Hello Class, and welcome back to the Penultimate Semi-demi-hemi-Finals of American Idol. So the Bo Bice-like SNAFU that I suggested was the only thing that could derail the Daughtry Express came and caused a train wreck like the proverbial nickel on the railroad tracks. But you know what, I kind of enjoyed it. See, I’m not worried about Chris hitting it big some day, that’s inevitable. If the reptile life form that is Constantine can get a record contract and an alleged TV show deal, then a talented performer like Chris will land on his feet. But what it means to us at VoteForTheWorst.com, the subversive little blip on the world wide web is that we’re guaranteed that a goofball (albeit a talented one) gets into the finals to take on the might of McPhee. Or better yet, she goes home and we’ve got duelling dufuses in the finals. Can’t go wrong either way. But I’m still pulling for Soul Patrol!
Anyway, are you guys ready for thrice the pleasure from each contestant tonight? Yeah, me neither. But that’s what we get. Instead of letting the finalists sing a couple of longer songs, so that they can get into them and we can tell round about verse two whether the singer has the right stuff, we get a greatest hits type medley package that is about as satisfying as old cotton candy. Sure it melts in your mouth, but it doesn’t satisfy you and it just sits in your stomach and makes you feel woozy. Kind of like the feeling you get if you look at Clive Davis too long. Clive kind of reminds me of those lizard aliens from V who look kind of normal but something is off. Maybe it's the spray-painted black brillo pad glued to his head. Speaking of reptile life forms, Clive is the guy responsible for some of the blandest, most mediocre music on the face of the planet. And he looks like a corpse with his skin pulled so tight over his face that his lips no longer move. He’s l ike a mid-80’s Dr. Who monster where the mouth doesn’t move but the voice over guy still does a lot of maniacal laughing. That’s a call out to all my British readers. Yeah he takes credit for “discovering” great acts like Santana, Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Pink Floyd. But he’s also responsible for unleashing the horribleness of Barry Manilow, Kenny G, Air Supply, Ace of Base and the convicted child pornographer Gary Glitter.
Tonight the ground rules are not laid out by Ryan, so I'm forced to explain them here. So Clive is in the house and he forces each of the contestants to sing a sappy, milquetoast song from his personal catalog so that he can make another $5 bucks. Then the judges force the singers to perform a song that “suits their talents.” And finally the Idols choose their own song that inevitably brings out their worst tendencies and we’re reminded how the three finalists are broken.
To simplify everything I’m just going to give each finalist one grade based on my perception of how strong their statement was towards winning the whole show (ignoring the reality that the home viewers already chose their favorites about 6 weeks back. And a quick reminder, when I name the artist who sang the song I don’t mean who ORIGINALLY sang it, I’m just talking about the version the finalist is most likely imitating. Got it? Good. There will be a pop quiz at the end of the column.
1) “Open Arms” by Journey.
So right off the bat Clive castrates Elliott by forcing him to sing perhaps the wussiest song ever by a formerly rocking band. Only the later Aerosmith soundtrack songs keep this song from being the runaway favorite in this category. Some of Elliott’s bad habits are on display: the warbling sustained notes, the scared owl stare, the nervous sweating. But Elliott gives it all he’s got and he’s up for the challenge. He seemed a little choked up in the chorus but overall not a bad performance, even though I want to take the song out behind the shed and pull an Old Yeller on it. How lame is this song? Clay Aiken “rocked” it on American Idol three years ago. And you never want to follow in the footsteps of THAT GUY.
2) “What You Won’t Do For Love” by Bobby Caldwell, chosen by Paula with the intention of sending Elliott home after singing the most obscure song of the evening.
This is from wikipedia - “In order to ensure significant airplay on the African American-dominated R&B radio format of the time, Caldwell's management took certain steps—such as portraying the artist only in silhouette on the cover and in advertisements—to hide the fact that he was white.” So Paula is clearly taking her “funky white boy” statement to it’s logical conclusion... Bobby Caldwell. To his credit, Elliott seems far more assured and confident on this number and he does an excellent job, despite his right arm flopping around like Elliott was a stroke victim. Elliott conquers the song effortlessly and during the performance I actually saw flashes of championship caliber vocals from Mr. Yamin.
3) “I Believe To My Soul” as sung by Donny Hathaway.
Elliott goes back to the Hathaway gambit and sings a modest Ray Charles number. Elliott takes a step back from his excellent second song to throw in some excessive warbling, jazz runs and tuneless mumbling. Ultimately it’s not terrible because Elliott is a good singer, but it’s unmemorable and makes those championship flashes disappear like people do whenever Clive disrobes.
GRADE: B+ -- I think Elliott did quite well. He performed nicely with snippets of excellence, he kept the yodeling to a minimum and most importantly he sang the hell out of all three songs. I don’t think he was consistently great so he only gets a B+. But he certainly showed he belonged in the finals.
1) “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly.
