[Neal E. Boyd, winner of season 3 of America’s Got Talent, has released his first single, a cover of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” My PopWatch partner in crime Mandi Bierly and I gave it a listen, then discussed it via IM.]
Slezak: Okay, Mandi…did you head over to People.com and listen to the debut single from Neal E. Boyd? Literally, he’s covering “God Bless the USA.”
Mandi: I did, Slezak, because I’ve loved that Lee Greenwood song since I participated in a scholarship program in high school and had to do a production number waving a tiny American flag to it. What did you think?
Slezak: Well, I can’t comment on your group performance, though I’m sure it was legendary, but as for Mr. Boyd, um, let’s just say I think the guy has essentially taken a giant cheese plate of a song and slathered it with an additional heaping portion of melted gouda. I mean, what’s with the “Lite FM chorus” in the background and the total lack of driving percussion? (Actually, I’m not really being fair to the Lite FM format. It’s come a long way, yo!)
Mandi: Initial reaction: Anyone who WANTS to listen “God Bless the USA” is not lactose intolerant, so pile it on… Also, the opening drums make me feel as patriotic as Paul Wylie’s figure skating routine to the JFK soundtrack — which is to say very. But you are right: The drums fade and it loses all momentum. He shouldn’t have “made the song his own” by employing a symphony that doesn’t know when to crash a cymbal! That is the best part of this song, and it’s gone!
Slezak: Oh, sorry. I was listening to the song again and I started dozing off. Also, I think I just heard a harp.
Mandi: Key change at the 2:48 marker!And at 3:04, NO CYMBAL!
Slezak: In all seriousness, though, and setting aside the fact that dude has selected one of the most brutally hammy compositions in the American songbook as his first single, I don’t hear anything distinctive or interesting in the vocals or the arrangement. It’s a totally “seventh inning stretch at the Triple-A baseball field” performance.(Triple-A, that’s a kind of baseball league, right?)
Mandi: Um, yeah. I think you might be a bit harsh on the vocals. Would I prefer to belistening to Josh Groban right now? Yes. (Oh s—, that’s in print.)But this isn’t the worst vocal I’ve ever heard.
Slezak: No, it’s not a terrible vocal, but it’s dull as dry toast. And how come he always chooses a booming note over a quiet one? The only way this cover can be redeemed is if Mr. Boyd makes a video in which tiny children are shown raising flags to the sky at video’s end.
Mandi: That would be a beautiful sight. From your mouth to CMT’s rotation.
[Note from Mandi: In a phone chat that occurred a good 15 minutes after this IM conversation, Slezak spontaneously burst into the chorus of “God Bless the USA.” Also, both of us admitted to swaying in time to the music while listening to Boyd’s rendition. Could it be that the America’s Got Talent champ achieved exactly what he wanted with this cover?]