Sunday, May 28, 2006

Concert Review - They Might Be Giants/Michael Leviton

Recently, I caught They Might Be Giants at The Pageant in St. Louis. They put on a rocking show and managed to make songs like "Ana Ng" and "Don't Let's Start" still sound energetic and fun after all these years. Their set missed a few classics like "Particle Man", but I didn't mind too much since they played a lot of hits, including a great rendition of "Fingertips" (that song comprised of 5-second clips of a bunch of silly songs - I was marvelling at how they remembered them all without a teleprompter). They also rocked out on "Istanbul" for an encore. I enjoyed hearing a few songs from their "Venue Songs" project - their song about St. Louis' own Mississippi Nights was especially well-received. I have to admit that the show was nearly stolen by the opening act, Michael Leviton, who wields a mean ukelele. Leviton had a Jonathan Richman vibe as he strummed his way through a string of clever songs about loneliness, many with a nautical theme. He exhibited a great wit that offset the melancholy tunes, as evidenced by song titles like "You'll Pay for your Day on Pleasure Island". After the show, I picked up his debut album, and while the songs were more magical live, it's well worth a listen.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

American Idol - The Weird and Wonderful Finale

Linda: Finally!! The American public has redeemed itself. It’s about damn time. Kind of sad that voter turnout was higher than for any prez, but we only get to vote once for the prez. And you do have to be over 18 to vote for the prez, so despite the “drama” of that statement, it’s not an accurate or fair comparison. Can I just tell you that once I saw Prince, I didn’t really care who won. I am of the Purple Rain generation, and that was the highlight of the evening for me. I’m so glad that Taylor won. No more Kat crap. He’s shaky with his victory song, but it must be quite overwhelming at this point. Poor guy. See the bozo from Birmingham with his sign upside down?? OK, good finish, though. A gentleman in victory. Good call. Yes, Taylor, you make me proud. Good thing Dionne Warwick isn’t competing on American Idol tonight. Poor Burt. Just have to mention that I still think Chris should have taken the whole thing - would have liked to see him do a duet with Prince. I giggle at the thought of them as a duo.

Nerdia: My retraction of my previous comments on Mary J. Blige: What good is a dynamic performance when you can’t fit your ego into the spirit of a show? If you’re dismissive of the kids who appear on the show or the show’s intent, if you steal the stage from poor, already beleaguered Elliott, how great can you really be? Ditto with Prince. If you exploit the show to plug your album and refuse to so much as smile at anyone on stage, let alone deem them worthy of your time and guidance, you’re nothing but an a-hole peddling your new crap to a bunch of young kids who only vaguely know your history and old fans who have since grown up (hey, maybe you should too). I am of the Prince generation myself. Smack in the middle. His songs were the soundtrack of my high school years. His last tour was the best live show I’ve ever seen. But so what? I felt like I was being sung to by a smug, heartless salesman. If you don’t care enough about the American Idol experience (and the millions of us involved), why should we care about you? I know these types: they’ve been dismissive of the show for years but now that the show has literally enraptured the world, they’ll cynically make an appearance to childishly grab the huge audience share, the attention they so shamelessly crave so much they’re willing to do a show they have no respect for. So how can I respect that? Okay, so you’ve reminded us you exist. Now take your album-spiking sales that American Idol helped you get and get out of my face. Besides that, last night was a highly entertaining finale. Strangely, I don’t remember Taylor and Katharine being on it much. I ran the gamut of emotions from disgust to delight. I missed a few performances while I was playing host and there was a lot of chaos during the LA Ape Culture finale party. I need to go back and review the Kevin, Chris, and Kat/Meatloaf performances. But I love just the idea of those duets. They had a real variety show feel to me, harkening back to the oddball but heartfelt duets of the duets on Sonny & Cher and Tom Jones. America, we still like these crazy hodgepodge juxtapositions. Take note: variety is not dead. The moment with Clay swerved elegantly from exploitative and cruel to touching and memorable. That has a lot to do with the surprise element of Clay’s smiling, coy entrance and his gracious demeanor with his imitator. Clay’s warm interaction with this failed contestant is a lesson to the cold ambition of Prince and Mary J. Blige, who may outrank Clay in talent but not in heart, which represents the poignant difference between having soul and being a true soul.

Linda: Nerdia, I wanted to respond to your Prince critique. I agree with you - the attitude was a bit much - but I think of that as part of his persona. I mean, the guy may be talented, but he’s a little off-center in general. I just assume that he was “hangin” with the contestants backstage, you know, once he let his hair down. Telling “Knock Knock” jokes and stuff like that. Or maybe I’ve been sniffing too much cow manure. It is spring out here, you know. Lots of fertilizer in the air. OH!! Another thought occurs to me - perhaps Katharine can adopt that “attitude” thing. It would cover up the fact that she has no personality. She could just chalk it up to “attitude.” I missed Mary J. - I think we were finishing up “Clifford’s Big Movie” so I missed some of Idol. I will watch on TIVO later, though. Assuming it worked. I thought Toni Braxton was lame. It’s kind of like she didn’t know what song she was singing and was just kind of “hanging out” in her nightgown. Man, I am cracking myself up today!!! I would also like to comment on Kellie’s hair. Although I think it’s an attractive cut, I liked our “little innocent” Kellie. I don’t want her to grow up. I realize that now she’s surrounded by the glitz and glam - and she’s ruined forever. Whatever honest innocence she had will be devoured by the Idol machine. I mourn the loss nonetheless.

Coolia: This finale was 2 very entertaining hours. What a cavalcade of stars! I enjoyed seeing all the idol kids singing together in their medleys. I think I’ve developed a soft spot for Bucky but somehow he sounded good last night - particularly on “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”. I hope he gets a country career. The Bacharach medley was a highlight for me and it reminded me of the Bacharach night from a past season - they should bring Burt back next year and give him a whole episode. It was great to see Dionne too, made me recall when Nerdia and I ran into her at CompUSA a few years ago. I liked Kellie’s sassy haircut and I loved her comedy bits with Wolfgang Puck. I think she could have a future on a sitcom or playing Kelly Ripa to Regis on a show of that ilk. If Katharine had 1/10 of Kellie’s likeability she might have been able to win. Not sure about Clay’s new look - is the hair dying a reaction to all the “firecrotch” hatred directed at Lindsay Lohan? But he really had fun with his nerdy protege. They could have eliminated some of the other bad audition awards - it went on a bit too long. It goes without saying that they also could have eliminated Carrie Underwood’s solo song - but that’s just my anti-Carrie feelings coming out. The duets were awesome. I thought Kat and Meatloaf were great. Kat seemed much more relaxed singing with Meat than she did the night before when it counted. I’d agree with Nerdia’s take on Mary J. although I didn’t feel that way as I watched it. I just love seeing Mary sing so I didn’t give a second thought to Elliot other than to say “He’s no Bono” which certainly isn’t fair of me, just as she wasn’t being fair to Elliott by blowing him off the stage. I loved getting to hear Taylor do “In the Ghetto” again but I’d agree that Toni didn’t add much. They had a little chemistry together, which was fun, but her vocals sounded muffled to me - maybe it was a sound problem and not a Toni problem. Terry and Linda will let me have it for this one, but I thought Chris’ duet with Live only showed off how unoriginal Chris is and how he’s most comfortable as a cover-band singer. He looked like Ed Kowalcyz’s twin brother there, and Ed outsung him and showed more range. I still think Chris has talent, and my wish for him is that he steer clear of Fuel, form his own band, work on some original material and show us his own uniqueness. One of my favorite moments was the singing cowboy trio, with my early favorite, the hyperactive Garet Johnson. They actually sounded pretty good - mostly in tune. Maybe Garet can get some lessons from Kat’s mom and try out again next year. It was a real shock to see Prince there, but cool. At worst, Mary may be right and he just showed up to hawk his poorly selling album. But really, can we ever expect Prince to mingle with the kids and tutor them? That’s why I never believed he’d do an Idol episode in the first place. He doesn’t want to be around people. At best, maybe his presence will attract more music icons to future Idol episodes and we can look forward to Depeche Mode night or Mariah Carey night. The outcome should put an end to the “it’s all fixed” Idol conspiracy theories. There was no way the Simons and Clive wanted Taylor to win. You could tell Simon Cowell was pissed by his expression at the end. They’ve got no idea how to market this guy and it will be interesting to see how his album turns out. I know I’ll be buying it. I can only guess the margin of victory wasn’t very close, because they didn’t talk percentages. I’m thrilled for Taylor since he was my favorite from his first audition, and he was a graceful winner, clearly moved by it, but not balling uncontrollably like Paula or Kat’s dad would. I’ve been humming “Do I Make You Proud” all day, and I’ve never even been able to remember the tune of a past Idol single. Soul Patrol! Soul Patrol!

