"Let's Pretend We Love Tony Bennett!"
Nine is my favorite number, so now that "American Idol" is down to its final nine, I thought, "Why not start telling everyone what you think about the show?" Actually, starting with the Final Nine is entirely arbitrary - I just feel the need to write about this show all of a sudden, if only to make you (whoever you are) understand why this show is great despite being a sickening, self-congratulatory forum for musical mediocrity.
America is a pretty racist country overall, and it's worse than it could be because everyone's so busy denying it. As I've said before and will say again, "American Idol" is the great, ugly barometer of mass-market America. And when mass-market America casts more votes for Haley Scarnato than for Sabrina Sloan, you know something is horrifically wrong. Every year, black girls get sent packing weeks before their time, while barely competent white folk wear out their welcome, and this year is no different.
And yet there are always a handful of very good singers who manage to stick around a while (and sometimes win). This year has two undeniably good singers in Melinda Doolittle and Lakisha Jones. Melinda will win. At first I thought she would win because Lakisha is just Too Black for Middle America. But now I think Melinda will win because she is deserving ... and because Lakisha is too Black for Middle America. In fact, I am ready to make the following prediction: despite being manifestly better than everyone but Melinda, Lakisha will not make the top 2. She may not even make the top 3. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Tonight was Tony Bennett night. He has an amazing voice, but he is ... Old, and he looked it; "Stop messing with the song, sonny." That was the gist of all his advice. One of my favorite parts of the night was hearing him tell Lakisha that she shouldn't do this little added vocal riff at the end of the song, and then watching her do it anyway. She sang the hell out of "Stormy Weather" with her breasts acting as a force of nature in their own right. She looked like she was wearing the drapes from her hotel room, but whatever. She is fierce and I definitely see myself buying her album some day.
Melinda sang "I Got Rhythm" - I don't think I'd ever heard the first part of the song before; it's all slow and weird and wrong. But once she hit the familiar part and it sped up, it was amazing. She has complete control, plus she sings with personality, not just hitting notes but feeling the song. Love her love her love her. She and Lakisha, vocally, are on totally different planets from the other contestants.
Sanjaya looked like a casino or brothel owner in South America somewhere circa 1958. He sang "Dancing Cheek to Cheek," and he was actually better than he has been in weeks. Plus he sang while dancing with Paula - high level of difficulty, as she is crazy and drug-addled and you never know what she is going to do. Simon is angry that Sanjaya keeps getting put through, so tonight he tried sarcasm, saying it was "amazing" or something like that. It seemed a little cruel and beneath him, actually. These damned judges should take Sanjaya seriously and critique him honestly. Right now they're just laughing at him, which only makes the Cult of Sanjaya grow stronger. If they treat him like just another mediocre contestant, then he will disappear like one. If they treat him like a freak show, then he stays memorable, becomes a martyr figure for tone-deaf teens, and stays around.
The aforementioned Haley and Phil "Penishead" Stacey are surely going to be the bottom two tomorrow. Unless Chris "Meth Dealer" Richardson sneaks in there, which is possible. Penishead sang the great "Night and Day" with all the snap and panache and sex appeal of boiled cabbage. Haley ... man I don't even remember, but her breasts are Spectacular. Everyone gushed over Chris's performance, but it was not good, whatever it was.
I have an inexplicable affection for Beat Box Blake. His voice is nice to my ears, and he is somehow cool in a way that is Beyond Boy Band. He is my pick to make the final two (unjustly) with Melinda. Jordin Sparks is bubbly and sweet and has a very good voice, but like Haley, she is too cutesy, like she's in the talent portion of a Miss Teen USA pageant. A little too put-on. I'm not feeling her pain or joy or whatever she's selling. Too Much Teen Spirit. Gina sounded very nice but boring as hell. Plus something pink took up residence on the top of her head and nobody bothered to tell her.
So my current rankings of the contestants (in terms of how much I do or do not love them):
I don't think any of my favorites are in danger. For now.
We'll see - tomorrow night.