Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Favorite Idol Performances #17 & #18

I'm not going out on a limb to say that this year's American Idol winners will not be: Brooke, Jason, or Syesha. Which leaves David A., David C., and Carly. Although I fulfill several gay stereotypes, I'm definitely not a Broadway fag, so I didn't expect Andrew Lloyd Weber week to 1) be entertaining, and 2) basically settle who the winner should be. It was entertaining. And the winner is . . . let's talk about the performances first.

Again, since I'm on foreign soil, I was watching the performances out of order on YouTube, so I wasn't aware until afterwards that Syesha was stuck with the dreaded first-up slot. A pity. Because she should have closed the show. Since she always described herself as an actress (who sings, obviously) I guess it shouldn't have been surprising that she could pull off an actressy song with style and (as Simon finally noticed) sexiness. It was her "happy place," as Paula said, and I only hope it remains her happy place after elimination, because she does sooooooo not deserve to go home this week. When she is eliminated, Broadway producers should be pounding on her door.

ALW + David A. = Easy Success. This was David A. territory, and, as Paula said, it was perfect. Except I wish it wasn't perfect. If ever a performance was filled with competence and empty of surprise, it was this one. ALW acted shocked that a boy would perform a song clearly meant for a (girl) diva. Hello? David is a girl diva (and I don't mean that disparagingly) inside the body of a small, cute teen-aged boy. The two pieces of advice ALW gave David (Open your eyes! Open your eyes!) were both precise and witty. I could see David trying, trying to keep his lids fully ajar, but no dice. The sincere squint, directed directly at the camera and all the tween girls warming up their push-button fingers, could not be closed down, or opened up, rather. I honestly think his characteristic squint is a hypnosis technique his stage father has forced upon him, but I can't offer proof. David will be in the top three, no doubt (unless those tween girls get lazy), but if you compare his performance with David C's, it's like white bread and bread pudding with whiskey sauce to me, and I'll take the latter. The most unguarded David A. moment of the evening was when the schoolgirls stormed the stage for hugs, and David's mortification shone through the showbiz smile. Underneath that Hillaryesque (just cause that's also on my mind) professionalism lurks an endearingly awkward teen still searching for his real self, even if he thinks he's found it on American Idol.

OK, Jason and Brooke. They were both out of their element, and it showed. Brooke, despite the start-over "drama", that quickly become the Yahoo! headline, seemed less clueless than Jason. (ALW saw she was clueless and took her in hand, literally.) Her performance was riveting, in part because there was the fear she'd lose it entirely, but also because her vulnerability showed again, and not in a bad way. Still, there's a good chance she'll be going home (the flub may have actually helped her get some pity votes), deservedly so, and it will be especially cruel to hear her sing, "You must love me," after she's been voted off. (Do the contestants ever think of this irony when they pick their songs?) I still like it when Jason brings his sweet little falsetto to the biggest of songs (unlike David A., under those dreads he really isn't a diva), but enough is enough.

David C. gets bonus points for singing his "sexy song" with conviction after ALW told David to sing it to him like he was the teen-aged maiden of his desires. Yikes! If David C. has nightmares for the next several decades, this is why. ALW is super-freaky looking as a middle-aged man for crying out loud. Some things are beyond the human imagination. But David C. pulled it off, playing it straight while still having a creative edge that another David doesn't have in him, yet. He's the winner. I don't see anyone else matching him in terms of artistic maturity, but then again AI isn't necessarily decided on either artistry or maturity. I'm not picking David's as a favorite performance because I've picked him enough already. And I'm picking him as my winner, no turning back (unless he really blows next week).

"Carly" and "fun"--two words that never seemed to belong in the same sentence before, especially when Carly has insisted she was having "fun" during a performance, when clearly she wasn't. Here, ALW should get credit as being the best mentor of the season, or maybe all-time. He actually gave contestants concrete advice, and the advice he gave Carly may save her. Ditch the ballad, go with Jesus and paaaaarty! I've always suspected Carly was a good-time gal (she is Irish, after all), and though "Jesus Christ Superstar" is a completely bizarre song choice when you think of it, and the lyrics are completely irrelevant out of context, it worked for her. She let loose, she relaxed, she belted, and she didn't look like death warmed over. (She looked terrific, actually.) If Carly survives another week--and she should--she needs to go with that rollicking attitude and apply it vocally. I'll be very surprised if she wins AI, but she needs to go out with confidence instead of desperation. (And she needs to learn to pick the right song without coaching.)

Addendum: The results are in. Never underestimate the power of the pity vote. I'd accuse Brooke of staging her stumble in a bit of Kristy Lee cleverness to stay on past her time, but I don't think scheming is in Brooke's nature. A shame that Carly is going home just as she was finally showing some joy, but there you have it. It's the battle of the boys now.

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