Sunday, May 30, 2010

Let There Be Songs to Fill the Air

I attended a funeral yesterday. Amidst the usual comforting platitudes and words from scripture, the minister who presided over the service turned to song lyrics as sources of comfort -- reading the lyrics of one song and playing another for the gathered mourners. While the words of the songs struck me, so, too, did the words of the minister: "Sometimes songs say what we can't say in words."

Now, there was this little snarky part of me that thought, "Well, um, songs are still using words!" But then as I listened to the Avett Brothers and wiped my tears, I realized how lucky songs are. They can put forth all sorts of flowery language, use all kinds of figurative language, and say things via music that I could never walk up to someone and say. If I said it, it would sound cheesy or maybe slightly insane, yet if I sing it, the art of music makes it a source of comfort and even strength. The mourning family who had chosen "Please Pardon Yourself" not only found some slight sense of solace in this song but also let their friends and family into their grief in a way that words could never do. By playing this song, they essentially said, "Here's what we're going through."

It made me think, too, how often I've turned to music and let certain songs become defined by events in my life. Sometimes, yes, those events are happy events. There are certain songs forever linked with moments of total joy in my life -- "What I Am" by Edie Brickell instantly takes me back to a table at Alfano's Pizza with my best gal pals from high school. I hear "Layla" and I am instantly surrounded by my college friends. Just about any Phish song becomes a moment of bliss as I am transported to shows, parking lots, or living rooms where Phish was once played.

Sometimes, though, the music brings to mind sadder times -- lost loves, lost friendships, tragedy, and despair. The reason why that music brings those times to mind, though, is because it is music I've turned to as a guide through the pain. When my father died, I listened to American Beauty on a near constant basis for days and weeks on end. There was this sense that someone out there knew what I was going through. Someone had felt my pain and found a way through it. They did it -- I could, too.

There is a reason why music is a constant in my life. It brings me peace, comfort, solace, joy, and so much more. How lucky we all are that someone somewhere in time figured out how to make music -- and decided to share it. When everything else around us may seem to be falling apart, there is comfort in knowing that there's a song that will bring a smile to our faces, a tear to our eyes, or just let us forget even for just a few minutes.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In My Worst Days . . .

I am NEVER like this while watching Idol. Never.

An Open Letter to My Beloved

Dear American Idol,

You and I have been through a lot together. We've weathered many, many storms. Our relationship started, I admit, as a joke. I watched to mock and found myself falling in love. Even in those early days, though, our relationship could be rocky. I remember the frustration I felt that summer evening when Tamyra Grey was sent packing and Nikki McKibben was allowed to stay, but I comforted myself with the thought that now I wouldn't have to choose between Tamyra and Kelly, confident knowing that now Kelly had a clear path to victory (and she did). I've often been frustrated by your hypocrisy -- forcing Frenchie Davis to quit the show over nude photos but allowing multiple contestants with criminal records to stick around and allowed the skanky Antonella Barba to continue on despite her own lewd photos. I even tried to leave you, boycotting the show for nearly a year after Melinda Doolittle was eliminated in the semifinals. But I always kept coming back because, at the end of the day, I thought you believed like I did, that it was about finding and celebrating talent and helping kids who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to find pathways to music careers.

I realized something last night, though, as I watched Lee Dewyze being rewarded for an anemic, uninspired finale performance by being crowned American Idol. Sure, I could lay some of the blame at the feet of Idol itself. The judges spent weeks pimping Lee, ignoring flaws in performances -- who could blame people for thinking he was the better overall performer? (He wasn't.) The show allows for the deluge of phone calls and texting rather than limiting votes the way a show like Dancing with the Stars does. The show continues to saddle the performers with old-fashioned music, a fact made even more painfully obvious last night with the guest appearances by Alice Cooper, the Bee Gee's, Michael McDonald, Christina Aguilera, Hall and Oates, Alanis Morissette, Bret Michaels, Chicago, Janet Jackson, and Joe Cocker. Only ONE of those performers has had a top 40 hit in the past 10 years. Most of them haven't been even remotely relevant in close to 20 years. It's called American Idol, not American Relic, for Christ's sake!

