Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Song For Him

Wow. I'm going to forego any setup and just jump right in here tonight. Love songs was the order of business. I'll admit, my ambivalent nature was really looking forward to this night. On the one hand, as I've admitted, I'm a hopeless romantic. I had a sneaking suspicion that my romantic, sleeper pick of Elliott Yamin was going to shake off the last hints of Cinderellaish, desperado singer-boy and finally, completely step up and settle into his potential position of frontrunner.

On the other hand, my snarky, disaster-loving bitch side was hoping for a bit of a train wreck to occur when an onslaught of corny, too-big songs were going to be tackled by some of the others in this group.

Oh man. I wasn't disappointed -- on either count.

What a night.

"Love Songs" is a really vague kind of category, but I figured some people would get all overwrought with the shit, especially when you've got the kings of overwrought, Andrea Bocelli and David Foster, as their coaches for the week. I give Bocelli a free pass on being cheesy and overstated, for a couple of reasons. First, he sings both classical and pop, and opera requires a certain panache for over-the-top theatrics. However, what really rocketed Bocelli to fame was his pop songs, but even his pop songs are big, grand, showy pieces where if you bother to translate the lyrics into English, they'd come off as more corny than Iowa in July. But they aren't sung in English, and even though I understand the meaning, it sort of just works in Italian. Italians are grand and showy and passionate and quite serious, in a very not serious way, about love. So it works with that old-world charm.

I guess I also have to give Bocelli a free pass as a vocal coach, because I didn't notice that he did too much with the kids. Foster did most of the heavy lifting, while Bocelli seemed content to sit back and bask in his own wonderfulness and toss out a comment here or there. However, even though he's blind, he still showed the unmistakable guinea charm and ability to light it up around pretty girls. He did a duet with Katharine and then correctly pegged Kellie as a blonde and was disturbingly enchanted with her. The fucking skeevy indignity of that, you know? I was really hoping that being blind and all would make him immune to her idiotic allure, but it didn't.

Also on the downside in that area, I know a lot of people were questioning whether Bocelli even spoke English or if they'd need a translator. Me? I knew he spoke English, but I was still thinking a translator might be necessary in Kellie's case. Not to translate from Italian to English, but to translate between English and dumb-fuckese. But alas, her pheromones are strong juju, and he communicated with her just fine. Whatever. He also liked Paris. He didn't really like any of the guys. Which is pretty ironic (yes, really, it's ironic!) because the show ended up shaking out exactly opposite of the practices.

Anyhow. Hopeless romantic with an appalling affinity for Italian love songs I may be, but I'm also a Jersey girl, and it was on the cusp of my adolescence that Bon Jovi took over and utterly rocked my world. So to me, American love songs in the form of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion (and David Foster) are the ultimate in schmaltz. So I'm gonna break this show's winners and losers down Jersey-style in the love-gone-wrong arena rock anthem of my youth:

"Shot through the heart and you're to blame, darling
You Give Love A Bad Name."

Kellie Pickler. Kellie, Kellie. I just might get my dream eviction this week in the form of Kellie Pickler. This is three really awful performances in a row from her this week, and sure, sure, even Simon tore into her. She looked utterly plain and forgettable, except for her vaguely weird hairstyle. Worse, she picked what is notoriously known as Simon's favorite song, "Unchained Melody," and she proceeded to unchain it alright. She unchained it, whipped it, and then kicked the everloving shit out of it while it was down.

Even worse for her though wasn't the way Simon ripped it up. Believe it or not, it's been noted by statisticians that the most important judge on the show is actually -- wait for it -- seriously, wait for it, cause you're going to say I'm tripping -- Paula. I know, you think that's nuts. But consider it. Paula gives hearts and flowers to everything. When Paula does not give hearts and flowers to a performance, it's devastating. And almost always, when Paula does not give hearts and flowers, the audience follows Paula's lead and doesn't vote for that contestant. Paula, this week, did not have kind things to say to Kellie. I love Paula!

Guess who else Paula didn't give any love to? Katharine. Katharine is also in peril this week. It's a shame, really. She pulled out all the stops. And by stops, of course, I mean her tits. She was showing nearly as much boob as Paula was last week. Seacrest remarked on this by saying, "Well, if people had the volume on their TVs off, they'll still vote for you." Really. He said something along those lines. I thought Seacrest's role this season was to staunchly defend the contestants, but apparently the producers are REALLY willing to sacrifice Katharine or Kellie to the "shock elimination" cause this year with him commenting on her performance in that manner. Plus, they put her first in the lineup. What'd she sing? Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing." It wasn't very good at all, that's true. But it wasn't as appalling as everyone made it out to be. At least, the vocals weren't utterly terrible. But the struggling she did with it was on top of her smitten attitude with herself which has become too much. She, I think, will also be in the bottom three.