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

American Idol - Taylor Pounces on Kat

General Comments

Coolia: How did Bucky get past security?
Nerdia: How did Constantine clobber off Kelly Pickler for airtime?
Linda: Overall impression: The show had some weird energy. I guess because the two contestants weren't evenly matched. Because last night's show was about a head-on competition, it comes down to whether or not we think Taylor is better than Katharine. So we'll see what the American public thought.
Nerdia: I thought the show went surprisingly fast. I did Tivo thru the commercials but still…I was entertained.
C. Crumpet Swank: I'm not terribly impressed with Kellie's new 'do. But I CAN NOT WAIT to see her tonight! Paula was in rare form, offering two types of comments exclusively: verbally mangled insights or innocuous generalities. [And no, this is not what she always provides.]

Katharine McPhee - "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" / "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" / "Boring Idol Single 2006"

Coolia: I thought Katharine did pretty well over all, but she once again demonstrated she lacks The X Factor. I expect she will have a career anyway as she's a knockout with a great voice. But no matter how many close-ups they show of her dad crying, America is not going to be won over, and I am only going to be moved to throw something at the TV. To quote one of my mother's favorite sayings: "He must cry to keep from going to the bathroom." I didn't like that the Idols had to recycle 2 performances, especially considering we just went over the rainbow with Kat last week and it's still fresh in our minds. I would have preferred they do at least one new song of their own choosing. It was interesting that Kat recycled two songs she sat down through during her initial performances. "Black Horse" was my favorite performance of hers, and it was still good a second time around. She hit a home run with "Rainbow", but, as I mentioned, we just saw it. I did like that there were 2 different singles, each somewhat suited to its singer. Kat's song fell short as Randy pointed out, which isn't her fault, but if she had more personality she might have been able to sell it better. As it was, I found the third song to be her weakest - she seemed uncomfortable to me and hit some bad notes. Another reason I don't think Kat will win - she's got no hard luck story. If you think about it, all the previous winners of Idol have come from humble backgrounds and went on to achieve The American Dream. Glimpses into Kat's home in the Valley show no signs of financial hardships. We simply don't know much about Taylor's past, but his accent and last name make us assume it's simpler.
Linda: Song #1 - I liked this the first time she did it. And last night's performance was good too. She wore shoes this time - and managed to spend a moment or two on her feet. Nice singing, robotic moves. And, unfortunately, because we've already seen it, the overall effect wasn't as fresh as the first time around. Stepford Idol. Song #2 - Does she have to sit and sing because she can't figure out how to emote and dance/walk at the same time? I missed last week's version, so was happy to have a chance to see it this week. HOWEVER, if last week's performance was so impressive, I think she should have allowed the strength of that to carry over to this week and she should have chosen a different song. A bit of an anti-climax. Song #3 - Who wrote this song? What was the point? Oh, yeah, I'm guessing it was so Pop McPhee would have something to cry over. Hey - I have no problem with a guy shedding tears. It's too bad his daughter can't channel some of that emotion and invest it into her performances. The gospel singers were great, though.
Nerdia: Thankfully I will soon never have to watch daddy’s girl squat on the floor and over-emote without a shred of actual emotion again. I liked the first song but felt the performance was stilted. The second song was over-performed and as we can now see (since she didn’t change up any of her moves) over-calculated. Something I’ve seen a million times at the high school talent follies by the “up-and-coming” chorus stand-out. I see the puppet strings and no matter what y’all say or what Cueball Davis says: this girl is a flash in the pan. And the pan is about to tip, whether she wins or not. Audiences respond to an emotional connection not a pretty face and robotic sound. Even Britney Spears can pull off a connection with the audience, as vapid as she is. Katharine might get a record deal but then so did Rubin.
Who hires these songwriters to craft these saccharine song blobs? It’s David Foster, I bet you anything.
Terry: Song 1 - Her original performance of this song was more alluring and "original" - this was too light and too fun and lost some of the original's luster. Just not as captivating. The belly button shots were nice! Song 2 - First, her tour contract should include a clause that requires her to sing while sitting on the floor. She's just more comfortable there. Heck, have her pull a Chris and just lay down and sing while napping! Again, a repeat that did not live up to her original performance of the song. Good but not as good. This is the chance you take when you choose to repeat yourself. Song 3 - She should stay away from skin tight sheer clothing. She's just too broad, wide and hip-ey for that. Usual lame Idol written/produced song...but, Kelly Clarkson took hers and MADE it good. Kat did so not do that. Blah!
C. Crumpet Swank: I think Song #1 provided Katharine with her best vehicle of the season: she performed it well both times; the song itself is incredibly catchy; her delivery was both impressive yet playful; it showed more genuine personality than any of her other choices. My one qualm is Simon's: despite the songs charms and its good fit with Kat, the tune itself does not have sufficient gravitas for the all important last sing-off round of performances. This ditty, while tremendous as ditties go, is not really the kind of thing with which you win the whole shebang. I agree with Linda on Song 2. No matter how well she sang it, it was tremendously anti-climatic since she performed it just last week. The same thing happened when Diana DeGarmo tried to bottle lightning by repeating Don't Cry Out Loud on the Season 3 Finale so soon after her initial performance of it. [At least Kat maintained the quality of her first performance; Diana botched her second go-round and made it seem like the first time was a fluke.] As for the new single - Execrable. I can think of no better word. I know poor Kat didn't have a choice in singing this turd, but evenso, her performance was lackluster at best, and it seemed she was out of tune on multiple occasions. It seemed to go on forever. I'd be interested in learning how long it was; it genuinely felt about six minutes in length. Hands down the worst tune written for Idol yet. Everyone makes fun (unfairly, I think) of A Moment Like This. What on Earth are they going to say about this crap?

Taylor Hicks - "Living for the City" / "Levon" / "Slightly Less Boring Idol Single 2006"