Clive’s lips don’t cooperate as he mutters something about creating the “Kath-in McPhee Sund.” Then punishes her by making her sing a song written by another of Clive’s Kiddie Porn friends, Mr. Kelly. Although the star of his dirty films is himself. Anyways, despite the R. Kelly taint, Katharine Whitneys out on a song written for the melody to be ignored. It’s a gloppy ballad and this will certainly be the kind of song they force Miss McPhee to sing on her album. At least it’s a smiley song so Katharine’s million dollar grins are approprite this time. It’s a typical saccharine A.I. Special, and Katharine rules it. Then my favorite moment of the night occurs when Randy tries his “Wrong Song Choice” crap and McPhee responds with “I didn’t pick it.” Suck it, Randy you ignoramus. Then Ryan of all people verbally beats down Randy by suggesting that he’s insulting the Reptile God Clive. How do you feel now, Randy, humbled by the least funniest man on the planet?
2) “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” as sung by Jane Monheit.
For some reason Simon thinks a song from the 30’s is pop music and somehow relevant. Katharine sings a weirdo A.I. Version that puts the song through a blender and features random octave jumps and runs. The song is like vocal gymnastics for Katharine and she does an excellent job. It eschews melody altogether and jsut features a series of money notes and over emoting. Katharine's voice is delicate and piquant throughout. Katharine gussies the song up a bit and she sounds like a star. Even if the camera shot up her throat and gave her a tonsil exam on her last held note. The judges go a little berzerk with heir hyperbole, however. “It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread," says Randy. Paula said, "With that song, Katharine can cure the lepers and feed all the starving peasants in China". And Simon humbly stated, "If God could pick one song to listen to put in his Holy IPOD, it would be McPhee doing the 90 second A.I. rendition of “Rainbow.”
3) “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues” by Duke Ellington.
So in order to avoid comparisons to popular singers from this millenium Katharine turns to the Duke. And with her stilletto boots and black Yowza dress she’s pulling out all the stops. It’s appropriate that the song starts off with a stripper vamp, because it’s not about the singing. The only way I can describe the vocals is herky-jerky singing. It’s jazzy, it’s bluesy, it goes high, it goes low. It’s fairly random, but overall McPhee hits all the notes like a champ and there are some very nice moments, and Katharine is once again not bound by any melody, just the way she likes it.
GRADE: A -- Katharine is allowed to play to her strengths: show-off vocals and saccharine lyrics with much smiling and sultriness. It’s not stuff that would make me buy the album, but in American Idol terms Katharine looks like a contender tonight (which means she’ll probably get voted off this week).
1) “Dancing In The Dark” by Bruce Springsteen.
I like The Boss, but this was his fruitiest song. I think even Bruce would admit it’s a tad lame, and was willing to disown it by loaning it to American Idol. I laughed as Taylor looked perplexedly at the greasy old man when he was explaining what song he will do. Taylor sings an album-ready version of the song and does a good job. If anyone is immune from singing lame songs it’s Taylor, who performs this one with gusto. I also like how Taylor gets Paula up on stage to dance, then abandons her. That was funny.
2) “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker.
It was good to see that they sent Taylor to the roots of his personality traits with the Cocker. Taylor features his nice, delicate vocals on this song, even if they’re a little too delicate. Every time Taylor hits the “to me” part he sings it in a barely audible whisper. I didn’t get it, but otherwise the rest of the song was really good.
3) “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding.
So this is another weird A.I. arrangement which renders the melody almost unrecognizable. Taylor hits the memorable chorus after building momentum and spazzes out like a pro. To borrow a quote from Paula “Taylor makes every song his own” singing it in his bluesy and earthy but oh so unique way.
Randy suggests Taylor’s new name should be, “Have a Good Time, Funky Taylor.” That my friends is Randy’s official declaration of challenge on Ryan’s title of “Least Funniest Man in the World.” It will be a no-holds barred pun-fest to be held AFTER the upcoming season of “Last Comic Standing.” Wasn’t that show canceled? And didn’t NBC abuse the show and spit in the face of loyal viewers by never airing the final episode of “Last Comic 3”? Yeah, I thought so. Well, NBC, your payback kick in the nads is coming when Simon unleashes his “America’s Stupid Human Tricks” show or whatever it’s called. My title for the show is “The Gong Show, Sans Gong.”
GRADE: A -- Taylor finally gave that championship-level performance that I was hoping for on Elvis Night. He toned down the comedic value and went for pure singing and it was great to hear. Then Taylor’s internal record gets caught in a groove and he kept shouting “Soul Patrol” over and over. He’s got spunk to spare.
Although they threatened us with the dripping ichor visage of Clive Davis and his sucky music the singing was overall pretty good. I would hope so as two of these people will duel it out next week for “Last Idol Standing.”
Pop Quiz: What song is THE WUSSIEST song ever by a formerly rocking band? I’ll post the best answers next week.
