March 18, 2009

Adam Lambert sings "Ring of Fire."

Judge it all you want:



Adam Lambert is the favorite chez Althouse.

IN THE COMMENTS: Christopher Althouse Cohen:
Some people act "outraged" that he changed Johnny Cash's version. Well, I can't remember any other time someone acted like it was disrespectful to the original artist for an AI contestant to do a drastically reworked version of a song in a totally different style than the original. David Cook's Billie Jean performance was praised. Jennifer Hudson did a gospel version of Imagine and no one said anything. People may have not liked Kristy Lee Cook's country version of Eight Days A Week, but no one acted like she disrespected The Beatles. So why the fuss about this one? Perhaps because he's homosexualizing a country song by a masculine country star. Is it the cultural clash between the traditional South and a flamboyantly gay singer that people find so jarring? It might be. If the same people saw a video of Jeff Buckley (who was presumably heterosexual) doing the same version of Ring of Fire, would they be so shocked by it?

144 comments:

fcai said...

But we can't use the word "queer", right?

Nevermind...

MayBee said...

It was something out of a David Lynch movie.

Trooper York said...

I was gonna say. You should of used the title of the last thread because that's what Randy Travis said when he saw him.

But he added, not that theres anything wrong with that, so it is all ok, right.

Trooper York said...

For some reason his giant head reminds me of Adam Rich from Eight is Enough. Just sayn'

Jason (the commenter) said...

This guy is such a poser. And most of the judges don't want to say anything bad about him, unless they upset "the kids". They act like being an emo kid was the newest thing. But I think they're just showing how out of touch they are.

I've heard of a lot of other posters' musical choices and I know I have young ears. To me Adam is as bland as water. There's nothing creative about him at all. He only seems different in comparrison to a bunch of people singing old songs. In the real world he'd be a dud.

Joe said...

Among the most horrible singing I've ever heard.

save_the_rustbelt said...

He should stick with Streisand and Garland tunes.

Not Johnny Cash.

Trooper York said...

What was even funnier was that Paula said he referanced Led Zep!

Who wrote that line for her? The blind guy?

traditionalguy said...

Is this like the ugly boy being voted Homecoming Queen? All Just a joke on the system? He has successfully deconstructed country music with a feminine Elvis impersonation. That is talent to die for according to the new U-Tube Youth Culture. Give him the Idol job right away, before he goes out of style by next month.

sg said...

I agree with Simon. "What the hell was that?...Absolute indulgent rubbish...really, really horrific!"

I really like Johnny Cash's music; to hear one of his signature songs destroyed was unsettling. The screeching at the end was especially bad.

PJ said...

Althouse digs in.

Bissage said...

Many, many people get ring of fire after they eat chili.

Lem said...

Adam Lambert? Who is that?

Is he the ShamWow guy ;)

(YouTube is blocked at the office)

John Lynch said...

The internet is better because I can fast forward to Simon.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

He sucks!!! Horrible.

Randy Travis is a gentleman and was very polite to this little squib who doesn't deserve it. The kid has no respect and doesn't really deserve to get any either.

John Lynch said...

I got no problem with middle eastern arrangements (the Battlestar version of All Along the Watchtower is pretty good) but they need to retain the power of the original song. This was the stretched out lounge version with no beat.

Publius said...

Country music week, but for Adam the country was India? Easily the worst performance of the night and may require the judges to invoke the Rescue Rule to save Adam from himself, which is probably what the rule's creators intended. Not a bad use of the rule, though, because Adam is actually very talented even if you couldn't tell it from this performance.

Simon said...

Wow. Awful doesn't begin to cover it. The arrangement, the singing - this is butchery - the slaughter of a great song, even worse than what they did to "Walk the Line" for a commercial not long ago.

If the Cash estate can't sue them for this, they should be able to.

MadisonMan said...

That's something to make you change the station.

The Drill SGT said...

Boy needs a couple of big doses of the Testosterone that Merkel as been gettin.

I'm not a big CW kind of guy, but that butchers a Cash classic

Chip Ahoy said...

Wow. ➪click to watch full episode➪ That was really interesting ➪click to watch full episode➪ He did the song justice ➪click to watch full episode➪and he has a great voice ➪click to watch full episode➪ but Johnny Cash is ➪click to watch full episode➪ turning in his grave ➪click to watch full episode➪ and Simon Cowell ➪click to watch full episode➪ is just flat wrong.

MadisonMan said...

And I'm sorry Randy, but Nine inch Nails is not current, fresh or hot.

They really need someone young on the panel. Keep Paula and Simon, they make sense. Randy says the same thing for everyone, and Kara adds nothing to the panel.

freidag said...

The arrangement was odd but the vocals were brilliant. Adam is amazingly talented. Cash, who himself did a cover of version of Nine Inch Nails "Hurt" would have enjoyed this rendition. Lambert made the rest of the "idols" seem like amateurs.

The Drill SGT said...

Here's the Cash Version from1963

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRlj5vjp3Ko

Joan said...

What was even funnier was that Paula said he referanced Led Zep!

Give Paula some credit. The intro music was fine, but with the tempo change, it sounded so much like "Kashmir" it wasn't even funny. Paula was right about the Zep homage, but Simon was right that it was an over-indulgent display of Ick.

Yes, he can sing, yes he has a voice with an impressive range. What he chose to do with it in this case may have been true to his "vision" of himself as an "artist" (scare quotes required), but it was so removed from the source material as to be disrespectful.

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

Adam Lambert is the best singer ever to be on the show, his singing on Ring Of Fire is an amazing demonstration of one-in-a-million vocal abilities, and anyone who doesn't "get" this performance stylistically is a total lightweight, pure and simple.

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

And don't even act like it was disrespectful to change it from Johnny Cash's version. Johnny Cash finished his career with a series of covers that were ALL drastically changed from the original, and that was the most highly praised stuff of his career.

