Tuesday, April 18, 2006

This is why I hire an accountant

Now that we have all given to Caesar that which is Caesar's for another year (except possibly for George Ryan), it's time once again to share with you my all-time favorite editorial cartoon, which won Jeff MacNelly a Pulitzer Prize in 1978.

First swim lesson

We baptized our baby girl on Sunday, and things did not go swimmingly. We needed to do an emergency diaper change about five minutes before the baptism, and most of that time was spent trying to find a suitable place to do that. I'll spare you the details, but I will say I could have really used a hose. As a result, she was slightly late for her own baptism (takes after her mother). This apparently did not make her happy, because she wailed during the whole ceremony, stopping only to catch her breath. The cops showed up because the neighbors called to complain about the noise.

OK, I made that last bit up.

I guess she was trying to make up for her brothers, who were no trouble at all during their baptisms.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bucky not lucky

On the hour-long American Idol results show, which was at least 30 minutes too long, we learned that the voters kicked off Bucky Covington, who did about the lamest version of Fat Bottom Girls imaginable. I would have booted Ace Young, who turned We Will Rock You into a lullaby, but Bucky was certainly a worthy choice as well. Ace must have a bigger family.

Ace and Bucky reprised their sorry efforts on the show, I guess to remind us why we disliked them so much, although Ace did manage to get the words right this time. They were joined in the "bottom three" by Elliott Yamin, who fought his way through Somebody to Love. He was also forced to sing it again, and seemed surprised to be asked to do so. The others were all deemed "safe" (imagine Ryan Seacrest channeling Dutch Rennert) and didn't have to sing again.

The group of eight opened the show with a medley of Queen hits that they didn't perform the other night. Each singer got to do a bit of a solo. Ace sang Killer Queen, and did a nice job on that. He should have done that one the night before. Elliott also sang a better song for him when he did You're My Best Friend. Bucky was still weak in a duet with Chris Daughtry on Under Pressure and we learned that Katharine's choice to change from Don't Stop Me Now was a really good decision.

During the time-wasting part of the results show, they had video clips from each singer's family wishing them well. Elliott's mom said, "We're praying for you, Elliott. Give 'em hell!" I missed a couple of clips while I pondered the theological significance of that.

I also almost missed the Secret deodorant ad with Danica Patrick, which ends with "Secret - strong enough for Danica Patrick, strong enough for a woman." Have I missed another memo? Is she not a woman?

Next week, the Idol singers take a shot at some old standards that Rod Stewart has sung (man, what a wild change his career has taken), but I won't be there to see it. I return now to my peaceful, non-American Idol existence, already in progress.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Queen Karaoke

I am probably the only American who has never watched a minute of American Idol. That changed tonight. That's because the eight finalists were required to sing songs by my favorite band, Queen.

The good thing for the singers is that Queen's catalog is large and diverse enough that finding an appropriate song that fits each singer's style should be easy. The bad news is that when you sing it, you will be compared to Freddie Mercury.

That's one of the things working against Paul Rodgers during his current tour fronting Queen. I saw them in Chicago a few weeks ago and I thought the concert was great. They only did songs that worked with Paul's style and skipped those that didn't. Roger Taylor (drummer and underrated singer) took over lead singer duties on three songs as well. During those, Rodgers was not on stage. Queen performed Bohemian Rhapsody, the signature "Freddie" song, with a video of Freddie for the first part, the usual video for the opera section, and Rodgers singing the hard rock part at the end. My only disappointment was that they didn't perform two songs that were written after Queen's last US tour in the mid-80s (which I also saw), One Vision and I Want it All.

The American Idol contestants were hit and miss, and so were the judges. It seemed like the judges were unfamiliar with some of the songs. I should have been a guest judge (he says modestly). I'm not a singer, but I know good when I hear it and I know these particular songs well. Also, I had never seen any of these singers previous performances, so I was judging them just on how they did that one song and not whether I liked them going in. Here are my critiques in the order in which they performed:

1. Bucky Covington - Fat Bottomed Girls
Bucky has a very polished voice, but this is a raunchy song, and he sang it like he was in a HS choir. He hit all the notes, but had no idea how it was supposed to sound. Totally the wrong song for him. He should have sung one of the ballads, like Love of my Life or Save Me, which nobody sang.

