I come to bury Paul McDonald, not to praise him.
The manic drunk chicken dancing and thin croaky singing that men do lives after them;
The high wattage smile and Mariachi-inspired outfits are oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Paul. The noble AI voters
Hath told you Paul was quirky, fun, different:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Paul answer'd it.
Here, under leave of the AI voters who finally grew sick of the shtick.
(Apologies to any Shakespeare fans out there)
I promised a eulogy of Paul, so here goes. Paul McDonald came to American Idol a twenty-six-year-old with a dream. The lead singer and guitarist of the band Grand Magnolias, tired of peddling their records and tired of the grind of trying to be discovered in the music industry, took his unconventional voice to an AI audition and made it all the way to eighth place on Season 10 of American Idol. Prior to being on AI, Paul had recorded three albums, had a website where he sold merchandise, including a replica T-shirt of one of the gaudy outfits he later wore on AI, and had been touring with his current band and their earlier incarnation, Hightide Blues, for years. Not taking the hint, he decided that all he needed was wider exposure. But after making it to the top 13 of American Idol, he ended up the first male contestant eliminated.
That's about all the neutral material I can handle. If you've read any of my prior recaps on this season you know that I'm not a Paul McDonald fan. I've been wanting to see him gone since his first opened his mouth and croaked something only faintly resembling notes while gyrating insanely around the stage. Finally, that moment came.
I did not have the courage of my conviction following the performances Wednesday night to come out and predict Paul as the first male on whom the hammer would fall this season. The closest I came was saying: "No, I'm pretty sure it's Paul. He went first and he was awful, even on the Paul scale." But could Mr. Toad's Wild Ride really be over so soon? No. If the AI voters kept him over Pia and Thia and other talented women whose names don't rhyme, he had to have at least a few more lives left in him, I assumed. I'm sure there were more insane sartorial choices waiting to be unveiled. Maybe he had his own suit made of raw meat like Lady Gaga? Who knew what else might be lurking in his clothes closet of horror? The man never met a rhinestone he didn't want festooned all over him. So that would keep him around longer than he deserved, I figured.
But, finally, the audience realized that Paul's story was the opposite of the Emperor's New Clothes. The outfits were real, it was his vocal talent that was illusory. True, he managed to fool them for a while, but it was just a matter of time before his high octane antics, the outfits that Cee Lo Green might call "too much" and the sloshed gyrating, failed to hide the obvious flaws with his voice.
I have to give the guy credit. Paul was smart. Go with your strength. And for Paul it was never his singing. What Paul had in abundance was crazy. Crazy outfits, crazy dance moves, crazy vocal choices, crazy hair, crazy white teeth. He put on a show that was one part Vegas off-the-strip, one part multi car pileup, and one part One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest. Stir with a swizzle stick. Paul is an entertainer and, from the messages I've received, there are actually -- no, hang in here, I know it's going to be hard to believe, but I'm not lying to you -- fans of his who are sorry to see him go.
I know. More crazy, right?
I've tried and put myself in their shoes and it's a tight fit (and not just because I have Italian feet that would be great for grape stomping, not so much for high heels). What I saw as desperate, they saw as exuberant. The whisper thin, shaky vocals that made me run for the Chloraseptic to try and help the poor guy, they heard as inspired. He was Rod Stewart, they'd say. I'd answer with maybe Rod Stewart's asthmatic, strep throat infected, "special" cousin. Sometimes strained, sometimes reedy, sometimes raspy and always pitchy, I would have thought this was a voice only a grandmother could love (and read the interview with his grandmother where she confesses to being the one who told him he could sing). But, no, he does have many fans out there.
His defenders would tell me, he has nodules on his vocal chords, that's why he sounds so hoarse. To which I'd reply, A ha! So I'm right about his voice being awful. You're just giving me the anatomical explanation. How then to explain why the judges NEVER MENTIONED anything was off about his voice? Why then continue to defend what my ears are hearing? And, if this is true, then why does every pre-Idol video I see of Paul have him sound exactly the same?
Paul is probably a really nice guy. He might even be a good songwriter and musician. If I try and ignore his vocals, some of the video I've heard of his pre-Idol original music isn't half bad. But, and I'm sorry to invoke the dreaded Simon Cowell here, this is still (if only now in part) a singing competition and I could not ignore what my ears hear. And, mercifully, the AI voters finally couldn't either.
Paul's official site: http://www.thepaulmcdonald.com/
Grand Magnolia's YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/thegrandmagnolias