Revenant said...

I had no preconceptions prior to clicking on the video. I don't watch American Idol, but I don't have anything against it either. I like "Ring of Fire", but don't idolize Cash; I've liked several cover versions of the song, especially the Social Distortion one. So I was prepared to like this, too.

Then I listened. This is some of the worst shit I have heard in years. The fact that this man is allowed to sing on national television is positive proof that the universe is not watched over by a merciful God.

MadisonMan said...

That is such bull. I would take Melinda Doolittle's voice over Adam's in a heartbeat. Adam is a one-trick pony -- he can shout any song totally on-key. He started Ring of Fire very softly, which was interesting. But then he went to shout mode. Yes, I know he can shout a song. But what else can he do. Even Freddie Mercury, another at-times shouty singer, sang a soft ballad sometimes -- to great effect.

Simon said...

Chris Althouse Cohen said...
"And don't even act like it was disrespectful to change it from Johnny Cash's version"

Oh, come off it. Changing a song is one thing. Ruining it ordinarily involves change, as it did here, but it isn't change, per se, that is the problem. It is the particular changes. I can't think of any of the covers Cash did on his final records that changed the songs for the worse.

chickenlittle said...

Bissage said: Many, many people get ring of fire after they eat chili.

Or, as they say out here: so hot it burns twice.

Simon said...

freidag said...
"Cash ... would have enjoyed this rendition."

Doubt it. Can you offer any reason whatsoever to believe that, other than the utterly irrelevant argument that Cash himself did covers?

Simon said...

MadisonMan said...
"And I'm sorry Randy, but Nine inch Nails is not current, fresh or hot."

Nor is incorporating Indian music into a rock framework! It was already verging on passé by the time Zeppelin did Kashmir, and that was nearly 35 years ago! If you're going to do it, you've got to be very careful to get it right, you've got to use it sparingly (e.g. "Home" by Dream Theater), not wall to wall.

fcai said...

Poor little CAC - anyone who doesn't like the emo guy's version is a total lightweight.

Project much?

Smilin' Jack said...

Chris Althouse Cohen said...
Adam Lambert is the best singer ever to be on the show, his singing on Ring Of Fire is an amazing demonstration of one-in-a-million vocal abilities


Obviously you've never stepped on a cat's tail.

And if "anyone who doesn't "get" this performance stylistically is a total lightweight," then this bozo has single-handedly solved America's obesity problem.

Johnny Cash finished his career with a series of covers that were ALL drastically changed from the original, and that was the most highly praised stuff of his career. The difference is that Adam Lambert is so extremely not Johnny Cash.

BTW, if anyone feels the need to cleanse their auditory cortex after listening to this outrage not only against Johnny Cash, but against the very concept of music, I highly recommend listening to Johnny's cover of NIN's "Hurt."

Josh said...

He looks like he was barfed on by a Hot Topic and he sounds like the lead from an early '80s hair band. No thanks.

Simon said...

Tell you what: if he has such "range," let's hear him sing this. That's, what, sounds like an F in the second verse?

The Drill SGT said...

Chris Althouse Cohen said...
anyone who doesn't "get" this performance stylistically is a total lightweight, pure and simple.


I'm a total lightweight who tries not to be insulting to guests.

Jason (the commenter) said...

anyone who doesn't "get" this performance stylistically is a total lightweight, pure and simple.

I get it. Who didn't get it? He said right in the interview that all he was going for was something "different". Every single commenter here noticed he was different.

If you can't tell that having "being different" as your reason d'etre is completely unoriginal YOU are a lightweight. Especially when his act is a cliché.

knox said...

My problem with Lambert is that he consistently performs like he is still in a musical: his voice, his singing style, his onstage emoting... everything... none of it reads as "Rock Star" to me. And I have to agree that his attempt to look edgy or alternative is embarassing in its execution.

Adam Lambert is the best singer ever to be on the show

Better than Melinda Doolittle? Sorry. No way. TEAM DOOLITTLE

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

It's fine to not like it stylistically, but acting "confused" like Kara is just pathetic. If you're over the age of 12, this performance should not be over your head.

There has not been a male singer since Jeff Buckley who could sing high notes like that. The recent male singers around now who are known for their falsetto voices couldn't hold a candle to what Adam Lambert did there. His ability in that area puts him in a very small category of male pop/rock singers.

Christy said...

I liked it. At some point it struck me as very Moulin Rouge, though. The guy was so not country that I was totally okay with his reworking of an old favorite. Not what I'd download, but I certainly didn't hate it the way everyone else seems to have.

Thank you for watching Idol so the rest of us don't have to.

Paul said...

Holy shite that was nauseating. Imagine giving birth and it grows up to become that. What a nightmare.

I play music for a living. I work with REAL singers. Mostly black, mostly from Oakland. They are all really, really good, and some are phenomenal.

Hearing some punk tell me I'm shallow if I don't "get" the loser in that video is not even worth getting offended over. That level of ignorance qualifies as an anthropological curiosity worth noting for it's exceptionalism.

Joe M. said...

A good performance (what a good voice!) of an absolutely awful arrangement--though one should try to do interesting things with cover-songs (Chris Althouse Cohen is right to point to the American recordings), this just didn't work--it was just unpleasant to listen to.

Joe M. said...

That is, this arrangement destroyed the beauty of the original melody in an attempt to be edgy.

garage mahal said...

The difference is that Adam Lambert is so extremely not Johnny Cash.

You think?. Can't imagine Lambert doing a show at San Quentin that's for sure.

Zeb Quinn said...

In raw oddness it rivals Pat Boone's cover of Smoke in the Water.

Joe M. said...

Also, what insipid criticism from the judges! Even Simon, who I think was right on to call this "indulgent", didn't offer anything substantial--just a string of standard insults. The others were just dumb. I assume this is typical of the show?

PJ said...

