Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Artistry Trumps Sentimentality

David Cook is the latest winner on American Idol. Now, don't get me wrong: I do not believe he's a phenomenal singer, and I'm not even sure of his ability to write a melody. But his victory over 17-year old wunderkind David Archuleta was the first time since the inception of this wildly popular show that an artist took the top spot over someone everyone believed to be genetically engineered to become an American Idol winner. Not only did he win, he won handily. Out of 97.5 million votes cast, he won by a staggering 12 million votes. I was totally surprised, since at the top of the two-hour finale, host Ryan Seacrest revealed that the winner had gotten 56 percent of the votes. I thought there was no way, no possible way, that Cook had managed to trounce that kid.

As usual, however, the producers saddled him with one of the most insipid songs to sing after claiming his title. Called "Time of My Life" or something derivative like that, I think I caught a lyric about a rainbow in there somewhere. A 25-year old former bartender, sporting wicked stubble and a signature emo haircut, looking like he was choking the lyrics out against all he stood for in the previous 11 weeks.

My favorite moment: as Cook spat out his cup of treacle and the confetti rained down from above, the pit of little college girls strategically placed at the foot of the stage -- those girls who were coached all season long by the producers to automatically sway their arms during the ballads, and to clap with their hands above their heads so that the cameras could see them, those girls who screamed whenever Archuleta's name or likeness were within 100 feet -- were practically motionless. Fem-bots rendered inert by Cook's Austin Powers-like mojo.

Some other takeaways:
  • a great duet between Graham Nash and Brooke White singing "Teach Your Children Well."
  • Jason Castro's more polished reprise of the Jeff Buckley version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." (for my own reasons, I've posted Buckley singing the song live, while those getting this via email can click on the link above):

  • David Archuleta dueting with One Republic on their hit song "Apologize," looking about as nervous and out of his element as he could be, with eyes closed and licking his lips (his big tell)
  • George Michael ending the festivities with "Praying for Time." He looked so old and gaunt, teeth looking far less perfect than they did 20 years ago, still with that perfect hair and stubble. Gesticulating in surrealistic fashion while planted in one spot. I have to say that the song is one of the more beautiful ballads to come out of the '80s, but after watching Carrie Underwood perform it on Idol Gives Back a few weeks ago, I don't think he can lay claim to the tune anymore.
I think my brother Dan and my buddy Byron are going to roast me for posting so much about this, but hey, it's my blog.


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