Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Who will bite the dust tonight?

I’m sorry for not posting more on Idol as I promised last week, but let me go through some of what I would have written before we get to the show. I thought the selection of Queen songs was a little bit strange–until I saw the Best Buy circular in the newspaper on Sunday advertising a new Queen greatest hits album on sale today, and it all started to make sense. Or was it just a crazy coincidence? Couldn’t be...Anyway, it was an odd choice because so many of Queen’s most well-known, popular songs don’t seem to lend themselves to Idol, either because they don’t allow a singer to show their voice off (We Will Rock You, Another One Bites the Dust), or they’re just sort of odd (Fat Bottomed Girls, Killer Queen, Bicycle). And then there’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but I’ll wait to discuss that when I get to Kellie Pickler. Anyway, it turned out to be a decent theme, because Queen’s catalogue of songs that I wasn’t as familiar with had enough good Idol-type songs to put together the best show we’ve seen in three weeks (although that really is faint praise.) I have no idea why someone didn’t pick one of Queen’s best songs, “Under Pressure.” Because it was a duet and they figured it would be extra pressure on them? “Under Pressure” seems like the kind of song that you could show off your voice a little, but what do I know? I only watch the show.

I also wanted to note the interesting information gleaned from last week’s “let’s split everyone into three groups” results show–that it seems we’ve learned that the frontrunners are Taylor, Chris and Kellie. Now, it’s true that no one said they were the top three–I’m just inferring that from the fact that they were sent back to the couch first. And the producers manipulate so many things on this show, one could certainly argue that the two non-bottom three groups were just randomly assembled. I think some people even think that the two non-losing members of the bottom three are just selected for maximum shock effect. But I’ve been checking a Web site called, which predicts each week’s vote by using some sort of computer program to measure busy signals for the various phone lines of the contestants. I have no idea how it works, but the site has been right on the money lately, predicting all of the bottom three singers last week and predicting Katharine McPhee’s surprise bottom three appearance the week before (In fact, this guy’s Web site could actually wipe out all the conspiracy theories that the producers play around with the results.) Just as interesting, Dial Idol has from week to week consistently had Taylor, Chris and Kelllie, in various orders, as its top three as well. I’m not surprised by Taylor or Chris–they both have performed well vocally and have distinctive styles that people have liked from the beginning of their appearances of the show–but kind of surprised by Kelllie’s inclusion, since I don’t think anyone could say that she’s anywhere near as talented vocally as Paris, Katharine or Mandisa For Kellie, it seems to be all about personality and a touching and appealing backstory (which if you believe some Internet reports, may not be totally true. I won’t get into that now.) It should be interesting if Kellie can continue to do so well mostly on personality alone. (Oh, and one other thing: last week I made a typo which indicated that Ace was not single. I meant he was “now single” and just wanted to correct that since a commenter pointed it out. And the fact that I just spent two sentences writing about Ace Young’s personal life makes me cry.)

Now, finally to the singers:

But first, we see Fantasia in the audience–I’m not sure if we should make any assessments about the state of her career from her appearance–or from the fact that they seated her right in front so everyone could see her the whole night as the judges gave their critiques–but I will. I don’t think it’s going quite as well as many hoped, and that “Baby Mama” song she did is weirder than any Queen song. To be fair, though, Kelly Clarkson didn’t really come into her own until her second album, so give her time. Then again, I don’t think Fantasia was ever as popular as Kelly Clarkson was on Idol, so it’s probably not a good comparison...I really need to stop going off on these tangents.

Bucky Covington (“Fat Bottomed Girls”)–I wasn’t expecting much from this, but it really wasn’t bad at all. It was the right kind of song for him, and it was probably one of his better performances. It still wasn’t that great, of course, and I can’t say I’d miss him if he were eliminated, but he gave it his own style and made it enjoyable. Oh, and those funky microphone flips Bucky does when he moves it from one hand to another are kind of cool. But Bucky, after seemingly becoming easier to understand in recent weeks, returned to his Boomhauer roots tonight. Does anyone know what he said to Ryan before saying “take what you are given”? It sounded like he said something about jumping on Freddie Mercury, but that doesn’t make much sense.

