April 5, 2005

The night "Broadway" was not an insult.

After three seasons of using "Broadway" as an insult, "American Idol" makes Broadway show tunes the theme. I've got to assume this is a reaction to Ben Brantley's New York Times piece "Has Broadway Lost Its Voice to 'American Idol?'" (which blamed the TV show for things he doesn't like these days on Broadway). (Here's my blog post about Brantley's piece.) Before they announced the theme and right after Ryan Seacrest made a point of the fact that so far only female contestants have been voted off, I guessed that they would have a theme tonight that would disadvantage males, especially when the first shot of the contestants featured their favorites of the women left, Carrie and Nadia. And I think I was right.

Scott Savol (one of the contestants I believe the Powers That Be want to fail) goes first (suggesting he'll be good) and sings "The Impossible Dream," which his mom told him to sing. He liked it because the words applied to him, he says. He doesn't specify that it actually is virtually impossible for him to win the show. The judges have already taken up lying about him (saying he's off key when he's not and saying he's like the worst singer at a karaoke bar). He does a great job. So do the judges lie? Randy finds pitch problems again and says "ah - ight." Paula is good to him, calling it "heartfelt." Simon sneers and calls it "ordinary." They are just flat out lying because he's fat and weird.

Constantine Maroulis totally comes out as an actor who's studied Broadway -- and loves Frank Sinatra. It's "My Funny Valentine." He's shackled by a crazy, busy arrangement that fights against him. But he's just darling. Paula standing Os. Randy loves him: "This is what you should be doing, dude." Get in that box, Con! Paula: "I admit I'm falling in love with you." Simon: "The best pouting performance I have ever seen on 'American Idol.'" Translation: they know they've found a sexy, sensitive-yet-masculine guy. "Who is the real Constantine?" Ryan asks, and Constantine answers: "The real Constine is..." Wait a minute! Mispronouncing your own name? Who does that?

Carrie Underwood. Full disclosure: I have an irrational dislike for her. It's not so much about her but about they way they like her. She's got Carmenosity on her. So take this with a grain of salt... but ... ick! Tasteless, tawdry, harsh. "Hello Young Lovers." Vote her off! That was just ugly. But they won't criticize her. Just watch. They all lie. I like Paula's awkward "You're a well-oiled machine" -- which was intended as a compliment. Simon: "Too old fashioned." Yes. She's hopelessly square. It's NOT cute anymore.

Vonzell Solomon. She's singing "People." I find it kind of ugly. Paula's standing again. Randy's "wow"-ing. Paula: "You hit that high E flat that Barbra doesn't even go for." Maybe that's because Barbra has some subtlety. (The reference is to that trick, used constantly by show-offs singing the national anthem, of taking a high note up to an unscripted higher note.) Simon doesn't lie: "left me a little cold."

Anthony Federov sings a song associated with a nun: "Climb Every Rainbow." [ADDED: I mean, "Climb Every Mountain." My mistake amuses me an awful lot.] He starts out with weak low notes, which usually means there will be some strong high notes later on that are supposed to wipe out our memory of the beginning of the song. I note that the words of this song are very similar to the words of the crap songs they make "Idol" winners do on finale night. Follow your dreams blah blah blah. Simon: "Hideous."

Nikko Smith does "One Hand, One Heart" from "West Side Story." He tries to Stevie Wonderize it. His final high note is very unpleasant, so I don't think the "end strong" strategy, which has worked for him in the past, is going to work now. Simon makes exactly my point: everyone is trying to end with a big note that is supposed to make us forget all the other crap, and he didn't even nail the note.

Anwar Robinson is going to do the Sir Lancelot piece "If Ever I Would Leave You." He does great! Randy: "Welcome back, baby!" Paula: "Brilliant." Simon: "You seemed very comfortable." Translation: you are Broadway, and that's bad!

Bo Bice. I'm distracted by his dark red shirt-like garment which seems to be made of some odd shiny rubber. He's singing some crap from "Pippin." Bleccchhhh!

Nadia Turner. She's singing the ultimate abused woman song, "As Long as He Needs Me." She's got a cool white gown. Every time she sings the word "as," she pronounces it "has." In fact, every time she sings the word "or," she pronounces it "whore." The tone and the style are actually quite ugly, but watch them lay on the praise. At least Simon holds back a little. (Really, without Simon, the show would be intolerable.)

Conclusion: The theme was awful! I don't hate show tunes. But for these people? Yuck!

Bottom three: Anthony, Nikko, Carrie. Anthony leaves.

UPDATE: The Aspirant, who has a lot of interesting things to say about all the contestants, thinks I'm wrong about Scott -- though not wrong about the "fat and weird" part. I can see, but I admit I'm not good at hearing technical musical things like pitch. There has been some disagreement among the judges over the weeks about whether Scott sings on pitch or not. I used to get the feeling he was off pitch -- it is just a feeling with me -- but then something made me think he wasn't.

Let me add something about Nikko. He was praised for bringing a Broadway show tune up to date. Can someone remind the judges that Stevie Wonder was at his height over thirty years ago? Why do they keep acting like Stevie Wonder is the biggest thing going today?

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