Ultimately, though, the fault lies in us, the American people. We make the choice to pick our Idols based on the superficial. We pick the cute guy over the crunchy hippie mama. We vote for someone because he seems "real" (actual quote from someone on Facebook last night). I'm not sure how Lee is more "real" than Crystal. Last time I checked, she was not a robot and I would argue that she seems just as (if not more) real as Lee. We embrace the underdog rather than rewarding talent. Yes, the drama teacher in me recognizes that Lee winning last night was probably the better story and American Idol has, over the course of the past several years, embraced the "story" over the talent. Sometimes, the talent triumphs. How many times was Carrie Underwood taken to task for lacking personality? (Watch American Idol Rewind sometime -- she was!) Sometimes, you get lucky and you get the big talent and the big personality in one -- Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard (ignore his post-Idol career and focus on his Idol performances. He was good.), Fantasia. But since season five when Taylor Hicks won on the basis of his grey hair, cheesy dancing, and "Soul Patrol", we as voters have increasingly gravitated away from and even, you could argue, rejected talent. We've sent Melinda Doolittle, Carly Smithson, Michael Johns, Allison Iraheta, Siobhan Magnus home way before their time. This year, we didn't even let Lilly Scott, Kaitlyn Epperly, or Alex Lambert into the top 12.

Before we point the finger at the kinks in Idol's armor (and yes, there are many), we need to take a look at ourselves and ask ourselves why we continue to punish the talented and reward the merely adequate. This epidemic extends beyond our reality shows. We send "artists" like Justin Bieber and Kesha (I refuse to use the dollar sign in lieu of an S) to the top of the charts while more talented, less packaged artists are touring clubs and selling CD's out of the backs of SUV's. We cancel Law and Order but keep Two and a Half Men on the air. We let the fourth installment of Shrek be the number one movie while intelligent, brilliantly made independent films fail to find audiences. We flock to Wal-Mart to buy the newest Twilight book; meanwhile my friend Peter struggles to find a publisher. We gobble up KFC's Double Down sandwich and scoff when the president talks about eating arugula. We are so willing to wallow in mediocrity rather than challenging ourselves to be better, smarter, stronger, healthier. I'm not going to lie. I'm guilty, too. I have spent plenty of money on stuff I should maybe be a little embarrassed about. I've got a Kesha song on my i-pod. I've certainly watched my share of crap tv. (Good Lord, I actually squealed with delight the other night when I saw a commercial for Wipeout!) I guess my argument would be that at least I know it's crap and embrace it accordingly. I'm not sure that's true of many others.

So now, dear Idol, the question must be raised -- do I stay in this disappointing relationship or do I walk away with Simon as a magical chorus of past Idols sings me into the sunset? (Can I just say that moment, when 7 of the past 8 winners were joined by a large number of fellow contestants to sing a cheesy schlock tune to wish Simon farewell, was one of my all-time favorite Idol moments and a total dream come true? The only way it could have been better is if they had performed a medley of victory anthems!) Does understanding the flaws in the system excuse the flaws? Right now, just a little over 12 hours after Lee's victory, I am not sure I can answer that question. The truth is that the formula is tired. Ellen did not inject much new life into the series. Whoever replaces Simon has a tremendous burden to shoulder. Maybe my decision will rest with that decision -- a great new judge might keep me on board, but it will be a much more cynical, jaded me that joins the party in January. And if the talent is as lame next year as it was this year, I can't promise I'll stick around for very long.

See you in January,

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

There Can Only Be One

Last night, the producers of American Idol did their darnedest to convince us that Lee Dewyze should be the next American Idol. Producer Simon Fuller assigned Dewyze the task of performing REM's "Everybody Hurts," a powerful song of surprisingly haunting optimism that would surely punch everyone in the gut emotionally. They then gave him his first potential single in U2's "Beautiful Day." (More on that later.) It's hard not to listen to that song and feel your soul soaring. Meanwhile, they saddled poor Crystal Bowersox with "Black Velvet", a nearly 20-year-old song that's been done to death on the Idol stage (I still am haunted by Nikki McKibben's version of the song . . . well of any song) and is frequently the victim of numerous crimes commited by the delusional auditioners each year. For her first single, Crystal was given "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)", a song which I would suspect the majority of the viewing audience did not know before tonight -- including yours truly. Despite the disadvantage of having to perform first (thanks to a coin toss -- otherwise you KNOW the producers would have made sure Lee had that spot!), surely Lee would be able to secure his victory with these songs (and "The Boxer") in his pocket.

