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Wednesday, March 26, 2008


American Idolatry: God Bless The U.S.A. Idol Country!

Nothing will make you feel older than watching "The Year They Were Born" Week on American Idol. The gimmick, for the uninitiated, is that the contestants perform a song from the year they came into this plane of existence. Some of them seem to have done so as I was entering college. I am friggin' old.

But if most of them were born in the 80's, I guess it's just another 80's Night, right? With hopes of hearing some vintage Scritti Politti or The Kane Gang, here we go with the live-blogging:

Ramiele Malubay
Fashion Report: Early Madonna off-the-shoulder tank top, African safari high-waisted shorts, and hooker boots. She looks like a Munchkin into S&M.
ModFab Score: C-
Ouch. Yes, Ramiele's voice is big...but not Ann Wilson Big. The song simply swallowed her whole, and the key was pitched way too high (the band should know better, even if she doesn't). But more to the point, Heart's moody, intense, romantically swirling ballad needs texture and nuance...and none of these are Ramiele's strong suit. Perhaps she's simply too young to understand a song about pervasive heartbreak. The judges said she was under the weather, and Simon was surprisingly charitable...but so what. Last week, Amanda sang first AND badly...and she went home. If I were Ramiele, I'd be worried.

Jason Castro
Song: "Fragile"
Fashion Report: canvas loafers, tan skinny pants, and a Che Guevaran shirt-jacket. Oh, and he's got the guitar again.
ModFab Score: C+
Taking one of Sting's most beautiful ballads at a very rapid tempo, it turned more into a mid-tempo Santana shaker. Which isn't the worst thing, I guess. My, but he has pretty eyes, don't he? I say that every week. Big blue eyes that make me (almost) forget that he's got a very limited vocal range and tremulous breath support. Simon was vicious, and Paula called it "safe." But I doubt his fans care one whit what the judges say. Was it great? Absolutely not. Was it good enough to stay another week? Absolutely.

Syesha Mercado
Song: "If I Were Your Woman"
Fashion Report: retro beige flared blouse, unforgivingly tight jeans, more big-ass dangly earrings
ModFab Score: B
What year was Syesha born exactly? When did this song come out, 1842? Oh well, no matter. It has a lot of big belter notes and places for her to show off her trills and breath support. I've long thought Syesha was better than people had given her credit for. There were raves from the judges, including Randy calling it her best-ever performance, and Paula called her the new dark horse. Both are probably overstating the case, but I'm impressed that Syesha continues to do what she has to do to get to the final three. With luck, she might just get there.

Song: "If Only For One Night"
Fashion Report: A grey blazer that looks like it was chewed by Godzilla, a typically unfortunate untucked shirt and black pants borrowed from a nearby Ruby Tuesday's waiter
ModFab Score: C-
It's not that Chikezie can't sing. He most definitely can. It's that he's missing all the other parts of being a performer. His work is hopelessly cheesy and a little Vegas, and singing old Brenda Russell cabaret tunes like a third-rate Tom Jones doesn't help. Sure, Chikezie's likeable and talented, but at the end of the day, he seems outdated. He seems out of it. He seems so far away from today's music world that I don't see him having a way in...like Taylor Hicks, but without the magnetic hair or soulfulness. I don't know if he'll go home this week, but I seriously doubt that he's long for this competition.

Brooke White
Song: "Every Breath You Take"
Fashion Report: I can't really tell what she's wearing, she's hunched down behind a piano again. She has, however, straightened her hair...much improved! No frizz!
ModFab Score: B-
Like most people, Brooke has no clue what's really going on in the lyrics of this Police classic. But I didn't mind her gently countrified take on the song...it began as a bit of Tori Amos-like acoustic pain, then morphed into a Sheryl Crow pop ditty. It strikes me that Brooke has more potential than I've maybe given her credit for. She's still a mystery to me...who is she, and what is she really, truly about? I'd love to hear your thoughts on her in the comments.

