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'American Idol' Banter: The Brooke White era begins

Brookewhite What we learned from this week’s results show isn’t pretty. The performances of any given week don’t matter on this season’s “Idol.” This is not, at this juncture, a singing competition. Nor does this season reward the virtues usually associated with champions -- courage, determination, a strong sense of self.

Carly Smithson’s booting is not simply unjust; it threatens to undermine the very premise of “American Idol.” If this show is now officially about well-marketed personalities rather than vocal charisma or even dynamic performance skills, then why not make it a chronicle of the packaging of a pop star, more like MTV’s “Making the Band” or even (though I dread it) “The Search for the Next Doll”?

It’s hardly unusual, in the pop game, for image to trump musical talent –- who can forget the scandal when plus-size Martha Wash was replaced by svelte models in the marketing campaigns for a string of 1990s dance club hits? Tonight proved that we can no longer dream that “Idol” rises above such gimmicks. At least Syesha Mercado survived, by a thread. But the loss of Carly not only robs this season of its best pure singer –- it wipes unbridled passion and humanity from the stage.

Seriously, what is the “American Idol” constituency seeking?  Another pop moppet prepped to fill the pages of gossip magazines and make adorable viral videos? Simpering Brooke White and half-baked Jason Castro (I like him, but come on, it’s a shtick) are sailing through because their images are cute; they’re more like sitcom stars than musical powerhouses.

Brooke’s particularly puzzling success, given her repeated flops in the spotlight, may be attributable to the 8-year-old girl market. For tween voters too young to fully crush out on the Davids, she plays the princess role, her deluxe locks and befuddled manner recall Amy Adams’ turn as Giselle in “Enchanted,”  last year’s Disney hit.  Brooke’s obvious discomfort at the end of tonight’s episode suggests that she knows she’s living on borrowed time. But heck, if I were to sponge a few extra weeks off anybody, I’d take it from pre-teens too. They have a lot to spare.

I can feel the hate mail coming already. But Brooke fans, don’t give me that line about how “human” and “vulnerable” she is. Messing up this far into the “Idol” competition does not make you more real. It makes you lame. If there were a good reason for flubbing her rendition of “You Must Love Me” on Tuesday –- if she’d experienced a personal tragedy, or was really disturbed by the results in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary -- I could forgive her. But Brooke simply hadn’t fully absorbed the song. She was unable to clear a space within herself to let the music move through her.

She couldn’t even fake it, as both Carly and David Archueleta managed to do when they forgot lyrics the same night. Faking it is a skill all memorable vocalists learn, because stuff happens when you’re onstage, and you have to master the skills to get through those sweaty passages. Unless you’re this year’s official ingenue, apparently –- then you just flash your pretty eyes and apologize.

I can hardly even bear to mention that the song Brooke so mistreated once belonged to Madonna, the woman who defined self-determination and personal power for a generation of women artists and fans.

I expect my drubbing of Brooke in the face of Carly’s departure will get some hate mail. But I have to stand up for the woman who showed the most passion, the strongest need to sing, of any contestant this season. I’ll confess, now that it doesn’t matter any more, that the very qualities others hate in Carly make her admirable to me.

Carly understands psychic darkness. She shows her humanity, but never apologizes for it. She has a sexual side.  She loves to rock and to push her voice to the limit. Her ruling emotion is fury, not bashfulness. Carly Smithson is not a princess. She is a queen. I hope the pop world still allows her some corner in which to rule.

-- Ann Powers

Photo courtesy of Fox

Comments () | Archives (140)

Technically she was the best singer, but the judges never stopped telling the viewers for weeks, how the guys were better, every tv show they have been on, they predicted a David C versus D A finale. So why the shock now. Simon never liked her, when he praised her voice, he insulted her clothes, that is why Randy and Simon have a game they are playing against each other. If Simon likes Jason, Randy insults him, because Randy was the producer for Carly's album, and he wanted to prove his ABILITY IN CHOOSING A STAR and Simon was not having any of it. What also counted against Carly big time was those tattoos and that husband's face on tv, was enough to scare anyone off. It really spoils her image, she always looked better when she covered her arms.

Carly got booted for her song choice, which the judges constantly warn can be determinative. So to answer your question, Ms. Powers, the AI constituency wants to hear the name of Jesus Christ sung reverently from the Idoldome stage, but Carly had other ideas about that. If Carly had sung ANY other ALW song, Brooke would have been sent packing.

