Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Idol Chat (Part 6)

In light of the Virginia Tech tragedy it may seem absurd to discuss things like American Idol. I do plan to address the Virginia Tech situation in a forthcoming post but it's taken a few days for me to process. Stay tuned. On the other hand, shows like American Idol provide a very necessary distraction at times like this. Besides being an hour of music and variety entertainment, it's about young people the same age as those Virginia Tech students pursuing their dreams and on the brink of what could be a very positive life-changing opportunity for them. We should celebrate that. It's easy to write AI off as a silly reality show, except that it actually produces real results having started many promising careers for its young contestants. Now, on to last night's show.

It was country week this week. The celebrity coach was Martina McBride, an excellent Coutnry singer who proved to be a rather unimpressive coach. Country is an important style for the contestants to sing since many of the American Idol alumni have gone on to have pretty successful country music careers, even if they didn't win the competition. Take Kellie Pickler for example, whose first album debuted at number 9 on the Billboard charts and topped the Country charts. The album went gold in four months. However, Country is a very specific style and not everyone can or should sing it. The reason for Kellie's success is not that she has such a fabulous voice, it's nice enough, but it comes from a real emotional place. That kind of connection is essential to the style and can often trump what otherwise might be a mediocre song. It must come from the singer's soul. It's sort of like Soul music for White Trash, if you will. (I'm probably going to catch hell for that, but oh, well. Sorry.)

Here's my review of the contestants:

Phil Stacey--Well, Phil has finally found his genre. He sounded fabulous start to finish singing Keith Urban's "Where the Blacktop Ends." He truly has the best voice of the men left but continues to struggle against an awkward appearance and stage presence. At least he spared us another silly hat this week. It also did not help that someone must have suggested he go into the audience during his performance which he was obviously was extremely uncomfortable with. As a performer, allow me to let you in on a little secret: EVERY PERFORMER IN THE WORLD DREADS GOING INTO THE AUDIENCE! And you can't do that kind of thing if you don't commit to it 100%. Someone needs to be telling these kids that. Also, it distracted him from really being able to connect emotionally and physically to the song wearing an expression of terror on his face the entire time. The judges didn't seem to notice this, and their praise may have earned him another week on the show. Also, the Country music industry will snap this kid up. He's got the military connection going for him, too, and you know how they love that.

Jordin Sparks--She certainly does! She continues to spark week after week. At first I found the way she handled Martina McBride's "A Broken Wing" was with more of a soul style than country. But by the end of it I didn't care. She sounded fabulous. Looked beautiful and unlike LaKisha, took the very wise advice of the coach, struck a strong stance and delivered the song. Jordin has excellent instincts and is obviously a smart kid. She is quickly becoming my underdog favorite. The way things are shaping up, it could come down to Jordin and Melinda in the final two.

Sanjaya--Appropriately singing Bonnie Raitt's "Let's Give Em Something to Talk About" but in Sanjaya's case, no one was talking about love. This was his worst performance to date. Absolutely painful to watch and listen to on every level. He sang the entire song out of tune and his attempts at flirting with the female back-up singers and Paula were pathetic and embarrassing. What I also noticed this week is that Sanjaya seems to have lost his spark. I think the strain of all the negative attention on him is starting to show. I don't know how much longer this kid can continue to smile in the face of adversity and public humiliation. I worry about him, I really do.

LaKisha--sang Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel" and God help the audience that had to listen to it! Once again she proved that talent is about more than just having a good voice. It involves good instincts, which LaKisha has not, and the wisdom to listen and learn from those who know more than you, which LaKisha also has not, disregarding the coach's comments week after week. This song was an odd choice given the fact that it's the signature tune of one of the most successful Idol winners, besides the fact that it also happens to be the worst kind of saccharine, Hallmark card, manipulative song writing out there. I hate it! LaKisha floundered through it, not knowing how to approach Country style, and even struggling with pitch. She was jarringly off when she went into the chorus. If LaKisha was smart--which she's not--she should have treated the song as a complete Gospel number and she could have gotten away with it. But then she would have been criticized for not getting the style. But who cares? Black girls don't need to sing Country.

Chris Richardson--More whiny unsupported singing from my adorable Chris who chose to sing "Mayberry." The song was too big for him. It's full of strong, homespun images that you can't sing in a thin nasal voice. It's got to come from your gut. He struggled with pitch through the whole song as he did in his coaching, which Martina McBride was unable to help him with. The kid has no breath support when he sings--teach him how to do it! Watching that made me crazy. All in a all a pretty lousy performance which could mean the end of the road for Chris, in which case my heart will die a little. Sigh.

Melinda Doolittle--SO SMART! When I heard she chose to sing "Trouble is a Woman" I thought BRILLIANT. It gave Melinda a chance to show off a really fun, sassy side of herself. She even understood the country style and was able to approximate it vocally. But then as a back-up singer you have to be able to understand, recognize and duplicate a wide range of musical styles. She's a pro. Another impeccable performance by Miss Doolittle. LOVE HER!

Blake--Oy! Country music is just NOT his style. Looking painfully out of place wearing an argyle sweater singing Tim McGraw's "When the Stars go Blue" he couldn't even approach the vocal style required for the song. Blake also struggles with support issues, so in a country tune which is about scooping up to the pitches for stylistic affect, you're just going to sing flat if you don't have the right support. This was his worst performance so far, but thankfully Blake has many other talents that will see him through the competition.

Best Performance--Melinda of course, but that's getting boring to say. So I'll also say Jordin.

Worst Performance--Sanjaya. Heaven help us.

Who Should Go--Once again Sanjaya. Could it be any clearer after this week?

Who Will Go--Sadly it could be Chris Richardson. Phil may have saved himself with a pretty good showing this week. I think we're still doomed to suffer through another week of Sanjaya, however.
RESULTS UPDATE--At last, SANJAYA GOES HOME! I don't mean to seem mean-spirited when I say that Sanjaya got as far as he did in the competition for reasons other than his talent or charisma. The fact that he made the top 24, then the top 12 are achievements he should be able to be proud of. But instead, the growing negative attention that his presence drew week after week from people with questionable and cruel motives, who are not even associated with the show, turned that achievement into something ugly and demeaning. Just yesterday Sanjaya suffered the ultimate humiliation of being name "Girl of the Day" by Maxim magazine, a notoriously sexist, trashy men's magazine. I, for one, am glad Sanjaya can finally go home and try to make sense of this whole experience and begin to process and heal from it.



At 12:27 PM, Blogger Y | O | Y said...

We're pretty much in sync on last night although I thought Sanjaya seemed to have an "I'm just gonna have fun" attitude and I wasn't embarrassed for him for the first time this season.

I agree it will be Melinda and Jordin in the finals unless a later genre or gimmick allows Blake to sneak in on his good looks.

At 12:42 PM, Blogger TCho said...

I pretty much agree with you all on all your points. I ended up voting for Jordin. But I almost voted for Melinda (I don't like to vote twice. lol).

your description of Sanjaya reminds me of last week which I can't believe I forgot to comment on. Could you believe Sanjaya's lame attempt to convince us that he's actually a guy by saying that he tried to score J. Lo's phone #? Lame.

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Todd HellsKitchen said...

Sanjaya for President!


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