I know the presidential election is ongoing and we should all be focused on Very Important Issues, but it's Tuesday and that means it's American Idol. More importantly, it's Tuesday and it's Dolly Parton Night on American Idol. I love Dolly. The love I feel for Dolly rivals my love for Annie Lennox and dare I say even surpasses the love I have for Ewan McGregor. Yeah. It's like that.
I love Dolly because she is so real. I recognize how ludicrous that sounds to a person beholding her very dolled-up and enhanced image. But she's so open about how "it takes a lot of money to look this trashy" and how if something starts "sagging, bagging or dragging" she's going to have it lifted. Most meaningfully for me, Dolly came from nothing, and her music genuinely reflects her life experience.
So I'm a fan, however dorky that may make me. Therefore imagine my combined excitement and trepidation as I sat down to watch amateur singers under the age of 23 offer their takes on the Dolly catalogue. Oh dear.
The usually-good Brooke did a rather jolly version of Jolene. If you're not familiar with "Jolene" it is a song wherein a woman is so literally in pain that she is begging another woman to please not take her man "just because you can." This song, as sung by Dolly, is so desolate and so desperate and you just ache as you hear her sing it to hear her so low. And along comes Brooke to make it jaunty!
Then along comes the Dave Matthewsesque, David, to sing Little Sparrow. I admire this guy's grit. He's looking at song choices, trying to think of an appropriate arrangement, and says, "Yeah. I can rock Little Sparrow."
Then comes Ramiele. Aw, bless. Wee person, big voice, no idea what to do with it. Singing right over the rhythm, dressed like I did circa 1988.
Next up was the unremittingly improbable Jason Castro. People I know love this guy (oh you know who you are and I may out you soon), but I just can't see it. He picked (heresy warning) Travelin', which is not one of Dolly's best. And neither was it his.
Comes next Carly, the mid-twentyish, big-voiced Irish bartender. My first thoughts: no one over the age of 15 should be wearing skintight leggings, tall boots and a peasant top. At least, no one over the age of 15 who is not currently serving drinks. I thought she did a decent job of...hmm...I can't actually remember which song she did. Nuff said.
Which brings us to Kristy Lee. If I didn't want to pretend I had a life, I'd have to make it my mission to get this chick off the show. I can deliver many an insult, but I like to think the worst I can ever offer about someone is to say he or she is "vanilla pudding." Which is no slight on vanilla pudding, which I happen to enjoy a great deal, perhaps with some nilla wafers and sliced banana on top. But if you show up as an entertainer and give me vanilla pudding, I am looking for a refund. Kristy Lee is running a tab with me is all I'm sayin.
Then we get to Syesha who I generally like. She's got a really nice voice and good stage presence. She chose I Will Always Love You and did a hybrid between the quieter, sadder Dolly version and the key-change/star search Whitney version. Simon summed it up when he said that she did the Dolly part really well but the Whitney part fell a bit flat. Y'all. Can we just set a rule that You Cannot Do Whitney Houston? Hell, Whitney Houston can't do Whitney Houston anymore! Back in the day her singing was huge--and effortless. And ain't nothing more painful than watching a singer get into her Bruce Springsteen facial gyration zone to attempt to nail the "Hhhhaaaaaand Hhhhhhhiiiiii Will Alwaaaaays Loooooooove Yooooooouuuuuuu!" money shot. You can be good, so good. But if you ain't Whitney, don't sing her. Don't even get in "reminiscent" territory because all you will do is remind people of how you so ended up doubling that Triple Whitney Salkow.
Then we had the sweet and childlike David, this generation's Jonathan Taylor Thomas. He sang Smoky Mountain Memories like he meant it. I was so happy because I literally couldn't take one more beating on a Dolly song.
The end of the evening followed Michael Johns, the Australian guy alternately trying to channel Michael Hutchence and Jim Morrison. He nailed It's All Wrong But It's All Right. I was worried after his Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go selection during 80's week, so I do have to say "Thank you for not doing Islands In The Stream, dude." My sanity thanks you.
So that's my razor-sharp critique of a deeply significant and momentous event in the life and history of our nation.
**And just to level things out here, I must now confess to gross ignorance of my own. A movie about The Band is on VH1 (The Last Waltz), and not only did I never know that The Band was an actual band (like, would I name this The Blog?! And "Robbie Robertson"? TOTALLY a made-up name! Right?), but I did not realize that Dr. Teeth, the muppet, was based on Dr. John (a guest in the movie) rather than the other way around.
Looks like Idol Season 8 might have one more auditioner...