Monday, May 25, 2009
Kris, Adam, America, your awesomeness knows No Boundaries
[I'll warn you in advance: this is, like, thesis-length. I took 5 days to complete it. It makes my last Idol piece look like a minuscule pull-quote. This is my final article for the season, and this is the season I have been the most invested in, ever, so I thought I'd lay it all out. ...In 4,400 words.]

Five years, now. Five years of loving and hating this cheesy show, and each year I get more beat down, more resigned to the fact that this shit never ends well for me, and the season finales are invariably disappointing.

Season 3: Didn't care about either of these hamsters, but Fantasia > Diana. Diana blows.
Season 4: Rallied behind Bo, the season finale was awesome up until the last ten minutes when the edgy, innovative, superior contestant lost to fucking FarmBot. Spent the rest of the day upset, bitched about it on my blog. (Years later, I ended up liking Carrie, forgetting Bo, and hating Constantine.)
Season 5: Hated Taylor more than Katharine, but I thought it would be fun to have this schmuck beat out the pretty "package artist," just to fuck with producers. Midway through the finale it turned into the Prince show, Prince won, and we all went home happy. Taylor who?
Season 6: Conflicted, but mostly apathetic. No one compares to my papaya Sanjaya!
Season 7: Meh. I wasn't around for this.

I never could pick a winner, so over the years I'd gotten used to preparing myself for disappointments. Every year, the melody of "Maybe this time, I'll wiiiin" would fade a little more. But then...

Season 8: I have five favorites, two slightly more than the others...what? They're in the Final 2? So there's no way I can lose with this scenario? How the hell did that happen? American Idol!

[Dun-un, dun-un, dun-un...]

I) My journey on Idol (set in slow-motion with fancy transitions and shit, as Carrie sings "Home Sweet Home")

Adam has the impressive voice, but Kris has the beautiful voice.

This is how I'll choose to explain why, in what is ostensibly a singing competition, I voted for the shy baritone with a thin, reedy warble and a tendency to botch the last falsetto note on almost every song he did, instead of voting for the larger-than-life countertenor with the biggest range in Idol history since Chris Daughtry, utter technical perfection and the best glory notes you'll ever hear. See, American Idol is not just a singing competition, it's a search for the next chart-topper, and I want to vote for the guy whose album I intend to buy.

Here's the thing, for me for you, sweetie: Adam genuinely is the best contestant this show has had in years. He breathed new life into a limping franchise, he made every week exciting, and he absolutely deserved to win. But the best isn't always my favorite, and wasn't in this case.

If I put this into a food analogy, Adam is like curry. Some people can't get enough of it, some people like it mild or in moderation (i.e. fans who liked Adam for more subdued performances like "Mad World" or "Tracks of My Tears"), and it burns the roof off of some people's mouths, leaving them numb. Kris is creme brulee. Some think it's bland, dull, "vanilla," others love it for its subtleties and texture and richness and nuances. The judges and producers and media are clearly curry people, and I won't hold that against them. People like me and you and Jamie Foxx? We can appreciate curry, because curry is fantastic, but for me, for you, for me, there's nothing as exquisite as a well-crafted creme brulee.

It wasn't always this way. There was a big, weird journey that led me to this creme brulee-loving point.

Embarrassingly enough, that journey began with me (playing right into producers' hands by) thinking that I liked the widower with a slight Robert Downey, Jr. resemblance. That oil rig guy, too. And that Indian-American college preppy with the unfortunate Wal-Mart fashion. He had a silky voice, and hotness potential.

Then this supreme, mega-glittery gayzilla burst onto the scene all of a sudden in the semifinals, all melisma and an unearthly range and so much gayness that it made my heart smile. And I was like, I love this guy, OMG. There are no other contestants on this show.

Advancing with Captain Awesomepants and his kickass guyliner from the same group: some red-haired chick who sang the hell out of a song that really should no longer be sung on this show, ever, and...who? Dude, I thought it was gonna be Jesse Langseth, that chick was cool. So it's some Other Guy we've never heard of before, who sang a corny Michael Jackson song. Why are people all verklempt over this dude's hotness? He's marginally okay-looking and kind of short. Whatever.

Weeks pass, Anoop has a beautiful voice but an unfortunate habit of picking shitty songs, Dead Wife Danny is karaoke and I'm bored, Michael Sarver and Megan Joy suck and need to go home, like, yesterday, there's this guy Matt Giraud who did a cool, kind of sexy version of MJ's "Human Nature," Allison is the first chick rocker I take a liking to, and Captain Awesomepants gets more awesomepants every week. He blew me away with "Tracks of My Tears," and his "Mad World" left me chilled, stunned, motionless, holy shit. Best AI performance. Ever. This is not American Idol, this is The Adam Lambert Show.

But then there's Other Guy, who keeps getting better every week without me really noticing until he bitchslaps me in the face with his wonderfulness in Country Week ("To Make You Feel My Love"). Jamie Foxx was right on the money about this kid: "He's gonna blow you away, and you won't even know it."

I looked Other Guy up online. Two fabulous surprises: 1) he's a Jamie Cullum fan, niiice, 2) he's a fantastic songwriter. I have this tendency to sugarcoat my feelings towards my favorite contestants' pre-Idol albums, insisting they were great when I secretly thought they blew. I almost fooled myself into thinking I enjoyed the senseless cacophony that was Constantine's old band. God. I couldn't even pretend to like Adam Lambert's originals, all tuneless, annoying electro-pop crap. But with Kris Allen, no forced enthusiasm at all -- Brand New Shoes is my favorite pre-Idol album ever, by a country mile.

On the show, Kris never failed to deliver. Each performance was better than the last. After watching his "She Works Hard for the Money" with my jaw open the whole time, I knew I loved this guy in a Duncan Sheik, I'll-buy-ALL-your-albums-goddamn kind of way. I loved everything he did. Even his much-maligned "All She Wants to Do is Dance" was something I found danceable, catchy, and way better than the original. I thought his "Come Together" was completely underrated, as was Kris in general, thanks judges.

Meanwhile, Adam stagnated after "Mad World," relying on ancient rock cliches like "Satisfaction," "Born to Be Wild" and "Cryin'." I think it was his failure to show how he could be current that ended up being his eventual downfall (he should have listened when Randy compared him to My Chemical Romance, and picked more contemporary songs -- I vote Queens of the Stone Age or Panic! at the Disco). Not that I don't still love Adam, but at some point Kris's upward trajectory surpassed Adam's plateau. Essentially, I'm "came for the Adam, stayed for the Kris" about this season.

