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The Very Best Moments of American Idol 2009 (Part II)

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Conclusion to Yesterday’s Featured Story


How Quentin Tarantino wound up a guest mentor is anybody’s guess.  If Idol wanted a film director, maybe Quentin was their second choice.  With a long history of weaving the most appropriate and moving musical selections into his films, perhaps the show’s first selection was Martin Scorsese. Witness Scorsese’s long-time association with the legendary Robbie Robertson, the singer-songwriter best known for his contributions to The Band and producer of a respectable body of solo work.  Hey, maybe Scorsese was tied up.  Then again, maybe he just valued his musical integrity too much to lend a hand.


While we’re on the topic of incongruous mentors, I would be remiss in leaving Jamie Foxx out of the mix.   Now, Jamie Foxx makes me laugh until I double over and his acting ability is evidenced by the Oscar he captured for his portrayal as the Genius of Soul, Ray Charles.  Unfortunately, Jamie’s no musical genius; he’s not even in the same galaxy.  Methinks Brother Ray’s portrayer woke up one day longing to be a rock star.  Instead, he settled for what’s been passing for music too long on commercial radio, because, hey, anyone can do it; no talent required!  In one of the most painful performances ever aired on an Idol stage, Jamie Foxx bopped around with his singing voice (what there was of it) pulled through a techno-fuzzbox.  Five seconds into the act, and this gal hit the fast forward button.   Thank God that in so doing, I did not miss the next greatest moment, which was …     


Adam Lambert.  All right, I lied.  Lambert was not the giver of a single moment of delight.  This oddball risk-taker was this season’s crowning glory, a ray of light in the stumbling darkness. Okay, dimness (Allison Iraheta’s pipes slew me for their likeness to a very young Joplin — Janis, not Scott; get with the program!).  Initiated by the Beatles, pushed further out of the envelope by The Stones, and elevated to an art form by David Bowie in his Spiders from Mars days, androgyny in pop-rock sells.  Contestant Adam Lambert had sexual confusion nailed; mainly, he confused the hell out of every viewer until solid evidence of his orientation surfaced, as do all things, on the Net.  Lambert, the glam-rocker of this year’s crop, was also in possession of serious vocal chops, an inspired balance of confidence and humility, and perhaps most importantly, a wicked fashion sense.  None of Lambert’s admirable attributes, however, could withstand the executive producer’s ego, a manifestation of which provided me with my next OMG moment, which was …


Fight the good fight, ’60’s style or go down tryin’.  At the finale, said producer Simon Fuller dictated two different yet legendary, politically charged songs to the two contestants still standing.  Grinning like The Happy Wanderer (a mindset to which fictitious mob boss Tony Soprano studiously aspired and never achieved), Kris Allen presented the most disturbing rendition of “What’s Goin’ On” that this music aficionado has ever heard.  Allen’s wussy-cheerful delivery of this iron fist-in-a-velvet-glove, anti-war treatise was enough to send the brilliant Marvin Gaye, the song’s original artist, spinning in his grave.


The piece de resistance, however, came on the wings of Fuller’s edict that Adam Lambert offer up Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”: arguably the most outrageous, surreal, and jaw-dropping moment this show has ever aired.  I never thought I’d live long enough to see a big white gay boy sing a gifted black man’s most poignant and haunting of pleas for racial equality.  But I did.  This was either an act of dementia on the producer’s part, or a crafty ploy to create the campiest moment that this warm and fuzzy family show has ever seen.


Although powerfully understated in his delivery — which is what the song, at the very least, deserves — this gentle protest cry was wildly inappropriate in the mouth of a guy wearing a silver suit and an earring in each ear.  But, hey, that guy in the silver suit and earrings accepted Simon Fuller’s doubtless unwitting invitation to put the nation on notice that not only was a “change a-gonna come” on its favorite family show, it already had.

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