Tuesday, April 13, 2010

AMERICAN IDOL -- Elvis Week

Look, you can’t blame them? It’s the 9th season. It’s hard to keep any show fresh for nine seasons. See how much you love GLEE when those kids have already graduated high school and college, gotten nowhere on Broadway, and wind up back home working at Jiffy Lube and developing drinking problems.

AMERICAN IDOL seems to be flailing this season. Out of 181 kids flown to Hollywood they clearly did not select the best, most interesting, most diverse twelve. They assembled Fox’s answer to the SMALLVILLE cast.

The judges keep hammering the contestants for not sounding “current” or “contemporary". But the weekly topics they give them are Elvis songs, old R&B tunes, the Beatles catalog, and Rolling Stones chestnuts.

How is anyone going to sound current singing “Blue Suede Shoes” when the last person who wore a pair of blue suede shoes was run over by a DeSoto in 1959?

Don’t get me wrong. Singing classic vintage songs is fine. Just don’t ask the kids to turn Patsy Cline into Lady Gaga.

The weekly topics always stay within the kids’ limited range too. There’s always a chance for Crystal and Casey and Katie and Siobhan to sing the blues. Big Mike can always croon “When a Man Loves a Woman” just with different lyrics. In the first season Kelly Clarkson had to sing a big band number. What about standards? Hip hop? Klezmer, I dunno? Just something out of their comfort zone. And if someone fails badly – COOL! It’s live TV.

And America hasn’t helped this year either. They’re voting off the wrong people. There’s a scene in the movie WHERE’S PAPA where Ron Liebman is trying to hail a cab in a gorilla suit. Meanwhile, there’s an African-American also hailing the cab. The cab speeds by the African-American and picks up the gorilla instead. That’s what I thought of last week when the country kept the far inferior Andrew Gomez over African-American Michael Lynche.

Anyway, Elvis week. The celebrity mentor was recent Idol contestant Adam Lambert. Because he was so smart and original when he competed, I found myself really wanting to hear what he had to say. And I was impressed with his advice.

Crystal Bowersox opened the show with “Saved”, trotting out her blues riffs. Kara thought the lyrics were controversial in their day. Oh yeah. “You know I like to lie. And cheat. And step on peoples’ feet.” Not sure why Kara finds that so objectionable. Maybe as a songwriter she's jealous that the author could actually make words rhyme.

Andrew Garcia was his usual terrible self singing “Hound Dog”. If he survives this week look for Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton to both get involved.

Tim Urban rose to the occasion with a lovely ballad – “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”. Even the judges liked it, much to their utter shock.

Lee Dewyze is the contestant the judges deemed the worthy opponent to Crystal so they pretty much love everything he does. Tonight they fawned all over his rather pedestrian version of “A Little Less Conversation”. I’m sorry. He’s not so on the cusp of stardom that “smiling more” will put him over the top.

Aaron Kelly, whatever you do, stay off of those “blue suede land mines”.

Kudos to Siobhan Magnus, not so much for her singing (although I quite liked her every-musical-style-except-Gregorian-Chant rendition of “Suspicious Minds”) but for standing up to Simon and saying she sees no need to label herself.” The crowd (and by that I mean the cast of GLEE) went wild.

Big Mike sang “When a Man Loves a Woman” but changed the words to “In the Ghetto”.

Katie Stevens to me is Crystal-light. The blues for teens. She sang “What Do You Want Me To Do?”. She drew upon the angst of getting caught by a hall monitor for being tardy to a class to really sell the pain.

And finally Casey James wasted the pimp spot with “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”. Jesus, the Elvis channel on Sirius plays “Clambake”, “Five Sleepy Heads”, “Kissing Cousins”, and “He’s Your Uncle, Not Your Dad”- before that stiff.

AMERICAN IDOL needs to shake things up. Maybe they can take a cue from “the King” himself. About 9 years into Elvis’ career he re-invented himself. Fat Ryan in a white bejeweled jumpsuit. Yeah, I could watch that. Even with Kara.

17 comments:

sephim said...

I was going to say 'didn't they have the cast of GLEE last year as well?', but then I realised, it was actually on Australian Idol, earlier this year. The station that carried it took the high road soon after. It's been axed.

Another weird thing I noticed this year, was for the radio advertisement for the show WICKED, they were using the version of whatever song the cute but ugly girl on GLEE sang and not a selection from the cast of WICKED, Australian or U.S. version.

Is GLEE the new yardstick by which all other music must now be judged? I like the show, granted, but if that's the case, music is in big trouble.

Tom said...

WTF is the deal with Kara? At some point, coming back from commercial, she will be crawling out from under the judges table in front of Simon.

I actually thought Shebond and Katie were the best performers of the night. And I liked Bristol Sourcocks.

Sorry, if I spelled any names wrong.

