Wednesday, April 04, 2007

American Idol this week

I was hoping the theme for this week’s AMERICAN IDOL would be “Songs of Passover”. I would have loved to have heard Blake Lewis beatboxing during “Dayenu” or Sanjaya singing “Had Gadya” while wearing long peyis.

As it was, a good night. They’re down to the top 8 and Sanjaya. Tony Bennett offered some great advice… although it’s hard to take anyone seriously wearing a yellow sports jacket. I’m sure most contestants didn’t know who he was. And the ones that did thought, “Oh yeah, the old dude from MTV”.

Blake’s rendition of “Mack the Knife” made me long for Kevin Spacey’s. None of it worked for me. The lounge lizard look and the clunker notes. I thought the judges were kind.

I pictured weird Phil Stacey singing “Night & Day” to a girl just before he cut her up and put her in mason jars.

And Paula thought he was a young Frank Sinatra? Frank Sinatra Jr. maybe. Or Tina.

Michael Buble is a young Frank Sinatra. Phil Stacey is a young Hannibal Lecter.

Melinda Doolittle is in a different league. Like Barry Bonds batting clean-up at a fat man’s picnic.

When Chris Richardson came out in the Sinatra pork pie hat I thought, “uh oh”. Please don’t do “Mrs. Robinson”. (Have you heard Frank’s version of that song? “How’s your bird, Mrs. Robinson? Jilly loves you more than you will know. Whoa whoa whoa. The P.T.A., Mrs. Robinson, won’t approve the way you do your thing. Ding ding ding.”) But he was pleasantly terrific.

You heard it here first: Jordin Sparks could sneak in and become the American Idol. She sings great, has a effervescent personality, and her million dollar smile might be a thirty million vote smile.

Gina Glocksen – Simon was dead on. She’s good but there are three other women who are better. She needs the theme to be Joan Jett week or she’s toast.

Sanjaya – Andy Garcia meets Tinkerbell. America’s joke.

Haley Scarnato went back to her strength – showing off her legs and breasts. Among the many things her performance was lacking was a pole. I mean, when Paula, who is excited when you dangle a piece of string in front of her eyes, can only say “green is a good color on you”, you know you’re in trouble.

And finally, I’m getting tired of LaKisha. Yes, her voice can reach the back row…of the Acropolis, but there are no shadings. Melinda is a singer. LaKisha is a belter.

I’d say Haley and Phil are the bottom two. Maybe Gina. AMERICAN IDOL will adopt the “Passover” theme by passing over Sanjaya for another undeserving week.


Anonymous said...

This was the first episode of AI I've ever seen where I knew every song, not just am familiar with, but know every word and note of every song. Usually it's are full of songs I've never heard of before, which means usually anything from the last 2 decades. (I'd heard OF Gwen Stefani, but last week was the first time I'd ever set eyes or ears on her.)

I already knew Sanjaya was no Fred Astaire, so there was really no need for him to prove it. He was more Fred A-STARE, or Fred Aghast! Loved the white suit though. Very Steve Martin in 1978.

"You do a great job of staying under the radar, Sanjaya." My, Ryan certainly slipped a verbal stiletto between Sanjaya's ribs. I half-expected to see a blood splotch start spreading on that white suit. And dopey Malakar completely missed the withering irony of Simon's "Incredible.", and took it as a compliment. He's got a Teflon brain.

I knew we were in trouble with Blake Lewis when he said that "Mack the Knife" was a swing number. Yes, Bobby Darin did a hyper-successful swing cover of it, but in it's original context in "The Threepenny Opera" it's a dark dirge about a homicidal career criminal.

Tony rightly told him to communicate what the lyrics were about, and Lewis promptly ignored him. That last stanza: He sang, "On a tugboat by the river a cement bag's just dropping down." Okay so far. Those are ALMOST the lyrics ("BY the river?" No, it's ON the river. I picture a tugboat on a meadow beside the river.) but then "Oh the line forms on the right." which is from the stanza about all the girls Mackie beds. That mid-stanza graft destroyed all meaning of both verses. Are the girls lining up to be drowned? He had no idea what the hell he was singing about. (Okay, I've appeared in Threepenny Opera, so I'm touchy about the score.)

Phil "The Specter" Stacey should have done Mack the Knife. He made "Night & Day", one of the greatest American songs ever written, as scary as Mack should be. He's not Frank Sinatra, nor Frank Jr. He's the guys who kidnapped Frank Jr. "I was thinking of my wife." Lying in a pool of her own blood?

I've figured out why LaKisha is losing me to Melinda. LaKisha doesn't connect with the audience. She's withdrawn, complete unto herself. She doesn't sing TO us; she allows us to witness her singing. She condescends to sing in our general vacinity.

I loved how Tony completely nailed how Haley was destroying the meaning of "Ain't Misbehaving", another truly great song, actually making it the opposite of what it means. When the AI studio audience, one of the most easily-pleased audiences on earth, is lukewarm to you, and even Paula and Randy can't say anything nice about your performance, you've really sucked. I think she's the goner this week, despite the killer boobs, yearning to breathe free.

