I will not front. I don't think American Idol has 'ruined' American pop music at all. In fact, I think the show has raised the live performance bar of sheer showmanship; folks like Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) may have taken the cue from 'Idol' (I strongly doubt it, but I'm just trying to make a point here) and may have actually amped up their presentation thanks to Randy Jackson's dawgdafied helpful hints and Paula Abdul's alcohol-fueled Tuesday night affirmations.
Yes, I regret that Carrie Underwood bested Bo Bice a couple of seasons ago, because she has no discernable personality, but her hits are sweet little cornpone throwbacks to the days of blow-dried ingenues like Connie Smith and Barbara Mandrell, so I don't mind that she's charting, touring and presumably enjoying her transitional Clive Davis enslavement. I just wish she wouldn't shill for Skechers is all (maybe she needs the money?). Kelly Clarkson has yet to prove herself as anything more than a tool but 'Since U Been Gone' is #1 on the Satisfaction Pony request line so maybe there's something there that I'm not yet seeing. She's collaborating w/ proto-grunge, indie-rock god Mike Watt so maybe she's about to pull a rabbit out of her hat. Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken...drawing a blank here...Fantasia has loads of potential but she's got to take complete control of her ghetto-fab, babymama gestalt and write her own material or she's gonna find herself domesticated and frumpdafied a la Patti LaBelle way before her time. Collaborating with Andre 3000 and Missy Elliott was a good send-off but now she needs to find her own voice.
Taylor Hicks is a sexless drag niche-marketed for the Michael Buble crowd and Daughtry doesn't have much to say for himself...yet...but then again Jennifer Hudson broke free from AI lockdown and won herself an Oscar so who knows? My feeling is that that nasty little Arista Records contract obligation holds a lot of these folks back from realizing their true voice. Or maybe Simon is right and they're just a bunch of arrogant, entitled no-talents.
But Season Six' Melinda Doolittle is The Stuff. Man, do I love to watch her do her thing. She is so in the moment and she's just so Damned Happy To Be There that it takes me back to when I discovered Otis Redding singing live at Monterey on the B- side of my worn-out copy of Jimi Hendrix Plays Monterey. I was an early convert to soul and funk but I got to that place by way of rockfolk like The Stones and Hendrix. Melinda Doolittle has that quality: No bells, no whistles...just living the song as she tells it. Sure, Blake Lewis is a sweet piece of plaid-clad ass but it bugged me to watch him wrap his lipless mouth around 'You Keep Me Hangin' On' and suck the urgency right out of it. He's a nifty gimmick, a superb mimic, but not much more than that. By the by: I pretty much think he's straight but I'm fairly certain he's one of them sexless hets who "haven't found that special someone" quite yet. I know plenty of these guys and they crack me the fuck up. I, Satisfaction Pony, have eaten more pussy than these ego-whipped fops AND I'M A GAY!!! And Blake, dawg, please leave the white-trash comedy to Jim Carrey.
As far as the whole VoteForTheWorst/Sanjaya PonyHawk phenomenon is concerned: I think America loves a good train wreck and Lord have mercy but Sanjaya is right up there with...wait...as far as I can tell there's no precedent...hold on...I'm thinking he's an original...but not really 'cuz there's plenty of near-misses who are D-list famous for being sex-neutral and utterly without talent (William Hung represented American xenophobia in the flesh and laugh-deprived Hollywood Square Wally Cox pressed a whole lot of homophobic buttons): Kind of like Paris Hilton and a dozen other celebutards! But what grabs me about Sanjaya is that I think he gets it. I suspect he knows he's a freaking fluke and he's got a month or so to spook Middle America and he's gonna do all that without breaking a sweat. He understands: Apparently America has a hard-on for accidental celebrity so So Fucking Be It. He's gonna bring it.
Check out how perfectly Melinda Doolittle embodies every nuance of this thematically complicated Aretha song. She's a natural. Pure and simple. But don't compare Melinda to copper-afroed Aretha as she effortlessly touches zen perfection with her jazzed-up version of 'Oh Me, Oh My (I'm A Fool For You Baby)' on Soul Train...because that's just not fair. Aretha positively radiates in this clip and her cool, earthbound confidence signals that she must have been in love at the time of the taping because I've felt like that for one hot second (once, a long time ago)and I recognize that centeredness.
Also Melinda Doolittle would resemble my neice if she were a 14-year old white girl with braces.