Im awared that Carly has the best vocals and I like her. But I honestly have to tell you that Brooke is my favorite, I did think she was going home, but I was thrilled to see she didnt. Because I like her, because I like her style, and what the heck I like her vulnerability too. I've heard both, her and carly songs fom their albums and with the hand on my heart I can honestly say I would rather buy Brookes album.
Anyway this is my opinion. I'm still sad for Carly cause I really like her.

Ann I am happy this is considered to be an editorial. Your biased opinion shows that you are not savvy to the fact that singers, as well as actors, are also about what they emanate on stage.

I hope you will print another opinion.

Carly was kicked off as other people saw what I saw. She was the Queen alright. The queen of screaming.

Please realize your review is very one sided, as is my opinion.:) The vote is what counts.


Why so negative about the other contestants just b/c Carly got kicked off? She is v good, but she had some troubles the last few weeks... this past show was a good one for her, but yes people watch the show and make judgements based on the body of work. And the reason Jason Castro and Brooke are still on is b/c the world is full of musicians that are engaging, interesting and engulf the audience in their emotions, in what they are doing... Madonna is a great example, she is far from the best singer out there - in fact many on idol are more than her match - my Madonna obsessed wife agreed that Brooke sang it better than Madonna... not the point, the point is some of these contestant have trouble engaging the audience - not even talking ab just pop music here, Syesha is consistently in the bottom b/c although she can sing, people do not like her - she comes off as an egomaniac and as so far from humble it's not funny. The model/actress/singer needs to notch it down and play humble if she wants to stick around... even with that, she is just not engaging when she sings, technically great yes, but why do we love the musicians we love, b/c their music and their delivery of it brings us in, she just does not. Castro and Brooke when they sing, technically great or not, pull the listener in, they make you care about them, not solely b/c of their personalities, but b/c they communicate emotion through their singing... joe cocker, tom waits, janice joplin, mick jagger, mr robert dylan, on and on and on, they draw you in, emotional presence. Syesha does not have it and it was fleeting for Carly although i believe she does have it in her.

I have nothing to add to your critique of last night's Idol show. You are totally "bang-on".

Well done and thanks for articulating what I've had stewing for a long, long time.


Exactly!!! Very well put, Ms. Powers. Michael Johns and now Carly Smithson. This show is a joke. Those with talent and vocal ability are being voted off one by one. Will it be Jason Castro and Brooke White in the semi-finals sitcom?

Brooke... shameless!!! She has to go home soon... her time's up since 2 weeks ago...

I could not manage to connect to Carly this season. Did she have a good voice? Yes, definitely, but she seems determined to ruin it by consistently shouting through her performances, She never seemed to want to feel what she was singing so much as she wanted to deliver an energetic performance, but shouting alone doesn't make it energetic. Besides that, she seemed to have some type of attitude that she was better than those she was asking to vote for, which was very difficult to get past.
Brooke became one of my favorites at her audition. She had heart, she was original and had a voice unlike anyone who's been on Idol, she was unique and put heart and soul into her performances, which she still does. Did she screw up the lyric? Yes, but there are countless performers who have done the same thing and reacted the same way she did, and she wasn't the only one to screw up her lyrics Tuesday night. She was able to feel what she was singing and pour her heart into it and THAT will connect with people. Her attitude right now is that she truly wants to stay on Idol and is depending on her fans to keep her there. Much to the shock of many people out there probably, she DOES have fans who are not tween girls but actually simply people who still hold value for a singer who wants to pour some feeling and passion and personality into the song as opposed to "energy" (read: shouting).
Carly was never able to reach me and connect with me on the show except during Dolly Parton week with her take on Here You Come Again. THAT version I actually liked better than the original and if she released it as a single, I'd buy it. But that's the only exception to this otherwise confusing rule for me.
Brooke connected every week for me because she pours her feeling into every note she sings. I vote for her because I believe in her as a singer and performer. I can't say that about Carly.
And as far as You Must Love Me being Madonna's song, I can honestly say that while I love the musical Evita, I hated the movie with a passion BECAUSE of Madonna. She might have badly wanted the role, but she didn't deserve it. She wasn't a good enough singer, as evidenced by the fact they had to change the musical arrangements around so she could sing lower notes instead of the high notes required of her. Also, they gave her a song that wasn't even MEANT or WRITTEN for her character, and cut it short, basically rewriting the original musical for her, further wrecking it. As far as I'm concerned, her only salvaging moment and the only salvaging song in the movie WAS You Must Love Me. A song about hope and need in the face of death and desperation. While it's true that Brooke didn't understand at first what the song was about, how many people actually know the backstory of Eva Peron for cripes sake? Once it was explained to her, not only did she do the song justice, but the emotion she poured into it was heartfelt and heartbreaking at the same time, as it seemed like she was pleading with the American people to see in her what she and the judges still see in herself: a unique singer who deserves to stay.
I did, still do, and I voted for her and will continue to do so as long as she stays true to herself.