Michael Johns
Song: "We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions"
Fashion Report: Jeans, Vest, black t-shirt. Very. Very. Duuude.
ModFab Score: A-
The minor miracle of this performance, perhaps, is that it didn't suck. I actually loved it...for no other reason than it takes massive balls to even TRY a Freddie Mercury song, much less a classic. But damn, these are great songs, and Michael finally left the preening artist behind and struck a rock-god pose, and it worked for him. The crew helped out with some god-like, heavy metal lighting and across-the-board raves from the judges. Maybe's it merely the power of Queen, but I thought it was Michael's defining moment...his best performance to date, and far and away the best performance of the evening. (And wherever you are, Freddie...we miss you.)

Carly Smithson
Song: "Total Eclipse of the Heart"
Fashion Report: sleeveless minidress with 60's detailing. Black hose. Badass and sexy, all at once.
ModFab Score: A-
Damn, we're on a roll now! I hate hate hate HATE this song, but her version was pretty fantastic...stripped, as much as possible, of emotional hyperbole and given as much honesty as those lyrics can take. For two weeks in a row, Carly's been impressive...and yet, her appearance in the bottom three last week makes me think she's not well liked. Simon and Randy both ran negative on her performance, although to be fair, their criticisms seemed to focus on song choice and not performance. Is she a contender or not? Her voice makes me think Yes, but the public reaction leads me to think No. We'll see what happens.

David Archuleta
Song: "You're The Voice"
Fashion Report: Ashton Kutcherwear...grey update on the Members Only jacket, perfectly distressed jeans, unassuming white tee
ModFab Score: B
Little David must have been born only three or four years ago, because as God is my witness I've never heard this song. It sounds like some horrid Christian rock group anthem...and David, all peaches and cream, performed it like an especially energetic member of Up With People. Still, beating up on David Archuleta is like kicking a puppy in the head...it just makes you feel like a really bad person. And yes, he's a talented vocalist, and it did avoid any serious pitfalls like those of the first Beatles week. Still, I wonder what will happen if he ever tries a song that isn't relentlessly perky. Dark tones will not be his friend.

Kristy Lee Cook
Song: "God Bless The U.S.A."
Fashion Report: A faux kimono wrap blouse, notably worn by trailer-park prostitutes in the 1970's.
ModFab Score: F-
Shameless clawing for votes desperately with the worst song of my (or anyone's) lifetime, Kristy threw the Idol equivalent of a Hail Mary pass...and sadly, I think it worked for her. I got so hot at her craven song choice that I nearly forgot she was out of tune constantly, or that her performance was as lively as a dead turd. Simon, of course, loved the song choice...calling it "clever". But how can any of the judges criticize such fake-ass patriotism on the country's biggest television show? It made her impervious to elimination, I think...which is a shame, because of everyone she needs to go. She's overdue in fact. Ugh. I hate her.

David Cook
Song: "Billie Jean"
Fashion Report: Black shirt, pants, shirt...monochromatism is alive!
ModFab Score: A
Whatever you think of David Cook, and whatever his variation in performance quality from week to week, he is the one true artist of the competition. His ability to arrange songs in new and exciting ways is now a given; still, I sat slack-jawed while watching his reimagining of Michael Jackson as an anthemic rock god. For the first time, I realize that I've been betting on the wrong horses thusfar. The question isn't who will win American Idol. The question is...can anyone deservedly win besides David Cook?

Best of Night: David Cook
Bottom Three Prediction: Chikezie, Ramiele Malubay and Carly Smithson
Getting Cut On Wednesday: Ramiele Malubay

Previous American Idolatries: Yoko Ono, Where Art Thou?

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Blogger Paul said...

oh how i'm enjoying Idol this year - Carly was amazing this week/ last week's Blackbird was near perfect and this week she did an amazing job. I am still adoring little David so he could pretty much sing anything and i would be ok with it. Your write ups on it are hilarious!