But you know what happened? Not that. Instead, Lee came out and gave what were essentially pretty anemic performances that only underscored the power of the original songs. Instead of helping him, these powerhouse songs, all sung originally by artists with distinctive voices and inflections, drug him down when Lee wasn't able to infuse them with the same passion and energy that Paul Simon, Michael Stipe, and Bono did. They became pale reminders of great songs rather than great songs. There was nothing particularly new or exciting about these songs that honestly bordered on karaoke more than once -- and not particularly great karaoke. All of Lee's vocal challenges -- his pitch issues, the fragility of his voice when he goes for power notes, his inability to really sustain a note -- became glaringly obvious. I suspect that his nerves probably played a huge factor. The poor kid went through the entire evening with a perpetual look of "Holy shit!" on his face. The terror in his eyes was palpable. You kind of felt bad for the poor kid. He spent weeks being pampered and stroked by the judges, being told how great he is and how he could win this thing, and when he needed a tremendous performance the most, he just didn't have it in him.

You know who DID have it in her, though? Crystal Bowersox. Crystal came into this competition with guns blasting. Who could forget that Hollywood Week performance of "Natural Woman" that was so good the other contestants seemingly had no choice but to join in on back-up? Week after week, she turned in consistently solid, skilled, nuanced performances. And then the backlash from the judging table started. How many times did she have to stand there and listen to Randy tell her it "wasn't his favorite performance" from her? How often was she chided by Ellen or Kara for not demonstrating enough personality and vulnerability? When she eased off the gas for a couple weeks, she was taken to task for not giving memorable, powerful performances (although I still maintain her "No One Needs to Know" and "Summer Wind" were solid performances). Last week, she had to stand there and smile as Lee Dewyze got the pimp treatment complete with a freakin' choir. A lot of people would have given up with a shrug and said, "Well, clearly they have a script they're not sharing here, so I guess I'd better just go along to get along."

Not Crystal Bowersox. Instead she came out and hit it so far out of the ballpark that I worried for pedestrians blocks away. Her reprisal of "Me and Bobby McGee" was better than the first time. I like that she did a slightly different "cutting" (to use the speech lingo) of the song and played with the dynamics so beautifully. When Ryan announced that Simon Fuller had assigned her "Black Velvet," I groaned. Images of Nikki McKibben and mall hair and . . . . I worried. (Also, again, it's a song that is 20 years old. When are the powers that be behind this show going to recognize that it is 2010 and that there has been a lot of music produced in the past decade or so . . . and some of it is pretty darn good?) It turns out the only thing to worry about was whether or not Crystal was going to make it down the steps in those heels. (Way to go, Crystal! I know it's tough to go from Birks and boots to heels, but you did it!) Her "Black Velvet" was sexy, soulful, and simply perfect. And then "Up to the Mountain" . . . wow. As I said before, I didn't know the song before last night. I've never listened to a lot of Patti Griffin music, but I'm thinking maybe I should. Maybe it helped, though, that the song was completely new to me and I could really just marvel in Crystal's performance without having a basis of comparison. I really felt like I was truly witnessing the birth of a star last night. I would say that she was "in it to win it." I actually DID say that last night only to have the exact same phrase echoed by Randy Jackson minutes later, leading me to vomit profusely. I can't let that happen again.

Disappointingly, what I was NOT witnessing, though, was the birth of a new Idol schlock anthem. Instead of saddling the contestants with another treacly ballad of pop psych hope and optimism, they were instead given covers for their first singles. Yes, both songs have powerful messages of hope and optimism, but they're, um, good. WTF? I came into last night excited to witness another lyrical train wreck. I guess after the majesty of "No Boundaries," though, they just gave up. I mean, what could ever top the perfection of "You can go higher, You can go deeper, There are no boundaries, Above and beneath you, Break every rule coz there's nothing between you, And your dreams." Aw, Kara, after that song, baby, they broke the mold. I guess it was hoping too much to hope for something as cheesily delightful as that. Why bother to try?

