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TV Review: American Idol- Kellie Pickler Gets Whacked

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Whenever you see Carmella Soprano listen to Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to Say Goodbye”, you know that one of two things is going to happen. First, there will be a jump cut to the the Ba Da Bing Club and raucous heavy metal background music. Second, someone’s going to get whacked. Of course, almost any activity on the Sopranos tends to be followed by someone getting whacked. David Chase’s show is structurally similar to American Idol that way, only the music tends to be better. On the other hand, if you compare aberrant behavior on the two shows it’s a very close call.

It thus didn’t surprise me at all that they introduced, guest divo-maker, David Foster by saying he was responsible for dozens of hits. The blind sidekick hit-man who looked like Andrea Bocelli and did this sweet-natured schtick with Foster about being able to see hair color and female attractiveness made for really good Sopranos-style drama.

I got especially excited when Foster talked Chris Daughtry into lying down on the floor in front of the piano on the pretext of helping him sing more from his diaphragm. I was sure that Bocelli was then going to smother the alt-rocking family man with a pillow or at least Foster was going to talk Chris into barking like a dog or wearing a tutu then hand him a DVD, toss a glass of orange juice in his face, and scream, “That’s a message from “Live” for stealing their arrangement you derivative *#($*.”

I also was sure that the falsetto note Foster talked Kellie Pickler into further unhinging from the melody of that song from Ghost was supposed to signal the moment when Bocelli would suddenly take her out with a pefectly-placed shot to her calamari. Paula has already suggested to Kellie that her future might be in acting and the roller skating waitress would have been great in a death scene, a la Adrianna, going “What’s a Code Blue? Or “Ah can’t die with no boyfriend!”

It’s easy enough to imagine Kellie Pickler now resurfacing on Joey as a cousin from the even dimmer-witted Southern Sicily branch of the Tribiani family.

“How you doin?….”

“Joey, she’s your cousin. Like your third cousin?”

“Okay then… how you doin?”

“Where Ahm from in Sicily, cousins marry all the time.”

In a couple years, Kellie could then reappear in the Idol audience amidst the sea of Kevin Nealons, Sela Wards, Tori Spellings, as yet another person who was on television long enough to be recognizable at least with some help from a screen prompt.

In the meantime now that Kellie sings with the fishes (or is it the salmon?), dozens of bloggers are mourning the end of the orange-tanned one’s time in front of David Foster’s mike. Ironically, it looked like she was very serious about trying to sing well technically which naturally sucked any charm there might have been out of her singing. After she got whacked, they didn’t let Kellie sing herself out. Instead, she got a very long “bad day” montage then Ryan asked her to fill in for forty seconds and this gracious, soft-spoken, young woman with a less twangy southern accent appeared and managed to cover all the bases in forty two seconds. (By the way, if that hair stylist really is 300 dollars per appointment…!)

I’m pretty sure that at least one of the judges weren’t completely down with Idol’s new Sopranos inspired direction. At one point Paula burst into tears as she pled for Elliott Yamin’s musical life. Later in the show, she jumped up before her comments and started clapping and effusing for Chris so Sela Ward couldn’t get a direct line of fire on him.

In the meantime, Ryan kept cutting Simon off in the name of “time”. My guess is that Ryan wanted to be offstage for that commercial break before whoever was designated to get whacked got whacked. Between ads, Randy put in a call to Dr. Melfi to get a new prescription for Paula’s meds. It did support my theory that you can always tell when the music on Idol is going to be bad because the judges and Ryan will amp up their sideshow.

I’m not sure if Katharine McPhee went on the show last night to take on Whitney Houston’s “I Who Have Nothing” or audition for a job at the Ba Da Bing Club. She sang better than the judges gave her credit for. That said, the most exciting moment of the performance seemed to come when she nearly stepped out of her tight yellow dress. Last week, the director kept going close up with her face during “Someone to Watch Over Me”. This time, the director seemed more obsessed with Mcphee’s…uh…low notes.

She sang pretty well, but in one sense the judges were right. “Nothing” is a rangy dynamic song that calls for a swooping intensity that doesn’t really fit McPhee’s actual voice or in certain ways her appeal. I’m not sure she met the Vonzell Solomon level, much less the Whitney level. Still, the judges responded as if she’d sung like Leah LaBelle or Carmen Rasmussen. Evidently though, Katharine has connections. On Wednesday, Ryan was “We got all these phone calls and what do you want to say for yourself Simon?”

