Friday, April 15, 2005

Bo Knows – But Does He Care Enough?

Have you ever cared about someone with a problem who was deep in denial? No matter how much you try to help him change, you cannot force him to address or even acknowledge the problem. He has to want to change at least as much as you want him to or it will never happen.

That is the stalemate in which I find myself as a Bo Bice fan. When Wednesday night’s voting results placed Bo shockingly in the bottom three, he acted like it was no big deal. He actually shrugged off his American Idol experience as a bet he made with his mother.

Does he not remember LaToya London? You know, the AI3 contestant who sustained a self-inflicted wound when she shot off her mouth. Like Bo, she was an early front-runner lauded as a polished performer. Such a memory lapse is understandable since LaToya was voted off shockingly earlier than many of us expected – exactly one week after voting results placed her in the bottom three to which she flippantly responded by suggesting it was no big deal. Her attitude might or might not have suppressed votes from her loyal fans, but clearly it convinced the crucial remainder of the voting public that she was no big deal. Get it?

Since Wednesday I’ve been listening to some of Bo’s AI performances. On Drift Away and especially Spinning Wheel, two of his best, he was confident, charismatic and compelling. Both songs feature catchy pop melodies in his mid-range where he is strongest vocally. He seems not to fare as well with repetitive lyrics or bluesy lines that he tends to shout. Performing Spinning Wheel, the best showcase for his strengths thus far, he prowled the stage as if he owned it and growled like the king of the jungle.

Whatever he had then, it seems like he lost or forgot it. Randy Jackson thinks it is confidence. I suspect it is confidence, but his passion and desire also disappeared around the same time.

Maybe he bought into the Dueling Rockers gimmick. Last season the idiots-in-charge tried to sell us the Three Divas, but that ruse flopped almost immediately. The audience is smart enough to distinguish between Bo and Constantine Maroulis and, for that matter, Bo and all the others. To whatever degree Constantine is successful, it doesn’t come automatically at Bo’s expense.

Paula Abdul reminded the performers that the best among them do not have to collect the highest vote totals to earn a chance in the recording industry. Throughout the top 24 finals, Simon Cowell has shown more interest in signing both Bo and Carrie Underwood to contracts than their competitors and obviously no more than one of them can win the contest. Clay Aiken must be an amazing teacher to get Simon to learn the limited value of the AI victory.

Bo probably needs to stick around Idol-Land a few weeks longer if he wants a big league singing career and he definitely has to want it for himself at least as much as we want it for him. Otherwise, why would Simon or any of the Simons invest the considerable effort and capital it takes to make a hit in this age of free and cheap downloads?

Bo is the only one who knows if something changed. He is the only one who can change it back. Like any problem, you start by taking one step in the right direction. So, as Bo prepares for next Tuesday’s show, he should try to keep it simple.

At this stage, one performance alone may not win Bo the contest or that recording contract. One confident, compelling performance, however, will make potential fans like me want to vote and buy him another week in the competition. That is, if Bo wants to succeed at the American Idol game. Maybe he truly is as indifferent as his comments indicate. Or maybe, like Mario Vazquez, he has a different agenda.

Come Tuesday I’ll be taking my cue from Bo.

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