Clearly there's no need for rankings tonight. I'm not sure there are many people out there who would argue that Lee outperformed Crystal. Of course, I'm sure that Chicagoland phone lines were blazing last night with calls to Lee's numbers, and I don't know that I would be tremendously shocked if it's Lee getting the confetti shower tonight. It would be a shame, though, because this was a case where clearly the other performer has earned that shower and that glory in a much more obvious way. For the past several months, Crystal has been consistent, she's never compromised, and she's always found a way to entertain. If that's not an American Idol, well, then, maybe I don't know what one is anymore.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Not on the Island

I am an admitted pop culture junkie. I can rattle off all sort of facts and stats about film, television, and theatre without batting an eye. I know stuff I shouldn't, based on my age, know -- like the lyrics to commercial jingles from the 1960s. If I woke up tomorrow and was no longer able to teach, my dream job would be to work for Entertainment Weekly writing crap like this all the time (or being a researcher for A&E Biography -- seriously, how cool would that job be?).

And yet, there are chinks in my pop culture armor. Many pop culture phenomena have come and gone without my participation. I've not seen more than a couple episodes of The Sopranos. I've never seen a Nightmare on Elm Street movie. I've never read nor watched a single installment of the Twilight series. (Even though I do own all four books.) The only episode of Survivor I've ever seen was the season one finale and that was only because I couldn't find the remote control. (There's a much bigger story outside of that -- I was in the middle of this big project and "trapped" in such a way that I couldn't get to the television to actually change the channels. I'm not such a lazy ass that the loss of a remote means I'm stuck on the same channel forever.)

What I am about to say to you will shock you, I am sure.

I've never seen Lost. Not even one second.

There are several reasons for this. First off, I have to admit that when the show debuted, my thought was that it sounded like kind of a lame premise for a show and that it surely wouldn't last very long. I mean, how much drama can you get out of being shipwrecked on an island. Even the wacky Gilligan's Island folks had to constantly ship guest stars in to keep things interesting. I kind of figured the show would have a nine-to-thirteen episode run before being cancelled and forgotten.

I was wrong.

Once the show proved to have legs and developed that pop culture buzz, there was another problem for me. It seemed like the kind of show that would be hard to jump into. Add to that the fact that it debuted before I had DVR. The reason why DVR is so necessary in my life is because I have so many other things going on that I can't be there to watch tv "live" many nights. Lost was on at a time when I just couldn't be there to see it.

As time went on, too, it became really apparent to me that Lost was not the kind of show I would necessarily be all that into. Smoke monsters? Boxes with buttons that do who-knows-what? Sideways universes? Some sort of initiative having to do with Jenna Elfman? (The Dharma Initiative . . . get it?) I'm not a big fan of alternate realities and complicated fantasy sort of plots. It's why I've never gotten on board too much with the Star Trek thing (although I did LOVE the most recent movie). I generally don't want to spend six years trying to figure out what the hell is going on on a television show. It's not that I don't appreciate shows with long story arcs -- hello, I love me some Buffy! It just seemed like this show was so filled with twists and turns and "WTF?!" moments that it would leave me frustrated.

And so while the rest of America was coming together to bid adieu to a great 21st Century pop culture icon, I was curled up watching two mediocre pop culture icons from the 1980s battle it out for the worthless title of "Celebrity Apprentice." And when it was all over, I did not feel the need to scratch my head in confusion or throw my remote in frustration. I just sort of shrugged, said, "Just as I thought," and headed to bed.

And that's my definition of pop culture gold.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Three Blind Idols

No, Scott McIntyre did not return to the Idol stage last night. But for a final three performance night, the whole thing was rather stumbling and bumbling at times, no? The Idols were let down by their arrangements, the judges, and even themselves as they limped towards the Nokia. Well, okay, two of the Idols are limping (although one is gaining a second wind there in the final stretch) and one Idol pulled away from the pack in a pretty definitive fashion last night, and even though it wasn't MY Idol that was doing the pulling away, it was still pretty spectacular to witness.

The truth of the matter is that Lee Dewyze transformed last night from a shy paint salesman to a bona fide star. Now, granted, his stardom may be fleeting, but there's no denying that kid knocked it out of the ball park last night. His performance of "Hallelujah" was powerful, moving, and ultimately just might be the ticket to his confetti shower next week. But more on that later.

