Wednesday, April 13, 2005

American Idol: From Showtunes to Lampoons

Drat. Drat. Drat. Set the wrong time on the VCR, so I missed tonight's results show. Had to go to the Idol message boards to get the results for last night. Needless to say, I dug through a lot of vitriol and netspeak and some pretty outrageous conspiracy theories before finding out who the bottom three were, and who was eliminated. Would've been easier just to watch the show!

Week 12: Musicals

Rodgers and Hammerstein would roll over in their graves if they'd tuned in. What an abominable mess! Whose idea was this, anyway? I decided to combine last week and this week together so I wouldn't be tempted to get into the nitty-gritty details of the debacle that was "Musicals Week". Suffice to say, no-one excelled -- not even Constantine, who was the judges' darling for some reason -- and some of the better singers such as Bo and Carrie made poor song choices. Paula was even more embarrassing than usual.

Bottom three: Nikko, Vonzell, and Scott. How does Vonzell show up in this group and not Anthony?? Like Bo said, it was a big surprise to see those three on the chopping block. (Little did he know he'd end up there, too.)

Eliminated: Nikko

Week 13: "Songs From the Year You Were Born"

Probably not quite fair to say "lampoon" because that wasn't the intent, but oh man...

There's a 10-year spread between the youngest (19-yr old Anthony) and the oldest singers (Bo and Constantine are 29). When Anthony announced that he was singing a song from 1985, I looked at David, who groaned -- he graduated from HIGH SCHOOL in 1985. Most of these people are in their 20's, so the songs were from the late 70's and early 80's.

Did Hall and Oates invite themselves on for the publicity, or were they invited? They looked ATROCIOUS last night, like they'd escaped from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. Rockers don't age well, but Hall and Oates should sue their cosmetic surgeons or dermatologists. Somebody. Donny Osmond was in the audience the previous week, and didn't look nearly as bad. Maybe pop is kinder to the face, who knows? Anyway, pop appeared to be much kinder to the kids of Idol than showtunes. I only cringed a few times last night. Last week the cat disappeared for an hour.

Bottom three: Nadia, Bo, and Scott. Whoa!

Eliminated: Nadia


Anthony: "Hideous!" cried Simon, and even Anthony agreed with that assessment last Wednesday night. Every week I grumble "Anthony should get the boot!", yet he NEVER seems to end up in the bottom three. Is one of his relatives hacking the electronic ballot box at Fox? He dismembered "Climb Every Mountain", especially that last note. Even Julie Andrews with her shattered voice box could do better. It stunk, is what I'm sayin'... but this time he chose a more fitting song -- Paul Young's "Every Time You Go Away", one of my favourite tunes from that year (fondly associated with a mosquito-infested but wild canoe/camping trip to Ontario). Thing is, Paul Young is no Pavarotti but his voice is distinct, and any cover of that song will be compared to the original. Anthony's singing style is incredibly inflexible; he sings every song the same way, but at least he chose one that's closer to his own style. Amazingly, he was judged less harshly by Simon for doing just that, which to my total dismay might have helped keep him in this contest yet another week.

Anwar improved his ranking from last week, from the soporific "If Ever I Would Leave You" to last night's Dionne Warwick 1979 classic, "I'll Never Love This Way Again". This song is MUCH more suited to his particular vocal range and strengths, and his performance was much more animated. One of the things I've noticed with his singing -- besides what I said two weeks ago about it being too 'formula' -- is that his eyes aren't very expressive. He doesn't groove around the stage like Nikko, so the cameras tend to fix on his eyes, not one of his better features. He's either got to work on his movements or his facial expressions, but at least his singing is pretty solid.

Last week, Bo admitted to picking his song randomly, and looked like he couldn't get through "Corner of the Sky" (Pippin, 1972) fast enough. He's lucky he's collected enough fans along the way who'll vote for him regardless, because watching Bo sing a showtune is as awkward as watching Paula Abdul attempt serious judging. Problem is, this week I was expecting Bo to stage a triumphant return to his usual calibre, but his Lynrd Skynrd version of "Free Bird" was not much more than a glorified stomp around the stage holding the microphone stand at the perfect rocker angle. I like that song, but there wasn't much singing going on at all. That makes three mediocre performances in a row, which apparently cost him dearly because he ended up in the bottom three. He'd better watch himself if he wants to stick around.