Being a Kris fan meant I was screwed. America may love an underdog, but American Idol doesn't. Think back to all the previous winners: Kelly, Ruben, Fantasia, Carrie, Taylor, Jordin, David. Think back to how enthusiastically the judges praised them, whether or not they deserved it. Think back to how much airtime they received. None of them were underdogs in their respective seasons.

The producers always get the winner they want, and this year, they wanted Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert. They wanted a cynical, borderline offensive storyline of Saint vs. Sinner, light vs. dark, Christian widower vs. agnostic Jew fag. Except in this case, the "Saint" they had cast was a self-aggrandizing douchenozzle who wouldn't ever fucking shut up, and their "Sinner" was a perfectly nice guy.

Who was Kris Allen in this storyline? Kris was the Other Guy, natch.

It's tough rooting for the Other Guy, because Other Guys never, ever win on this show. Experience taught me to prepare for what was inevitable. Starting from the Top 10, my cycle of emotions went like this:
  1. Wednesday: Wow, Kris rocked it tonight!
  2. Fuck you, judges.
  3. *votes 300 times while Lisa Loeb's "Underdog" plays from laptop speakers*
  4. Oh no, he's last on DialIdol! Online reviewers predict he's going home! Come on, just one more week pleasepleaseplease...
  5. Thursday: I refuse to look at spoilers because I do not want early heartbreak. I've been burned before.
  6. *hangs out at mall/pool, experiences intense my-heart-is-in-my-mouth thumpa-thumpa feeling whenever thinking of AI results*
  8. Next Wednesday: *reading spoilers* He's slated to perform early again? Adam's going last, again? Fuck you, producers.
  9. Lather, rinse, repeat.

(At some point, there was a tenth step that went "Fuck you, Danny Gokey, you giant pile of jackass.")

You'd think that since Kris was safe every week, the intensity of my panic would fade. It didn't, only worsened. With every elimination, Kris's chances of being the next to leave shot higher. If I had a nickel for every time someone predicted that Kris was going home, I'd...have a fuck lot of nickels.

I was getting good at my little Sally Hawkins finding-optimism-in-pessimism game. Every week brought a brand new rationale:

I especially thought Kris was a goner after Rock Week, for reasons I'll expound on later. Throughout the results show, I kept telling myself "You are NOT going to cry this time, this is just a TV show and it does not deserve such massive emotional investment." Then Kris was announced safe (did you see his shock!face? He thought he was going home too), and I went full-on Tom Cruise, squeeing and jumping up and down in the living room until my legs hurt.

Emotional investment, indeed.

When the impossible dream of a Kris/Adam Final 2 came true, I did a good enough job convincing myself that I wanted Adam to win, so that when Kris lost I would be totally zen with the outcome. My soundbite: If Kris won, he'd get tarred and feathered by the media for being The Guy Who Beat Adam Lambert, so he's better off as a runner-up with a solid, if not stellar, career.

I genuinely thought that Kris outperformed Adam on the final performance night. I made good on my word to vote for Kris; I was cool with him not winning, but I didn't want him to lose by an embarrassing landslide. I kept playing the "I can live with second" song from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee that night. Because I can live with second. It's okay.

Julie's Brain, Idol finale results show:
  1. The Kradam bromance is the sweetest thing ever! I wish the fans would learn a thing or two from them about acceptance.
  2. *Adam rocks the house with KISS* OMG, amazing. Adam will be a very deserving winner. I really want Adam to win, even if his fans are fucking obnoxious.
  3. I can live with secooooooooooond...
  4. And now, the moment we all knew was coming since the first week of the finals...

Insaaane. This is the season I pulled out all the stops so I'd be mentally prepared to accept my favorite not winning, and then he...wins?

My fear of media backlash dampened what should have been a moment of celebration. If I was hopping and squealing every week he was safe, then hell, I should have been bouncing off the walls this time, right? Instead, I was sitting there with my jaw open, speechless. Silently freaking out about what was about to happen. (Mom tried to ruin the moment by insisting the wrong guy won, but I don't care, Ma, Danny Gokey still blows. My Kris >>>> Your Danny. You deserve to have your ringtone set to "Scream On." Hey, I have a new idea for a prank...)

But I'm happier this way. Instead of letting all the euphoria out in one moment and then having it diminish as it usually does, my joy at Kris's unlikely but well-deserved victory gets bigger and better with every day that passes. It's been days, now, and I'm still in a "pinch me" phase. I still smile when I think about the concept of "Your new American Idol, Kris Allen." Every day brings more proof that this really is happening: Kris's pretty, pretty iTunes profile page; "No Boundaries" is currently the #1 most downloaded song; he has more songs on the Top 50 chart than Adam, suck it haters; polls on various sites showing that people really do believe that America got it right.

Sure, there are tons of bitter Adam fans, and there's a fair amount of media backlash that the judges' and critics' darling lost. And it does hurt me to read it. Why would people hate on a puppydog? It sucks when bad things happen to good people.

Nevertheless, my fears are subsiding, because the fact is that there were two people in this final 2: the guy Simon wanted to win, and the guy America wanted to win. Kris is on the correct side of this equation -- who's going to be buying the debut albums? Simon Cowell, or America?

I'm already excited about Season 9, because Kris's face will actually be there in the opening credits alongside Idol greats like Kelly, Carrie and Cook. I can't wait.

II) Kris Allen's journey on Idol (set in slow-motion with fancy transitions and shit, to Kris's own it-grows-on-you rendition of "No Boundaries")

Argue all you want about how "No Boundaries" is a piece of unmitigated schlock, a testament to Kara DioGuardi's lameness, but there is no song more fitting to describe Kris's Idol journey. He had some huge-ass mountains to climb. He made it through the pain, weathered the hurricane. There are no boundariiiiiiiies.