Unfortunately, Paris also chose a song that was too big for her in "The Way We Were." Paris is enigmatic. She's smug alright, but I hesitate to rip into her too harshly, because I'm not fully convinced that she's a fame-whore who's there of her own accord. I think her family is a gang of fame-whores who want her to be there, and that's hard to escape. I'd like to like Paris, and she shows talent. But she just doesn't bring it often enough. The band did her no favors with the gaudy arrangement on the song. Again, with this song, she kept it in such an annoying low key and though her face and hair were pretty, she just seems freakishly old. And I don't mean mature. I mean old. And smug. I'd prefer that Kellie goes before her, but I think Paris punched her trip ticket last night by busting out the classic Babs.

So, the girls sucked. It should've been a boys' night out, huh?

Too bad Taylor sucked the pipe, too. He was great in rehearsal, singing the lame-ass "Just Once," and I don't know what the hell happened when he stepped on that stage. The reason I tolerate, and actually like Taylor is because I don't get the sense that he's on there fame-whoring like most people. I get the feeling he's on there because he loves to perform. And he's good at it. But last night, for lack of a better word -- he choked. I mean, he choked in such a graphic way it was like Chuck Palahniuk had written it. (again, excuse the arcane, writerly reference.) Taylor's got those goddamn bedroom eyes when he's onstage that kind of almost sparkle. But last night, his voice was off for the first line, and he just never recovered from that. He fought for it, but it just didn't work and the whole performance got away from him vocally and stylistically. If he was anyone but Taylor, he might be in trouble this week. But, joy for him, he is Taylor, and he'll be safe. Especially because he didn't suck it out nearly as bad as Katharine or Kellie. And we ALL want Taylor to stick around for Elvis week.

That brings us to this:

I'm asking you -- does that look like someone who's giving a "sexy" performance as Simon claimed it was? Didn't think so. I get some people writing me letters and asking me if I'm serious about my hatred for Chris. I tell them, "Yes." Invariably, they ask, "Why?" I'd like to say, go back and re-read my posts, I think I've elaborated pretty well. But I know they won't. So I give them the short answer. Chris, I do think he's a fame-whore. I think he's an egg-headed, over-pimped, crappy song liking, self-serious, wallet chain wearing, eyebrow groomed, over-butch, shaky vibrato voiced, fucking fame whore. Does that cover it? I'm quite certain that Chris is a wonderful human being. But I also know he put himself out there on a national television show expecting adulation. He doesn't have mine. I don’t hate him as a person. I don't know him. But I do think he's more suited to gay porn than to singing love songs. And I don't like the character he plays on TV. I will not drink the Chris Kool-Aid.

The producers want to keep him around, because I think they're seriously eyeing the all male final three, so they put him last and he hid his wallet chain to look more romantic and sang a song I've never heard, I think he said it was "Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman." [small tangent -- you want hypocrisy? I took fucking NOTES is why I know that. I'm ripping Chris to shreds but I'm sitting and taking NOTES on the shit so I can blabblab about it. I'm grotesque! /end tangent] He, like Paris, suffered from a gaudy song arrangement with not one but two guitars onstage flanking him and it didn't do him any favors. Back when I thought Chris was hot, I didn't notice the vibrato in his voice, or maybe it's these slower songs that's making it more evident, but lately it sounds like he's singing while sitting on a jackhammer. (And yes, I did use that metaphor specifically to bring about a gay porn visual. It works with him, doesn’t it? Admit it.)

So. That's four bona-fide losers for the night. (only four because the judges liked Chris.) That leaves one other person. Guess who.


Listen, don't EVEN think I'm saying this because he's my favorite. You KNOW he proved it (again) tonight. He did Donny Hathaway's "A Song For You" and he was incredible. Paula -- she cried! Okay. Look, Simon laughed at her crying, and I guess I giggled at it, too. But what the fuck. Paula's drunk and deranged and if she wants to be so moved that she cries, I don't have a problem with it. It's cute. Besides, I already told you, tonight, I love Paula! So leave her alone.

