Friday, March 07, 2008

Houston We Have a Problem (Idol 7 Round of 16 results)

Before there was Britney, there was Whitney. Obviously, there are differences: Whitney Houston could actually sing. Still, it’s the same basic idea. You get famous really young in a way that goes beyond just your music. They put you in movies. Your marriage becomes fourteen pages every other issue of People Magazine. Every time you laugh, cry, or make a face three hundred photographs of the event appear and the tabloids read all manner of things into the look on your face, the hour of the day, and whoever happened to be with you at the time.

At some point, you can’t take it anymore and you wind up in rehab, get divorced, have another baby, and wind up relegated to some second-rate reality show, not necessarily in that order. So why in the world does everyone on Idol want to be Whitney Houston?

I suppose it beats wanting to be Michael Jackson, but I did watch an episode or two of Being Bobby Brown. With or without Clive Davis to guide me back to stardom, I wouldn’t want to be Whitney Houston. That didn’t keep at least three Idol contestants from covering Whitney this week. In fact, the ladies eight started with Asia’h Epperson doing a kind of low carb, no fat version of I Wanna Dance with Somebody and ended with Syesha Mercado doing Saving All My Love For You as this fifteen dollar watch looks and sounds exactly like Rolex's Whitney model if you buy six I'll give you a discount. The men’s night closed with Chikezie turning All the Man that I Need into All the Woman that I Need (would have been interesting to see David Hernandez do this one).

Is it written somewhere that if you’re a black contestant on Idol, you have to try Whitney Houston? I do remember that it did work for Vonzell Solomon.

Now if you want to be Celine Dion, that’s another matter. She has a family, a nice elderly husband, has held onto her money, etc. I get Carly Smithson and David Hernandez wanting to be Celine. On the other hand every jazz player in the world wanted to be Charlie Parker at one time and look what happened to him. Heroin addiction, dead at 34, and the subject of a Clint Eastwood movie shot completely in the dark. The saddest thing about Whitney these days is that if she reappears as a guest mentor on Idol, it would feel like a comeback.

I’m sort of wondering what the real difference between Final Sixteen and Final 11 is. I probably actually remember several final 14 folk better than I remember 11-12 place finishers like Melissa Mcghee, Brandon Rogers, Lindsey Cardinale. Compare that to some non-finalists like Antonella Barba, Sundance Head, Gedeon McKinney, Amanda Avila. Unless you make the tour, it really means that you get to sing an extra time or two on national television which may get you another look for a cameo on say Being Bobby Brown, but it’s all in the realm of “Oh yeah, I sort of remember him/her. What was that song again that they did sort of okay?”

Asia’h Epperson: There are certainly other years when Apostrophe Epperson would have made the top 12, my take was that she made a mistake by going into Syesha Mercado’s wheelhouse two weeks in a row. Her best shot was to stay fun, likeable, and sympathetic. As strange as it sounds, she made the mistake of trying to prove to America that she can sing like an “Idol” when she didn’t really have the horsepower for that. She handled herself well on the show though and her Dad would be extremely proud of that.

Danny Noriega: It seems that every year there is someone who takes a shot at staying simply because he or she is entertaining. Pre-Sanjaya, John Peter Lewis probably got the furthest and that was partly because there was a time or two when he sang pretty well. In the past the Miykalah Gordons and Kevin Covais cracked the top 12 mostly for being memorable and singing well enough once. The irony is that Danny Noriega probably could sing better than either of those two, but he seemed to be working so hard at being Danjaya and sassing Simon in various adolescent ways that it looked like he wasn’t taking the music very seriously at all.

The other big difference was that Sanjaya was honestly loveable. We first met him as the guy who didn’t want to hurt his sister’s feelings and he actually took some very stiff criticism with impressive maturity. Danny was snarky. I think the sentimental Danny who turned up for the elimination moment might have lasted another round or two. Btw, I thought Chikezie scored some major points in the way he showed affection and support for Danny, particularly given the gay subtext with Danny and the whole fear of the down-low among African-American men.

Luke Menard: Seemed like a nice normal guy. Didn’t have a chance.

Kady Malloy: Okay, got a brief glimpse of what I assume was mom and some other older female relative during the results show. They didn’t look much like Kady. On Wednesday, it was clear that someone had told her to smile more and be a bit more animated in her interaction with the judges, but it came across as strangely unnatural especially the robot bit.

It’s very odd to see a young lady as conventionally attractive and talented as this seem uncomfortable in her own skin, but on stage that seemed to be a big part of it. She also needs some lessons on playing to the camera. Carly Smithson got a hard time from Simon for the way she handled the wireless mike. How many shots of Kady performing had the microphone almost completely blocking her face and did she ever make sense of how to play either to the camera or the audience? I also think she would have done better with a ballad. She had a bit of a Katharine Mcphee mixture both with the potential in the voice, the look, and this slightly geeky/awkward quality. For whatever reason, she chose the same sort of material that gave Mrs. Cokas a tough time. She should have waited a couple years to try the show when she can get more feeling into the song not just the sound.