Coolia: How do I love Taylor Hicks? Enough to vote for him 30 times while watching the Cardinals game. And it took me over an hour of calling to get through 30 times. I've never voted more than 5 times for any other contestant in the history of Idol and most of the time I don't vote at all. It was nice to learn a little more about Taylor tonight, mainly by seeing his family. I thought his song choices were good, although I would have rather seen "Something" again than "Levon." It's been a while since Stevie Wonder night, but I think Taylor did a better job with "Living for the City" tonight. This longer version gave him more space to freestyle and riff on the song, and, of course, dance. The purple velvet jacket might have been more appropriate for the Elton song, but it was still very Taylor - which is the main reason Taylor excels - he's always himself. I'd agree with the judges that "Levon" didn't sparkle quite as well. It was solid but somewhat rote. As for the new single, I've never liked an Idol single at all but I found myself humming along with this one. Taylor seemed much more at ease with his new material than Kat did with hers. He definitely demonstrated he was playing to win.
Linda: Song #1 - Taylor, you rock! The total package - purple velvet jacket, groovy dance moves, high energy, rockin' voice - what a great performance. I agree with the judges, Taylor does know his strengths, and does a good job of taking these songs and making them work for him. Yay! Song #2 - Not so strong. Which is a shame. Once again, he made it his own, but it never seemed to connect. I think this song did a good job of showing us that Taylor does have a limit to his range. He couldn't deliver the strength in the upper register that this song requires. But I can't help but love him. Song #3 - Don't know the title. But I liked this song. Once again, a great Taylor delivery. I wasn't a big supporter of Taylor for becoming the Idol. But now that it's a choice between Taylor and Kat, I am firmly on his side. If it isn't going to be Chris or Elliott, then it has to be Taylor.
Nerdia: Taylor shows confidence in his shoulders; he strongly connects with the audience. Taylor shows what a communal experience singing can be. He is brilliant at that aspect alone. His goofiness will tone down over time and he’ll get better as a performer. I think those that don’t see the potential of Taylor to sell concerts and records are short-sighted. I predict he will do well, no matter what happens tonight. But I think Katharine fans will rally and give him a good fight.
I don’t believe any of the finalists this year gave us many blissful or awe-inspiring performances – as in year’s past. I’m somewhat disappointed with this season overall. The judges snarky play-fighting has become insufferable. I’d vote Randy off and separate Paula and Simon with someone like a Judy Garland impersonator. All that said, however…I do feel Taylor has potential to grow and become a big act. I would certainly pay to see him.
Terry: Song 1 - Decent singing but energy galore. Round 1 Taylor (and I SWEAR, I wrote that on my note pad before they began to pan out and you heard Simon say exactly that!). Song 2 - Began as Elton John-lite but he turned up the "Taylor" at the end. But too little too late. Round 2 Kat...but only by a hair. Song 3 - Although Taylor did not take his lame Idol song to the heights that Kelly took hers, he did take his far higher than Kat. Round 3 a mile!
C. Crumpet Swank: Song 1was great. Confident, engaging, loose, free, emotionally authentic. He lit up the room. Excellent. Not too much crazy dancing--just enough! The second song was very good, but not quite as intoxicating as the first number. I liked the new song. I thought it was immediately catchy. And I thought he performed it with style and gusto. He modulated his performance really well and built the song to a rousing end. He should win, not only because he was better than Katharine over the course of the season, but he was better her than her in the final face-off as well.


Coolia: Taylor wins! Kat's dad cries! Coolia attends American Idol Live concert for the first time!
Linda: Taylor is the WINNER. Katharine go home. I'm sure she'll have some kind of contract soon.
Taylor to win. Katharine to go to PAC: personality animator camp. I think a sado-masochist boy-toy would also help her greatly.
Terry: Clearly the winner is and should be...Taylor...hands down! (but only in abstencia of Chris, of course).
C. Crumpet Swank: Taylor wins! Coolia celebrates!

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

American Idol - Elliott Leaves, Paula Sobs, Taylor Looks Pensive, Katharine Cheers Inappropriately

Linda: I'm blogging as I watch. Can I just say that I absolutely hate Ryan? Why? No reason that I can articulate clearly. He just rubs me the wrong way. Yech. He kind of reminds me of those guys in high school who thought they were so cool - maybe wore the sports jacket every now and then, letting his peach fuzz grow out. Yechhh. Taylor looked like he was having such a blast back home. And it all seemed so natural and comfortable and FUN. It looked like he also had fun folks hanging out with him in addition to the fans. I felt bad for the governor's wife though. I mean, couldn't someone have fixed her hair for her? And what's up with the magenta trench coat? Pink in all variations is my favorite color. But seriously, folks. The Gov. was wearing a bright red tie. Did they not see each other before the cameras dropped in? They should fire their wardrobe consultants. Katharine was an idiot at her hometown thing. Cardboard cut-out time. And what is with that shirt? I mean, I know she has a decent figure under there somewhere. Her song was pretty good, though. Not the personality that went along with it - I just don't watch her antics and I enjoy it much more. Of course, Aretha Franklin is one of my all time favorite performers, so she's treading on sacred ground as far as I'm concerned. ELLIOTT!! The best thing about this part was watching him back in my hometown. Sit down Gavin. What's up with that stupid hat? Woo hoo!! RICHMOND!!! Now I'm homesick. I hate Pennsylvania more than ever. Westbury Pharmacy!! No way!! I mean, seriously, I used to ride my sting ray bike there for milkshakes. And now the James Center. Damn!! Now he's on Monument Avenue. Ohhhh. This is painful. The Governor's Mansion. I have such awesome memories of that place. Nostalgia. Once again, though, I have to say...this Governor's wife needs some serious fashion guidance, too. OK, so that used to be Parker Field. I watched Ralph Garr wow the crowds there for an entire summer. OK. Now I'm depressed. I must go to my fridge and find a nice cold beer in order to drown my sorrows. I'm waxing nostalgic here -he's driving through my old college stomping grounds. For anyone who's never been to Richmond, I'd highly recommend a visit. They're going to send him home tonight, aren't they? That may require more beer. This is a great song - too bad they can't perform like this when competing. OH WAIT! They've panned to Taylor and Katharine. I think Taylor has gas or his left nut was being pinched by his tighty whiteys. And Katharine has perfected the zombie look. "I'm smiling, but I have no idea what's going on. Is my lip gloss still even?" Elliott is doing great. Even the fact that Paula is creaming in her jeans for him doesn't dampen my enthusiasm. Ahhhhh. This beer is quite tasty. I know, this posting is becoming quite self indulgent. Speaking of which ... what's up with the Idol self-idolatry? Blah blah blah. Clive is an old fart. Why is he successful? Because of the hype surrounding the show. People are curious - it's controversial - it garners press. Grammy, Shmammy. OK, I admit it, I'm not a big fan of the current POP genre - I'm getting old. Simon looks totally bored. Let's drag this out a bit longer, shall we? You can blame those guys for my long-winded post. Wow. These numbers remind me of the Olympics. If only I'd been able to watch this show last night. That's it - my five year old is going to have to start living in the basement. Don't want her to be an American Idiot...... Taylor - thank you for your expression. You're handling this like a decent human being. Katharine, you are so stuuuuupid. If you win, this will forever be American Idiot in my mind. I actually love Paula at this moment. After only two sips of the beer. OK - that does it. Elliott -the expulsion of you and Chris is living proof of the nation's lack of taste. Put out a CD. I'll buy it. The sad thing is - I won't be surprised if Katharine wins. She's the embodiment of the shallow, cookie-cutter culture being embraced by the youth of our country. I'm so depressed.

Terry: I thought that Taylor showed "some" humility at some points but appeared to be letting this thing get to his head (his confidence is "abundant" at this point). Katherine came across as fake, insincere and that comment about "I don't talk to my parents much anymore," after playing up her relationship with her dad....was sad (and VERY telling). Elliott was BY FAR the most sincere, down to earth and absolutely genuine of the remaining 3. Since the best true "talent" is gone (Chris, we hardly knew ye) I have found myself rooting very very very hard for the best "person" left..and that is very clearly, Elliott. And, although I KNEW he was going home it still hurt to hear (actually, "see") his name announced as such. Even though he is, in my opinion, clearly not the best singer, I will absolutely support him and buy his album because he does have the best heart, the most sincere soul, and is clearly the best and most unaffected by this whole thing person. God bless him.