If you would like to contact Professor Chan about this article, you can reach him at email@example.com
Hello Class, and welcome back to the Quarter-Finals of American Idol. It was time to get lackluster as Elvis Night was the torpor-inducing bugaboo that everyone predicted. All week long I would tell people “Hey, it’s Elvis Night on the Idol” and they would invariably groan. So we we’re definitely looking forward to this one, aren’t we, class? (Note the sarcasm that would be dripping from that sentence if it was spoken out loud.)
I know it seems sacriligious to suggest that a night full of Elvis tunes could be boring. But come on, people. Haven’t we heard all of these songs a gazillion times before? At weddings, at Bar Mitzvahs, in bad Elvis movies, in the supermarket, in the elevator, on this show? You know what I’m talking about. “Jailhouse Rock”, “Hound Dog”, “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, THOSE are the songs we want to hear again?
So to help me get really get inside the songs and dissect the performances like a pro, I have a special guest. No, not the show’s guest, the former Mr. Mariah Carey. No, instead he comes all the way from the Thai Palms restaurant in Hollywood. It’s THAI ELVIS!!! He’s awesome. It’s great to have you here to help me Grade the Idols Thai Elvis.
THAI ELVIS: Thank you very much.
Think I’m kidding? Go here.
And if you’re ever in Hollywood you really should check the place out. I highly recommend the Beef Jerky appetizer. You won’t be disappointed.
TAYLOR HICKS - “Jailhouse Rock” and “In The Ghetto.”
Wow, what a disappointing night for Taylor. I thought this was his night to really show off his well-honed Elvis talents and make a strong bid to win it all. But what we get is more of the usual. A decent “Jailhouse Rock” with Taylor’s usual shucking and jiving, except that he takes out his ear pieces halfway through the song and I couldn’t get past the long cord dangling from his neck as he tried to feign coolness and outdance Elvis. Taylor looked almost as foolish as the time he whiff-kicked the mic stand.
Taylor nearly redeems his evening with a decent but ponderous rendition of “In The Ghetto” (pronounced Gett-Toe by Taylor) Mr. Mariah told Taylor to can the spastic dancing and he tones it down (but not completely losing his fist pumps and grimaces). I just thought this performance was a bit bloated and not quite as soulful as Taylor thinks it is. It’s kind of like Plastic Soul or Katharine McPhee soul.
THAI ELVIS: I move better than Taylor, but then again I’m the King and Thai.
GRADE: 1-B, 2-B+ Simon and Randy go on their usual diatribe about “You can’t sing Elvis” but it’s friggin’ Elvis Night, give me a freakin’ break. I’d be more concerned about the millionth rendition of “Jailhouse Rock.” You know who else sang “Jailhouse Rock” on AI? This guy.
Not a good idea to be associated with That Guy.
CHRIS DAUGHTRY - “Suspicious Minds” and “A Little Less Conversation.”
Chris breaks out the Bono sunglasses this evening... Indoors, at night. I guess it’s a tribute to The King, but if that’s the case he needed more rhinestones. “Suspicious Minds” was a really good, under control number with maybe a smidgen of over-vibrato. But Chris nails it like a pro.
“A Little Less Conversation” seemed like a given, being one of Elvis’ more rocking tunes. However, the backing band was a little low so that the limited melody range of the song is exposed. It’s not quite one note over and over, but maybe the same two or three. The first half of the song was fairly bland but then Chris kicks it up a notch at the end and brings it home nicely.
THAI ELVIS: Yeah, he’s pretty good. But you know who else sang “A Little Less Conversation” on American Idol? This guy.
And nobody wants to be seen with That Guy.
GRADE: 1- A, 2- A - Chris is a pro and after these two controlled, dynamic performances he looks to be in command of this show. Barring any unforseen Bo Bice-like SNAFUs, Chris should win it all.
ELLIOTT YAMIN - “If I Can Dream”(AI said it was “I Can Dream” so that’s for all you Styx fans who e-mailed me last week about not doing my homework) and “Trouble.”
Well let me say Elliott sang his tushy off tonight. Not to be outdone by the Chris Vibrato, The Vibrato King himself, Elliott goes to work on one of Elvis’ more gospel sounding songs. From elvis.rpmmiddag.com -- “That song was "If I Can Dream". Coming in the wake of the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, it was a prayer for peace and reconcilliation [sic] at a time when the country seemed intent on rending itself apart.” So who thought Elliott’s song sounded like “a prayer for peace and reconcilliation [sic]”? Yeah, me neither. It was a little too peppy. But then it’s unfair to compare anybody to one of the greatest performers in the history of the world. (So Suck it Simon and Randy). Elliott gives one of his personal best efforts tonight. Then follows it up with perhaps the wussiest “Trouble” I’ve ever heard. Here’s a suggestion, if you’re going to sing a song about how tough you are, please back it up with some karate kicks or other fighting skills. Elliott wasn’t taking notes when Mr. Mariah was telling everybody to “Pay attention to what the lyrics are saying to the audience.” I mean Elliott is the guy you WANT your daughter to date. He’s a teddy bear, albeit a diminutive and squinty-eyed one. Let’s just say he doesn’t exactly live up to the lyrics: “Because I'm evil, my middle name is misery Well I'm evil, so don't you mess around with me.” I’ll give Elliott the benefit of the doubt though as tonight he’s sporting some Lon Chaney as the Wolfman facial hair. So, yeah that’s kind of evil. Elliott does wrap it up with a nice, soulful singing part at the end to salvage the performance.
