Friday, May 16, 2008

Everything's Coming Up Davids (Idol 7 final 3)

Ethel Mormon later the star of Gypsy was once the world's fastest typist

I suspect a lot of people aren’t going to remember this week’s final three performances as much as they’ll think of it as the week of Jeff Archuleta. The show confirmed that it had decided to ban David the Younger’s father from backstage discussions about song choice, performance, etc, with the contestants. The story’s been circulating for some time that the seventeen year old singer’s father, also a musician himself, is more or less Gypsy Rose Lee’s mother for the I-tunes era. For those who don’t do Sondheim, that’s shorthand for “stage parent”.

Nigel said something about it not being fair that one contestant was getting help from his “father”, so they decided to address it. I have to say that the timing is fascinating. For one, David chose his own song this week, a Chris Brown number about being someone’s “boo”. The judges both noted that this just wasn’t right for you, Dawg. More significant, it’s the week of the final two and how many people out there are going to now have second thoughts about voting for a teenager with an out of control stage dad? Even the footage from Murray, Utah seemed to pointedly feature David's very attractive mom with virtually no signs of Dad.

I don’t know that Jeff Archuleta is necessarily an out of control stage dad. Apparently no one says he yells or plays weird mind games with his son, he just knows music and doesn’t quite trust people to do right by him. Given what Idol does sometimes, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I’m old and my tastes are hardly current, but you saw Fantasia this week. Red hair, dressed as a character out of the Matrix meets Grace Jones, and screeching around the stage. Yes, I know that the show gave her a career and this is post-Idol, but I remember the Fantasia who could sing. It could be Fantasia’s vision, but I worried that this is what producers sometimes do to pop singers. So if you’re Jeff Archuleta, what do you do?

A few nights ago, we were channel surfing and kept coming back to Danny Bonaduce’s Next Child Star. The final musical performance has the nine year old singing “Alone” by Heart while the 11 year old was doing “So Emotional”, i.e. it was sort of mini-idol. Anyway the gimmick on the show is they pick not just based on the talent of the kid, but also on the “sanest” most supportive mother. The winning mom prayed a lot and was constantly in “we’re proud of you regardless” mode. For being good mom and talented daughter they got fifty thousand dollars and an agent for a year named Ruben Kinkade who is secretly in love with the Shirley Jones character. Anyway, it made me think about David Archuleta, junior Star Search, and how Jeff is now a news item. How many voters out there are thinking the same thing? Of course, there is the matter that the tweens who vote for David fifty times a minute may be the one group immune from that sort of publicity. Still, it strikes me that this was Idol’s version of push-polling.

For those of you doubting the possibility that the press release about Jeff Archuleta wasn’t mildly manipulative, I have a five word answer, the producers picked Dan Fogelberg. Years ago, I had a girl friend who loved Dan Fogelberg. She dumped me very quickly (personally I thought the restraining order was totally unnecessary), but even at the height of the pain I knew that one good thing about the dumping was that I’d never have to listen to Dan Fogelberg sing about meeting old girlfriends in the Safeway parking lot while the Christmas Carols played in the background or whatever it was.

I do tend to think that the voting is more or less on the level, but this year I have wondered about the level of manipulation. How many times and ways did they tell Syesha Mercado that she’d done really well to be third? For some odd reason, Syesha was the one idol contestant in the last five years who literally made me grind my teeth when watching her. Yes I got tired of Mikalah Gordon and Kevin Covais very quickly but only Constantine came anywhere close to hitting the Syesha level for me. I think it was the actress thing and the way she was always over-emoting/playing to the camera. It felt phony and empty. That said, she sang quite well for the last four weeks, she’s nice to look at, and how the hell could they go from this was the closest vote ever last week to you don’t have a chance girl in what thirty seven minutes? Am I the only one who remembers how during this week in season 5, Ryan told us that Elliot Yamin, Katharine Mcphee, and Taylor Hicks each had roughly 33 percent of the vote? And the producers made her sing a song from a cartoon? What was up with that?

In the meantime, I am glad that her run on Idol has given her father a reason to get off drugs. Did her mother ever get to talk on the show?

So how many ways did they point to David Cook? I didn’t see the Omaha auditions. Did we get to see David Cook’s younger brother sing? Boy did they torture the guy. Hey, David’s so nice that he just came along to support you. Now, he’s won the show and you’re Gummo Marx, the Wilson who couldn’t be a Beach Boy, Mike Maddux. Let’s rub it in here on national television a few more times so we can underscore how great a guy David is.