There has not been a male singer since Jeff Buckley who could sing high notes like that. The recent male singers around now who are known for their falsetto voices couldn't hold a candle to what Adam Lambert did there. His ability in that area puts him in a very small category of male pop/rock singers.

OK, now you've said something about Adam (rather than characterizing people who don't "get" Adam), and I agree with you. Dude's got pipes to die for. What he hasn't shown me yet is judgment. In my opinion, he made a lot of bad choices last night, and they didn't become good choices just because he executed them well.

Paul Snively said...

I haven't seen it, and I don't intend to, but from the descriptions I presume that Adam was actually covering the Wall of Voodoo cover of "Ring of Fire," which I think is brilliant... so brilliant that I choose not to listen to other covers, just as I think the Black Crowes' cover of "Hard to Handle" was so brilliant that Constantine's cover of the cover just left me cold.

John Burgess said...

It took a moment, but I got what he was doing and enjoyed it. He's got balls the size of watermelons to do that, though... talk about 'transgressive'!

BTW, the musical influence was not 'Indian', but rather 'Arab'. That Paula Abdul, part-Syrian by descent, couldn't come up with the name of an Arab stringed instrument and instead said 'sitar' is a comment on Paula Abdul, not the arrangement.

John Burgess said...

Oh, and BTW, I can't stand Adam, but he is by leaps and bounds the best singer on the program. Not that that means he'll win, of course...

Joe M. said...

"Dude's got pipes to die for. What he hasn't shown me yet is judgment. In my opinion, he made a lot of bad choices last night, and they didn't become good choices just because he executed them well."

A fine instrument turned to an ugly end.

Blue Collar Todd said...

Can't believe I'm commenting on this when the Obama Youth will be coming after us all very soon. This guy has got to go after that performance.

PatCA said...

After watching that last night, completely dumbstruck, I cannot watch it again.

I get the shivers when I watch this guy. Thank goodness for Tivo.

dbp said...

Adam's talent is what makes this performance all the more irritating.

He is like a painter who can render onto canvas whatever image comes into his mind, but the only images he has are Carebears, unicorns and rainbows.

Kitch expertly done is still kitch.

Walt said...

I don't care much for his voice, but he seems like a sweet boy.
I never said I did not like Sodomites. I'm just not into fudge packing. I would take impeccable Althouse over a dirty crack anyday.

dick said...

No thank you - ever. I don't much care for falsetto singing either for the most part. Always sounds like someone goosed them. A good countertenor is fine and there are some very good ones. This was not one of them IMNSHO. Just couple that with the attitude he shows and forget it. Horrible.

Lawgiver said...

It sort of reminded me of Tiny Tim.

MadisonMan said...

The others were just dumb. I assume this is typical of the show?

The show. The blog. All sorts of things.

Lawgiver said...

But Tim's cover of Stairway To Heaven was the best.

Trooper York said...

Personally I enjoyed Dread Zeppilin where they remade all of those songs to a reggae beat.

Host with the Most said...

Liked it.

But Adam is always going to be a niche player. Even if he wins, he'll never be a Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood level of success. Probably not even the level of that guy Taylor or something that won (where IS he?)

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Host with the Most said...

When I look at this guy, why do I keep hearing "Take On Me"?

BJM said...

Adam, Eddie Izzard called and he wants his 90's wardrobe back.

I agree with other comments that Lambert has a set of pipes but not a clue what to do with 'em.

This will probably drive Cash purists nuts; here's a Cash cover that works.

al said...

Adam was my wife's fav till he sang 'Ring of Fire'. While it may be an example of good singing/excellent range/whatever - it was crap. All 4 of us watching (ages 17 to 49) agreed - well sung crap.

Adam will probably win (already in the final 4...) but his career will mirror Taylor Hicks.

Trooper York said...

The early favorite never wins in Idol. They always mis-step along the way. People want to knock them so you can't peak too early. The judges can lead to audience to the one they prefer. They will start saying things like "techincally good but too over the top" and too "Broadway" and stuff like that. They will champion one of the others who will zoom right by and leave this dude in the dust.

Trooper York said...

You need to be good but not too good until the last few weeks....sort of the Jordan Sparks stratergy. I think the red headed step child is set up for that. Just sayn'

sg said...

Thinking about Lambert's performance again, I can't help but now thinking better of the first time I heard Rick Astley.

TitusMyLipchins said...

I have not watched this season.

I thought her hair was a little dramatic.

Was that Suzanne Pleshette?

What was the evolution of his looks? What did he start out as?

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

The early favorite is hard to tell from hype alone, and there's been a lot of hype surrounding Danny Gokey as a potential winner. They're sort of the early frontrunners. It hasn't all been about Adam (even though it should be). As for VOTES, there have been some who said, for instance, that the vote totals were always heavily in Kelly Clarkson's favor the first season, even though they treated Justin Guarini as the favorite. And I don't know enough about who's been the favorite each season to know if it's true that the early frontrunner never wins, though it certainly can happen that the frontrunner does not win.

Danny Gokey, to me, is likely to be like Taylor Hicks if he wins. I can understand people rooting for him on the show, and he can definitely sing, but I don't think he would sell records. Speaking of which, Anoop was praised last night, but I found him completely underwhelming and can't see anything in him that would sell records at all.

Ben said...

I haven't loved Adam's past performances, and I didn't care much for his "Ring of Fire" as a song/arrangement. But come on, his vocals on that were completely nasty and probably the best since Melinda Doolittle, if not ever.

Donn said...

For people bagging on Taylor Hicks....you do realize his album went platinum?

Big Mike said...

@Chris, you are quite correct about Cash covering a lot of songs towards the end of his career wo which he gave his own, unique, flavor. But calling them "the most highly praised of his career" shows that you are the lightweight.

You remind me of modern art critics who point to a pile of shit on the floor and praise the artist and attempt to slap down the nay-sayers. But it's still a pile of shit on the floor, and aside from the fact that you're looking a human fecal matter instead of canine, one can see the same any morning after the lawyers have been walking their dogs and conveniently forgetting the laws about cleaning up after their pets.

