Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"Idol" Results: The 'Fro Patro' Is No Mo'

As you may or may not know by now, the latest "American Idol" eviction is none other than Mr. Christopher Sligh, which is a relief to me because I never figured out how to avoid writing his name as Chris Slight, which turned out to be appropriate, if typographically incorrect.

Chris was eliminated for two big reasons that I can see:

1)He stunk this week and he stunk in a way that even people who think Sanjaya Malakar is musically gifted (by that I mean the tone-deaf among us) couldn't deny. He didn't sing the notes right, but what was worse was that he physically couldn't sing the song. He lacked the rhythm to do it. That's not disgraceful in and of itself. The song has a tricky tempo and Sting's voice isn't easy to duplicate it (although Phil Stacey did an admirable job). But unless Gwen Stefani was telling the camera things she wasn't telling her pupils (making her a shameful mentor), Chris couldn't get the tempo in rehearsals either. That means that Gwen Stefani knew he couldn't sing the song, the "Idol" musical directors knew he couldn't sing the song and, since Chris isn't a stupid guy, Chris must have known he couldn't sing the song. So why did he sing the song? If you're a figure skater and you realize you don't have the momentum to get a triple jump, sometimes it's OK to just do a double. Don't judges look a smidge more kindly on that than on trying a triple and tripping across the ice, doing a face-plant into the boards and failing the rest of your elements? Or did Chris realize too late that he couldn't sing the song and the band and background singers were locked in? In that case, has he known he was a dead man walking all week? Regardless, Chris was actually worse than Sanjaya this week and anybody who pulls off that trick deserves to go home.

2)In my Zap2it recap of tonight's results, I said, "So long, Chris. You weren't the worst singer left, but 'American Idol' is a game and you didn't play it correctly." Chris' "Idol" strategy was just wrong. Would Taylor Hicks have won last year if he'd entirely stopped with the twitchy dancing, started singing less cheesy songs and no longer embraced the Soul Patrol at every turn? OF COURSE NOT. As the results on the current album charts are telling us, Taylor Hicks was a cult of personality and he won by recognizing that the people who loved his cornball routine far outnumbered the people who wanted to beat his gray head like a pinata. He never tried to prove that he could sing challenging songs or that his ticket to the Kodak Theatre could be punched by displaying his massive range. He knew that he couldn't beat Katherine McPhee or Chris Daughtry like that. He knew the only way to beat them was by having a large group of fans LOVE him, everybody else be darned.

Chris Sligh could have had that. Sepinwall and I have a running debate each season regarding whether the worst contestants are subversive geniuses or whether they're just awful. Alan, for example, remains convinced that Jon Peter Lewis is a subversive genius. I'm doubtful. But Chris Sligh seemed like the real deal in the audition and Hollywood rounds. He mocked the conventions of "Idol" announcing that he just wanted to make David Hasselhoff cry. He mocked the normal suspense of the Top 24 selection when he greeted the judges in Hollywood with "I guess you're wondering why I called you here today." I didn't think he could sing when the Top 24 began, but I had high hopes he'd deflate the pomposity of this stupid pageant we call "Idol." After five seasons and one Taylor Hicks win, "Idol" may have needed the sort of ego-puncturing Chris looked ready to provide.

Instead, he opted to take the whole thing seriously. He sang strange indie rock songs without melodies. He sang Christian rock songs without melodies. In British Invasion week, he joked he was going to sing "Henry the 8th." Why didn't he?!?!? Taylor Hicks would have. Jon Peter Lewis would have. Chris lacked the courage of his convictions when it came to being class clown. It's like he wanted viewers to respect him rather than like him.

That's not the way the "Idol" game is played.

Bye-bye Chris Sligh. Good night, Chris Slight.

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