Not only is he the unlikeliest Idol in all eight seasons, but he's also the Idol who's earned it the most. He received absolutely no help from the producers or judges. Allow me to list the mountains and hurricanes:

  1. Screentime. 11 of the 13 finalists were featured in extended promotional video packages during the audition and Hollywood rounds. The two that got barely any screentime? Allison Iraheta and Kris Allen.
  2. A sing-off. Kris was put through an unaired sing-off against Kenny Hoffpauer, an equally cute singer-songwriter type. Proof that the producers didn't want Kris as anything other than eye-candy cannon fodder.
  3. Producer favoritism. Kris was the reason they had a Top 13 this year instead of a Top 12. He was extremely lucky to get through on a likable if underwhelming rendition of "Man in the Mirror," because that night, producer favorite Matt Giraud tanked. If Matt had delivered on the potential he showed in Hollywood Week and gotten through, I'm 100% positive they wouldn't have asked Kris to come back for the Wild Card round.
  4. Performance order. Media darling Adam Lambert got to close the show (also known in the Idolsphere as the "pimp spot") 5 times, 3 of those in a row. Kris only got the pimp spot twice -- one of those was because he won a coin toss and got to choose. Most of the time, they put him in the early half of the show, usually at #2, which is why TWoPpers call it the Kris Allen Memorial Spot.
  5. Rock Week. The producers were considerably crueler to other contestants (Allison, Anoop) than Kris, but only because they didn't initially see him as a threat. Kris didn't have a big voice or a fiery personality, so they figured they'd leave him alone and America would get bored with him eventually. When it was down to the Top 4 and Kris was inexplicably still there, the producers realized that it was time for some heavy-duty sabotage. He gets paired with that bastard-coated bastard with bastard filling, Danny Gokey, who screws up the lyrics to their "Renegade" duet and Simon still insists he outsang Kris, then Kris has to perform a solo right after, then the judges slam his hip, playful, creative rendition of "Come Together." Miraculously, Kris survived. The producers' mistake? Thinking the audience was stupid enough to buy the kid-glove treatment of Danny Gokey's "Scream On." Instead of tricking people into giving up on Kris's chances, they riled up his already paranoid fanbase, and other viewers who realized what utter bullshit it was that Danny gets a goddamned A for effort while Kris gets positively steamrolled for a superior performance. Nope, they weren't havin' it. The following night featured Kris's amusing shock!face when he was declared safe.
  6. Top 3 Night. Naturally, he's slated in #2, the Kris Allen Memorial Spot. Simon praises Danny's mediocre "You Are So Beautiful" as a "vocal masterclass," fucking begs people to vote for Adam after the atrocity that was "One," and gives Kris's game-changing "Heartless" the most backhanded compliment ever: he couldn't praise it without first implying Kris had no chance of winning. Which leads me to:
  7. Simon Cowell, the most manipulative SOB on the judges' panel. After being humiliatingly burned last year for mistakenly calling the finale a knockout in Archuleta's favor, he was very cunning about the way he handled this year's finale. He didn't want to rile up Kris's fanbase again by slamming him outright, since they tried that in previous weeks to no effect ("wet," "like eating ice for lunch"), so he undercut Kris in a more subtle way: damning him with faint praise. Adam got "You are truly a superstar." Kris got the condescending pat-on-the-head that was "You deserve to be standing on this stage tonight." Hasn't he deserved to be there the whole season, you fucking tool? That remark was essentially a "Thanks for playing, now go home" consolation prize.

So congratulations, Kris. You did the impossible, you obliterated the concept of a Chosen One on this show. They tried to break you, Jason Castro style, but the difference is this: Jason allowed himself to be defeated. You didn't. You kept on fighting, and came back with the majestic eff you that was "Heartless."

You deserve this, not just because of the things you overcame, but the things you accomplished: In a show that favors big voices, you made the most out of your limited range, making up for it with your musicality, inventiveness, and emotional connection. Other contestants demanded the viewer's attention with flash, pizazz, and glory notes, while you drew people in with your simplicity and quiet confidence. They had fancy lighting and glamorous outfits, all you had were jeans, a t-shirt (sometimes those unfortunate plaid polos you like so much) and your guitar. You took pleasantly dull numbers like "Remember the Time" and "How Sweet It Is" and infused them with your funky, fresh style. You turned overdone Donna Summer and Bill Withers tracks into something refreshing and current. In a Movies Night full of cheese and two Bryan Adams songs (ugh), you picked a beautiful, obscure indie number, "Falling Slowly," and made a moment out of it. You pwned Kanye with his own song, and he couldn't even hate you because you're just that awesome. You were saddled with that piece of shit single "No Boundaries," and you made it not just listenable ,but emotional and infectious, to a point where I'm not even embarrassed anymore to admit that I love it. I love that stupid, trite, Idol coronation song. Do you see what you have done here?

You didn't pander. Not to the Christians, even though you were a worship leader who did missionary work overseas; you insisted, awesomely, that religion shouldn't matter in a music competition. Not to the fag-haters; you sported black nail polish on your thumb as a show of solidarity for your gay friend and co-finalist, and spoke out for acceptance on his behalf (man, I wish you and Adam could do GLAAD PSAs together). Not to the many, many people who thought you were a hot piece of ass; you were not Ace Young or Constantine or Haley Scarnato or Katharine McPhee, who would milk it for all its worth, wearing suggestive outfits and eyefucking the camera until it begged them to stop. You didn't hide the fact that you were married, to a blonde as adorable and wee as you are. You refused to be the hot guy who could sing, you were the musician who happened to be attractive. No, you didn't pander, you didn't want votes for any reason other than your music.

And I was one of those people, who liked you for your music, even though I'm aware that you're both cute and extremely nice. I've been watching this godforsaken show for five years, and there is only one person whom I can honestly say, without batting an eyelash, "I liked everything he did." I'm buying all of your albums, even though you didn't have to win for me to do that. Not only are you my favorite Idol contestant of all time, but I now consider you one of my favorite musicians, up there with Duncan Sheik, Radiohead, Jack White, Foo Fighters, Matthew Good. You're on that list, now.

III) America's journey after Idol (set in slow-motion with fancy transitions and shit, to the Glee cast's catchy version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'")

You'd think that rooting for the underdog would take me to new levels of pessimism as a form of self-preservation, but this season of American Idol has actually brought out the optimist in me. In closing, I shall end this mind-numbingly long dissertation with my take on why American Idol's 8th season ended with everybody winning:

At first, I thought we were all fucked. Kris would be the target of tons of backlash, and we were robbed of the glorious idea of the First Openly Gay Idol. But the truth is that this is a reality show, not a culture war, not a Presidential election. It's as selfish and wrong of me to want Adam to win because he's gay, as it is for other people to want him to lose because he's gay. It shouldn't matter.