Whereas Jordin, whom I've been unimpressed with up to now, took a song that is merely okay, not on a par with the Cole Porter songs being done, or even Chaplin's "Smile", and made it a highlight of the night.

Gina reminded me what a great song "Smile" is, but I wish she'd learn to pronounce "Smile". It's not "Small".

Can we just send everyone home and give it to Melinda now? She was great again.

Anonymous said...

"Usually it's are" Yikes! Please ignore that illiterate "Are".

Anonymous said...

I didn't catch last night's show -- I was out doing something more enjoyable -- having my taxes done... Thanks for the wrapup, Ken.

I imagine that when Tony Bennett got his first glimpse of Haley, he not only left his heart in San Francisco, he left his pants in her dressing room... I can picture him coming out of there with a big Cheshire Cat grin on his face, singing "Oh, the good life... Full of fun.. Seems to be... The ideal..." And Haley would be looking at him and saying to herself "What the HELL was that?!!!!"...

VP81955 said...

Be thankful for small favors. AI could've done worse on a "standards" could have brought in Rod Stewart.

Anonymous said...

Phil, Sanjaya and Haley should be in the bottom 3 tomorrow and I think either Sanjaya and Phil should be go home.

Anonymous said...

I really think the judges are not really listening to Sanjaya's singign anymore, they have this idea about him that he can't sing and stick to that. Did they not hear that even Tony Bennet says Sanjaya sings good? Are they deaf??? You know, the judges are just angry that america doesn't listen to their advice, and then they take it out on Sanjaya. Sanjaya has such a warm nice voice to listen to. I enjoy him and Jordin more then anyone else in the show, actually I only like the two of them. The rest of them just puts me asleep, they don't get to my heart, notinhg! Being an idol is not just about having a big voice, It's about touching people's hart with your voice and performance an personality, and Sanjaya has all of that. He was just awesome tonight! I am happy that america listens better then the judges. Vot for Sanjaya, he is a real idol!!!

The Curmudgeon said...

Haven't yet watched American Idol -- ever -- and am not likely to -- but I love your reviews.

And re: Tony Bennett and MTV. When that album came out some years ago, I tried to get some points with my kids by saying that I had an MTV album.

It didn't work.

Mary Stella said...

Ken, you and I agree on almost all of last night's performances and Phil Stacey creeps me out more each week. For some reason he looked like a scarier, older, taller version of Dopey last night. Maybe it was the ears.

I usually love Blake, but his Knife was dull. If I had to pick now, I'd say Melinda and Jordin for the final two because my brain cannot accept the possibility that the Sanjaya joke will make it that far. In fact, I think we should award Melinda the title now and use the rest of the season to name a runner up.

Lakisha has a phenomenal voice, but she isn't showing us any development as a complete, entertaining performer.

For my AI pool, I've picked Phil to go home, with Haley and, sadly, Blake rounding out the bottom three. Even though I think Sanjaya should be there, the votefortheworst/Stern campaign is still running too strong. For some reason, people like Chris Richardson, too, so I think he lasts another week.

Anonymous said...

Before this season even began, I sent a recommendation to Fox beginning for a change (or at least an addition)to the voting format. They should create separate phone lines to call if you absolutely want to vote someone OFF the show. That would definitely impact the unfortunate Shanjaya Juggernaut (am I'm using the word Juggernaut literally--look it up).

maven said...

Hey, Ken, your recap is right on (as usual). I'm with you, Jordin just might squeeze past Melinda and take it. It will be a great finale with Melinda and Jordin singing it out!

And I guess the Sanjaya saga will go for a while. I'm like Simon...just throwing up my hands (and my dinner) and going with the flow.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,
Love your blog, and the AI re-caps. I thought the band was fantastic and the singers paled in comparison.

Enunciation appears to be a problem for this seasons singers. Blake suffers from some kind of half smile paralysis, LaKisha has that super cute lisp that was a distraction every time she said diamonds during her James Bond number. Gina is suffering from her tongue piercing (Smile/Small) , Chris, well I'm not sure he can open his mouth fully. Jordon and Uncle Fester are the only two who can pronounce all the sounds in their words. Even Melinda is having some issues with pronunciation. I know you didn't ax me, but I thought I would tshare anyway. I'm not sure why it bugs me so much. I'm not usually snarky about speech impediments.


MaryAn Batchellor said...

Phil looks like somebody put Mr. Potatohead eyebrows on a penis. Please go back to the hats, Phil. It's a family show.

Anonymous said...

Tony Bennett looked exactly like Robert DeNiro in "Casino." Exactly.

Anonymous said...

