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Wednesday, March 07, 2007


American Idolatry: The Sanjaya Conundrum

Metaphorically speaking, American Idol was a mushy, bland, oatmeal last night...no strong distinguishing flavors or exceptional moments. But I think the episode was very instructive on some level, because it cemented the roles certain performers will play throughout the spring (the balladeer, the iconoclast, etc.)...and revealed a bit about the strategy of those who are already thinking beyond the Final 12 to the Finals.

Blake Lewis: With another genre-defying performance (this time the beatboxing blended with reggae, pop and ska) and choosing a song none of the judges knew (by the band 311), Lewis has firmly established himself as the most iconoclastic competitor in Idol history. He pulls it off with such charm and effortlessness that it's hard to see him as anything but a finalist...as in final 2 or 3. Maybe even a winner. Yes, Simon doesn't like him, but it might not matter in the end. Talent cant be denied.

Sanjaya Malakar: In his b-roll package before the song, Sanjaya showed us he can "hula" like a Polynesian girl...the sight of it was possibly the gayest thing I've ever seen on the Fox network. Sanjaya has also straightened his hair, making his transformation into a Michael Jackson impersonator nearly complete. But how was the song, you ask? Gut-wrenchingly horrible. Butchering John Mayer's already-maudlin "Waiting on the World To Change", Sanjaya is now just a sad spectacle...he's outclassed by everyone else in the competition, and he knows it. Keeping him in the competition at this point is simply cruel.

Sundance Head: Dropping a lyric halfway through Pearl Jam's "Jeremy," it became clear how badly Idol misses Chris Daughtry. The judges didn't mention the flub...why do they work overtime to give Sundance every benefit of the doubt? I mean, sure -- Sundance is a nice kid, even an interesting presence. But as a rocker, he's not anywhere as authoritative as he needs to be. Simon was hard on him ("a generic bar singer"), but no one else was. I'm with Simon...I'm not sure I'd put him through to the final 12.

Chris Richardson: ......................................Oh excuse me for napping, I was so bored I must have dozed off. Before his voice rendered me unconscious, Richardson was singing a Keith Urban ballad spiced up with some Timberlake-ian trills. Yawn. Suddenly, I'm sleepy again. Let me be fair, though: the judges were wowed by it. But I continue to think Richardson's the emperor's new clothes. I can't escape the fact that if you look past his bedroom eyes and new-jack sex appeal, his voice is incredibly thin, reedy, and nasal. Yes, he's cute, and yes, that matters a lot in the world of Idol. (That's why, in fact, I picked him in my private Idol betting pool.) But five years past the boy-band phenomenon, does the world really need a Chris Richardson?

Jared Cotter: A hand-clapping, foot-stomping rendition of Stevie Wonder's "If You Really Love Me", was the first true crowd pleaser of the night. He sang it well, even making it through the difficult verse melody lines. But it landed with a thud in front of the judges, who collectively raised their hind legs and peed all over it. I, personally, was stunned...that breathy white boy Richardson gets raves, whereas a man who actually hits all the notes correctly gets creamed? As Jennifer Hudson and Justin Guarini could tell Jared, there ain't no justice.

Brandon Rogers: Brandon really tried to bring the energy, even at the expense of a few notes here and there. But he couldn't hide his timidity and nervousness. If it were up to me, I'd definitely keep Brandon around, at least for another show or two. But with the unnatural and incomprehensible support for Sanjaya and Sundance, I'm afraid Brandon may have sung his last Tuesday night show.

Phil Stacey: The bald, freaky dude did his big, belting, pop anthem thing again (yes, again), but this time he couldn't find the melody line for a solid fifteen seconds. He tried to cover it by hitting bigger-than-necessary notes in the final moments, but smart viewers won't be fooled...Clay Aiken did the big-note ballad thing better and with more pizzazz. The judges like Phil, and tried to spare him by blaming it on song choice; Simon, proving what an idiot he is, criticized the man's buggy eyes. (I mean, yes, they ARE odd. But still.) Phil didn't seem to be focused, and maybe even a little exhausted. I don't think he's in much danger, but he certainly didn't do himself any favors.

Chris Sligh: As we watched Chris perform, Mr. ModFab said from the couch, "I really, really like this guy." I have to admit that I do, too. True, the song didn't etch itself in my memory, but he performs with the conviction of a true artist (and worked the post-song banter with Seacrest like a pro). There's no doubt that Sligh, along with Blake Lewis, totally dominated a rather mediocre evening of performances. But Sligh seems to have a plan, or at least a strategy. I expect him to reveal more and more as he makes his way, inexorably, toward the final three. Yep, that is officially a prediction.

Best of Night: Chris Sligh
Getting Cut on Thursday: Sanjaya Malakar (I'm holding out hope) and Brandon Rogers



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