Friday, March 13, 2009

A Number One Hit in Norway (American Idol 8 round of 13)

I came home from the gym (my wife got tired of seeing me watch America’s Biggest Loser and telling her “See Dear, I’m not that bad….yet. so she got me a gym membership for Christmas0 just in time for Scott Mcintyre to sing in some piano bar that seats four thousand people and multiple tv cameras. About a month ago, we made the switch to HDTV after I convinced my wife that it would be patriotic to stimulate the economy by buying a Japanese television. Scott made his way through Keep the Faith ably enough and part way through I’m almost convinced that he’s Brooke White’s visually-impaired cousin. Where Brooke was the blonde leading the bland, Scott is more or less the blind leading the bland. We’re just not talking Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Stevie Ray Vaughn here. The guy’s really earnest, professional enough, and if he’s ever had a memorable performance during his Idol run, I guess I missed it. He’s in the finals mostly because he has a good back story. The show’s had any number of heaing-impaired contestants in the past (not to mention one of the judges), but he’s Idol’s first visually-impaired finalist.

He does his thing, even had to dance a little bit, and Ryan and the judges get to talk about how inspiring it all is. If you haven’t noticed, while last season was the year of the ringer, this season it’s all about the back story. In addition to Scott we’ve got young mothers, a guy whose wife died just before Idol Auditions (in a couple years, I’m sure someone will be accused of killing his or her mate just to get through to Hollywood), a guy who works on an oil rig, a guy who was photographed kissing another guy, a hair-color challenged Hispanic teenager who got her start singing in a Spanish-speaking shopping mall, and well you get the idea. They’ve got all these great stories to tell maybe for some American Idol themed movie (I forgot, they tried that one already), but I’ve got to tell you the soundtrack’s going to be pretty thin.

Maybe I’ve just been through too many seasons of the show, but it’s gotten to the point where every contestant has some analogue from some other season. Michael Sarver appears to be some clone of Matt Rogers. Lil Rounds seems to be George Huff’s sister. Megan Corkery was grafted from Carly Smithson and Carmen Rasmussen. Matt Giraud’s never been spotted in the same place with Chris Richardson. Say what you want about Scott Savol, but he was distinctive and memorable. Yes, I hated Constantine, Kevin Covais, Amanda Overmyer, and Jasmine Trias, but they were at least individual enough as performers that they didn’t just feel like this endless blur of ninety second performances. I’ve even missed a few installments of the semi-finals this year, but when I tuned into the final 13 (right now it looks like a stupid idea since they have maybe 4 singers who anyone might remember) I felt no sense of having missed anything.

To me, the formula for reviving Idol has always been simple. It has nothing to do with how they pick semi-finalists or judge’s rescuing favorites mid-finals or adding some benefit show called Idol Cares in the middle of the season. The music itself needs to be exciting. Last year, they tried to address that by bringing in performers with more professional experience. I thought the general level of the final 12 was better, but they also managed to suck all the personality out of the show by not letting the performers freelance in their dismounts with Ryan or to a certain extent in the actual performances. There was nothing like Nadia Turner showing up in a Mohawk, Kellie Pickler trying to sing Bohemian Rhapsody, or Katharine Mcphee nearly coming out of her dress then more or less babbling during her chat with Ryan. I did have several people comment about David Archuleta having a magical voice, but while the level of the music was higher there just weren’t many performances that felt all that magical. Some people talk about David Cook’s Billie Jean and Hello, but I have to confess I barely think of those when I try to remember really good musical moments on the show.

Does Idol 8 have anyone would really could be a star? I simply just don’t know. To be honest, it sort of reminds me of Season 6 (Jordin Sparks) where none of the finalists generated much excitement despite the presence of one of the better singers the show has ever had in Melinda Doolittle.

I would say that the first show of this year’s finals had probably five memorable moments and oddly enough two of them involved Scott Mcintyre. First, Simon probably coined his own showbiz epitaph, “It’s fine being artistic, just not on this show.” Second, there was this wonderfully whacky moment where they tried to let Scott know that Siedah Garrett, the composer of perhaps the most obscure song in the entire Michael Jackson catalogue was in the audience. The judges point in the direction of Siedah Garrett. Apparently they momentarily forgot that Scott had no way of seeing her anyway (just a bit awkward). Making matters worse, the camera man couldn’t find her either. It was “Hey look everyone, here’s the composer of that song none of you have ever heard of!”

Simon later introduced tv chef, Gordon Ramsay, and it was an almost comparable moment. I first went, “Is that the prime minister of England (Gordon Brown)?” Maybe Jason Mesnick can be a guest judge this season to counter the Melissa Rycroft on Dancing with the Stars thing? If you remember, he picked Molly Malaney in that show’s singing contest which proved to be America’s first hint that something wasn’t on the level with that season.