Outside of Simon's gutsy choice to have Lee perform "Hallelujah" (particularly considering the song had previously been Tim Urban's ticket into the top 12 earlier this season), the songs chosen by the judges were rather lackluster. Randy and Kara saddled poor Casey with John Mayer's "Daughter" -- a pretty flaccid tune (and I say this as a John Mayer fan) that didn't give Casey much to work with. Of course, I'm not sure Casey would know what to do with a powerhouse song if he got one. Poor Casey so desperately wants to be Bo Bice, but he just doesn't have the charisma or talent that Bo had.

Meanwhile, Ellen assigned Crystal "Maybe I'm Amazed." Now, this is a song I really love, and I do think Crystal did a great job with the song. Crystal tried to inject as much power into it as she could, although I thought she seemed a bit shouty at times. I also thought it was kind of awkward that she kept singing "Maybe I'm a man" and that no attempts were made to change the lyrics to reflect the fact that a woman was singing the song. Perhaps the biggest stumbling block for Crystal last night was having to perform before Lee. It really became a night of "Anything you can do, I can do better" as Crystal came out and gave solid to spectacular performances and Lee topped her both times.

So, yes, to the rankings....

1. Lee Dewyze ("Simple Man", "Hallelujah") Okay, there probably aren't many people out there who thought that Lee wasn't going to make the finals, particularly after the performances he's had the past couple weeks. Last night, though, was Lee's opportunity to prove to himself that he's the real deal. He brought passion, power, and heart to the stage in a way that he's never done before. You could almost feel America gathering the kid in its collective arms. It was moving to watch. As much as I love Crystal (and I still do), there's no denying that this kid winning could make for a great story and that he could potentially make the powers that be behind this show a lot of money. I'm still rooting for Crystal, but I won't fling my remote control across the room in rage should Lee be the one singing "I Believe This is My Now, The Time of My Life, for A Moment Like This With No Boundaries Has Me Flying Without Wings Inside Your Heaven, So Do I Make You Proud?" next week.

2. Crystal Bowersox ("Come to My Window", "Maybe I'm Amazed") Again, it's not that Crystal did a particularly lousy job last night. She was just second best. "Come to My Window" was not a particularly shocking choice and was probably a really good choice for her, but I would have to agree with the judges that the arrangement of the song really let her down. I don't know how much control Crystal had over how the song was cut, but it did her no favors at all. It cut out most of the first verse, giving her no room to build the emotion and intensity of the song. And to be honest, the harmonica was a little cheesy. I'm really surprised Simon didn't accuse her of being a subway busker with that set up. Crystal bounced back from the disappointment of "Come to My Window" with a really powerful, soulful version of "Maybe I'm Amazed" that's only real crime is coming before "Hallelujah." It would be a tremendous shock if Crystal was not standing beside Lee next week for she definitely made a strong case for herself -- and I have to admit I kind of want to see what she does with the treacle the finalists are forced to sing.

3. Casey James ("Ok, It's All Right With Me", "Daughters") You know, I think Casey's a cool guy. I love the way he plays guitar. I would happily buy a Casey James CD (Do they still sell those if the Glee kids aren't involved?). Casey, though, was just, pure and simple, outclassed last night. The fact that he's in the top three is a tremendous accomplishment and probably has more to do with his handsome good looks than his actual singing talent. There were singers much more talented than Casey who went home much, much sooner. His victory is getting a homecoming trip. The time has come, though, for Idol to cling to whatever legitimacy it has left and let the two best singers take the stage at the Nokia and send Casey back to Cool, Texas.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Kiddie Cattle Call

I have most of my summer plans lined up. I know on June 11 I'm going to see Phish at Toyota Park. I'm teaching an English class at the local community college two nights a week. I'm hoping to work in a late summer visit to Chicago to see a show. And I have also agreed to be production manager of the community theatre production of The Sound of Music.

I held a similar post last summer and was miserable, but I agreed to do it again for a couple different reasons but largely because the director, Tim, is a friend of mine with very similar sensibilities where putting on a show are concerned and he promised me a fun time.

This weekend, we held auditions for the show. Tim and I really had no idea what to expect in terms of turnout. Last summer's production of The Music Man featured a cast of about 60 people -- everyone who auditioned was pretty much cast. Tim decided to have auditions in two shifts -- a time for little kids to audition and then a time for adults. We figured we'd end up getting 20 or 30 kids, probably the same number of adults, and that things could be figured out from there.