THAI ELVIS: Want to see evil? Try my Frog With Green Peppercorn In Curry Sauce, Extra Spicy. The odor coming from THAT bog will be evil, let me tel you.
GRADE: 1-A, 2-C -- Elliott is “Evil?” That’s the biggest lie since Tommy Mottola uttered the words “Till Death Do Us Part” to Ms. Carey.
KATHARINE MCPHEE - “Hound Dog”/”All Shook Up” medley and “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”
We get to see the two sides of Katharine tonight, literally and metaphorically. She starts off her first song with a cheesecake pose, back to the camera, coyly looking over her shoulder, made famous in “Tomb Raider.” And at one point she graphically bends over Randy’s desk to show how shook up she really is. I guess the medley idea was an homage to Elvis who was fond of them, but in a 2 minute space of time, is there really room to sing TWO DIFFERENT SONGS? That’s probably why Katharine muffed the words of one of ‘em. That or all of the sashaying around the stage left her gasping for breath. In the end, Katharine looked good, which was her point, even if she was wearing a blouse made out of belted gray drapes.
“Can’t Help Falling In Love” is another wedding singer-esque song which Katharine Celine Dion-izes, singing all sorts of runs and trills and cracking her innappropriate smile. Katharine has really great teeth, though. The song was crammed full of false sentiment and saccharine emotions, just like the best of Celine. And Katharine’s arrangement finishes the song “dramatically” as if it’s the National Anthem, and not the modest love song “Plaisir D’Amour” from the 18th century, like it really is(thanks Wikipedia). Simon blames Katharine for the crappy arrangement, but I’m so sure Katharine went in and made key change suggestions and wrote out the whole viola score herself. (Suck it again Simon, you jackelope.)
THAI ELVIS: If you’re such a big man Simon, surely you can handle my Spicy Chicken Feet Salad mixed with fresh garlic and spicy lime juice. Are you a tough guy, Simon, or a girly man? I always go with the Extra Spicy... it really clears the sinuses.
GRADE: 1-B, 2-D -- Katharine is really making her case to go home tonight. We can blame the unfairness of being the only woman forced to sing manly Elvis songs, but really would she have done any different given the choice of two female-oriented songs?
So Elvis Night mercifully comes to a close. This really settled nothing as all four finalists went to their happy places, and it’s just a popularity poll for the next couple weeks, regardless of who gave good or bad performances.
I would like to thank Thai Elvis, who performs songs from the Elvis catalog every weekend at Thai Palms in Hollywood.
THAI ELVIS: Long live The King, baby.
Until next week... Thai Elvis has left the building.
If you would like to contact Professor Chan about this article, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello Class, welcome back to Grading The Idols, where we’re down to the Foolish Five finalists. Every performer tonight embarassed themself in the name of pandering for votes. Did it work? We won’t know until tomorrow, but we sure will enjoy rubbing their noses in it, won’t we?
I will say this for the record, this week’s cut will be felt as one of the plucky and talented, albeit shameless finalists gets sent packing.
This week’s theme was Songs That Aren't 100 Years Old, so tonight we dispense with the fat, wrinkled, out of touch dead weight and get down to some singin’. Lots of singin’. I will grade both of the Idol’s songs, then give a composite grade for their overall evening. It's that simple.
ELLIOT YAMIN - “On Broadway” - As sung by George Benson in 1978.
“Home” by Michael Buble`.
Elliott starts the night off in suckville with his fruity rendition of a Leiber/Stoller oldie but... oldie. It’s typical Elliott as he throws in gratuitous vibrato on almost every sustained note and even does his much-maligned (by me at least) Al Jarreau-ish “shoobie-do, frim-fram” scat singing jazz licks. Didn’t David Foster tell Elliott to cut that crap out last week? And didn’t I tell him to cut that out every week since the beginning? Yeah, I thought so. Elliott is further hampered by the blaringly loud “wacka-didda” funk bass which drowns out his delicate vocals. Then to top it all off, Elliott forgets to wait for the inane Judges’ comments as he flees to the sanctuary of Ryan and the ‘70’s Bachelor Pad Space Stools. Then Ryan tangoes Elliott back to face the judge’s apathy. Yeah, that’s Elliott’s embarassing moment.