Thank you for so clearly stating the truth about Carly.
That she truly appreciated this experience, savored
every moment in the spotlight, and loved each one of
her competitors unconditionally is the refreshing truth.
I look forward to seeing what her future brings to those
of us who saw her raw talent from the beginning and
will continue to support her career.

I understand that you're upset. Everyone's upset. But the reality is that Carly didn't choose a very good song, and didn't impress some of us who didn't know the song AT ALL. Yes, Brooke is uncomfortably emotional. And that separates her from other famous singers how? You mentioned a few, but personality-wise, Brooke fits right in with vocalist culture. Finally, please don't forget that Brooke, unlike Carly and most of the contestants, can actually play both guitar and piano, play them WELL (enough), and still use that emotional well to infuse a performance. In short, I miss Carly. I really thought she might win. But just because you're mad that she's lost, don't take it out on Brooke. She's much more talented than you give her credit for.

Well said! I agree with you 100% I will be following Carly's career post-idol.

Have you ever been to an AI PopTart concert? All teeny bopping girls being chaffered by their moms, grandmoms or a reluctant dad. Tattoos don't sort of fit into the bubble gum brigade unless its a only-for-one-night lickem and stickem variety. So I'm not surprised Jason, Brooke and even DArchuleta are still in the running. The fit the mold.

A simple "Amen" to Ann Powers! You summed it up perfectly. Paulette T. (Iowa)

You make great points about Carly - she's clearly the most powerful singer, but Brooke White is the most genuine and engaging personality on that stage, and though limited vocally, her voice is sweet and appealing. Brooke is the package deal - great looking, talented, smart, wholesome and real - a true American Idol. She doesn't deserve to win best singer, and she clearly doesn't have what it takes to sell out arenas, but she's someone to be admired and I can see her being a successful singer-songwriter.

Brooke White is terrible and her sweet princess routine is an act! Her voice is the weakest left in the competition, was even before Carly went home, and her pitiful constant crying and talk back to the judges should not be something young girls or anyone, looks up to!

Ann, thank you so much for your article!

This country has turned into the biggest bunch of whining, lazy, idiots!!!! You don't have to earn anything anymore. All you have to do is "try your best", even if it sucks, get all teary and pouty over it, and everyone will feel so sorry for you that they decide you "deserve" to win.

I keep reading it over and over in the every blog I read: "Who cares if she's not the best? Getting up there is really hard and she tried her best!! She DESERVES to win." No one DESERVES to win. This is a contest. You win by working hard to be better than everyone else. Not by being more pathetic than everyone else.

I am so done with this show.

Well, you're not getting any hate mail from me. I agree with everything you said. I actually cried last night when Carly was voted off. Even the departure of Michael Johns didn't do that to me. Hopefully, she will become a recording artist and I can buy her CDs - yes, I actually buy them I don't download and I don't have an MP3 player, etc.

This is the first season I have watched American Idol. As a middle-age, middle class women, I'm certainly not the voting demographic (and I can't vote anyway because I'm Canadian).

It was Brooke's turn to go last night or possibly Jason's. I wouldn't have voted for either based on Tuesday's performances. David A bored and confused me Tuesday - the song he sung wasn't recognizable for what it was. Syesha, who usually bores me, did a wonderful job and deserved to go on for another week although her time should have been up several weeks ago.

I guess it's got me hooked enough to tune in for one more week. My prediction is that the Davids will be OK - because after all, one of them is going win. Also, Jason should do well next week because there are enough folksy Neil Diamond songs to choose from. Of course, it isn't really about the music - is it?

Honestly, As Paula said last week (when no one minded it was Kristy and Brooke in the bottom) at this stage in the game we have 6 talented people any of them could be an American Idol. Carly messed up the words, just to have no one under 30 or non-broadway fans notice that the background singers were singing different words than her. David Archuleta messed up the words (again) but it was Da Bomb. Brooke was doing a slow, clean song that you can't hide and go on in. If you mess up on a song like a few seconds in, you start over.

Bashing Brooke when she is just doing as many professionals would of done if they had forgot the lyric is just causing contention and hate that is uncalled for.

Frankly Carly shouldn't have made it this far... the name of the show was/is American Idol... not Irish Idol or Visitor to America Idol.

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