Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The British are coming on Idol

Kind of an odd show tonight on American Idol. It was a pretty entertaining show, and yet I didn't find any of the performances particularly stand-out or memorable (at least for the singing.) I feel like the favorites, after improving for a couple weeks, seem to have stagnated at a good but not great level. Meanwhile, some of the members of the lower tiers have raised their games slightly--so a lot of people are blending together and no one is really standing out in my mind. But we've still got ten weeks to go.

Hopefully, most of them won't include Sanjaya, and the Sanjaya talk this week reached incredibly epic proportions. A Website called votefortheworst.com has been getting a lot of publicity for keeping Sanjaya in the competition, but Lisa de Moraes of the Washington Post did a brilliant debunking of their alleged power last week on her blog. First of all, she noted that the Vote for the Worst guys--who encourage people to vote for the worst singer, of course--weren't even promoting Sanjaya until last week. They were actually encouraging people to vote for Sundance and Antonella, except they were both eliminated--making you wonder how much power Vote for the Wors really has. In fact, no one they've actually promoted over the past few years, de Moraes pointed out, has ever come close to winning the show. But they claim that if someone bad sticks around for an extra week or two longer than they should, Vote for the Worst has succeeded. Yeah, whatever. What does this mean? Probably that Sanjaya will stay around for a couple more weeks but be eliminated before we get down to the final six or seven. And for the sake of the young woman who has started a hunger strike until Sanjaya is eliminated, I certainly hope so. "Starvation for Sanjaya" is a Website (www.myspace.com/starvationforsanjaya) in which you can watch a video and read the blog of someone who isn't eating until Sanjaya is off the show. She's on day three, and she says she's already having trouble, so she's really hoping he goes this week. Apparently, she's serious. I wish I had a joke here, but the Website is funnier than anything I could come up with. On to the show.

So our theme was "British Invasion," which turned out to be kind of odd. Both Peter Noone, and especially Lulu, were pretty solid guest coaches, or whatever you call them, with occasional good insights for the contestants, but when you think of "British Invasion" do you think of Shirley Bassey? I don't, and yet we got two of her songs. Yes, we did get a Stones song and something from the Kinks, but some of the other choices mystified me. Why didn't anyone sing the Lulu classic "To Sir With Love"? Were they saving that for Lulu to sing on the results show or something? Because it would have been a pretty good song choice for someone--nice melody, can show off the strength of your voice some...oh, well.

So we start off the night with Paula talking about how the singers should envision Simon naked and Simon asking if that's what she thinks about--himself not dressed. A little disturbing, but a step up from the bordering on homophobic banter of last week, I suppose. Then Peter Noone said that if the singers show the enthusiasm of the Beatles at Shea Stadium, "no matter what happens, people will remember them. I'm sorry, but there's no way Phil Stacey will ever remind me of the Beatles in 1965. (Side note: My aunt actually attended the famous Beatles concert at Shea Stadium. She said that in the 45 minutes the Beatles were on stage, she didn't hear a single note--everyone was screaming too loud.)

Haley Scarnato ("Tell Him")--I had no idea this was a "British Invasion" song--I'm most familiar with it from Ally McBeal, when Ally would often hear a slowed-down version of this song in her head (Where have you gone, Vonda Shepherd? David Kelley couldn't get you a job on Boston Legal or something?) Anyway, it seems Haley has decided that she should use what she's got if she wants to stick around, and she executed her strategy to perfection tonight. Short shorts, high heels, a lot of shaking of her bottom--honestly, I barely looked at her face during her performance. I'm reminded of a comment Jon Stewart made while hosting an awards show after Shania Twain danced around for a few minutes while performing--"Did she sing?" But of course, Simon was able to sum it up best with the comment "I think people will be talking about a lot more than your singing tonight." By the way, the singing was OK, if a little bland, but it certainly was her best and most spirited outing of the competition. And even though she went first, I still remember it almost four hours later (OK, I did run the DVR back and watch it again when the show was over, but still...)

Chris Richardson ("Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying")--Now here's a performance I barely remember. Luckily, I did take a couple notes. First of all, why did Chris get applause after he sung the first line of the song? Has he recorded this song before? Usually, that occurs in concerts when someone sings the first line of a well-known song, but none of that qualifies here. Was there some audio problem? This was really strange. But anyway, the judges liked this, but I thought it was kind of boring and nasally. I think Chris is starting to bring boring back.