These days, people are trying to their damnedest to pimp Elliott in every way imaginable, including flinging around his backstory and telling us all the things he's had to overcome. You know what he had to overcome last night? The fucking BAND. Just like Paris and Chris, except Elliott was successful and somehow rose above them.

Here's a story from Sinatra's heyday. He was performing with Tommy Dorsey's orchestra and one night as he was signing, legendary drummer Buddy Rich just started going off and basically taking a drum solo. Sinatra finished the song the best he could, but then he walked to the back of the orchestra and punched Rich in the face and knocked him off the rise and the bandstand. Granted, Sinatra wasn't a cup of tea. But Rich deserved it. This season, someone really needs to go over and punch Ricky Minor in the face and pull that fucking American Idol band back in line. They have been awful all year and it's sad that they've destroyed so many songs. I never mentioned it last week, because I had it in for Ace (and for Pickler), but they were half the reason Ace mangled his song. And Pickler? THEY were the ones who caused her to lose her place and get tangled up. I laughed. But still. This shit needs to be handled.
[end digression]

So, try as they might, the band wasn't able to swallow up Elliott on this song. Possibly because he knows it so well, but also possibly for the same reason they haven't been able to overwhelm him yet this season -- because he adjusts and has the musicianship to go with it. Elliott's not a belter, and I don't know if a lot of people react to singers on this show if they don't scream. People equate loud with being good. But that's just not Elliott's gig, and he picks the perfect songs to showcase how he actually sings instead of shouts. And this song, for him, was perfect. It's sweet and soulful, but not overwrought. It's complex, but has a nice melody. (part of the lyrics are actually "Listen to the melody, cause my love is in there hiding" and damn right it is.) And Elliott just sang the everloving hell out of this song. Oh my. He sang the everloving love out of the song.

Don't believe me? Here's Rickey.org for mp3

Elliott, he's always brought the voice. But this week, the whole rest of everything else clicked and fell into place for him. I knew it. I knew it, I could see it turning last week. Last week he was so good on "It Had to Be You" and his performance was so close to being "there". And this week, it was "there". It was just effortless. It was unnoticeable, because his singing swallowed up everything else. There were no nerves, there was no hint of over-thinking. He just was. He inhabited the stage and the song like he completely belonged there.

Chris has been the front-running fame-whore who was massively pimped. And Taylor is the break-out bona-fide performer who amassed an immediate fan base. Elliott is the pure singer of the bunch, but that still kept him relegated to underdog status. People had excuses and complaints and took exception to things about him, but last night, the last of those niggling little problems just fell away. Last night, Elliott stopped being an underdog and became a contender.

Elliott's worked and earned every bit of this success. And last night, finally, all the work of the stylists and coaches and judges and his family and voters (you know, the fairy godmothers), all that fell into place and this Cinderella arrived at the ball.


Suki said...

Hi Susan, well what can I say. I thought it was impossible that I could love my Elliott any more than I already did, but ... say no more. It's 7.50am London time. I have been up since 4.45am searching for Elliotts performance - I found it and Niagra falls, so here I am puffy eyes, tired, feeling at peace with everything and everybody - nobody can upset me today, my team at work can have long lunch breaks, long phone calls, who cares, it's a beautiful world.

Ellen said...

Man, you have this showed nailed, don't you? In yesterday's comments you said that they would go for the shock elimination in last night's show, and that's exactly what they did. No way Katherine deserved the skewering they gave her. I think they had made plans to blast her before she stepped foot on stage. Perhaps they had planned to blast Kellie as well. Difference is that Kellie deserved it.

Also, why don't the judges notice that Paris always sings in a lower key than her voice can handle? I had a singer friend who did that a lot, because she was paranoid about hitting the high notes. But it's a mistake, and Paris makes it every week.

I have to disagree about Taylor. I think he started off shaky but DID pull it off at the end. I felt it. Truly.

Chris was embarrassing. Elliott was amazing. And that's the end of my analysis.

I think the voting could shake out any which way tonight, as voters scramble to save their favorites. No one is safe.

Myfanwy Collins said...

Susan, I'm not sure what I look more forward to each week--actually watching AI or reading your commentary. Well, actually, I do know--it's reading your commentary. You're the best.

I think Katherine's stylist is sabbotaging her as well--that dress was horrible and her hair was a mess. And Kellie! My god! WHAT the hell was her hair? Do these people have no one being honest with them about their appearance?

David Foster was so bitchy--I loved it!

