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Wednesday, May 21, 2008


American Idolatry: Divided Between Davids

From the tragic opening moments of the final performance show -- with the two remaining contestants dressed in Rocky-like boxers' robes -- the smell of desperation pervaded American Idol. The producers, clearly worried by slipping ratings and culture obsolescence, went for gimmicks; the contestants, as aware of their demographics as any have ever been, seemed tired and a little jaded by the experience. The boxing metaphor continued unabated, with three "rounds" and even color commentary by a sports reporter. And the return of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Ugh. If you've ever wondered what jumping the shark looks like, this is it.

And what of us, those still watching? The word I'd use is "divided." Divided Beween Davids.


David Cook
Fashion Report: Grey military coat, chain link hanging off precisely worn blue jeans. Every inch the modern rock star.
Clive Davis' Pick: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," U2
ModFab Score: A
Is the night already over, before it's even begun? I was swept up, maybe for the first time, in Cook's brooding, magisterial performance style. Perhaps he was done a few favors in that regard by the song itself, a beautiful rock tune performed with the grandeur and scope that U2 requires in their sweeping epics. Most importantly, though, a very relaxed David seemed to embrace the role of music icon, towering over the screaming audience with a Freddie Mercury-like swagger. I loved it...really loved it.

David Archuleta
Fashion Report: A simple blazer, brown and a little oversized, with rolled-up jeans and that same irritating t-shirt with the weird designs on it. He always looks like he's playing dress-up...which in a way he is.
Clive Davis' Pick: "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me," Elton John
ModFab Score: A-
An excellent match by Davis, of classic pop song to Archuleta's rich tenor. This performance reminded me, for the first time in the competition, of Clay Aiken...a superb voice that isn't, perhaps, the fashion of the day. That's not a bad thing, really. I'm not sure that Archuleta is all that salable to the music-buying public, but like Aiken, he'll most certainly have a dedicated fan base for years to come. He's undeniably talented, and his white-boy trills, especially at the end, landed with maximum impact. Sadly, the judges overpraised the performance, and it seemed a bit obvious that they were trying to sway the voters out there watching.


David's New Song: "Dream Big," Emily Shackleton
ModFab Score: B
"Dream Big" was a bouncy midtempo guitar tune with predictably uplifting lyrics; the melody landed in his upper register for the most part, and some of the high notes were a little out of his range. Simon criticized the lightweight nature of the tune, which struck me as the height of hypocrisy...the whole Idol enterprise is lightweight. It was a fine performance, but if Archuleta gets on a roll, this tune won't help Cook stem the tide.

David's New Song: "In This Moment," Ron Gilmore
ModFab Score: B-
Of course, if you thought David Cook's song was lightweight, you haven't yet heard "In The Moment," a dispiriting piece of musical tripe that probably couldn't even find a home on easy listening stations. Lyrics reeking of cliche and chord changes that seemed to be written by a retarded three-year-old, its only defining quality was that it had long, belt-worthy notes that Archuleta could hold out for many seconds at a time. It was heinous. And again, the judges fell to their knees, sobbed with joy, and began to masturbate each other over young David's performance. As his summation, Simon declared that "Round Two goes to Archuleta." Only if you're deaf.


David's Pick: "The World I Know," Collective Soul
ModFab Score: B+
For his last selection, David Cook did the unthinkable...he dazzled us not with a balls-to-the-walls, scream-to-the-back-row showstopper, but a gentle, intelligent, powerful rock ballad. Not only was it daring, not only was it sublimely beautiful. It also gave us an indication of the kind of career Cook might map out for himself were he to win tonight. And for the first time, I realized something: if he gets the chance to make that album, I might have to buy it.

David's Pick: "Imagine," John Lennon
ModFab Score: B-
I'll say that, right at the start, to sing a song already performed on the show is crap. Yes, from a calculated perspective designed to win the prize, it is already audience-tested, and a reminder why we all fell in love with Archuleta's sweet mug in the first place. But in terms of artistry, it reveals that there's no there there. He's a showman to the core, a master interpreter but not a creative artist. A singer, not a musician. As to this particular performance, it was a bit overblown...lots of trills, lots of sudden volume shifts designed to make the audience applaud like crazy. I missed the truth of his original version, the gentility and tender quality that made it so extraordinary. This was just...pretty.

And since this is America, worshipping its Idol...maybe that's enough to sway the vote down Archuleta way. The judges certainly tried their best to hand it, lock, stock and barrel, to him with their critiques. Here's to hoping, however, that a more mature idea of what our musical icons should be wins out.

Should Win American Idol: David Cook
Will Win American Idol: David Archuleta

Previous American Idolatry: Yoko Ono, Where Art Thou?, Au Revoir Amanda, God Bless Idol Country, Au Revoir Chikezie, Giving What Back, Exactly?, Idol Gave Back (And I'm Friggin' Exhausted), Au Revoir Michael Johns, Au Revoir Kristy Lee Flagwaver, David Archuleta is a Young Sarah Brightman in Drag, Au Revoir Carly Smithson, Songs Sung Really Really Blue, Au Revoir Brooke White, The Heart Of Rock and Roll Is...?, Au Revoir Jason Castro, In Search of Pop Gods and Goddesses, Au Revoir Syesha Mercado

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Blogger Kassi said...

I honestly think you're a little biassed against archeleta. Yes, I like Cook, but Archeleta, regretably did better than cook tonight.

5/20/08, 11:42 PM  
Blogger gabrieloak said...

Crazy me. I voted for David Cook for an hour or so. Only got thru about 25 times. I couldn't stand the idea of Simon having the last word.

5/21/08, 1:06 AM  
Blogger JB said...

Spot on as always. I hope Cook wins. If only to see Archie knocked off that pedestal.

5/21/08, 9:45 AM  
Blogger lylee said...

I love you for giving props to Cook! I think you're one of the few writers out there who really, truly appreciate just what he did with that Collective Soul song. It may not have been a "moment" for most people, but it was, for me, one of his finest Moments with a capital "M."

And am so sorry to hear you're saying goodbye, or dialing back...I've always enjoyed the eclecticism of your blog's coverage - even if I only tend to respond to your (excellent) American Idol posts - and the perspicacity of your observations, and I hope you'll continue to weigh in more often rather than less.

5/21/08, 12:38 PM  

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