Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Most Swollen and Purple of Sore Thumbs

Randy used the word pitchy a lot, and addressed you as dawg, man, dude, and baby. Though his mixture of ghetto and surferdude patois was nearly unintelligible, it's safe to say he found your performance sorely wanting.

Kara said, “Listening to you sing was like being hurled, with wrists and ankles bound, into a enormous vat of pus. It was by far the most unpleasant experience of my life, one I dread reliving in my nightmares for years to come. I curse you for having made me suffer in this way. I curse your progeny, and your ancestors.”

And Simon said, “It wasn’t really the right song for you, but of course there couldn’t be a right song for anyone so devoid of talent. Your performance made me wish that as a child I had plunged newly sharpened pencils point-first into my little ears, making myself deaf.

America has voted, and agrees with Kara and Simon, and wants you to catch the first plane home.

I'm paraphrasing, of course.

My guess is that what happens next sends countless tens of millions either reaching for their fast-forward buttons or dashing into their home offices to check their email, for what happens is that the disgraced, newly banished contestant is invited to reprise the very performance that made America want never to hear him or her again! In a show that’s generally shrewdly put together, one in which every milliliter of poignancy is wrung from every situation, this miscalculation is the most swollen and purple of sore thumbs. Far better that they should show the banished contestant's reunion with his heartbroken family. Look at me, boy! You know we don't have health insurance! Look at me, boy! We were counting on you, boy, to pay for your baby sister's bone marrow transplant! Is that really the best you could do? Look at me, boy!

I also found intensely cringe-inducing — until I learned to derive great pleasure from it — the big mega-cornball show-opening group performance, in which the contestants, in groups of three, do little dance steps while singing a line or two each from a song you won’t have heard, and will hope never to hear again. Brave Crystal Bowersox, managing to smirk bravely through her embarrassment! Brave Andrew Garcia, he of the cholo tattoo on his neck! Brave Casey James, the Jesus-haired blues singer! It occurred to me I might not have witnessed a comparable display of good-sportsmanship since The Byrds’ October 4, 1965 appearance on Hullaballoo; the real agony begins four minutes in!

I’m reminded of a wonderful caption in Melody Maker in late 1971, beneath a photograph of the outlandishly attired new glam group Chicory Tip: Right, lads. Just don’t ever let us hear the words “serious musicians” out of your mouths.

I’m only slightly astonished to discover that Chicory Tip, now looking like three supermarket managers, are still at it. But then I remind myself that in the UK, nothing is ever thrown away. If you had a No. 17 hit in the spring of 1969, you can still make a living playing pubs, and Tip’s (excellent!) "Son of My Father" was No. 1 for three weeks.

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