Stephanie Edwards ("You Don't Have to Say You Love Me")--Wow, these questions from the Website they're asking the singers this week are just fascinating. What's the toughest thing about getting ready each week was the question and "picking the song" was the answer. That gives me so much insight into American Idol. So Stephanie picks a song that Nadia Turner knocked out of the park two seasons ago, and spent Stephanie's entire performance thinking about how Nadia's version was so much better. It seemed like Stephanie was kind of timid--I wanted to hear her open it up and really sing the heck out of it, but it never happened. It was just kind of blah. The most interesting thing about her segment, though, was Randy telling her that we know she's a "brilliant up tempo singer." Huh? Was there a private show she put on for Randy? Did I miss something? Hasn't Stephanie sung nothing but slow to mid-tempo songs? She hasn't sung anything even remotely up tempo. In fact, that's her problem. She's stuck in a rut of similar songs that don't show anything new, and her performance tonight continued that. Ryan also asked Stephanie if this was a "tough genre" for her to learn. Is "British Invasion" a genre? I thought country was a genre. Aren't most of the "British Invasion" songs just pop and rock songs?

Blake Lewis ("Time of the Season")--It seemed like Blake had exactly the same tempo and feel for his song this week as he did last week, but it fit the song a lot better. It wasn't great, but it was very good, and as I've said before, when Blake actually sings, he's got a pretty good voice. When he used it tonight on the chorus, he was enjoyable.

LaKisha Jones ("Diamonds Are Forever")--Come on LaKisha, Lulu actually runs out to catch you before you can leave and tells you should sing a different song and you don't take her advice? That's not smart, especially when the song you ended up singing wasn't all that great. She did OK, but probably her least impressive performance of the competition. I've prasied her before for her restained vocals, but this was too restrained. But I did like her amusing comeback to Simon.

Phil Stacey ("Tobacco Road")--So is this a "British Invasion" song about North Carolina, or is there a Tobacco Road in London? Phil was kind of boring, and the only thing I remember about his performance is the weird shirt he had on. It seemed to have a pattern that looked like sweat stains on the chest, but since the two sides seemed to match, it must have been just an ugly pattern on top of the stripes. Did anyone else notice this?

Jordin Sparks ("I Who Have Nothing")--Jordin is slowly making the Big Two a Big Three. She's young, very attractive, and has a really good voice, and she showed it off tonight on what seemed to be a very tough song to sing. I'd still like to see Fun Jordin back once in a while, but if she's going to sing ballads this well, I guess I can sit through a few more of them.

Sanjaya Malakar ("You Really Got Me")--Wow, I'm not even sure where to start. So let's begin when Sanjaya told Peter Noone he was thinking about singing "You Really Got Me" and I burst out laughing. And I laughed throughout most of his performance, thanks to his rock stylings combined with that crying girl. And yet, this had to be, as Randy said, Sanjaya's best appearance of the season. I'm not saying he should front a Kinks cover band or anything, but it wasn't horrible, just kind of fun and ridiculous. It was better than when Ryan Starr performed this in season one, and no one ever thought Ryan Starr was disgracing the show as they think about Sanjaya. (By the way, I recently saw Ryan Starr's performance of "You Really Got Me" on American Idol Rewind, the syndicated reruns of season one, and it was one of the most dreadful performances in Idol history, so maybe I'm not complimenting Sanjaya that much.) Maybe Sanjaya should be doing rock songs instead of syrupy ballads. I'd love to hear him do "Lola" next. And of course, we must talk about the crying girl, who apparently thought she was at Shea Stadium watching the Beatles in 1965. Can we get an interview with her? Can we find out why Sanjaya could possibly bring her to tears? Or, since we saw her cry during someone else's performance, did she actually cry for everybody? Are her parents getting her counseling in case Sanjaya is eliminated this week? So many questions....

Oh, and I can't forget about Sanjaya's family tonight. His mother was wearing a shirt that said "Momjaya" and his beautiful sister was wearing a extremely low-cut shirt that said something which I couldn't read because I was too busy staring at something else. Yikes, I think she's taking some lessons from Haley on using what she's got to help her brother.

