American Idol judges get the memo, play nice on Lennon/McCartney night
They saw the stories piling up in the press complaining about the show's ragged excess, its too-long bits of jokery among judges and, most of all, barbs that the show's singers weren't up to par.
Reality hit hard last week, when early ratings showed Dancing with the Stars edging ahead of American Idol for the first time. Something had to be done.
How else to explain why the panel laughed off gravel-voiced rocker Lee Dewyze's disastrous decision to invite a bagpipe player onstage, who proceeded to shriek out of tune during his rendition of Hey Jude (to be fair, judge Simon Cowell did say it looked like the guy stepped onstage from a totally different show). Or why they all tolerated a rendition of Across the Universe from Siobhan Magnus that was so sleepy, it sounded like she'd downed a dozen Valium before hopping onstage?
If this were a sports team, you might say they were in a rebuilding phase. In film, they'd say the product is being retooled.
But this is American Idol. So we can say simply that the judges seemed to recognize the show is in a delicate position. Why make it worse by, you know, judging anything?
Several singers did have good nights. One thing you learn on the evenings Idol tackles Lennon and McCartney, is that a good song can do half the work for these young vocalists. St. Petersburg's Michael Lynche amped up Eleanor Rigby's moody atmospherics with electrifying vocals and a dynamic stage presence; Crystal Bowersox was close behind with a Bonnie Raitt-meets-Melissa Etheridge turn on Come Together.
And by tackling a song not as widely known -- John Lennon's bluesy ode to envy Jealous Guy -- Casey James proved he's the dark horse of this contest, ready to pull a Kris Allen-level upset.
But I didn't understand all the praise for Katie Stevens, who essentially sang a straight-up version of Let It Be. Or the compliments for Tim Urban's vanilla take on All My Loving, which kinda reminded me of the days when Pat Boone used to do lounge-y covers of early rock tunes, back when straitlaced suburbanites feared the too-authentic strains of Little Richard and Chuck Berry.
(Or why Cowell insisted on dinging Lynche for being too theatrical when, as fellow judge Randy Jackson pointed out, a little Fox musical show called Glee has sold something like 1.2-million records and 4.5-million downloads)
It seems, after weeks of berating many of Idol's top singers for not being better, the judges have decided to play nice for a week, tolerating a little mediocrity to serve the greater good.
Beats watching Ryan Seacrest try to pull another singer's mom onstage.