As to vocal range, it was pretty clear to me before I clicked on the pause icon and exited the video that your guy Adam is straining in the upper register. For the record, the late Elvis Presley had a voice that spanned two full octaves and somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 more, and he always demonstrated complete control of his voice. Wikipedia gives Presley 2 1/3, while this site lets various experts weigh in: http://hobbiesandpastimes.blogspot.com/2007/06/voices-of-elvis-presley.html

Please tell me you didn't take your music history classes at Wisconsin.

SteveR said...

It wasn't bad it was stupid. Of course he's got a great voice, but he's about putting on an act, not performing a song. I realize lots of people are in to that but we have 10 more weeks to see ten more stage shows by Adam Lambert. Its not that great an act, maybe if he just sang...

And please, when Cash was doing his versions of various songs from other artists, he had achieved a level matched by very few in American culture. About 5 or 6 orders of magnitude more significant than having a cool Facebook page. Speaking of lightweight.

knox said...

Taylor, I mean "Donn," welcome to the discussion!

tee hee

Jennifer said...

I didn't hate it, but I didn't think it was wildly original. I thought Megan Corkrey was a lot more original. I ♥ her and her sleeve. And I can't help it but I'm totally in pathetic teenybopper love with Danny Gokey.

Walt said...

Perhaps he did the best with what he had, but the boy is no Freddie Mercury

Michael Hasenstab said...

Covers of songs has been mentioned above.

Two worth hearing are Dolly Parton's covers of Staiway To Heaven and Knocking On Heavens Door.

michael farris said...

Okay I just do. not. get. it.

Maybe in person in real time he's an interesting/compelling performer. A good singer he's not.

His voice (what there is of it) does not record well. He always sounds either underpowered or overpowered. It's not the kind of voice you want to invite into your living room for a whole album.

Oh yeah, he's over-mannered too. Gulping and distoring vowels and using entirely too much portamento.

For all her goofiness (actually because of her goofiness) I prefer Megan. Not a great (or good) singer but she uses what she has too good effect and doesn't make me fear the idea of her own unique take on a song.

Adam is basically Shirley Bassey trapped in a boy's body.

Stephan Marcus Fuchs said...

I only decided to weigh in because I was confused by the references to Jeff Buckley having sung Ring Of Fire. Never happened. As far as Lambert sounding like Buckley...sure the comparison to Plant is obvious, and he has a voice that has the raw range, but Buckley? C'mon! Buckley worked hard on his voice as a young Classically trained vocalist. Furthermore, he has a softness and a sweeping voice that could be one of the sweetest ever to use that falsceto vibrato technique ever recorded. When Jeff played at the funeral of his father, Leonard Cohen was so moved that he permitted Jeff to cover his halleluja. Noone has ever come close to that version including the talented Rufus Wainright. My point is...this kid is good, not a flash, fake like has been suggested here, but he is no Jeff Buckley. I think he is going to win this thing, not 'cause the kids like him, but because he has what none of the other contestants have...He's what Guy Ritchie and Mic Jager woud call true..."Rock'n Rola". Hopefully his experience on Idol gives him the maturity to prove the Nay Sayers wrong.

EDH said...

Hey kid, got a "Burning Ring of Fire"?

Try this next time, in the handy pump bottle, from Doc Johnson.

(Be sure to check out the "Customers who bought this item also bought".)

Hanna said...

Absolutely love Adam Lambert. The Studio version of this song is brilliant! He knows what he wants and sticks to it. He's a refreshing change from the same ol' thing on American Idol.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

I immediately thought Jeff Buckley (and to a lesser degree, Muse) when he those high notes, and was stunned. He is fantastic.

Once again, it comes down to what it always comes down to here on Althouse: Homophobia. Anyone who doesn't like Adam obviously is anti-gay. If this were a straight man with a wife in the audience, the vitriol would be way toned down. But no, he's young, gay, glamorous, and threatening...so of course he gets the shaft from all of you homophobes, who are also racists.

SteveR said...

So I like Lil Rounds which means I'm pro black. But I don't like Adam so I'm homophobic which means I'm racist. I'm confused, maybe because I don't like Matt G. I'm racist against whites even though I'm white. I love Alison so I'm pro Central American Hispanic immigration? Since I live in the SW does that automaticaly mean I'm anti Mexican immigration. Although I'm confused about some things I do know I'm against idiots with simple mings who think they know what the fuck I think.

Donn said...

ZPS....as usual,you're full of shit.

dick said...

ZPS,

As a gay guy who thinks Adam has no talent and no class, I disagree heartily with you. He reminds me of a Tiny Tim with more talent and no ability to choose the right material. Just do not like him at all.

Marina said...

I thought it was haunting and absolutely brilliant. I loved it!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Once again, it comes down to what it always comes down to here on Althouse: Homophobia. Anyone who doesn't like Adam obviously is anti-gay

Oh Bullshit! I can listen to him with my eyes closed and still dislike his rendition of this song. There is nothing wrong with doing a cover of a song and making it your own. In fact you SHOULD make it your own. What you shouldn't do is make the song unrecognizable and an abortion of the original.

He sucked.

Random Flair said...

I am a HUGE Cash fan, but Adam's version freakin' rocked. I was skeptical - but I thought it was bad a**. :)

veni vidi vici said...

My wife and I both watched last night and were completely blown away. We're bigtime Zep fans going way back, and agreed that this dude not only covered this song in a way Zep might've at one point in their careers, but thoroughly schooled the rest of the field last night, the extent that even the judges were gobsmacked and without a proper reaction (except paula, who appeared to appreciate the motivation, and Simon, who employed the same "indulgent" critique that Zep's contemporary critics constantly leveled at them in the 70's). The other gal judge's comments showed her age and inexperience, and Randy, as usual, was only there for the "yo, dawg, ah'm bein' black now, dawg; yo, dawg..." (rinse and repeat).

