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Again cut off at the knees

It's music that takes the real hit when 'Idol' singers suffer slams for just trying to make it.

January 25, 2008|Todd Martens | Times Staff Writer

Note: "American Idol" Show Tracker Richard Rushfield is in Park City, Utah, covering the Sundance Film Festival. He'll return next week. In the interim, Rushfield has asked me to chronicle the second week of "Idol" Season 7. It should be noted that I am a music journalist who, prior to 2008, had refused to watch the contest. My long-held refusal to tune in to "Idol," said Rushfield, is the precise reason why I was drafted.


"American Idol" concluded its sixth hour in two weeks on Wednesday night, and of those 360 minutes, only a small fraction were devoted to music.

That may seem odd, seeing as how "Idol" is out to find our next pop star and all. In these early Season 7 episodes, "Idol" has done little, if anything, to actually celebrate or promote pop music. Simon Cowell even went so far as to tell "Idol" lovebirds Randy Stark and Crystal Ortiz, a couple who met on the "Idol" message boards, to not even sing for their families.

A dose of truth for the delusional, perhaps, but for a show about music, "Idol" has an amazing ability to shatter dreams and to make one feel stupid for ever trying to sing in the first place. A lifetime passion? It's destroyed in about 20 seconds in which technique (holding a note and carrying a tune) is held in higher regard than passion and personality.

Oh, I want to believe you, Jeffery Lampkin. "Anybody can sing," he said as he waited to audition, "but you have to have the 'ow' factor." Jeffery then performed with his sister Michelle during Wednesday's Charleston, S.C., auditions and had an energy, and waistline, that would make Gnarls Barkley's Cee-Lo proud. Not sure if the family act he has with his sister is going to work (OK, it isn't), but as far as a singer with an "ow" factor, Jeffery is the closest there's been in Season 7.

That's why it's surprising that the pair was actually voted on to Hollywood. For there were two moments in Wednesday's episode -- admittedly, the most entertaining "Idol" episode this season -- that did a fine job of capturing the way the pop-star-making end of the music industry actually works.

1. Sixteen-year-old singer Amy Catherine Flynn, or, in her words, "AC, whatevs." There was only one way she was not going to make it to the Hollywood round, and that was to botch Christina Aguilera's "Reflection" horribly. The girl is the captain of her dance team at Knoxville Catholic High School in Tennessee.

So: Catholic high school dance team captain + decent singing voice = golden ticket into the music industry. Sorry, but anyone who disagrees hasn't been paying attention to pop music. Plus, she preaches abstinence. That'll be downright adorable in Hollywood.

2. DeAnna Prevatte, or "little tiger," as Simon called her.

She sang "Fancy," a song popularized by Reba McEntire and, apparently, also sung by Season 5 "Idol" contestant Kellie Pickler. Prevatte belted and wailed the tune, dropping to her knees and shouting it across the room to the judges. With a bluesy rock band behind her, Prevatte probably would have sounded all right.

But it's ballads "Idol" will be wanting this season (every season?), and the judges were clearly taken aback by Prevatte's strong personality. "A bit angry," Simon said of her performance. "It's an angry song," Prevatte calmly replied.

She also corrected Simon on the pronunciation of her name and ranted against poor tippers at the restaurant she waitresses at. Yet she was one of the few "Idol" auditioners we've seen with a little fire, and that's what doomed her.

This isn't a contest for those who are going to be talking back and reinterpreting songs and going their own direction. Just look at the brouhaha that happened with Kelly Clarkson's album last summer.

Also of note: Oliver Highman, who came off as a pretty solid wedding singer, had to have his audition delayed because his wife went into labor. After being rejected by the trio of judges, he asked if he could show the panel his newborn.

Because one can't turn down an invitation to see a baby when cameras are rolling, Highman brought out his daughter. As the Highman family walked off, Simon said: "We'll be seeing her in 15 years."

Am I the only one who heard that as a threat?


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