Wednesday, May 9, 2007

American Idol Final Four: How Can You Mend a Broken Ear?

First things first: I love the Bee Gees, okay? I love disco. Yes, I appreciate artsy, acoustic singer-songwriters and "challenging" songs about world peace and political issues. And sure, virtually every other genre of music, from punk and electronica to country and rap basks in the glow of critical adoration, while disco is a form of music banished to the kids' table during Thanksgiving dinner like the strange cousin who eats paste. But ya know what? Disco is virtually the only type of music that actually makes me "feel good." Brings back memories of happier times in my life, doesn't try to teach me a ham-handed "lesson" and just makes makes me want to move.

So you can imagine how happy I was to see Idol get around to "disco night," or more appropriately, Bee Gees/Barry Gibb night. Little did I know that once it was over, I would have probably would have enjoyed "Idols sing Thom Yorke" or "50 Cent Night" more.

No one said anything about it, but what the hell was up with Barry Gibb's face? I don't think it was the typical case of overbotoxed/face-lifted aging star. Something was going on with his jaw, like he had just gotten it reset and couldn't enunciate more clearly than Logan Echolls or Sylvester the cat. In fact, he sounded like the Sean Connery caricature on "Celebrity Jeopardy." Still, he could bring the falsetto and gave the Idol wannabees solid advice (which Lakisha would ignore, as usual) and had a vast songbook from which the final four could choose.

Melinda, the "resident pro," led us off with "Love You Inside and Out," and did her usual resident pro thing. Solid vocals, great technique, but nothing spectacular. Later, for her second song, she performed "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart." Once again, solid, but unspectacular. And I'm not a doctor or anything (but I do watch House), but every time Melinda ran across a lyric about "heart," she grabbed her tummy. Does she need to play "Operation" and learn where these parts are? Did anyone else notice this? Not great, but compared to some of what was to follow, it was stellar.

Blake was up next, to bring us the high energy romp that is "You Should Be Dancing." Except that it wasn't a high energy romp. As much as I loved the god-forsaken beatboxing last week against my better judgment, he overdid it tonight. Maybe it was like when someone thought it was funny when Jack Tripper fell over the couch, and then he spent the next five years falling over the couch on every episode of Three's Company. I think Blake was reading his press clippings all week, about 90% positive, on taking Bon Jovi to beatboxland, and decided that no song, no matter the context, would be complete without it. Or maybe he realized that his falsetto lacked any projection or power, and was determined to distract us all from it. Whatever the reason, this song was a mess. Ironically, it did not convince me I should be dancing. Maybe "You Should Be Drinking More Heavily and Listening to Your Saturday Night Fever CD" would have been more apt. For his second tune, Blake came back with "This is Where I Came In." Of all the songs in the catalog, he chose this? That's like saying "Spock's Brain" is your favorite episode of Star Trek. Or "Black Market" is your favorite Battlestar Galactica. Or "Beer Bad" is your favorite Buffy. Okay, you get the point. Even Barry Gibb, who wrote the fucking thing, was surprised. Again, the beatboxing distracted from the poor song choice, and Blake actually hit more notes with power this time, but his inexplicable decision to choose a tuneless tune might just kill him, unless the "Blaker Girls" come out in force. Wow. There's "taking chances," and then there's just pissing all over the litterbox of goodwill. I can't believe Blake didn't pick "Jive Talking" or "Nights on Broadway" or something that would combine fun and energy with a recognizable song.

Last week's fortunate survivor, Lakisha, comes out to belt "Stayin' Alive." Should be a slam dunk, right? Except....not. Typically, she shouts all over it, and bizarrely slows down the tempo to an anthemic and touchstone up tempo song from the era. After scowling her way through what should have been a fun hoot, she comes back for her second at bat with "Run to Me" and hits a few more notes this time amidst the hollering, but cracks a note at the end and puts a fitting capper on a disastrous week for her. And of course, she ignored all the advice given her, despite nodding enthusiastically when hearing it. Is her hubris greater than Blake's?

Jordin bats clean up, and should be happy to have survived Bon Jovi week. She plays it relatively safe, and chooses (both times) more "diva-appropriate" songs. Barry Gibb touches himself during the coaching session, and while I love Jordin and she's my "hope" to win, I think the gushing is a little much. Still, she does "To Love Somebody" and it kicks a little ass and is even a bit soulful. She comes back for her second tune with a song made famous by Barbra Striesand, "Woman in Love." Say what you want about her narcissism and hysterical political rantings, but Babs has one of the finest vocal instruments ever recorded. Jordin suffers in comparison to James Brolin's wife, but hell, who wouldn't? I enjoyed it, the judges didn't, but Jordin comes out of tonight's clusterfuck at least a solid number two, if not tied with Melinda.

This hour was almost as painful to get through as a results show, yet I couldn't fast forward through the bad parts. It was even more crushing since I had high hopes for the theme and most of the Idols had performed strongly with Jon Bon Jovi. I'm simply aghast.

TNRLM's Top 2: Jordin and Melinda, by a mile.
TNRLM's Bottom 2: Blake and Lakisha.

Lakisha should go home tonight, unless haters of beatboxing rise up with torches and pitchforks and storm the castle.

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