Simon’s humble response was “I watched the tape and she was good. I was wrong America and whoever called the show please don’t make me wake up next to a severed horse’s head ever again.”

Events like this send the Idol Conspiracy folk into frenzies. The night before, they were debating whether the judge’s viciousness was actually a signal to rally McPhee supporters or to serve some mystery character called “the chosen one”. Most of these folk are clearly displaced fans of the X-Files, I just don’t know how they wandered into Idoldom. They’re extraordinarily well-versed about topics as arcane as the significance of busy signals on the west-coast line, have their own vocabulary, and analyze transcripts of the show to determine what was really meant by “Vote, if your television was on mute…”

It is a bit strange that more of America has detailed theories on how Idol voting works than say how Congress functions or the how 7 World Trade Center happened to come down 5 years ago without being hit by an airplane. I’m sure the Idol Conspiracy group is now chewing on how Katharine wound up in the top two either despite or because the judges went Mean Girls on her.

Back to topic, the Katharine McPhee I like best is the one who jumped into impromptu “showoff” duet with Bocelli, geeky music nerd theater kid who wanders onto national television in all her awkwardness. Intentional sex bomb Katharine just doesn’t work as well for me. At least, though it gave Ryan a chance to tell America that if you still want to vote for the McTwins dial 1-866-Idols36C or Idols36D.

Elliott did well with “A Song for You” which he appears to think of us as his “out” pitch. The directors also continued the Elliott Yamin mensch angle by having him draw attention to the fact that one of the backup singers is Donny Hathaway’s daughter and that Elliott is stepping in as guardian of Hathaway’s legacy which, of course, led me to believe that Hathaway had written “A Song for You”. I can’t be too hard on Elliott or the show after I claimed that last week my favorite version of “That’s All” was by Irene Krall who never recorded the song.

Yamin’s take was not, however, a “vocal master class” nor will it replace either Leon Russell’s (the composer) original or Karen Carpenter (what a great Idol contestant she would have been and we’d never have had to have heard Richard sing).

I’m pretty sure that someone implanted a microchip tuned to an easy listening station inside Paris Bennett that goes off every few weeks. First there was “Wind Beneath My Wings” and this time it was “Way We Were”. Paris has a tendency to sing everything “big” and I do think Foster was wise to tell her to start quiet and build to the big. I have no idea why it’s not okay to take on Whitney Houston, but it’s okay to take on Barbra Streisand on this show. If you remember, Simon loved Mikaylah Gordon’s pre-Funny Girl Barbra act until it turned out that Gordon sang more like Elaine May. Now Paris Bennett got complimented for matching Streisand’s volume but not matching her knack for making the overly sentimental somehow listenable.

According to David Foster, Taylor Hicks has charisma. What I noticed is that the show lately has chosen him to deliver the “kiss of death”. Last week, he shook Chris’s hand before it was announced that Chris had hit the bottom three for the first time. This time, Taylor hugged Kellie on his way back to the safety of the couch. “Just Once” was the buttoned down Taylor again and it felt like whatever is alive in Taylor’s performing self had been garroted out by “Mr. Studio Perfection” David Foster.

By the way, I know that there are millions of people who love Andrea Bocelli. It’s just that most of them are probably doing that loving while riding in elevators. If America really was meant to love the Bocheesy faux classical thing, don’t you think Stevie Scott would still be on the show? How do I put this? Carmella Soprano’s taste in music is supposed to match her taste in interior decorating. I’d be much more intrigued if Bocelli really were a hit man instead of a guy who sings to background videos of fire-bearing youths diving off bridges into Titian-tinted waters. I hate to break the news, but the thousand dollar suites at Caesar’s Palace aren’t actually tasteful.

I have to ask. Does Chris Daughtry have like ten times the performing budget of the other contestants? Early on, they gave him lasers, fireworks, and dramatic lighting. Now they give him not one but two guitar players. Chris is good at being earnest and Idol is yet another stage where it’s important to be earnest. My daughter tells me that Chris is the one contestant who you can listen to on MP3 and it sounds like a record. The judges too seemed determined to make Daughtry the frontrunner once again.

