Three For The Weekend is a feature where we highlight noteworthy examples of long-form music writing and mixes for you to take with you this weekend.
Wimpy White Dudes With Guitars Ruined American Idol, by Maura Johnston
It’s tempting to argue that Kelly Clarkson, the show’s first winner and certainly the victor with the most sympathetic record-company woes, is the quintessential Idol candidate, and that the show should have self-destructed the moment her celebratory confetti fell. She had a great up-from-Texas backstory and even better pipes; putting the entire AI machinery behind her would have been an effective mic drop for the show’s mission to find the next global pop star. (“We did it, cheers, thanks a lot, goodbye.”) But even if it was all downhill from there, those first few seasons, when the show was still getting its sea legs while also enjoying its blockbuster status, are fun to revisit. The also-rans—Ryan Starr, Bo Bice, LaToya London—don’t have the social media-honed polish of modern-day contestants, and actual chemistry blossoms between the judges and the host. Mastermind Simon Cowell was surly, but he hadn’t crossed over to being tan and smug; Paula Abdul was dippy, but seemed to be having a good time; Randy Jackson was the knowing session man not yet reduced to a series of “dawg”-centric catchphrases. And Ryan Seacrest was, well, Ryan Seacrest, growing more self-assured with each post-elimination tear that seeped into his suit jackets.
But then we get to 2006, and season five’s strange, portentous case of Taylor Hicks.
Pop Music Catches Up to Shamir, by Jon Carmanica
“Before this,” he said, “people used to make fun of the music that I did. They used to make fun of my voice. Now it’s a thing that people talk about.”
That voice is one of the things that sets Shamir apart — high-pitched but not reed-thin, rhythmic but distant, emotionally ambiguous. Sometimes he sounds like he’s been caught on tape accidentally while musing to himself.
B. B. King, Defining Bluesman for Generations, Dies at 89, by Tim Weiner
B. B. King, whose world-weary voice and wailing guitar lifted him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to a global stage and the apex of American blues, died on Thursday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 89.