It was completely indulgent. That doesn't mean it wasn't great, though. It may have been inappropriate for "country & western" night, but if the band had bigger balls, he'd be blowing the lids off stadiums with that number and anyone who's seen a big rock show knows this, whether or not they care to admit it.

All told, though, he reminds me a lot of Greg Darling and his old band, Darling Cruel. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqhGSeOIBcQ

almcg2 said...

Hate to let some of you down about Adam's creativity and brilliance... but that version was arranged and sung by Dilana on the Rock Star Supernova reality show a year or so ago. The entire beginning was almost note for note the same, then he changed up a little by scaling all over the place with his falsetto. The music was pretty much the same idea as well. Pretty obvious to anyone who saw Rock Star. Randy Jackson blew it with the Buckley reference. Dilana's version was significantly better. Check it out on YouTube.

Revenant said...

On my way home today I was in a nasty car accident. There were blood and body parts everywhere, and I found myself lying in a pool of my own urine without any feeling in the left half of my body.

At least, that's what I thought happened. It turned out I was just listening to Adam Lambert sing Ring of Fire. So I turned off the speakers and everything was alright again.

almcg2 said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA...... messy situation for sure... and he rippe3d off another arrangement with only very minor changes and a urine provoking falsetto, without giving due credit for she who he robbed.

Ann Althouse said...

It's clear in the intro section that Lambert has found someone else's arrangement that he wants to use. He never claims the arrangement is his own. This is typical of the show, as when David Cook did the Chris Cornell version of "Billie Jean." The main problem is not naming the source, and I don't know why they did that. It must be the producers' decision and not Lambert's, though.

John Lynch said...

I read the comment about people not "getting it" being "lightweights."

Who do you think buys American Idol music? Who watches the show? Who, for that matter, comments on the internet? This isn't exactly highbrow.

It's pop entertainment! So entertain! This isn't indulgent, it's self-destructive. It's like he wants to lose. Then he can say they didn't appreciate his talent.

Use the talent to win, says I. Why pull something like this when you can easily win doing something conventional? If you tune in to hear country music, you want to hear country music. I thought that was the point, seeing how a contestant dealt with a certain style of music. Same with buying albums. Yeah, it's boring, but you can cover anything you want any way you want after the album deal.

Chris Althouse Cohen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Althouse Cohen said...

ZPS: Come to think of it, you might be right. Some people act "outraged" that he changed Johnny Cash's version. Well, I can't remember any other time someone acted like it was disrespectful to the original artist for an AI contestant to do a drastically reworked version of a song in a totally different style than the original. David Cook's Billie Jean performance was praised. Jennifer Hudson did a gospel version of Imagine and no one said anything. People may have not liked Kristy Lee Cook's country version of Eight Days A Week, but no one acted like she disrespected The Beatles. So why the fuss about this one? Perhaps because he's homosexualizing a country song by a masculine country star. Is it the cultural clash between the traditional South and a flamboyantly gay singer that people find so jarring? It might be. If the same people saw a video of Jeff Buckley (who was presumably heterosexual) doing the same version of Ring of Fire, would they be so shocked by it?

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

Two thing to notice about the judges comments:

-Kara starts saying the word "fabulous" and then cuts herself off halfway through the word. Like she wanted to call something about him "fabulous" and then realized, oops, I'm not supposed to sound like I know he's gay.

-Randy completely yells the word "cunt" in the middle of his critique. I know he was trying to say "current," but leaves out the middle of the word and very clearly yells, "That's what it was, it's CUNT!"

svlc said...

The inspiration for Adam was clearly Dilana as pointed out earlier. It has a great middle eatern feel to it but is much more constrained than Adam's descent (assent) into the realm of Focus (i.e Hocus Pocus).

I thought that Adam's performance was quite interesting, over-the-top and very theatrical. Kind of like Alice Cooper in a way.

mrs whatsit said...

Chris said: "anyone who doesn't "get" this performance stylistically is a total lightweight, pure and simple."

I disagree. I think that stylistically, the performance was totally lightweight, pure and simple, just as all of Adam's performances have been so far. First, the boy can SING. I don't know if I've heard another voice on AI that can do what his can. But as a performer, he stays completely on the surface of every song. It is all show, no substance. He has yet to get inside a song and sing it as if he understands it. I think he is so used to acting, because of his musical theater background, that he doesn't know how to do anything else BUT act.

and Zachary for pity's sake. "Anyone who doesn't like Adam is clearly anti-gay." Give me a BREAK. I refuse to bow down and say that the kid walks on water based on who he sleeps with rather than how he sings.

I don't think it's disrespectful that he changed the song so dramatically from the Johnny Cash version. I do think it's disrespectful that he failed so completely to find the emotional heart of it.

Simon said...

Chris Althouse Cohen said...
"I can't remember any other time someone acted like it was disrespectful to the original artist for an AI contestant to do a drastically reworked version of a song in a totally different style than the original. David Cook's Billie Jean performance was praised. Jennifer Hudson did a gospel version of Imagine and no one said anything. People may have not liked Kristy Lee Cook's country version of Eight Days A Week, but no one acted like she disrespected The Beatles. So why the fuss about this one?"

All of which is, once again, premised on the assumption that is the mere fact that the arrangement was changed that is the problem. The problem is that it's bad, not that it's different, so the answer to your question about Buckley is (at least presumptively) "yes." Do you really mean to say that a commenter like MadisonMan, for example, doesn't like it because it is supposedly a "homosexualizing [of] a country song by a masculine country star" (an oddly stereotypical concept in itself, by the way; is masculinity not a homosexual value? I had thought homosexuality came in all shapes, styles and sizes, and that it was wrong to assume that because someone is gay they have certain extrasexual cultural tastes)? Really?

