Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What a mess

When American Idol first began, I marveled every week what an enjoyable, entertaining show it was. Now, I tune in every week and I marvel at what a mess the show has become. I once wrote in this blog that the producers of American Idol don't seem to know why this show is successful, but American Idol was such a simple yet great concept for a show that even they can't screw it up. But maybe they can. Tonight's decision to only have two judges give remarks on each contestant was really a disgrace. That's the only way they could figure out fitting the show into an hour? Really? They couldn't have cut some of the Ryan introducing the judges crap, and the Tarantino intro, and the other junk that led to no one singing until seven minutes into the show and only one person singing in the first 16 minutes of the show? They couldn't have cut those Coca-Cola sponsored interviews? We really had to hear about Danny Gokey buying a guitar? They couldn't have sold a couple less commercials? They couldn't have just forced the judges to say less? And they didn't think of this before adding a fourth judge?

Look, I'm not bothered (and I can't imagine anyone else will be bothered) to not hear Randy or Kara critique Allison or Adam or Danny. But I am bothered to not hear Simon critique Anoop or Matt or Kris. As much as Simon seems sort of bored and mailing it in this year, he's still the only judge who really matters. He's the voice that's closest to the people. If he likes someone, they get votes. If he pans someone, they lose votes. His bluntness and honesty was the reason people started watching this show in the first place. Hearing his opinions is one of the reasons we tune in every week. It's stunning that the producers don't seem to be aware of this.

Last year, Paula got a lot of attention for giving her critique of Jason Castro's second song before Jason actually performed his second song. It was weird, but odd things always happen with Paula. To me, the big scandal that night was that the judges had been told to hold their critiques until the second performance. What amused me was that the only reason they ended up giving rushed critiques at the end of everyone's first performance was because the head of reality programs at Fox was watching at home and called in to the producer to tell them to get the judges to give some critiques before the second performance. So the network head watching the show was home going, "What are they doing?" Well, at least someone at Fox knows what's going on.

The most amazing thing: They still went four minutes past 9:00 tonight. Unbelievable.

Enough ranting. Quickly, though, let me weigh in on last week's departure of Scott. He handled his elimination with grace and good humor; it's just unfortunate that the judges had to patronize him to the very end by pretending they might save him. Depressing.

After last week's good theme, we get a poor theme--movie songs. It's terrible because it has nothing to do with music--it's just a random, artificial distinction whether a song happened to be in a film or not and has nothing to do with the song.
As for Tarantino, he is someone who is both a fan of Idol and a big fan of music and how it fits into movies--I read somewhere that he said he wouldn't have made the movie Pulp Fiction if he hadn't been able to get the right to use "Son of a Preacher Man." On the other hand, the contestants weren't singing in movies or singing over video--they were performing on a stage. I guess he was OK though--he approached it from a performance aspect instead of totally a vocal aspect, so it did give us something a little different.

Let's get to the singers.

Allison--I thought this was fine, but nothing special. She came on well at the end, but I've heard this song sung a lot by various people, and it didn't strike me as anything particularly memorable. Simon seems to come around on her, though. By the way, I think Allison needs to stop closing her eyes and turning to the side when singing the big notes--she looks like she's trying too hard instead of just performing.

Anoop--Anoop is getting better--I really enjoyed this. He gave it just enough of his own spin to "make it his own" without changing it up too much, and vocally it was just really nice. This is an example of what I meant early in the season when I complained about Kara requiring that someone's single song choice in the semifinal round define them as an artist for the rest of the competition. Anoop has a good voice, but needed a few weeks to figure out what he's good at and what he shouldn't do--and that's always been part of the fun of American Idol, seeing contestants develop and get better and not be a "package artist" from the very beginning. Did Kara watch this show before she started judging it? Maybe, but she obviously didn't get it.

Adam--Obviously not as good as last week--but that was a very high bar to clear--but I liked it. It was interesting and his voice sounded good and he wasn't screechy, as he'd been on some earlier up tempo songs. He really sounds like Axl Rose when he starts wailing, so in case you're reading, Adam, I'd love to see you do "Sweet Child O'Mine" before the end of the season.

Matt Giraud--Chris Daughtry was able to do something good with it a few years ago, but I've never been a real fan of this song---I always found it a little boring. And Matt didn't really change that. The first part was kind of boring, and when he changed up the melody in the second half, it was a little more exciting but the vocals weren't exactly memorable. Matt seems very limited and not particularly versatile to me--if he sings a piano-based soul song, he's fine, but if he does anything else it's not that great. Might be his time to go next week.

Danny Gokey--Danny has a nice voice, seems like a nice guy, but is he really anything more than that? This was fine, but I've already pretty much forgotten it a couple hours after I watched it. Just seems like other singers on the show are a lot more interesting performers and singers than Danny is. I will defend Danny on one thing, though. Simon noted that Danny didn't do anything new with the song like David Cook did with the Lionel Ritchie song "Hello" last year. What's funny about that is that Chris Sligh totally revamped this song two years ago, making it into a Coldplay song and I believe Simon and others told him that with such a classic song, he should have just sung the melody. Granted, Chris's version was terrible, and that one could conceivably change up the song without ruining it as badly, but it's still sort of ironic.

Kris Allen--Great song choice, great song, and he sung it well, with emotion. Unfortunately, we didn't get to hear what Simon thought about it--did he love it as much as Kara? If he did, that would have really helped Kris. But I guess we'll never know. (And to be fair, if he didn't like it, it might have hurt Kris, but that's the way the show works.) Oh, and Kara--can you really call a song that won an Academy Award an "obscure" song?

Lil Rounds--This was just not good. I have no idea how she got the pimp spot. The first half of the song was off-key and the second half, when she gave it the gospel tinge, was a little better but still kind of flat. You know you're bad when Paula doesn't even mention your performance but talks about what great lyrics the song has. As for the Simon-Lil confrontation, I feel bad for Lil because she's doing what the judges say they want--but the judges haven't been honest with her all through the competition. They keep telling her she's picking the wrong songs, she's not being enough of an artist, blah, blah, and if she picks the right song she'll be fine. But that's not Lil's problem. Lil's problem is that whatever song she picks, she doesn't sing it very well. She's not that good a singer. She probably shouldn't have been so pimped by the show and the judges in the first place. Randy has often said, at his most lucid, that whatever song you pick, sing it well. Lil only did that once, and that was her problem--not the fact that she never picked a Keyshia Cole or Mary J. Blige song. It's a shame the judges never got around to saying that with their ridiculous focus on artistry this year. At least Simon sort of came close to saying it tonight, but not as blunt as it should have been, when he said "You're not the artist I thought you were."

Bottom three: Matt, Lil, Danny, with Lil going home. And the judges hopefully won't even waste time pretending to use the save.

Fingerhut out.



Anonymous Wei said...

Kris always picked my favorite songs!!

4/15/09, 2:37 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Still love Danny! I think Lil has screwed herself lately...matt was not soo good and Kris sang a song I did not know which I hate when there are tons to choose from.

If they do not have Simon critique them all, I will stop watching the show after this season...that was ridiculous

4/15/09, 9:28 PM  

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