Wednesday, March 05, 2008

My Way or the Subway (Idol 7 Men Round of 16)

Back in the nineties, I happened to be in the Jay Street subway station in Brooklyn when I noticed a Chinese man in an overcoat standing between one of the tiled columns and a casio keyboard. He started playing a couple arpeggios on his Casio then broke out into Puccini or some bit of Italian opera. The guy was terrific. His bass-baritone voice resonated through the platform while some people stopped to listen, most just did whatever people do while waiting for subway trains. I don’t know for sure, but I did do a bit of googling and have since learned that he probably wasn’t exactly a street musician-busker in the conventional sense. I’m pretty sure the guy’s name was Tao Qi and he was part of a project called MTA Arts for Transit. In other words, he was a working musician who just happened to be working the Jay Street subway station.

Still, the effect was pretty incredible. He hardly looked like an opera singer and this wasn’t exactly the sort of space in which you’d expect Puccini, much less good Puccini, and all that conspired to make it one of those great musical experiences. It’s almost too bad I did the google thing and found out that he was sort of a ringer. I had thought of it as one of those New York moments that we tourists get to enjoy and take home to regale our friends with.

I’ve said before that you generally know when the producers think the music’s pretty good when an Idol installment really is mostly singing. Let me put it this way… Those embarrassment moments, even David Hernandez’s booger story as opposed to his other story, weren’t very distracting. Btw, How many benefits has David Archueleta performed for? Basically, the guys sang their eighties song, Randy did his human tuning fork bit, Paula told them how great they were, and Simon actually crossed the 50% mark of being more positive than not with his critiques. So who keeps alive his chance to sing pap for 19e productions and who are we going to be hearing at a subway station near us soon?

Luke Menard: This is show biz, memorable counts way more than competent. He did Wham, but not the George Michael version more like the Zoolander version. It’s so hard to be really really good looking and still be a forgettable performer. I’d be surprised to see this guy next week anywhere but in the audience.

David Archuleta: He’s basically got a pass to the final six or so. He played the piano, sang, sounded okay, licked his upper lip, and giggled awkwardly. Paula said “it’s so perfect that you’re not completely perfect and that’s what makes you even more perfect.”
Truly, it was Another Day in Paradise for this guy’s run on the show.

The most interesting thing about the whole segment was his claim that he chose the song to remind people that not everyone lives in Paradise in this world. I kind of liked that. Simon says you have to lighten it up from time to time though. I guess when they do Idol Cares this year they’ll have Jack Black and Ben Stiller there to riff on the whole bit about millions of starving children. Oh wait, that was last year…

It’s nice for one of the teenagers to make reference to something other than “Idol” being the only dream he’s ever had in his life. I do have this lurking “stage mother” worry because of that story though and yes, I did want to see him freeze up on stage some time. I’d even vote for him if he did it and I don’t vote.

Danny Noriega: This is show biz, memorable counts way more than competent and the who survives Luke or Danny may be the ultimate test of that. The show is clearly trying to establish Danny Talk, as Ryan points out it’s more or less a dialect based on text-messaging (who sponsors this show again?), as one of this year’s sideshows. He’s really good at it. The half moose head back at Simon was pretty inspired, the dandruff flick maybe not so much. For someone who Paula and Randy insist has great vocal skills, their love seems a little tainted at this point.
Every now and then, you get these clues that Simon actually doesn’t know pop music all that well or at least as well as Randy and Paula. There are always groups and songs he’s simply never heard of and it takes me by surprise.

David Hernandez: Interesting that they put him next to Danny Noriega after a week of multiple rumors about Hernandez’s past as a gay stripper. Naturally, he got to sing a love song (It’s All Coming Back to Me Now). Maybe a little weird choice given the gay stripper story( btw Beckeye who knows 80's music way better than I do pointed out that Celine Dion first popularized the song in the 90's and that it was written originally for Meat Loaf, I'd originally had it in my head that Simon accused Hernandez of doing a Whitney Houston cover). I think the guy sings well, he has a clear singing identity, only the style is well straight out of the 80’s even when he’s not singing 80’s. The one thing that may do him in was the booger story. I’ll be thinking about what's up his nose every time he performs and not in the Amy Winehouse kind of sense.

