Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What would you do if I sang out of tune?

I had to pick this week to really start watching American Idol?

Whether it was the rights-holders or Fox who were reluctant, after last night I totally understand why it took them so long to do "Lennon/McCartney Night" on Idol. A lot of people have this totally irrational attachment to The Beatles, and consider them and their body of work to be infallible. I'm one of those people, even though I wasn't born until six years after their last album of original material came out. I'm not the type of purist who considers covers of those songs sacrilege, though. Songs so deeply embedded in the cultural canon should be covered. The thing is, though, they have to be covered well. The Across the Universe soundtrack is brilliant, despite its failings as a film (the gospel version of "Let It Be" makes me cry, though during the movie I had no idea what was going on). There's Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Dear Prudence," Little Junior Parker's "Tomorrow Never Knows," anything by Joe Cocker, some of the Beatles' own later solo covers of themselves, etc.

With a couple of exceptions (most notably "Come Together," which was pretty much the arrangement from Across the Universe), the performances that were "good" last night were just boring. Which I guess is better than being bad (I'm talking to you, David "I'm 12 and cute so who cares if I learn the words" Archuletta). One thing I'll never understand about Idol is the way the judges like to blame the singer for the arrangement. Like they're all orchestrators now. Sure, I guess they pick them, but are we really meant to believe there isn't an army of producers and musical directors pulling the strings? And where do these arrangements, like the country "8 Days A Week" (which I actually thought was a pretty cool idea, if not entirely successful), come from anyway?

But I digress. If you're going to do a song that's so well-known and well-loved, you'd damn well better "put your own spin on it," as Paula would say, or do it spectacularly. Based on those criteria, I'm currently rooting for David Cook and Amanda Overmyer, who, in spite of their ridiculous hair and seeming one-trick-pony-ness, were pretty damn good last night and in the couple of YouTube clips I've watched. I also liked the girl who did "Come Together," but she seems like she might lose her voice in a couple of weeks.

On a totally non-Beatles-related note, how nice is it that the gay stripper is still on the show (even if he's terrible), and at least two more of the final 24 were gay-hay-hay, when only 6 years ago, Fox made Jim Verarros take down his Livejournal because (shocking!) it talked about boys? Sure, Ryan and Simon's weird homophobic banter is still baffling and a little gross, but that says more about them than about America and the viewing public, which has clearly come at least a short way!