3/26/08, 2:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, your observations are spot on with only once exception: Brooke White's rendition of "Every Breathe You Take" wasn't all that. I agreed with the judges. Had she not switched gears (as you said Sheryl Crow mode), the song would have been much better. The song itself is deep dark and haunting; performing a la Tori throughout, would have been fantastic. Additionally, David Cook blew me away, yet again. His performance of Billie Jean last night was hands down the winner. Who in their right mind would have ever thought to arrange the song like that. As for David. A., I don't remember the song either other than Heart performed that song on their early nineties live album.

3/26/08, 8:38 AM  
Blogger JB said...

My ears starting spewing blood when Kristy came out and sang that awful song. Coniving little bitch she is.

I didn't think Jason was that bad...it must be those eyes!

And I agree about David Cook. He is the artist this year.

3/26/08, 9:12 AM  
Blogger StinkyLulu said...

"Nothing will make you feel older than watching "The Year They Were Born" Week on American Idol."

Golly, ain't it the truth.

3/26/08, 9:19 AM  
Blogger will g said...

This is the first year I'm pretty much boycotting AI because of all the semi-pro finalists, but it's impossible to avoid it entirely, so...WHAT DO YOU MEAN relentlessly perky? David A. sang Long and Winding Road, the definition of UNperky, although in his hands. . .

3/26/08, 12:38 PM  
Blogger lylee said...

Just to add a point of clarification, mainly to preempt David Cook haters...the arrangement was not his own. It was Chris Cornell's (of Soundgarden and Audioslave). That said, (1) Seacrest credited Cornell before the performance, and it's not Cook's fault the judges ignored that, (2) I think Cook's vocals were better than Cornell's, and (3) it unquestionably took guts for Cook to do that version on AI. He sold it, and that's really what the show's about, after all.

I think you're a little hard on Kristy Lee (but then I've secretly always kind of liked that stupid song ever since I had to sing it with my first-grade class in elem school - early indoctrination, I guess), but other than that - spot on. I do agree Syesha is overrated. I think Chikezie will probably go before Ramiele, though he shouldn't.

3/26/08, 1:01 PM  
Blogger ladydisdain said...

David Cook didn't actually reimagine Billie Jean - that was a cover of a cover by someone called...Chris Cornell? I think? I think he used to be in Soundgarden. In any event, it was fucking awesome.

I thought Carly was kind of screamy but I liked her. I continue to think Michael Johns is a really, really good karaoke singer.

David Archuleta belongs in a show choir.

3/26/08, 3:03 PM  
Blogger DL said...

I'm glad you hate "God Bless The USA" as much as I do. I was starting to think maybe it was just 'cause I'm not American that I practically gag whenever I hear that song. I was so shocked and horrified when Randy and Simon called it a "great song". *throwup*

And I can admit that David Cook is a pretty talented, creative guy but he just creeps the hell out of me whenever he stops singing. My votes would still be going with Carly and Michael.

3/26/08, 4:01 PM  
Blogger ModFab said...

WILL: I know you are preternaturally determined to disagree with any and every opinion I post on this blog, but I found Archuleta's "Long and Winding Road" to be as perky as that song can possibly get. I think he's great, but dark and deep he's not.

And to all corrections/bitchslaps about Chris Cornell...I went and downloaded it just now, and while it's clear that Cook took inspiration from that arrangement, it's far from a carbon copy. I still think he gets credited for thinking out of the box, and for approaching Idol arrangements in new and different ways...even if someone else thought of them first. ;-)

3/27/08, 1:32 AM  
Blogger will g said...

You said you wondered what would happen if he tried such a song, and indeed we found out. That's all I meant. Jeez, you know I respect your opinions or I wouldn't be such a fan!

3/27/08, 1:44 AM  
Blogger lylee said...

whoops, meant to say I thought Syesha is UNDERrated. As tonight's elimination proved.

And totally agree with modfab that DC didn't just ape Chris Cornell, he put his own spin on it, and made it work. Big time. The studio version, which is available on iTunes now, is even more fabulous.

3/27/08, 2:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever read Kristy Lee Cook's surveys on the American Idol website? I nearly threw up in the middle of the student center. She's virtually unbearable.

3/28/08, 9:18 AM  

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