MadisonMan said...

It was odd listening to Wisconsin Public Radio this AM -- they mentioned that Danny Gokey was safe, but they didn't say who was voted off! I'm a little surprised Alexis got the boot over Michael, who was much more underwhelming Tuesday night.

MadisonMan said...

..and Simon, that is NOT why I didn't like Adam Lambert's rendition. I didn't like it because it was the same as last week's rendition of Black and White: Totally shouted and spot on key. There is no denying that he can sing better than 99% of all AI contestants, but Adam has no dynamic range. Maybe he does -- he just hasn't shown it.

I also get a Robbie Carrico vibe from him, that is, that he's putting on an act. I'm not sure if that's true -- that could be the genuine Adam on the screen. With the better singer in AI's history, Melinda, it really felt like you saw the genuine Melinda on screen every time. Not sure if that's the case with Adam.

Simon said...

MadisonMan said...
"and Simon, that is NOT why I didn't like Adam Lambert's rendition."

It never crossed my mind for a moment that it was. Indeed, the absurdity of that idea was the point I was making: Chris' comment would have made sense if this were Little Green Footballs or where-have-you, or if the only commenters who didn't like the performance were people who generally had a problem with homosexuality, but it strikes one as deeply unrealistic looking at where we are and who has said what. Whatever misguided notions Althouse (sr.)'s critics may harbor, this is hardly a hotbed of social conservatism.

MadisonMan said...

Professor, is it Christopher or Chris? :)

I am not shocked by Adam Lambert's rendition.

Is there an age when you're beyond being shocked by some young thing trying (and in this case, failing, IMO) to be different? Am I so old that I've seen it all?

rhhardin said...

Johnny Cash on changng the lyrics real audio.

Skip (play/next clip) to clip 4, then 7:30 minutes.

Guts Strongman said...

Wow, he made a belly-dancing version of Ring of Fire. I am compelled to admire the sheer badness of it. Any hack can do a bad cover, but it takes real talent to craft a cover so diametrically opposed to the soul of a song. This guy could be a star.

Big Mike said...

What the hey? The kid can't control his voice, particularly at the upper end of what seems to be a fairly limited range. If he was any good, he'd understand his weaknesses and pick arrangements that play to his strengths and not emphasize his weaknesses.

Kid sucks. Deal with it.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

So why the fuss about this one?

JAC...I suggest you get over yourself and the homosexual aspect of the singer. No one cares. Navel gazing is not attractive.

THE SONG SUCKED!!! The arrangement sucked. It was, as Simon said, a self indulgent piece of SHIT. Period. And I am entitled to my opinion about the musical merits of the song without being accused of homophobia, you little self absorbed asshole. I'm sick of being accused for no reason.

If you were asked to paint the Statue of Liberty in your own style as part of a contest and you decided that you would rather paint the Chrysler Building, you would be full of fail. FAIL.

It isn't that he changed the tune from the original. That is to be expected in a cover of a tune of any genre. The objection is that he did it BADLY, without originality, it was trite and his singing was not good in the higher registers.

I have heard many covers that are interesting, innovative, and reveal a new depths in the original tune. This wasn't one of them. It was all about the singer and not about the song or the genre of the song. A good artist will reveal something wonderful and interesting about himself, but more importantly reveal something new about the art piece, be it song or artistic rendition about the subject. He failed to do either.

He sucked in this particular song, in this rendition, this part of the contest and it has nothing to do with his sexuality.

Get over yourself and quit seeing homophobia around every corner. When you make yourself into a wailing victim, you lose credibility you pretentious little shit.

Sorry to Althouse for insulting her son. I call it as I see it and if I get banned...so be it

PJ said...

CAC,

Speaking only for myself, of course, I couldn't care less whether Mr. Lambert shows respect (or even has respect) for the late Mr. Cash. I admit that my opinion of Lambert's performance is to some extent informed by the fact that the context was a "genre night" and in my opinion the performance didn't suit the genre.

If the theme is "Michael Jackson songs" or "Beatles songs," I think it's perfectly fair game to take a qualifying song and perform it in whatever style the contestant wishes. But I think the point of a genre night is to test the ability of the contestant to perform within the designated genre, even if (especially if) the genre is outside the contestant's comfort zone. In that situation, I don't think it's fair game to take a song that was originally (or at some point) within the genre and then perform it outside the genre.

Lambert's performance shouted "Screw this genre," and I can understand why some might appreciate the edgy transgressiveness of that artistic statement, but I nonetheless thought it worthy of demerit in context. By way of contrast, I thought Lil Rounds deserved credit for making an honest effort to perform within genre, even though I thought her performance was disappointing.

MadisonMan said...

JAC.

Wrong son. Speaking as a youngest son, let me say it's incredibly annoying for me to be called by either of my brothers' names. Maybe Chris(topher) feels differently.

PatCA said...

"Homosexualizing"?

What the hell is that? Do homosexuals have a particular way of interpreting music? If Americans disliking Adam is homophobic, why is Elton John so popular? I have to agree with the other commenters here--you are reading in way too much to the opinion that the song was just plain weird and unpleasant--although now that this meme has been breached, it will no doubt appear in an academic journal soon.

Simon said...

Dust Bunny Queen said...
"THE SONG SUCKED!!! The arrangement sucked. It was, as Simon said, a self indulgent piece of SHIT."

The other Simon, to be clear. I share the general sentiment, but I don't use - and dislike - "self-indulgent" as term to criticize of music.

Joan said...

As the person who first brought up the word "disrespect" in this thread, I'd like to elaborate. Mrs. Whatsit got it:
I don't think it's disrespectful that he changed the song so dramatically from the Johnny Cash version. I do think it's disrespectful that he failed so completely to find the emotional heart of it.

What Adam sang had nothing to do with "Ring of Fire" and everything to do with Adam.

