Wednesday, April 06, 2005

That was the sound of music?

Well, at least it was sound.

I have to confess. Last night was one in which American Idol was just one of many sounds in a mass of conflict. It's difficult to watch, listen, take notes and try to form a semi-literate entry while, at the same time, cursing the day I decided to marry, regretting the day I chose my career path and wondering if the day I was born was indeed a blessing.

Whew. But as the dust settled and, indeed, the sun did come up again, albeit earlier than it did on the east coast, it was time to rewind the archaic VHS tape and watch my favorite show undisturbed.

Problem is, now I'm more disturbed than I was.

Disaster doesn't quite fit, does it?

I still question the wisdom of selecting Broadway musicals as a theme, considering the term "Broadway" has been used pejoratively over the last three seasons. But some of the most beautiful of music has come from these musicals, so the challenge was, indeed, challenging.

With a few exceptions, the performances were disappointing to put it lightly. It became apparent with Scott's opening The Impossible Dream, that the kids really were unacquainted with these songs, their contexts, and the musical from which they came. Even Vonzell admitted that she had just learned People, from Funny Girl, one of the most well-known musicals of the last fifty years, if not from Broadway, then from the movie adaptation.

Most of the kids seem to have just memorized the melody and the lyrics (and even though those were messed up more than once) and decided that was enough effort. Most of these songs were phoned in, devoid of any understanding of the meaning of the message. That is unacceptable, as was this episode.

Scott skated through his opening performance, and tripped or fell on one or more jumps. This could have been the perfect saving vehicle for him. This is a song that should bring shivers to the spine and reduce people to chills and tears. He performed it with the same depth of emotion that most people sing Happy Birthday. On a positive note, he looked better than he has throughout the competition, and he appeared much more confident and comfortable on stage. But it wasn't enough to mask a poor vocal performance. Scott had better hope The Proud Underdawgs have strong dialing fingers and have remained faithful. Otherwise, he may find out how it feels to stand center stage on a Wednesday night.

My opinion of Constantine has not changed since last night. In fact, I am more convinced that this man has more vocal talent than I ever gave him credit for. And it was evident that he was one of the few who really understood his lyrics and presented them accordingly. I must admit, though, that I am starting to applaud the times he doesn't make goo-goo eyes at me through the camera. A little goo-goo goes a long way, Constantine. Remember, less is definitely more.

Good gracious, Carrie. You have the best technical ability of all of the women, and you chose this abomination of a song? It's a great song, within the context of the story, but as a stand-alone number, there's a reason people don't sing it. It's BORING. So no amount of technical ability is going to make it not boring, especially when executed by a vapid performer.

At the same time I'm crucifying Carrie for performing such a bizarre choice of song, I was disappointed that Vonzell, who is quickly becoming my favorite female, selected such an overused one. I was grateful she didn't try to flouish it, but I just wasn't as blown away by the performance as the judges seemed to be. I have to agree with Simon here; it left me cold. But I don't think that is as much a reflection on Vonzell as it was on my dislike of the song itself. (If she was going to pick from Funny Girl, why didn't she select My Man or I'm the Greatest Star? Both great songs, with considerably less mileage.)

Simon used the word hideous to describe Anthony's disaster of a performance. Somewhere Mary Martin is looking down and frowning. And messing with Mother Superior? Did he even understand the words to this song? Did he comprehend the meaning of this song? Did he mean to make my dog cry with that last note? Anthony, you better have some hearing-impaired faithful fans if you want to stay in the competition. You've already overstayed your welcome by one week.

I am not getting this adoration of Nikko. I really don't. Where in the world did he get the idea that West Side Story is filled with rhythm and blues? That might have been his poorest performance to date, filled with missed and cracked notes at the front end and crammed with too many flourishes and curlycues at the end to destroy any resemblence to the original. What Randy calls making it current, I call taking a walk to the seal.

Anwar is at least making a return to the man I fell for in the semi-finals. And, while he still seems to be struggling with the comfort of the stage, he did, for the first time in the finals, appear to be having a genuinely good time. But Anwar, I hope you took a good long look into a full-length mirror and realized you had enough layers to outfit a small middle school. And did you raid Constantine's scarf closet?

Bo admitted that he closed his eyes and pointed, and that was how he ended up in Pippin. It wasn't his best vocal performance, but because he is so inherently comfortable on the stage, and he makes us like him whether we want to or not, Bo has that unique ability to make even the mediocre sound great. Simon was right, though. He has had two letdown weeks. The thing is that Bo's letdown week could be anyone else's performance of the competition. He's in no danger of elimination, and he knows it.

Nadia went with one of my favorite songs, Nancy's heartbreaking As Long as He Needs Me, from Oliver. But again, like so many of the others, I doubt that Nadia truly understood the context of the song beyond the superficial lyrics. Nancy is heartbroken, but steadfast, as she sings this, so, while Nadia, despite cheating us at the end, was able to hit the right notes most of the time, she lacked the resolve and the pain that turns this from a song into a performance.

This was the first time Idol had ever sponsored Broadway as a theme night. Let's hope it is also the last. It might have served as a mini-lesson for the kids on the history of American musical theater, but must we watch as they learn? Needless to say, had this been my introduction to American Idol, I would opt for the Weather Channel.

Fantasia makes a return to the Idol stage tonight, performing her newest single Baby Mama, which is certain to please those who adamantly believed that, as an unwed teenaged mom, she was not fit to be an Idol. Perhaps we will be spared a group sing, considering the disasters we've heard the past few weeks.

But, if we are to have a group sing, might I suggest Oklahoma? Somehow I just see Bo and Carrie as Curly and Laurie. Nadia is the perfect Ado Annie. Anwar fits as Aunt Eller and no one would make a better Jud than Scott. On second thought, no. Poor Jud is daid, after all.

Never mind.

At this stage, with still so many kids left in the game, and fan groups still emerging and strengthening, it's always so hard to predict the bottom three. But, as usual, I'll try.

Should be bottom three: Anthony, Scott, Nikko.
Will be bottom three: Anthony, Nadia, Nikko.

Everyone, it seems, is predicting Scott to be in the bottom three, due to a poor Tuesday performance and the revelation of the arrest record, and, while I think he belongs there after two lesser performances, I don't think he will. If this were a competition where we voted people off the island, I would predict his probable ouster. But his fans have kept him in over both Nadia and Anwar in the past few weeks, so with adversity looming, I expect those fans to have dialed their hearts out, saving him from eviction.

Nadia seems to have lost most of what fan base she once had. She's the Jennifer Hudson of season four, so, despite one of the better performances, I don't expect her to get the enthusiastic support the others are getting.

Anthony simply cannot survive much longer. He is audibly the weakest of the remaining contestants, and, while he does enjoy the support of young women with strong fingers, even some of them cannot, in all honesty, want him to continue to be verbally flogged by Simon each week.

Tonight Anthony will be climbing mountains, fording streams and following rainbows till he ends his dream....


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Thanks Rob for the awesome image!