Michael Johns: David Cook apparently broke his guitar so Michael Johns ( the pro) had to step in a little early to do the theme song from the Breakfast Club, maybe the ultimate 80’s movie. Where is John Hughes these days anyway? Where’s Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson for that matter? Not that I miss any of them. He’s good. My only worry is that he comes off as a bit too slick. I’d love to see a bit more spontaneity from him on stage or we might forget about him say like the entire cast of the Breakfast Club.

David Cook: Lionel Ritchie and an electric guitar in the Nicole Ritchie era? It worked and Cook I think established himself as the serious “Musician” among the guys. He appears to have the most distinct musical identity of the about to be finalists. That’s a good thing isn’t it? Hello! McFly are you listening? (random eighties reference to honor the theme)

Look for him to start getting the Chris Daughtry treatment.

Jason Castro: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the unmentioned Rufus Wainwright all set the bar for Hallelujah (featured in Shrek I think). I still say that dreadlocks and all, Jason Castro would and should have gotten carded at that bar. He seemed to run out of breath just after the whispery sections and at a couple points broke character to wink/smile at the audience. Yes, he brought off the vulnerability but I wasn’t thinking that he’d pulled off anything that I’d want to record or that he’d ever had a contemplative moment quite like that in real life. He really does seem like the sort of person where pulling out one of his own dreads is a major life event.

I think the judges were rewarding him for taking their advice and losing the guitar for one show.

Chikezie: I liked the falsetto. He went for a more modern semi-casual look and I’m thinking this guy may actually do better with being an iffy dresser. There’s kind of a Sinbad vibe about the guy. As in he might find some way to get popular, but no one’s every going to be convinced that he’s either really good or special in some way as a performer. “All the wo/man that I need?” though…and more Whitney Houston? So why didn’t the judges call Chikezie on Idol’s secret “No more Whitney” rule? Is it because the guy’s black and therefore exempt? Even with the pimp spot though, I think he’s a candidate for elimination. Until he turned up last night, I’d almost forgotten that he was still on the show. That can’t be good.

I don’t normally do this, but here you go.

Michael Johns
David Archuleta
David Cook
Jason Castro

David Hernandez (I keep thinking about Antonella Barba for some reason)

No tour for you this summer:
Luke Menard
Danny Noriega (another test for Vote for the Worst-ish)

Off to Whole Foods to shop for baby shower gifts for Nicole Ritchie. Can you see food shopping with Simon Cowell? "You call this fish, it's like something you'd find in a cabaret, karaoke,genetically modified fish farm fish. I hated this. Don't you have Mrs. Paul's?"

Other Chancelucky Idol Reviews

Sir Linksalot American Idol articles

Buddy TV AMerican Idol Page



At 3/05/2008 01:36:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

Just one correction: "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" was a Celine Dion hit, originally written for Meat Loaf by Jim Steinman. (Love, love, LOVE Steinman! DRAMA!!) Trust me, I own her CD. Um, and actually more than just that one. Feel free to make fun.

And let me give you a virtual bitch slap for even suggesting that anyone would forget about Michael. I'm breaking out into a sweat just thinking about him.

At 3/05/2008 01:41:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

but didn't Whitney Houston cover it back in 1991? I didn't have you pegged as a Celine Dion fan. Anyway, I'll clarify.

But straight guys aren't going to react that way to Michael Johns. They'd more likely dress him up as a kangaroo then pound on him. I do want to hear what happens when Michael picks up his special prize from you.

At 3/05/2008 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Gifted Typist said...

BeckEye owns a CD CD?
I'm shattered! Utterly.