I also concur with the commenters noting that this was supposed to be country night, not "recast a country song into your comfort zone" night -- the point was to take the singers out of those comfort zones. Adam refused.

I'll also note that I have a low tolerance for hybridizing any kind of Western music with Middle Eastern music. When Page & Plant got together and did their first album post-Zep, I thought it sucked, too.

PJ said...

Speaking as a youngest son, let me say it's incredibly annoying for me to be called by either of my brothers' names.

And speaking as an oldest son, I'm always delighted to be called by the name of my younger and handsomer brother. Another win-win for older siblings!

MadisonMan said...

I'm sure my brothers like being called by my name, as well, for the same reasons.

Simon said...

Joan said...
"I [] concur with the commenters noting that this was supposed to be country night, not 'recast a country song into your comfort zone' night -- the point was to take the singers out of those comfort zones. Adam refused."

Wasn't willing, or wasn't capable - and, either way, that makes it even harder to credit the theory that "Lambert is the best singer ever to be on the show...."

R.J. Valentine said...

The majority of you are ridiculous. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Adam's performance (I'm actually listening to it again right now). The fact is he did something different. Deal with it. If you have a problem with high pitched vocals, then get over it, because for years now, well respected artists have made a career for themselves with those vocals. Adam is the only standout among the typical AI cast, filled with guys with generic, low pitch, raspy voices and girls with a little soul in them. Just because YOU think that it's disrespectful to do a different version of a Johnny Cash song doesn't mean that it is. Yes, Cash was a great artist, but here's a news flash, he was a country artist. Does Adam strike you as a country artist? No? I didn't think so. It should've been expected that he would do something different, and everyone should've approached it with an open mind. Sadly, and to your own detriment, most of you did not.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The majority of you are ridiculous. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Adam's performance (I'm actually listening to it again right now). The fact is he did something different. Deal with it. If you have a problem with high pitched vocals, then get over it, because for years now, well respected artists have made a career for themselves with those vocals.

You are free to like or dislike the performance. It is a matter of taste. You are the one being ridiculous. There is no problem with high pitched vocals.....done well. Freddy Mercury and Queen was/is awesome, Vince Gill and quite a few others are great vocalists with a mastery of the high ranges.

I didn't like it for the many and various reasons I have already detailed.

The objection that I have... is that because I didn't like the artist's rendition, felt that he didn't perform it very well, didn't have adequate mastery of the vocal range and that it was inappropriate for the challenge and that it was a self indulgent piece of work....I am being told that it makes me homophobic. Yes, he did something different, but he didn't do it well and it wasn't what was asked that he do.

Simon said...

R.J. Valentine, like Chris, you're expending much ammunition on targets that exist only in your own imagination. Instead of addressing the actual criticisms advanced, you set up and demolish straw men composed of what you imagine must be the hidden motivations of critics. For example, you suggest that if anyone "ha[s] a problem with high pitched vocals, then get over it." That isn't the problem, and no one has said so; indeed, I know for a fact that several of the people above like bands including Queensreich, Rush, and Dream Theater, all of which feature male singers singing open-throat - not falsetto as CAC intimated - in higher registers.

Another straw man - one that has been repeatedly demolished above - is the theory that "[j]ust because YOU think that it's disrespectful to do a different version of a Johnny Cash song doesn't mean that it is." No one thinks that doing a different version is disrespectful, as has been repeatedly emphasized in comments above. Several commenters have explicitly distinguished between a version that is different and a version that is worse. It is only the latter that is a problem - as Chris conceded (albeit with a different spin), other AI performers have done "different" versions of songs and not been criticized.

Lastly, you argue that "Cash was a great artist, but here's a news flash, he was a country artist. Does Adam strike you as a country artist?" But Joan, veni vidi vici, and Publius demolished that argument in their comments above: it was country night. The performers were asked to perform within certain parameters, parameters Adam chose to ignore. I find interpleader very difficult, but if I'm sitting Althouse's CivPro exam, and she asks a question that requires me to discuss interpleader, she will (or ought) to fail me if I instead ignore the question and discuss something I'm more comfortable with.

Don't criticize people's comments when your remarks reveal that you've not read them with any attentiveness. And having an open mind doesn't mean liking any garbage shoveled into it.

michael farris said...

The funny thing about the disrpect issue is that Johnny Cash's version of Ring of Fire was a pretty radical remake.

A few years ago Sarah Vowell did a piece on Cash and June Carter (who wrote the thing) on This American Life. June wrote it as she was falling in love with Cash (and both were married to other people). Given her cultural background, the ring of fire was no idle metaphor but something she was afraid could literally happen to her (as in going to a hell full of fire).

Anyway, her sister Anita was the first to record it and Johnny Cash's reworking of it with Mariachi horns came to him in a dream (doubtless drug fueled).

I didn't like Adam's version of the song not because it sucks (though it ... does) but because his version fails horribly as a performance of a country song.

Why have country night if the less versital can simply avoid the genre and do what they do every other week.

Goofy Megan, not a good singer by any stretch of the imagination, has shown a lot more versatility than Adam.

veni vidi vici said...

Cash is dead. Welcome to the age of plastic.



By the way, Page & Plant's second album together post-Zep was even worse than the first one, but their tours in 95 and 98 were absolutely spectacular!

Simon said...

michael farris said...
"June wrote it as she was falling in love with Cash (and both were married to other people)."

Cash's first wife disputes that claim. She says Cash gave Carter the writing credit but wrote it himself.

"Why have country night if the less versital can simply avoid the genre and do what they do every other week.

Versatile.

michael farris said...

"Versatile"

yikes, I knew that, where did 'versital' come from? I'm not even drunk (yet).

Simon said...

Michael, some kind of phonetic thing? I mean, that's how I usually hear people pronouncing it (with a soft i, short a, and the emphasis on the first syllable).

MadisonMan said...

Michael, you took that word and made it your own. That really shows you are an artiste. Bravo!

knox said...

