Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Love Story

Song: Love Story
Artist: Katharine McPhee
Album: Katharine McPhee

Despite the fact that everyone seems to agree this crop of future pop stars are the least talented they’ve had yet, it remains a media blockbuster. It’s all over the T.V., newspapers, blogs, you name it… “American Idol” is now a full-on entertainment hurricane and only seems to get bigger each year. Are you embarrassed about how much you know about Senjaya? There’s a good reason you know so much… he’s everywhere. Even a little girl who cried on air when he came out to perform has had features on “Extra.” I can’t seem to escape it.

But the fact is… I love “American Idol.” I get to care about these kids as we meet them from their first audition, and despite the level of talent, I feel like I become part of their lives. Isn’t that what the best TV does? Is it just odd that these “characters” are like… real? But the facts are… I think most of the music that comes out of “American Idol” is pretty awful, with a few exceptions.

cross-over smash…The best of what has come of the “American Idols” has to be the “Since You Been Gone.” Have you heard this song done karaoke? It IS the new “I Will Survive.” That song is the best of what’s come from “Idol,” and Kelly is probably the most likable of anyone that’s been on the show. (Though Carrie Underwood comes close.) She happened to get some of the best songs of the current pop-rock genre for her sophomore album, and her sales matched it. Her upcoming third album is one of the more anticipated of this year.

Though I think she was a plant. (But more on Kelly another day.)

I recently got to take a listen to a couple new albums from “American Idol” alums a few months ago. And have found one good song. I listened to the Daughtry record, the new Fantasia, Katharine McPhee, Taylor Hicks, and that guy that was on the “Idol” for a while; Mario Vasquez. He quit, bucked the “Idol” system and possibly looked a gift horse in the mouth. But was he smart? Did he just find a way to use the exposure and do things his way? Maybe.

I’m not sure why exactly I spent so much time with this music, I just wanted to have honestly listened to it… before I trashed it.

So among all of this music I found one song I really really dug. The opening track on Katharine McPhee’s self-titled debut album, “Love Story,” is a fun, soulful jam that while slickly produced, does try to retain some of the classic instrumentation of Motown. It’s a great opener, but the rest of the album goes nowhere. And I somehow wanted something different than urban pop from Katharine. It would have been cool if she went in an Amy Winehouse direction, she’s got the voice for it, and on the strength of “Love Story,” I say she could still do something interesting, but this record isn’t it.

Unfortunately, the actual winner from last season, the strangely gray Taylor Hicks, released a pretty boring record of uninspired “soul.” I must admit I didn’t even listen to the entire thing, assuming that he didn’t hide any gems later in the disc. It’s not offensive really, just unbelievably bland… though it’s still not as bad as the Mario Vasquez record.

I very pleasant surprise was the Fantasia record, that felt sufficiently “street,” was pretty catchy, and just had… like genuine personality. Something that even Katharine is missing. And I watched that girl’s entire season! I cried when she cried.

Fantasia’s first album did surprisingly mediocre, so she had much to prove with the sophomore record which is much more current, and not trying as hard to please ever single “Idol” watcher that might buy the record. She’s played herself in a Lifetime movie, and now that “Fantasia,” the second album has quickly come and gone, she’s on Broadway starring in “The Color Purple.” At least she’s working.

But honestly, the music is secondary… “Idol” is all about the show, the product tie-ins, Randy’s makeup, Paula’s state, Simon’s brutal honestly, and the Seacrest gay jokes. It’s watched by millions, and millions vote, It has become something that people talk about… like “Dallas,” “Twin Peaks,” and Anna Nicole Smith.

On average, the music out of “Idol” is pretty week, but there are exceptions. I like the show, and have been a faithful watcher since the first season but have zero urge to go out and buy any of the music that is generated from it. I think it has a serious place in history as a cultural phenomenon, but don't look for a lot of music history from its "stars."


Videos from the “Idol’s” gang:

Katharine’s tepid first single “Over It”

Fantasia’s “Hood Boy” (officially dope)

My current favorite of this season, Blake Lewis

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