2. Ace Young - We Will Rock You
If I were to kick one person off for this week's performance, it would be him. He had the same problem Bucky did - his voice was too "perfect" for this us-against-the-world rock anthem and he didn't convey the right feeling at all. Judge Simon Bar Sinister (SBS) was right on when he called it "We Will Rock You Gently". On top of that, he botched the lyrics. He should have sung one of the ballads also, perhaps Who Wants to Live Forever, which someone else butchered later. Primarily though, he should have sang a song that he could remember the words to.

3. Kellie Pickler - Bohemian Rhapsody
Singers only get a minute and a half and BoRhap is about a 6-minute song, so she had to do some serious editing. She had the best "production". Her costume, makeup and lighting harkened back to the video, and she sang it well. She must be a country singer, because I detected a bit of an annoying twang slipping in occasionally, but she did a pretty good job of suppressing that for the most part.

The judges agreed with Brian May, who said she was brave to take on this song. There's some truth to that because it's such a standard and because of how much editing you have to do, but another contestant was even more courageous. I guess someone else did BoRhap last year as well and did a good job on it, but I didn't hear it, of course.

4. Chris Daughtry - Innuendo
Innuendo is a song that Queen has never performed live (and not because it's not a good song, as SBS said, because they never toured after it was written), so it was interesting to hear him do it. He did a nice job, considering that, like BoRhap, it's about six minutes long and had to be severely edited. He is clearly the rock singer in the bunch. He has no stage presence whatsoever, but among the first four, he did the best job singing his chosen song the way it should be sung.

SBS complained that he should have chosen a more popular song, and there's something to that. Stone Cold Crazy would have worked well, or he could have done Tie Your Mother Down.

5. Katharine McPhee - Who Wants to Live Forever
Katharine has a beautiful voice and she wasted it on this song. This is a melancholy and powerful song, and she sang it weak and syrupy sweet. My wife said it was "Mariah Carey does Queen" except Carey would have at least sung it powerfully. McPhee either doesn't have the pipes to do it or chose not to. She was originally going to sing Don't Stop Me Now, and I'm glad she didn't, although this didn't work either. Something like Killer Queen would have been better suited to her.

The judges liked her, by the way, which is an indication that they just didn't know this song or they have the hots for her.

6. Elliott Yamin - Somebody to Love
Roger Taylor said in the intro that this is the toughest song to sing in their entire repertoire and I couldn't agree more. I've always felt that if you think you're a good singer, sing this and we'll see. Yamin took a risk by trying to tackle this and he was in over his head. He did a good job with the desperate feel of the song, but the singing was all over the place. He had the good sense not to try to hit the falsetto at the end, which was clearly out of his range, but he just didn't seem comfortable with the song. I would suggest a week of practice isn't enough to do a proper job on it.

The judges liked him, but I'm not really sure why. Maybe they appreciated the effort.

7. Taylor Hicks - Crazy Little Thing Called Love
He said he chose this song (he had originally picked something else, which now escapes me) because it was something he could move around and dance to. I think I can safely say I've never seen anybody so uncomfortable and unnatural on stage. I didn't know whether to cringe or laugh when he was doing whatever it was he was doing. At least his convulsions didn't affect his singing. He was the best of the night at singing his chosen song. Next time though, I'd just as soon see him sing standing still. Maybe I'll just close my eyes.

8. Paris Bennett - Show Must Go On
After seven more-or-less mediocre performances of my favorite band's songs, I was not looking forward to someone tackling this one, which is one of my personal favorites. However, if anyone "nailed it" tonight, it was Paris. She's a little stiff on stage, but her voice was powerful enough to handle the song and she sang it well. I can see why Brian and Roger liked her.

So, I would have rated them in order: Paris, Kellie, Chris, Taylor, Elliott, Katharine, Bucky and Ace.

What I got out of this show though was just how good Freddie Mercury was. Nobody in this group was anywhere close, and they only had to do one of his songs in a style that hopefully suited them. I also learned that only five seasons into the show, America has run out of super-talented, but undiscovered singers. I would have thought we would have had more than four seasons worth.