April 19, 2005

I hate disco!

Time for another grueling round of "American Idol." The theme is announced: “70s dance music.” It makes Constantine say: “Let’s boogie.” It makes Chris (here at home) say: “Why don’t they just say disco?” I say, “I think they are counting something beyond disco.” Seacrest gave Earth, Wind & Fire as a clue (along with Bee Gees and Donna Summer), so I think they can do disco or (let’s hope) funk.

Funk ≠ disco.

Constantine Maroulis: proving he’s into the whole cheesiness of Idol, he goes with the Bee Gees. “Nights On Broadway.” He’s gotten his hair streaked with blond, and I’m seeing eyeliner. He hams it up a lot. Paula: “Everything about you in the last few weeks is oh-my-God.” Simon: “Akin to a waiter in some ghastly Spanish restaurant.” In the Seacrest interview, we get a nice closeup. His hair is super-shiny, and there’s not just eyeliner, there’s golden eyeshadow. And it looks great!

Carrie Underwood: she’s doing “MacArthur Park.” Huh? You know, the Donna Summer one. She’s going for a Stevie Nicks look, but Stevie Nicks in 80s “Dynasty” makeup. She’d look better if someone left her out in the rain and let the sweet green icing flow down. The song ends with a long, dragged out “Oh, no” – like “ooooohhhhhh noooooo” – and that’s my thought exactly. Randy loves it. Paula (she’s cringing, but she’ll lie): “Wow on that last note, you held it out for the longest I think any Idol’s ever held a note.” Yikes! What passes for good. Simon comments on the look: “It’s like Barbie meets the Stepford Wives.” Nothing about the music.

Scott Savol: “Seventies ain’t my thing.” But he is dancing and moving about under a mirror ball. So there’s a fun side of Scott. Actually, it’s rather amusing. The song is “Everlasting Love.” Nice! They want him to leave though, so let’s see how they try to kill him. Randy: “just the right song… it was hot.” Paula uses her turn to harass Simon about how he probably never danced. Simon admits he’s never danced and Randy quotes the phrase “the dead don’t dance.” Simon’s looking for a theory why Scott has squeaked by thus far: “You are Ordinary Guy who is doing quite well” – basically karaoke. Scott aces the Seacrest interview, asking God to bless Simon and saying happy birthday to his mom. Why is that acing? Because it will bring in the votes he needs. Watch him avoid the bottom three this week. America will keep Ordinary Guy afloat.

Anthony Fedorov: boy, is he looking dewy fresh! He’s figured out what he has that the other guys lack: sheer youth. “Don’t Take Away the Music.” Ooh, I hate this song. Oh, but he’s ending well. Those high notes. Randy, Paula: they love it. Simon: “pleasant, safe, and a little insipid – so it’s sort of a compliment.”

Vonzell Solomon: doing Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman.” She’s got a cool 60s hairdo: the huge bump with a long fall. But you’re not supposed to remember the decades straight. It’s just some nostalgic old crap. I guess she’s good, but by now I’m in full “I hate disco” mode. Randy: “you worked it out.” Paula: “best performance so far tonight.” Simon: “one of the most difficult songs… your personality can carry a song like that.. and I think you did get away with that.” So they pretty much all said it was on the edge of a horror, but we love you anyway.

Anwar Robinson: “September” – Earth, Wind & Fire. Is this funk? Just seems like more disco. Arrrggghhh! That was painful. Randy: “great… good.” Paula: “awesome.” Simon: like a “seventies revue musical.” In the interview, he phonily claims he “just wanted to have fun tonight.” I’m predicting him as the loser.

They’ve saved Bo Bice for last. Clearly, they want to help him (after he landed in the bottom three last week). They already singled him out in the show’s intro. Don’t forget to help Bo! “Vehicle” is his song. Never heard of it. I tried to hide from disco. Everyone I knew hated disco. Oh, wait. I know this song. “I’m your vehicle, woman/I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.” He just wants to be used. Please think of me as a car. Kind of a rich, old geezer’s desperate line to a beautiful, young woman, isn’t it? Simon thinks this is his “only authentically good performance.”

Okay. I hate disco, and I did not enjoy any of that. But it’s over now, so I'll settle down. What’s going to happen in the vote? I think Constantine, Bo, and Vonzell are secure. I think Anwar is in the biggest trouble. But who will the other two in the bottom three be? You know I want Carrie in the bottom three, so I’ll just predict her. And Anthony. Scott will survive.

22 comments:

leeontheroad said...