Matt said...

Any "Elvis Week" without Blue Christmas is an absolute sham.

Jonathan said...

And where was "Viva Las Vegas" (since that's where every one of these folks is headed)? Maybe they're saving that for the Brady Bunch group song tonight.

Tom Quigley said...

What is the average age of these contestants? 20? 21?... Even at that age, Elvis Presley had more talent, maturity and grasp of a song than any of these people do...

And you're right Ken, about the judges criticizing them for not making their selections sound current... Besides their inability to perform the genres of the last few weeks, what are they supposed to do with songs that are all nearly 50 years old? Try and make them sound hip-hop? .. I'll bet poor Elvis is already jelly-rolling over in his massive reinforced burial vault...

Craig said...

I refuse to vote for any contestant who holds up their fingers showing their number. This is getting old. It's like the stupid DWTS has-beens who make a fake phone out of their thumb and little finger and mouth "call me." I can't vote for you if you resort to begging me to. How about you sing better?

Ian said...

Although I'm sure it will soldier on for years in some form or another, it feels to me like "Idol" has already run its course. Unlike in years past, now I find myself just thinking "get ON with it!" when I watch it. I don't know if it's the quality of the contestants or just that the whole thing feels way too familiar, but the thrill is gone.

It's also painfully apparent that the judges don't give a damn about the show, and if they disrespect their own product so will the audience. Simon looks like he'd rather be anywhere else most of the time, but he's a lightning rod and when he's gone the show will have lost its most distinctive voice.

The remaining judges will have a hard time carrying the show on their own. I don't have the problem that others seem to have with Kara, nor do I think she's a sparkling wit. I'm still not sure what Ellen is doing there, as she lacks a musical background. Maybe Randy Jackson could work some English classes into his schedule - I'm sick to death of all the "yo yo yo listen up dawg" shit. It makes him sound so stupid.

My prediction for this year: whoever wins will release an album and and will be dropped by their record label within a year due to lackluster sales. Big Mike will have a singing career because - let's face it - he's not terribly original but is a talented singer. Bowersox will do just fine - we'll be seeing her on "Austin City Limits" one of these days.

High School Musical Boy and Blue Suede Pee Wee will be forgotten before the finale's closing credits end. Andrew Garcia... forget about it. Little Katie would need a slutty, Britney-style makeover in order to become a viable performer. She doesn't seem crazy or reckless enough to sell it, though. Casey may become a grade Z demi-celeb and appear on a reality show or VH-1 special... or not.

It would be great to see Siobhan succeed - she's certainly talented and I find her quirkiness endearing - but it feels like she's just a year or two short of being ready for the big leagues. Much as I like her, I can't see her breaking out the way Carrie Underwood did.

Kevin B said...

What's next? An Al Jolson week? A Stephen Foster week? Do the producers and judges really expect eighteen year olds to care about or to make current songs written and recorded when their grandparents were kids?

Anonymous said...

Remember when Elvis was on Idol and sang with Celine Dion? That was some epic stuff.

Matt Patton said...

You mentioned Klezmer, which reminds me of one of the few interesting bits in Albert Goldman's otherwise hateful biography of Elvis Presley--namely that when he lived in a small apartment complex in Memphis, one of his neighbors was a local Cantor (did I spell that right?) who often played his records of Jewish sacred music. Goldman wondered if that might have also been on of the influences (however minor), on Presley's singing style.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Matt. Apparently Elvis acted as the Shabbas Goy for the cantor's family, and that must be one of the most offbeat tidbits from an already convoluted career.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

I've always wondered why the Elvis album, "From Memphis to Israel" didn't sell too many copies. I thought Presley's versions of "Hava Nagila", "Dayenu", and "Dreidel, Dreidel" were a bit goyish...oy!

Greg said...

Having given up viewing Idol this year and regaining three hours of my life every week (and instead relying on your entertaining updates and the acerbic reviews on ew.com) I agree that the show is not what it used to be. Maybe it’s just a simple case of been there done that?

It had become excruciating to sit through so many sub-par performances and to listen to the judges’ repetitive remarks. And why are four judges necessary? (I am an Ellen fan but inviting her to be a judge was a better idea than an actuality.)

Two contestants are getting bounced tonight? They should do that every week and put this patient out of its misery.

Pierre said...

A very thought provoking and analytical post. Barring anymore surprises, Andrew is the one to go tonight. He tries really hard but he now seems totally out of his depth.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Ignor those dopes. Watch Yitzak rock...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkmFgQ9fM94&feature=related

Deedle, deedle, deedle...

Dave Mackey said...

I know this much is true.

I have picked all the American Idol eliminees this season except for Michael, who was saved.

I love Crystal.

That's all I need.

Anonymous said...

Once again, your review is right on the money. Thanks!