Imagine our surprise, then, when Friday's audition process for kids began and the kids just started pouring in. By the end of Friday's auditions, we had over 80 children. A Saturday morning audition spot brought in another 25 kids. It was insanity.

For a lot of these kids, it was their first time ever auditioning. I spent a lot of time talking kids through their nerves. More than once, I had flashes of A Chorus Line as the kids anxiously waited their turn in the audition room to sing for Tim and Steve, our music director. There was excitement, terror, and so much more. I just kept thinking what an experience these kids were getting. And of course, there was some Mama Mel pride as two of my students came and weathered the whole process with smiles on their faces. (And got themselves call backs for Sunday afternoon.)

The thing that I found the most encouraging, though, is that there are over 100 kids in our community excited about theatre. A lot of the kids were pretty young, and I hope that this weekend's experience (and disappointment for all but about 7 of them) doesn't kill that excitement. A lot of parents told me they were here because the kids asked for it -- not because the parents were pushing them. One mom told be how stunned she was when her normally shy daughter asked if she could please audition for the show -- and even more stunned when she actually went through with it and sang and read and did all this stuff she never imagined her daughter being brave enough to do. Granted this experience inspired me to have dreams all weekend about armies of singing children descending upon me, but it also made me think that the future is pretty darn swell if our community has that many kids who are so inspired by acting.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Idol Goes to the Movies

Sorry, friends, the long-awaited sequel to From Justin to Kelly is not heading to theaters. Instead, tonight was the night that the Idols were asked to pick a song from a motion picture. Sigh. They keep asking the Idols to prove that they are contemporary artists, and then they keep asking them to draw from a well full of stagnant water. The list of songs the Idols had to choose from (as seen on I-Tunes) was full of treacly ballads and songs that are so dated they make my bell bottoms look hip. "Eye of the Tiger"? "Moon Frickin' River"? Seriously? For the most part, the Idols chose wisely, but there still was this whiff of karaoke floating through much of the night since many of the songs just didn't lend themselves to anything other than pretty faithful performances.

There were two real saving graces tonight. One was the fact that the show once again had the contestants pair up to perform duets. This device last year led to the incendiary Adam Lambert-Allison Iraheta duet on "Slow Ride." This year, we got a magnificent duet from Crystal and Lee on "Falling Slowly." It was truly gorgeous. Casey and Michael's performance of "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" didn't even come close to Lee and Crystal, but it did give us Ellen's delightful quip: "Why, yes, I have really loved a woman."

