Thursday, March 31, 2005

American Idol: Another One Bites the Dust

Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust...

... in the immortal words of Queen. And then there were nine. I was in the middle of something when it came on, and I forgot to set the VCR, so I only caught the last five minutes of last night's show, which are the only ones worth watching. Who got the boot? Semi-surprisingly, Jessica was ousted this week, a move deemed unfair by Randy and Paula, but I didn't see much protest from Simon. (Was there any protest from Simon? He sat with his head in his hands most of Monday.) I didn't think she would nab the top spot, but I certainly didn't think she'd make an exit this early. But, the people have voted, and Jessica got to sing her way out in Week 11. That leaves us with three girls, and six guys.

I thought the playing field was more even on Monday night than any other night I've seen, with no one performance I'd call outstanding. At the same time, no one sang hideously, either, so it was a matter of picking which song diverged the most from mediocre, up and down the quality scale.

In many ways, watching American Idol is like watching figure skating: I tense up when they go for that triple axel -- the big Whitney Houston zinger -- because if they flub up that note, it's Bedtime for Bonzo. None of them are singing original music, so when the song begins, my mind immediately fast forwards through it to watch for the BIG NOTES so I can brace myself for the potential sharp or flat. I'm sure there are more than a few sweaty palms out there in the American Idol audience. I can just imagine an Aunt Mamy with her upside placard and custom-made t-shirt, praying in her seat during commercial breaks. That's how AI is UNLIKE the Apollo: it doesn't resemble an amateur night at all, since everyone in the audience is rooting for the contestants. While it's a morale boost for the singers, who knows what effect it has on the voting audience?

Week 11 - "The 90s"

Wonders never cease. This week marks the very first time Constantine won Simon's favour over Bo, singing Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me". Whenever I hear that song, I keep thinking of a woman singing it to a man, but Constantine did a pretty job of turning it around to his advantage. In fact, I think it's his best performance to date -- no hair-tossing nonsense and bopping around the stage like David Cassidy this week, just singing.

Jessica sang Lee Ann Rimes' "On The Side Of Angels" this week, to her detriment. By now, she should've figured out that the mainstream voting public want to hear mainstream songs, and Lee Ann Rimes isn't quite there in the pop music world. The song wasn't bold enough, which is something Jessica needed to stay in the running. I hate to say this, but even *eek* a Shania Twain song, sung with lots of sass, might've done the trick. Alas.

Anthony is, without a doubt, my least favourite of the contestants, but I thought his shot at Elton John's "Something About The Way You Look Tonight" was better than his previous outings with Latin love songs. Good: he didn't wear his glasses. Bad: he chose a song that highlighted the fact that English isn't his first language. Sure, he informed us in his pre-interview that he arrived in America in the 90s, when he was nine. But the "th" consonant pairing is really distracting when you keeping singing it like "d":

Dere was a time...
But in de moonlight...
But it's someding about de way you look tonight...
You pull de deepest secrets from my heart...

It's not a hard "d", and most people won't notice it, but if you study languages the "th" pronunciation is a dead giveaway, like a bell ringing. Ouch!

Anwar was on the chopping block last night after his performance of R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly". His polish and trademark style is beginning to wear thin and lose its appeal. It's too bad, because he started out so well, but I think the audience is looking for something more, and I don't know if he can pull away from the bottom. He'll need nothing short of a breakout performance to stay in the competition much longer.

Bo sang The Black Crowe's "Remedy", which was ultimately not the wisest move. I'm a fan of The Black Crowes and that song, specifically, but it doesn't lend itself very well to American Idol judging. It's a "rowdy bar song", the kind that Randy and Simon usually slam for being too "cover band". I liked Bo's version of the song, but the risk of singing a "band" song versus one that puts the vocalist front and centre is that the vocals get overshadowed by the drums, guitar, and backup singers. In a bar, that's a good thing, because the singer can get hammered and everybody's drunk and loud, but this does not bode well for a singing competition.

It goes without saying that the songs people sing best are from their favourite genre, eg. Scott and his Motown hits. Carrie is very relaxed and natural singing country, so Tina McBride's "Independence Day" was a good choice. The exception was her standout song, Heart's "Alone" last week, but with that performance she's gained enough momentum and established her vocal credibility to be able to do a country song this week without putting herself at risk. I think Carrie's proof that timing, as well as song selection, is crucial for AI reputation and getting votes.

Nadia knew she had to pull up her socks after being one step away from getting voted off for her Cyndi Lauper song, so she ambitiously tackled Melissa Etheridge's "I'm the Only One". I'll admit, I was somewhat dubious. Etheridge is the consummate rocker chick, she plays a mean guitar and belts out each and every note like it's her last, but Nadia kept up the whole way and it was enough to keep her out off the bottom rung. Her voice even seemed to change quality and emulate Etheridge's to the point where I couldn't tell it was Nadia if I looked away. That's impressive, especially since such a move runs one at the risk of sounding like a karaoke singer.

Nikko. Nikko. Nikko. Who taught you that mike toss? It was so distracting, watching him throw the mike from one hand to the next. I wanted to cry out "Oooh, don't drop it!" while he was singing Babyface's "Can We Talk". Nikko's pretty co-ordinated, though, and choreographs his movements much more than the other guys, but I should add he did an equally fine job of singing. His unexpected resurrection from the American Idol scrap-heap revitalised his oomph, now all he needs to do is turn it up a notch or two to keep up with the older, more experienced guys.

Scott looked so nervous this week, his concentration fully devoted to hitting the notes cleanly and forgetting about what to do with his face and body. Unfortunately, the big stripey shirt didn't help -- I couldn't help but think of pyjamas. Or maybe jail. Neither one good. He's so much more relaxed with the Motown stuff that maybe "One Last Cry" was his jinx.

Vonzell was my prime example of the figure skating analogy: she sang Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing", played ad nauseam during the days of the Kevin Costner vehicle "The Bodyguard" (groan). I braced myself for the BIG WHITNEY NOTE, the triple axel. Vonzell stuck the landing, and I could hear a collective sigh of relief. It's a good thing she didn't attempt this song at the beginning, because it takes a lot of confidence to reach those heights. It's apparent her confidence is building week by week with more ambitious song choices, in a way that never seemed to happen for Jessica, Lindsey, et al. Also, her buoyant personality adds to that confidence, and makes an enormous difference onstage.


  • I will retract what I said about refraining from the Paula-bashing. I said last week that she needed a tranquiliser gun, but maybe she's taking tranquilisers -- slurred speech, unfocussed eyes, what's the deal?? If American Idol had random drug testing, that lady would fail!
  • Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest poking at each other reminded me of high school... no, primary school!