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The Beatles on "Idol," "Amazing Race," "Glee": Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, or No, No, No?
April 7, 2010  | By David Bianculli
american-idol-beatles-top.jpgI hate it when any Beatles music shows up in a TV commercial, as when "Hello Goodbye" is covered during a Target ad. But when music associated with the group or its former members is showcased on prime-time network TV, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Depends...beatles-amazing-race-indra-.jpg

When The Amazing Race, as it did last month, takes time on its whirlwind around-the-world race to locate a pit stop in Hamburg, at the Indra Club, with Beatles lookalikes and sound-alikes playing in the background where the originals performed some 50 years ago, the sentiment is fine, even if the overall effect is tacky.

(My idea of a Beatles tribute band is the Fab Faux, thank you very much.)


And next week, when the wonderful Fox series Glee returns with a musical-production number version of "Hello Goodbye," it's a delight. Certainly a lot more welcome than a Target ad.

But with this week's Paul McCartney-John Lennon songbook competition of another Fox series, American Idol, the ongoing continuation and adoration of the Beatles catalog is a mixed bag.

It's certainly authorized: McCartney himself provided a taped hello (but no goodbye).


It's the second time Idol has cleared enough compositions to mount a Lennon-McCartney night -- the first was during season seven, when Brooke White did a lovely version of "Let It Be" and Lily Scott did justice to a well-selected "Fixing a Hole."

But for the most part, with all those songs from which to choose (or even from a reduced list provided by producers), there were more disasters than gems. Kristy Lee Cook's "Eight Days a Week" was only the bottom of a deep barrel, and even when Clay Aiken sang "Here, There and Everywhere" as a stand-alone Beatles pick all the way back in season two, it wasn't a successful rendition.

I wonder, to young viewers unfamiliar with the Beatles, whether these Idol nights of selections help or hurt the new-generation reaction to the Fab Four. It annoys me, by the way, that the musical contributions of George Harrison are overlooked in these Lennon-McCartney theme nights. An all-Harrison night, arguably, would be just as dynamic.

But with what we have, this is where we stand:

I'm typing this just before the start of Wednesday's Idol elimination, so I'm writing, as fast as possible, to show my hand before Idol shows its.


Of all the contestants this week, the most satisfying, to me, was Siobhan Magnus' rendition of "Across the Universe." Sitting on a stool, accompanied by piano and singing quietly and purely, she, and it, was beautiful.

Surprisingly good was Casey James, the only contestant to pull a song from a post-Beatles catalog. He selected Lennon's "Jealous Guy," and played tasteful acoustic guitar while a vioinist offered spare accompaniment. By far, the night's two best performances.


Katie Stevens acquitted herself with a solid "Let it Be," and Crystal Bowersox was okay with her "Come Together" -- though I noticed she swallowed the word "shoot" in the lyric "he shoot Coca-Cola," quite possibly because Coke is one of the show's annoyingly intrusive sponsors.

But the others: Yikes. I'd put Andrew Garcia's "Can't Buy Me Love," Tim Urban's "All My Loving" and Lacey Brown's Lee Dewyze's "Hey Jude" in the bottom three... but teen crushes and votes mean more, at this point, than actual talent.


The three women whose performances I praised -- Katie, Crystal and especially Siobhan -- were all declared safe by Ryan Seacrest in the first vote reveal of the evening. So, not much suspense there.

And my only other praiseworthy Lennon-McCartney cover vocalist Tuesday night, Casey, was in the next group saved. So the national voters agreed with me, which, trust me, doesn't always happen.

To wit: Facing elimination in the bottom two were Andrew Garcia and Michael Lynche, and, after votes were revealed, it was Big Mike who was about to be sent home, unless the judges used the season's only wild-care save to return him next week. Mike had such impressive showings early, he deserved another chance -- and Simon Cowell and the other judges thought so, too, awarding him a reprieve unanimously. Nice moment.

What that means is that two contestants will be eliminated next week. So long as it's not Crystal or Siobhan, I'll cope -- but the national Idol voters cast their votes, and their loyalties, here, there and everywhere.

It's part of what makes American Idol so maddening, and interesting, at the same time. And, I guess, what makes the Lennon-McCartney songbook a welcome ingredient -- even if many of the singers are as clueless as the voters.

Your take?




Benita said:

Lee Dewyze sang "Hey Jude". Lacey was kicked out three weeks ago but she was sitting in the audience last night!

[Man, that's me not reading my own instant, illegible handwriting, and having a brain freeze at the same time. I'll fix it from here on, but my fault. I need sleep. And now, I'll get some... -- David B.]

Comment posted on April 7, 2010 9:46 PM

Samantha said:

David, I love your stuff, but you need a better photo guide to AI contestants.

Lacey Brown was eliminated a couple weeks ago and is a woman. Lee Dewyze, a man, sang Hey Jude this week.

[See my previous reaction. My fault. Now I'll fix it... Thanks. -- David B.]

Comment posted on April 7, 2010 11:14 PM

Charles said:

I beg to differ, David. Clay Aiken's version of Here There And Everywhere was flawless and gorgeous. Ignore the halloween haunted house lighting that Idol inflicted on him and close your eyes to just listen. It was a multi octave masterpiece delivered with apparent ease and in keeping with the mood of the original.

Comment posted on April 8, 2010 3:00 AM

Carina said:

I was almost entirely bored.

Then again, my favorite Idol contestant of all time was Blake Lewis who was so inventive in his song-updating and arrangement-making, that I don't know if we've seen his equal. He lost to Jordin Sparks.

I wonder if there's a rights-clearing problem with including Harrison's work and ergo the inability to call it a Beatles' night?

Comment posted on April 8, 2010 5:07 AM

Anna said:

I agree with Charles. Clay's "Here, There, and Everywhere" was beautiful. The lighting, however, was horrendous.

Comment posted on April 8, 2010 11:09 AM
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