Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Recap: Idols Do Dolly Proud; R.I.P. Jules Dassin

I've never been a country music fan, but I've always liked Dolly Parton. She's clearly a very gifted singer and songwriter, and has always struck me as being one of the few stars who is totally comfortable in her own skin - a trait I admire. Plus her one-liners crack me up. So I found myself looking forward to "Dolly week" on "American Idol," even though I knew I wouldn't be familiar with most of the songs. And I'm happy to report that she proved a successful coach, because all the performances ranged from decent to excellent. There were no mind-blowing moments on the level of David Cook's "Billie Jean" last week, but there were no cringe-inducing ones, either. For the most part, the kids did really well.

So instead of ranking them, I'm just going to take them in the order they performed.

BROOKE WHITE started off the show with "Jolene." She did ok with an old chestnut, and seemed comfortable rocking that guitar, but I agree with Simon that she didn't show any real emotional connection to the song. At least not the right one. She smiled too much and didn't even try to dig into the pain that lies at its core. Also, please, Brooke, don't start pouting at the judge's comments. We already get enough of that from Ramiele.

DAVID COOK looked yummy tonight (the stylists are doing a great job slowly improving his hair) and was in full non-rocker mode singing his own - yes, HIS OWN, haters! - arrangement of "Little Sparrow." Very smart choice: he knew better than to try to top "Billie Jean," choosing instead to dial it down and go in a completely different direction, showing a David the "AI" audience hasn't seen before - spare yet soulful, introspective, nice falsetto (though one muffed note near the end). Not showy, but I don't think he needed to be, though it may have been too understated to put him at the top of Dial Idol this week. At least this week you can bet there will be no BS from rock groups complaining his cover ripped off their cover. To those jokers, all I have to say is you haven't got even a ghost of a claim against either him or Fox. Trust me, I'm a lawyer.

RAMIELE MALUBAY's "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind" was mercifully better than last week's train wreck. She really does have a pretty voice - there's a delicacy to its texture and tone that I like - but she just hasn't got the personality or the training to grab hold of the songs and make them her own. She fared better with this one because it was lighter, though I detected some pitchy notes. Overall, pretty good, but, as Simon indicated, not memorable.

JASON CASTRO has never been my cup of tea, but I was actually digging his version of "Travelling Through." There was something almost James Taylor-ish about it. For once in my life I found myself agreeing with Paula and disagreeing with Simon. I think the song *did* suit Jason's voice and style, and he seemed to be having fun grooving to it. Still don't think he deserves to be in the top 3 or maybe even the top 5, but I understood his appeal for the first time tonight.

CARLY SMITHSON finally scored a home run with "Here You Come Again" after hitting only doubles these past several weeks. Great control, great inflection, and the star quality that's been missing lately. She smiled a little too much, too, but her voice did have a trace of tenderness and vulnerability that Brooke's didn't. I thought Simon's comment on her appearance was totally unwarranted. In my opinion she looked good, at least from the waist up; not so keen on the tight red pants. But Carly's actually a rather attractive girl, with lovely eyes and an engaging smile, and her tattoo doesn't bother me. (Aside: Simon said "blow you out of your seats." Hee. Taking a page out of Kristy Lee's script, Simon?)

DAVID ARCHULETA didn't wow me as much as he did the judges and the screaming tweeners in the audience, but there's no denying that his rendition of "Smoky Mountain Memories" showcased his greatest asset: the astounding purity of his tone. I think Paula made a comment to that effect. (I can't believe I'm agreeing with Paula at least as much as I am with Simon, but she was actually mostly on target tonight.) He did have one or two noticeably flat notes, however, and whenever I see him I can't help thinking of a ventriloquist's dummy...Some mean but funny spirit posted side-by-side pictures of the two online, and ever since seeing that I haven't been able to shake the resemblance from my mind.

KRISTY LEE COOK was obviously in her element with "Coat of Many Colors," and it showed. As Randy said, country's her wheelhouse. But as Simon pointed out (hmm, I seem to be parroting the judges a lot tonight), it wasn't really a standout performance. It didn't help her case that she seemed miffed that Dolly wasn't more impressed. (And honey, don't diss your own mom: not endearing.) Her snarky "thank you, Simon" might not go over so well in some quarters, either. Still, she's probably safe, at least from elimination, if not from the bottom three.

SYESHA MERCADO went for the big fat obvious with "I Will Always Love You," and sang it very well...but perhaps not well enough. I understand why she did what she did, i.e., start out with the intimate original version and then segue into the Whitney showboat version - but I wish she hadn't. She totally set herself up for the "you're no Whitney" knockdown from Simon, and then looked majorly, murderously pissed when he said it. Also, was it just me, or was her glory note a little flat? It was still pretty impressive; it may not be enough to keep her around.

MICHAEL JOHNS showed last week's comeback was no fluke by one-upping it with "It's All Wrong, But It's All Right." His was one of the best performances of the night, bringing a much-needed bluesy edge to his voice that was extremely sexy and emphasized his maturity as both a man and a performer. If he keeps this up, he will be the contender everyone apparently thought he was back in Hollywood week.

BEST OF THE NIGHT: Tie between David C, Carly, and MIchael Johns.

BOTTOM 3: Really hard to say, as no one completely flopped and everyone with the possible exception of Syesha seems to have secured their fan base by now. Right now, I'll guess Syesha, Ramiele, and MAYBE Brooke. (Jason's fans presumably got a wakeup call from last week and dialed and texted their little fingers off for him.) I haven't figured out where Chikezie's votes most likely went, if anywhere. Damn, this handicapping is as tricky as the Presidential primaries!

GOING HOME TOMORROW: Probably Syesha, for the reasons stated above.

Update: There have been reports that David Cook was rushed to the hospital immediately after the show for heart palpitations and high blood pressure, and has since been released. Word on the street (i.e., online) is that he has been under a lot of stress, not just from the show but also for personal reasons: his brother Adam has cancer and apparently hasn't been doing well lately.

The sources of this story are not the most reliable, to put it mildly, but it does seem to be true that DC was briefly hospitalized tonight. It would explain why he seemed a little more subdued than usual tonight: I mean, he sang beautifully, but he just didn't exude the intense energy and joy of performing he usually does. I thought maybe that was a stylistic choice on his part, in keeping with the song he chose, but now I think he was just barely holding it together. Kudos to him for performing as well as he did. As I've said before, this guy is a total pro. I don't even know him and didn't know of his existence until a month ago, but he's already moved me so much as an artist and a person that I extend my heartfelt wishes for his good health and that of his family.


In other news, R.I.P. Jules Dassin, creator of THE template for that tried-and-true genre, the heist film, and movies starring Melina Mercouri. The L.A. Times has a pretty good obituary of the director, an American-turned-expat after he was blacklisted for his Communist sympathies. Still haven't seen any of his films, but this reminds me to put "Rififi" on my Netflix list.


Blogger Campaspe said...

And Night and the City, too. You won't regret it. Criterion has a wonderful edition of it.

5:43 PM  

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