Tuesday, April 12, 2005

"Idol" Chatter

Well, I had hoped to write about "American Idol" a little sooner. But I spent a lot of time trying to find the missing pieces of "Free Bird" and "Bohemian Rhapsody."
All right, I was watching "The Amazing Race." But I still marveled -- yet again -- at the butchery inflicted on songs to make a bunch of them fit into an hour of "Idol."
And I'm just talking about the editing down of the songs, not the performances. This may be the last bastion of the old-fashioned single, 2 1/2 minutes and out, and anything much longer is going to get snipped or sped up. (Didn't "Free Bird" sound way too rushed? No? Take a minute. Get out a lighter, hold it up high. Hear Skynyrd in your head. See what I mean? Too fast.) And that leads to jumpy performances, since the songs' carefully designed (and well-known) structures go bye-bye just so the singers can get to the parts they hope will impress the voters.
Even then, the performances may not matter as much as the presentation. And this was another one of those weeks when it seemed that "Idol" was trying very hard to get the audience to lean certain ways.
Yes, it's time to start pushing the contestants' personalities, which this week included baby pictures. But it went beyond selling-all-the-product to singling out individuals. Scott got a big dose of love the week after landing in the bottom three; the praise included nods of approval from Hall & Oates themselves after he did their song "She's Gone."
Of course, I wouldn't expect H&O to sit in the audience for this show, soak up the rampant plugging of their music and then knock a performance. Especially not when H&O are showing enough wear and tear to make me think of Chris Elliott & Chico Marx.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The night's theme: songs from the year each contestant was born. No more of that Broadway stuff that so befuddled the singers a week ago. When you have a whole year of songs from all genres to choose from, you should be able to find something to knock out of the park.
Which made it even stranger that Nadia picked a little-known song (at least to the judges). If Scott was on the favored list this week, it's becoming all too clear that the show is trying to shove Nadia out the door. She was pretty good, not as good as some weeks, but still at the upper end of the field; instead, from the comments, you would think she was channeling the now-departed Mikalah.
I could rant on but let's go to my scorecard: Nadia and the Carrie tied for first; Constantine next; Anwar, Vonzell and Scott in a cluster; Bo-ring next to last and Anthony in last place.
Not the list I would have anticipated before the show aired. But, among other things, I didn't find Carrie's rock-chick makeover any less plausible than Constantine's evolution from rocker to whatever-makes-you-love-me guy.
Now we just have to prepare to endure an hour-long results show on Wednesday...

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