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'Idol' Banter: Meet the Boys

February 20, 2008 |  4:15 pm

Simon is already nervous. Not only did he trash adorably campy Danny Noriega simply because he raised the shadow of Sanjaya - that snap! Danny gave Mr. Crest Whitestrips after earning the honorific "hideous" was the best moment of the night - but he criticized the gang for not being current, over and over again. This contest is meant to discover a recording artist, Simon insisted, and please, male contestants, don't forget our former "Idols" are getting dropped from their labels left and right. Show me something that will sell!

            What will sell this year, if it proves to be male at all, will probably not be able to drink legally. 16-year-old former Star Search winner David Archuleta and 20-year-old Christian jam-bander Jason Castro scored the night's home runs, their earnest, quivering personalities complementing gorgeously bland performances. I will say that Archuleta has that special vocal something - a really creamy, irresistible tone that even the most egregious excesses of melisma can't erase. Castro seems forgettable to me, beyond perfect skin - but the little-girl audience that keeps "Idol" afloat has voted cute many times before.

            Add a few to those two Simon-approved cuties and you've got a veritable Jackson 5 of teen dreams: hippie Garrett, "High School Musical" character Colton, and boy-band vet Robbie give girls a chance to range widely, voting for their type. Unless your type is Chris Brown, that is; the only African American male contestant is the singularly-named Chikezie, who's definitely going for the Luther lovers out there. I predict this year's Velvet Teddy Bear won't last the week, and we'll be back to contemplating androgynes.

           My favorite androgyne is the slightly older (and already underrated) David Hernandez, who represents for Chicano soul, and has a tone that's almost as lovely as that other David's. But Hernandez is a striver who seems to have been around a couple of blocks, and if innocence is what "Idol" wants to package this year, he may not be long for the stage.

            Yet we must also contemplate the opposite of innocence: the Evil That is Michael Johns. Not only is Johns super-seasoned (and, at 29, ancient for "Idol"), Web-circulated rumors say he betrayed his mates in the pretentiously-named band Film to pursue his solo career. But let's face it, people -- he's hot. He rocks like someone who's actually had carnal relations, and the vague scent of seediness about him only enhances his charm. Has "American Idol" ever had a real villain -- or a real, night-crawling, bohemian rocker? (I like Daughtry, but he's a family man underneath that mascara.) The ascent of Johns could signal something really different for "Idol", rather than just a nice potential date for last year's alpha adolescent, Jordin Sparks. I'm hissing him on.

-- Ann Powers

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