Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Can anybody find me somebody to hate?

Where's my trainwreck, "American Idol"? I wanted a glorious, disastrous, tell my daughter about it over a campfire when she's 10 kinda trainwreck on Queen Night and instead I got... the same range of mediocre-to-pretty-good we've been getting every damn week this year. Aside from Ace, nobody sucked. Aside from maybe Elliot and/or Paris, nobody was great. Come on, "Idol," either dazzle me or appall me already. Please.

Let's take 'em in order:

Bucky Covington, "Fat Bottomed Girls": My favorite Queen song, and I'm really irked Mandisa wasn't around to sing it, because she could have belted the shit out of it. Bucky did just fine with it, to the level that if I heard it at a bar, I might wave my lighter around. Nothing special, but competent and fun.

Ace Young, "We Will Rock You": Dude, when the guys from Queen are basically telling you to go fuck yourself, you may want to rethink your plan to rearrange one of the most iconic songs of the 20th century. Who do you think you are, J.D. Fortune? A mess in pretty much every way; he couldn't make up his mind about whether he was going to sing the chorus or leave it to the back-up singers, and his embellishments added absolutely nothing to the song. This hopefully will be his exit, but under the old "It's better to suck than to be mediocre" theory of "Idol" voting, he may be just safe enough that somebody like Bucky could go home in his place.

Kellie Pickler, "Bohemian Rhapsody": Damn you, Pickler, for denying me the fiasco I had been gleefully anticipating all day. This wasn't especially good, but the Pickle played to her skanked-out, scratchy-throated strengths with the arrangement. She looked like a corpse under that spotlight, but the vocal was passable. Damn you! On the other hand, she doesn't frikking know what "on paper" means? Whether she's really this dumb or just playing this dumb, I hate her and I hate that the stupidity is what's going to carry her far on this show.

Chris Daughtry, "Innuendo": I have never heard the Mercury version, other than a 30-second iTunes sample, but as Chris sang it, it was repetitive, shouty and completely boring in every way. He's still probably going to win, but Chris needs to lighten the hell up every now and then; he could have had a lot of fun tonight if he hadn't been intent on picking the darkest, angriest Queen song he knew.

Katharine McPhee, "Who Wants to Live Forever": One of my favorite performers was on the verge of singing my second-favorite Queen song and she changed her mind at the last minute? D'oh! Though for all I would've enjoyed her fanny-wiggling on "Don't Stop Me Now," she probably made the right choice. She's been doing the giggly sex-kitten routine for most of the finals, and as I've said before, guys don't vote for this show. Sooner or later she just needed to stand still and just dazzle people with her voice. This wasn't quite there, unfortunately. Like Randy said, she was very sharp in spots, and it sounded too close to what I imagine the Barbra or Celine versions sound like.

Elliot Yamin, "Somebody to Love": As usual, he picks the highest degree of difficulty, and he sort of grazed the target. He was way too smiley for such an anguished song, and I didn't love the scatting at the very end, which is where he should have been hitting the motherfucking big note to end all motherfucking big notes, but he was still so far ahead of the crowd tonight that it didn't matter. If this were a singing-only contest, Elliot would win in a walk.

Taylor Hicks, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love": If Elliot picked the hardest song, Taylor picked the easiest. I could sing "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," and I would be one of those people even Paula can't find something nice to say about in the audition round. I know Randy wants Taylor to stay in his funny dancing box, but what I love about this guy is his voice, not the Pee-Wee spaztics, and this was ordinary at best. He's capable of so much better, and Paula and Randy (not to mention a fan base so big I don't think he'll sniff final two for weeks, if ever) are just going to inspire him to coast for the rest of the season.

Paris Bennett, "The Show Must Go On": Once again, she picks a song that's way too old for her, and yet she almost pulled off the world-weary sentiment needed. (The only real screw up was when she barked "Come on!" and started laughing midway through.) Paris also has a sensational voice, but even more than Pickler's condensed "Bohemian Rhapsody," the arrangement felt like it was trying to stuff 12 pounds of music into a 5-pound bag.

Should go home: Ace. He and Pickler are the two worst contestants remaining; she was okay tonight, he was awful.

Will go home: Bucky? Katharine? Or maybe the public gets it right.

What did everybody else think?


Adam said...

I once saw Daryl Hall do that sort of thing in Atlantic City about five years ago, when everyone was waiting for him to hit the big high note in "She's Gone" and he just punted it.

Look: only Ace could've pulled off that note from this crowd, so I don't fault Elliot for veering off someplace else.

Heather K said...

I think that Paris' performance would've gone much better if she grows up enough to tell her stylist no!! That outfit was hideous and made her look chubby and she can't seem to keep her extensions out of her lip gloss. Sending Bucky home wouldn't be a bad move over sending Ace home--they both should be leaving soon.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty much in agreement with you, Alan, except that I thought Chris Daughtry's performance was commanding and terrific, the best of the night. I'd never heard the tune before, but I believed the story Chris was telling with it. Imagine my surprise at my own reaction. Going in, I was on the verge of being fed-up with this cat.

Now, watching Ace Young try to sing "We Will Rock You" was like watching a rookie bull rider holding on for dear life. And how embarrassing that he TWICE got dissed by Brian May after suggesting his own arrangement... but also, how FUNNY! The fact that the producers included these humiliating moments in the clip package... is that their little way of saying they no like Ace, and wish him gone? If so, then bless their cold, cold hearts.

My boy Elliott, to me, didn't seem to be in command tonight... seemed to be spending so much energy just keeping up with the song, instead of putting over its story or living its emotions. And there's this weird look in his eyes sometimes when he's singing... doesn't work for TV.

