Saturday, April 28, 2012

Queen on Idol

Media Moment: American Idol
Queen-related: Queen week

Although this is the goal of American Idol every week, having a Queen theme allows the show producers to state it colloquially, it would seem. 

After receiving a heads-up email from Queenonline about their upcoming appearance on Idol, I PVRed both the performance and elimination episodes and have just now gotten around to watching them. Yes, Queen factored heavily in the series this week and I think the special guests were pretty pumped about them as well.

After the obligatory career recap of the band, Brian and Roger were shown speaking to the six remaining Idol contestants about everything from how to mimic Freddie to dealing with rejection and failure. (I’d be very interested in seeing the entire footage of this meeting rather than the three minutes that ran on Idol.)

The show then cut to the six contestants performing a medley of Queen tunes. A few seconds into the start of the show, Brian and Roger emerge from the shadows to help out the group.

The first hour of the two-hour show was dedicated to each contestant singing a hand-picked Queen song; and the second hour was filled with an R&B song choice of their own.

Another aspect of American Idol that occurred to me after this latest elimination round was that mentor-in-residence Jimmy Iovine is filling the void created by Simon Cowell’s departure. As an unofficial fourth judge, Iovine seems to have the lion’s share of harsh criticisms for the contestants. Here’s what he had to say about each of their Queen-song performances:

Jennifer [Sanchez] singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is just a plain ol’ mistake. And then, add to it the three faces of Jessica that came on the screen — I was watching the show and it actually scared me. That bit was less Queen and more Stephen King.”

“I think Skyler [Laine] did a very, very competent job on The Show Must Go On. It’s a great song, she sang it powerful [sic], a little out of her thing . . . it wasn’t really a country song . . . more like a pop song but she did a very, very, very good job.”

“I was really impressed last night with Joshua [Ledet] doing Crazy Little Thing Called Love. He showed me something in the crossover aspect of his career that he can really hit on . . . that Gary U.S. Bonds feel with Sam Cooke singing a Queen song shows he knows how to interpret. And he can cross over to pop.”

Elise [Testone] . . . I believe she picked the wrong Queen song [I Want It All]. She picked sort of a monotone, stadium anthem. What happens when you do that is it comes off as ‘clubby.’ I felt like I was in a night club somewhere in the back or beyond. It didn’t move me. I didn’t want to hit rewind, I didn’t want to hear it again. She’s a great singer . . . wrong song!”

“Ryan is not the only person not feeling well on the show this week. Phillip [Phillips] is really having a rough time and it’s starting to show and by not feeling well, I believe he’s lacking in the energy he would need to pull that sort of character off on Fat Bottomed Girl [sic]. If you watched Jack Black and Casey [Abrams] do it from last year, they exploded that song. I don’t think we got that tonight . . . it wasn’t, uh, it was just missing something.”

“I wonder if Hollie [Cavanagh] by choosing the song Save Me by Queen was a subconscious plea to the public here. She did a very good job — this was a hard one. Freddie Mercury is top because of the way he sings . . . it’s so, so unique. He takes words and turns them into things that no one would ever think you could turn them into. She tripped up on the very end and she got slightly out of tune. Can she get through the lyrics of the song and the meaning of the song? Technically, she was a B+.”

What I noticed about this particular episode was that the video projections on the back screen and side panels of the stage were tailored to the song or served to reinforce the current personality on stage. Most of this stage design stuff worked really well particularly if the song already has a strong visual connotation to capitalize on.

The Mick Rock/Bruce Gowers homage behind Jessica Sanchez did seem a bit creepy, as Jimmy stated. During I Want It All, there was some funky typographic animation playing out behind Elise as she belted out the chorus. Not sure what the purpose of it was other than to make sure the audience knew the words. With Crazy Little Thing Called Love, there was, I think, an interesting nod to the design trends of the 1950s, which was the rockabilly era the song typically gets ascribed to. Curiously, the video accompaniment for Phillip showed a bunch of child-like drawings. I’m guessing that’s a reference to the drawing ability of a boy who’s been left with a Naughty Nanny. (I’d really like to see the set designer’s notes for those sketches.)

As for The Show Must Go On and Save Me, I don't think they had much to go on other than Queen footage which wouldn’t have worked, so the set designs for Skylar and Hollie seemed non-specific.

Elimination Episode

I got a sneak peek at what I’m in for on July 2, 2012 when The Queen Extravaganza opened the show with Somebody To Love. Seeing Marc Martel without his ’stache was a surprise. Brian and Roger joined the tribute band onstage for the final moments of the song although it’s too bad the three judges (and Jimmy!) didn’t give feedback on the performance. That would have been an interesting twist but I’m not sure Roger would want to risk any negative criticism before the QE hits the road on their North American tour. Personally, I’m hoping there’s no backflips by the guitarist when they swing through Calgary in July. It’s already a stretch to accept two guitarists in a Queen tribute band, even worse when one wants to be in a Cirque show, too.

Two other incidental Queenish moments happened during this elimination episode: Casey and Katy.

Season ten finalist Casey Abrams spoke with Ryan Seacrest briefly and it was my wife who noticed he was wearing a We Will Rock You t-shirt beneath his sport coat. And Katy Perry performed her latest single, A Part of Me, looking a bit zombie-ish, in my opinion. I think it was partly the heavy eyeliner and the stark stage lighting, but the military night vision goggles effect really made her and her dance troupe look like the undead.

How is this Queen related? Her performance certainly wasn’t but backstage, however, things must have been abuzz with Katy mingling with Brian and Roger since she’s known to be a huge Freddie fan herself. As an aside, I thought of Steven Tyler’s comment to Hollie Cavanagh after performing Save Me which had a strong, simple melody. . . something that he thought was missing in a lot of today’s music. I didn’t feel Perry’s song had much of a melody either.

And finally . . . this opening credit on the elimination episode pissed me off:

Really? All it takes is to win one season of American Idol and you’re a music legend? My mistake . . . I thought it required a lot more effort than that.


No comments:

Post a Comment