To be honest, I sort of wished they had thrown him a Chakha Khan song instead of yet another non-rock ballad for him to vamp into a rock anthem. A few weeks ago, I did more or less say that David Cook was the one I’d pick of the remaining five. Still I thought David Archuleta was actually going to win, partly because of the way I started hearing form his fans after I came out for David Cook. Btw. Could you have two 17 year olds more physically different than Jordin Sparks and David Archuleta?

I do think David Cook does come off as both poised and genuine when he does get to speak. He has a nice way of honoring the other contestants, not getting overly excited when he gets either praised or dissed by the judges, and he also does seem genuinely touched by the thrill of suddenly being noticed as a performer.

In terms of this being the most talented group ever, I do have to say that I’m sort of wondering how we could hear nine songs form the top 3 and not have a single one that’s all that memorable on the last night they would break out new songs. Amidst all the talk about the show losing steam, one thing has been very clear to me. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter much whether you change the judges, let Ryan talk more, add more backstory, etc. (well, let me suggest just dumping the group sings. Even an I-phone commercial to go with the Ford commercial would be better) , it’s the music that matters. I just don’t know that either finalist has kept something in reserve to thrill America. No amount of pimping by the judges or the producers can make that happen artificially.

Maybe Idol needs a stage dad of its own?
Other Chancelucky Idol Reviews

Sir Linksalot American Idol articles

Buddy TV AMerican Idol Page



At 5/15/2008 11:12:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

I hope you called her Ethel Mormon on porpoise. I used to do a kick-ass Ethel Merman impression when I was little. I stopped after she died, though.

At 5/15/2008 11:16:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Syesha would still be on the show if she'd done Ethel Merman :} Michael Johns too...In San Francisco, they have an Ethel Merman chorus. I think it's all male, though I'm not sure if they're married to each other now.

At 5/16/2008 06:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like Idol to get rid of the group song. Why do they only have 90 seconds for each song? It's a singing competition. Let them sing the whole song. Seems they just get started and it's over. They can cut out Ryan and judges bantering back and forth.

At 5/16/2008 01:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, I'm not the only one seeing through the very fine veil of 'fixing' cast over the show by the producers! It is sickening.

Could they do any more to pimp David Cook? He had 1:30 more time in his homecoming segment than either DA or Syesha. DA had done an upbeat/soulful arrangement of that awful 'Longer" song, but the producers wouldn't let him sing it that way. They told him he had to copy the original, basically.
Simon calling the first round going to 'Cowell and Cook'- did anyone else notice how off pitch Cookie was throughout the song? Randy did.
Would it suprise anyone of the votes are never registered or counted?
Well, Cookie certainly seems desparate for the win. I say let him have it! His fans will think that they gave a real rebel image rocker the crown! Cookie is the perfect AI. He is totally predictable. Do we have any doubt as to what kind of music he will produce? He speaks well in public, so all the media crap and pushing of the AI label will be right down his alley. He will be easy to dress and market. He is so definable! What a package!!
David Archuleta should thank his lucky stars if he comes in 2nd. He's not good at interviews, and god knows how man of those would be forced upon him..along w/all the PR crap the Idol has to do. And just where would the pigeonhole him? He really doesn't have a defined 'style' or 'image'. He's 17, for Christs sake! Not winning AI will give him the opportunity to find himself as an artist, and create music as he wants to do, not as the money grubbing AI and 19E have in mind. They would just squeeze every last dime out of him and toss him in the garbage. Sony and RCA are anxiously waiting so they can sign him, anyway.
Maybe his dad will be helpful in guiding hes career and standing up to the exec's. Or maybe he'll ruin his career. Who knows?
My fantasy Finale would be that DA wins, turns to Nigel and the bunch and say's, "Thanks anyway. But I don't want to be your American Idol."

At 5/16/2008 04:06:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

good point about the 90 second songs...AS they get down to fewer singers, it would seem like one of the tests would be to see if they can sing a longer (more radio length) song.

As I said, I think the voting is probably on the level, but that doesn't keep the show from nudging things. The odd thing is that for most of the season David A seemed to have been the favorite...The shift to David Cook was fairly subtle. They did all but club Syesha out on Tuesday night. I didn't think anyone sounded any better or worse than anyone else at least not noticeably. Supposedly the vote for the 3 had been extremely close the week before, so....suddenly she needed to hit a home run while the other two just needed to do their usual? It seemed odd.

At 5/16/2008 06:29:00 PM, Blogger Gifted Typist said...

Hey, I'm the world's fastest typist!

Have you noticed the lack of vibe between the contestants the last few weeks?
There just doesn't seem to be any love. is that normal at this stage or is there just nuttin between them.

