Have to say I was always kind of glad American Idol had been a Beatle free zone. As a life long Beatle fan, it did my heart good that there was somebody out there saying no to Fox's crazy popular karaoke party.
Alas, as George Harrison once said, all things must pass. Idol finalists got to warble John Lennon and Paul McCartney favorites for the first time ever last week. Tonight, the 11 remaining competitors get to tackle the Fab Four one more time.
It was inevitable this would happen. Boomer Idol has been about twentysomethings singing 40-year-old songs for five years. They've burned through every Beach Boy and Motown standard they could get. Songs were just constructed better back then was executive producer Nigel Lythgoe's response to the perpetual, "Why all the oldies?" question. "We're a TV audience, not a record buying audience," he maintained.
Still, Lythgoe and the others knew the Holy Grail has always been that sacred Beatle catalogue.
Lythgoe was pretty frank about the Beatle boycott in the past, suggesting that he'd heard that Paul McCartney hated the show and didn't want his songbook tarnished. "Some writers will say we don't want anybody who sucks singing our songs," he admitted.
Sir Paul's opinion did not matter, however--the ex-Beatle hasn't held the rights to those old songs for decades. All the Idol producers ever had to do to get their Beatle fix was pony up. But they didn't want to set the precedent for paying one artist more than anther, sticking to a "favored nations" stance that paid everybody the same. "What makes The Beatles bigger songwriters than Carole King?" Lythgoe stated in 2005. "You'll always be chasing your tail when somebody wants more money."
Still, Idol, where ratings had slumped for the first time this year, had to eventually move past KC and the Sunshine Band. Lythgoe told Ryan Seacrest on the Idol host's radio talk show in February that the deal finally went through because the finalists are better singers this year. Lythgoe said that the right's holders, "see that it's real talent, and hear it. Everyone's so good this season, that they're saying, 'Yeah, go ahead. Sing the songs.'"
Plus, well, there were rumors that Michael Jackson--who still owns a piece of the Beatle catalogue, although nobody knows how much anymore--had to sell his Neverland ranch, and, well, All You Need Is Cash.
McCartney, of course, has other matters on his mind these days, including the $48 million divorce settlement just reached with his ex-wife Heather Mills. Think about that--that is more than what it would have cost McCartney to buy back his Beatle songbook 20 years ago. Instead, Michael Jackson snapped up the rights, then had to relinquish at least half of that investment to Sony/ATV Music Publishing when he spent and diddled his way out of his fortune.
The Idol producers were finally able to reach a deal with Sony/ATV--leaving McCartney helpless to stop the music. If he had only invested his money in his own music instead of Mills--well, he's still doing just fine, thanks.
Last week, some of the Idol finalists worked Beatle magic, while others did not pass the audition. Carly Smithson (singing "Come Together"). Brooke White ("Let It Be"), David Cook ("Eleanor Rigby") and Chikezie ("She's a Woman") drew praise from the judges, with Simon Cowell applauding Smithson in particular for finally choosing the right song.
Booting his Beatle test was pole dancer David Hernandez, who got tossed last week after messing up "I Saw Her Standing There."
Last week's Beatle Idol drew a shade under 30 million, a jump in viewership this season and a testament to the staying power of both Idol and The Beatles.
Then again, The Beatles seem more popular today than ever. It was interesting to see the reaction of Beatle contemporaries to Julie Taymor's Across The Universe when it opened last September. The Toronto Star's Peter Howell hated it, ranting that it seemed like it was made by, and aimed at, people who never got the Beatles the first go 'round.
Well, exactly. My teens couldn't wait to see the movie and loved the way the songs were interpreted for the millennium generation. I thought it was cool how oldies like I Wanna Hold Your Hand were given a brave new same sex spin. You Never Give Me Your Money and Dear Prudence were other Across The Universe highlights.
I'll tune in tonight to see if any of the surviving Idol contestants can dare to try and make a Beatle standard their own to the extent that Across The Universe did. Somebody please sing Baby You're A Rich Man and dedicate it to Simon Cowell.