Coolia: I normally hate it when they stretch the results show to an hour, but this one was entertaining with the trips home and the wacky idols as senior citizens commercial. I too was sorry to see Elliott go. It would have been nice to see him in the finals with Taylor. I almost shed a tear during his montage to see how far he had come...although I didn't blubber with snot coming out of my nose the way Paula did. He looks so much better now with longer hair and a goatee instead of the amish-style beard. And his relationship with his mom seems really sweet. I kind of interpreted Kat's remark about her parents just to mean she's been too busy with the competition to see her folks right now. I still don't care for her though. I find her very plastic, and it was tacky the way she and her parents openly cheered for themselves when they should have been respectful of Elliott. If she wins I'll be as disappointed as I was last year when Carrie won, and I'll probably have to channel it into a scathing ape culture rant that will garner lots of hate mail like my Carrie one did last year. I'll be voting like crazy for Taylor next week. I do disagree with you about Elliott being a better person than Taylor. Vocally, he is more talented than Taylor, I agree. But this show is about finding a star, and I think Taylor has more charisma and way more command of the stage. Elliott never seemed very comfortable on stage. I didn't find Taylor to be arrogant at all last night. I thought he seemed very down to earth and comfortable during his trip home and on the show. I think Taylor radiates a lot of happiness, emotion, and fun when he sings. I don't think we've learned much about Taylor's family, friends, etc, and that makes me curious, wondering what he's really like. Perhaps he does have a dark side, but I havent glimpsed it. From what I can see he's a regular, good guy. He's an Idol in the Reuben mode - meaning people just gravitate to him and like him for who he is, no matter if he doesnt have a Mariah Carey type range. This may mean he won't have great post-idol success...remains to be seen. I am hoping a lot of the Elliott voters will go to Taylor since they're both in a soul mode. If Kat wins, I'll start to believe the idol conspiracy theories about it all being fixed.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Clive Comes at Kat with Open Arms; Her Father Cries

Terry: Okay, so after chewing off my own arm, I watch the damn thing. Actually, it was my brother who swayed me. He reminded me of my tendency to become too emotionally invested in this nonsense (American Idol, Survivor, The Amazing Race, NFL football, Cards baseball, etc.), and that I am not a Neilson household so my boycott wouldn't affect them (the networks, producers, etc.) one little bit.
Coolia: I hope you made a tourniquet for that arm before you watched - it's a long show! Tonight's show was entertaining, but i would have rather had them eliminate the third song and sing 2 full songs. It would be nice to see these contestants do a full length song once before the finale.

Terry: Song 1 - "Open Arms" by Journey - decent but he is no Steve Perry...vocally or otherwise...although, perhaps less goober-y looking...and that's saying something.
Song 2 - "What You Won't Do For Love" by Bobby Caldwell - pretty soulful and the style certainly fit him but, as always with me, I just found his voice to be just average.
Song 3 - "I Believe To My Soul" by Ray Charles - I like the guy, I really do, but he just doesn't have vocal power or the distinctiveness in his voice win this or do much else beyond this. My brother is one of those that hear something I'm not hearing because he called me after each performance to see if I "got it" and after calling me an "American Idiot" wound up hanging up on me because I didn't (and don't) get it. While he's standing in line to buy Elliott's record I'll be in line to buy Chris'.
Coolia: I think Elliott needed to blow us away tonight to advance, and he just didn't do it. He did a solid job on Open Arms although I thought he sounded a little hoarse. He lacked the passion in his voice that Steve Perry has on that song. I think Randy told Clive to pick that song so that he could once again remind us he was briefly in Journey. I thought the 2nd song was his best effort - Paula was right - that's the best type of song for him. He's soulful and I do like his voice when I close my eyes. Like, but not love. I enjoyed the Ray Charles performance but I think he needed to pick a song that really would resonate with people, not something obscure. He lacks the star presence required to win.
Barb (on the 3rd song): If I could pick my own song, I sure as hell wouldn't sing that.
Nerdia: I feel like Clive’s round was primarily to give them an impediment to overcome. His song choices were rancid. Tonight proved that the judges at least know something…even Paula. Elliott’s second song gave me a chill. I loved it. Love the song – great choice by Paula. The others just left me cold. I like Elliott as an underdog and am sort of happy he got this far in a country of voters who tend to judge mostly on looks. But he’s not relaxed. He’s not dynamic as a performer and doesn’t really deserve to win.
C. Crumpet Swank: Open Arms was a dud; Elliott looked and sounded stiff, as Simon pointed out. Elliott is a good singer, but hearing him sing this makes you realize that Steve Perry truly is a great singer. What You Won't Do for Love was perfect for Elliott and this was undoubtedly his strongest number of the night. He seemed totally relaxed and gave us some pretty smooth stuff. That could be a legitimate record on the radio. I Believe To My Soul Coolia, you're absolutely right, he needed to pick something that would resonate with the people--and he didn't. My God, this was, strategically, the single most important performance for him all season and he blew the opportunity. It's the last song people got to here before making their decision about whether or not to send him to the final and he had free reign to pick virtually anything, and this is what he chose? And then having made the choice, he sings it well, but not in a WOW way (unlike say, Trouble, last week). His bad song choice and capable, but not inspiring, collection of performances last night will send him packing. It's a shame, because a Taylor/Elliott showdown would have been a hell of a lot more interesting than a Taylor/Katharine finale.

Terry: Song 1 - I Believe I Can Fly by R. Kelly - Once again completely overdone, over the top and turned into a Broadway (or some such) showtune.
Song 2 - Somewhere Over The Rainbow" - I was actually dreading this thinking that she could crumble under the pressure. My first thought as she began was "Uh, did Bo start an a capella thing that now won't end?", AND "there's that floor again...what is her affinity and comfort with the floor all about?"...but although she began a bit weak and uneven she quickly found her comfort and blew it out. One of the best performances of the season (not better than Chris' "Hemorrhage" or even his "Renegade", but one of the best). One thing that I think was made abundantly clear is that Clive Davis is rooting for Katherine. Of the remaining 3, he wants to work with HER, period!
Song 3 - "I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues" - Okay but a bit uneven...buuuuuut, a "fun" take on the "blues" didn't work for me.

Coolia: Not only does Clive want Kat to win, so does Simon. He obviously feels she is the only one of the three that he can market because she is already a neat package. Well, I hope he is wrong. I would rather see Elliott, advance but I think Kat will join Taylor in the final 2. Her first song was a mess to me - way too many runs, extremely self-indulgent. This type of singing is more "noise" to me than Chris' hard rock could ever be. She certainly redeemed herself with over the rainbow, although I think Kim Locke did a better job with it a few seasons ago. She is much more watchable and listenable when she tones it down a bit and tries a little subtlety. The 3rd song did not hold my attention at all. I didn't know the song, but I do know she's no Ella. She also broke one of my cardinal rules by mouthing off to the judges. Yes, she was right to correct Randy that the R. Kelly song was not her choice, but her general eye rolling expressions when the judges were criticizing her do not endear her to me, nor do they make her america's sweetheart, which is who she needs to be to win. And is Mr. McPhee on the same drugs as Paula?? Pull yourself together, man!
Art Haarper: First song - is it me or was that really bad? Second song - a great improvement over her first effort.
Barb: 2nd song - really good; 3rd song - dynamite!
Nerdia: I think Katharine botched the R. Kelly song. She should have stuck with the melody. She slam dunked Somewhere Over the Rainbow and did fine with the third song. But at the end of the day I don’t think her Daddy’s Girl shtick (sincere or not) deserves to be American Idol either. And so what that you slam dunked Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It’s a songbook primer. What little girl couldn’t sing it? Grow up and get some cajones.
C. Crumpet Swank: I Believe I Can Fly was a boring, melodramatic, blechhh. I'm no fan of this song to begin with--too schmaltzy by half--but then for her to "color it up" (as Paula used to say) so excessively seemed to me not creative, but merely desperate showboating. Over the Rainbow was delivered beautifully, but I still wasn't entirely convinced there was genuine emotion behind it. I was nearly convinced, and I guess that amount to progress as far as Katharine is concerned. Good lord, the girl has an amazing instrument in that voice--so why is she not wowing me? [I would still argue that the KT Tunstall song was Kat's best performance of the season.] And Coolia, are you ever right about Clive. I could see his beady eyes fairly vibrating with producer-lust at the thought of Cliving Katharine for the marketplace. Even though Davis is not an overly demonstrative man, there was something palpable there in terms of his excitement over Katharine compared to the other two singers. Simon's song choice was spot-on for her, and with Chris out of the competition I think Katharine is his preferred choice for the winner as well. The last song she sang was fun, but too "showy" for my tastes. It struck me as many of Katharine's performances do--like she was singing it within the context of a college musical; that is, she's not approaching a song as a song, but rather, singing it as a production number. This gives her work a kind of phony quality which is only further exacerbated by her lack of genuine emotional connection to the material week after week.
I will be very disappointed if she wins.

