Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beware: American Idol

Das Amerikanisches Idyll

I was not going to post about American Idol having been too embarrassed to even admit watching it to most of my friends (though many folk here and elsewhere who I highly respect justifiably find no shame in it). But I wanna weigh in like everybody else, so here goes and BEWARE!
When I first heard David Cook sing at the beginning of the season I declared immediately: here is the winner. I thoroughly enjoyed his performances the first week or so. After that, not so much . . . to not at all.
The entire “Cook Package” became somewhat unappealing to me: a decent if not particularly memorable voice (certainly nothing distinctive about it), but knowing how to use it – for the most part. (The voice still seems to give out too easily which is more than a little worrisome). Then there is his appearance: a too carefully cultivated look failing in its attempt to look “casual” (I have a few rock band friends who spend hours to look like they just crawled from under a rock). He seems to be uncomfortably straddling some imaginary fence between a pseudo hardcore look with remnants of the oh-too-feminine "EMO" craze, what with the girl jeans and plastered Dippity-Do cowlick hair. It’s about as affected an appearance as I have seen. But he seemed like a decent guy.
Archuleta alternately bored and charmed me with his sweet, very natural and unforced voice. He charmed me (but never thrilled) with his beautifully, articulate singing, but also bored me with a certain sameness of style in everything he sang, and, as has been mentioned, was almost laughable (but in the cutest way possible) in uptempo “show” type numbers (I recall Simon almost falling out of his chair). I found (as did half of America, evidently) Archuleta so appealing that even his goof-ups were endearing, like watching a newborn foal trying to trot – you laugh and smile and your heart blows up at the innocent beauty of it.
Cook, kept getting praised (almost as though being groomed by Simon) for the top spot, but his performances grew less and less consistent. It appeared as though he were trying to put Randy’s advice into practice – but simply couldn’t, at least not on any type of consistent basis. Many of his performances lacked “oomph” (a leftover affectation of post-EMO music he seems to favor, I’d wager), and in this type of competition this speaks to the majority of the largest fan base for idol: hormonal teenage girls from decent families who otherwise would be spending their money on cigarettes and getting knocked up. That EMO-bed hairdo, the girl jeans, the slightly “I’m almost dangerous . . . almost a rebel” look carries the day with such girls. And they voted – some of them, (so I’ve read) 100 or more times for Mr. Cook, their phones on “autodial” – merely hanging up and hitting redial over and over and over and over . . . (The calls were free, and, again, for the type of fan who Cook most appeals to, such behavior is . . . like, totally norm – oKAY?)
Going back to appearances, Archuleta’s Dockers-n-tees wholesomeness resembled a prep school kid going to rake the lawn. Where Cook had facial poses and gestures reminiscent of someone who studied Ben Stiller’s Zoolander, Archuleta’s doe-eyed, unforced smile stole your heart and made, I think many (like myself) think: I want a kid just like THAT.
I watched the final showdown of David v. David, and – before the show began – still figured Cook would bring his best game and win – hands down. But . . . BUT, Little David Archuleta came out and from the start with “Don’t let the sun go down on me” delivered perhaps the best performance of anyone all season. There was a depth of emotion, a darker emoting, than he’s ever previously exhibited and my jaw – as well as those of the jury’s hit the floor. No one, I think, seemed prepared for what this young singer was going to actually do. I immediately switched gears and knew, in my gut, that the lad would win – or at least deserved to.
I had a hockey game last night (Go Pirates!) and when I came home, immediately turned on the TV – for the last 20 minutes of the show, only to see Cook take the title. To his credit, young Master Archuleta was the picture of graciousness and seemed, earnestly happy for Mr. Cook – and never stopped smiling and beaming at his competitor. If possible I liked the kid even more for NOT winning.
In the long run, I’m pleased with the results (though will, in all likelihood, never hear another note from either of these young men again), and hope that the studio freaks and perverts leave their hands off the teenager and allow him to develop into what he wants to be: a pop balladeer with a voice as sweet as candy.
I wish Mr. Cook well (oddly, he shares the name of my boarding school roommate – and resembled him as well).
If I could’ve picked the winner, it would’ve been Sayesha Mercado. She, for me seemed best at combining a multitude of styles all with talent and charm to spare, with a natural, unforced sexiness and gorgeousness that will serve her well. (I think I fell for her a little bit, too.) It was clear her voice and style felt more comfortable and seemed best exhibited in more theatrical styles of singing and I hope Broadway comes a knockin’. For years I’ve always thought we should have an televised operatic competition (even back during Star Search with that ungainly Ed McMahon as host), and was very pleased by the BBC “Operatunity” reality series.
I really can’t believe I posted this.


Labels: , , , ,