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2006 Verve Awards

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Best Arts and Culture Blog Nominee

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


American Idolatry: Gender Blending

Boys AND girls, all on one show...what will the neighbors think? American Idol welcomed guest egomaniac Diana Ross, who helped the contestants sing her previous hits. Judging from the competition, I'm not sure she helped all that much. Ryan and Simon got into a seriously gay bitchfight, and Randy was a complete grump....while at the ModFab household, we decided that all three judges need to be fired if they can't be more consistent. The play-by-play:

Brandon Rogers: The leadoff slot is often a great place to get noticed, but this season it has also been a killer (sorry A.J.). Brandon has been shaky throughout the finals so far, and he blew it again in my opinion. It's not just that he went up on a line, but his energy seems flat and a little geeky. It breaks my heart, because he's so completely yummy...but after a month of mediocrity, I have to face the fact that he's just not much of a performer.

Melinda Doolittle: Even though Melinda was singing Diana Ross ("Home", from The Wiz), I couldn't help but realize that she is really more like another Motown legend: Gladys Knight. She's got the smoky tone, the rounded phrasing, even a similar look. Oh shit, now Simon has said the same thing (yes, I'm liveblogging), so it sounds like I copied him. Well, so what. Melinda is a star waiting to happen...she cried from her evident emotion (Paula cried too, but that might be the drugs). I think she'll be around from a long, long time in this competition.

Chris Sligh: Here's what interesting, and infuriating, about this friggin' show. Sligh really brought the artistry last night, tweaking "Endless Love" into an alt-rock experience. It was inventive, it was challenging, and it was sophisticated. And the judges hung him out to dry for it. This is the central hypocrisy, in my opinion, of American Idol: it professes to want something "new" and "fresh" and "innovative", and then when it gets it, it reveals its conservative, traditionalist heart. Shameful what they did tonight to Chris, in my opinion. I haven't voted by phone even once this season, but I may pick it up for Sligh tonight just to protest this terrible double standard.

Gina Glocksen: Rocker chick toned it down tonight, and played it safe. A perfectly serviceable version of "Love Child." Nothing remarkable, nothing too embarrassing beyond a little pushing and straining vocally. She doesn't really deliver star power, and to be noticed in the future, she'll need to bring a higher stage presence. (Side note: the fourth contestant tonight, out of four, that got criticized by Randy. Who pissed in his cereal this season?)

Sanjaya Malakar: Well, at least no one can say he doesn't try. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" is a tough song to sing, and worse, it's one that everybody knows. I've been hard on Sanjaya in the past, so it's probably necessary for me to say that I think this was his best performance yet. Yes, Randy is right, it was "unlistenable", but there were no seriously off-key notes, and he did try to sell it. If I give him an B+ for effort and a D for vocals, is that enough? (It might also be his new hairstyle: with his pert double earrings and his tightly-permed fro look, he now reminds me of a young Lisa Bonet.)

Haley Scarnato: It started off so well. Crooning through Ross' tender ballad "Missing You," there was a sophistication and sweetness I hadn't heard from Haley in the past. And then she got to the bridge and chorus, and all of her bad tendencies took over -- squealing and squeaking, and off the beat and messy, not to mention forgetting the words completely. It's this kind of amateur hour crap that just won't cut it anymore in the competition. She had a crying jag in the post-song banter with Seacrest, which will play very well in the voting for those who don't care about her lack of talent. (Side note: Simon came to her rescue...what the hell? Has he lost his mind?)

Phil Stacey: I know I sound like a very shallow broken record (to mix metaphors), but his vocal talent -- which I gauge to be moderate -- is completely shattered by his totally weird look. In a plain black shirt and jeans, his bald head took on the look of someone undergoing chemotherapy...and don't get me started on the bug eyes. He oversang (again) another easy-listening power ballad (yes, another one), and the judges were complementary, as they always are when a skinny white boy sings. But Phil is not my cup of tea.

LaKisha Jones: Aww, Diana Ross gave LaKisha a nickname: "KiKi". Isn't that darling? After suggesting to Miz Ross that she'd use a microphone stand, LaKisha chose not to. For me, her song choice -- "God Bless The Child", theoretically from Lady Sings The Blues -- was not good for her at all. It's a plaintive, melancholy song, and for a belter like LaKisha, that's suicidal. She fought the energy of the song and shouted the song to the rafters, including the final money notes. But it's not right for her. (Of course, THIS is where Randy starts to use words like "perfect" and "sensational".) It's not that she wasn't good, she was. But she doesn't really have the complexity to pull off material like this.

Blake Lewis: Supposedly a fresh, modern update on "You Keep Me Hangin On'", the arrangement was dominated by a synthesizer rhythm section straight out of 1986...it's like Kim Wilde never left. The singing was okay, but I can't be mad at him...Blake is adorable is his Burberry ripoffs and sneakers, and I'll gladly take this middling effort. The judges were kinder to his mashup than they were to Chris Sligh's, but again they slammed any attempt at innovation...which again, they supposedly actually cherish. Jesus, I hate this show. I hate myself for watching this show. ;-)

Stephanie Edwards: Work it, sister. "Love Hangover" is a brilliant tune, and Stephanie understood the subtext of the lyrics better than any other contestant all year. Sure, sometimes the enthusiasm gets the better of her, and she flubs a note. But if this were a smoky club somewhere in the heart of Manhattan, I'd pay big money to see her perform this tune. The judges continued their complete idiocy of the evening, complaining that she didn't make it to the uptempo section of the song...even though they know she's got a time limit which the producers hold her too. I loved it, and I don't give a fuck what Bitchy, Drunky, and Bitter have to say anymore.

Chris Richardson: Chris is not the weakest singer left in the competition, but I certainly think he's the most overrated. His voice is so small and tight, and his stage presence -- despite being the only contestant to go out in the audience all night -- lacks the gravitas of Melinda or LaKisha (or Phil Stacey, for that matter). Still, he made a good choice in singing "The Boss", which is an uptempo crowd-pleaser that isn't very difficult. Paula continued to fawn all over him...she really should make her attraction to young male contestants less obvious. Simon was really hard on him, for no apparent reason.

Jordin Sparks: The most mature performance of the night came from one of its youngest contestants. The ballad (from some animated movie) was totally forgettable, but Jordin shows a seriously telegenic understanding of how to work the camera and her voice to maximum effect. She does have a little trouble in her lower register, but I'm not sure anyone notices. The ending was delicate and shaded, which was a change from her usual belting thing. I really dug it, and she got the only across-the-board raves from the judges. Officially now the Dark Horse of Idol?

Best of Night: Jordin Sparks (Honorable Mention: Stephanie Edwards)
Getting Cut On Wednesday: Brandon Rogers (Alternate: Haley Scarnato)
Previously on ModFab: Simon Says, Women Who Wowed, When Goth Chicks Ruled The Universe, The Sanjaya Conundrum, You're A Heartbreaker, Bye Bye Barba!



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