For whatever reason, several nights recently I've found myself unable to sleep through the night. I awaken in the wee hours with that bewitching mistress Sleep refusing my advances. I flirt with her, cuddle her, whisper sweet endearments to her, but, much like my last girlfriend, she rejects all my advances.
Eventually, I turn to my TiVo for solace. Somehow, without fail, every night that Sleep and I have replayed this scene, I find TiVo serving up a heaping helping of Hit Me Baby 1 More Time. Is this some sort of coincidence? I think not. I think HMB1MT is the entertainment equivalent of McDonalds -- you know it's crap, but the hallucinogens they lace the food with make you want to go back again against your will and against your better judgment. HMB1MT is calling out to my unconscious mind when I'm asleep and making me wake up to watch.
And so it went that I found myself in the obscenely early moments of this morning with visions of Wang Chung, Sophie B. Hawkins, Cameo, Howard Jones, and Irene Cara dancing in my head. Like an addict, I couldn't stop myself from pressing play on this episode.
Before too long, it became apparent that everybody should not Wang Chung tonight because listening to the modern version was not fun tonight. And while I lamented the loss of the haircut of A Flock of Seagull's lead singer a couple weeks back, I have to say to this one that getting rid of your signature haircut from 20 years ago would have been a mighty fine idea. But then they promised me a cover song that I thought would cause me to forgive the hair. The setup was that of a Saturday Night Live skit that would leave one with hot tears rolling down her face from laughing too hard: old, white guys with lovely British accents taking on Nelly's "Hot in Herre"? "Bring in on, blokes. Bring it on," I said. But unfortunately, like far too many SNL skits, instead of laughter, this performance was likely to leave one lethargically thinking "is there any rocky road ice cream left in the freezer because this seems as good a time as any to get a bowl" or (in my case) wishing it were The Knack's Doug Fieger bemoaning the temperature and asking for the removal of clothes.
Well, "Damn!" Sophie, sounding like that, you should've been wishing for something other than to be my lover -- something like the ability to sing in tune, perhaps. And you looked like your song's lyrics should have been "I wish I could afford new clothes." Weren't you just oh, so bohemian in your raggedy jeans with the blown out backside and your bare feet. And "Damn!" She wished she could win votes by doing a partial strip tease. I suppose that was to distract us from her singing, much like the black formal she donned later to cover Five for Fighting's "100 Years" while giving the microphone stand a sensual massage. I think was willing to try anything to make us tune out her voice.
The "Word Up" is that Cameo's lead singer still wears a flaming red nut-protector on stage. And I know you won't believe this is possible, but I think these guys are even gayer than they were in the 80s. Fagarama-ding-dong will always win extra points from me! Oh, the gayness! There should have been a warning to put on sunglasses before they came on stage to protect our eyes from the flames. When I heard they'd be covering Bowling for Soup's "1985," I was a little worried that even the gay gay gayness couldn't save them, but the funkification of that song worked for me. Thank you, Cameo. That's what covering a song is about: taking a song and making it your own.
Mr. Jones, sir, I simply must insist that you are to blame. Did you think that all that "wild" you did to your hair back in the 80s would have no consequence? Looking at your brittle, translucent, old-man hair made me want to swear off using red dye. I think picking a song that left you sitting behind a piano was a good idea. You sounded fine and weren't plagued by the breathlessness so many of the performers exhibit when they try to dance and look lively on stage. However, the fact that you pulled the same stunt for your cover of "White Flag" by Dido bugs me. I don't know why; it just seemed cheap or something, but I suspect coming across as a tired old guy is better than trying to take on something that takes more energy than you have. So for song choice I give you an 7, performance a 6, and hair a 0 (cutting what you've managed to save into a short, wimpy pseudo-mohawk didn't help your score).
Oh, whatever, Irene. I think I cared less about your performance than I did about The Motel in a previous episode. It's not that you sounded bad -- it's just . . . when you sang, "What a feeling!" I thought, "What feeling? You've left me completely blank." The fact that you brought the rest of your current band with you (including what looked like 4 additional vocalists) to do your cover song did stir up a feeling in me, however. It was the feeling of wanting to toss you off the stage. I'll accept backup singers, but other people to help with the lead vocals and take the pressure of you? Get the heck off the stage.
In the third and possibly final installment of the show, the best word to describe the performances overall is "disappointing". Wang Chung was ok with their classic track of the same name, but nothing moving. Sophie B. Hawkins sounded quite weak on her track "Damn, I wish I Was Your Lover", and later was boring with her swing club version of Five For Fighting's "100 Years". Cameo was, well, Cameo. Howard Jones stole the night with terrific performances, starting with his classic "No One Is To Blame" and following it with an extraordinary remake of Dido's mega-hit "White Flag". Irene Carra went last in both sets, singing "What A Feeling" from Flashdance and then bringing out her new band "The Caramels" to perform a song first recorded by artist Anastacia. Both performances were nothing to write home about. However the audience inexplicably voted Irene the winning artist of the night. Perhaps the sound was better live than on TV in her performances.
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