Tag Archives: Stevie Wonder

Some Thoughts on Last Night’s Idol

9 Mar

And next week they play Mozart!

Let’s start with this. No matter what featured genres/artists the producers of American Idol make the contestants perform, the Idol singers have to find a way to tackle the material. Yes, I understand the point is to push an artist and, in a sense, musically deracinate them, but, let’s be real, a vocal chameleon (while novel) is quite rare. Last year’s winner Scotty Mccreery is a country singer with a deep croon. The guy is never going to sing a Stevie Wonder song. Why make him? Honestly, it doesn’t help the show. And it doesn’t really matter – Scotty won despite singing country versions of every category each week. All it does is crowd the two hours of television with sub-par performances that make me change the channel to the Knicks game (to watch another sub-par performance, but that’s another story).

What do the Idol powers at be make our contestants perform on the Top 13 night? Boys: Stevie Wonder. Girls: Whitney Houston. Okay, have fun. Really? How is this fair? You might as well ask them to perform karaoke because most of them inevitably will. This challenge was easier for the boys. Stevie Wonder has an excellent voice and is a true performer, but it is just easier to manipulate his songs. But Whitney Houston? What is the first rule of idol for girls? Never sing Whitney Houston in an audition. Why? She was one of the most powerful female vocalists ever. You are immediately compared with her and you lose that battle all of the time. For the girls, Whitney Houston night just separated the good balladeers from the bad ones. Jessica Sanchez did this:

And, well, others had trouble. Sanchez succeeded because she has a Houston-style voice. That’s clear. Shannon Magrane, for example, crashed. Her voice was just not good enough to hit Whitney’s level. It wasn’t just karaoke, it was bad karaoke. And a few girls followed suit. The boys really only featured one awful, uninspired performance. That came from Jeremy.

In my review of the top 13 I predicted that Jeremy would be out first. This was about as easy to predict as my 7:29 train. While it occasionally is delayed, it almost always is on the tracks waiting for me when I arrive in the morning. And even though American Idol took an X-Factor turn and had the lowest vote getters from the boys and girl face the scrutiny of the esteemed judges panel (I say that in slight jest), it was obvious that Jeremy would see the exit. By the way, you can take a look at my entire Idol review here.

Here is what irks me about this all. Jeremy, while being a sweet guy, did not deserve a top 13 spot. It was obvious he would be eliminated first (and I guarantee he was the lowest vote getter overall). The only reason he got in was because of Jennifer Lopez who is proving time and time again that she is a biased judge who expressed favoritism. Steven Tyler likes all of them. Randy Jackson tries to be the bad guy, but he often misplaces his criticism. The judges are no good. Hence why I believe Jimmy Iovine should be a judge (taking Randy’s spot – he has run his course). While he lacks Simon’s snarky arrogance, Iovine provides accurate criticism.

All in all, America got it right again. This show also proved who the next singers out are. If I had to predict it, I’d say the next singers ousted will be (in this order), Shannon, Elise, Jermaine, Erika, Josh, Hollie. That will leave us with a top six of Jessica, Colton, Deandre (yes I know I originally chose Josh), Phil, HeeJun, Skylar. I then see the end of HeeJun and Deandre. Top four: Jessica, Colton, Phil, Skylar (nice even 2 girls and 2 boys spread). I stay with my final two prediction of Jessica and Colton, but if it was Phil and Skylar (or any combination of these four), I would neither be surprised nor upset.

I want to know what you think. Comment below or tweet at me!

“It’s the Same Old Song” – No, Really, It Is!

2 Nov

The Four Tops

The Four Tops was a perfect example of a fantastic band. Not just a premier, Motown hit-machine, but a solid, long-lasting band; one that could only be separated by death. The Tops were together from 1953-1997. 1997 is when Lawrence Payton passed away. Today, only Duke Fakir remains. Sadly, both Obie and lead-singer Levi Stubbs have passed away in recent years. But, and I know this sounds awfully corny, the Four Tops created a legacy that transcends time and death.

When I think of Motown, I think of the Four Tops, The Temptations and The Supremes. These bands jump to the forefront of my mind because of their sheer level of success. In Berry Gordy‘s tightly run Motown machine, if you could snap your fingers and harmonize, you could almost be guarenteed a hit. He, and his illustrious group of songwriters and background musicians, pretty much created inevitable success for so many acts. The Four Tops had more success than most.

The reason for this can be boiled down to three reasons. Levi Stubbs’ vocal was distinctive, smooth, exciting, and a whole bunch of other adjectives. He certainly had one of the best lead vocals of all the Motown acts. Seriously, in my opinion, just as good as Diana Ross,  David Ruffin, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye. Perhaps, the two best voices to come out of Motown were a little young during the label’s glory days. That being Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. They would mature. Yeah, they had/have pretty amazing voices. Anyway, Levi Stubbs’ voice fit Motown R&B/Soul exceptionally well, and it worked even better with his bandmates. Number 2: the band was loose, fun, and performed with zany vigor. Number 3: The songs.

Today’s song of the day: “It’s the Same Old Song.” And it really is, trust me:

The dance moves are legit. Let me explain to you how this aptly title song got its apt title. You see, Berry Gordy, like I said above, ran a tight ship. After The Four Tops hit #1 with “I Can’t Help Myself” in June of 1965, Gordy wanted to reap the most out of the band as possible. So, he ordered a new song to be written for them in a day. That’s right, a day. Go! So Motown’s principal production team, the Holland brothers and Lamont Dozier, got to work. As Duke recalls:

“Lamont Dozier and I were both a little tipsy and he was changing the channels on the radio. He said, ‘It sounds like the same old song.’ And then he said, “Wait a minute.” So he took “I Can’t Help Myself” and reversed it using the same chord changes.”

Yeah, that’s it. And, keep in mind, “I Can’t Help Myself” is practically the same song as The Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go,” obviously one of the most inspirational Motown classics. The team worked around the clock creating the song, and by 3 p.m. the next day, the song was released and sent to radio stations, where it eventually hit #5 on the Hot 100 chart and #2 on the R&B chart. Yeah, it’s the same old song, but it is awesome.

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