I feel that David A got too far. They plyed up the tween matinee idol good looks and then realized they ended up with a dud. They can't have him as Idol. It would wreck the Idol brand so they're going for cook. It would have been so much better to have a Carly in there at this point to give it some depth.

At 5/16/2008 07:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son runs high scool track. His 4x200 relay team needed to finish in third place in order to qualify for the State meet. They just missed, in a close race. The team that beat them had taped their relay baton. This is against the rules. No officials noticed it. My son and his buddies saw it, though, and for about 3 seconds debated about reporting it. It would have meant disqualification for the other team. They would be off to State! They all agreed that they weren't going to say anything. They didn't want to go to State that way. Classy, huh?

Which brings me to my fantasy Finale! Well aware of the slimey, underhanded goings on behind closed doors, (and blatantly in front of them too), David Cook takes a moment. He decides that winning AI like this just isn't who he wants to be. So, he and David A skip the Finale and go off to sign their recording deals with exec's who have a little class. We are left w/the image of Ryan trying to pry the crown out of nigel's ass!
The End

At 5/17/2008 07:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To all those disgusted w/the AI drama and deck stacking, fear not! Both the Davids have already gotten everything they need from AI. It doesn't really matter who wins. They will both have great careers ahead.

I would like to quote something I read at It is a comment from someone who has worked in Classical music and coached opera singers for 25 yrs. Evidentyl some of the worlds best singers have come under his/her
tutelage. Here is what he/she had to say re. David Archuleta:

"...Davids voice is the purest, most beautiful I haver heard in a person that young. But beautiful voices are just beautiful voices. David's has more than just beauty. It connects. And its that combination that is so rare. He connected me instantly-and I am not a teenager who is attracted to him because he's cute. I'm attracted to his singing because it touches me. Very few artists can do that and it is extremenly rare at his tender age.
I want him to go out into the world and spread the joy and love through his music that he so obviously possesses."
With praise like that from those who know music well, Who cares what AI is doing to ensure his loss, or what his uneducated critics have to say about him?
It is painful to watch the shenanigans because David is so young and undeserving of this kind of treatment. But his talents are far beyond anything AI deserves to be associated with. I agree/wSarah- let David Cook have the win. He is the perfect AI, and his winning won't hurt him as an artist.

I would love to see DA win for purely selfish reasons. It would be the thrill of a lifetime for the kid! I would love to see the emotions wash over him. But truth is, it could ruin him to be associated w/AI any longer than he has to be. He is such a rare gem, and is in a league that AI has never come close to. They don't deserve to have him.

At 5/17/2008 07:38:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I think the Ethel Merman as world's fastest typist was sort of an urban legend, though she had worked as a secretary. All that means you can still be the world's fasted and most gifted typist still.

I think David and David seem to be okay with each other, but Syesha and Jason didn't seem all that tied into the others. In past seasons there seemed to be some clear friendships between contestants and it was interesting to watch. Last year it was Chris Richardson and Blake Lewis, a couple years ago it was Carrie Underwood and Antony Federov.
This year early on there was the whole triad of Danny Noriega, Kadie Malloy, and Ramiele Malubay, but they didn't last long for other reasons.

I think their contracts make them perform pretty much regardless, but it would be great if something like that happened.

At 5/17/2008 08:13:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

There do seem to be music people who really like what David Archuleta does harmonically, etc.
At the same time, this is pop music. It's not opera. How regular folk respond to the music matters a whole lot and while less sophisticated than the "experts", it doesn't mean that it isn't valid.
Clearly a large portion of the regular public has responded very well to the younger David. Even those who like other contestants better still generally admit that David A has talent. It's just that Pop success is a package of things. That's why some great voices fail at it and some people who don't sing all that well become huge stars.

At 5/17/2008 10:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're definitely right, Chance. There is a saying, "Art is for artists". This usually pisses off the general public, because everybody believes that they have taste and know what true art is. Its akin to me saying that I understand quantum mechanics because I watched a PBS version of some Stephen Hawking thing...

At 5/17/2008 11:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chance- I have never left a comment anywhere, on any blog...I have been reading yours for a long time, and really enjoy it, by the way.

I have been following the thread for weeks re. David Archuleta. You get some well educated people reading your articles! It's funny, because I never watch AI. Until this year, that is. One of my students told me that I just had to hear this 17 yr. old sing!!(I am a voice and music teacher at Julliard). I have suffered through some really horrible performances to have my 2 minutes of David Archuleta each week!

Let me tell you. This boy is incredibly gifted. I would welcome him into my class any time! (I can't say that about anybody else on that show...doubtful they would make it past reception...). He is a prodigy. He is a savant. He has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard, and believe me, I have heard a lot!

