epperson: I thought All By Myself was going to be more of a play on her missing father. It slipped right past the judges and me. She was doing that thing with the musical build in the song and somehow bypassed the actual “feeling” of loneliness in the lyric. I was a little surprised that this one got the pimp spot.

Alexandrea Lushington: I think it’s tricky for a black female singer who doesn’t happen to do bluesy and soulful. Might have been the wrong song, but I thought she was at least pretty good both weeks and clearly has good performance sense. She did keep the “goodbye” song choice jinx intact. “If you leave me now” is almost like some sort of weird wish fulfillment thing in retrospect.

I was touched by her running straight over to David Archuleta after she got the boot. It’s got to be an interesting story, two teen singers who spend at least six years on the “celebrity search” beat and David does better both times. At the same time, what’s with all the crying this year on the elimination show? Is Ryan going to start saying “This is our most empathic cast ever” and is Kleenex going to turn up as the show’s new sponsor?
Instead of Ford commercials….never mind…

Kady Malloy: Ouch….She looked like she was all set for a graceful and inevitable exit on Thursday night, then had to improvise. It was a bit like some of the Sanjaya eliminations last year. Yes, I’m rooting for her, but she didn’t do well. It’s not the singing necessarily, it’s that her voice and presence just sort of shrink in front of the camera when she’s performing. The choice of Heart didn’t help, but it’s interesting. Also, I honestly couldn't tell which one was Alaina and which one was Kady.

Some people say that in movies you can project a character, but in tv you have to project yourself. I think that’s part of the reason Sanjaya worked and also why Danny Noriega comes across. It’s also the reason that Robbie Carrico bombed and Amanda Overmeyer doesn’t seem to be doing much better. My take with Kady Malloy is that she’s naturally a bit shy and maybe really is all about the music, other people’s music.

It’s really interesting though. Very nice voice, good look for television except for the “faces”, but she’s backing off about projecting much of herself. I think the intriguing thing is that the switch may just happen to go on. It’ll have to if she’s going to make the final 12.

I also have to confess that I didn’t exactly put Idol Gives Back 2 on my calendar as soon as Ryan announced it. I’m all for ending world hunger, but I’m also getting hungry for really good musical performances. A night of Beatles songs should be fun as long as they don’t make Julie Taymor the guest mentor and turn it into Across the Universe Redux. Fwiw….the producers of Idol need to watch Once to get back in touch with the real spirit of making music.

Other Chancelucky Idol Reviews

Sir Linksalot American Idol articles



At 3/01/2008 07:13:00 AM, Blogger Gifted Typist said...

Excellent review, thoughtful without being mean spirited.

This is my first Idol.
I'm impressed by the guts shown by these contestants but ultimately disappointed by the mediocrity. That's not necessarily their fault.
Maybe I'm just expecting too much

At 3/01/2008 09:32:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks for your kind comment. I do think singing live is quite different from singing on a recording. We are used to something of an artificial standard. I always remember Ashlee Simpson when I watch Idol.

At 3/01/2008 04:39:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

This is the question that AI poses to contestants: Do you want to be an ARTIST or an ENTERTAINER? If you answer the former, then you're out of luck. There is no artistry involved in this show, which is why I crack up every time Paula calls someone an "artist" or Randy and Paula keep throwing the word "brilliant" around. If any of these kids DO want to be artists, they should not be on this show. They're "handled" all the way through this process and after it's all over, they get to record an album (not even just the winner these days - most of the runners-up get record deals) that is designed to sell millions of units. Their ideas are not important. It's no surprise that most Idols fail after the show and their initial big corporate push, because they don't know who they are.

Oh, and re my honey Michael, I would vote for him if I voted, but I NEVER vote. I've only voted once in the whole history of Idol and it was to vote for Kimberly Locke during the Kimberly-Clay-Ruben face-off in Season 2. The only reason I did so was because I was sick of hearing everyone talk about how it was a Clay-Ruben contest and no one was giving Kimberly any respect, and I felt she could outsing both of them. Still, I only called in twice. Actually, I called about 10 times and only got through twice. That was enough for me. I can't believe these kids who will just call repeatedly for 2 hours straight. I have other things to do. And I don't like wasting my time to put in my one piddly vote, knowing full well that there are people voting 50-100 times. I don't believe that every vote counts.

At 3/01/2008 06:35:00 PM, Blogger Sunny said...

The way this show and the producers work these kids, it's apparent they have no interest in the music. It's all about the money.

At 3/02/2008 09:30:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I think the most interesting story was from last year when Tony Bennett apparently told Simon that he'd like to see AI build a series of clubs around the country so the "talent" could continue to build up their performing skills either before or beyond the show. Simon's response was supposedly that they were making too much money doing it the way they are.


I agree that the real agenda is money/entertainment. I would just argue that making good music (not all good music) is perfectly compatible with entertainment. In fact, the public tends to stick with it much longer than something that's pure marketing hype. Some of that is about being "authentic" as in singing from the heart isntead of just trying to sing Heart.

I think I've voted twice too....strange as that coincidence is. I'm not even sure I remember who it was for, but I voted to help some poor soul who I thought was getting a bad deal from the judges. Naturally, the person was kicked off that very week.

In some ways, I think part of the marketing genius of the show is that they let people vote as many times as they can. We ought to try it with our real elections, though the result of that might be really scary.

At 3/07/2008 08:05:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Aren't the political candidates good at song AND dance though?

I started really laughing here: like when I was seven years old I drowned a cat
and didn't stop for a good long while. And no, it wasn't nervous laughter. Nobody else knows about the cat.


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