Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Idol gives back (because it feels so bad about inflicting Sanjaya on us)

When American Idol announced "Idol Gives Back," I wrote that it seemed kind of self-important. But I've tried not to make fun of it because it is for a good cause. And I think E.J. Dionne put it perfectly today on the Washington Post op-ed page:

"Is there something worse than a multimilliondollar operation patting itself on the back for weeks on end in celebration of its brilliantly inventive and groundbreaking approach to philanthropy?

Actually, there is something worse: a total indifference to human suffering."

So I'm not going to joke about Idol's noble efforts--although I still want to hear about 19 Entertainment's doantions to this effort (the show's production company). Hopefully, they're just doing it quietly. (And what's up with the Washington Post printing two articles about American Idol on its op-ed page in the last month, including Eugene Robinson's piece about Sanjaya a few weeks ago? That seems like some kind of shark-jumping moment.)

But I do have a few questions about the "Idol Gives Back" portion of the show. First, did anyone else laugh when Simon said "These are terrible conditions" and shook his head in that hut in Africa? He said it in the exact same tone of voice as he did when he was telling Sanjaya "that was horrendous" or something. It was very weird. Also, why did Ryan or Simon ever identify where in Africa they were when they were visiting and feeding these kids? At one point, Ryan named a village, but never a country. I'm not saying it matters all that much, but Africa is a big continent. Some countries are poorer than others. It would just be nice to know--and I'm curious.

Finally, did anyone else see the box of matzah sitting on the table when Simon was at the food bank and pointed out what America's Harvest would provide for one dollar? Was that a Passover package they were making for someone? (Actually, there was a loaf of bread next to the matzah, so I guess not.) Actually, that's not a bad idea to donate leftover matzah after Passover to a food bank. I'm not sure how much the eventual recipients will appreciate it, but who knows?

As for tonight's theme of inspirational songs--I understand the sentiment, but it's a theme that doesn't necessarily lend itself to great performances. As I've written many times, Idol contestants shouldn't pick songs because of the lyrics, they should pick songs that show off their voices well--but this theme basically tells them that lyrics are more important. Oh, well, what can I do? But I will say this--when I criticize songs tonight, I'm not criticizing the sentiment in the songs, I'm criticizing things like melody and whether the song is a good pick for an Idol singer.

Chris Richardson ("Change the World")--I don't particularly like this song, but I kind of like Chris' version tonight. (Yeah, I know, I just said I liked Chris Richardson singing a song done by Eric Clapton, but Clapton is famous for being a guitarist--not a singer.) It started off a little nasally--which Chris should copyright--but he made the song a little more poppy and I think it worked for him. I still don't think he's anywhere worthy of being the American Idol, but at least he seems to be improving.

Melinda Doolittle ("There Will Come A Day")--Didn't like the song, but really liked the vocals. I've never heard this song before (and have no plans to go searching through Faith Hill videos on Youtube or anything), so I can't judge whether Melinda made it her own as Simon said. But even though I didn't care for the song, I didn't mind Melinda singing it, because it was written in the last decade, didn't have that whole "sassy" vocal thing she seems to do in every song, and gave her a chance to just sing a pop song. And she did it really well. And it's now week two of Melinda's new look, and I like that too--the stylists took a while, but they finally figured out how to make her look good.

Blake Lewis ("Imagine")--Quick Idol history check: This song has been performed by two famous Idol alums (at least that I can remember): Ruben Studdard sang it in the finals of season two and Jennifer Hudson sang it in the round of 32 in year three. And there's a reason why Jennifer Hudson ended up not getting selected that week and going into the wild-card round (back in the old days when they had those). It's not a good song for Idol. (Jennifer got really big voiced and impressive in the last 20 seconds of the song, but was otherwise boring and Simon told her she picked the wrong song.) When the judges were talking about Blake didn't "go anywhere" with the song, they were exactly right--but where can you go with the song? It doesn't go anywhere--it's the same few notes throughout most of the song. Of course, Blake usually doesn't do much with his voice anyway, so it seemed like a good song for him--but I'm not sure he can win without showing a little bit more vocal talent. He seems to be getting by as much on mood and attitude as singing, and this song--because it stripped that mood and attitude away--somewhat exposed him.

LaKisha Jones ("I Believe")--Last week, LaKisha picked a song by a former Idol winner, Carrie Underwood, and everyone judged it a mistake. This week, she picked, amazingly, a song by another former Idol winner, and it was a much bigger mistake.Paula and Randy were exactly correct--from the second the song started, even though I hadn't heard it in years, all I could think of was Fantasia's electifying performance of the song on the same stage after she won season three. What was LaKisha thinking? She could never compete with that. I was never that big a fan of Fantasia, and I have fond memories of that performance. If I try really hard, I suppose I can try to judge the performance without thinking about Fantasia, and by that measure it was OK. But I'm sure most people who saw Fantasia perform it can't do that.

Phil Stacey ("The Change")--Phil's back to country again this week, after everyone raved last week and he finished in the top three. The judges liked it, but I found it kind of boring. Having said that, I didn't get enough sleep last night and my apartment was very warm because it's 80 degrees and they don't turn on the air conditioning in my building until mid-May. So maybe I was just sleepy.

Jordin Sparks ("Never Walk Alone")--Now Jordin knows how to pick a song. She chose a song that is most commonly heard every Labor Day when Jerry Lewis sings it at the end of his telethon for muscular dystrophy. And since Jerry Lewis isn't that great a singer, Jordin doesn't have a very high bar to clear. But she cleared it with lots of room to spare. I'm not sure it's one of the best performances ever on Idol, as Randy said (and thanks Randy for once again mentioning the 17 year old thing, we didn't know), but it was really good. And I'm starting to get psyched for a possible Melinda-Jordin finale. That would kick butt. But I've probably now jinxed it.

So who's at the bottom this week? LaKisha should be there, I think Phil will return there, and let's say Chris--because Blake was in the bottom three last week and his fans will rally this week. Who's going home? I'm going to say LaKisha, but I hope I'm wrong and it's Phil.

As for tomorrow night, if Ryan's big tease about the shocking moment or whatever is the rumored duet between Celine Dion and Elvis (Natalie and Nat King Cole style), that's shocking in how sad it is. But Kelly Clarkson is back on the Idol stage tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to that. Fingerhut out.


Anonymous Mom said...

Eric, FYI B'nai Israel was and maybe still is collecting unopened Passover items, including matzoh, to donate--I don't remember where--but the collection box was right there in the atrium.

4/25/07, 11:13 AM  
Anonymous kson220 said...

Thought you would get by without hearing from me? No way!!!!

Short and sweet this week. Melinda, Jordin, Chris. Good. Phil. Not bad. Lakisha and Blake. Big trouble.

What happened to Lakisha? It is like she lost her spirit. I think that Jordin worries her as she well should. Well, we will see what happens tonight, but I think LaKisha might be out of here.

4/25/07, 4:10 PM  

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