And thankfully, it didn't. This wasn't a victory of red-state over blue-state, just a victory of one musician over an equally talented one. There are a lot of conservatives who overlooked Adam Lambert's homosexuality because they love his music; conversely, I am a liberal, leftist atheist who overlooked Kris's religion because I love his music. The show and these two finalists brought people together with music, and that's a beautiful thing.

So screw the technicalities -- America still has its gay Idol. It's a victory in itself that Adam actually made it this far on the show, and was embraced by the producers as their Chosen One. That's never happened before with any gay contestant, especially not when Nigel Lythgoe was at the helm, so it's a huge step forward.

More importantly, America has completely fallen in love with the guy. I don't think finishing as a runner-up will hurt Adam's career at all; in fact, it's a good thing, because it takes off a lot of the pressure that the media and producer hype placed upon him to go quadruple platinum or bust. Adam's Claymates-esque fanbase, comprised of both conservatives and liberals, will stick around to propel his career. Hopefully, Adam's success throughout the show and beyond it will open the doors for more LGBT contestants to be featured on Idol, with the producers' blessing. It'd be a real victory for everybody.

As for the backlash headed Kris's way, I mean it when I say I'm not worried anymore. Years ago, there was another Idol contestant just like Kris: a cute, humble, soft-spoken Southerner who was always consistent but was damned by critics for being boring and "vanilla," who persisted and continued to improve in confidence and stage presence every week, who gave a strong duet in the finale with a popular country artist but was overshadowed by a co-finalist who got to perform with a legendary rock band, who faced a ton of backlash both online and with TV critics for defeating that flashier, edgier, more exciting frontrunner and media darling for the Idol crown, who silenced detractors by proving to be more marketable than the opponent (an old-school rock throwback), who went on to sell millions of records, and is now one of Idol's biggest success stories. That contestant's name? Carrie Underwood.

Overall, this was a fantastic season despite the monkey crap the producers and Simon flung our way. Kris Allen's victory broke barriers for non-Chosen Ones and cannon fodder, proving that just because the producers didn't like you at first doesn't mean you can't ever win. Adam Lambert's success and Chosen One status converted the "theatrical" critique from pejorative to complimentary, and broke barriers for future LGBT hopefuls and theater artists on American Idol.

No boundaries, indeed.
JC got bored @ 4:11 PM

Saturday, May 16, 2009
Here's to the best season of American Idol, ever

It's that time of the year again when Julie (then known as J.C.) stuffs her blog with countless rants and raves about the latest season of American Idol. Remember my blind hatred for Kellie motherfucking Pickler? Remember how I cried when Constantine was voted off? Remember my fury at Carrie's victory over Bo? Remember my threat of throwing a bulky Skechers shoe at the TV if Taylor won? I was a crazy kid.

Here I go again, though I'll limit it to just this one TL; DR-worthy post, and maybe a reaction piece after the season finale is over.

I skipped Idolmania last year, because once that firecracker Danny Noriega was voted off, there was no one left that held my interest. In fact, my enjoyment of the show overall had waned as years passed by, probably because I was the kind of viewer who stopped watching once her favorite was voted off. And I had unfortunate taste in favorites. I never really liked a Chosen One except in Season 5, and he didn't even win.

(I have an affinity for rocker types, so it's regrettable that the one time I chose not to watch Idol, the rocker won.)

Considering that downward trajectory, I was surprised at how much I grew to love the show this year. If you're savvy to the backstage goings-on at Idol, you might attribute my satisfaction to evil producer Nigel Lythgoe's departure, and to that I say, only minimally. The producer shenanigans are still disgusting, but at least there's markedly less homophobia in the show this year. Hell, the guy this show has practically crowned winner since week 3 of the finals is a fabulously, gloriously out-and-proud theater queen, and that's a beautiful thing. I know it's cheesy of me to feel this way over a reality show, but I get happy Obama feelings when I think about Adam Lambert's rise to superstardom.

Other than that, I haven't been pleased with how the show itself has been handled this year. Producer manipulation was in full force. The semifinals, particularly Wild Card round, were a sham. Producer favorites like Megan Joy and Jasmine Murray were put through to the finals over far more talented semifinalists like Jesse Langseth and Ricky Braddy. The judges' save was another tool the producers now had at their disposal; essentially a way of discarding America's decision, and it was wasted on a guy who never had a chance of winning -- regardless of how talented Matt Giraud was, he overstayed his welcome. Simon later admitted they only used it on him because they didn't want to have to waste it on Anoop Desai next week. Assholes.

Which leads me to the judging panel, the one thing I hated most about this season. I liked new judge Kara DioGuardi at first, by mere virtue of being smarter and more coherent than vocabulary-deficient Randy and loopy Paula, but Kara's charm wore off quickly. She grew more irritating on a weekly basis: that stupid "package artist" meme, which essentially implied that it's not enough to be a great vocalist, you have to be pretty, too (e.g. Megan, Jasmine); her inability to count; her weird crush on Matt Giraud; her OTT, almost orgasmic reactions to Adam Lambert ("Rock GOD! Yes! Yes! YES!"); and the final straw for me was her immature behavior during Final 3 week -- insulting Simon's accent and undermining Kris Allen with useless commentary, as though he was supposed to read her mind and rearrange "Apologize" for it to work. I'll talk more about that later.

Anyway, I want Kara gone by next season, and she can take the other three judges with her. Randy's as useless and repetitive as ever. Paula's favoritism towards Adam and Danny is mildly funny at best and vomit-inducing at worst. And Simon, the one guy on the panel whose opinions I used to respect, is clearly bored with his job like any clock-watcher in an office setting, and as a result is little more than a producer shill, phoning it in most days and playing mind games with America (who, sadly, falls prey to it). He's that bored.