I would jump at the chance to work with him! He will be too busy persuing a career from here on out though, I suppose.

It has been interesting to find that there are many, many others, like me, who never watched the show before, and only watch it now because of David Archuleta. I doubt that AI will ever have another like him cross their threshhold again...and to see how they are sabotaging him in favor of David Cook is...well, are there words that can describe how awful it is? That poor kid.

All I can say, is that I am left speechless when David Archuleta sings! All the best to him- Idol crown or not!

At 5/17/2008 05:30:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I'm not completely sure about that. Sometimes those who know something a bit too well aren't as prepared for ideas or styles that are truly fresh. With music, I'm not sure you have to understand it to appreciate it. I honestly think there's a place for both does help to know technique, etc. but I think the really great music can be appreciated without specialized knowledge.

Many thanks for following this blog and for taking the time to post here.

You seem to be the second voice teacher who's come on here to say that David Archuleta is special. Just out of curiousity, I know they often talk about opera vs. lieder, vs. pop voices. How would he do singing classical?

I sort of wondered what might have happened had they given him the Roberta Flack song...She was trained classically I think at Howard University and you can hear it a bit in the way she phrases. Like David Archuleta, I think some her charm as a singer was that there was this very "on balance" quality to her vocals.

Billy Joel was fine for him, but the Dan Fogelberg seemed like pure sabotage by the producers. Bottom line though, I think they could have kicked Dad out much earlier if it had been that much of an issue. The article certainly didn't make it sound like Jeff Archuleta did anything different this last week other than add some other lyric to David's song the week before.

I remember the bit where Katharine Mcphee sang some classical in out takes with Andrea Boccelli who at best is opera lite. It was defnitely fun but I wasn't sure that she sounded that good in that exchange. I guess he liked it though, he took her on tour.

At 5/18/2008 10:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Chance! Only have time for a brief answer to your question:

David is still developing his range, and I think classical training would only help stretch and define it in a huge way. His upper register can be somewhat diaphonous or strained at this point, although he did hit a beautiful D sharp in 'Smokey Mtn. Meomries'. His lower register has really strengthened throughout the competition(listen to 'Shop Around' and later, 'Stand By Me', for example). He can power right on through the middle. I would like to see him become more able to precisely switch notes or octaves, and more quickly. This is in part a matter of practice and also just the maturing of his instrument. He has chosen songs to do that his voice really isn't quite ready for. I have no doubt he will become very accomplished as he continues on.

I am a firm believer in Classical training for any voice. It is the best way to develop one's range, pitch and tone. How would he do in this vein? I think he would probably see it more as an exercise than genre. I think he would likely do very well, as he has terrific vocal control as it is. I would be interested in hearing him sing jazz, actually. He has a very soulful feeling, and w/more training...well I think Jazz could really be something for him!

Not suprised you have heard from other vocal teachere- around here we refer to him as 'The Voice'!!

Hope this is helpful! Best to you!

At 5/20/2008 08:01:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

I just saw Ethel Merman, I mean Beckeye and also managed to squeeze in Patti Lupone in Gypsy, all very American Idol related I know.

As the great blogger Flannery Alden predicted, the winner of this week's AI will be someone named David. I will care very little but will still watch the 16 hour finale.

At 5/20/2008 10:26:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks for your very detailed answer to my question about David A and classical training. I could definitely see him singing jazz. For some reason, I think his much maligned dad is a jazz trumpet player btw. David A has a smoothness in his voice that sort of reminds me of Mark Murphy and a little bit of Johnny Hartman.

I would guess another reason that all singers might benefit from classical voice training or at least formal voice training is "survival". Many years ago, I met a friend of Joan Baez who told me that she had after age 50 taken the first formal voice lessons of her life. It wasn't musical per se, it was about avoiding further damage to her instrument and her being able to continue to perform.
I do remember David's performance of Smokey Mountain Memories (Dolly Parton night) but I'd never have any idea what note he happened to hit.

I do think the harder question with David Archuleta isn't so much will or should he win, but rather is this the right time for him to be a "star". With Jordin Sparks last year, I thought she maybe should have waited three or four years. She was very poised personally, but didn't have a musical identity. David could use some time to work on stage persona. I think he has a musical identity, a terrific instrument, but it strikes me that he'd benefit from deepening that musical identity on his own rather than having it imposed on him in the form of sales expectations for his music.

Anyway, thanks for your analysis. It's very helpful to a tin-eared viewer like myself.

Well, I hope you said "hi" to Ethel for me. I've thought the finale is one of the more interesting phases of the show, but with Idol Cares dropped into the season the two together are just much too much.


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