My girl Katharine... I wasn't feeling her tonight either. (Although it shouldn't be a big surprise that her mom is also kinda smokin'. I might not've known what "flashing the shocker" means, but I know what a "MILF" is!) The song Kat chose was horrible, and it didn't serve her well at all.

But I dug Taylor more than I expected to. Notwithstanding Simon's extended flare-up of Irritable Cowell Syndrome, Taylor's performance wasn't ridiculous; this is what he does. And he's a hell of a showman, and can sell a song. Dirtgirl above may have put her finger on Taylor's true destiny: world's hippest wedding singer.

Still, I have to give second-best performance of the night to Paris, just because of her amazing chops and unflappable stage presence (except for that little giggle in the middle... what was that?) Yeah, it was a little dress-uppy, a little of Paris playing at being a rock chick, rather than truly rocking out. But I'm a sucker for "jazz hands," what can I tell you?

Time for Bucky to go back to chewing Doublemint with his brother in North Cackalacka.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Adam, I'm a big believer that if you can't hit the notes a song is famous for, you should pick a different song, or else rearrange it in such a drastic way that it doesn't seem like Imitation Queen minus the famous note.

UBM, I realize this is what Taylor does, but I think he's capable of so much more. As I was trying to get to sleep last night, I started wondering if there had been any "wow" performances yet in these finals, ala Kelly doing "Stuff Like That There" or Fantasia on "Summertime" or Bo on "Vehicle" and "In a Dream," and the only two I came up with were Chris on "Higher Ground" (which was as much about the production as him) and Taylor on "Living for the City." There's a happy medium between him standing like a statue behind the mic and him picking an unchallenging vocal so he can focus on doing the Big Shoe Dance.

Alan Sepinwall said...

A better link for "Stuff Like That There." I watch it and reminded how, while this year's finalists may be the deepest group yet, nobody yet has come close to blowing me away.

Adam said...

I can't credit Taylor for "Living In The City", because he completely bleached it of meaning. It's not a happy song; it's filled with bitterness and resentment, and he sang it like he was auditioning for a revue in Reno.

There has been nothing close to a wow performance this season. Hell, Trenyce was better than this.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I thought Taylor dialed back his happy monkey face for most of that song, but it's been a while. And I forgot about Mandisa during '50s Week, which was probably the best performance of the finals -- so, of course, she's gone.

Ahhh, Trenyce. Where you have gone, Lashundra Cobbins? A nation turns its lonely ears to you.

Adam said...

Best performance so far this season was probably Paris' "Midnight Train To Georgia", followed by Gedeon's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and Daughtry's cover of that Fuel song, all in the semis. (And, of course, Daughtry's "Walk The Line" until we learned it was just a cover of the Live version.)

Reference material

Tosy And Cosh said...

Chec out the full version of "Innuendo." It's a great song that the show's restraints butchered.

Don't get the Elliot love at all. I thought his Somebody to Love was a train wrec through and through. No soul, no facility with the tricy rhythms and no big note.

Bohemian Rhapsody should not be cut to fit in a minute and a half.

And completely agree - no "for the ages" performances all year.

lady t said...

You were right about Pickler's version of BR not totally going down in flames(it was horrible,nonetheless)and yes,Ace should go. The guys in Queen looked like they wanted to beat him up in the parking lot after their session with him.

The best ones were Chris,Taylor and Paris. True,it would've been better if Chris had picked one of the better known songs but after Ace pretty much de-boned "We Will Rock You", I was glad to hear someone who could actually sing a song the right way!

Taylor is at his best when he gets down-he's not gonna win but he's fun to watch. Paris was amazing,she had a Tina Turner look last night and her stage prescence is top level. She didn't need to break character with that "come on,now!' bit but,hey she's young.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Taylor's capable of much better than that -- on his good days, his voice sounds like a cross between Ray Charles and Joe Cocker -- but the audience and the judges seem to respond more to his stupid dancing than his singing, so this is what we get.

And Elliot's big problem is a great voice and awful stage presence, which results in the kind of psychotic faces you saw last night.

Anonymous said...

I loved Paris' laugh. I love it when they can get up there and display some honest emotion.

Totally agree that Hicks is coasting -- old dog, etc. -- but enjoy him for the eccentricity. Any time you can claw some genuine weirdness into such a lifeless showcase, go for it.

We like the Pickler because we can laugh at the Pickler... and still like the Pickler. "Momma, just killed a man?" Her? She never ceases to amaze (but like most fish-out-of-water sitcoms, can't be funny for more than a single season).

Ace showed he has a huge problem doing the only thing everyone thought he could do: Connect with the crowd. I can't believe Bucky's still around, but Ace should go home before Bucky.

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree with the reactions posted about Elliot in this blog. To me, out of all of Elliots performances, aside form maybe " Knocks Me Off My feet", or " I Don't Wanna...", this one was his best. Yes it was a brave song choice, and yes, as Randy said it was sharp in a few places, but it was soulful, and it was entertaining. The ad-lib or run he did at the end just closed it off for me. It was the perfect end to a gtreat performance. A high note, something Freddie would have done, would have seemed unoriginal and broadway. It's funny how viewers would want these singers to sing the way the original artist would've, but then critic them when they do... where's the logic?

What I would suggest you do, next time Elliot sings, close you eyes and listen. Matter of fact, do that with the rest of them. Then say something.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'm cool with someone changing the arrangement -- hell, in most cases, I would prefer it to these pale imitations -- but then you have to really change it. What Elliot did was close enough to the Queen version that I expected that big note at the end and was disappointed when I didn't get it.