I Wish I Knew How To Quit You, Elliott YaminBy David K. / Wednesday, May 24th, 2006
Preferring to do neither, the boyfriend and I skipped the battle of the dullards. We will, however, TIVO tonight’s finale because Elliott Yamin is scheduled to perform with the new Queen of Soul, Mary J. Blige — Fuckin’ A, E!
Yesterday my bitter mood regarding Elliott’s ouster finally lifted. I got sane and started to rethink things — to reevaluate the play of the Fates. Soon a lot of silver linings began to sparkle through the cloud cover, and I began to feel that my boy pulled off the best of all possible outcomes for himself. He matured as a man, deepened as a vocalist, earned a gigantic fan base, and, by placing third, escaped the clutches of the vampiric Clive Davis and the draconian contract from American Idol‘s 19 Management. All of that made me happy. Which made me reflect on all of the qualities I came to appreciate about Elliott Yamin throughout the competition.
Here then are 10 Reasons Why I Love Elliott Yamin and why I’ll remember him long after this season of Idol fades to blah.
1. Although I’ve never doubted his gentlemanly, self-effacing demeanor, I’m also astute enough to know a self-possessed soul when I see one. Early on when Simon Cowell announced that Yamin was potentially the show’s best singer ever, I knew that Yamin, despite his surprise, knew that the statement was true. Sure Elliott could be nervous and skittish on stage, but he was also powerfully persistent with his vision for himself as an artist and as a music aficionado. And that combination of contradictory traits made him a fascinating spectacle. Watching Elliot perform paid me back tenfold for the time I devoted to Idol this year.
2. Abracadabra. Yamin transformed himself right before our eyes. It’s one of the central reasons people are fascinated with Idol, and Yamin delivered Ugly Duckling excitement big time. Remember the dorky, Amish-looking guy bookended between the obnoxious Brittenum Twins at the very beginning of the Hollywood tryouts? Now check out the swan of a guy in the photo that opens this entry. Hot.
3. Despite all the blatant pimping the Idol producers contrived for the other contestants — light shows, fire bombs, dry ice, and stage-prop guitarists and fiddlers — Yamin, with the sheer power of his vocals, managed to beat the odds and climb to a third-place win on a show that seemed rigged against him.
Even worse, in a kind of Shakespearean mind-fuck, Elliot seemed to connive at his own downfall. On the night of his final performance, the one that got him booted from the show, his delivery was enervated and off the mark — two qualities you never associate with a Yamin performance. In the past the guy knew how to make even the shittiest songs work. But aware of the contractual lock-hold of a first or second-place win, he dimmed his dazzle and deliberately challenged the audience with an unfamiliar song — Ray Charles’ I Believe To My Soul — that just so happened to lyrically lay it on the line for the show’s producers: “I say I believe right now/Well I believe to my soul now/Youâ€™re trying to make a fool of me (I believe it, I believe it)”
This was great fucking showbiz folks!
4. He told Clive Davis – the original occupant of Dr. Caligari’s cabinet — to go fuck himself.
We’ll sort of. It’s been said that Davis openly disapproved of the artistic decisions Yamin made for himself on the final three sing-offs. And Yamin directly ignored Davis’ advice regarding the Ray Charles song he chose for himself. In what seems to be retaliation, Davis offered consolation recording contracts to Paris Bennett and Chris Daughtry — but not Elliot. With Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee already guaranteed albums, this felt like an attention-getting snub against Yamin.
But praise Jehovah. Yamin’s been spared the soul-raping, misguided efforts that the near braindead, trapped-in-a-time-warp Davis foisted on Ruben Studdard and Bo Bice. Ruben’s sweet, soulful style was shoved into an ill-fitting hip hop matrix, while Bo Bice was similarly misaligned. Under Davis’ expert guidance, Bice went from a Lynyrd Skynyrd-lovin’ country guy into a Van Halen-lite “rocker” — for the Pepsi Generation (a demographic that was big back in Clive’s 70s heyday.)
5. Class. As in classy. Elliott’s ability to convey substance over style allowed him to do what great artists always do: transcend barriers. Yamin’s dynamic, soulful singing crossed racial barriers, age barriers, religious barriers and cultural barriers. Everyone dug him.
6. He brought intelligent articulation to prime time television. Listening to Yamin express himself in interviews I was always struck by his vocabulary. He actually used words with four and five syllables. Often in the same sentence. People, this doesn’t happen much on television today unless you’re watching Charlie Rose. He also had a knack for sounding casual and sincere at the same time. A gift usually distinct to people who are more concerned with telling the truth than blowharding and making an impression.
7. He has a great relationship with his mom. Watching their interaction, throughout the show, made me think about how much I love and appreciate my mom. And that’s a good thing to remember from time to time.
8. Elliott made it OK for guys to cry. He openly shed tears on and off the Idol stage. And so did I. I cried when he came out and blew the roof off the theater with his rendition of Donny Hathaway‘s A Song For You — having finally nailed his Idol “moment.” And I cried when he lost to Katharine McScreech by what seemed to be just several thousand votes (out of nearly 50 million) last week.
9. With his sharp self-appraisal, Yamin made soul growth look like something that wasn’t always easy but was definitely worth it. That kind of inspiration is hard to come by nowadays. “Before the contest started,” Yamin explained in an interview, “I was lost, still trying to find my way as a human being, as an employee, all of the above. I have grown a lot in confidence. Iâ€™ve accomplished what I set out to do. Iâ€™ve actually followed through with something in my life. Iâ€™m a better man for it.” And he never mentioned God’s plan or Jesus.
10. I’ve a new musical artist to be excited about and look forward to. And finally it’s a fucking guy. Friends have grown weary hearing me complain about the sparkless, neutered sound of most male singers: Whining, put-upon, and disconnected from the body below their neck. Where are the men?
Yamin’s sound is the exact opposite. He occupies his body and sings with a force that is mesmerizing and inspiring. Too, I love his love of music, his historical knowledge of styles and modes. And his respect of lineage — all of those fantastic vocal stylists that have come before him.
I’m predicting great things from Elliot Yamin, maybe even monumental. Something different from what we’ve come to expect from the slicked-to-death Idol franchise: Some real heart and soul — real music. Doesn’t that sound great?
Say “yes”… like Yamin it!
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