Chance, in my smug pre-Idol days, I never would have matched up intelligence with Idol. But here we are. Again. Great recap. Between you and BeckEye, I don't have to watch the thing, although I will, if only to have my two cents worth

At 3/05/2008 03:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tao Qi is still a member of Music Under New York and is still performing in the subway - wonderful singer and a really nice man.

All the best,

Saw Lady

At 3/05/2008 04:00:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I agree. Beckeye's got some splainin to do about those CD CDs.
Thanks for your encouragement. Last couple weeks, I've sort of liked Beckeye's AI posts better than mine.

Have you noticed that the common thing in all her tv crushes isn't that they're funny (though she did mention Will Ferrell)...Travolta, Michael Johns, and Simon all have dark hair and strong chins. Maybe we can design a Beckeye predictor.

Also, thanks for your kind comments.

I hope it was all right that I linked to your blog article. Glad to hear that Tao Qi is still at it and I'm going to have to check your music out some time as well.

The Tao Qi story and Idol tie together in another way for me. I don't know if you know the story of Paul Potts who was on the British Version of America's Got Talent (actually I think it's vice versa), but when I saw
it, it definitely reminded me of that day in the subway.

At 3/06/2008 06:01:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You continue to be my favorite American Idol commentator, and next to the show itself, the high point of my week - mediawise. Thanks for turning me on to beckeye. While, for me, her reviews are NEVER better than yours, she does entertain. Any other "competitors" you care to share? Once I get on a role of *not working* I want to use my wasted time wisely. Keep up the great work. Signed, fellow Bay Area Middle-aged Idol Watcher

At 3/06/2008 09:04:00 AM, Blogger BeckEye said...

How can I dance when my earth is turning...How can I sleep when my ears are burning...

Anyway, Whitney never recorded "It's All Coming Back to Me Now." I'd bet Travolta's chin on it. Celine had the hit in '96 and that was pretty much the first time anyone heard the song. Although, I did some minor digging and found out that some band named Pandora's Box recorded it in '89, just making the decade but I hardly think that makes it a worthy song choice for '80s Night.

I will not apologize for owning Celine CDs. She is zee greatest singer in zee world, after all!

Pounding on Michael. Ehhh hehehheh. Tee hee. You know, I will never think of that "Tie me kangaroo down" song in the same way again.

Oh, and I totally have a type. I love the dark hair. If you find my "PopEye's sexiest" post, or whatever the heck I called it, you'll see a definite pattern.

Anonymous said, "her reviews are NEVER better than yours." Ok. The jig is up, "anonymous." I know it's you, Simon! Look, I know you're still mad at me for dumping you for the Aussie, but come on. He's way hotter. I had no choice.

At 3/06/2008 10:13:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Anonymous bay area person,
many thanks for your encouragement. It helps me to know that people read these posts. I get a lot of my hits through sirlinksalot (nice people btw) and there are some very good blogs linked there (not all of them though, a lot of recaps are of the he did this then he sang this, then the judges said this, and I liked it, insert joke, next contestant, variety).
I met Beckeye through the Passion of the Dale and they've both participated on something called "American Idolatry" which more or less liveblogs the show...It works for west coasters though, because it's up by the time we actually watch the thing.

While I doubt that anonymous is Simon, he is acting awfully peevish this year. After you corrected me, I looked to see if Whitney ever recorded a cover of the song. I couldn't find it either. It seems like Simon was simply factually wrong, but who knows.

I see nothing wrong with your having Celine Dion CDs. You are the popeye after all and that's as pop as it gets.

At 3/06/2008 02:36:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

So, Simon said it was a Whitney song? I don't remember that. Well, Randy was under the impression that "Don't You (Forget About Me)" was an INXS song...but I guess that's because my honey made it sound an awful lot like one.

I'm gonna have to watch the YouTube vid again to see if Simon slips up. And then I'll watch the Michael Johns video again for entirely different reasons.

