Friday, March 28, 2008

Chikezie Listening (Idol 7 Round of Ten)

In past years of this show, the judges' mantra was “This is a singing show not a popularity contest.” I'm not sure that was ever actually true. This year, they've changed that. Maybe it has something to do with the commercial success of Chris Daughtry relative to the three performers who finished ahead of him in Season 5, but this year American Idol has turned into American Arranger. It's become fairly common for Simon or Paula to tell performers like Syesha Mercado, Chikezie, Carly Smithson, and Michael Johns that they sang well enough but they still didn't bring enough “original” to make an impression. This season's judges' favorites appear to be David Cook and Brooke White who don't get praised so much for being vocal athletes, but for what amounts to being “arrangers”. This is the season of Idol going Nelson Riddle.

This is more than a little ironic. David Cook got wildly praised for being original for slowing down Billie Jean from disco to rock dirge. Looking back, could any performer be a more bizarre choice to sing the lyric of Billie Jean than Michael Jackson? What is so original about doing Chris Cornell's version of the song? As Paula said, “David you take it right to the edge without going over.”

Actually, I didn't hear much of what she said on Tuesday night, I was staring at those weird gloves. I think they forgot to tell her that eighties night was last week. I think going to the “edge” on Idol is to copy stuff that might not have been on the radio constantly for six months in a row. I did like David Cook's performance and his jokes about the size of his head as a baby. So far though, he's Chris Daughtry with hair trying to take alternative rock just a bit more mainstream. To me that remains a pretty disturbing concept. It' s the modern equivalent of being the serious jazz player in the Lawrence Welk orchestra, being the guy assigned to give Olivia Newton John a rock edge, or having the task of making John McCain young and hip.

It was about twenty years ago when I started hearing the Rolling Stones played through the speaker in the elevator. Maybe it's just one these musical laws of nature, everything with an edge eventually rolls downhill.

After last week it was apparently Brooke White's assignment to agree with the judges in four words or less. She managed that, but too pleasant is one of these things that can be a little scary. I'm starting to think that she's actually cursing these people beneath her breath. Again, she's getting huge props from the judges for being some sort of artiste, but Every Breath You Take seemed oddly mechanical in reverse. Instead of being over-produced, it was as if she stripped it back yet didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the meaning of the lyric. There's a spooky quality to the original because it's about unhealthy love. The version with the orchestra slipping in at various points was sort of stalkers gone Disney. I did like the flub at the beginning. Say you made this into a duet, is there anyone in the world who'd be thinking this arrangement was perfect for John Mayer?

Both Brooke White and David Cook sing well and with a measure of emotional sincerity, it would still be a bit of a stretch to call either of them a great singer. I'm not against this shift to Arranger Idol where the winner's essentially find an interesting version of a sing then sing it reasonably well, but it is a shift in the way the judges are doing business. This year, notice how often they're saying “It's all about song choice.”
To be honest, they're probably right. After six plus years of vocal gymnastics, it would take an incredible performer to make me think anything other than been there done that. Melinda Doolittle and Latoya London may have been the best “vocalists” to have appeared on the show in the last four years and they finished third and fourth. If Syesha Mercado had shown up in some earlier season, she might have been better received. To be fair, I don't think she's quite as good a pure singer as either of the two singers mentioned above but this year it really doesn't matter how well she performs in any given week. The voters clearly seem to be responding with “Ho hum, another Tuesday another diva to vote off.” Then again, they may be punishing her for bringing out that crying baby noise thing she does over and over.

Perhaps no performer was whipsawed more by the changing performance values of the show this year than Chikezie. He struggled when he started out the season as a tradtional soul singer. The judges loved it when he went neo-country and became Chikezie the rearranger of Beatles songs. This week, someone talked the guy into following his heart and he dragged the Luther Vandross thing back out and like that he was back in LAX searching Paula's gloves for water bottles, lotions, and other items routinely used by terrorists. Btw, I was a little surprised that no one noted that a guy born on September 11 wound up working airport security. There was one other small problem with Chikezie's attempt to go with his heart. He has a good voice, but a thin one. When he tried to go full on soul love song, you hear it but you don't feel it. That said, he did accomplish something. He handled himself well in general and I think let America know that there's a whole generation of African-Americans who's families really did live in Africa.

Jason Castro - Never ever tell America that you'r not practicing as much as you should be.