I’m also going to catch hell for this, but I think part of what’s going on is that when Kady is out there she thinks the world thinks she looks like her female relatives and not the young woman we see. It makes for a strange disconnect. The thumbs down at Simon at the end of Wednesday probably didn't help. It's kind of like school. Certain kids say or do something and everyone laughs. Others do the same thing and everyone thinks they're a dork. Who knows why.

Kristie Lee Cook: I loved the image of her in a dog costume with live rats on her back. I hope she does that for one of her performances soon. I just don’t understand why the judges worked so hard to keep her in the competition. She picked a good song, not just because Randy Jackson was in Journey. A day later though, I didn’t even remember her singing it which underscores Simon’s point.

Carly Smithson: Celine Dion? Yes, she can sing, yet every week I also see why she didn’t catch on the first time through. Something inside her doesn’t get across. The tattoo and the accent make her memorable, but I don’t have an adjective for her. It’s like she’s passionate about succeeding, but not necessarily about sharing something distinctive about herself. Her mom looked good. Sort of reminded me of seeing Bo Bice’s mom and... You know you’re getting old when you start looking at the parents and thinking they’re hotter than the offspring.

Ramiele Malubay: She sure does cry a lot. She also has sort of an amateur charm in her exchanges with the judges that will serve her well in the year of the ringer. She does eventually need to sing something that I think someone would want to record and sell today. Sort of a female Anthony Fedorov in some ways.

Amanda Overmeyer: What was Simon up to? He was more or less demanding that America put Gravelmaker in the final 12. I do agree that she was better with Pat Benatar than she was with Kansas. There’s this whole caricature thing going on with her though that I hate. My take is that they’re desperate to make this year’s women a little more interesting. She’s had a car crash, set her apartment on fire, and god knows what else they’ll have her confess to in the attempt to make her a real rocker. I actually think they need to go the other way. Just show her being a perfectly competent nurse in a very straight hospital. That’s plenty exotic for Americans of average means these days. Maybe Paula can faint mid-babble and Amanda can stop mid-growl to restore Paula to consciousness even if coherence is no longer a possibility.

Brooke White: First, this was around the point where Paula was getting seriously disassociative so it was a shock to hear her make a coherent suggestion about the orchestration for Love is a Battlefield. Usually when they give you a solo guitarist on stage, it means the producers like you. I do think Brooke White is the lone female finalist who has a core identity as a performer that seems to be her own as opposed to Aretha 2.0, if you’ve ever seen the British movie “Little Voice” you kind of get my worry about Ramiele, that bar rocker chick, the one with the tattoo who sings good, and that blonde one who makes those funny eye movements on the close-ups. She’s also unlike any other Idol finalist that I can remember. I don’t know that she has the range nor do I know if she’s even all that good in her niche, but I think we’ll get several weeks to find out about both. It’s probably an accident that her name is “White”, but she’s pretty relentlessly white.

Final 12:

I actually picked the male bottom three and did comment on Beckeye’s page that Asia’h was probably going to be a surprise boot. On the other hand, I claimed that David Hernandez had done a Whitney Houston song. AI5 was a genuinely interesting season right down to the end. AI6 became less interesting as the season went on especially after Sanjaya left. They actually have some distinctive performers this year, particularly on the male side. Jason Castro, David Cook, David Archuleta, and Michael Johns are all already quite recognizable in a give me an adjective and I’ll say the guy’s name sense.
That said, I think this will be more like AI6 than AI5 though.

My first AI post two years ago compared the then group to a basketball team. If I stick with that metaphor, I think the bottom of the bench Chikezie and Kristie Lee are better singers than previous final 12 backenders. I, however, doubt that anyone would argue that either would be in any season’s starting five at crunch time. I also think that it’s quite possible for any of the other 10 to make the final five. It’s just that I don’t see a franchise player in the finals. Good teams get you to the playoffs, but it’s the superstars who get people to buy tickets or in this case Itunes downloads. I may be seriously underestimating the Hannah Montana factor with David Archuleta, the hotness of Michael Johns, the National Enquirer appeal of David Hernandez, the underdog charm of Ramiele Malubay, and Jason Castro’s likeability, but I’m not seeing anyone who’s name is going to be on America’s lips for six or seven weeks even the way it was with say Taylor Hicks. We know how AI felt about that one after it was all said and done. They simply declared Chris Daughtry the winner after the fact.

Anyway, this year’s crew can pretend to be Whitney, Celine, or even Britney (though that didn’t work for Kady Malloy) all they want, but I don’t think any of them are headed for that kind of celebrity.

