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Wednesday, May 14, 2008


American Idolatry: In Search Of Pop Gods and Goddesses

Well, here we are, at the penultimate round of the seventh American Idol. How will we remember this year, a decade hence? Probably as the year the Idol cracked, the year that the ratings slipped, the year that the talent became far too obvious in their media-savvy presentation. But will we also remember it as the year Idol birthed a superstar? That's what I was looking for last night, a sign of who has the goods to be more than just a winner...a musical force of nature. A Kelly or a Daughtry, not a Studdard or a Hicks.

Did I find what I was looking for? Like a real musical legend, Bono, once sang...I'm still looking.

David Archuleta
Fashion Report: Black Members-Only Jacket, skinny tie...what is this, Ric Ocasek Tribute Night? For the second song, he changed into a...brown t-shirt. A fashion icon he is not.
Paula's Pick: "And So It Goes," Billy Joel
ModFab Score: B
Certainly pretty, and the a capella opening verse was a nice dramatic touch. But listening to it, I found myself wondering who on God's green earth would buy this as a single? My grandmother, perhaps. It isn't contemporary in the least; it feels like I'm watching Teen Week on Star Search. We know by now that he's got a pure voice and a cute smile, but is he an international pop star in our ironic, jaded age? Not for a second.
David's Choice: "With You," Chris Brown
ModFab Score: B
You can't more current than Chris Brown, and the easy rhythms of the song were well-suited to David's postmodern crooning. Was it dazzling? Was it spectacular? The only fair answer is no. It's simply not enough for him to lean on his adorable persona to get by...and a good vocal performance isn't going to impress viewers already familiar with him. He needs a game-changing moment, and he needs it soon.
Producer's Pick: "Longer," Dan Fogelberg
ModFab Score: B-
Ugh...what a terrible song. But probably perfect for a kid who channels Air Supply like the rest of us drink water. His voice definitely showed the strain of the evening by this point, but the melody is incredibly easy to sing, so I'm not sure anyone besides my husband (the professional classical singer) noticed. I ask the same question I started with: is he the next international music star? And if so, what about "Longer" proved that to you?

Syesha Mercado
Fashion Report: Dripping diamonds in a beaded gold evening gown, looking like a siren from the golden age of jazz. For the second song, she updated it into a beaded, sparkling minidress and stilettos. More spangles in the final song, a shimmering top over black hip-hugging pants. Hot, sister. Hot.
Randy's Pick: "If I Ain't Got You," Alicia Keys
ModFab Score: B+
Call me an old softie, but I think this was the perfect marriage of performer and material. Sure, she's not as gifted as Ms. Keys vocally, and the champagne evening gown wasn't exactly modern. But she really rocked the vocal, and I'm hoping that audiences will recognize her for it. She's facing an uphill climb to beat either of the Davids, but this was a good start upwards toward the peak.
Syesha's Choice: "Fever," Peggy Lee
ModFab Score: B
Wholeheartedly embracing her inherent theatricality, her vampish performance -- complete with the Liza Minnelli-in-Cabaret chair and an upright bass player -- danced right on the line between sexy and trampy. I'm not sure how it'll play in Middle America, especially with the grandmothers who are so completely in love with Little David. (She got creamed, surprisingly, by Paula, and not surprisingly by Simon.) But judging her on the musical presentation and the visual presence, it was good. It wasn't a pop star, but it was good.
Producer's Pick: "Hit Me Up," Gia Farrell
ModFab Score: B-
The most uptempo song of the evening, this clap-your-hands track also felt the most contemporary of the selections all night. She wiggled her hips and bounced it around, but I don't think she did anything with it that would convince voters to choose her over Archuleta. Paula was hard on her again...what does Paula have against her? Ultimately, Syesha was the underdog when the night began...and she didn't have that come-from-behind moment she desperately needed.

David Cook
Fashion Report: Black tuxedo jacket with t-shirt underneath. I guess this is an attempt at dressing up. I guess. He dressed down for the second number...just a black t-shirt. And for the big finale? He put the jacket back on. Definitely straight-guy fashion behavior.
Simon's Pick: "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," Roberta Flack
ModFab Score: A
Simon threw him a curveball tune, for sure...unexpected and wildly against type. And if you were unsure about who should really win American Idol, the fact that David Cook made Flack's soulful ballad into a pop-rock tour de force should make it absolutely clear. Arguably, this might be my favorite performance of the entire season. As Kylie would say, Wow Wow Wow Wow.
David's Choice: "Dare You To Move," Switchfoot
ModFab Score: B
A wall of sound for the rock fans among the audience, a little sliding around the pitches for the rest of us. It was okay, but hardly spectacular. At this point in the evening, however, it was plenty, considering what had come before him in the second round.
Producers' Pick: "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing," Aerosmith
ModFab Score: B
A string section...on an Aerosmith tune? I guess we can give him bonus points for a nontraditional arrangement (even if he did, ultimately, resort to power guitars in the final chorus). He didn't help himself by being a full note flat on the very last note. But does it matter, in the end? It was the ONLY song everyone in the audience knew completely by heart, a new-century classic (and with its Oscar-winning songwriter, Diane Warren, sitting in the audience...guess that must just be coincidence, right?). Cook may have had an erratic night, but he did more than enough to secure a spot in the finals...and, in all likelihood, to win the whole enchilada.

Best of Night: David Cook
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, The Heart Of Rock and Roll Is...?, Au Revoir Jason Castro

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet again, another dead on anyalysis. While David A.'s performance of the Chris Brown tune was designed more to showcase his diversity (which is not much) it was completely unbelievable. Perhaps he should have changed some of the lyrics and "white breaded" it up a little. Using street venacular doesn't suit him.

I'm sorry that Syesha is being creamed for no other reason than she doesn't quite have the fan based of the two Davids. Nevertheless, I thought all three of her performances were consistent, entertaining and spot on compared to her rivals. Just look it at this way, her performance of the Peggy Lee classic was merely an audition for broadway...and baby, here she comes!

My partner had a tear in his eye after David C. performed one of his all-time favorites by Roberta Flack. What an amazing interpretaton. He dropped the ball on his second performance and redeemed himself with his take on the Aerosmith classic. Don't be fooled on that one. His arrangement was not far off from the original and I still think Steven Tyler pulls it off much better.

5/14/08, 5:08 AM  
Blogger will g said...

You keep stressing how David A. is so retro and out of touch with modern sensibilities. To that, I have just two words: Michael Buble. All right, four: Josh Groban.

5/14/08, 11:36 AM  

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