Brandon Rogers Hurries Off Without Love (American Idol 6 review)
AI Producers Are Wondering Why the Electricity Went Out Much of Tuesday Night
I took a look at my AI post from last week and realized that I hadn't discussed Brandon Rogers. Normally I try to slip in at least a couple words about any remaining Idol, but I also write these things at odd hours and fairly quickly at that. Could Simon be right? If you sing badly even memorably badly, you will likely outlast someone who sings better but not memorably in any way.
Oddly, about the most memorable thing Brandon Rogers did in his Idol run was to forget the words to a Motown song that he claimed to have grown up singing. Making matters worse, Haley Scarnato also dropped lyrics and managed to turn the mistake into an entire Lifetime network movie's worth of monologue.
I was especially impressed by her use of the word "Schmuck" right after Simon unexpectedly turned “mensch”. Oy!
I thought the highlight of the show was Simon and Ryan's attempt to mutually out one another in the presence of Ryan's grandmother. Peter Pace sent me an e-mail after the show to tell me that he was going to contact the Navy Commandant to withdraw Phil Stacy's permission to appear on the show with the two. Unlike the armed forces, Idol’s policy seems to be “Don’t ask, but do tell especially if it involves Ryan.”
Am I the only one who thinks it's peculiar that our military leadership seems to be more concerned about "Don't ask, don't tell" than reports that American servicewomen are being raped and molested by their male service counterparts? Oops, Idol is supposed to be an escape from stuff like that. After all, they call it a "Reality Show".
After jumping on the batwagon in my comments about the singing father of two, it did suddenly strike me that he may actually look more like Connie Conehead's long lost brother from the planet Remulak. If we ever get to meet Phil's parents and their names turn out to be Beldar and Primaat or if we see Phil imbibe mass quantities, I guess we'll know for sure. There may not be evidence of life on other planets, but this week I have to say the Conehead sang pretty well, at least compared to whatever other male life forms are left singing on this show. Meps.
It’s getting more than a bit painful to see the way Sanjaya Malakar has taken to slinking back to the safe seats in embarrassment, head down avoiding eye contact with the camera. I’m reminded of the last days of John Stevens, but Sanjaya’s journey seems even more excruciating because it occasionally feels like he shouldn’t even be singing in public much less on national television. Somehow, he turned the mountains and valleys in the Diana Ross classic into ant hills and divots. It’s hard to have vocal dynamics when you never sing above 70 decibels.
I did notice that I’ve been getting a lot of searches for Sanjaya from India. It occurs to me that every time I call for computer technical support the phone gets picked up in Mumbai. Mmmmm.
Diana Ross did seem to believe that Sanjaya radiates pure love so perhaps his continued presence is a spiritual event that transcends Idol in some way, maybe he’s a Hairy Krishna.
As good a coach as Diana Ross appeared to be, I was a bit taken aback by her singing which wasn’t a whole lot better than Sanjaya’s. In fact, I briefly wondered if she was trying to make the seventeen year old feel better. She does turn sixty three in a few days, but it really made me realize how remarkable Lena Horne was at the same age. The one time harmony singer for the Primettes did make a heck of an entrance though, but that’s where the excitement ended.
I had expected her to be more of a diva as a coach. Instead, the female singer of the century or whatever they kept calling her came off more like a new age guru, unfailingly positive, telling various singers to find the center fo the song, and appearing to give very good technical advice. Even more fascinating was the way she kept telling the ones who didn’t sing so well in her repertoire to move around the stage a lot. In her own performance, she moved around. Much as Elton John anointed Jennifer Hudson his personal favorite three years ago, Diana Ross or the editing made her favorite this year pretty clear. She said Melinda Doolittle gave her goosebumps which was qualitatively different from anything she said about anyone else. Even more revealing, that tete a tete during “More Today than Yesterday” looked an awful lot like a signal to me.
Doolittle also continues to get the “good” edit with softball questions to remind America that she’s an ordinary person who happens to be an incredibly talented singer. I still haven’t seen her sing less than very well. Her version of “Home” was yet another example of the fact that she’s been one of the few singers ever on Idol who’s singing engine has serious horsepower but that it comes with brakes and steering as well. Latoya London’s the other one who comes to mind, but Doolittle is an even more polished performer and seems to have a richer sounding voice. I’m not sure how many more times I want to hear Paula tell Melinda Doolittle, “I’m so moved that you never expected to be getting all this praise and applause?”
