There were a couple of surprises last night on American Idol, and the biggest wasn’t the fact that Curtis Finch, Jr. was voted off. That was going to happen sooner or later, anyway. No. The thing that made my mouth drop and got a grip around my heart was the awesome performance of Charlie Askew in the sing-off between him and Aubrey Cleland for a spot on the tour. Who or what got hold of this boy?
Sure he had potential back during the auditions. And, in spite of Charlie getting sick just before the group round and having to endure Curtis Finch, Jr’s cold shoulder, the trio emerged on the plus side thanks to the third member, Charles Mathis, a young man with talent and compassion who should never have been cut. It was the video of Finch’s cruel treatment of Charlie during group round that I believe was Finch’s ticket home when America got the chance to vote him out Wednesday night.
Later, Charlie got a further step up by wowing Nicki Minaj with his solid, if a little weird, performance of “Rocket Man”, making her want to hold him in her arms, and bringing out some of the best quotes of the season from a completely befuddled Randy, Keith, and Mariah. But he blew it by trying to re-invent himself in Sudden Death.
The subsequent meltdown afterward when Charlie realized he had blown his big chance didn’t help his situation. Charlie is a sweet, but awkwardly social individual whom his doctor diagnosed as having “Charlie Askew Syndrome”. But in spite of all this he seemed to hold a soft spot in the hearts of John and Jane Q Public. Probably the same soft spot that led Nicki to bemoan the loss of her “baby” when he came out dressed like a hard rocker and trying to act and sound like one. Which was disastrous.
But last night. Last night I held my breath in wonder at his look, his poise, and his performance of his original song, “Sky Blue Diamond”, on the piano. I had never, ever, heard him sing like that before. Didn’t know he could, even with some of the solid performances behind him. He was better than any of the guys who made it through. And he shone like his Sky Blue Diamond, paling into insignificance the girl, Aubrey Cleland, who came out and sang the same old, boring same old, in the same old tra-la-la way.
I checked out some other Idol sites to see what they were saying. They claim that Aubrey “blew him out of the water”. I doubt they liked Philip Phillips, either. Or Bon Jovi. That’s what’s wrong with American Idol now. Are the days of the truly unique SINGERS behind us? I don’t want just voices that can do a loop-de-loop through a song to show off their musical abilities. I want the days of more than pretty faces — the ones Billy Joel sang about in “Pressure”. I want to hear singers who make me see and feel life through their whole being, not just their carefully controlled vocals and demeanors. I want Charlie Askew on that tour bus. He deserves it.