My screen-saver: A smiley-faced, black-haired man with dramatic, arched eyebrows, wearing midnight blue against an electric-blue background.
My blue angel is American Idol's Adam Lambert.
Lambert is in the top four, and this week, we shall see if he passes through toward the final stretch. Last week, he was in the bottom three of five, leaving the media and fans shocked and dismayed. A typical bulletin board posting asks whether Lambert's sexuality is at fault (he is gay or bisexual, as it goes). One online journalist, in the actionable manner of The Daily Mirror's 1956 summation of the “luminous, quivering, giggling” Liberace, wondered if the “flamboyant” singer ruined his chances last week by “sashaying” around, with so much “showmanship” (all straight-code for: “He acted gay”). Lambert wore a white suit and slicked back his hair. This modern, body-modified Elvis Presley sang, in his three-octave range and with palpable soul, Feeling Good. As one fan noted, bluntly, he was “soooooooo sexy. Seriously, every woman in the audience was having an orgasm.”
What has happened to this show?
It seems so long ago that trash like Kellie Pickler, plainly disturbing screakers like Fantasia Barrino, and plankton-eaters like Ruben Studdard defined American Idol.
Now in its eighth season, the show has altered, completely, its status as The Worst Karaoke Bar in the World (the judges now critique performances routinely as being “too karaoke”). Instead, and also reflected in the four-panel jury's exceptionally limited repertoire of remarks, “song choice” or more precisely, song-interpretation, distinguishes one performance from another.
This phenomenon began last year with winner David Cook, who broke away from the herd, midseason by copying Chris Cornell's alternative arrangement of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean.
Flushed with approbation, he began putting his own imprimatur on such dreary songs as Eleanor Rigby and I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, adding butch rock-stances, grunting “C'mon!” and hitting big notes the plain songs could scarcely accommodate.
The judges, however, continued to agitate for the success of teenager David Archuleta, a Mormon who, disquietingly, sang John Lennon's Imagine at least twice.
When the relatively lean, attractive Cook won (keep in mind, the show's biggest demographic is that crowd of sexually depraved star-makers, the women who made Tom Jones and whom he calls “the over-40s”), the judges turned tail and started emphasizing individuality, with regard to the choice, execution and performance of the song.
This season, Lambert, 27, who has a professional theatre background and who auditioned, horribly, with Bohemian Rhapsody (a song that should carry a bigger penalty than crystal meth), is so individual, that he may change the show forever.
The finalists are unusually talented this season, particularly the 17-year-old Allison Iraheta, the only singer on the same planet as Lambert, or, at the very least, orbiting its dark, spangled regions.
The remaining two are Kris Allen, 23, an affable, light-rock kid, who is best using this show as a costly, occasionally mortifying curriculum vitae for record offers; and Danny Gokey, a huge favourite.
Why is Gokey, this 29-year-old, evangelical Christian, Frankenstein-awkward, nasal destroyer of music, a favourite? Some maintain that it is because his wife of seven years, Sophia, died four weeks before he auditioned, a tragic detail the producers milked, and that Gokey himself exploited by performing Endless Love, crying and flashing his (usually not worn) wedding ring, several weeks ago.
Gokey never looks sad, or even a bit blue. I have grieved goldfish longer than him. No one grieves by auditioning for American Idol. At any rate, Gokey, as a singer, pales next to Lambert.
Every week, Lambert comes out and sings so well, one feels like the professor in the Marlene Dietrich film The Blue Angel, watching, “what God made beautiful.” Or, like the professor in Francine Prose's novel of the same name, whose brilliant creative-writing student only accentuates how horrible the others are.
Lambert has done, among other songs, an Indian-inspired, possibly vulgar cover of Ring of Fire. A rock-screaming, black leather and gangbusters Born to Be Wild. And a rendition of Tears for Fears's Mad World, performed in a haze of white light, that was so haunting, so ingenious, it made the original seem like a mawkish cover.
Each week, his costume, performance style and singing is different, as if he is presenting us with discrete, different, luminous portraits of this artist as a young man.
Is it possible that Idol rigged the numbers last week because Lambert so clearly deserves to and should win.
It is also possible that the over-40s, and others, wanton homophobes (evident everywhere online) do not want a gay/bisexual Idol, but I don't think that is what is happening.
Lambert is so gifted, he destroys the show's entire premise, which is the possibility that anyone can be an American Idol. Each year, aspiring artists have looked to this show and have been able to see themselves in the form of the contestants, the winners. But never in this strange angel; in all his radiance.