Taylor -
Terry: Song 1 - Dancing In The Dark by Bruce Springsteen - fit his vocals to near perfection and turned out to be an extremely good mimic. There was nothing original in this performance at all but an excellent copy of the original.
Song 2 - "You Are So Beautiful" by Joe Cocker - my first thought was "Uh oh!" because this is my favorite love song of all time. Now, I know you can not improve on perfection, so I immediately lowered my expectations and actually expected Taylor to do well, but he voice broke in the lower ranges a times and although he conveyed energy and attempted to show/express emotion I just didn't feel that deep sincere emotion that this song effuses. I was very disappointed. Very disappointed. Absolutely, PALED in comparison to the original by Joe Cocker.
Song 3 - "Try A Little Tenderness" by Otis Redding - another one where I thought "Uh oh" and this time simply because I was afraid that he would take a great song and make it a mockery....and he a degree. The original song is brilliant and I found Taylor's version lacking true soul...lot's of energy and face squinting but none of the original's honesty and true soul. It, too, paled in comparison.
Coolia: Taylor just makes me happy. I really have fun watching him. I know he's not the world's greatest singer and he doesnt have much range, but I would still love to see him in concert. In fact, I might even break my streak of never attending an American Idol tour this year just to see Taylor. I enjoyed the Bruce Springsteen song and thought he sang it with gusto. It was fun seeing him cast Paula in the Courtney Cox role. I thought "You are So Beautiful" was okay but not as good as Taylor's "Something" or "In the Ghetto." For one thing, he kept making faces like he was in pain. Barb and I were laughing hysterically at his faces, and that is not the reaction he was going for. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I watched it with my eyes closed. Anyway, I'm glad the judges praised the hell out of it as it will help Taylor sail through. The third song was a home run in my opinion - perfect song for him, soulful and energetic delivery, big finish. He has more charisma in his little toe than Elliott and Kat combined.
Art Haarper: Dancing in the Dark is a Bruce Springsteen classic? I thought it was Fred Astaire. 2nd song - I didn't dislike it. At least you could understand the words.
Barb: 1st song - he didn't sing it as good as Bruce; 2nd song - He looks like he has bad gas; 3rd song - He must have gotten into Paula's bottle.
Nerdia: Worst Springsteen song to pick. I think Clive did this to them on purpose. I couldn’t even focus on his blather about how great the lyrics were to these fluff pieces he assigned them. The faces during Beautiful were priceless. The last song was good enough for me. Taylor isn’t really as soul patrol as he thinks he is…or even as much as Elliott for that matter…but he definitely has more control over the stage. This is why he will win.
C. Crumpet Swank: Dancing in the Dark is such a piece of fluff for a Springsteen song; I always find it perverse that this is his highest charting song and his biggest hit of all time. It's so not representative of his overall sound and style. Given that there's not much depth or heft to this song, I thought that Taylor squeezed as much out of it as the song permitted. You Are So Beautiful Why the effusive praise from the judges? The vocal was solid, but unremarkable, and the faces he was making were absolutely ridiculous. Nerdia, John and I all burst out laughing on at least three separate occasions during his rendition. The inane, faux-soul grimaces really stripped the performance of any legitimacy for me. Taylor's usually very "real," so the facial tomfoolery was a decided turn-off for me. It was a rare phenomenon--to feel that there were phony moments in his performance. Try a Little Tenderness, while not among Taylor's three best of the season, was definitely his best of the night, and arguably the best of the evening's nine offerings. Once again, he seemed to inhabit fully the emotional terrain of the song. The dramatic, stuttered finale seemed a bit contrived, but it worked nevertheless. It's pretty clear that Clive can't wait to cut a record with Katharine regardless of whether she wins or not. You just know he's got Diane Warren on speed-dial and I'm sure he gave her a call after his meeting with Katharine--"Diane, listen, screw Toni and Celine--hand over your next masterpiece to my girl Kat! What? Hearts, Hugs and Hello? Wow--that sounds like a smash! Maybe we can do a narrative type video like they did in the 80s. We'll get William Conrad to play Kat's father. Oh, Conrad's dead?..."

Coolia: Bottom 2 - Elliott and Kat, with Elliott going home. I voted for Taylor 7 times and it took me about 20 mins to get through to vote that many times. Then as an experiment, I called Kat's and Elliott's lines twice and both times I got right through. That's just my sample - not quite up to dialidol standards, but it backs up my reasoning. Elliott and Taylor will draw from a similar voting pool as they are both guys, both soul singers - Taylor should win that battle. Kat should get through because she appeals to a completely different audience and I imagine she is big with the little girls who vote 500 times per night.
Art: Elliott goes home
Nerdia: Bottom 2: Elliott and Kat with Kat going home.
C. Crumpet Swank: The Bottom Two will be Elliott and Kat, with Elliott going home.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

MTV's Super Sweet 16 Turns Republicans Into Democrats

A historic moment happened this weekend during MTV's My Super Sweet 16 marathon. Ape Culture's conservative curmudgeonly correspondent, Art Haarper, who has not voted for a Democrat since the party nominated McGovern, watched a single episode and had an epiphany. Art, who receives Christmas cards from the Bushes and Ashcrofts in gratitude for his party contributions, could not believe that a California teen named Natalie was haranguing her parents into spending $200,000 on her Sweet 16 party. He watched in horror as Natalie purchased a $900 dress, got an $800 pedicure complete with diamonds on her toes, threw numerous hissy fits, and kicked freshman out of her soiree. At the conclusion of the show, an agitated Art insisted I change the channel. He declared, "That show is enough to turn me into a Democrat!" Yes, the show's espousal of conspicuous consumption was just too much for Art. He recognized parallels between the bacchanalia depicted on this show and the Roman Empire before the fall. Hilary, you just may have a new campaign volunteer.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

American Idol Shocker - Chris Daughtry Ejected!

Coolia: Well...not many of us saw this coming...particularly the dude who got voted off...he sure looked shocked, and so did Kat who looked defeated from the moment the show came on. She was sure she was going home, and so was I. I guess I should have paid attention to, they were spot on.

