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Wednesday, May 06, 2009


American Idolatry: Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart, Adam

American Idol

Yeah, I've been bad. No American Idol updates for a solid month. And worse, while I was absent, the show I love/hate transformed itself, paring down to the best Final Four in Idol history. The battle between Adam Lambert, Kris Allen, Danny Gokey and Allison Iraheta offers a fascinating, unique moment to viewers; with all the contestants possessing superb (and nearly equal) musical gifts, one must choose a favorite based on nothing more than style, personality and telegenics. The music, as great as it has been, is now really beside the point.

The talent of the kids, though, hasn't stopped the show's accelerating downward slide. Secrest is perpetually uncool; the judges are speeding toward the cliff of irrelevance, with confused, repetitive comments and the disastrous addition of Kara DioGuardi; cheesy costuming and overblown lighting regularly skirt the edge of ridiculousness. At this point, you watch the show for the voices...and press mute when no one's singing.

Adam Lambert - "Whole Lotta Love," Led Zeppelin
You have to guess that Rock Week puts Adam, who is singlehandedly bringing back the Glam Rock Era, at a natural advantage. But what surprised me most about his performance this week is how well he fits into the history of the genre -- as he sang, my mind raced through his similarities to Gary Glitter, Axl Rose, Judas Priest, Freddie Mercury and Marilyn Manson. He's just...well, in another league entirely. Always on pitch, never at a loss for power (or delicacy when it's called for), a master of breath control. Last week, when he ended up in the Bottom Two, people were shocked. Let's hope that people don't continue to make the mistake of assuming he's safe. He needs your vote, and not just because he needs to win. He also happens to be the best, by a country mile.

Allison Iraheta - "Cry Baby," Janis Joplin
On the surface, it's a no-brainer: Allison does Janis. But for me, it's too on-the-nose. It's expected, it's easy, it's a little shameless. But can you blame her? She's supremely talented, but also young and inexperienced, a teenager trying to navigate the rough waters of celebrity and what the public wants from her. After the performance, she fought with the judges about the song choice, and it revealed the tension she feels about her own musical identity. Look, I love her. Allison is freakishly great, a vocal prodigy...but if I look past the mania of reality television, the truth is that she's just not ready. Not yet. She needs a couple of years to mature and deepen her interpretive skills. And with others who ARE ready for this opportunity all around her, that ultimately means that she needs to go home this week.

Kris Allen/Danny Gokey - "Renegade," Styx
An excellent, melodic song choice, especially for the two contestants least suited to the aggressive nature of rock. But it really just felt like two guys singing, as opposed to a collaborative effort...little connection, little sharing, and no harmonics. No actual simultaneous singing, either. Kris is the solid musician, but least acclimatized to the genre; Danny leaned hard on his growly thing to get through, as he has all season.

Kris Allen - "Come Together," The Beatles
With only a quick commercial break to separate his two performances, it suddenly makes sense that Kris held back a bit on "Renegade"...he was saving it for this Beatles rendition. Unfortunately, the song lyrics seemed almost poetically ironic; nothing about this performance came together, really. And it wasn't his fault, for the most part; he's just not suited to this material. Despite this lackluster moment, I expect his fans to save him. And if I haven't mentioned it before, he's reaaaaally pretty. And that matters more than you think it does.

Danny Gokey - "Dream On," Aerosmith
If I put my bias against Danny aside -- it's hard to objectively deal with his fundamentalist, anti-choice, anti-gay background -- then I have to admit that he's got a distinctive sound. His growl is well-suited for Motown classics. Here, though, he kind of screamed until the veins popped out on his neck, singing out of tune on the high notes and barreling through like machine-gun like proficiency. He was bad....and that isn't bias talking. He was objectively, truthfully bad. I don't doubt that the Jesus Battalion will save him, but it won't be on the merits of this performance.

And one more thing, for all you Danny fans out there: are you really, really going to buy his record? Really? More and more, I sense that he's Taylor Hicks, Part Deux...a man you want to cheer for because of his beliefs, his dead wife, etc., but not really an artist you plan to embrace with your hard-earned cash. If he made a country record, maybe that market would embrace him and his family values. But soul? Rock? Absolutely not. I'll buy Adam's record, I'll buy Allison's record, and I'll at least listen to Kris' record. But Danny? A whole hour of that broken-glass thing? Seriously?

Allison Iraheta/Adam Lambert - "Slow Ride," Foghat
How much fun was THAT. I didn't anticipate that their voices would work well together (she's so rough, he's so smooth!), but it was pretty dang entertaining. Unlike the Danny/Kris duet, they most of the number singing to and with each other...and the embrace they shared at the end revealed just how much they enjoyed each other. I dug it. I dug it hard.

BEST OF NIGHT: Is there any doubt?
GOING HOME: Allison, sadly.
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Blogger The Slabber said...

Well, I dialed in a couple of votes for Kris -- as you say, he is reaaaaaally pretty. Last week was a wake-up call when the wrong people wound up safe. That was really odd. I would have also voted for Adam, who is the only real talent on the show -- but I picked out Kris as my fave from the first group of 24 or whatever it was, and I decided I'd stick with him.... But I'm secretly hoping that Adam wins the thing.

5/6/09, 7:56 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Your assessment is right on, although, I find it hard to agree that the four are nearly equally talented. Allison can certainly sing but she consistently has no idea what she's singing. I think we all know it's the Adam Lambert Show. I'm impatient for him to be released from his contract which until then keeps him confined to the bland geeky instincts of the producers.

5/6/09, 9:14 AM  
Blogger John T said...

Kris is the most gorgeous guy in the history of Idol. He's also the second best performer on the show currently-here's hoping that Lambert & Allen are the finalists (and that America puts the go in Gokey).

5/6/09, 6:52 PM  

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