Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Barry interesting evening

Hey, look, it's Clay Aiken at age 60! Oh, wait,'s Barry Manilow, the special guest for American Idol's 1950s night.

Manilow and Idol have met before, and they're a match made in heaven (or hell, depending on how you feel about them). Both have produced their fair share of schlock. And consider this: Though rock 'n' roll began in the 1950s, you wouldn't know it from Manilow's new album of '50s songs...and you'd hardly know it by watching Idol's '50s night, either.

The Idol finalists traveled to Las Vegas to meet Manilow and practice with him, and despite initial skepticism - or ignorance - the Brooklyn native famous for "Copacabana" and "Mandy" won them over
with his arranging skills, enthusiasm and overall musicianship.

"I just wasn't too fond of his work, to be honest with you," said Elliott Yamin, who wowed the judges and crowd with "Teach Me Tonight." "(But) by the end of our session, I was a true Barry 'fanilow.' I didn't realize what an awesome songwriter this guy was, and how much emotion he puts into his songs."

Speaking of, the Idol judges are fond of contestants who "stay true to themselves" and "make songs their own." But in some ways, doesn't it seem that that can just mean making songs sound like the contestants' preferred genre, regardless of whether it's unique? For instance, Chris Daughtry consistently performs polished, radio-ready modern rock - something hardly unusual in the music world, even though it deservedly stands out on Idol. When he took the stage Tuesday, wearing black, he transformed Johnny Cash's legendary "I Walk The Line" in the same style, sounding a whole lot more like, say, 1990s rockers Live than anyone would probably care to admit. And Ace Young, he of catalog-model looks, gave "In the Still of the Night" a smooth jazz-pop sheen, finishing with falsetto Manilow asked him to do. As if Ace needed to be encouraged to do more falsetto! Quick, bring me a Boyz II Men album to erase the memory.


If this is love: "The critics love him, too," Ryan Seacrest said, narrating a voice-over about Manilow. "His mantelpiece is cluttered with awards like Tonys, Grammys and Emmys." Cluttered, eh? A quick check of the Internet turned up one Tony, one Emmy and a couple of Grammys. And that's to say nothing of how the critics really feel...

Advantage, Simon (and common sense):
After Taylor "the Silver Fox" Hicks took on Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," Paula and Simon sparred. Sigh.
Simon: "Taylor, I like you. You've got a great voice, but that was like some hideous party performance."
Hicks (smiling, laughs): "That's what the '50s were. That was the 50s!"
Paula (to Hicks): "(Simon's) jealous you can dance. He doesn't know how to dance."
Simon: "Paula, Paula, Paula, Paula, Paula - you're talking rubbish. You are."
Paula: "You cannot dance. You cannot dance, Simon, and the whole world knows it."
Simon: "This is a singing competition. It's not a dancing competition. It's a singing competition, in case you've forgotten."
Ah, so that explains choreographer and dancer Paula's ramblings - she thinks she's been judging fancy footwork all this time!

Could it be the hair? Seacrest on Hicks, who sported a white button-down, white shoes and a light blue-gray old man suit that oddly matched his hair: "Hasn't he sort of morphed? It's George Clooney, Jay Leno and a bit of Phil Donahue, all together."

Old Idols don't disappear... they just end up in the show's audience, like Jasmine Trias (wow, that was a long time ago) and Constantine Maroulis did Tuesday. Oh, Constantine. Just looking at you makes me feel greasy.

You're not the only one: "There are times tonight when I feel like I'm trapped in some kind of high school musical or something," Simon said after Lisa Tucker's performance.

His lips are sealed, kinda: Was it just me, or did Elliott seem to be making a concerted effort to keep his mouth closed, thus concealing his much-scrutinzed teeth?

The best: Mandisa - loved the elegant attire and classy look, loved her vocal range on "I Don't Hurt Anymore." ("It's like a great stripper song," Simon said. As a compliment. "I absolutely loved it.") Paris - Only 17, Randy said she "blew it out the box" performing "Fever." Elliott. Chris (
"I think you're the first artist we've had on the show who's refused to compromise," Simon said). Katharine ("Come Rain or Come Shine"). Kellie ("Walkin' After Midnight").

The bottom three: Bucky - the hair, fortunately, was back to normal. The friendly smile was intact. But his take on Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy," Simon noted, was below-average and "nothing more than a pointless karaoke performance." (After all, when Paula can only come up with "You had a lot of fun on stage" and "People love you," you know you could have done better.)
Lisa - She's obviously talented, and I cheered the return of her curly locks. But things went downhill once she began a just-not-very interesting "Why Do Fools Fall In Love."
Kevin - "Kevin is the sweetest of them all," Manilow said. Perhaps so. With his buttoned-up blue polo shirt, Chicken Little looked like he was on his way to math class Tuesday. Instead, he sang "When I Fall In Love." Not bad, but at this point...


Rich said...

What no remarks about Paula being sloshed? She was HAMMERED!!

I agree Bucky is gone, but not this week. It'll be Lisa. As cute as she is, she just isn't very good. Especially last night. I agree with Simon. That would have been a great high school musical performance. The only unfortunate part is we'll have to suffer through it again Wednesday night.

And I fully agree with your comments about Chris. As great as he is, he's sticking soooo close to home. Maybe during the Gilbert and Sullivan week he'll do something different. Even though it would be fun to hear a 'Hoobastank' version of one of their songs.

Anonymous said...

Paula was either drugged or drunk...the glazed look in her eyes? A lack of respect to the performers. Bucky needs to go - then Kevin, then Lisa...

Anonymous said...

If Paula hit the bottle, it's because the bottle was asking for it.