Leaping into the breach, I offer these humble reactions to tonight’s Final 8 performances on American Idol, performances with the novel theme of songs from the year each contestant was born, complete with obligatory baby pics and wider than usual stylistic variety.
Nadia Turner, simply stunning in resplendent smile, short red dress, extensive legs and electrical wildness on top of her elegant head, once again perplexed and bemused the judges, who seem affronted by her unapologetic eclecticism, ranging variously week to week from classic R&B to new wave to rock ‘n’ roll to soul to the Great American Songbook to, tonight, an obscure Crystal Gayle (!) song from ’77 that none of the three judges even recognized, which made them irritable, even Paula.
Simon is existentially cheesed that she simply won’t play cricket and be “normal.” Unfortunately, the nation doesn’t know what to make of her either, and with a song that Crystal Gayle herself barely remembers ringing in their collective heads 9not) I fear for her lithe, toothsome self.
Hirsute Bo Bice was next and after iffy song selection last week (but who didn’t, other than Constantine, in a misbegotten “Broadway” week?), he went for the Southern Rock motherlode with “Free Bird,” which I had never before thought of as a vocal showcase. Though the song felt oddly truncated without the many guitar workouts, it was still effective as the Alabamian seemed happy as a pig in mud singing a song so HIM.
Bo, the oldest of the group at 29, still is not old enough to have been born in ’73, the year “Free Bird” was released. But, invoking a little known codicil in the Faber College, I mean American Idol, charter enabled him to cite ’76, the year he was born, as the release date of “Free Bird” because that was the year the LIVE version came out. Clever lad that Bo. Randy rejoiced, Paula swooned, Simon showed he has no feel for Americana – the audience booed his nonsense under the table.
Anwar Robinson, the music teacher with the serious dreds and roots in gospel, went back to his year of origination, ’79, for Dionne Warwick’s dramatic ballad “I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” A good fit for his high, keening tenor, Anwar looked almost scholarly with his dreds pulled back, a sport coat and jeans. I always like Anwar but never quite love him: there is something of a hollowness to his technically excellent voice and his demeanor is always pleasant and engaging, but never never seems all there. All three judges were positive, though Simon couldn’t help but add, ambiguously, that Anwar is always “comforting and safe.”
Ryan introduced Hall and Oates sitting in the audience, they look pretty good for a couple of old freaks.
Anthony Fedorov, the tracheotomy victim originally from the Ukraine, had yet to select a song that didn’t appall. His performances have been competent and he is likeable in a clueless MOR sort of way, but his choices have been the suck. But, semi-miraculously, he picked a song I like, Paul Young’s “Everytime You Go Away” (written by Daryl Hall, by the way), and he did it quite well, finding some small reserve of soul in his toothpaste-white body. The judges approved, even Simon, who had said something along the lines of “you sucked the red off of tomatoes” last week.
Now, I bid thee farewell for the evening – I shall wrap up in the morning with part 2.