Song Number Two starts earnestly with the lyrics “I want to come home. I want to go home.” But you know what, this is where Elliott belongs, singing wussy modern jazz-tinged love ballads to America. Why? Because Elliot’s melodic tenor voice sticks to the song like McPhee’s banana dress stuck to her hips last week, which is to say, really, really tightly. Elliott also sticks to the damn melody like he should’ve been doing since the beginning and even accents it with some Al Jarreau-esque earthiness (Al Jarreau isn’t all bad). Elliott gives his best performance on American Idol to date with the first appearance anywhere of his controlled, sweet-sounding, soulful voice matched to a song that doesn’t make my ears bleed with boredom.
GRADE: 1-C, 2-A+ = B+ Elliott’s “Home” should keep him around another week because it was damn good, despite the idiotic comments from the peanut gallery.
PARIS - “Kiss” by Prince in 1988.
And “Be Without You” by Mary J. Blige.
Paris shows her egotism and naivete with the comment, “Some people can’t make this into a song.” Ahem, Paris, what about Prince? He seemed to make the song okay. So after Paris’ inauspicious beginning she’s off and struttin’ like Pickler. She even engages in a brief but painful-looking spasm/shimmy that made her look like a St. Vitus Dance victim. And no, that’s not Paris’ most embarassing moment of the evening. I will say this for Paris, her crackling voice served the song well, and I liked when she turned back to the camera with attitude on an empathic “kiss” late in the song. She sings it well. Our little Paris has spunk.
Now HERE is Paris’ Embarassing moment, her outfit for her second number. She wears silver lame bloomers with a butterfly belt and a camouflage t-shirt with standard Army issue shoulder pads. Whoa, I’m blinded by the collision of several no-taste clothing items all settling together on one individual person. After I wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes Paris starts singing, and I realize that she was just taking the lyrics literally. “Chemistry was crazy from the get-go.” I will admit that I’ve never heard this song before but I think I can speak from the heart when I say that the song sucks, but Paris don’t. I would never buy her album but I’d be lying if I said this 17 year old prodigy doesn’t have stage presence and singing skills. She’ll only gain fashion sense and wisdom as she gets older, but she’s got the musical chops.
GRADE: 1-B, 2-A = B+ -- Once again the gang of idiots has no idea what to make of Paris and her slutty songs, but I will say she doesn’t deserve to go home after tonight, even though she probably will.
CHRIS DAUGHTRY- “Renegade” by Styx in 1979.
“I Dare You” by Shinedown.
Not to be outdone by the 17-year old show-off Paris, Chris starts walking into the audience as well. He carries his mic stand in a Bo Bice influenced performance but Chris rocks it like Bo circa 2005 (as opposed to the Bo Doppelganger that appeared on this show in 2006). Chris is in his feel good zone as he belts out one of Styx' best rockers and gives Dennis De Young a run for his money with his decidedly original vocal licks and growls. Chris sings the song with authority and oomph. Also, because he’s too cool for school, Chris doesn’t embarass himself this week like the others.
Then Chris follows that up with a song about fire. We know this because the jumbotron behind his head has lots of fire. Chris rocks this song as well and he’s just awesome tonight. He even throws in some mean, album-ready, Eddy Vedder-type growls that the moronic Judges mistake for “Chris losing his voice.” That’s how it’s supposed to sound, you jackalopes. It’s called heavy metal. Look into it. And you can tell Chris is NOT losing his voice because his clear, open high notes are pretty, but in a hair on his chest, manly sort of way.
GRADE: 1-A, 2-A+ = A+ It’s really hard to review Chris’ singing as he’s hitting his stride right now and there’s nothing really to criticize. Either you like this music (like I do) or you don’t, but there’s no questioning his talents.
KATHARINE “Peek-a-Boo” MCPHEE - “Take A Look At Me Now” by Phil “The Thrill” Collins in 1984.
And “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” by KT Tunstall. (I won’t even pretend like I knew that - thanks Google search.)
Katharine compounds her unintentional clothing mishap from last week with an intentional mishap by wearing a gray trash bag/belt dress. I don’t know what the hell she was thinking. Maybe she’s starting a new fashion trend. It can’t be any stupider than pink sweat pants with “juicy” written across your ass. Anyways, you got to love a girl who gleefully admits that millions of horny boys at home have probably TiVO’d her gratuitous Yowza dress-bursting from last week. Then Ryan has to ruin it by making some lame crack about “We all know you wear boxers.” Have you noticed how unfunny Ryan is when he’s “being funny?” And have you also noticed how unfunny Ryan is the rest of the time? Ryan is as equally mirthless when he’s telling jokes as when he’s not telling jokes. Remarkable. Seacrest is like the Cancer of comedy.
So McPhee gears up and gives me more ammunition for reasons why I can’t wholeheartedly root for her. She sings one of the all-time wussiest songs “Take a Look at Me Now” a wheezing lung cookie of a tune that Katharine can’t wring any extra life or pathos out of. She’s also off again, her voice is mostly flat and she also sounds like she’s singing through a fan. There’s a discernible break in her “ooh” so that it actually sounds like “ooh-(breath)-ooh.” And she hits a horrible “loo-(gasp)ook” to put the song down and drive a stake throught it’s evil, vampire heart.
