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Elton John World News: American Idol is American Tragedy

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Critics keep the heat on talent show

Tuesday 13 April 2004 @ 18:57 - GMT

And the critics continue to have their field day on American Idol. This from Elite TV on Aprl 12, 2004:

Poor Sir Elton John. I dare say that when Billy Joel showed up last season and offered his songs to the contestants of American Idol they were performed eons better -- by a lesser cast, no less -- than those of John. This week gave us three excellent performances (one of which was no less than stunning), a couple that were merely alright and a few that were downright painful. It’s truly time to raise the bar at this stage in the game and it seems to be the true dark horses of the race that are sneaking up from behind. After Entertainment Tonight confirmed which of the groups of three actually had the highest number of votes on elimination night (group C, containing Jennifer, LaToya and George), I am guessing the rest of the season could be almost anyone’s game.

We begin the show with Fantasia, who – “if I’m being honest” – is beginning to get on my last good nerve. Her classless ‘tude and back talking when given criticism is beginning to overshadow her wonderful talent. That sort of thing works for hip hop; however we are searching for pop stars here. She needs to act like one. That said, I was also unimpressed with her performance of Something About The Way You Look Tonight. As she was screeching her way through the song I was saying to myself, “If one of those judges doesn’t tell her she was over singing like they’ve told almost everyone else with a ‘diva’ voice in this competition, I will go absolutely postal.” In this case, thank God for Simon for telling it like it truly was. Fantasia has fantastic stage presence and performance skills; she engages the crowd, makes it look like it’s a piece of cake to be up there; all the things that make a star performer. Unfortunately this week her vocals, which includes her now overdone “yeah yeah yeah” riff at the end of every single song she chooses, left quite a lot to be desired in my book.

Jon Peter Lewis is now out of his league and that’s that. I felt he picked the wrong song in “Rocket Man” and his performance was rather lifeless, despite the fact that he has a wonderful falsetto (a better choice may have been “I Want Love” from Songs From The West Coast instead). I have to agree with the judges that he gave us his average best this week -- nothing to write home about, not bad, not good, just there. His once-charming-but-now-goofy dancing is getting old. With every performance I am starting to feel more and more like someone who just walked in on her brother playing air guitar in his underwear. I think JPL probably should have been in the bottom three this week, even if he is cute as a bug. “Unique” is no longer translating to “good” for him. The winner of this competition needs to be “good” with two syllables: GOOOO—OOOOD. JPL isn’t fitting the bill.

Up next was little Jasmine, who was under the weather this week, not in good voice and it showed. She overcompensated by yelling her way through Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (which ought to be outlawed on this show, I don’t want to hear it anymore!) in an effort to just hit the notes, which never actually happened when all was said and done. She was right under the pitch the whole time, just as she was last week when she wasn’t sick, so I am beginning to think she actually has a pitch problem in general. That was Leah LaBelle’s problem and Leah is gone. Maybe making it to bottom three will shake Jasmine up a little and she’ll step up to the plate next week. I hope so, because there are still others that ought to go home before her, in my opinion.

One of those is John Stevens. For the love of God America, send him home! He’s trying so hard but falling flat on his face week after week (this time he gasped and nearly tripped his way through Crocodile Rock) and you won’t even put him in the bottom three. At this point he is only being forced to humiliate himself. Why do you keep him in the competition? Remember Nikki McKibbin? The longer you kept her in, the worse she got. By the time she made top three the industry considered her a complete joke. Now no one will touch her with a ten foot pole and she has been reduced to going back to her karaoke business to make a living. Similarly, you are creating a pariah in allowing John Stevens, a very competent niche singer, to remain on this show and flounder his way through styles he simply cannot sing. Wake up, America. You are actually destroying his shot at a career at this point. Have mercy...SEND THE POOR BOY HOME.

When Camile began my all time favorite Elton John song, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, the first line (“when are you gonna come down...”) was gorgeous and I was actually excited for a split second that she might give a good performance. Sadly that was as good as it got. The rest was her usual breathless, uncontrolled, shaky, hunched over, right-arm-flailing, deer-caught-in-headlights-with-a-migraine self. What I will give her was that on the next night when she rightly made bottom three and was forced to sing before the big announcement (excruciating and unnecessary), her changing the words around to sing a chorus of “I love you...” to the contestants and then the audience was touching. Nevertheless, as luck would have it she was “going back to her plow” and voted off. Not to worry Camile fans, word is that Babyface called her up the next day and wants to work with her. I don’t get that at all, but at least you have something to look forward to in the future.

George just rocks. It’s that simple. He made a brilliant song choice in Take Me To The Pilot, a lesser known song from John’s earlier days, a song he could easily manipulate into something all his own, which is exactly what he did. From the moment he steps out onto that stage it’s all about the audience; he is there to give them a great time and he just keeps getting better at it week after week. Oh yes, lest I forget – the man can just sang, too. If he isn’t top three at the rate he’s going I will be surprised.

Diana’s performance was weak, no doubt because she too wasn’t feeling well. However I have to let America know that she chose one of the most difficult songs to sing in Elton John's entire catalog. There’s nowhere to breathe, there are lots of words that move along swiftly; it’s a nightmare. In that regard, I’m going to say that even though Diana’s vocals weren’t as strong as they usually are and she was fighting for breath almost from the start, she didn’t deserve to be bottom three. She’s the one that took a real musical risk that night and I feel if she hadn’t been unwell she’d have hit it out of the park. Unfortunately ninety-nine percent of the country wouldn’t know that and showed as much in their voting. At any rate, she got through by the skin of her teeth, but if she doesn’t step it up this week I fear she will be leaving us well before her time.

LaToya almost never fails to please and her performance of “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” was no exception. Perfectly sung, perfectly performed, almost perfect in every way. BUT (dot, dot, dot), my only criticism is that she was out there to prove the point that she never should have been bottom three last week and not only did it show in her countenance throughout the song but I felt she shut herself off from the audience as a result. It was a technically proficient performance lacking true feeling, I thought. That doesn’t mean she didn’t still deserve that top three because she did. However, if she got kicked off this week it wouldn’t matter. Other than the fact that a premature offing would be incredibly wrong on every level, she’s already a star and every record label in the country is most likely salivating at the thought of her possibly not winning so they can swoop down upon her like vultures the second they get a chance.

I have three words for Jennifer's performance of “Circle of Life”: TOLD YA SO. This was the performance where everything came together for Jennifer and America finally clued in to what this girl is about. I find it ironic (and not a little disgusting) that Paula had the nerve to say, “Now I hope you realize that you get it; this is who you are, don’t go off the road.” WHAT??? Wasn’t it the judges who had her hopping around in a circle on one foot trying to please them this whole time? Wasn’t it the judges constantly trying to change her? Jennifer wisely gave up on them, came back around to what she does best -- which is singing big, bold, emotional ballads with her incredibly huge, rich gospel voice -- and she was rewarded with a standing ovation and a top three placement, as it should have been all along. It is the only performance in American Idol history that brought tears to my eyes and had me rewinding and replaying incessantly. I am rewinding it even now. Hi, I’m Darci Monet, and I am a Jennifer Hudson fan. You should be, too.

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