Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Songs in the Key of Strife

I can remember teaching several years ago and having an extremely eagerly naive student explain to me in long rambling bouts of puffiness how he could sing this, that and the other song regardless of range or appropriateness to age or gender. I let him talk himself out, and then peering over my glasses I said, "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

I thought that was pretty good for an impromptu nugget of wisdom, and have uttered that phrase many times since.

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

And in that phrase lies my annual American Idol rant.

Every week is theme week. So far we've had songs of Stevie Wonder, The 50's, The 21st century, Country, Queen, and this week, The American Songbook. The resulting performances have been painful, awful, hideous, yeehawwwwrrible, just plain wrong, and what the hell, let's go for six.

I appreciate singers needing to be flexible, but I don't see the point in shackling wannabe Idols to a vocal style they would most likely never tackle. What's next? Milli-Vanilli Unplugged? Opera week? Great Methodist Hymns Grandma loved to sing at the pie social? Only The Shadow -- or I fear, The Spanish Inquisition -- knows.

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

If the theme isn't bad enough, most of the songs being performed are so ridiculously excerpted they bear little resemblance to the original. Think about it: is it really Bohemian Rhapsody if it's only 45 seconds long? If Chopin's waltz takes a minute, and instant rice takes five, a proper fandango must take longer than that.

(Although I must admit here that had Pickler's Bohemian massacre lasted one second longer, I would have had Galileo poke out my eyes with thunderbolt and lightning)

And still, I tune in when I can. Not so much for the train-wreck value, which seems to be in ample supply. Certainly not for the vapid comments of the judging panel. I think I watch because hope springs eternal. Every week I wonder if one of these singers will find a song and really get it. It's really not as easy of a task as you might think.

I don't know if every American Idol can. But I do know that every musician should.

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