Carrie came roaring out of the gate this week with Pat Benetar's "Love is a Battlefield". Could this be the same girl who sang "Hello Young Lovers" from The King and I last week with a wind-tunnel hairdo and a frumpy dress?? (Couldn't they have just given her a decent 40's coif and a Marilyn Monroe frock?) What a departure from what Simon referred to as a "washing powder commercial" look to a studded-belt, halter-topped grrrrrrrl with flat-iron hair. She wanted to break free from "boring" but she might've gone a little over the top on this one. Carrie a warrior in "Love is a Battlefield"? Um, it was a stretch. I had nothing against the look, but she could've picked a better song -- one that had more singing and less growling. I don't think she'll lose her high position, but I hope she doesn't go hoarse.

Constantine was seriously overrated last week, singing "My Funny Valentine". I thought he was trying to mimic Bono doing jazz (remember when Bono sang with Frank Sinatra in the 90's?), with an Engelbert Humperdinck "I'm making love to you with my eyes" gaze. He won Paula over, anyway. Whatever he's doing is certainly working the dialling crowd, too, because no matter what he sings, he is ALWAYS in the safe zone. Riding on that wave of success, Constantine chose the ultimate rock classic -- Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", albeit repackaged for American Idol. (Much shorter.) The lampoon I speak of in the title of this post is really Constantine channelling the energy of Freddie Mercury. The only thing missing from Constantine's performance was a light display and explosions. He even showed us his tongue, Gene Simmons-like! He seemed to be in his element, flailing around and keeping a tight grip on that mike stand. Randy gave him a '10' for performance and a '7' for singing, but it's one of those songs that people will remember when it's time to vote.

Nadia isn't mainstream enough to be a Pop Idol. She admitted herself that she picks the 'artsy-fartsy' stuff. This week she took obscurity to a whole new level, choosing a Crystal Gayle song that nobody knew, not even the judges. Worse, her outfit didn't match the song. Nadia's wild afro and 80's clothing cried out for a wild Tina Turner song, but Nadia sang a country ballad. Too sedate. It's a shame, because last week her performance was the best out of the musicals -- "As Long As He Needs Me" was sung the closest to the genre out of the bunch. That doesn't sound like much, but she's thrown that effort out the window by walking too thin a line last night with the unfamiliar number. I'm sorry to see her go, Nadia easily had the most stylish wardrobe out of all the girls and worked that mike like nobody's business.

Nikko was robbed last week. How could the voting public choose Anthony's performance over his?? How is this possible?? Nikko's song was one of the better ones, he sang it well, gave a good performance, yet he got voted off. It's a cruel, cruel world, that Fox Network. Paula named him "The Comeback Kid", but obviously nobody's listening to her.

Scott's number last week was "The Impossible Dream" from Man From La Mancha, and it was far from his best performance. It put him in the bottom three contenders, and on Wednesday night it turned out only Nikko received fewer votes. But you've gotta hand it to the guy -- singing a Hall and Oates song in front of Hall and Oates is gutsy. He started off "She's Gone" rather poorly on the low notes, but I agreed with Randy this time -- once Scott reached the chorus he picked up some serious momentum and brought it home. His comments to his defense after Simon's derision might cost him some votes, however: "See what's real is that.... I'm up here and there's like millions of people at home who didn't have the nerve to do this though..... I think I rocked!" Scott's a good singer, but his speaking voice leaves a lot to be desired.

Vonzell ambitiously chose a Barbra Streisand's "People" last week and sang it... satisfactorily. Randy and Paula cheered her on, while Simon complained it left him "cold". While it was by no means the worst song and shouldn't have placed her in the bottom three, it didn't quite reach the level of her previous (Whitney Houston) performance. Last week's scare at third from the bottom put the pressure on, and Vonzell chose Deniece Williams' "Let's Hear It For the Boy"* to get her out. Why? Why? Why? It's a nasal song to begin with (and NOT one of the better songs from 1984), but she did a decent job. In the end, it not only kept her alive another week, it took her off the bottom three.


  • * Paula's off her rocker. How can Vonzell sing "Let's Hear It For the Boy" any higher than Deniece Williams? If anything, she took it down a notch.
  • Simon looked pained during "Musicals Week", even more than usual.
  • Two possible theories on why nobody is attempting Paula Abdul songs:

    1) they're terrible, or
    2) it's far too embarrassing to sing a Paula Abdul song when Paula Abdul is cheering them on. Because she'll have to admit that they sang it better.