Yep, the judges almost ruined it all for me. Scott Macintyre is a sweet guy, but he was never a good enough singer to be in the company of the other 12 finalists. Still, he got the kid-gloves treatment, hardly ever receiving any genuine criticism of his voice because isn't it inspiring to have a blind guy make it this far on the show? Danny Gokey is a competent singer, but how come equally talented finalists like Anoop or Lil got slammed some days for being karaoke, when Danny's been doing karaoke every single fucking week and we never, ever hear about that? It's always, "You give us hope" or "See you in the finals!" I'll tell you why -- they don't have the heart to slam the grieving widower. Kris Allen gets called out for a bum note on "Apologize" (what bum note? Seriously?) but Danny brutally ass-rapes the ending of "Dream On" and gets an "A for effort" from the judges. WHAT THE. Allison Iraheta delivered fantastic performances week after week, but somehow Simon managed to make it all about how she has no personality (are you kidding me), or how she dresses kind of funny, or doesn't think she can win. It's disgusting, it really is. And the cherry on top of this asshat sundae is their weekly bootlicking of Adam Lambert. Now, this one I could almost understand, because Adam genuinely is brilliant and unlike anything this show's ever seen before, but even on his weaker performances, like "One" for example, it's still all about how he's the BEST EVAH. All this shit is verbatim: "You dare to dance in the path of greatness," "this is the Olympics and you're Michael Phelps," "one of the best we've ever had." Simon practically begged America to vote for this guy. And yeah, it's kind of hilarious that Simon has a gigantic man-crush on this glittery unicorn prince, but still, favoritism much?

Vitriol towards the idiots in charge aside, I still genuinely believe this is the best season ever, for one major reason: the contestants. Randy's not off the mark when he says this is the most talented bunch they've ever had. They all can "saaang," yo. Usually, I only like one or two finalists and couldn't care less about the rest of them, but this year brought me five favorites:

It's a stellar roster this year, and that leads me to one last thing that truly makes me grateful for all of this: America. America put 'em here, and America's been getting it right all season, with nary a shock boot (other than Alexis Grace) throughout. Sure, Danny and Lil Rounds lasted way longer than they deserved to, but I got Anoop, Matt, Allison, Kris and Adam, so I won't complain too much.

So thank you, America, because we're now down to the Final 2, and you chose the best Final 2 I could ever ask for: Kris Allen versus Adam Lambert. The puppy vs. the glamazon, Artist (understated) vs. Artist (glittery), musician vs. showman. My two favorite finalists of all eight seasons of American Idol. Plus, they're totally BFFs and it's the sweetest thing. I mean, who'd have thought that the wholesome apple-pie worship leader from Arkansas would be such good friends with the gayest L.A. party monster you know? It's so fucking cute. Someone should write a sitcom about this shit.

Y'all can take your crass, cynical, stereotypical red-state vs. blue-state "culture war" and shove it where the sun don't shine.

Kris and Adam. Adam and Kris. Decisions, decisions. It's tough, because I love them equally. TWoP's Jacob Clifton words it better than I can:

I've been saying it's the best season ever since auditions, and you didn't believe me. Can you possibly join me now? Because check out your Top Two: KRIS and ADAM, which is the equivalent of winning two new cars in a raffle you forgot you entered. One of them goes really fast, changes from one just-invented color to another, gets its satellite radio from an unknown star, and takes you to wonderful, frightening lands of the future. The other has automatic transmission, sleek lines and touchable faux-leather interior, and always smells like heaven. And the biggest dilemma you face in your life is: which car am I going to drive today? That's a lot like having no problems at all.

I want Adam to win, for reasons that I admit are as much political as they are appreciative. Adam's otherworldly and mind-blowing and all, but I can't resist the idea of the first openly gay American Idol winner, it appeals to that huge chunk of my heart that makes me all protective of certain subsets of society. Adam Lambert is a new reason I get irritated with people, especially in the Philippines where people hardly think twice about what is and isn't offensive to the LGBT community. I fucking HATE fag jokes. Don't tell fag jokes when I'm in the room or I will get activist-y all over your ass. No "eww, he's gay," no "oh wow, he actually looks masculine there," no referring to him as a "she" because a gay man is still a man. Even my parents know better than to start that shit in front of me. If you have cracked a fag joke in front of me and I have not subjected you to a lengthy sermon, you can bet I was probably gritting my teeth in repressed anger. But I digress.

Adam deserves to win, regardless of his sexual orientation, or gross favoritism on the part of the judges. He's had the best track record overall, he can sing like whoa, he's hot and he has international appeal. He's a star. He doesn't have to win, I think he'll be fine either way, but holy god I really want this for him.

I, however, will be voting for Kris out of solidarity (yes, I can vote, and yes, I'll tell you how if you ask me to), because when it comes right down to it, he's my personal favorite. I only have a handful of Adam tracks on my iPod, but I have the full Kris Allen collection. I find his voice more listenable, his style of music more appealing. Sure, it's heartwarming that this kid comes out of nowhere, originally cast by AI producers as cannon fodder, always slated to perform early in the show when Adam gets to perform last every week, is described by Simon as "not [being] a good enough singer to compete with Adam," unfairly ragged on by the judges when he doesn't rearrange songs despite the fact that Danny Gokey gets a free pass on being karaoke every week, and despite all of these attempts to thwart his AI run, he's still here. He defied all expectations and made it to the Top 2. That's great. It's fun to root for the underdog. But I'm voting for him because this is the guy that took two songs I hate, Kanye's "Heartless" and Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money," and turned them into lovely, listenable performances. The guy who did "Falling Slowly" while everyone else resorted to trite, overdone cliches like effing Bryan Adams. The guy I didn't notice at first, because I was caught up in Adam's sparkle and Anoop's wit, but forced me to pay attention because he kept getting better and better every week.

Yep, that's what I want. I will vote for Kris, I want Adam to win, I want both of them to get record deals and be managed competently. I will definitely buy Kris's album, I'd have to think about Adam's, but if I like what I hear, I'd be happy to fork over some cash for one. I want the Idols Tour to be a success, and I want their friendship to stay strong, because it's so cool that they get along that well. It gives me hope for the rest of America, that there are people like that who exist.

What I am certain of at this point, though, is that we are just three days away from what will be my favorite finale ever. I am certain that on Thursday, at 10am, we will have a new American Idol, and I'll be jumping and squeeing in the living room because he will be my favorite American Idol ever, and the runner-up will be my favorite runner-up ever.

Make me proud, boys.

JC got bored @ 7:40 PM

Tuesday, March 31, 2009
This is exactly why I don't own a Twitter
Because my day looks like this, and I would annoy the shit out of you people.

