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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

 

American Idolatry: Not Feeling Hella Good

Special guest coach Gwen Stefani mumbled her way through American Idol last night in an evening dedicated to the songs of No Doubt and the artists "who inspired Gwen", as Ryan Seacrest so delicately put it...which meant an inordinate amount of 80's bands and ska-lite arrangements. Interesting that no one decided to sing any of her solo material....personally, I'd pay good money to hear Blake Lewis take on "Hollaback Girl", and not just because he'd have to wear hot pants. But sadly, Idol had no interesting surprises in sore...in fact, I think it was one of the weaker nights of the competition thusfar, packed with mediocrities, substandard performances, and one freakishly heinous ponyhawk. Want to know more? Here you go:

LaKisha Jones: Singing a classic like Donna Summer's "Last Dance" might intimidate a normal person, but LaKisha barrels through it like a bobsledder on a slalom. It was a completely capable performance -- Ms. Summer won't lose any sleep, but for Idol's purposes, it was a slam-dunk. It's a shame, however, that a talent like LaKisha is opting for these middle-of-the-road efforts...good enough to stay, but nothing that allows her to be exceptional or legendary. I wish she'd take a real risk, because my guess is it could pay off.

Chris Sligh: I've been a supporter of Sligh's in this competition, and again tonight, I think he challenges the audience in great ways -- singing the deceptively difficult "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by The Police showed how other singers (are you listening, LaKisha?) are coasting by on by-the-numbers performances. The judges were hard on him about his tempo, but the fact that he hit every note should, in a perfect world, count for something. But let's have no illusions...he could go home this week, very easily.

Gina Glocksen: It's dangerous to pick songs by singers that are better than you...as listeners, we spend your entire two-minute performance comparing you (negatively) to the original vocal. That's what happened for me with Gina, who was up against my memories of Chryssie Hynde, one of the great ladies of rock; The Pretenders' "I'll Stand By You" found Gina straining in the upper register from start to finish, and her community-theatre balladry fought against her rocker-grrl aesthetic. Inexplicably, the judges loved it...where's that hotel-bar-karoake comment when we need it, Simon? I guess, in light of that, she'll be safe once again.

Sanjaya Malakar: I...don't...even...know...what to say. Wearing what he called a 'ponyhawk' -- his skullfucking bastard combination of a mohawk and ponytail -- Sanjaya immediately became the biggest hair-dont in television history. And what's worse, the dramatic hairstyle was a blatant attempt to distract people from his inability to sing, an open confession by Sanjaya himself that he has become a walking joke. Stankjaya sang No Doubt's "Bathwater" like it was a high school chorus audition. The judges gave up, implying very politically that he has a fan base that doesn't care about musical quality, and so he will stay.

A side note: I realize that even my best friend, Shanny, has posted on this blog that she's voting for Sanjaya now, part of a movement to wreck the Idol train by exposing it as a musical sham. Which is their (and her) right...but if we reward Sanjaya here, what are we saying? That artistic quality no longer matters in America? That the best in any competition should come in second to the most freakish? I mean, on some level, who really cares who wins this show...but on a larger scale, I find the Sanjaya obsession disturbing. American has lost its authenticity, and this is just another example of that.

Haley Scarnato: Another hoochie dress from Haley, and another abysmal performance -- Cyndi Lauper's "True Colours" sung like it was a dull Rodgers and Hammerstein second-act ballad. I can't say she blew it, because the truth is, she doesn't have it to begin with...she simply doesn't have a very powerful instrument, and her off-pitch notes showed that she needs to go home right away. Now. Maybe even before Sanjaya. No...right after Sanjaya. Can they both go?

Phil Stacey: A faithful rendition of The Police's "Every Breath You Take" proved to be my favorite performance by the Bug-Eyed One. It wasn't earth-shattering, but he at least gave it the respect it was due. After Sligh and Scarnato's badly-judged performances, Phil is certainly staying another week.

Melinda Doolittle: Following LaKisha into the land of Donna Summer ("Heaven Knows"), Doolittle also followed LaKisha into the land of the Safe Performance. She's got exquisite pipes, and she's an adorable performer. That isn't it doubt. But with an opportunity to show us a new side of her (just imagine Melinda singing No Doubt's "Spiderwebs" or "Just A Girl"!), she chose instead to reheat her belting diva leftovers. She was great, but...I have to admit to being unsatisfied.

Blake Lewis: Caribbean-tinged rhythms flowed into a slow, syrupy version of The Cure's "Love Song", one of the greatest songs my generation ever danced to. I thought Blake's version was a little pedestrian -- it didn't have many emotional levels, no peaks or valleys -- but the judges were kind, and Blake's a cutie. I wonder who wants to sleep with Blake more, Paula or Seacrest. They might have to flip for him...or trade him for cigarettes, like they do in prison.

Jordin Sparks: You can't say she doesn't put it out there...a crunked-up version of No Doubt's "Hey Baby!" was the most engaging moment of the show. Jordin's proven she's got the voice, and now she's proven that she's got the credibility. If I were LaKisha, I would be very worried that this girl is going to steal my spot in the final three.

Chris Richardson: Another No Doubt classic, "Don't Speak", was the most interesting performance of the night. (I said interesting, not good.) Chris fought his tendency for R&B vocal runs and stuck faithfully to the melody...which was a good thing. But a song of such passionate intensity -- a painful breakup, poured into the lyric still wet with tears -- was rendered into musical oatmeal by Richardson, who not only missed the passion but treated the lyrics as if they were meaningless. So vocally, it was okay. But as a total performance? Terrible, terrible, terrible.

Best of Night: Jordin Sparks
Bottom Three Prediction: Sanjaya Malakar, Haley Scarnato, and Chris Sligh
Getting Cut On Wednesday: Hoochie no more, Haley
Previously on ModFab: Simon Says, Women Who Wowed, When Goth Chicks Ruled The Universe, The Sanjaya Conundrum, You're A Heartbreaker, Bye Bye Barba!, Gender Blending, To Simon With Love

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