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Wednesday, May 07, 2008


American Idolatry: The Heart of Rock 'N' Roll Is....?

As American Idol opened its show last night, Seacrest put the imperative of the evening in stark, succinct terms: "The Final Four. You MUST vote." As if it were even close. As if the remaining contestants all had equal chances, and you, ONLY you, could break the four-way tie. But the truth, as we all know, is far less obvious than Secrest's imperative, and far more interesting. That truth? That the Davids (Cook and Archuleta, respectively) are in all likelihood far ahead of the others (Syesha and Jason, respectively). So if you were voting, the real question for "Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Night" (WTF, BTW?) was: will Syesha's burgeoning fan base or Jason's obsessed teens hit the autodial harder?

David Cook
Fashion Report: Textured leather jacket, patterned tee, black jeans...certainly not Simon Le Bon, ne c'est pas?
First Song: "Hungry Like The Wolf," Duran Duran
ModFab Score: C+
I immediately felt like an arthritic senior citizen when Cook revealed that he was born in 1982, the same year Duran Duran released his chosen selection. But as he began to sing it, in what must now be considered his trademark grunge-rock style, I felt better about being a child of the 80's. Cook stripped the harmonies from the song, and inserted raw anger where Simon LeBon had seen seduction and style. (Inadvertently, David also revealed how much better a singer Simon was.)
Second Song: "Baba O'Riley," The Who
ModFab Score: B
Cook Goes Classic. Smart choice, methinks, at least in terms of song choice. I'm guessing most of the voting demographic will have never heard the more sophisticated original, and will enjoy the song's inherent pop hooks for what they are. The judges laid the praise on a bit thick, and you could tell. But I'm not sure it matters...what "Baba" did for David was to ensure him a place in the final three. And if he couldn't quite manage Duran, he certainly proved he could front an excellent Who cover band.

Syesha Mercado
Fashion Report: Silver slinky minidress, hooker heels and disheveled hair...think she's trying to evoke anyone in particular? (And a costume change for the second song: a flawless gold gown that evoked vintage Valentino. Hottt!)
First Song: "Proud Mary," Ike and Tina Turner Revue
ModFab Score: B+
Okay, let's say this first: the girl has guts. In a season where she has taken on classics by the biggest divas in the business (sometimes at her peril), Syesha decided to take on the biggest of all last night. Sure, her dance steps were copycat, but her vocals were not; she exhibited a fluid musical dexterity in her vocals and a sense of coy, cheeky play in her demeanor. She's still got to be considered a massive underdog, but she's not going out without a fight.
Second Song: "A Change Is Gonna Come," Sam Cooke
ModFab Score: B
The song's transformation into a Mega-Power Ballad was fascinating enough, but it became downright riveting in the judges' critique, when Randy chewed her out for the arrangement and performance...and then Paula AND Simon refuted him, praising it to the rafters. THEN Syesha began to cry, and Ryan gave her a moment to discuss the song's history and its meaning to her. Shameless or smart? We'll know tomorrow, but how this performance resonates with the voters at home may well determine whether she stays or she goes. Because right after her came the musical clusterfuck known as...

Jason Castro
Fashion Report: Cream-colored tea under a blue-jean jacket, and a guitar that made no sound even when played. Kewl beans. For the Dylan song, we changed into a bedazzled buttondown. Kewler.
First Song: "I Shot The Sheriff," Bob Marley
ModFab Score: D
Interesting. Veeeery interesting. Oh no, not his performance (honey, please). But for the first time, Jason actually seemed to CARE about whatever it was he was doing....probably because he got to sing one of his apparent heroes, Bob Marley. Jason actually jumped around, seemed energetic. (Well, stoner energetic.) It was terrible, though....tuneless, whitebread, pop-silly. The judges, quite correctly, pounced like jaguars, giving the most savage critique of the season. (And my guess is, it was more than enough to electify Jason's legions of teenage girls to start dialing throughout the night, attempting to save him. Bye, bye, Syesha...it's not your fault, it's Idol's.)
ModFab Score: "Mr. Tambourine Man," Bob Dylan
ModFab Score: C-
Dylan's a better vocal match for Jason, but he lacked an understanding of the deeper meanings of the song. And let's just say, one more time, that the kid's not a very good singer...and he forgot lyrics, yet again. But Oh! how the camera loves him. Oh, how the girls screech for him. Oh, how Paula makes excuses for him. And oh, how Simon energizes his fan base when he says shit like "pack your suitcase."

David Archuleta
Fashion Report: A black tee with weird, wombat-like birds flying all over it (the Blake Lewis Collection, anyone?) and black jeans that, somehow, made this kid look fat.
ModFab Score: B
First Song: "Stand By Me," Ben E. King
For me, "Stand By Me" is the musical equivalent of wallpaper. It's unimpressive, unassuming, vaguely familiar, and people overstate its importance. His version was lovely, as Archuleta always makes everything lovely. Exciting? Certainly not. Memorable? I'd be surprised if you remember it next week. But enough to put him into the final three? Almost certainly.
First Song: "Love Me Tender," Elvis Presley
ModFab Score: A-
Archuleta as Presley? Well, bonus points for dreaming big. The choice to do it seated in a chair, with merely a piano as accompaniment, was inspired, showcasing his voice's pyrotechnics and making it seem bigger than it actually is. Without a doubt, it was the finest moment of the evening, gingerly delivered and delicately interpreted. A rare moment of musical purity, in a show every day seems more and more about marketing and image.

Best of Night: David Archuleta
Bottom Two Prediction: Jason Castro and Syesha Mercado
Getting Cut On Wednesday: Syesha Mercado

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

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

ModFab, you are so dead on it's almot painful...but not as much as watching Jason stumble through a Marley classic. Best performances of the night go to Archuleta for his rendition of "Love Me Tender", Cook for "Baba O'Riley" and Mercado for " Proud Mary". I'm afraid I have to agree with Randy on her performance of "A Change Is Gonna Come". It should have been more restrained and low key. T-Shirt and jeans with her sitting on a stool (a la Archuleta) would have been more appropriate for this important blues classic by the fabulous Sam Cooke. I don't think she understood the importance of that song as much as she seems to think she does. Nevertheless, it was a vocally gifted performance. Sadly, she'll probably be gone tonight because the tweens are hell bent on getting Castro into the final three. As previously stated, I give him one year after the release of his first album before he's dropped by Jive. No surprise there.

5/7/08, 5:26 AM  
Blogger JB said...

Jason has to go. It is getting seriosly ridiculous.

I haven't been a fan of Syesah, but she deserves props for not going down without a fight.

Hopefully she'll stay so there is some semblance of a singing competition.

5/7/08, 9:22 AM  
Blogger lylee said...

Syesha put her all into it, unlike Castro, but I found her underwhelming tonight. I was also put off by her efforts to link her own "self-discovery" on "Idol" with the civil rights movement. I don't think she realized the implications of what she was saying, but it still came off as hugely narcissistic.

Cook's "Baba O'Riley" made me melt. And I didn't think his Duran Duran was bad, either. Apparently there were sound mixing/balancing issues for the first half of the East Coast broadcast, which didn't help and which they fixed by the time I saw it in Cali.

Archie: pretty voice, but the kid still looks waaaay too young to be singing "Love Me Tender."

5/7/08, 2:06 PM  
Blogger will g said...

lylee - But not if it's to his mother!

5/7/08, 6:23 PM  
Blogger lylee said...

Point taken. It sure creeps me out to think of anyone being, er, seduced by his performance.

5/8/08, 3:59 PM  

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