Brits Invaded “American Idol” Last Night

Thank God I wasn't the only person appalled by last night's "British Invasion" edition of American Idol.

Idol could have given young audiences a nice music history lesson, but as Glenn Garvin tells us in the Miami Herald, they got it oh so wrong.

For instance, Simon Cowell, who flippin' grew up during the British Invasion era, admitted to never having heard Gerry and the Pacemakers's hit, "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying." Garvin takes Simon to task for this:

How could anybody who claims to know the music business — especially the British music business — not know "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying"? It was a Top 10 record on both sides of the Atlantic and one of the first British Invasion hits after the Beatles broke down American defenses.

I guess Cowell's ignorance isn't a shocker: a flag-waving Dylan hater and craven businessman, Simon is about as anti-music as you can get.

Also, two of the songs performed weren't British at all: "Tell Him" and "I Who Have Nothing" were originally recorded and made famous by American artists.

Lulu and Peter Noone were smiling and amiable as this week's coaches. Probably too amiable – the singers didn't listen to a word they said. They'd recommend a song, and the churlish contestants proceeded to do whatever they wanted. Way to mind your elders, folks.

Moving on to the often-baffling performances: Gina Glocksen's tuneless version of The Stones' "Paint It Black" was rightfully slammed. Ditto Stephanie Edwards' rendition of Dusty Springfield's plaintive "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me," which revealed the limits of the young singer's voice.

But Randy, Simon, and Paula inexplicably lavished praise on the atrocities Blake Lewis and Chris Sligh enacted on two Zombies classics, "Time of the Season" and "She's Not There," respectively.

The Zombies' lead singer, Colin Blunstone, had one of the great sex voices in rock n' roll, period. When Blunstone sings "What's your name? Who's your daddy?" it's supposed to be a panty-dropping, get-out-the-KY-Jelly kind of moment. Blake Lewis' robotic take on the song was about as sexy as a dead eel. For some reason, he found it necessary to insert beat-box interludes into the song, which Simon and his minions called "contemporary." Sorry, but that was played out in '89, and no, we're not grading you on a curve because you're white.

And then Chris Sligh, who made the ill-advised decision to thunder through the audience, shouted his way through "She's Not There." I thought it was as unlistenable as his rambling, Lionel Richie-cum-Coldplay version of "Endless Love" last week.

Oddly, I thought the best, most historically respectful performance came from the much-maligned Sanjaya, who dug deep, scarred his vocal cords, and spurted his inner Ray Davies all over the audience. Here's hoping he sticks around a little longer.

In other news:

  • The Guardian's Toby Young wholeheartedly disagrees with Stephen Fry's assertion that Americans are fooled by British actors' accents. "It is not even true, as Stephen Fry seems to think, that an English accent is an advantage when it comes to landing acting jobs. Admittedly, several British actors have enjoyed huge triumphs recently on American television shows, most notably Minnie Driver in The Riches, Dominic West in The Wire, and Ian McShane in Deadwood. But they are all playing Americans – so their success can hardly be attributed to their British accents."
  • The Guardian's Ryan Gilbey blasts Fry as well, criticizing his statement that British actors are less authentic as regular Joes than their U.S. counterparts. "Moving into recent years, he should check out performances by Emily Blunt, Ewen Bremner, the late Katrin Cartlidge, Kate Dickie, Aidan Gillen, Georgia Groome, Ian Hart, Shirley Henderson, Marianne Jean-Baptiste (who lost none of her integrity in the journey from Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies to the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced series Without a Trace), Natalie Press, and Lorraine Stanley. How's that lot for 'relaxed authenticity'?"
  • Is Sharon Osbourne replacing the controversy-ridden Brandy as a judge on America's Got Talent? Isn't Piers Morgan on that show? Are you guys actively trying to make Americans hate British people? From Tanya via Reality Blurred.
  • Dog Eat Dog host Ulrika Jonsson interviews sex addicts in a documentary for Channel 4 titled Ulrika…Am I a Sex Addict?, but the most shocking revelation comes from Ulrika herself. From The Guardian's review: "Basically, Ulrika sets out to investigate intimacy disorder, but with ever-increasing levels of personal interest as she goes along. She must have known, from the outset, that she had a special interest in the condition, but it's still extraordinary to see her diagnosed on TV."
  • Muriel Gray's challenge to female authors to move beyond the hearth lights a fire under readers of The Guardian.
  • African musician Youssou N'Dour waves off criticisms that Michael Apted's film Amazing Grace whitewashes the abolitionist movement. From The Guardian: "This movie is one part of the whole story about slavery. There will be possibilities for others to do movies about other aspects of slavery. I feel it works in the way that Michael intended it to work, which is to focus on the politics and the parliamentary movement around Wilberforce. I didn't see the role of Equiano as a small part, but rather as a window opening on to something. It was enough to be that window. I felt that I was representing black people, African people."
  • Victoria Newton wants to protect us Yanks from the gold-digging scourge that is Heather Mills: "Do not be fooled. If she smells First Blood, she will pounce. Just ask Macca." LOL…the hate-on persists. (The Sun)
  • On Larry King Live last night, Heather blamed Paul McCartney's lawyers for making their divorce ugly. From The Sun: "Fiona Shackleton wants to drag things out. She's said some pretty mean-spirited things about me when I was in a wheelchair. But she is not a very nice person and she has made it as difficult as possible."
  • Peaches Geldof and Lily Allen show maturity and end their feud. (The Sun)
  • Don't drink and grill, says In the City's Gemma Atkinson, who writhes half-naked on a fire pole in a new campaign against boozing in the kitchen. She tells The Sun: "We really want people to think twice about sticking on the grill, cooker, or toaster when they get in after a night out, and really learn to cook safer by using the microwave instead." Yeah, no…this is what Chinese take-out was made for.
  • Matt Lucas tells The Sun that he knew he was gay when he laid eyes on "pop pin-up" Shakin' Stevens.
  • Lucas says it took "three hours of makeup" to make Kate Moss look "unglam" for the Little Britain Live show. (Mirror)
  • London pedestrians beware: Sienna Miller is taking driving lessons.
    (Daily Mail)
  • The lead singer of It band The Rumble Strips was arrested at South By Southwest last weekend. He jumped bail. (NME)
  • Joss Stone is peeved that Harper's Bazaar digitally dyed her red hair brown for their April cover. (Daily Mail)
  • American transplant Natasha Bedingfield picks on Joss Stone's twang: "No, I haven't picked up an accent. Unlike other people…" (Mirror)
  • Joss backs a New York version of Little Britain. "Why not? They have Chinatown and Little Italy and Indian streets." (Yahoo!)
  • Virgin is the new sponsor for UK's Big Brother. (Daily Mail)
  • "The new Keira Knightley," Felicity Jones, is interviewed in The Belfast Telegraph about her role in the latest Austen adaptation.
  • Martin Scorsese has selected Emily Blunt to a play Queen Victoria in a film he's producing. (Daily Mail)
  • Tim Campbell, the first UK Apprentice winner, has quit his job for bigger and better things. May I just say this: the man is gorgeous. Those lips, those honeydips. (Daily Mail)
  • David Beckham in a hip-hop hoodie. (Mirror)
  • From Telegraph: The British Museum features an exhibition of rare watercolor paintings from Sir Walter Raleigh's 1585 exploration of America. The artist behind the portraits was John White, who painted wildlife and recorded "the appearance and culture of the local inhabitants, the Algonquin Indians. In doing so his role was as much salesman as scientist, for one of the purposes of these drawings was to convince Englishmen back home to become future colonists. At the very least he needed to show that the locals were peaceable farmers and not (like tribes the Spanish encountered further south) cannibals."
  • Should Meryl Streep play the Iron Lady? Producers reportedly want the two-time Oscar winner to play Margaret Thatcher in a new biopic. When was the last time La Streep did an accent? The Bridges of Madison County? Dancing at Lughnasa? (The Times)
  • Gawker asks, "What is up with Amy Winehouse?" Damn, where have you guys been?

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

See more posts by Kevin Wicks