Notice how they always leap into the bridge of a song prematurely on these shows, because of young America's ADD I guess? The original songwriters are probably spinning in their graves. And no one, not even Michael Buble, approaches Sinatra. In the really old days it seemed male singers (except for Jolson & Bing) sounded feminine, with high-pitched voices. During Sinatra's prime, men sounded like men (not like boys, like today). Not to mention, the good ones knew how to interpret the subtleties of lyrics & weren't always showboating.
Another thing... Simon's disdain for anything that smacks of "old." It's cabaret, etc., etc. This generation of singers could learn a thing or two from the old pros, re: being faithful to the melody & meaning behind the song. Why is everything old deemed unworthy? Classics are classic for a reason. And no, I'm not that old. (Okay, I'm not a kid either.)

Anonymous said...

Mary Stella,
"he looked like a scarier, older, taller version of Dopey last night."

Made me laugh. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I love your blog, and I know you don't like Sanjaya, but I'm getting tired of your constant attacks on him being gay. They are offensive, and, worse, they are hackwork. You wouldn't make watermelon and fried chicken jokes about the black contestants, so why is it okay to make "hairdresser at Fire Island" jokes about him?

Anonymous said...

Well I am gay, and I'm not offended. I haven't the faintest idea if Sanjaya is gay or not, but he IS extremely effeminate. The boy needs to get a haircut, find a different hobby (He's not a singer), and to butch up.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record: Haley's version of "Ain't Misbehavin'" was a dead-on impression of how Nell Carter sang it in the Broadway show of the same name (I have the LP, oops, I mean CD.) Tony may not have known that, but it wasn't just Haley he was insulting. RIP, Nell.

Anonymous said...

I think I have finally figured out your unseemly interest in American Idol and "24" Mr. Levine.

It's all just a cover for your eating disorder! This way you can say "No, I don't have bulimia (they now know men can have that), it's just watching these @#$%$#@!! shows!!!"

C'mon, admitting it is the first step to dealing with it.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous,

The extremely obvious meaning of the lyrics to "Ain't Misbehaving" is that the singer is no longer fooling around, but, being in love now, is saving all his/her love for only ONE person, so saving it all for "You and you and you" trashes the song's meaning, in fact reverses it, making it someone who IS misbehaving.

Tony Bennett, hopelessly ignorant, unexperienced amateur singer that he is, wasn't insulting Haley. He was pointing out how she was trashing the meaning of the song.

But it is nice to learn that, rather than express the slightest originality, Haley was just copying the late great Nell Carter's rendition.

I believe we can be sure that when Fats Waller sang it 70 years ago, he didn't sing that he was saving all his love for "You, and you, and you, and you, and you."

My favorite recording of "Ain't Misbehaving" is one by, of all people, George Burns, recorded back in the 1970s, a lovely, mellow rendition. and he meant it when he sang it.

And amen to RIP Nell. Fabulous singer.

Anonymous said...


VP81955 said...

Seymour said...

My favorite recording of "Ain't Misbehaving" is one by, of all people, George Burns, recorded back in the 1970s, a lovely, mellow rendition. and he meant it when he sang it.

George must've loved that song. During the heyday of his radio show with Gracie Allen, he would sing a few bars whenever he tried to pass off his vocal ability. It became a running gag.

My favorite version of the song is Louis Armstrong's, cut in 1929.

Anonymous said...


I'm not saying that Tony Bennett was off; he was correct regarding Haley's rendition/the interpretation of the lyrics. I'm just saying that Haley's intentions were good, if misguided.

lani kai said...

da hell, Ken?! can ya please translate that first paragraph....

Anonymous said...

"Haley's intentions were good"? What does that mean? She was hoping to cure cancer and bring home the troops? That must be why she was showing as much of her breasts as the network would allow.

All the contestants have the same intention: to win the competition, an intention that reads morally nil to me, neither good nor bad.

Meanwhile, she was being given instruction by a master. She is not a master. She should listen to him, and to the song's WORDS.

Any good song is a short acting scene, and ALL the songs this week were good songs. (Jordin was singing the weakest song, and it was an Alan J. Lerner number.) It should be approached as an actor approaches a scene. What are the words? What do they mean? What is the author saying, and how do I tell the song's story and convey it's meaning and emotion musically? How do I live it for two minutes?

Haley was simply parroting what she'd heard before and seen before, bereft of meaning. Same with Blake Lewis, which is how he ended up singing about women lining up to be drowned.

But I'm sure Haley wants to bring World Peace and to be kind to old people, both things she'll be free to do once she's kicked off this show.

If Gina had sung "Smile" on Tuesday with the emotion she did on Wednesday, she wouldn't have had to sing it on Wednesday, and Haley would have gone home.

Jon Badeaux said...

From this morning’s Washington Post (4/7 - Page 1):

“Walt Disney Co. said yesterday that gay couples can buy the company's high-end Fairy Tale Wedding package that allows them to exchange vows at Disney's theme parks and aboard its cruise ships, starting about $4,000 per wedding.”

My first thought was seeing a TV spot.

“Hey, Sanjaya! Now that you’re the American Idol, what’s next?”