McPhee bounces back in style (I pun) on her second song, however, with a low-cut satiny blouse and jeans. It’s a strange, latin, jazzy type number that starts with Katharine writhing on the ground like she’s in a lamaze class. She strangely sings the whole song from her knees (I hope she has knee pads), while flirting with the two “box drum” dudes. I guess it’s her secret ploy to avoid her usual performance clompiness and uncoordination. She’s more talented on her knees than most people are standing up. So uh, right, back to the singing. I’ve never heard this song before, heck, I even thought Katharine said it was called “Black Horse UP A Cherry Tree”, so you can imagine my confusion. But I really like the way McPhee sings it. It’s an amusing, upbeat number that plays to Katharine’s strengths; namely her light, sweet voice and her bubbly, effulgent personality. I’d buy her album, and heck I’d even buy KT’s album too.
GRADE: 1-D, 2-A+ = C+ -- The question is which is the REAL McPhee: the soft-core sex kitten with the bodacious personalities or the drippy dreck-queen who sings Bette Midler and Phil Collins with equal lack of shame?
TAYLOR HICKS - “Play That Funky Music (White Boy)” by Wild Cherry in 1976.
And “Something” by The Beatles.
Taylor must’ve been feeling the heat this week as he too goes back to his “Happy Place” and breaks out this Song From The Wedding Singer Song Book. “Play That Funky Music (White Boy) is a pseudo-funk classic that gets dusted off EVERY SINGLE WEDDING. Taylor sings it like a pro, delving deep into the Joe Cocker grab bag of blues singer tics, spasms and mannerisms. He even tries out out the “Falls on the floor writhing in souful agony” that was so hilarious when John Belushi used to do his Joe Cocker imitation on Saturday Night Live (the really funny years). That wasn’t his embarassing moment, though, that came later when Ryan and Taylor reenacted this laying down on stage while they dreamily looked up at the sky and cloud-busted and then later french-braided each other’s hair. Taylor’s performance was a return to his usual high-energy showmanship as he runs through the crowd and at one point even busts out his version of the Rerun (from “What’s Happening”) Dance. His sin ging is pretty good too. He does about as good a rendition of “Play That Funky Music” that can be sung in a non-drunken wedding reception environment.
Taylor slays them on his second song, a soulful rendition of a beautifully quiet, introspective Beatles song. Taylor’s sensitive, controlled blues voice is superb and this is how good he can be on a record. Taylor is an old pro and so turning to The Beatles has got to be like Wedding Singer comfort food for him. It’s the rocky road ice cream of pop music. Taylor ends the song on a soothing “Mmm-mm” that tops off this night of good singing.
GRADE: 1-C+, 2-A+ = B -- Taylor highlights both the good and the bad in his mini-set. He can definitely sing, but is his act getting a little bit stale? Only the millions of housewives with phones have the answer.
So, what’s the lesson of the day? Maybe this stupid show will get it’s collective head out of it’s hypothetical rear end and take a clue from tonight’s excellent performances and start having the Pop Idols start singing songs from this damn decade. Sure, today’s modern songs are less demanding than those performed 10 years ago, or 50 years ago, or that were written and sung by Freddie Mercury. But the show is also more interesting and more pleasing with fresh song choices. I thought that was the point. The Idols showed they were up to task with music from THIS WEEK, and they proved they were as good as today’s pop singers. So lay off the “You can’t sing Whitney Houston” crap, okay?
One final thought. The judges were high, as usual, but seemed to revel in their mediocre and pointless comments. I guess now that they’re all signed through 2010 they don’t feel the need to be on their own lame show. Somehow Simon called the performances “erratic.” Excuse me, Simon, you dimwit, but every single song from THIS WEEK was good. How is that erratic? And Randy pulled the “You can’t sing Mary J. Blige” card. I’m sick and tired of his addle-brained comments. Come on, Randy, the assignment was to sing songs from the Billboard charts. Are we only supposed to limit the song choices to mediocre singers? Do you really want FIVE Versions of “Bad Day?” Yeah, I thought so. Paris sang her song on par with Mary Blige, but you just couldn’t recognize it with your tone-deaf self.
Pop Quiz: A) Who is going home tonight, and why? B) Who would make better replacements for these neanderthals they call “judges.” My vote is for David Foster and Bocelli.
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Welcome back, Class to American Idol, or should I say “Adult Contemporary Idol” as this show has sunk to new lows of awful. It is “Greatest Love Songs” week. If by “Love Songs” they mean slow and boring songs having nothing to do with the emotion that we call “love”, then yes, that would describe the strange and painful song selections. The Head Honcho of Idol, Nigel the (insert slang for any sexual organ) has been crowing like a peacock about how awesome his show is. It seems that despite their best efforts to suck worse than Celine Dion snacking on a McDonald’s milkshake with a too-narrow straw, Idol is still the #1 show on TV. Well, the dirty secret is that the ratings are slipping as the more time we spend with these slack-wits the less we like them.