For me the one actually memorable musical moment of the Round of 13 came from Adam Lambert. For one, he appeared to know how to command the stage and the song rather than just battling to get through the thing. Kara made a good point during the show about (I think it was Kara, I try so hard to blot anything she says or does out of consciousness) establishing a level with a performance and maintaining it. My main criticism of Danny Gokey was he established it with the first few bars of Pretty Young Thing then I simply didn’t remember any of the rest. I would say that sexual ambiguity is a big part of pulling off a song like Black or White,it’s one of the reasons that Michael Jackson’s so hard for singers to cover. Adam Lambert may have succeeded at least partly because he was comfortable going there as a performer and it’s very much a part of his charm.
I do think the judges got a tad carried away about Adam Lambert. In fact, I don’t know what to say about Paula sending him to the finals along with Danny Gokey. Nonetheless, his was the one performance that I paid attention to throughout. I think the fascinating thing about the guy as a performer is that he tightropes between Butch and Queen really effectively (whatever his actual preferences) and that really is sort of unique and new. I know that Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Michael Jackson have all played with projecting gender ambiguity, but Adam Lambert’s way of brining it off is unquestionably his own. The big question is how the Idol voting demographic will react over the long term. I’m sure he’ll have rabid fans early, but as you get into the later rounds you have to get votes from the great middle middle and this was a show that couldn’t quite buy into a rocker until it got David Cook who had the demeanor of the rock guy next door.

I do have to congratulate the show. They got through two hours of Michael Jackson covers without one slip up about either plastic surgeries or little boys.

I don’t know what her shelf life on the show will be, but I really did like Allison Iraheta, Give It To Me. In fact, I think she may be the best female rocker the show’s had yet. She has a huge voice, projects a sort of androgynous un-tamed quality (one of my issues with the likes of Gina Glocksen and Amanda Overmyer was the whole “out there” quality never felt all that genuine with either of them), and unlike other teen contestants she seemed to have a strong identity as a performer. Okay, I loved the footage of her singing in that furniture mall.

Finally, the judges’ wild card thing appears to have backfired in a big way. Jorgay (copyright Beckeye) and Jasmine were the first two voted off the island, or in Jorgay Nunez’s case back to the island where he can go help Tatianna learn a second song. It was the judges who “saved” Anoop Desai. Now they’re telling him to “beat it”. I’d have to say that Matt Giraud sounded like he was playing in the same level piano bar as Scott Mcintyre. Maybe he’ll last a while depending on how he splits votes with Kris Allen, but I don’t see him as a serious contender for America’s dwindling entertainment dollars.

A final self-indulgent personal note. Several of my friends have asked me about my plans to cover Idol this year. I had said that I would decide once they started the finals. Now that the finals have started, I have to say I’m still not sure. It’s going to need some sort of Reality Show Viagra and unless whatever they did takes a while to kick in, this season’s on the limp side so far. As Randy Jackson put it, “I always say the same shit every day, so I’m just going to say it.”

This is my measure. They did 13 Michael Jackson covers last night and I don’t know that any of them, with the possible exception of Adam Lambert, approached David Cook’s Billie Jean much less the one time King of Pop himself. At least they could have had Alexis Grace dress up as Bubbles or something.
Other Chancelucky Idol Reviews

Sir Linksalot American Idol articles

Buddy TV AMerican Idol Page



At 3/13/2009 11:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marla here, fresh off the trail of Jason-dissing from The Bachelor, though watching Melissa on DWTS is quickly putting me back on it. Revenge is sweet. Sorry to digress, wrong show!

Loved your recap and the pic of the little Michael Jackson that I grew up listening to...he's unrecognizable as the guy we see today. As for the top 13, I still don't quite know what to make of the contestants so far either. I'm not enamored with Adam's voice, though on some level I guess he's entertaining. You took the words right out of my mouth with your comparison of Megan Corkrey to Carmen Rasmussen, the latter which Simon rallied for and even then to me it was a real head-scratcher. Megan's voice reminds me of Lisa Kudrow's 'Friends' character, Phoebe Buffay, singing 'Smelly Cat.' She's pretty, but I don't find her quirky voice appealing at all. I wish the judges would stop w/ their 'total package' comments because as we saw with Jasmine this week and as I see with Megan, 'pretty' doesn't necessarily mean 'pretty-voiced.' None of the previous first-placers were total packages when they won, but have evolved with experience...and a great stylist! I agree it's interesting how both Jasmine and Anoop (and Megan?) were all in the bottom 4 but were the judges' wild-card picks. At this point I'm still liking Danny the most. Until next week.

At 3/14/2009 07:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And he's back! I was so happy to see your name on the sirlinksalot list! Great recap with an amazingly insightful analysis of Adam and everyone else. You seem to put so much time, pithiness, and substance into your re-caps - I for one, really appreciate it. I hope you'll keep it up. Renee

At 3/14/2009 10:05:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks for dropping by and commenting. Megan's sort of an edgier version of Carmen, which is a weird notion all by itself. I do see the Danny Gokey thing. I feel like they're setting up a finale between the goth guy and the church music director.

many thanks for your very kind comments. I do enjoy posting (not sure the last 2 Idol seasons were all that fun post Sanjaya) and I try to do something a bit more than this happened then this happened and I liked/hated it.

At 3/15/2009 09:34:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

Did you just use "Butch" to describe Adam Lambert?? For shame!!

Oh, and did I make you think that Jorge's name was actually Jorgay, or are you swiping my nickname? :)

At 3/15/2009 09:43:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Swiping your nickname :}, also spelling-challenged.

Well, Butch in the same sense of Michael Jackson doing Beat It all those years ago or Bad.

At 3/16/2009 07:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad you are blogging Idol. I absolutely LOVE your take on The Bachelor and I'm sure you'll make Idol worth watching for the next 11 weeks. You are hilarious and spot on in your assessments. One of my favorite bloggers....EVER!

At 3/16/2009 08:28:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks for the encouragement. There were some pretty good bloggers back in the 1970's though. I actually wrote American Idol stuff well before I did the Bachelor. I suspect there just aren't as many people who blog the Bachelor though.


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