If I could vote any two women off the American Idol stage on Thursday night, I’d choose Whitney Houston and Paula Abdul.
Let’s be real here. Whitney and Idol are not, like the key ingredients in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, two great tastes that taste great together. The problem, to me, isn’t really a product of the size or the iconic status of Houston’s voice; rather it stems from the fact that the show’s aspiring singers treat the diva’s numbers like sacred texts, refusing to tamper with a single note or turn of phrase or vocal run. And that, of course, yields invariably depressing results.
Every year, I think the new crop of hopefuls will study their Idol history, but they never learn. In season 6, for example, LaKisha Jones wrestled with Houston’s 1993 ballad ”I Have Nothing” despite the fact that Trenyce, Leah LaBelle, Vonzell Solomon, Katharine McPhee, and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson had all previously dragged the big bombastic ballad down to the musical Xerox machine and promptly found themselves low on toner.
Imagine my horror, then, when tonight both Asia’h Epperson and Syesha Mercado jumped on the highway to Houston — and in the process, put themselves at risk of getting left out of the season 7 finals.
I know, I know, these contestants have no one to blame but themselves for the folly of their song selections. It’s their own fault for not heeding the lyrics of ”The Greatest Love of All,” in which Houston declares, ”I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow.” But on the other hand, doesn’t Nigel Lythgoe owe it to his 30 million loyal viewers to stop the insanity and ban certain songs and artists from the Idol stage?
Let the purge begin with Whitney.
And then, let it move to the judges’ table, to the center seat occupied by Paula. I am sorry, but the time has come. Those who love the ”Straight Up” singer will feel bad for four or five days, after which they will drop to their knees and praise the heavens for the relative lucidity and eloquence of Jody Watley or Lisa Stansfield or any well-known singer who has at least a loose grasp on the English language and her own sanity.
I could rant and rave and raise a red flag about how Paula mimics Randy’s already cloudy thoughts, the way her interminable babblings consistently rob us of getting Simon’s insights into the contestants’ performances, and her inability (after six-plus seasons of practice) to grasp the fine art of performance critique and constructive advice. But instead, let me quote, verbatim, what she said about Ramiele Malubay’s rendition of ”Against All Odds”:
”Aww. You have such a beautiful face, and I…there’s such an innocent, pure voice that comes out of you, and I love it when you go from that….You have a lot of col…— I’m not gonna say ‘colors’ — you have a lot of texture. The textures of your voice are…[Laughs, along with audience. Randy declares the audience is the new ‘dawg pound.’ Paula resumes, calling the audience ‘mutts,’ then reconsiders.] I didn’t mean that. I meant ‘mutts’…not…never mind. Ramiele, it’s all about you. [To the audience.] I love you all. And I love mutts, too. Whatever. Look, I gotta tell you…[to Simon, who declares he is lost] I’m gonna pull you right back in. Ramiele, you deserve to be in the top 12.”
Okay, so I am feeling deeply cantankerous tonight. But after seven solid performances from the men on Tuesday, I’m finding it hard to believe that only two or three women really stepped up tonight to prove they belong in this season’s top 12. And to top it off, the best of the bunch had to endure a double-dose of putdowns from Paula and Randy.
NEXT: Missing the point