In the meantime thanks to Diana Ross, I learned that Lakisha Jones’s mother calls her Kiki. The judges did their “you two are at a different level from everyone else” bit, but as good as she was on “God Bless the Child”, it felt a little odd to me. They praised her for not overpowering it and I would agree that she didn’t, yet that might still have been the fastest and loudest “God Bless the Child”, I’ve ever heard. It was more Blood Sweat and Tears than Billie Holiday with Kiki doing all the brass parts.
Jordin Sparks got huge praise for “If We Hold on Together.” I thought that she actually did better going tender and delicate than Lakisha Jones did. The judges now seem to be giving her a chance to break up the Lakisha-Melinda final. I think if it happens, it won’t necessarily be the singing. Sparks has the most outgoing personality in front of the camera and it might give her sometihg of an Elliott-Vonzell Solomon factor. Voters may find her so likeable they’ll want to be protective. Of course, they both finished third.
I don’t know if Stephanie Edwards chose the wrong song in “Love Hangover”, but I think at this stage the bigger problem is she hasn’t found a hook. She’s not the young super-likeable one. She’s not the great singer who looks like an ordinary person. She’s not even the Geek in the Pink who loves his grandmother. Although I’ve said that she looks like she was built from a blueprint for an AI winner, she may be a candidate for an earlier than expected exit. If it happens, it’ll be a shame because I think she may well have a couple truly memorable performances in her.
While the judges called it a great and beautiful love ballad, I’ve always thought of “Endless Love” as an incredibly sappy song. In trying to modernize it, Chris Sligh got the endless part, but none of the love. The humble Chris Sligh feels a bit insincere to me. I even found myself wondering about “Hey we have the same hair” as his first words to Diana Ross. Actually humble people would be a little more awestruck. The bigger problem is that his last two weeks of singing have been disappointingly uninvolving. Putting the glasses back on for Wednesday night also bugged me for some reason.
As soon as Diana Ross heard Chris Richardson sing “The Boss”, she went straight into “You need to move around a lot.” Different kind of singer, but I’m getting this Constantine Maroullis vibe as a performer who comes across on camera yet who in final analysis just doesn’t sing all that well.
Blake Lewis is getting packaged as a “serious musician”. I didn’t like what he did with “You Keep Me Hangin On” at least partly because he didn’t get any angularity or surprise into his arrangement. I wanted to be knocked off center by it and somehow it never got daring in any noticeable way. I’m still betting that he’ll be the last male.
On Gina Glocksen’s “Love Child” I kept listening carefully to see if she was missing any words. While what Diana Ross told her was perfectly true, it felt like Glocksen had only two goals- say all the words right and sing it as loudly as she could. Actually, Diana Ross is the only person I’ve ever heard sing the song well, because she was able to make it danceable yet vulnerable at the same time. This was neither.
A Motown night is supposed to be one of the easier tests in the finals for most singers. I’m a little surprised by how many of the finalists just didn’t take advantage of material that Idol singers usually do quite well with. I thought Stephanie Edwards and Brandon Rogers would have been especially strong and they just weren’t, fatally so for the male backup singer. And how the heck do you forget words to Motown-type songs? I don’t even know what to say about the guys as a group, but the night as a whole make me worry that they’ll be some pretty dull shows ahead.
Sadly, I thought Brandon Rogers was the one guy who had a chance to suddenly pleasantly surprise me somewhere in the finals at least partly because he kept underperforming. It was very weird for me that a guy who has been on the stage hundreds of times appeared to have so much trouble with his nerves throughout the competition. In many ways, in a year where they repeatedly remind us how “nice” Melinda and Sanjaya are, it struck me that Brandon consistently came off as the nicest of the Idols. He exited with class, but as I think back to Diana Ross’s big arms and gown entrance, I’m thinking that I couldn’t ever imagine Brandon Rogers actually loving the spotlight that way. Naturally, he didn’t even get his sing off.
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