Idol: Rat Trap
I think a lot of the hate that gets levelled at American Idol comes from people who believe it’s damaging to music - it cynically churns out production-line pop stars with zero integrity.
Of course, these contestants are real kids who usually possess a real desire to make music - the fame whores mostly get weeded out. American Idol hasn’t really invented anything; it’s just created a new process to get us to the same place, using kids who’d have as much claim as anyone to legitimacy if they came up through another route. The food industry doesn’t make good food; it makes processed food. The music industry is the same. That’s what industries do; they sell packaging.
None of which is meant to excuse what Idol does - and I’ll let you in on a secret. A lot of the people who love Idol also hate that it cynically churns out production-line pop stars. A lot of the people who love Idol are frustrated by the way the judges and producers chip away at the contestants’ individualism to try to fit them into a pre-formed vision of an existing artist they want them to be like. Or, more accurately, an artist they want them to sell like.
Take, for example, Siobhan Magnus. Siobhan was voted off last week - but it wasn’t the Siobhan I’d been cheering for earlier in the season. That Siobhan disappeared weeks ago. That quirky, expressive, operatic alien - a latter-day Siobhan Fahey - was a popular performer. She screeched a lot, but she was exciting to watch and never boring. Then the judges whittled her down with their usual incomprehensible and contradictory advice until she was a bland and uninteresting shell of her former self. The audience doesn’t want that, and that’s why she’s not on stage this week.
And that’s why there’s not much at all on stage this week; everything is neutered. It’s Crystal Bowersox and four dull boys.
This week’s theme is Sinatra, and this week’s mentor is Harry Connick Jr, who must be thrilled that Michael Bublé was apparently unavailable. I didn’t know that was this week’s theme when I mixed myself a Martini, but my Martini is probably the classiest thing I’ll see this evening.
To Connick Jr’s credit, he not only mentored the contestants, but did the arrangements and led the band - which is why the music is a lot better this week.
From worst to best:
5. Casey James, aka Joey Bishop
Casey pulled his hair back this week, which was very good. He looks like Poochie most of the time. Sadly the hair was the only good thing about his performance of Blue Skies. His voice sounded so tight and strained that I thought he’d trot out the old ‘I had a cold’ excuse. But it was just the ‘I’m a bit rubbish’ excuse.
4. Aaron Kelly, aka Peter Lawford
Aaron is still here because he’s never been the worst, but that’s all he has in his favour. He’s the wetter, more in-tune version of Tim Urban. I miss Tim Urban. Aaron got to sing one of the greatest of all vintage swing numbers, Fly Me To The Moon, but vintage swing is not in Aaron’s crayon box. His phrasing was muddy and his performance belonged at the kiddie table. His swing was so lacking that it officially didn’t mean a thing.
3. Lee DeWyze, aka Dean Martin
Connick played an awesome church organ for his arrangement of That’s Life, instantly making this a much more interesting performance than it ought to be. I like boiled potatoes a lot, so it’s a shame that I always mentally associate Lee with a boiled potato. He’s not anywhere near as delicious. But you know what I mean, right? He might be improved with butter. His That’s Life had no life. The judges jizzed all over it, not because it was good but because we’re officially designating Lee as Crystal’s competition. Fine, then let’s fast-forward to the end, shall we?
2. Crystal Bowersox, aka Sammy Davis Jr
Crystal was a bit reedy this week, a bit buried by the music. Summer Wind is a beautiful song, and she softened it, but she didn’t reinvent it. I would have expected her to get her Nina Simone on with this, but perhaps Crystal Bowersox doesn’t have a Nina Simone? The girl isn’t perfect, you know.
1. Big Mike Lynche, aka Frank
Big Mike, in first place? Oh, you better recognise! Here’s the thing about Mike; he may not have the likeability factor, but he knows how to sing, and he belted out The Way You Look Tonight like he knew what he was doing. It was rich, tuneful and very strong - easily the best of the night. Mike will probably go home this week.
Anyway, that was a shitty show.