I'm hoping you're wrong about Anwar, not for any objective reason but because he's the former student of a friend. In any case, I have no faith that the contest is finally about performance. Voting networks are common.

Ann Althouse said...

Lee: Anwar seems to be an extemely nice person. I'm sure everyone who knows him loves him. He's got an excellent voice too. But someone has to go, and I think he's missing something that's needed to make it to the end. It's not necessarily something you'd want to have...

I hate to register said...

You are so funny with this bitterness toward Carrie. Either she or Bo are going to win this thing.

I hate to register said...

BTW, except for this anti-Carrie thing, I love your American Idol recaps. I look forward to them each week.

Irene Done said...

I'm just disappointed because they've been singing 70s music for, like, 4 weeks now. Last year at this time, we had seen country night, Barry Manilow night, Motown night, even Miami Sound Machine night. This year, the contestants have not been so rigorously challenged. Are the producers reluctant to make things too difficult for Bo and Carrie?

Ann Althouse said...

As to Carrie -- her whole persona in the early episodes was innocent country girl, so who was that person we saw tonight? What was that supposed to be? It was a sort of Jon Benet Ramsey look. Just inexplicable. And she admits she has no idea what she's singing. The words are meaningless, just some sounds to make while hitting notes loud and long. That made "MacArthur Park" the perfect song for her. What a horror!

Pancho said...

Low marks yesterday for CSN&Y, diss'n Disco today......what next? You'll be telling us that you don't like Rap?

Actually, at the time, I thought Disco was pretty pathetic, but looking back on it, it does have a certain sewerlike charm. I even enjoy listening to some of it now while wearing my polyester jumpsuit.

I hate to register said...

Lands, you teach at a college? OK, sure, law school, but you surely run into undergrads sometimes. Don't you ever see young girls from the country get overwhelmed a little bit and wander around trying to define a new personality for themselves? I imagine she's a bit clueless, overwhelmed by all the attention and pressure, getting advice from a dozen hundred people, and doing the best she can. But she can SING, and she's pretty, and she'll probably come out of this with a recording contract. So will Bo and maybe Vonzell. Constantine's smarmy act reeks of fakery far more than Carrie's does, but he may come out of this OK as well, since he seems to have appeal to some people. Anwar, Scott and Anthony are just going to get sent home.

I hate to register said...

Actually, not to beat this Idol thing to death, but the bigger question is, "What kind of happy drugs has Paula been on all year, and will they replace her next year?" Can we find a judge that can say something besides, "You were fabulous, daaahling! I'm SO proud of you."

CraigC said...

You've never heard of "Vehicle?" It's not disco, by the way, they were just trying to help Bo, as you say. The whole "Who knows what Randy will say and Paula loves everyone and Simon hates everyone" schtick is getting VERY tiresome. It's become a sad caricature.

anonymous said...

Ann, I'm sick of hearing people say "I hate disco". Why is it that you get to love the music you grew up with in the 60s, but I must hate the music I grew up with in the 70s -- otherwise I'm tragically unhip? Around 1976 or so, my girlfriend and I lost our virginity (we "got it on" as we used to say back then) in the back seat of a Chevy Impala while Anrea True's "More More More" was playing on the AM radio. Do you know how long I had to wait to hear that song on the radio again (and relive those memories) just because you boomers are all "I hate disco"? Fer chrissakes, it's just music.

Ann Althouse said...

Craig: I was very familar with the song, once I heard it. For some reason, the single-word title just didn't call it to mind. And yeah, I hate when you can tell they are just trying to help their favorites, but I think it often backfires. It's amazing how accurate the voting has been.

Anonymous: I had a Chevy Impala when I was a teenager. A 1961 convertible. Anyway, I know I was really fortunate to grow up with the best of music. I remember the original rock and roll of the 50s, with parents making fun of Elvis and everything, too. I got to be 13 when the Beatles came out. The sad thing was having the flow of greatness come to an end. We believed the middle of each decade would bring some great new thing. In that light, consider how crushing disco felt. And people my age did at least feel sorry for those stuck having the 70s be their music. There were some okay genres at the time though, but it was hard to dodge the disco.

Register: I hate the expression "I'm so proud of you." Unless it's said by a parent or a very close teacher, it doesn't make sense. It seems to take credit for the performance. I think what Paula's doing is something of an act. Falling all over Simon and having him sit there like a rock -- it's mildly funny. In the first season, she tried to be a serious judge and was just dumb.

And as to Carrie: that's not a real person expressing herself, experimenting with a new persona. Or if it is, something has gone horribly wrong. That is someone's crazy idea of how to glam her up.