At 3/06/2008 04:33:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

Ok, so I rewatched the YouTubage and none of the judges said anything about the Celine song being a Whitney song. They didn't even mention it was a Celine song! (How dare they.) Maybe you're thinking about Chikezie's song? Dunno. Whatever the case may be, there's no doubt about one thing: Michael Johns is delicious. :P

At 3/06/2008 04:58:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks for following up...mmmm...I know the Chikezie song was a Whitney song...for whatever reason I remembered Simon coming down on somebody for doing Whitney and Randy and Paula then tracing the history of the song. You were right that discussion was for Chikezie. I've made the correction to the post and thanks.

Hallucinations can be fun, but AI hallucinations I'm not sure is a good thing.

At 3/06/2008 08:06:00 PM, Blogger benny06 said...

Well, Luke is gone, as predicted.

At 3/06/2008 08:26:00 PM, Blogger Sunny said...

Okay Chance, as you know I'm likely to find a favorite to fangurl over; I am enamored with Castro.

To me the others are simply commercial breaks.

One word, Hallelujah!

At 3/07/2008 02:53:00 PM, Blogger Cicily Janus said...

BTW...I found you through your story on Summerset Review. Great story...

I just submitted a piece there, and am eagerly anticipating another rejection for my collection...

Anyway, I was listening to NPR a few months back and they did this spread on Joshua Bell playing in the subway in Washington DC. He put on a baseball cap, some jeans and an old sweatshirt and started playing. Hardly anyone stopped and the one person that did stop, asked him if he was who he looked like, himself...He said yes and he was doing an experiment.

I guess this isn't such a new concept. Didn't know about the NY project.

But, when I was in NY, every subway ride had a performer. Whether it be a homeless (she was quite well dressed to be homeless as she claimed to be) woman begging for money to get her kids clothes and food (not to mention her hair was curled..)or a gospel group or two asking for you to contribute to their church, it was way more entertaining than anything we have here in Colorado Springs.

Nice blog..Thanks for sharing your words


At 3/07/2008 05:10:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I was very pleased with myself. I called the whole male bottom 3 right and then predicted that Asia'h would go over on Beckeye's blog.

We need to have a faceoff between your Jason Castro against that Australian guy.

At 3/07/2008 05:12:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

it's really nice to have someone who found my story over at the Summerset Review. Joe Levens was one of the better editors I've worked with. Very fast getting back to me, good suggestions in the edit process, etc.

Actually, the irony is that some people wonder why I write about reality tv. Well, the only times I've been contacted by other fiction writers have been on comments on my Reality tv reviews.

I saw the Joshua Bell story when it came's pretty fascinating. For the most part, no one noticed.

At 3/07/2008 08:12:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Oh Beckeye, with your fancy Jim Steinman. Did I ever mention that one of my favourite songs is 'Rock and Roll Dreams Come True'? or is it Through?

Chancelucky is awesome isn't he Gifted Typist?

At 3/08/2008 12:21:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I confess. I don't know Jim Steinman...I'll have to check him out.

At 3/08/2008 03:21:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

Jim Steinman is simply the greatest rock-opus writer in the world. You can pretty much pick out his songs because they all have a similar sound and the original versions are usually about 3-4 minutes too long for radio. Some Steinman greats (aside from the aformentioned Celine tune and the Meat Loaf one that Dale just mentioned):

- Pretty much every Meat Loaf song, including my personal fave, "Heaven Can Wait."
- "Making Love Out of Nothing At All," Air Supply
- "Total Eclipse of the Heart," Bonnie Tyler
- "Tonight is What It Means to Be Young" and "Nowhere Fast," both from one of my favorite cheesy '80s movies, Streets of Fire


At 3/10/2008 09:24:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks for the Jim STeinman guidance. I guess I have heard his songs and liked them. I've never seen STreets of Fire, though I've meant to for many years...need to check Netflix.


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