It seems that after 270 weeks of bad singing we’ve hit a patch of viewer malaise. Well, what a better way to jump start the excitement fact than a visit from Andrea Bocelli (who?) Last time I checked this show was about finding the next POP MUSIC STAR. Heck, the British version of the show is CALLED “Pop Idol.” Such luminaries of the modern music scene have appeared as Barry Manilow, Kenny Rogers and Rod Freakin’ Stewart. Those names come to mind almost as easily as Pink, Gwen Stefani and Black-Eyed Peas when you think about pop music, don’t they? I will give AI some credit for pop music relevancy only because that asinine “Bad Day”, also known as “The American Idol Walk of Shame Song” is #1, so they have that going for them.
So if you happen to be born in the United States and are alive, you might not have heard of Andrea. He’s old, Italian, has a girl’s name, doesn’t speak English real well and he sings opera. Yeah, that just screams AMERICA’S TOP 20, doesn’t it? To help us through the dreck the original Latin Lover, Professor Andrea will be breaking it down Tuscan style. Andrea’s grasp of English is on par with Paula and Randy’s but at least his excuse is that English is his SECOND language. So we will also be joined by the Schmaltzy Songwriter and former Reality TV personality David Foster. David wrote some of the weepiest Chicago (the band) songs, and to quote from Wikipedia “Other notable production successes included Celine Dion's "The Power of Love," which reached number one on the charts. He produced albums and songs for Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Josh Groban, and Kenny G, among others.” So yeah, it’s a good guess there aren’t many Foster-ized CD’s on my shelf.
Before we begin, I just want to say the backing arrangements are excruciating this week. Did we really need a total revamp of both “Unchained Melody” and “The Way We Were” to render them completely unrecognizable? Okay, maybe we did. But the AI arrangements blow worse than Daniel “Bad Day” Powter during a Kazoo-a-thon.
As you can see I’m pretty ticked off about this crappy theme of the week and there will be NOBODY left unscathed.
KATHARINE MCPHEE - “I Have Nothing” as sung by Whitney Houston AFTER she was on the crack.
Katharine wasn’t taking any chances tonight after her near booting a couple weeks ago. She stuffs herself into a bone-tight yellow party dress that nearly misses covering all of her goodies. Yep, Katharine plays her sexual seductress card. She saves the best for the end of her song when she has a minor wardrobe malfunction, and busts a button as she takes one of her clumpy steps forward and damn if that dress isn’t split all the way up to her hoo-haw. Oh, sorry, was she singing? I think I missed huge bits of her song as I was distracted by Ms. McPhee’s huge talents. Okay, close your eyes for a second and you get a good example of what’s wrong with McPhee. The lyrics of her song go “Don't make me close one more door -- I don't wanna hurt anymore.” The song is about a woman who’s just about to lose her marbles if her dude leaves her. And so what is McPhee doing all winking and flirty, making furious porno faces and waving at the camera? She’s doing her cutesy act and there’s nothing cute about this song. It’s about leaving every damn ounce of soul and shame out there, daring her man to walk out the door. “I have nothing without you.” I’ll say it again, Katharine, tone down that damn plastic, put-on sultry act and show some friggin’ emotion!
ANDREA SAID: Katharine is beautiful, powerful, clean, young-- I want to peel back that dress like a banana and lick her as I would a tutti fruitti Gelatti. (okay I might’ve mistranslated the last bit.)
THE JUDGES SAID: The song was bigger than her and how dare McPhee even attempt to sing Whitney Houston. I may not have liked this performance, but last time I checked Whitney is still alive and McPhee can sing her under the table RIGHT NOW. So shut up, judges.
GRADE: C -- Katharine gets an A for the dress, but her soulless, plastic singing is just average. I guess if McPhee was wearing that dress her man wouldn’t DARE leave her so she doesn’t need to sing it that great.
ELLIOTT “I am such toast” YAMIN - “A Song For You” by Donny Hathaway.
Before launching into this flat soda of a song, Elliott declared he “had no pressure.” Probably because he’s going home tonight regardless of how well he does. So like McPhee, Elliott goes to his musical comfort food, a song he’s probably sang a million times. And you know what, it sounded like a song sung for the million and first time. Stale and listless. I’m sorry Elliott, but if this was your one chance to steal my heart I wouldn’t fall in love with you with that banal performance. Elliott limits his choreography to standing still with occasional debate team hand gestures and for a change just sings the damn song without adding those annoying jazz inflections he always does. So I’ll give him credit for that. All in all it’s one of his best performances, as sad as that is.
DAVID FOSTER SAID: “That’s not going to get anyone excited.” And: “I tried to get Elliott to go off the Donny licks.” Silly Elliott, doesn’t he know Donny Licks are hazardous to your health?
GRADE: C+ -- Of all the songs about love and desire he could sing to save his neck Elliott chose this one? Thanks for joining us Yamin, but you won’t leave empty-handed. You will be receiving a copy of the American Idol home game.
