Tuesday, May 11th, 2004

IDOL MIDOL, OR ESTHER PHILLIPS’ REVENGE

Well clearly they want a Fantasia vs. Diana final, avoid all the messy race stuff which they’ll be happy to sweep under the table. So Simon and Randy mowed down Jasmine, and raised the “personality” question again with LaToya.

In fairness, Jasmine looked great, looked great, but sang poorly. Her song choices–“Everlasting Love” and the Gay National Anthem, “It’s Raining Men”–were meant to bring her out as a diva. But interpretation is always a tricky thing, and that’s where she missed. You don’t just burn the high notes to become Martha Wash, and she knows that.

If she’s leaving, she seems to have reconciled with it before the world through her tears, that terrible feeling of hitting the wall when you’re just 16. If she stays, and I’ll be doing my part as a Local Boy with the redial button, maybe she’ll sing more loose next week. Either way, I pray a lifetime of smaller stages doesn’t defeat her. World, welcome to Asian American reality.

LaToya–no personality? Just cause she’s cool-headed doesn’t mean she’s a mystery. She’s not trying to put on some stereotypical edge. She’s older and wiser than all the other folks here. She’s not trying to get all twisted over some TV show. But apparently Simon and Randy have decided that they want her gone.

Diana did sing her heart out. Yes, she’s grown up onstage. And no, for everyone still coming here for her ethnicity, she’s not Asian either. I’m back to thinking she’s corny as fuck. “No More Tears”–the parenthetical “Enough Is Enough” says it all–was easily the most pathetic song of 1979. Give me “At Home He’s A Tourist” (down on the disco floor they make their profits) or, more to the point, “Death Disco”.

And that’s the thing. This week’s repertoire was uniformly terrible. This wasn’t disco as entertainment, much less disco as liberation, this was disco as desperation. Some old yikes-let-me-throw-on-my-Members-Only-jacket-and-overemote-cause-there’s-only-three-more-shows-type-shit. Even Fantasia went bonkers with her Bonnie Tyler cover. VH1 Classic won’t even touch that shit.

Upside is that her performance of “Knock On Wood”–while not that interesting–reminded me of who she reminds me of at her best: the late, great, beautiful, tragic Esther Phillips. Her voice can have a weary coronet tone, a whiskeyed hush that discloses to you that she’s lived some life; it’s the thing that George never tapped, that LaToya has moved beyond, and that Jennifer wore on her silver spacesuit.

There’s where Simon and Randy come in–they don’t want someone who will really sing the blues, or someone who won’t give up the soul, or someone who has grown through it, they want just the hint of danger, the fist in the velvet glove. Pop. The balancing act, that tiptoeing on the end of the blade. That happens to be what makes Fantasia the real artist in the competition.

Maybe in one of these last few shows, Fantasia will get to cover Esther’s best song ever, “When Love Comes To The Human Race” (cause they’d never let her touch Toussaint’s “From A Whisper To A Scream” or Scott-Heron’s “Home Is Where The Hatred Is”), and I’ll be crying some tears myself. Aw hell, Clay Aiken’s on next week.

posted by @ 8:49 pm | 0 Comments



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