MM, LOL

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

MadisonMen & Simon: If you weren't making the argument that it was disrespectful towards Johnny Cash, then my comment was not about you.

RR Ryan said...

You want range and talent: Julie Andrews doing Le Jazz Hot. And yes, she did it live. I saw it at the Bowl. That's singing without the annoying tics.

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

The theme for the week was technically not "Country" but Grand Ole Opry. That's more specific and makes it seem more like it's about taking something from a particular catalogue, since the theme isn't named for the genre. Next week is Motown week, do they have to conform strictly to the style of Motown? I think on Motown week it's about giving them a set of songs to choose from, not determining exactly how the style should be, and maybe by not doing a "Country" week but instead calling it Grand Ole Opry, they were trying to make it more like that.

Incidentally, only ONE person really went full country (Michael) and he was in the bottom two.

MadisonMan said...

Julie Andrews singing Le Jazz Hot.

I think Julie Andrews would be a great mentor -- but I don't know how many Julie Andrews songs could be used. Too bad she'll never have a new album coming out to promote on AI.

MadisonMan said...

...and I could totally see Adam Lambert singing that!

MadisonMan said...

...which would be cool -- a guy singing a part from a movie of a girl playing a guy playing a girl.

RR Ryan said...

Yes, it's too bad, although her voice did come back. I doubt she has quite the multi-ocatve range, but her catalog is fairly deep. And she could certainly help in a presentation of standards.

RR Ryan said...

Madison Man- I hadn't considered the whole girl-guy-girl-guy thing. Now that's entertainment!

Joan said...

I love Julie Andrews, and I'm a sucker for musicals. Victor/Victoria is so full of anachronisms and stupidity I know I should hate it, but I can't. With Andrews, Garner, and Preston, not to mention Lesley Ann Warren and Alex Karras, how could anyone resist?

But I digress. CAC said: If you weren't making the argument that it was disrespectful towards Johnny Cash,

IMO, Adam was disrespectful of the source material, the song. Not Johnny Cash or any other specific performer or artist. I guess it's a bit weird to think of a song as something that can be disrespected, but that's just the way Adam's performance hit me. Please understand that I really like "Kashmir" and was kind of grooving to the possibility of a Kashmir-ish "Ring of Fire," until Adam started to sing. The single biggest problem with this performance is that Adam sounds downright happy about being thrown into that ring of fire, and that's just wrong.

I have no point with guys singing in the upper registers. I still love prog rock and Adam here isn't singing anything that puts Geddy Lee (Rush) or Jon Anderson (Yes) to shame. Roy Orbison could do heavenly things with his voice, too. I doubt any one of those guys would sound so delighted about being thrown into Hell, the way Adam managed to.

PJ said...

CAC --

What are your criteria for calling something "full country"? To my way of thinking, Megan, Lil, Anoop, and Alexis all did straight-up country, too, and Scott and Matt did the sort of country crossover that reminded me of Ronnie Milsap. Lil and Alexis both clearly thought that they were expected to sing in a country style, but I suppose they could have been wrong. (And if Alexis was wrong about that, it probably cost her the tour.)

Big Mike said...

@Joan, I'm not so sure there is such a thing as "disrespecting the song." Tuesday being the day it was I was checking out my old Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem LPs, and I remembered being surprised that some of the Irish songs they sang with great gusto were actually intended to be sung as dirges.

Speaking of Roy Orbison, I used to love his stuff but if PBS runs Black & White Nights one more time I'm going to have to dynamite their tower.

(@Chris, an LP was a big, flat, round, black thing with a small hole in the center and a long spiral groove ... Nevermind. I'm just an old fart remembering the days when men were men and women were grateful.)

Smilin' Jack said...

Christopher Althouse Cohen:

Some people act "outraged" that he changed Johnny Cash's version. Well, I can't remember any other time someone acted like it was disrespectful to the original artist for an AI contestant to do a drastically reworked version of a song in a totally different style than the original. David Cook's Billie Jean performance was praised. Jennifer Hudson did a gospel version of Imagine and no one said anything. People may have not liked Kristy Lee Cook's country version of Eight Days A Week blah, blah, and more blah....


OK, that explains the problem here. A music review from someone who watches that much AI is like a restaurant review from someone who habitually eats at McDonald's.

knox said...

Oh, jeez.

I KNOW MORE ABOUT MUSIC!

NO, I DO!

Jennifer said...

lol knox

Who decided the guy was gay? Or that it is his sole defining factor? I have no idea if he's gay or not. In my head, whether he's gay or straight, he'll still be the quasi-emo theater guy not the gay guy or the straight guy.

I dig his personality. He's very confident without overblown arrogance, he is very sure of who he is and his style is selective.

I do not dig his skin or this particular performance. I love some of the YouTube performances Christopher posted earlier in the season. I haven't loved anything he's done on AI.

And I still think Megan is significantly more original and unique than he is even though she lacks the talent he has.

Maurice said...

And as good as the competitors are, not one has the raw talent of this singer/performer. It's almost unfair that so many other really good singers are going to be bumped out this season because one performer is so far above them.

DJ said...

"If the same people saw a video of Jeff Buckley (who was presumably heterosexual) doing the same version of Ring of Fire, would they be so shocked by it?"

Are you joking? Do you really not get how incredibly gayed up that version is? Hearing it the first time was shocking in of itself, but the idea of a straight man pulling it off is downright hard to imagine.

I get that he doesn't have the best voice for country, but he didn't really make any compromises here. Instead of finding a form of country or country-esque tune that he could work with, he went with a Johnny Cash cover that could not be farther from the source material.

The whole song was practically moaned, and the style was such a drastic jump from the original that it really can't be called Cash's song anymore, let alone country.

If you took out the vocals, there would be no way to even recognize that you're listening to a Johnny Cash cover. The fact that anyone is proclaiming it is better than the original is a complete joke.