Ace Young (“We Will Rock You”)–So Ace said he wants his song to sound like “Ace doing Queen.” After hearing that, I was trembling so badly that I could barely press stop on my VCR remote so I could go into the bathroom to throw up. The guys from Queen didn’t seem too thrilled with the whole “Ace doing Queen” thing, either, considering that they basically told Ace they didn’t want to play the song the funk-inflected way he wanted them to play it. Of course, they did also say that Ace was an “interactive person,” which I suppose was designed as a compliment, but kind of puzzled me. What does it mean to be an interactive person–that he carries on conversations? Anyway, I wasn’t expecting much from this performance, and didn’t get much, although it wasn’t the complete horror that I feared. It’s, as I said before, not a song that really shows off one’s vocals and seems particularly ill-suited for Ace since he doesn’t come across as a rocker. It kind of reminded me of Constantine’s ill-fated, horrendous performance of Nickelback’s “You Remind Me” last year, although not quite that bad. I didn’t pick up all the tempo changes that Paula apparently did–but Paula hears a lot of strange things in her head–and didn’t understand why she thought this was a risk. It’s only a risk because it’s not really a good song choice for Idol. And why did Ace not even sing portions of the “We Will Rock You” chorus during the song, letting the backup singers fill in during parts? That’s the whole backbone of the song–how can you let someone else do that? But at least Ace thought he “rocked.”

Kellie Pickler (“Bohemian Rhapsody”)–I have so much to say here I don’t even know where to start. First of all, I would never have even expected a song like this–with its many tempo and style changes–to even be sung on American Idol until Constantine performed it last year and stunned everyone by knocking it out of the park. So with the song having lost its Idol virginity, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that someone would want to do it on Queen theme night, even though I really couldn’t see anyone in this year’s batch of contestants being able to come close to Constantine (not that Constantine was necessarily more vocally talented than all of this year’s contestants, but he had the right combination of particular vocal skills and audacity to pull it off.) Unfortunately, the woman who was actually rumored a couple weeks ago to be dating Constantine (who knows if that had anything to do with it) decided to perform it. And it was awful. Simon said “a lot of people will think it was hideous,” and I’m one of those people. Midway through the song, I was laughing out loud at the train wreck I was watching. Kellie looked terrible (although I’ll admit, the stilletto-heeled boots were kind of hot) and sang flat and off-key most of the song–although I guess the rock third of the song was sort of OK. Just as horrifying, though, was when we got to the judges–and they liked it! Even Simon! What were they listening to? Apparently they weren’t listening to the music, they were listening to the buzz about Idol.

Kellie Pickler is the most talked about, polarizing contestant on this show right now–there are Web sites out there solely devoted to getting her eliminated from the show because people she’s embarrassing Albermarle, North Carolina with her dumb rube act. (Speaking of which, does anyone believe that a, 21-year-old woman has never heard the expression “it shouldn’t work on paper” as Kellie appeared to not comprehend last night when Simon uttered it? She actually said “He has the weirdest terminology.” No, Kellie, you have the weirdest lack of vocabulary.) There are long blog postings devoted to analyzing how true her hard-luck story is. And there are lots of people searching for pictures of Kellie in her two-piece high-school prom dress (which sort of makes Kellie’s naive, innocent shtick ring a little false. Quick digression: the prom date of a friend of mine in high school had a two-piece prom dress, and when we were at his house to take pictures, his father couldn’t stop asking her, “Do you need a sweater?”)

It’s obvious that with this much discussion about Kellie, the powers that be with this show want to keep her around. And the judges’ comments tonight sure made it seem like the fix is in. No, I don’t think the producers are going to just ignore the voting totals and keep Kellie around even if she’s last in the voting. But things on this show can be manipulated in so many ways, and judges always giving you positive comments is one big way to do it. I would hope that Simon wouldn’t go along with giving someone good marks just because the show will be more popular–but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to believe after he liked that monstrosity. And although I haven’t checked the Internet message boards, I guarantee I’m not the only one who smells something fishy going on here. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

But if you had any doubt about the quality of Kellie’s performance, all you had to do was see the reaction of Queen guitarist Brian May to Kellie’s rehearsal. The only thing he could say was that Kellie was “brave,” which might have been meant as a compliment but wasn’t much of one. And did you see May’s face at the end of the clip? He looked like a beaten man, like his dog had just died. To quote Simon Cowell on Elton John Night a couple years ago: “Someone just threw his TV out the window.”

Chris Daughtry (“Innuendo”)–Queen did like Chris, and I thought he was pretty good, although he didn’t exactly go out of his comfort zone tonight. Simon is correct in a sense, that Chris is “indulgent” and just does the songs he likes to do, but it does seem like the audience does like Chris doing those kinds of songs. He’s in the top three, after all. I too would like to see Chris shake it up a little more, but I also thought this was one of Chris’s better performances, intense and vocally pretty powerful.