Nova: …and ultimately that's what did him in - the annoying comment about boxers or briefs, the sunglasses, the usual predictable already done rocker version of whatever the theme was. America does not like arrogance (i.e., Brenna Gethers) and Chris was developing it with every passing week. But still I was surprised....
Terry: That's it. I'm done. I will NEVER watch another second of American Idol EVER. Think I'm kidding? Try me. And for those of you who "think" (and I use that term lightly) that his confidence was arrogance, I feel sorry for your jaded outlook on life. The American IDIOTS vote off the best, most polished and current/relevant singer to hit Idol to date!? This is not only absurd, it is a travesty! I GUARANTEE you that he will be the first and only 4th place Idol to go on to out-sell the 3 above him COMBINED!! If I'm wrong I'll chew off my own arm. And, that won't be happening. I don't know what the hell is wrong with American and the American Idiots voting (or actually NOT voting) but I give you my solemn word that I am SO utterly disgusted that I will NEVER watch this f**king show EVER again. Yes, he was shocked. Not out of arrogance but out of confidence because he not only believed he performed better than at least some if not all of the others....he DID!!!!!!!!!!! First, Justin Guarini gets further than Tamyra Gray, then Ruben beat out Clay, and now the biggest injustice of all, Chris doesn't even make it to the finals!?...American Idol my ass! American bulls**t is more like it!
Coolia: I agree with Nova - he did seem cockier as the weeks wore on...and jaded is actually a good word for HIM, in my opinion, and does not necessarily apply to those of us who can understand why he was booted. The warmth and humor glimpsed in his interviews was never evident in his performances, and that's not just because he's a rocker - Bo came off a lot more personable. Was I sorry to see Chris go? Yes. I had hoped he'd make the final 2. I do think he's talented and I do think he will have a career. It remains to be seen if he will truly distinguish himself or just become another lead singer for bands like Creed, Shinedown, Staind, Nickleback, etc. These bands are a dime a dozen to me, and Chris' voice doesn’t seem to be on a whole other level from them - it seems to fit right in. And while that will garner him some airplay, it won't make him a voice for the ages.
Terry: Well, see, there ya go. This defines why we are in disagreement. I do NOT see (or hear) the lead singers of these bands as all sounding the same and being "a dime a dozen." This genre of music happens to be my particular favorite and I enjoy, appreciate and even savor their diversity, however subtle or extreme they may actually be. And, I can most certainly distinguish that diversity. And, I believe that Chris stands tall among them.
Nova: Oh, Terry, this is what makes the show fun. You never know who people vote for when no one else can see who they're dialing. (I voted for Elliott 5 times - and I know I have reasonably good musical taste) I loved the Chili Peppers version of "Higher Ground", Live's version of "Walk the Line", the later-released rockish-fun Elvis song A Little More Conversation, even Bryan Adams’ “Have you Ever Really Loved a Woman” (after all it was in the Johnny Depp movie that Selena was in) and I do think the throat singing was a problem - AND IT’S OK. They kicked off all the black people and I am still watching. If you do chew off your own arm, can you do it on live TV in a bubble full of water, with handcuffs? And can we start a pool to see if you can do it in under 10 minutes?
Linda: I have to say this. I am soooo disgusted with the American public right now. I can't say that I'm surprised, but I am just blown away by the results of last night's show. Chris has true talent. And a personality. His performances have been more consistent than Katharine or Elliott. He has strength. He has talent. He has looks. He has charisma. Katharine can't make those claims. Except for maybe looks. But those are contrived. This is WRONG WRONG WRONG. But fine. Chris will probably have a record deal on his own. He doesn't need to win Idol to be successful.
Nerdia: Maybe it’s a guy thing…John was visibly upset last night as well. But Chris will land on his feet. He’s a big cat. I don’t think Chris was as good as Bo (I say that and Bo has been annoying me lately with his ceaseless grin of late in interviews) – not as diverse and surprising. I like Chris but this is not the end of the world for me. I don’t think this is a strong Idol season overall. So what’s the point of getting emotionally involved?
Coolia: Other blogs are reporting that Extra tonight is featuring a “major band” that is going to offer Chris their lead singer job. The big cat may land on his feet sooner than we think.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

American Idol - Elvis Week

General Comments

Coolia: When a certain someone answered the door to welcome the Idols, my first thought was "What is Marilyn Manson doing at Graceland"? Then I realized it was just Priscilla gone goth. Is she still in mourning? I wish the show would have shown the Idols frolicking in the tv room, pool room, jungle room, etc., maybe even weeping in the meditation garden. They could have used the location more. My comments below, with the caveat that I am a big Elvis fan so might be judging harsher than most.
Nerdia: I also would have liked to have seen more Graceland and less of the weirdland that has become of Pricilla’s face: the stretched eyes, oddly large chin, and lips so altered it didn’t look like she could close them properly. And why didn’t we see any footage of Lisa Marie frolicking with Taylor? Is she now MountDisa sized?
Terry: Uh, was that Morticia Adams welcoming the Idol kids to Graceland? Wow! Seriously, Priscilla. No more cosmetic surgery, okay? You're verging on Michael Jackson/Joan Rivers territory.
Linda: Holy Oleo, Batman!! Can anyone say Joker? Priscilla scares me. Truly scares me. What happened to her face? Did she dip her face into a vat of liquid nitrogen? But I guess she's not in the competition, is she?
C. Crumpet Swank: She looks like she's wearing a kabuki mask! Why is she so pale? I think her former son-in-law got her hooked on his favorite bleaching creme. Or maybe vitiligo has suddenly become communicable and she caught it from him. And those lips--collagen gone awry. Why did she go to Meg Ryan's plastic surgeon? Doesn't she read US Weekly? Also, please pardon my tardy contribution to the forum. For the last few days I have been trapped in the Anaheim Convention Center ministering to several thousand out-of-shape Moms at the annual California P.T.A. Convention. I kept my eyes open for Cher, since I was recently informed by Nerdia that Cher has reputedly taken on elementary school fundraising as a hobby [I don't know where she finds the time!], but alas, I have no sighting to report. Perhaps she will turn up for the final fesitivities tomorrow. I'll keep you posted.

Taylor Hicks - "Jailhouse Rock" / "In the Ghetto"

Coolia: I knew Taylor would pick an Elvis song that would let him dance to the point where one thinks he is imitating Rumplestiltskin and trying to stamp himself into the ground. I agreed with Simon's assessment of this "Jailhouse Rock" performance as karaoke. While he gave a fun and energetic performance, he didn't put his own spin on the song. He displayed confidence and an Elvis-like swagger but it takes more than that at this point in the competition. However, he completely redeemed himself by doing "In the Ghetto", my 2nd favorite Elvis song, and once again conveying genuine emotion and connecting with the material. I found myself hanging on every lyric and hated when the song ended prematurely due to Idol time constraints, even though I know how it comes out (badly...and his mama cries!). I think Taylor has the least pure vocal talent of the 4 remaining finalists but he can still sing and he has the most personality, and I think that's enough for him to sail through to next week and probably the finals. As for appearance, the first suit was a little shiny for my taste, but the leather jacket looked smart and evoked Elvis' 68 Comeback Special. If anyone could have pulled off a white jumpsuit, it would have been Taylor, but it's probably good he restrained himself for once. Other songs Taylor could have sung: "Suspicious Minds", "Wonder of You", "Burning Love," "Viva Las Vegas", "Polk Salad Annie," "See See Rider".
Art Haarper: What's this going to be - an hour of Elvis impersonators?
Nerdia: I actually enjoyed both Taylor performances but didn’t think either one was remarkable. Jailhouse Rock is fun for him but not all that challenging. I love In the Ghetto but I missed the haunting ethereal chorus and the more dramatic meaningful verses at the end. However, I did thing the slightly more uptempo arrangement which helped Taylor “make it his own” without robbing the emotion out of the song.
Terry: "Jailhouse Rock" was full of energy and was visually very entertaining, but the singing was not up to snuff. Better than average, I'll give him that, but nothing to remember. And, certainly nowhere near as good as the original. "In the Ghetto" (my favorite Elvis song) was very, very good, buuuuuut once again no where near as good as the original. I think he tried to be sincere and conveyed emotion but he just didn't have the pain in there that Elvis added/included in his version. You may disagree with me, and if you do I strongly suggest you go back and listen to Taylor's version and then Elvis'. I think you'll come around immediately.
Linda: Jailhouse Rock - The usual rock/spaz/roll Taylor gig. Not bad. Plenty of energy. Fun. Didn't seem like much of a challenge for him. I think it's always hard to be the first one out of the chute. In the Ghetto - I realize that the Three Musketeers thought it was a great performance, but I didn't think his voice had much depth. I think this is a subjective issue, but his voice just doesn't appeal to me - the timbre is off. He's just not my cup of tea. Although he seems like a great guy.
C. Crumpet Swank: Coolia, I totally agree with you and Simon. Taylor's Jailhouse was totally karaoke. He came across like "the drunk uncle at the wedding who can sing" as Simon has so expertly put it time and again. I don't mind Taylor being spastic--indeed, I often quite enjoy
it--but context factors into my appreciation of it. It works best when there is some irony at play--like in his rendition of Play That Funky Music, White Boy. In a situation like that it is as if Taylor's in on the joke. His Jailhouse just seemed pure cornball/cliche and the song came across like a novelty number (which it is, come to think of it). How else can I frame my reaction? As much as I genuinely revere Mickey by Toni Basil, I don't think it's an appropriate choice for an American Idol contestant in competition. So too, Jailhouse Rock. In the Ghetto I don't know, but I thought Taylor was just wonderful. It was extremely moving and sung well. That is the Taylor I admire. I think one could easily argue that Taylor connects emotionally to the songs with more convinction and honesty than any other contestant in all five seasons. It is that quality which is at the heart of his appeal. The same quality he so gorgeously projected during In the Ghetto.