SteveR said...

I'm not stuck in any particular musical era, but that was not good music for my taste then or now. As for Bo singing "Vehicle", I don't remember it in the same group as the other songs last night. It was a hit in 1970, did it reappear like McArthur Park as a disco song? Hard to know who's good when that's what they sing. I think Anwar is vulnerable this week.

Benjamin S. said...

I don't actually watch American Idol, but I do read the recaps over at TWoP, and I love how different your take always is than Jacob's because it reminds me how subjective the whole experience really is. I end up agreeing with Jacob most of the time (again, even though I don't actually watch it. . . I'm not sure how I can "agree") mostly because I'm madly in love with him.

Benjamin S. said...
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Adam said...

Constantine's smarmy act reeks of fakery far more than Carrie's does

It reeks of fakery, but that's the brilliance of it. He knows he's a 30-year-old guy trying to break it big on a television show looking for a pop star. He knows that compared to Bo, he's no "rocker", so instead he's giving people the insincere, smarmy gestures of a lounge singer, because a whole lot of people want to be eye-fucked like that. And it works a lot better than Bo trying to be a "rocker" backed by an orchestra on a Fox reality sho.w

jinnmabe said...

As someone who follows country music a bit more than other types, I think that at this point, there's no doubt that Carrie will get a fat recording contract. I mean, if Josh "I can't sing, but gosh I'm trying hard" Gracin can get a country stick, and be mildly successful (up to this point), Carrie sure as hell can. I know you dislike her (and in fact, I hate what they've done to her too), but it's a done deal at this point.

Kate Marie said...

"Disco will never be over -- it will always live in our minds and hearts. Something like this, that was this big and this important and this great, will never die. Oh, for a few years, maybe many years it will be considered passé and ridiculous. It will be misrepresented in caricature and sneered at. Or worse, completely ignored. People will laugh about John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, white polyester suits and platform shoes and going like this. [does John Travolta's Saturday Night Fever pose]
Well, we had nothing to do with those things and still loved Disco. Those who didn't understand will never understand; Disco was much more, and much better than all that. Disco was too great and too much fun to be gone forever, it's got to come back some day. I just hope it will be in our life times."

-- The Last Days of Disco

I don't know about disco, but I highly recommend the movie.

Harkonnendog said...

I enjoy seeing how the show deals with Anwar's ga... er... effeminate physicality. They kept moving up and away from his lower body in a way that reminds me of how they used to not show Elvis's pelvis.

Last night was great, I thought. All good performances, except for Vonzell, who made up for her lack with booty, not personality, imho.

And I have to agree about Paula being high or drunk on every episode, but I hope they don't get rid of her. That's entertainment!

Poustman said...

One of the great things about American Idol is that it's 100% subjective. My wife's question seems incisive: would I want to sit through a concert put on by this person? (Or listen to a whole CD, I guess.)

For me, I could see sitting through a Bo concert, maybe a Vonzell (mostly due to her beauty) and possibly a Constantine if he went full-theatrical and camped it up. Anwar seems to have all the tools except that edgy killer instinct which would motivate him to use them. Too bad. Seems like a nice guy.

The judges are such a silly subplot element. Randy is just goofy, Paula is so unrelentingly effusive and positive that you can't take her seriously, and Cowell-- while the most astute in my opinion-- short-circuits himself too often with analogies made for sound bites. Still, he does say so when a performance is really good (in his view.) It just isn't that often.

The meta-Idol elements just detract from the fun: voting blocks, producer/judge favorites & the support thereof, etc. I'm sure it is going on but I prefer my suspension of disbelief.

Ann Althouse said...

Adam: that's what I love about Constantine. He's got perspective. He knows he's in a ridiculous but kind of cool predicament. He needs to laugh at himself and play at it. The others are all serious about themselves. As a result, it is ONLY Constantine that I take seriously. When he did "I Think I Love You," he distinguished himself as the only one there with a brain and with real nerve -- and humor.

Harkonnendog said...

"When he did "I Think I Love You," he distinguished himself as the only one there with a brain and with real nerve -- and humor."

That's a really excellent point, although I don't think his schtik translates into somebody being a pop-star... A reality show star, yeah, but not a pop star. And there is no million dollar prize for winning American Idol, I mean it is a means not an end.

I've got a theory working that Deadwood is based on American Idol. Swearengen is Cowell, Dan is Randy, Johnny is Paula, Mr. Wu or EB Farnum is Seacrest. I've worked it out and you'd be surprised at how these shows parallel each other.