Gina Glocksen ("Paint It Black")--This really didn't do much for me, although Simon's remark that there were "moments of complete torture" might have been a little rough. Randy yelled out something about the bridge of the song, and he was right--that part of the song seemed really tuneless and flat. But overall, if you're going to sing a song by one of the most famous rock singers ever, it's got to be really good, and this wasn't.

Chris Sligh ("She's Not There")--I'm not really into the whole go-into-the-audience thing, but this wasn't bad--another solid but not spectacular Chris performance. My favorite part was the sign "Bringing Chubby Back." I'm not sure about the "Fro Patro" though.

Melinda Doolittle ("As Long As He Needs Me")--So a song from the musical "Oliver!" is part of the British Invasion. Why? Was it written in Britain before the show came to the U.S.? And why is Melinda singing a second straight song from a Broadway show? Could she be more boring in her song selection? She still is a great singer, though, with remarkable phrasing, etc. She showed it again tonight. But she hasn't sung anytyhing that made me say, "You know, I want to buy her record."

Who's going home? This one's tough. I think Phil Stacey will make the bottom three again, I think Stephanie might make it because she went early and was unimpressive, and despite her display, Haley will too. (With all the Vote for the Worst publicity, I have a feeling Sanjaya may not even get a bottom three spot this week, but will return next week.) And let's say Phil will go home. Fingerhut out.



Blogger Melanie said...

Hi, Eric. Long-time reader, first-time poster. (Hee Haw)

I don't really watch American Idol. You know this. But I did watch some of last night's show, and I have a comment and a story.

The comment: I completely agree with you that to call many of these songs "British Invasion" is simply wrong. I also completely agree with you that this crop of young hopefuls is, by and large, forgettable.

The story: Back in the day, I worked at a great record store in Kentucky. One day, a woman came in, and we started chatting. She was very friendly, late 40s/early 50s, very tall and a big woman in a sturdy kind of way. She was buying some Herman's Hermits CD. She then revealed that she was a big Peter Noone fan. I didn't realize that Peter Noone had an avid fan base, but he indeed does. I then noticed that this woman was wearing a t-shirt with a photo transfer of a picture of herself with Peter Noone. In the picture, she was beaming and was positively towering over the diminutive Peter Noone. Because I cannot help myself in situations like this, I comment on her shirt.

This opens the door.

She then pulls a photo album out of her purse and proceeds to show me pictures of all of the times she's met Peter Noone, pictures from fan club gatherings, pictures of Peter Noone that she's collected, etc.

She is obsessed. I kind of love her.

A few weeks later, this friendly fanatic returns and tells me that she has read about a new record that features the guest vocals of her beloved Peter Noone. "Okay," I say, and assure her that if we don't have it, we can order it.

"What's the name of the record?" I ask.

"It's a 45 by a band called The Shitbirds," she replies, smiling brightly. "I need 5 copies."

Now, let's pause. The Shitbirds were a surf punk band from California led by April March. [Factoid: April was an animator for Ren & Stimpy and was romantically involved - and may still be - with Ren & Stimpy creator Jon Krikfalusi. I also highly recommend April's single "Chick Habit."]

It turns out that The Shitbirds recorded a few cover records under the moniker of The Stool Pigeons. The Stool Pigeons covered a bunch of Herman's Hermits songs and got Peter Noone as a guest vocalist on one of their 45s.

We don't have it in stock, but oh yes, we can order it.

As I'm filling out the special order form, I ask her what her name is.

"Judy Guitar," she replies.

Working in a record store necessarily involves many, many surreal moments. This was one of my favorites:

I am now ordering 5 copies of a 45 by a band called The Stool Pigeons, which features members of The Shitbirds and guest vocalist Peter Noone, for a woman named Judy Guitar.

I am positive that last night, somewhere in Kentucky, Judy Guitar was TiVoing American Idol, staring glassy-eyed at her beloved Peter Noone, and quite possibly participating in a live chat with other fan club members.

This makes me happy.

The End.


3/21/07, 8:34 AM  
Anonymous John said...

If you think about it, a band named the Stool Pigeons sort of lends itself to use of Shit Bird personnel...

Herman's Hermits, Judy Guitar, the Shitbirds...did this store happen to exist in a David Lynch movie or something?

3/28/07, 10:08 AM  

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