Chris Daughtry - "Suspicious Minds" / "A Little Less Conversation"

Coolia: I only half-watched Chris' "Suspicious Minds", because I was cooking, and also because I was pissed off that Taylor wasn't doing my favorite Elvis song. Chris must have had the first pick - that's the only explanation. Chris looked like a thug but delivered a capable vocal. I can't say he made it his own but that was actually a relief - thankfully he didn't sludge-rock-ify this anthem. For his second song, Chris picks an Elvis song that topped the charts for Elvis a few years back thanks to the JXL remix. Yes, Elvis has had hits after dying - just like Tupac! Chris did a good job with this one, and he showed a more playful side (plus his nipples, clearly visible through that filmy shirt). He exhibited some personality and a bit of joie de vivre. I liked how he rocked out on the ending, thereby reminding us he's still the dude with the barbaric yawp. Another song that would have been good for Chris - "Kentucky Rain".
Art Haarper: Get the hook.
Nerdia: I thought Suspicious Minds was passable but completely uninteresting. The glasses were cool, though. I really enjoyed his version of A Little Less Conversation and thought, for once, the band got it right. I guess the basic quality tapping of tivo robbed me of nipplish-detail. Damn that Tivo!
Terry: "Suspicious Minds" (my 2nd favorite Elvis song...tied with "Always On My Mind") - seeing as how Elvis KNEW he was a cad (a sex addict and complete screw up with his relationship with Priscilla) and sang this song with such conviction there's no way anyone could ever match the original. But, Chris' version was still very good. I dug it. Another strong, if not great, vocal performance. "Satisfy Me' started off a bit too mellow and verged on boring (and I can NOT believe I'm saying that) but boy oh boy did he kick it up, turned it up and blew it out at the end. I stand by my prediction of the final 2 being Chris v Taylor.
Linda: Suspicious Minds - This wasn't ever one of my favorite Elvis songs. So I wasn't sure how I'd like the Chris version. But he sold it. I would have enjoyed his performance sans sunglasses, but I liked the overall style - and the swirly sideburns are hot!! A Little Less Conversation - Not as strong, but I liked his gritty presentation. He just can't help falling into his thrash/rock/hard core. This isthe song that the TV show "Las Vegas" uses as its intro, so I'm a bit partial to the song itself. Rock on.
C. Crumpet Swank: I enjoyed Suspicious Minds immensely. I liked his laid-back treatment of it. The vocal was very good and the delivery wasn't the usual angst-fest. I liked the glasses. Chris is a cool cat and I thought it worked well. [Remember how the shades didn't work for Bo?]. He also did quite well with A Little Less Conversation, but it wasn't a sturdy selection, because it's a kind of damned-if you-do/damned-if-you-don't proposition as a song choice for this show.
Let me elaborate. The verses are, of course, really hard to sing because of their fluid density and pace. To succeed with them you have to deliver in a rapid-fire, virtually mono-chromatic tone. If you pull it off, it means you're very deft, but it doesn't really give you much of a chance to show off your range. Randy kind of pointed to this, but didn't realize that it was something Chris didn't have much control over if he was to sing the song properly--which Chris understood (he tried to explained to Randy that that was the way the song demanded to be sung, but I'm not sure Randy ever "got it"). Simon seemed to understand the dilemma, and was on target in saying that singing the song correctly almost had the effect of divorcing an identifiable Chris from the performance--which is not a good thing, particularly this late in the competition. Nevertheless, I agree with Coolia--it was exciting to see him change it up at the end, and invest the roaring Daughtry rocker-vibe into the material when the song finally permitted him to do so. The net result was a genuine hybrid of Elvis and Daughtry. It must be said, too, however, that this song's maddeningly catchy structure ends up making it feel a little bit like a novelty song. It's quite a little ditty--sexy, fun, melodious, get-up-on-the-dance-floor infectious--but I think at this late stage in the game, contestants need to pick songs that pack an emotional wallop. This is not one of them. For me the real plus of the performance was that it was refreshing to see him sing something fun for once. That meant a lot to me. I think Elliott was the best of the evening, but that Chris was probably the next best. And Nerdia, I hope you've learned your lesson about that terrible low-grade Tivo mode. Chris's nipples were soooo luscious through the filmy sheerness of his shirt.

Elliott Yamin - "If I Can Dream" / "Trouble"

Coolia: OK, I had been slightly warming up to Elliott, but he totally lost me tonight. First, he picks an Elvis song I've never heard of - which is not an easy feat. He does nothing to make me interested in the song, although his voice sounds pleasant. Pleasant isn't enough for Top 4. Then he does my 6th favorite Elvis song and screws it up almost as badly as Carrie Underwood screwed it up last year. Elliott is such a nice guy that he can't convey an iota of menace, which is what this song requires. Yes, it's playful menace - but it's menace all the same. And he was kinda smiling through lyrics like "Because I'm evil, my middle name is misery." You've got to put some theatrics into this song and he had none. I implore you all to rent the DVD of Elvis' 68 Comeback Special and watch Elvis glower and curl his lip through this song. Another song Elliott could have done - "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"
Art Haarper: Better than his usual.
Nerdia: I made the mistake of opening my eyes while listening to Elliott this week. The judges love him so much that I can only conclude that he loses something in the translation of television. Maybe he can be heard better from a live audience. It seems like the band is always drowning him out. I just can’t get enthused about his performances. I knew there’s be in trouble with Coolia the minute he announced he’d be doing that song. So who mucked it up worse: Elliott or Carrie Underwood?
Terry: "If I Could Dream" was a pretty good attempt but I still do not at all comprehend the accolades the judges heap on this guy. His vocals are just okay. "Okay," NOT great. He did a nice just but there was nothing great or compelling about it. "Trouble" was much much, much better. He was on fire with this one. His best performance to date. He is definitely giving Katherine a run for her money for that final spot in the final 3....and I think he just saved himself that spot.
Linda: If I Can Dream - Huh? The beginning was shaky. Don't care what anyone says. But!! He got better at the end. Brought it home. Elliott's confidence needs some work - his presence builds throughout the performance. I think he connects well with his song - especially after he relaxes. I don't know that he's Idol material, though, unfortunately. He's not consistent. Trouble - YEAH BABY!!! Of course, it's hard to seriously believe that this guy is "trouble," but the performance was amazing!! His voice was strong, he looked like he was really into it and I enjoyed it totally.
C. Crumpet Swank: I thought he sang the first song well, but he didn't wow me. But I thought Trouble was spectacular! He sang it with real charisma, emotion, freedom, technical virtuosity, playfulness, menace--he had it all going on. He finally made me think Damn! That was something! And it just got better and better as the song went on. As the song built you could feel the confidence, swagger and joy coming through as he knew that he was nailing it. And it didn't register as arrogrance. Rather, it was just brio--satisfaction that on this night, when he was probably the most vulnerable contestant, he was really hitting a home run. I would have been hooting and hollering had I been in the audience. I think it was one of the best performances by anyone this season. The only ones that come to mind that impressed me as much are Chris's Walk the Line; Mandisa when she sang that jazzy song, first in the line-up, on Barry night; and Paris the night she conjured up Dinah Washington.