(Have tentatively titled my faux-Twitter Diary of an Unemployed College-Age Malcontent.)


8:32 am
Wake up because trying to adjust circadian rhythm to get used to daylight again. Fail miserably in 2 minutes.

9:57 am
Wake up for real. Late again. Aw shit.

10:30 am
Playing Harvest Moon.

12:25 pm
Playing Harvest Moon.

2:47 pm
Playing Harvest Moon.

4:50 pm
Playing Harvest Moon. I hate Winter in this game. So tedious.

5:13 pm is the shiznit.

5:29 pm
Man, North Korea is fucked up.

6:44 pm
Fried my own potato chips and made adobo sour cream dip to go with it. Rock and roll.

7:04 pm
Still researching North Korea out of morbid curiosity.

8:08 pm
Discovery just aired a whole show about insane torture devices (Machines of Malice). Man, humanity is fucked up.

8:39 pm
Decided to write blog post about how incompatible my life is with owning a Twitter account.

8:42 pm
Tweet tweet LOL

9:00 pm
Still researching North Korea out of morbid curiosity.

9:17 pm
Who would win in a catfight between Chuck Norris and Kim Jong-Il?

JC got bored @ 6:13 AM

Tuesday, January 13, 2009
[J.C.'s note: I am the girl who gets mistaken for a lesbian because I join Pride Marches and speak out against homophobia. Then, when I say I'm straight, homophobes tell me to butt out because "it's none of my business." I keep fighting anyway. Thought this poem was beautiful, and decided to repost it.]

I am the boy who never finished high school, because I got called a fag everyday

I am the girl kicked out of her home because I confided in my mother that I am a lesbian.

I am the prostitute working the streets because nobody will hire a transsexual woman.

I am the sister who holds her gay brother tight through the painful, tear-filled nights.

We are the parents who buried our daughter long before her time.

I am the man who died alone in the hospital because they would not let my partner of twenty-seven years into the room.

I am the foster child who wakes up with nightmares of being taken away from the two fathers who are the only loving family I have ever had. I wish they could adopt me.

I am not one of the lucky ones. I killed myself just weeks before graduating high school. It was simply too much to bear.

I am the man who fears that I will never be able to be myself, to be free of this secret because I won’t risk loosing my family and friends.

We are the couple who had the realtor hang up on us when she found out we wanted to rent a one-bedroom for two men.

I am the person who never knows which bathroom I should use if I want to avoid getting the management called on me.

I am the mother who is not allowed to even visit the children I bore, nursed, and raised. The court says I am an unfit mother because I now live with another woman.

I am the domestic-violence survivor who found the support system grow suddenly cold and distant when they found out my abusive partner is also a woman.

I am the domestic-violence survivor who has no support system to turn to because I am male.

I am the father who has never hugged his son because I grew up afraid to show affection to other men.

I am the home-economics teacher who always wanted to teach gym until someone told me that only lesbians do that.

I am the woman who died when the EMTs stopped treating me as soon as they realized I was transsexual.

I am the person who feels guilty because I think I could be a much better person if I didnt have to always deal with society hating me.

I am the man who stopped attending church, not because I don’t believe, but because they closed their doors to my kind.

I am the person who has to hide what this world needs most, love.

I am the person ashamed to tell my own friends I'm a lesbian, because they constantly make fun of them.

I am the boy tied to a fence, beaten to a bloody pulp and left to die because two straight men wanted to “teach me a lesson”

JC got bored @ 8:07 PM

Friday, October 17, 2008
Who needs a microphone when you're Cherie Gil?

Or Maria Callas, for that matter.

I left the theater so amazed that I considered titling this article "CHERIE GIL IS SO FRICKING COOL." Heh. I don't think I'll ever tire of being too excitable for anything. I'll either love something obsessively (Altar Boyz, Rowena Vilar, Felix Rivera) or hate it with a passion (Mulan, Jr., and one Dogeaters actor that I'm not going to name), but I'm proud to say that I've never felt lukewarm about any show I've seen. My fire burns on strong after seeing, on invitation from Fairy Godmother Lorna Lopez, a dress rehearsal of Terence McNally's Tony award-winning play Master Class, starring the divine Ms. Gil. And I didn't hate it, obviously.

The amount of love a fan has for an artist, in my humbly fangirlish opinion, boils down to two things: talent and personality. (Looks if you're shallow, but I think that would make it different from "love," at that point.) Both are required, certainly, but you could mix them in varying proportions and come out with a different brand of appeal. You've got the Spring Awakening cast, so loved by their fans, who gush about how sweet Jonathan Groff is at stagedoor, et cetera. Then on the other hand, there's Patti LuPone, and when you see a show starring Patti LuPone, you're not really thinking about what she'll be like at stagedoor, you're there to watch Patti fucking LuPone.

Copious amounts of one could cover up a glaring lack of the other. John Gallagher Jr. could hit a flat in the most important part of "Don't Do Sadness," or maybe Matt Doyle might forget a line, but you don't care and you'll still come back to the Eugene O'Neill for the sixteenth time next Saturday because my GOD they're such nice semi-famous people! Patti LuPone could be the biggest asshole you ever met, and you'd still love her because she is LuPWNAGE, baby. (Don't quote me, though, I heard she's actually a nice person offstage. Main point being that it wouldn't matter either way.)

Cherie Gil is a case for the latter, like you haven't guessed that already. After what was supposed to be an hour-long Starbucks chat with an old office friend stretched into a five-hour session, I was already freaking out on the taxi ride to the RCBC Plaza. What I love about theater is that it waits for no one, it's admirably disciplined and has never heard of "Filipino time." Theater willingly waits for Cherie Gil, though.

I showed up at 4:30pm, on the dot, worriedly tapping my Mary Janes as the elevator ascended to the fourth floor. The barely-occupied Carlos P. Romulo auditorium was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Director Michael Williams, champion of theater in the south metro, is seated front and center, overseeing the image transitions projected onto the wood panels, and giving (or withholding) his approval for various cast members' outfits.

A crew member comes out. "She'll be ready by 5:30."


"Even the make-up artist says so. We are starting at 5:30." She retreats.

The guests' consensus to this turn of events?

"That is so Maria Callas of her!" one giggled.

