Wednesday night.Blame it on the vodka, blame it on the Henny, blame it on whatever you wanna, but I'm going to place blame for the hiply generic feel of Jamie Foxx's new single squarely on the shoulders of everybody responsible for perpetuating the increasingly dispiriting ubiquity of AutoTune-slimed pop hits this decade: Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Akon, and most especially T-Pain. See, "Blame It" - the T-Pain-assisted single Foxx performed "live" on American Idol Wednesday night - isn't an inherently awful robo-sleaze jam. It's actually kind of addicting, really, and as a T-Pain song it makes perfect sense because T-Pain established himself from the jump as a sort of manufactured, filtered post-R&B pop presense - a deliberately artificial ghost haunting nightspots and recording studios. But Foxx has proven that he can actually fucking sing. And that fact makes "Blame It," where his confident vocals are funneled through and warped by the AutoTune matrix, feel more like a desperate grab for mainstream relevance than anything else. Worse, Foxx lip-synced this thing live on Idol, a show that celebrates and values singing ability over all else, the night after bestowing all sorts of great advice on the Top Five. What the hell, Jamie! What the hell. Sorry to get so carried away about this crass act of hypocrisy; lots of other stuff happened Wednesday night that we should probably address:
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* Anybody with insider knowledge of whether Adam Lambert actually got fewer votes than Kris Allen, Allison Iraheta and Danny Gokey - or if Idol producers were just yanking our collective chain - is encouraged to dish in the comments section, because my wife and I have been trying to figure out how this could have happened. Meanwhile, let me reiterate something I touched on last week: if you like an Idol contestant (or his/her performance), you're an idiot if you don't vote once or 20 times. * Wrapped up in some sort of shimmering cross between a dress and a kimono, Natalie Cole was an elegant vision of loveliness, an example of aging gracefully while still retaining the vocal abilities that made America love her in the first place. Call it a marked contrast to last week's disco legends disaster. * Hey, judges and Jamie Foxx? Blathering on in a conciliatory, start-no-shit way about how all of the remaining five contestants are awesome and are all winners doesn't help anybody. Enough of that, please; this ain't the Special Olympics.
* Idol Beat heartily repped for Taylor Hicks back in Season 5. I just liked the guy a lot, the complete and utter un-Idolness of him: the dumb drunk-guy-at-wedding-reception shimmying, the belting, the graying hair, his slight physical stoutness. I was psyched when he won! But in victory, Hicks was an aberration: he wasn't manna to the nation's pop-savvy, disposible-income youth - he was manna to their parents and grandparents, re-heating out-of-fashion blues and soul tropes. In his performance Wednesday night, Hicks was solidly in that lane, playing guitar and breaking off wicked harmonica solos on us as he led his band through a blues-rock single that'd sound great in a bar at 11 p.m. after a six-pack of Rolling Rocks, but won't do competitive iTunes business because most iTunes buyers are morons. Nonetheless, it was refreshing to see that the guy remains a sincere, genuine optimist; he's making the kind of music he believes in, even if doing that means he won't sell in the sort of mass Daughtry/Underwood/Clarkson quantities America's come to expect from its Idols and wannabe Idols. * Hicks' breathless words of wisdom to the Top Five: "It's about song choice and making the right moves on stage." Yeeeah. Incisive! This week's eagerly awaited Bucky Covington Moment comes from "Carolina Blue": "I'm Carolina blue, and I'm surely missing you and those Smoky Mountain eyes/ When you made everything right, your voice gets me through the night/ But it's breaking my heart just to know you're missing me."