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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

American Idol: Mis-Match

Posted By on Wed, May 21, 2008 at 9:30 AM

Live TV means you can never truly anticipate how the experience will go.

I was 110 percent sure that the David vs. David finale would engender unremitting boredom; instead, my primary emotion throughout was pity.

It started when the two Davids had to pretend they cared about the show's idiotic (and time-wasting) boxing gimmick. Could Little David look anymore awkward than he did coming out "fighting" in an oversized satin robe? (Answer: yes. But more on that shortly.)

Once again, the producers disinter the mummified Clive James to cast his pearls before his new hit-making slaves. And they bring back Andrew Lloyd Weber, but with no explanation: Was he just in town? In fairness, he was the only mentor this season that actually gave practical advice. Still, it's the biggest night of the year for teens, and we get two of the oldest dudes in show biz to lend a hand ...

Cook's performances were fine but overall he got out-sung and out-earnested by young David. He failed, as Randy suggested, "to leave it on the floor," or to, per Paula, "soak it up." Up, down: What's a poor kid to do?

And I was with Cook when he opted to sing a new song for the third round. Simon squawks every week about being fresh, innovative, not playing it safe and surprising the audience, and then he beats on Cook for not reprising an earlier performance?

I didn't feel so bad for Cook for losing the first two rounds. David A. beat him fair and square, but this really felt like a cheap shot.

Little David was on -- or "molten" according to Randy, who hasn't said one fresh thing all season. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" was a great choice by Davis for David A.'s first song -- full of melodic melodrama, and loaded with the cheesy, over-emoting lyrics that you could just imagine coming from the mouth of a broken-hearted, overly dramatic teen-ager. And Archueleta gave the tune a little blue-eyed soul flavor that I dug.

But -- and this is a huge but ... when he stopped singing, this and his other two songs, his time before the judges was almost unbearable.

I thought he was going have a nervous breakdown right then and there. He looked so pained, so strained, so uncomfortable. While lavishly praised, he never smiled, but just blinked and gasped like a dying fish. Seventeen is young, and throw in the alleged controlling stage-dad, and I wished David was still back in Utah, happy just to wow his schoolmates with his pretty singing.

His complete lack of joy was alarming. Little David's second number was clearly picked for its lame-ass, situation-ready upbeat chorus -- "I wanna stay in this moment, no one can take it away from me" -- should have had the one-to-beat finalist beaming, exhilarated, showing us this is his moment. Instead it was like watching a budding Judy Garland, or some other micro-managed wreck of a "pro," dutifully but joylessly hitting all the marks.

David A. is going to be the next American Idol, and sad part is -- I don't think he wants to be.

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