Welcome to the Blade blog Culture Shock, a three-times-a-week riff by Pop Culture Editor Kirk Baird on pop culture news, events, and trends. The blog will appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings here, with the odd night or off-day posting if something is merited.
It's no secret that Crystal Bowersox has struggled lately on American Idol.
The 24-year-old has mounted back-to-back OK-to-good performances that haven't drawn the kind of praise from the judges and the online buzz she's used to receiving.
So what happened to Crystal? How did the Elliston, Ohio, resident go from Idol shoo-in to a performer struggling to get back her mojo?
Two words: theme night. The dreaded Idol musical theme has really cramped her style, specifically the last two weeks with Shania Twain and Frank Sinatra.
Crystal went full-scale country with Shania -- the ONLY Idol performer to do so -- and it backfired. It didn't help her cause that the other performers that night were all on their game.
This week, Crystal was hampered with Sinatra week. Yeah, good luck with that. There aren't many around who can competently sing Ol' Blue Eyes -- especially a folk/blues singer. In fairness to Crystal, she gave it her best shot, and walked away with some hard-earned respect, though not the accolades we've come to expect.
The good news is that trend should change Tuesday, as Idol gives us "Songs of the Cinema" as its theme. Surely Crystal can find something that fits her style in this huge and quite broad category.
But let's make it even easier and offer some suggestions to her.
(For the record: I'm sticking with songs written for the movie in which it was performed. Otherwise, Crystal could go all funky and belt out Sly & the Family Stone's "I Want to Take You Higher" from the "Woodstock" soundtrack, for example, or "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin from "The Song Remains the Same." In other words, too easy.)
"The Rose," by Bette Midler from "The Rose." The title track to the kinda-sorta Janis Joplin biography starring The Divine Miss M seems so obvious, I hate to include it. It's a tender song, which Crystal really hasn't done on the show, and it's the kind of song Joplin could've performed, which means it would suit Crystal as well. It is cheesy? You bet. But "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" isn't?
"Everybody's Talkin' " by Harry Nilsson from "Midnight Cowboy." It's probably too slow and too old for today's audiences and the show's judges, but it's still a good song, and would suit her well.
"Streets of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen from "Philadelphia." I'm thinking she should ditch the band (especially the moody synthesizer) and go acoustic on this. The song about a man dying from AIDS has the lyrical and emotional bite that Crystal seems to respond to.
"When She Loved Me" by Sarah McLachlan from "Toy Story 2." It's a heartbreaking song -- I don't care if it's written from the perspective of a childhood doll that's been cast aside. Tell me you didn't get a little misty when you watched that scene in "Toy Story 2"?
"Things Have Changed" by Bob Dylan from "Wonder Boys." You know you'd love to hear Crystal cover Dylan. This is your chance. It's upbeat and playful -- for Dylan, that is -- and Crystal could rework it ever so slightly so that it has a more youthful appeal. Plus, this song is not classic Dylan, so it's not like she would stomping on sacred ground by covering it.
"Wise Up," by Aimee Mann for "Magnolia." Crystal could sing this standing up, or sitting while she plays the piano again. Mann's fragile vocals would suit Crystal well. And something tells me she could connect with this song in a personal way, without shutting herself off.
Some others to consider:
"Purple Rain" by Prince from "Purple Rain." Seriously.
"Hard Sun" by Eddie Vedder from "Into the Wild"; "Rise" as a back up
"Mrs. Robinson" by Simon & Garfunkel from "The Graduate" (the only song the duo wrote for the movie)
"Nobody Does it Better" by Carly Simon from "The Spy Who Loved Me"
"In the Deep" by Kathleen York and Michael Becker from "Crash"
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LINK: For all of Kirk Baird's Culture Shock riffs