Katharine McPhee - "Hound Dog/All Shook Up" / "I Can't Help Falling in Love"

Coolia: I give Katharine some points for creativity for coming up with the mash-up of two 50s songs that I don't really like (I'm a vegas elvis fan). She gave an energetic and entertaining performance, if she did try a bit too hard at times to wow us with her vocal range. Don't worry, Kat, we know you can sing, and we'll never forget your mother was a vocal teacher. These are simple early rock songs not arias. I didn't notice she flubbed a lyric, but Randy was quick to point it out and that may cost her some votes. I predicted she would sing "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You", that old chestnut capably covered by my old crush Corey Hart in 1987 and rediscovered in 1993 thanks to a reggae-tinged cover by UB40. This is a beautiful song, but I'm tired of it. I think Katharine gave a strong if not particularly mind-blowing vocal, but I have to admit I was distracted by her outfit. The drab grey suit looked like a religious habit, and I was studying it to figure out if she was baring her stomach or wearing a flesh-colored top (it was the latter). Again I thought she was trying to hard and some desperation was creeping into the performance. Other songs for Katharine - "Let It Be Me", "Love Me Tender."
Art Haarper: Not as good as I thought she'd do on "I Can't Help Falling in Love". She shouldn't have double-clutched.
Nerdia: She was trying too hard this week. I almost mistook that for a personality.
Terry: "Hounddog/All Shook Up" (uh, sining the lyrics "itchin' like a girl on a fuzzy tree" while sliding her hands down her crotch was a brilliant, if not trampy, move to make a play for the male vote...especially horny teenage boys). The vocals were okay but nothing spectacular or even really good. I admired her attempt to meld the two songs to make something fresh/original, but this/these were a very bad song choice for her. This was more like a very good high school musical performance. "Can't Help Falling In Love With You" (another of my top 10 Elvis favs) began weak and off-key. This was a terrible arrangement. Just terrible. She took a very heartfelt and personal love song and made it a cheesy Broadway song. So over the top.
Linda: Hound Dog - Can't help thinking that a hound dog has more personality. OK - she had some fun. But her version of "fun" is still a bit like watching a cheerleader going through the motions. Give me an H! Give me a D! Give me a real person please. Can't Help Falling in Love - Channeling the younger Priscilla? The looks can't save her on this one. Geez, I just didn't feeeel the song. I just didn't buy the act. I just didn't...enjoy the performance. I understand that she's considered talented vocally, but the package isn't complete. I think there's a good chance that America fell out of love with her last night.
C. Crumpet Swank: Coolia, I too immediately thought of Corey Hart and how superior his gentle, synth-washed verson of Can't Help Falling in Love is. I don't think anyone is prepared to argue that Corey Hart has a better vocal instrument than Katharine, and yet, here we have it--his version of this song is far more touching, persuasive, and emotionally revealing. It goes to show that you can own a strad, but if you don't know how to play it with genuine emotion/connection, the quality of the instrument itself can become almost irrelevant. I felt that Simon was absolutely correct when he said that the number started out on the
right foot--sung, quietly, beautifully--but then just devolved into an overwrought mess. What a disappointment. And let's face it--Hound Dog/All Shook Up was the female equivalent of Taylor's Jailhouse Rock. And that is not a compliment. Dare I say that dear, departed Kellie Pickler would have actually done a better job with this medley? She would have brought real sex appeal, a playful growl, some natural stage movement. Oh Terry, can't you just imagine Kellie looking at us through the lens and telling us we "ain't nothin' but hound dogs," as she swivelled her denim-clad hips across the catwalk? Woof! Woof! That's one cat this dog would definitely chase! [Also, note for Coolia--this medley wasn't a bonafide mash-up in that the two songs were the A and B sides of a double-sided single for Elvis--his first number one--so they are eternally linked anyway.]

Tommy Mottolla

Coolia: I liked that he made some constructive suggestions to the kids, like telling Taylor to sing in a different key. But he didn't impress me with his overall insights or assessments of the contestants. I think he'd love to get his hands on Katharine - in the studio, and elsewhere. She could be his next Mariah.
Nerdia: I thought Tommy came across as instructive and sincere. I generally liked his comments but couldn’t forget Mariah’s claims that she was trapped in his house during their marriage. And THAT scenario made me think of another great guest for American Idol: Phil Spector. The idols could visit him in jail!
C. Crumpet Swank: I thought he was sincere, but there's something a tad oily about him. He looks like a used car salesman from a David Lynch movie. Barry prevails as the Godsend of the season.


Coolia: Bottom 2 - Elliott and Katharine, with Katharine going home
Art Haarper: It seems like the judges want to send Katharine home, but I think she's going to win it all.
Nerdia: Bottom 2 – Katharine and Chris, with Katharine going home
Terry: Bottom 2 – Katharine and Elliott, with Katharine going home. Looks like Randy was right after all. One of the boys will win this thing this season.
Linda: Bottom 2 – Katharine and Taylor, with Katharine going home
C. Crumpet Swank: Elliott and Katharine, with Katharine going home.

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Week of Genre Movies

I love genre films: horror movies and westerns particularly. They work like good formal poetry – creators have to fit their story into an established set of rules. It’s always interesting to see how they will do it: will they play nice and boring or will they stretch the box?

It seems Oh-So-Hard to stretch this genre (which is why so many horror movies have moved into either the meta mode or remakes of old classics). Also, as they say…you can scare some of the people some of the time…but you can’t scare all of the people all of the time. I think the corpse of Abe Lincoln said that. Anyway, our fears are so subjective. This makes the form all the more difficult.

Silent Hill
Movies based on video games, like lovers who come together during traumatic accidents, never work out. At least, nobody’s gotten it right yet. Yes, the atmosphere is all fleshed-out in advance. You’d think half the work was done for the scriptwriter. Well, there’s always that bit about a linear plot. Something antithetical to video games and their endless outcomes. But I know how it is…a writer plays an evocative game with its enticing props and backdrops. The game evokes a strong desire to inhabit the world with a story. Writers just can’t resist; they try to graft a plot onto the set. In Silent Hill, the setting is awesome, the monsters are scary and novel; but the three heroes are flat as pancakes. The husband (Sean Bean) is a competent but wasted character with his impotent but yearning attempts to find his wife, who has gotten herself senselessly trapped in the abandoned, mine-burning town of Silent Hill. The wife is an annoying idiot who would be dead two-times over were it not for the one interesting character, a fierce take-no-prisoners policewoman (Kim Coates). Even after many miles of explanation on the backstory behind the town, you find the plot is a complete mess and the rules of this world are too murky for your patience. The underlying critique of religion (and hey, I’m no fan of the zealotry described here) is heavy-handed and visually preachy. One good thing, as one would expect, the monster scenes are computer-enhanced, par excellence scariness. But if it’s even a few good scenes of horror you crave: get your Netflix copy and fast forward directly to them.

American Haunting
I enjoyed this ghost story much better that the aforementioned. But then I’m just your old-fashioned haunted house kinda gal. However, the characters were cut too short. The dialogue was passable (read not ridiculous) but the movie tried to hard to be a period piece (over-abundance of retro props). The cast is of note: Donald Sutherland (great performance; we’re lucky to have him visiting our genre) and Sissy Spacek (same ole, same ole ineffectual whining). But the ending doesn’t work (a surprise that doesn't quite gell). And attempts to force the narrative into the future were jarring and disruptive. Okay, the movie wasn’t perfect; but it has suburb timing – something horror movies have gotten too lazy with, IMHO. I haven’t jumped at a scary movie in years and years. Maybe I’m becoming a nervous Nellie these days, but I jumped about five or six times, which is worth the admission price for me.

The Western
The rules of a western are somewhat looser, the genre a lot less dependent on gripping the sub-consciousness of an audience. They’re less gut-oriented and more cerebral. Although marginalized as well, westerns are much more highly regarded in the cinematic cannon.

The Proposition is definitely an A in its genre. Great script by Nick Cave. Great cast (flawless performances by Danny Houston, Guy Pierce, Emily Watson, Ray Winstone, John Hurt), well-written dialogue (not too much; not too little). Subtly heartbreaking story of well-defined characters who struggle each in their own way. From the first scene, two characters are set as opposing in the main conflict of the film. You come to empathize with both. This may be a boring review but what else can I say but Go see it!

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