Indeed. And a few minutes after 5:30, she walks onstage, tall and majestic, every click of her high heels resonating against the theater walls. Once you're watching her, you forget that you waited more than an hour to see this.

By the intermission, I squealed, "This is totally worth it!"

Knowing as little about Philippine cinema as I do, I didn't really know what to expect when I found out that the Philippine cinema icon Cherie Gil was starring. The name only registered to me as "Ooh, famous person." So I sing her praises now, and this is exclusively based on her performance, not her name. Theater fans tend to be skeptical when a performer of a different medium attempts to transition into theater. It's usually less than successful, like how pop star Christian Bautista's limitations were highlighted in the recent production of West Side Story, but Ms. Gil more than proved she could rock the stage when she essayed the role of stern Sister Aloysius in Atlantis Productions' 2006 production of Doubt; to quote Gibbs Cadiz, "Gil’s deliciously rococo acting in local movies (Valentina, anyone, opposite a hapless Anjanette Abayari in “Darna: Ang Pagbabalik?”) prepares no one for the extraordinarily subtle work she delivers in Doubt."

The role of La Divina herself, Maria Callas, the larger than life Greek-American opera legend, is more along the lines of what Ms. Gil usually plays in Philippine movies. However, it still requires the same great amount of subtlety and depth as that of Sr. Aloysius. Ms. Gil has big shoes to fill, as this role was originated by the legendary Zoe Caldwell (and, coincidentally, later played by the also legendary Patti LuPone). But, and I've already mentioned like five times now, Ms. Gil knocked it out of the ballpark.

[L-R: So much legendary-ness that I can't even see straight. Patti LuPone (1996) and Cherie Gil (2008) as Maria Callas.]

With her onstage, one tends to forget that there are other people in this play, too, but they do well with what they are given. Two sopranos and one tenor are the students in the master class: Florence Aguilar as Sophie de Palma, Deeda Barreto as Sharon Graham, and Jack Salud as Anthony Candolino, all accompanied by Ceejay Javier as Manny on the piano. None are as strong as the play's star acting-wise, but more than make up for that in vocal ability. Zobel folk will be amused to find that George Schulze was hilarious as the stage hand, although Michael Williams will be playing the role in the five-show run.

And I must remember that this is supposed to be a review of the Master Class rehearsals, not a love letter to Cherie Gil, awesome though she may be. Her performance alone makes it more than worth the price of admission, but the material itself enhances that five-fold. It's wisdom flavored with humor, served with a wry, biting delivery by the maestra Maria Callas. She doesn't hold back, and she won't let you leave the stage until you've got every note and emotion perfect. Harsh as it may be at times, this only stems from the sort of dedication displayed by somebody who truly loves his or her craft without abandon. Brief flashes of Callas' illustrious life and career trickle through the lessons, though this is still, first and foremost, about the art.

Going into writing this article, I knew that Master Class was going to be a hard sell. My peers and I are more inclined to go for easy, palatable, modern fare like Avenue Q or West Side Story, and the poster and synopsis wouldn't really sway the average 18-year-old to see it. So what's the pitch, then? It may not feature cute leading men or LSS-ready ditties, but it is sharp, witty and most of all, enlightening. I walked in not knowing or liking opera in the least, and I left the theater with a newfound respect for it. Anyone from 9 to 90 can appreciate art, and this is art, performed, discussed, dissected, for the people lucky enough to witness it.

Also: Dudes, it's Cherie Gil. Frickin' go already.

MASTER CLASS will run at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater, RCBC Plaza, Makati on October 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25, 2008 at 8:00 p.m. Directed by Michael Williams.
JC got bored @ 7:26 PM

Monday, October 13, 2008
It's cheese AND magic (I want some Action, bebeh)
I'm more of a Passing Strange kind of person, but I'm not above enjoying the occasional treacle-fest. Two weeks of workplace drama (ay shet, I have my own Officer Krupke) can really wear one down, and where else could I turn to but my favorite form of escapism, the theater?

West Side Story is, to me, the kind of musical that you don't really watch for the story (that's where Passing Strange comes in), or even the music (Spring Awakening, right there), but for the people in it. Blasphemy, I know, but "Tonight" or "Maria" does nothing for me, and I fell asleep thrice on my VCD copy of the 1968 movie version with Natalie Wood, before finally giving up on Disc 3. I still haven't finished the movie.

It's like Mulan, Jr., in that sense -- the material was crap-tastic, but having Cris Villonco, Felix Rivera AND Chevy Mercado in it, reading like my own personal Dream Casting line-up, totally saved it for me. Had the cast list of Mulan been any different that day, I probably would've walked out halfway through, despite the impressive set and special effects. Same goes for WSS: without Joanna Ampil and Rowena Vilar in the same line-up, I'd have enjoyed it much less than I did.

Warning, shameless pluggage ahead: If Red Concepcion hadn't mentioned that he was going to be in this thing, it's likely I wouldn't have seen the show. I'd already written it off as another vehicle for two big-name stars, Christian Bautista and Karylle, and I felt I would rather devote my money to something less popular with the masses. But Red's such a kick-ass actor that I'll watch him in anything, even a ginormous cheese spectacle like West Side Story. Hell, he could play Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: the Musical and I'd still see it (carry mo naman yung blond hair eh, haha!). So, thank God for Songs for a New World serendipity. And after reading on Gibbs Cadiz' blog that the final show featured Joanna and Rowena, I rushed to TicketWorld and snagged the last front row seat available (yeah, I'm still soured on buying tickets for large groups, so I saw this one on my own).

Obviously, Red didn't disappoint as that crazy bitch A-Rab; he possessed the gleeful insanity of a mad dog when he talked, and the precision and grace of a true artist when he danced. And the great thing is that unlike Mulan, this show didn't rely on the strength of just a handful of performers amidst the large cast. In WSS, the entire cast was well-rounded and pitch-perfect.

Gian Magdangal as Riff is my personal Aaron Eckhart for this show. By Aaron Eckhart I mean, his Two-Face was my favorite thing about The Dark Knight, even though everybody else was paying attention to Heath Ledger (deservedly enough). He's got the strong presence to play a gang leader, and the pipes for the songs, and it always impresses me greatly when an actor can do a good accent, like he does.