Other Chancelucky Idol Reviews

Sir Linksalot American Idol articles

Buddy TV AMerican Idol Page

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At 3/07/2008 05:49:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

I answered you on my blog, but it bears repeating. Asia'h getting voted off was BULLSHIT!!

She looked so mad too, like she knew she was the victim of the blonde rule. I hope she keyed Kristy Lee Cook's car on her way out. Provided Kristy didn't ride in on a horse.

At 3/07/2008 06:03:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I agree it wasn't right. Asia'h should have stayed in and Kristy Lee should have gone home to mourn the loss of her horse. I thought it would happen because Asia'h was going to split votes with Syesha. It wasn't just that they're both black. Asia'h started dipping into Syesha's material. She needed to be bouncy or personal, the things that Syesha can't seem to do.
You have the blonde rule, I guess mine was the black women rule. If you're black and don't have a big voice, you go early.

At 3/07/2008 06:14:00 PM, Blogger Sunny said...

I thoroughly enjoyed every word.

Your take on the Taylor Hicks Idol quadrant spot on. Hicks could have done much more commercially should he have had the backing that Daughtry has had. 19E just doesn't and won't get it.

I liked Asia'h but her days were numbered afterall.

Winner this season - might surprise all of us.

At 3/07/2008 07:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Bay Area Idol Watcher: how come you give constant shoutouts to Beckeye on your site but she gives you nary a mention - or link - on hers? What's up with that, Beckeye?

BTW, David Cook, who really bothered me at the beginning with his "just this side of a combover" hairdo, is really starting to grow on me. And I'm concerned, as much as I love every performance David Archeleto does, that he has peaked too early and will suffer the fate of Lotoya London and Nadia Turner who never did a bad performance. I can't remember a season where the very best person actually won. I started watching at the end of season 1, the day everyone was shocked Tamyra Grey got voted off, so I can't speak for that one, though nobody can deny Kelly Clarkson's success.

Thanks again for your insights. Did you make up the term "Danjaya?" Brilliant!

At 3/07/2008 08:21:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Little Voice! I loved that film. Time to visit the bookshelf. Where the dvd is. I'm way off topic.

Nice recap. I agree on the Carly thing, I'd be voting for her tattoo more than anything else. The mean side of me (both sides now) enjoyed having my ears bleed through Luke Menard's even worse rendition of the Wham song after the vote off.

At 3/08/2008 06:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article, I enjoyed it! However, I think that there are more interesting singers this year than in previous seasons.

I've been waiting a while for AI to have some contestants who sing like Jason Castro or Brooke White. I'm tired of people who just over sing. At this point, I would buy a recording from Jason Castro, Brooke, David A., Michael Jons and even David Cook. I can't say the same about other seasons.

It'll be interesting to see the season progress and to see who will have breakout performances!

At 3/08/2008 12:39:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

According to Vote for the Worst David Archuleta is leading the voting by a lot, but I don't think that will hold up. Didn't they say something about bringing all the previous winners back this year?

Anonymous Bay Area,
Beckeye links me and comes here to comment, that's plenty. She also knows the entire Celine Dion canon so...

I agree that David Cook was very good. If I remember, Nadia Turner got done in by Time after Time when she did the Frohawk. I think she went too early too. Latoya going in favor of Jasmine Trias was one of the stranger America Decides.

I didn't make up Danjaya, but honestly can't remember where I first saw it. I've seen it a few times.

I knew if anyone had seen Little Voice, it was probably you. Just one of those small goofy movies that really was different.

The weird thing to me was that Luke kept mentioning his old group, yet never named them. I don't know if that was a contract problem or a very bad breakup. Maybe they're in witness protection now or something.

I absolutely agree that there's more legitimate variety this year than any previous season, as opposed to novelty types and lounge act or cover band singers. In a couple weeks I could wind up agreeing with you. DAvid Cook, Jason Castro, and Brooke White definitely are a little different.

Thanks for coming by.

At 3/08/2008 03:09:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

Anonymous: Because I'm paying Chancelucky to pimp me out. Who do you think pays for that People magazine subscription?

But I do link this blog. Fittingly enough, it's in the C's.

At 3/08/2008 06:45:00 PM, Blogger Gifted Typist said...

Excellent debrief, as always.

I'm still an AI virgin, but my theory is that the camera action just after they perform and while the voting #s are read by Seacrest - that is almost as important to the vote count as the performance itself. They play the camera with cute little gestures. Little voting texting fingers remember that too.

At 3/10/2008 09:21:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Should I be giving you a raise so you can get US and OK too?


I call it the "dismount" and it's the performer's chance to show personality-poise in the moment. It's very different from the pre-written stuff they do in those chats with Ryan before performing or the promo film clips they show.

I think it does play a very real role in voting on the show.


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