KELLIE PICKLER - “Unchained Melody” as sung by LeAnn Rimes as if she were on crack like Whitney.
Kellie stumbles badly again this week. Part of it has to do with the horrible arrangement that butchers the song before Kellie can get out her carving knives. Someone else must’ve been smoking crack when they decided that the stirring and emotional part that starts the song “Oh my love, my darling, I tremble for your touch” was lame and the song should start with the insipid bit that goes:
To the sea
To the sea
To the open arms
Of the sea
Lonely rivers sigh.
Did you know that was part of the song? Neither did I. The arrangement does Kellie no favors. She flattens a few notes along the way and David Foster doesn’t help with his absurd decision to have Kellie hit a bended high note that sounded country in rehearsals but sticks out like a sluggish gazelle in a cheetah convention here. Anyways Kellie does indeed look like a gazelle with an “oh, crap” look on its face, and aftewards she admitted to the judges “I’m really scared.” Well, now Kellie, you should be. Apologizing to the judges for sucking is one thing. Admitting fear to a shark like Simon is like going snorkeling with a bloody stump. Where was the ballsy, let it all hang out Kellie who sang “Bohemian Rhapsody?”
DAVID FOSTER SAID: “Kellie is sweet but her voice can sound robotic.” And: “If the song is sung without passion it’s the most boring song.” Check and check. Very prophetic, Professor.
GRADE: D -- Andrea uses his telepathic powers to ascertain that yes, Pickler truly is blonde. Kellie is forced out of her comfort zone once again, but she hits most of the notes right.
PARIS - “The Way We Were” as sung by Barbra Streisand as if she was on the crack.
I zoned out for most of this song. Once again the back-up band bowdlerized the song and turned it into a hodge-podge of suck that I’m still recovering from. Paris does an okay job, her voice is good for stuff like this, but I can’t separate the cruddy arragement from the bland performance. For her glory note at the end she just opens up her mouth and the er from “were” tumbles out. Paris sings effortlessly, but since the song was lame, that means she also sings lame effortlessly which is not a good thing.
ANDREA SAID: “She has volume, like me.” I think he’s talking about Paris’ coiffure.
GRADE: C+ -- Was Paris’ hair this week an homage to Farrah Fawcett? Was it a “Love Song Hairstyle”? I’m confused.
TAYLOR HICKS - “Just Once” by James Ingram.
Holy crap did Taylor sound bad tonight. Taylor’s much ballyhooed charisma fails him this time. The song falls off the bottom of his range at several points. Every low note he sings made a thump like an unexploded hand grenade. Taylor seemed to phone it in because none of his typical energy or verve is on display. He dials the excitement down to murmer and performs like a man who’s whipped by “Greatest Love Song” night. How the mighty have fallen.
DAVID FOSTER SAID: “Taylor has potentially the most charisma. And that’s very, very important for a performer.”
GRADE: D -- Taylor fizzled like a 10 peso Tijuana fire-cracker. Luckily only three people can be in the bottom three because they’re all in danger tonight. Heck, Paula seems to be going through menopause this week as she glumly declares how everyone did crappy jobs singing. She’s on a bipolar roller-coaster at times laughing, at times crying over Elliott’s bland song but dishing out disappointments like they’re her hot flashes.
CHRIS DAUGHTRY - “Have You Ever Really, Really, Really, REALLY Loved a Woman?” as sung by Bryan Adams. Chris must’ve been feeling the heat from his Bottom Two exhibition last week so he too goes back to his specialty, singing album-perfect imitations of rock songs. Unfortunately Chris chooses a tune off the album “Love Songs for Eunuchs” by ball-less wonder Bryan Adams. Bryan have you really, really, really loved a woman? Because these lyrics are really, really, really trite. They show all of the introspection and insight of a 13 year-old girl writing a love letter to Clay Aiken. Chris even cracks a “I’m so much better than this godawful show” smile. He’s certainly the last man standing in his “Who will shave their dubious facial hair first” contest with Ryan Seacrest.
ANDREA: If Chris thinks he’s such hot stuff than I dare him to challenge me to a Psychic Mind Duel where I will crush his feeble little ego with my virile, intense Karma.
DAVID FOSTER SAID: “If he does the performance of his life, he’ll be amazing.” Wow, that’s a Bryan Adams-esque insight. So you’re saying if Chris does really well, then he will have sung really well? Do you also think if Chris sucks like an aardvark with a head cold then Chris will have really sucked? Thanks for your two cents, Captain Obvious.
GRADE: B- -- As usual for Chris’ expert vocal aping, it’s hard to grade. Since I hate the song more than Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive” I will grade it thusly.
I really, really, really hated this week’s theme. Today’s pop quiz will be an essay. Question: Did it seem like the judges harshly torpedoed Katharine McPhee this week? Was it to make up for all of the times they praised the heck out of her previous mediocre performances. And finally, will the teenage girl audience of AI be put off by her obvious womanliness?
If you would like to contact Professor Chan about this article, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org