For my money, there wasn't a single weak link in the ensemble cast, though as you can tell from the blog title, I grew a bit of a crush on the rail-thin, feisty Action from the Jets gang. "Who is this Anthony Tarrosa Ong, and where can I get one?" :)

You'd think everybody in the audience just won the lottery the way they reacted after the voice-over announcement: "This evening, the role of Maria will be performed by Joanna Ampil...the role of Anita will be performed by Rowena Vilar..." But let me tell you, the batshit insane cheering was not an overreaction. Joanna was lovely and flawless as one would expect; Rowena was FRIGGIN' SPECTACULAR and stole every scene she was in. No seriously. You can not take your eyes off her, executing those tricky dance moves with ease, in stiletto heels. She'll break your heart singing about "A Boy Like That." You'll be chilled to the bone, feeling every scratch and tear and push in her scene with the Jets. Ms. Vilar is a triple threat if I ever saw one. They need to manufacture more of these Rowena Vilar things and place them in every single nation across the globe. She'll be Elphaba, and Glinda, and Nessarose. She'll be Mimi, Maureen and Angel. She'll be Cassie and Natalie and every other person in A Chorus Line. She's the entire fucking chorus line. Holy crap this girl rocks.

Now, onto the star of the show: Hot pala si Christian Bautista? Who knew?

It's ironic that the most famous cast member ends up being the most underrated. Not that he was the best performer by any means, but I'd hate to be Christian Bautista after reading the reviews. I don't think anyone's really given him proper due for what he actually does for the show. This show was openly a vehicle for the star, but I think he ended up being the vehicle for the show. It was visible from the moment I walked into the lobby. The Swatch adverts, guest contributors (Lea Salonga, Dingdong Dantes, et al) on the program, posters left and right at any mall you go to, probably wouldn't be there if Christian Bautista was not the star of this show. I'm suppose I'm more pragmatic than the average theatergoer when it comes to things like this. Whatever puts asses in the seats, I always say. Christian Bautista is the MTV's Search for the Next Elle Woods of Philippine theater -- not everyone is going to like it, but commercially, it's heaven-sent.

In terms of actual talent, perhaps he's improved greatly over the run of the show, but I didn't see him as the low-light that every review claims he is. Then again, I walked in expecting a lot less from him than anybody else. Sure, I'd agree that he was too much "puppydog-eyed loverboy" and not nearly enough "American ganster" for the role of Tony, but he sings well, dances well and is a lot prettier than I expected him to be. If he had the comic timing to pull it off, I think he'd actually be a great Fiyero in Wicked.

There, that's about every cast member in the program, but I'd like to talk about one unseen star: "Felix Rivera, vocal coach." SQUEE! Look, his voice knocks it out of the ballpark every time, so he's a beyond perfect vocal coach, but seeing his goofy grin on the insert made me start playing my favorite intermission game, "How much better would this production have been had Felix Rivera starred in it?" Why was Felix not in the cast, damn it?!? He'd be an edgier, more nuanced Tony (who can sing better), Riff with more sex appeal, an Action who looks like he could actually beat somebody up (have you seen those biceps, ohmygolly).

Clearly, I was not impressed with the original WSS storyline, but the brilliant, well-crafted sets and superb acting kept me on the edge of my seat, and in fact, made me want to give the VCD another try. Disc 4 FTW! By the end of the show, I was telling myself, "Do NOT fucking cry, okay, you are so not pulling another Tuesdays with Morrie in the front row!"

So bravo, Stages Productions, Inc, you've won me over as the go-to company for big-budget musicals. West Side Story was more than worth the ticket price, and I went to work an hour later humming "Something's Coming" with a big grin on my face. Can you do Wicked next year? The Meralco theater would be perfect! I'm starting my "Kidnap Cris Villonco from Hong Kong Disneyland so she can play Elphaba" campaign right now!

(...And Rowena Vilar too, of course.)
JC got bored @ 6:12 PM

Sunday, July 06, 2008
Dancing to the Ends of the Imagination
[Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu: La Bossa Fataka de Rameau]

For some reason, my friend and fellow writer Walter thought it would be amusing to send out a clueless teenager to watch a French dance troupe at the CCP. I agreed to it, even volunteering to research on dance show reviews so that I could know the terminology and form a better article.

"Don't read dance reviews," he insisted. "That's going to be the point of the article. It's by a person who has no idea about dance whatsoever."

...Okay then.

It could've gone two ways: I'd not understand a thing and hate it as a result, or I could be easily mesmerized by everything I see. I'm happy to report that it was the latter.

My aunt, cousin and I braved the atrocious weather and about ten wrong turns before arriving at the CCP Main Theater 20 minutes late. The bitchy usherette, Abie (she angered me enough that I stole a glance at her nametag before leaving), certainly didn't make things any easier for us. She wasted a lot of our time just standing around and making sour faces before actually helping us get our tickets. I know, shame on us for being late to the show, but still: we're three more asses in those damn seats, Abie. Act accordingly.

Despite that, my ire subsided once we crossed the threshold into the theater, our senses immediately assaulted by a blast of color, motion and music.

In La Bossa Fataka de Rameau, an 8-man dance troupe including a breakdancer, ballerina and an Afro-Carribean dancer, utilized fancy footwork to blur the line between reality and fantasy, aided by a large white screen onto which a video of psychedelic imagery was projected. The visuals included a swimming tiger, humans morphing into animals, and an elephant walking a tightrope. Leading the adventure was a charmingly dopey, elfin boy-girl narrator, who not only mirrored but amplified the audience's marvel and fascination at these dancers. One memorable instance was when she recited spoken-word poetry about dance through her endearing, thick French accent while a ballerina fluttered across the stage.

At only one hour long, the show was over before I even knew it, but it ended to thunderous applause and a standing ovation from a very enthusiastic crowd.

The beauty of a Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu show is beyond comprehension, and I'm happy to love it without being able to analyze it completely. I regret that they had only one show here in the Philippines, but in a way, I'm glad, too. This show is like the mysterious, beautifully quirky girl with blue tights and a flower in her hair that you see in the crowded NYC subway. You've only seen her for a few minutes and yet you're still convinced she's the girl of your dreams. You're dying to see her again by some stroke of luck, but even if you know you won't, at least you have the ten-minute subway ride to remember her by.

La Bossa Fataka de Rameau was more than a dance show. It was a crazy visual headtrip, and a very pretty one at that.

JC got bored @ 9:55 AM

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