For the first time in five years of the show, it seems that the final five doesn’t include someone that has America asking what the heck is that girl with the flower still doing there or Vote for the Worst claiming more extraordinary powers than Alberto Gonzales. At this point anyone could be voted off next Wednesday without the Idol Conspiracy folk insisting that the fix was in somehow.

I don’t know if that’s a good thing for the show. Reality TV loves its villains. Last year, Constantine was the polarizing contestant along with Scott Savol. After both got voted off in consecutive weeks apparently the ratings dropped. I’m not sure what will happen to the ratings now that America can’t howl about how Kellie managed to stay out of the bottom three. Instead they have to settle for an actual horse race or should I say hoarse race?

Somewhere though, Meadow Soprano is auditioning for the elite choir at Columbia and trying to beat out that uber-talented pre-med, Paris Bennett. Tony is swearing at his television set going “What is this *%*#$? You want music, I’ll show you some #$*&@ music.”

And I imagine, AJ has freeze-framed the part of Katharine McPhee’s performance that suggests she has a lot more than “Nothing”. Maybe Uncle Junior and Christopher are busy trying to fix the outcome of this year’s Idol through some guy they know who claims he can jam cell towers.

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  • Nancy

    They made Taylor change his song he had been practicing 2 days before. There have been a lot of things going on against him such as the lighting. I agree Chris gets everything he wants and they put poor Taylor on the spot. He is not being treated fairly any way because he was giving their choice a run for the money. It is evident to me that they do not want him to win. They have never done 3 groups of 2 until this year. Once again to call attention to their choice. AI: Please just let him sing what he wants and he will blow the top off of your studio:

  • http://gratefuldread.net NR Davis

    Hmmm. If true, that’s interesting. And maddening. But something didn’t ring true about the whole thing. I said to my son on Tuesday night that Taylor wouldn’t have picked that song. And it may well be that AI wants to make Chris and McPhee the favorites. But it could also well be that the performance rights could not be secured for the song Taylor may have wanted to do. Perhaps it’s both.

  • idolboomer

    I think it was obvious why David Foster asked Andrea what color hair do you think Kelly has. They spent a lot of time with her and after listening to all the probable stupid things she said, it was clear that she was “the typical dumb blond”. Pretty funny I think.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    I seem to be the only one in America who feels this way, but I thin Paris is the best one on the show. I keep voting for her, but every time she ends up in the Bottom Three or Two (and props to her for the cheery “It’s my first time in the bottom two!”), it breaks my heart.

  • http://www.chancelucky.blogspto,com chancelucky

    It looks to me that either Taylor is trying to make his style fit or someone is making him do it.

    I assumed that it was supposed to be a blonde joke of some sort. I had figured Kellie for another accent joke.

    Paris appears to be the most versatile performer of the remaining contestants. She also seems to have the biggest voice. I’m not as sure about her ability to connect to the audience, but we’ll see now that they have more singing time.

  • RON

    I LOVED KELLIE. I THOUGHT SHE WAS JUST NICE AND REAL. SHE HAD NO STAGE TRAINING LIKE CHRIS AND TAYLOR AND PARIS. SHE WAS REAL LIKE ELLIOT JUST A “NO NAME SLOB” TRYING TO WIN. I HOPE KATHERINE WINS NOW EVEN THOUGH HER MOTHER IS A VOCAL COACH OR ELLIOT MY FAV.

  • Beth

    What is the name of the song that Katharine McPhee and Andrea Bocelli randomly start dueting during rehersal? I know I’ve heard it before and it’s driving me nuts!

  • http://www.chancelucky.blogspot.com chancelucky

    I couldn’t recognize it myself. I did see a claim that it was “Time to Say Goodbye” (one of Bocelli’s hits with Sarah Brightman), but I don’t know for sure.

  • beth

    It’s “The Prayer”.

    I knew I had heard Josh Groban sing it before. It was duet with Charlotte Church that starts out in English but has a later part that Andrea and Katharine sang on the show.

  • http://www.chancelucky.blogspot.com chancelucky

    Beth,
    thanks for the info. I wish they’d shown more of that interlude, if there was more. It was one of those times that just felt like “music”.