So, I haven’t been posting lately, in no small part because changes wrought by LeechBlock. If anything, I’m trying to figure out more ways to expand my means of protecting myself from mywebcompulsiveself. More on that maybe later. (Kieran in the comments to my earlier post compared my use of LeechBlock to Ulysses and the Sirens. The analogy would be closer if Ulysses had bound himself to the mast and stopped his ears, with the reasoning that if he only stopped his ears he could just unstop them unless someone bound his hands.)

But, can I just say: yes, I know most of you have no interest in American Idol, especially as I’ve vacillated between absolutely no and almost no interest the first six seasons. I don’t know why the sudden change this year. However: Scatterplot comes out bravely last week endorsing the dark horse candidate David Cook, and this week he comes out with an absolutely kick-bother rendition of Billie Jean. I double-dog dare you: push aside the contempuous cloud with which you go through your day, watch this, tell me this is not cool.  I mean it: watch it and try to move your fingers to type “Not cool.”  You won’t be able to do it, unless you have a supernatural ability to will yourself into a deep state of coolness-denial.

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

16 thoughts on “vindicated!”

  1. It was very cool. I’ve never been a big fan of Idol, but my kids are starting to watch it this year and it’s about the only thing we can all watch together as a family…anyway, David Cook’s Billie Jean and Hello are probably the only two songs I’ve heard performed on the show that I’d purchase for my own consumption. Great arrangements, powerful voice and stage presence.


  2. I’ve seen YouTube clips of everyone who has come close to winning AI, and I think David Cook and Melinda Doolittle are the only people who I would be interested in seeing what they did for post-Idol albums.


  3. The thing that’s killing me is how the judges keep telling him how brave and original he is. This week, he does Chris Cornell’s cover of Billie Jean, pretty much note for note. Last week, he did Whitesnake’s cover of Day Tripper, basically note for note. The week before, it was Doxology’s cover of Eleanor Rigby, again, note for note. It’s not his fault the judges are praising him based on false information (“you’re so brave! And original! Something like this is revolutionary and certainly has never been done before in the history of music!”) but it’s irking me like crazy, because he’s just pulling a Daughtry week after week (anyone remember the flap last year when Daughtry did Live’s cover of “Walk the Line,” pretty much note for note, and foolishly failed to acknowledge it?) Plus, he gets better lighting, smoke machines, and reverb when the others don’t. Again, not his fault, but it makes me hate the guy. Can’t help it.


  4. The money high notes in Cook’s version are not in Cornell’s version, so far as my untutored ear can tell. Anyway, that he was doing Cornell’s version was acknowledged at the beginning. I agree that this means he’s not as original as the judges are saying, but hating him because of the judges seems to me like people who are voting against Obama/Clinton because they find his/her supporters irritating or some of their arguments specious. As for bravery, though, I think it’s still very brave to be taking unfamiliar covers and bringing them out, much more brave than than just mildly modifying the version everybody knows. It flopped in “Day Tripper,” whose use of a vocoder Simon called “stupid.”


  5. But Jeremy, it didn’t “flop” on Day Tripper. Simon just didn’t like it. Simon’s not the voice of the nation. In fact, when he’s super hard on people, there’s often a huge voting backlash and that person is kept out of the bottom three, even when they do suck.

    As far as the copies go, in my opinion, adding glory notes doesn’t “change” a song significantly.

    And like I say, it’s just my opinion. You disregarding my opinion based on the grounds that I’m holding the judges’ love against him is just as invalid as me disregarding your opinion on the grounds that you’ve never heard “Blackbird.”


  6. I was so ready to say “yes, that was cool” before I realized that these were not his arrangements. The beauty of the performance was not just the vocals, but the arrangement so unlike what most of us know. I don’t think it’s so brave – they’ve been done – bravery is about doing something truly original that hasn’t been tested and doing it well. i still like Syesha – i think she really pulled it out last night :)


  7. Everyone on the show uses others’ arrangements. They’re not allowed to play their own songs. You can’t really rip Cook for doing the same thing that all of the other contestants are doing. You can say that AI is a silly contest, which is what I tend to do, but it’s not as if Cook is being more deceptive than the rest, right?


  8. Brayden, that’s true most of the time, but doing other people’s songs doesn’t necessarily imply doing others’ arrangements. Other contestants from previous seasons have written their own arrangements that were significantly different from the original, and didn’t resemble any covers (or, there weren’t any covers yet). They had varying degrees of success, but that’s another matter.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but it’s not that I think he’s being deceptive. I don’t think he’s trying to pull a fast one on America. Honestly, I think he’s probably just trying desperately to stay in his comfort zone on a show that likewise tries desperately to throw contestants off their game, in the name of ratings. It’s just that he’s being framed as the brave one, the pioneer, and the master arranger. It’s coming from a place of ignorance on the part of the judges, but to me it still feels disingenuous. Like I said, I didn’t say I was rational in my dislike for the guy.

    Of course, I’m also the same person who basically stopped listening to Dave Matthews Band because I couldn’t stand his fans. So there’s that.


  9. I’m with abarian. I don’t have to hate the guy because he’s wrongly labeled “brave,” but I also don’t have to think he’s actually brave. He did a serviceable, in-tune, listenable take on the Chris Cornell version.

    I save my outrage at judges and contestant for the execrable, cynical “vote for me” use of “God Bless the USA” by Kristy Lee Cook. It seemed very off-kilter for the times, and a bit insensitive given the week’s news.

    Plus, it’s such an underachiever’s song…”Uh, well, at least I know I’m free! That’s somethin’, right?” Come to think of it, maybe it is the correct message for our times.


  10. Leechblock rocks, I used it today for the first time and loved it, which is why I only checked this blog right now. I’ll be much more productive now, thanks for the tip :-)


  11. Well, I guess one could difinitively say that he’s cool-ISH. At least cooler than his castmates because at least he knows to go looking for edgier arrangements, and recognizes something good when he sees it. I am glad that he sacknowledges his borrowings though, because I’m one of a sea of dorks who was semi-devastated when Chris Daughtry’s failure to disclose was revealed.

    On topic — Was Brooke White’s “Love is a Battlefield” someone else’s version? It felt a little too cool to have been her idea — I mean, man, I saw her sing “Here Comes the Sun.”


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