Thursday, January 24, 2008

Carly Hennessy on Idol!!

Holy democracies! Check out this front page post on Allmusic yesterday identifying Idol hopeful Carly Smithson as the Carly Hennessy, star of that notorious Wall Street Journal piece about how MCA spent almost $2.2 million on Hennessy and her album Ultimate High only to watch it sell 378 copies (as of the time the piece was written). Gawd - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!'s homegrown debut feels like Rumours in comparison.

Naturally, she was dropped which brought her to Idol Season 5. But she couldn't participate in Hollywood Hell Week due to visa problems (she's a Dublin native). Now she's married (hence the Smithson) and with all obstacles removed, she made it through easily to Hollywood this season.

It'd be convenient to dump the entirety of your reality TV disillusion on Carly's beleaguered profile. But she's hardly the first vortex the biz has thrown toilet bowls of cash into. Check out this New Yorker piece on the meticulous coiffing of Cherie whose 2004 self-titled debut on Lava probably moved 379 units. And she's not the only Idol contestant on even just this season to have enjoyed (so to speak) major label support of some sort. Check out the guilty lined up here at

Still, it begs the obvious question of whether or not Idol can sustain its Preston Sturges-like tension, prompting one wag here to suggest the show should be retitled American Exposure. We want a poor schmuck like Dick Powell in Christmas in July or season five finalist Kevin Covais to get their shot at The American Dream. But will we thrill to Carly's rise knowing someone/thing has already spent $2.2 million on her? How many of us can boast of such expenditures?

Then again, how many of us can boast of making $50,000 a year? (Do I hear $20,000?) How many of us can boast of holding a high-level position at our place of employment? The latter scenario, of course, was where Dick Powell found himself in Christmas in July and together with Ellen Drew's climactic speech which gets him the job, it resulted in one of the greatest comedies of the classical Hollywood era. But it probably wouldn't make for gripping reality tv. Still, whatever drama we'll feel this season on Idol will depend on not only how we define The American Dream but where exactly we place the contestants on the path towards it. So we have to ask ourselves how we know that the dream has been realized. But we also have to determine from how far back the contestants are starting.

Me, I'm willing to entertain the notion that Carly possesses some of the unluckiness of the poor schmuck because I know that however we conceive of The American Dream, it's never one immovable endpoint. Like an agitated muscle, it pulsates and can disappear completely over time if not overnight. That's why we marvel at the peaks and valleys in the careers of a Neil Young or an Elvis. Or a Jennifer Hudson. They lay out The American Dream as if on a graph and define the absolute limits of its representation.

So let Carly have her sixteenth minute. If she rides it far enough, she'll be telling us more about ourselves than anything else.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Liza digs Maroon 5!

Liza was just on Nightline doing some sort of "Famous People Pick 5 Songs They Dig" spot (is this a regular feature?). Anyhoo, she picks Aznavour, "Maybe This Time," Raitt fille, and..."This Love" by Maroon 5! She says Maroon 1 Adam Levine combines jazz with rock. Is that why the song snakes its way around your inner music matrix? She would know. Jazz with rock, huh?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ananda Shankar on Idol???

Did anyone else notice Ananda Shankar's raga-funk version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" providing the background for our introduction to the sparkly, non-victorious, soon-to-be-actressing Alexis Cohen?