Idol musings - Page 2

Pop and popularity

11 before his or her live moment with Timby (who seems to be surfing the trend of recent celeb breakups right into In-N-Out).

Among the oodles of original video submissions are entries from Bay Area–esque finalists Jayne Rio of Vallejo, Mandy Ventrice of Pittsburg, and Philip Ray, formerly of Oakland. I asked the 28-year-old Ray, a graphic designer now living in Los Angeles, last week about his simultaneously unusual and mundane clip, in which he fluidly multitasks behind the wheel, driving through a medley of Whitney Houston and other Grammy-winning songs (the branding never sleeps). "It was a time thing," he 'fessed. "I knew a deadline was approaching, and I have a tiny camera. I was on the way to El Pollo Loco, and I thought it would be a different way to approach it. That was my effort to make me stand out — most people sing in cars, so I thought ... people would relate to it."

The son of Rev. Dr. CJ Anderson, who Ray says staged numerous musical events to raise money for the needy in the Bay Area, the contestant recalled catching benefit concerts at Pete Escovedo's club until he moved south in 1996. Nowadays he writes songs and dreams of developing community centers that will cultivate unsigned vocalists and musicians. Praising Timberlake for the "way he navigated his career" and citing "Losing My Way" as his favorite JT song, the earnest Ray isn't petrified by the possibility of working his wiles on a Grammy mob of pros. "It's my ultimate dream. Aside from just being hungry for the opportunity, I think I'm going to try to use any opportunity to carve out a career as successful as Justin Timberlake's."

Maybe I listened to too much punk as a tot, but as amiable as Ray is, that sort of bald careerism — as much a part of American Idol as actual performance — gives my perhaps rockist-tinged heart pause. I know pop has other uses beyond validating my romantic notion of self-sabotaging, autodestructing, doo-doo-dappling antistars, and American Idol and "My Grammy Moment" may be opening the playing field to new voices, but how fresh can it all be, given the validating arena they're competing in? When I see, for instance, Big Boi, Elliott, Devendra Banhart, Prince, Thurston Moore, the Wu-Tang Clan, and Radiohead fill the judges' shoes full-time, I'll climb back on the couch. *

Also from this author

  • Women with movie cameras

    Cheers to CAAMFest's crop of female Asian American film directors

  • Spiking the box office

    THE YEAR IN FILM: Looking back at a triumphant year for African American films

  • Not from around here

    French synth-pop giants Phoenix and Daft Punk tap into the alien within

  • Also in this section

  • Peace-out

    After seven rockin' years, Sonic Reducer bids adieu with a look back at some choice musical moments

  • Feel the 'Love

    Rosily buzzing U.K. outfit the Big Pink gets it, Carly Simon and all

  • Sly 'n' sincere

    Don't confuse this Brit with Britney. Plus: Midlake and Barn Owl and Daniel Higgs