Can't wait to see what's going to happen tonight (and then coming here tomorrow morning!). :)

alisoneliz said...

Elliott. I am speechless.

mike said...

Love your analysis of AI, but I especially loved the Sinatra story. Only an Italian girl from Jersey could tell that one.

No comment on the clown tie Elliot wore?

SusanD said...

Suki, Alison -- it was a moment, wasn't it? He's so cool.

Ellen -- ay yi yi, Paris and that low register annoys me no end. But seriously -- I don't think there's anything to fear about Taylor. He's not going anywhere. And I think they ripped Katharine a bit too hard last night, but it had a purpose. I think next week they'll damn her with faint praise (that's the classic one-two punch they use. Reference the Kevin and Ace evictions) and then she'll be in big trouble.

Myfanwy -- Katharine may well go down in AI history as the worst-dressed female ever. For as pretty as she is, she works awful hard to make herself look crappy. Foster WAS delightfully bitchy. I think he's still sour about his failed reality show.

Mike -- thanks for stopping in :) That is a good Frank S story, isn't it? Maybe I can work in the infamous "Bruce Springsteen trying to meet Elvis" story in the upcoming weeks. Oh! Maybe for Elvis week! But. Ahem. Clown tie? I'm biased, obviously. But I thought he looked great! Very swank and cool. I didn't have an issue with the fat tie.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

I admit it, he finally own me. Elliott that is. He's now my #1 choice. I liked Katherine's voice, but I confess, she'll find her way to fame someway because you're right, that's what she wants most. Did you see the murderous look in her eye when she got her first bit of bad criticism in weeks? OOH!

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

I mean "won" me...but "own" me might work just as well :)

Ellen said...

Susan, I'll let you off on the clown tie bit, but I'm still surprised you didn't mention the fact that THEY MADE CHRIS LAY DOWN ON THE FLOOR AND SING. I mean c'mon. Did they make him their bitch or what?

SusanD said...

Jordan -- YES. When Katharine has to endure the indignity of results night, she gets that nasty look and it rose up again last night at the comments. It amuses me. I'm so glad Elliott won you over!! He's so cool.

Ellen -- I'm still appalled with myself, too. I struggled so hard with that scene and couldn't come up with ANYTHING even remotely funny. You know how frustrating that is? To see something with potentially a hundred jokes that are tailor made just for ME and I choke and couldn't pull a single one out of it. Gah. But I LOVED that scene. I was dying over it. And you KNOW they did it to fuck with him. It had nothing to do with diaphram at all. Foster was just totally fucking with him.

laclos said...

Susan, you have the funniest blog on the net. I love reading your opinions of AI, maybe because you're totally dead on, but mostly because you're hilarious. Thanks for another great read.

Anonymous said...

What a great read that is!
Elliott, well, he is just amazing!

SusanD said...

Laclos, anon -- thanks so much for stopping by! I appreciate the kindness :)

laura petrie said...

As always, a stellar, spot-on commendary on the madness of AI. I'm still laughing -- in horror -- at that photo of Chris being "sexytender". And I'm still not convinced that the wallet chain wasn't part of the wardrobe last night, but thankful that I didn't have to look at it.

SusanD said...

Thanks Laura Petrie :) The Wallet Chain. I missed it! WTF? He actually did something DIFFERENT. I still give him no credit for that. It'll be back tonight

meep said...

So coincidental, as opposed to ironic, that you mention both,

a. my secret fantasy, that now seems more and more "doable": A top three all-male review (I dare not say how much I want Elliott to take me...I mean..IT ALL.)

and 2. :) Chuck Palahniuk's Choke, the book I'll be finishing tonight after watching poor Paris get the pointy boot.

(TWoP led me here, and I shall never leave.)

SusanD said...

meep -- thanks so much for stopping by :) Choke -- one of my all-time favorite books. It made me laugh so hard in some parts I had to put it down and walk away. Enjoy!

Jim said...


Haha I thought I was the only laughing at the faces Chris was making during his 'sexy' performance.

The best part, I'm pretty sure he was singing the words "try a little tenderness" in that pic.

SusanD said...

Right on, Jim. Ha ha. Seriously. I am so amped to hear him have to sing that Tamyra Gray song it's ridiculous.

Sheila said...

I have found my soul-blog...you are to die for and you appreciate Elliot. WHo cannot see this guy's talent, I ask you...

SusanD said...

Hi Sheila,

Thanks so much, glad you're enjoying it. Elliott makes it easy to write about him.