Idol Worship

Idol Worship

I just finished reading the Idol feature in the latest issue of Rolling Stone.  The main story is an interview with Simon Cowell.  Vitals on Simon:  He spent a privileged childhood in England. He practically flunked out of boarding school, and then climbed the ladder from the mailroom at EMI.  He produced crap records that made a lot of money for Arista and Sony that tied into TV characters like the Power Rangers and WWE wrestlers.  He produced the boyband Westlife. 

He created Pop Idol in England with Simon Fuller.  It was a hit.  They sold the concept to Fox in America, because Elizabeth Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, was a huge fan.  And, the rest?  Well, if you are reading this blog, you probably know the rest. Simon was presented in the article as behaving exactly the same in real life as he does on TV. But, I dunno, it felt kinda like spin to me. The Simon interview is flanked by sidebars on Simon Fuller,  Paula Abdul (where she refers to her vagina), Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest.

Seacrest, the overachiever, is patterning his career after Merv Griffin and Dick Clark.  His deal with E! will give him the opportunity to build his own production company and share in the profits.  Ryan says that at heart, he’s a business man, and the phrase “revenue sharing” makes the hair on his forearms stand on end.  Well, I’m glad something turns him on.  Hee.

The coverage wraps up with a list called the “Final Countdown”  The reporter ranks the contestants:

1. Katharine McPhee, 2. Chris Daughtry, 3. Kellie Pickler, 4. Taylor Hicks, 5. Paris Bennett, 6. Ace Young, 7. Elliott Yamin, 8. Mandisa, 9. Lisa Tucker, 10. Kevin Covais, 11. Bucky Covington.

Well, she got one wrong already.  Kevin is gone.  And Bucky is still alive–much to the chagrin of the writer, I’m sure, who used a two-word slur in reference to Bucky that I won’t even print here.   Mandisa comes in only at #8 because, “By idol standards, the twenty-nine-year-old Mandisa is over the hill.  She’s probably not getting loads of votes from the vast audience of teens who watch the show.”  Teens aren’t the only voters. But, while Mandisa is hardly “over the hill” I would expect the judges to start harping on her age and weight if they decide to de-pimp her–since they can’t fault her singing.

Katharine wins the top spot because, “Idol viewers like to pick someone who has style while remaining fairly generic.  McPhee fits the bill to a tee.” Some past idols: Ruben was bland–kind of “Luther Vandross Lite.” But Fantasia was hardly generic. She’s a very distinctive talent–which may have kept her from breaking through in a big way.  And while Carrie was generic, I wouldn’t call her stylish.  Katharine has a lot of buzz right now.  But ultimately, she’s a gifted cabaret singer, not a pop star.   I’m sure the producers know that.  She won’t win.

A picture named Top11Chrisb.jpegAI Walks the Line

Speaking of the winner.  Tuesday’s controversy over Chris Daughtry’s cover of a cover of “I Walk the Line” has hit the mainstream press.  I can’t believe this story has legs. 

Jacob Clifton who co-recaps and co-moderates American Idol for the website (hi guys!) weighs in here, “I think it’s more a sign of the judges being out of touch or the show’s producers deliberately trying to fool the public…the fact is, Chris should not be blamed for using the arrangements that he does.”

I tend to agree.  Idol is all about wanna-be stars singing cheesy cover songs. I don’t actually expect contestants to be original within the context of AI.  Chris using Live’s arrangement wasn’t the problem.  The trouble started when the judges pulled out the originality card, and played it hard,  insinuating that Chris was solely responsible for the song’s arrangement. What made it worse was the insinuation that Chris’s so-called “originality” should propel him past other inferior, non-original contestants.  That the praise was solely based on hype rather than truth made the manipulation all too transparent.  I can’t believe the miscalculation.  That viewers who knew better–especially those who are fans of other contestants–wouldn’t call them out on the “omission”.

I don’t fault Chris for not jumping in and saying something.  Standing in front of the judges, on TV in front of millions of viewers, is probably all a blur.  It’s sort of like Academy Award winners who forget to thank their spouses.  Nah, I blame the producers.  Unfortunately, Chris will bear the brunt.  I expect he’ll address the issue in his next interview.

A picture named Top11Katharineb.jpeg

Come Rain or Come Shine a 50’s tune?

ETA:  I almost forgot to add this.  I got an interesting email this morning about Katharine McPhee’s song choice, “Come Rain or Come Shine”.  Over on the Idolonfox boards, a poster did a Google search on the tune and found this (I found it on Wikipedia):

Come Rain or Come Shine” is a popular song written by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The song was published in 1946.

A number of recordings were made in 1946: by Sy Oliver (with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, by Dinah Shore, by Helen Forrest and Dick Haymes, and by Margaret Whiting. Although the song did not actually make the charts in the period following its publication, it has become a standard.”

I believe Billie Holiday recorded the song in the forties as well.  There were some recordings in the 50’s, by Jo Stafford, Perry Como to name two–but by the fifties the song had become a standard.  Frank Sinatra recorded it in the 60’s.  Any song nerds with more information, feel free to jump in…

The point is that the song was written in the 40’s and first recorded during that decade.  Nothing ties “Come Rain or Come Shine” to the 50’s particularly, except that there were some recordings of the tune during the decade. It would be interesting to know exactly what guidelines the contestants were following when they chose their songs.