The other saving grace was Jamie Foxx. Last year, when Jamie showed up as a mentor, I was dubious. Then and now, though, Jamie proved himself to be a thoughtful, insightful mentor. I loved how he challenged the singers to be artists and not just contestants. He's honestly one of the best mentors they've had. His focus on performance and artistry seems like it really helps contestants. Seriously, I just love the guy.
Okay, on to the rankings:
1. Crystal Bowersox ("I'm All Right") Crystal kind of took it easy the past couple weeks, choosing quirky, low key songs rather than big belters. As a result, Crystal was knocked around a little by the judges, so much so that suddenly Lee became the new de facto winner in their eyes. Crystal came punching her way out of the box this week though with a rockin', crunchy take on the Caddyshack theme song. I'm with Ellen and Kara -- she didn't just make the song her own; she made it better. She added a soul to the song that had never been there before. Suddenly, a song that previously only made me dance like a gopher puppet when I heard it became cool. funky, and a song I would like to have on my I-Pod. Like now. It may have been a perfect strategy from Mamasox in that it took the glare of "pre-determined winner" off her if ever so briefly and allowed her to save some vocal ammo for the weeks when that ammo really is needed.
2. Casey James ("Mrs. Robinson") Maybe I'm a little biased in that I really love Simon and Garfunkel. Like LOVE them. I liked how Casey stripped the song down and really put the loveliness of the tune on display. I do think, though, that the song (like last week's "Blue Skies") really showed a lot of the limitations of Casey's voice, particularly that goat-esque vibratto. Casey may benefit from the fact that, outside of Crystal, the other performances this week were equally meh, but I do think he's probably in danger. And if it means the end to the grossly inappropriate jokes about Kara's "crush" on Casey, then so be it. (Seriously, you guys, in the real world, that's called sexual freakin' harrassment!)
3. Michael Lynche ("Will You Be There") UGH! It's from Free Willy. Isn't that enough? And then that choir enters from behind Big Mike like he was the second coming of Ruben Studdard. PUKE! At least Mike is doing a slightly better job of faking humility, but how humble is it to pick a Michael Jackson song? Even a crappy one. And here's the thing I'm KIND of sick of -- singers defending their choice because "they liked the song." I know I praised Siobhan Magnus for not letting the original artist scare her away from a song she liked, but at some point, to be an ARTIST, you need to think beyond what you like and focus more on what WORKS. And this song does not work. Period. I suspect that it will be either Michael or Casey shown the door tomorrow night, and losing either one, at this point, would not break my heart. Either one would be a pretty week second runner up, but at the same time, either one is probably worlds better than some other second runners up (I'm looking at you, Nikki McKibben and Jasmine Trias!). An evil part of me thinks that since Mike said he had made it his goal a year ago to finish in the top three, I want it to be HIM sent home. Just because I love to see goals thwarted. Bwahahahaha!
4. Lee Dewyze ("Kiss From a Rose") Song choice, song choice, song choice!!! I love this song, but it really has a lot to do with the way Seal's voice caresses the notes. It is a song that benefits from Seal's artistry. In the hands of Lee, the song became, well, icky. His growl was ill suited for the delicacy of the melody. In all honesty, at times it felt like Lee's voice was going. He sounded more hoarse than raspy, and I kind of wondered if he'd be able to get through the song without it just giving out on him.. Despite the fact that he had the worst performance of the night, though, I don't think Lee is necessarily in danger. I mean, after all, Danny Gokey survived the hideous death wail of "Dream On" last season to crack the top three; Lee can survive this. He will likely be aided by the fact that his duet with Crystal was the best performance of the evening -- and that he had the benefit of the duet coming AFTER his solo performance. Memories are short, and "Falling Slowly" can erase a lot of ugly. A lot.
Seriously. A LOT.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bewitched, Bothered, and Be-Idoled

Sorry there's been no Idol blog today. Apparently there ARE people (or person) out there who read it! (Thanks, Debbi!) I'm swamped at work today getting ready for our annual end-of-the-year Drama/Speech ceremony, so just a couple quick thoughts.

Despite the fact that I was really excited about the presence of Harry Connick, Jr., and a Sinatra theme, I found last night really disappointing. Maybe it was the theme, maybe it was the fact that the singers had no real say in their arrangements (although I think Harry did a lovely job arranging the songs for them), or maybe it was just that I've grown kind of weary of these five. It's interesting to see the judges piling up on Crystal. Simon even pulled a "If you make it through to next week . . . ." Really, Simon? You think her performance puts her in danger when Casey and Aaron were both vocal train wrecks? I am a little annoyed that Crystal's choices to take a more low key route rather than coming out every night and screaming at us suddenly put her at risk. I don't know about anyone else, but I like the fact that she doesn't feel the need to go big every single week.

In terms of rankings, I would rank like this:
1. Lee Dewyze ("That's Life") You know, I'm beginning to think Lee could pull a Kris Allen here and take Crystal out. He gets better every week.

2. Crystal Bowersox ("Summer Wind") See above. I still love her, still can't wait for the album. (I found some of her presumably original stuff online -- awesome stuff!)

3. Michael Lynche ("The Way You Look Tonight")
Dude was totally in his wheelhouse last night, but I still find him grating so downgrade for that ... and the hat.

4. Aaron Kelly ("Fly Me to the Moon")
Probably Aaron was the worst of the night, but read Casey's comments to see why I'm putting him last. I really think it'll be Aaron or Casey that hits the road. In all honesty, it probably SHOULD be Aaron. Who thought the kid would outlast Siobhan? Hell, who thought he would outlast Lacey Brown? (PS -- Do you think he picked this song because he liked the animated movie from a couple years ago?)

5. Casey James ("Blue Skies")
A friend of mine watched Idol for the first time last night and turned on just in time to see Casey's performance. His comment: "This guy is awful. You can tell he thinks he's really something, but to me, he sounds like a sheep with all that vibrato." He then turned the show off because he was so turned off by what he'd seen. (PS -- Do you think Casey picked this song because he's a big fan of Enterprise Car Rental?)

Okay, off to the banquet!!