So then we had Ryan ask Randy about song choice and Randy said whatever song you picked doesn’t matter, “just sing it.” Amazing. I believe Randy said song choice was the most important factor in Idol in February. Does anyone point out this stuff to him?

Katharine McPhee (“Who Wants to Live Forever”)–Katharine has a nice voice and a number of other very attractive attributes, but it seems like she hasn’t been able to put the whole package together into the great Idol performer I was expecting her to become. And tonight, once again, she almost got there, but didn’t really do it. The song just seemed, as Randy said, a little “too big” for her at times, and there were just so many long, held notes that it was sort of tiring. She was one of the better performers of the night, but nothing special. And I kind of liked that other song she was going to do--particularly that dance she was doing along with it.

Elliott Yamin (“Somebody to Love”)–That is a difficult song, and I thought Elliott did it pretty well–although he was being drowned out at the beginning by the band. And I thought he showed a little more charisma tonight, although that may have just been because the song is really good and made me more interested in his performance. It also seemed like Elliott did a Freddie Mercury tribute at the end with that arm flourish, which was cool.

Taylor Hicks (“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”)–Right off the bat, I’ll say Taylor’s performance was a lot better than the version done by that crooner guy, David Radford, back in the semi-finals. Of course, David Radford was terrible, so I guess I’m once again giving faint praise. Overall, I thought Taylor was mediocre and disappointing. Yeah, as Randy said, we like to see Taylor dancing and having fun. But we like to see that joined with great, exciting singing-like the Doobie Brothers song he did a few weeks ago–and he didn’t give us that tonight. He just gave us an average vocal performance and a lot of running around frantically.

Paris Bennett (“The Show Must Go On”)–Like Katharine, this was another big, showy song that may have been a little too big for the performer. Paris had more trouble than Katharine, though, and she was drowned out, too, by the band–which, combined with Elliott, makes me think this was a band problem, not a singer problem. We did get to see, what, the fourteenth new Paris hairstyle, though.

I have, once again, absolutely no idea who is going to go home or who will even be in the final three. If there’s any justice, it will be Pickler, but I don’t see that happening. So I’ll just say Ace, Paris and Bucky, and predict that Ace will go home–but I really don’t have much of a reason for it.

Fingerhut out, and Passover in!


Anonymous John said...

Heeeey Fingerman. This line "No, Kellie, you have the weirdest lack of vocabulary" made me laugh for a good minute or so. And at that moment, I really did think her whole "I'm a dipstick" act was a put-on for the first time.

Bucky: he was good. I enjoyed it...and I had no idea what he said after, either.

Ace: I actually thought that he was okay, better than I expected.

Kellie: okay, I've been a fan of hers for a while, but it was awful. I couldn't even enjoy her gyrations on the ground. The whole thing was too frantic and offkey and just tried too hard...and failed. Ugh. Anyway, she was much worse than Bucky or Ace and got a better reception from the judges. Is the fix in?

Chris: okay, this isn't a great song though Queen's version is better and more nuanced. But I think was Simon meant was that Chris is just not entertaining...and he's right. Chris should have done a heavy, fun Queen song, like "Keep Yourself Alive", "Tie Your Mother Down", or "Stone Cold Crazy." Heck, he could have shocked us all by doing something light and good, like "You're My Best Friend" or "I want to Break Free." Actually, if he had done "One Vision", he would have brought down the house and had his "moment." If you don't know these songs, do yourself a favor and buy a Queen "best of."

Instead, he did one of there dirgiest songs in an even dirgier fashion. And his beard and dyed eyebrows looked dopey.

Katharine: amen on the dance she did during rehearsals. Anyway, I've always loved this song and the Queen record is fantastic. Her version was okay and she was okay. Can't you feel my enthusiasm?

Elliot: best song choice of the night. Unfortunately, the record is kind of a "call and response" thing which is hard for a solo singer, so it was a bit of a mess. Anyway, I thought he was good doing something hard.

Taylor: well, he was funny, I'll give him that. Simon asking him if he was drunk and calling im ridiculous was hilarious and accurate.

Paris: once again, Simon was right. It was weird and she was overwhelmed by the song and the band.

On merits, Kellie should go home. Sadly, I think it will be Katharine.

4/12/06, 10:31 AM  

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