Sunday, November 25, 2007

ANOTHER thing I'm calling done--at least this iteration of it

First, a disclaimer: I'm a huge fan of AMERICAN IDOL.

I mean, HUGE! I'm a little ashamed to admit it. . .well, obviously not too ashamed. . .but I have watched every show that I've been in the country for since the beginning of the series. . .and, thanks to the magic of Idol Rewind (appearing on a b-list station near you on Saturday nights in prime-time), I get to see some of the stuff I missed the first time around. Ahh, what a country! Now I lost a little affinity for the program last year when I think it got a little big for its britches: stunts like "Idol gives back" (which, as far as I know, didn't involve any giving of money from the show) and a finale that featured former Idols (talented, yes--but not a real show of pedigree, as compared to the year before, when the finale brought out such pop luminaries as Prince, Mary J. Blige and the band Live) took some of the "girl next door" sheen away the program, but it is still one of the best-bets for entertainment on a week-in, week-out basis.

So I have followed with some interest the "careers" of people made famous in that show. Some of them, like Justin Guarini, have been pleasantly short; some of them, like Matt Rodgers, have been unfortunately short; and some of them, like Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry, seem to still be unfolding before our eyes--in a good way! And, of course, some of them are unfolding before our eyes in a not-so-good way.

Today, I highlight the last of the above categories, in the person of Kelly Clarkson. The season 1 winner was literally given the world on a platter when she won. Her first single met decent success, and although her first full album didn't set the stores on fire, her second studio venture, Breakaway, was a huge success.

That was 2004. It seems like it was a long time ago.

More recently, she's been in the news a lot because of her "creative differences" with uber-producer Clive Davis. I don't know, I might think that if a guy with the track record of Clive Davis was telling me to do something with my career, I might think about doing it. I DEFINITELY wouldn't let my disagreement with him become a public badge of honor, which is how she seems to carry it. Whoever is in charge of Ms Clarkson's public image is definitely not earning any bonus pay, that's for sure. Either that, or the star herself is so out of control that no amount of pay would make it worthwhile to stay in her employ. But I digress. . .

SO EVEN WITH all the lack of positive buzz surrounding her latest project, there she was on Thursday with a gig that the rest of the industry would kill for: halftime show at the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving football game. Last year, Carrie Underwood put on a very positive, solid musical performance in that slot. It was a slice of pumpkin pie brought right into your living room. I'm certain that Ms Clarkson was hoping for the same.

Unfortunately, it didn't pan out that way.

FIRST OF ALL, I will stand before you and look you straight in the eye and tell you that Kelly Clarkson has a tremendous voice. She always performed well under the stress of the live Idol format, and in other performances I've seen since then, she always had one thing going for her: a solid set of pipes.

So I was the first person to do a double-take on Thursday when I heard her totally wrecking her last of three songs--and in my opinion, her best song--Since U Been Gone. I hoped at first that it was just a rough start, and that when there was more background music then she'd really start to rock.

I, unfortunately, was left disappointed.

I'm no expert (although you'd have a hard time finding such an admission anywhere else on this site), but it appears to me that she sang out her voice on the first two songs, the second of which was from her new album and is anything but appropriate family-fun entertainment. I'm not sure that she ever found a stride worth keeping on her closing song. It was painful.

On the good side, at least we know she wasn't lip-syncing. JEESH!!!

In any business where you're honestly only as good as your last curtain call, I think we would have just heard the last of Kelly Clarkson. BUT I'm not sure that monicker applies to the record industry anymore, so I have every reason to believe that we will be seeing her again. Whether that's to our benefit or not only time will tell.

SO, here I am, critic extraordinaire, with a word of advice for Miss Clarkson: ditch the super-witch front and learn a thing or two about humility; work to get along with people who have a good track record in the industry; and DO NOT let opportunities like Thursday pass so sourly again. You'll be lucky to get another audience like what you had on Thursday, BUT if the industry decides to forgive you, you had better make the most of it.

The bubble that Britney Spears finds herself in is plenty big enough for another diva.