On the Hidden Perils of Singing Queen
I haven't done an American Idol recap all year, given that I haven't been following the show all that closely. Queen night, however, had me intrigued, so a recap I'll be writing.
Overall impression? Subpar. But this was perhaps to be expected. Every time I hear other singers try and cover Queen I'm reminded, in a very palpable way, of what a unique singer Freddie Mercury was. Queen songs are, to put it flatly, hard to sing; the melodies and the way the vocal lines come together are very idiosyncratic. It's very difficult to sing a Queen song and not sound off; as if there's a disconnect between singer and song. As we will see.
Bucky Covington - "Fat Bottomed Girls"
Bucky wasn't bad, but there was nothing special going on. The song choice was good--he was one of the few who didn't have that sense of disconnect going on; he sounded comfortable in the song. That being said, Bucky just ain't that good--very average voice, well below-average stage presence, no real personality or charm to juice the vocals. Very, very average.
Ace Young - "We Will Rock You"
Seeing Brian May's obvious discomfort at what Ace wanted to do with his song was hilarious. This wasn't horrible, but, again, hardly special, or even, really, good. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Ace didn't really rearrange the song but tried to inject a different rhythmic feeling into the melody. The attempt was very flat. This was a poor song choice for him.
Kellie Pickler - "Bohemian Rhapsody"
"Bohemian Rhapsody" should never be squeezed into a minute and a half. Bad idea. The song needs it's particular structure and length to be effective. As she did it it was just jarring and choppy, like a bad movie trailer. The singing was OK, but no great shakes, and while some were impressed by her "rock" side, I was decidedly not. Very fake, very inorganic, very forced.
Chris Daugherty - "Innuendo"
Another example of a song getting trashed by the show's limitations. "Innuendo" is a great song, all Middle Eastern accents, and dark chord changes, and grinding, threatening rhythms, with a surprise, flamenco-guitar-accented bridge. But in a minute and a half all we got were the outlined power chords and some very good, but in the end not enough, singing from Chris. A decent performance that nevertheless made a great song sound very average.
Katherine McPhee - "Who Wants to Live Forever"
The performance of the night. A great song choice, and sung well, with nice control and focus. Some hitchiness on the transitions from soft to loud and a little stridency in the belted parts made it less than great, but still very good.
Taylor Hics - "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
Very good. The only performance, really, that didn't make me miss Freddie. Well sung, with a good showing of range, and a very impressive innate feel for the song's rockabilly, Elvis-homage charms.
Elliott Yamin - "Somebody to Love"
Crash and burn. "Somebody to Love" is a hard song to sing. Hard. And he simply wasn't up to it's challenges, on a purely technical level. On top of that, as the band indicated, this was written as an homage to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Takes a heck of a lot of soul to sing it well--and that he doesn't have. I would have dearly loved to have heard Mandisa sing this.
Paris - "Show Must Go On"
Very, very good. Not great simply because, at seventeen, Paris can't convey the desperate, dark emotions the song calls for. She understood the song though - singing it angrily, not triumphantly--and that goes a long way in my book. Also, that key, critical note "Show must go on" was just a bit beyond her means, robbing the song of a lot of its power. Still and all--a strong, confident, performance.
Who will go? I have no idea. Who should? Probably Bucky. He's being outsung by most everybody up there, even the mediocre singers (Ace, Elliott) I'd be happy to see go.