Carly Smithson- She doesn't look that much like her baby pictures. No, I'm not saying that I expected her to have the tatoos as a baby. It would have been much more interesting if she were pregnant. Last time they had Katharine Mcphee deny being pregnant on the Wednesday show it turned out that she'd just been in treatment for bulimia. I was actually having trouble remembering that she sang Total Eclipse of the Heart by Thursday. All I ever remember is how hard she appears to try with each song without quite moving anywhere either musically or emotionally. She'll probably get a few more chances though.

David Archuleta- I liked Simon's comment about singing that song with a bunch of animated creatures. Poor guy's suddenly in this box of people thinking that he's too “managed”. He's a junior in high school. What's he supposed to be doing? Should he be dropping out of high school and living out of his car? Ooops, forgot they did that one this year.

Michael Johns- He's clearly really good at singing Queen. Two years ago Queen Night was not exactly a success. I still remember Kellie Pickler doing Bohemian Rhapsody. If he gets voted off, do you think he'll try to give his sister a noogie or whatever Australian siblings do? Btw, two days ago we drove through Buckhead, Georgia. We'd just gotten off a redeye, but there were no signs by the highway that said “Home of Michael Johns”. There used to be a giant billboard outside Yukon, Oklahoma bragging that it was Garth Brooks's home town. Maybe if Michael makes the top three, they'll put a billboard up off Highway 20.

Ramiele Malubay - The judges were telling her to show off her “big old voice” so she chose “Alone”. She wasn't bad, but this is a song you have to hit a home run with. Also why do a song that Carly Smithson who has a more refined big voice already did well with just a month ago, much less try to evoke the show's current saint, Carrie Underwood.

Kristy Lee Cook - God Bless Kristy Lee Cook for being the most manipulative Idol contestant in history. In the auditions, she does Amazing Grace twice. Who's going to criticize music with spiritual overtones? In the semi-finals Paula keeps shilling for her by telling America how sick Kristy's been. Last week, she says something about “blowing” Simon (though she was talking about his socks). This week she invokes God and the Flag in the same song and gets herself out of the bottom three after three weeks of narrow escapes. I figure with Dolly Parton next week, she'll sing a country ballad and dedicate it to some small child with cancer who comes onstage right when she gets to talk to Ryan. The week after that she'll pretend to be Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl. Carmen Rasmussen, Haley Scarnato, and now Kristie Lee Cook. At least Kellie Pickler was actually funny.

Maybe next week, they'll all have to dress up as Dolly Parton.

Other Chancelucky Idol Reviews

Sir Linksalot American Idol articles

Buddy TV AMerican Idol Page



At 3/28/2008 12:25:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

Two points for the punny title.

I have a sign outside my apartment that says "Home of Michael Johns." I'm hoping he'll take the hint.

At 3/28/2008 12:29:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I ahve to confess that when we drove past Buckhead that my first thought was that Beckeye's going to be so jealous. Then it struck me that Michael Johns and his wife are in Hollywood right now anyway and may never come back to Buckhead to live if the guy lasts a few more weeks on the show.

At 3/28/2008 04:24:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

You had to mention his wife, didn't you?

At 3/29/2008 07:20:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

I'm convinced that if anything happens to Michael John's wife, they'll come looking for Beckeye and also that Kristy Lee Cook will undoubtedly tank during country week. I can't wait to see Dolly dispensing advice to the young uns.

At 3/29/2008 01:12:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

Dale, I wouldn't do anything to his wife. I'm not a murderer. Give me a break. I'm not a complete psycho. I want Michael to realize that he loves me on his own. And if I have to tie him up and take a sledgehammer to his ankles to make him come to that realization, then so be it. But I wouldn't dream of touching a hair on his wife's head.

I predict that all of the boys will do badly during country week because they will all be too distracted by Dolly's gigantic melons to listen to her advice.

At 3/30/2008 06:10:00 AM, Blogger Gifted Typist said...

Chance, I chortled at the Sept 11/airport security connection. That is truly irony.

Don't tell BeckEye but MJ was over for dindins last night and he told me he's going to sing Every Breath You Take this week.

At 3/31/2008 06:22:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

one of the tabloids had a cover this week claiming that Dolly Parton is down to 80 pounds and anorexic. Maybe it was just to get more people to watch Idol this week. My take is that if Beckeye made it to Buckhead that Michael Johns would leave his wife voluntarily. I'm assuming that they don't have children yet.

I just dont' see you being anything like Kathy Bates.

So what was MJ like as a dinner guest?


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