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OK, kiddies, pop quiz time: Anthony Fedorov's performance of "I Surrender" holds the all-time record in the WhatNotToSing.com database in a certain unusual category. See if you can guess what it is.
Dressed smartly in a gray suit jacket and an open-collared shirt, Fedorov spent the first 45 seconds of the performance seated on the edge of the stage. He stood up halfway through but otherwise remained in one place, concentrating on the vocals (though his habit of switching the microphone from hand to hand frequently was noted with annoyance by some reviewers.) The judges gave him generally positive reviews. Randy noted that the opening low notes were shaky but the high ones were strong, and Simon, while not a fan of the song, credited Fedorov for presenting it well.
Give up on the quiz? Sorry, we're not divulging the answer just yet. Keep reading.
What We Thought
We'll get the negatives out of the way first. Fedorov's eyes followed the ever-moving camera much too much for our liking, particularly in the early part of the song. And, yes, the hot-potato act with the microphone was distracting too. Are we nitpicking? Perhaps, but we viewers pick up on the contestants' idiosyncrasies early on, and they can go from endearing to tiring in an awful hurry.
That said, we thought that once Fedorov got past the first few bars, he sang the heck out of this song. The arrangement was right in his sweet spot, and the theatrical nature of the music fit his stage persona beautifully. The Idolsphere rated it as his finest performance, and while we might give that title to If You Don't Know Me By Now, we can't quibble too much. This should've scored in the low 70s, we'd say.
OK, ready for the quiz answer? "I Surrender" holds the record for the highest-rated performance by a male contestant singing a song associated solely with a female artist or artists. Don't shrug this off as an idle curiosity either, particularly if you're a guy with Idol aspirations, because here are the cold hard numbers:
In Seasons Two through Six, there were 16 such performances in competition, only two of which rated as high as 4-stars. (Constantine Maroulis's version of I Can't Make You Love Me was the other, coming in at 61.) Ten received either 1-star or 2-stars. Six of the 16 contestants were sent home the next night; five others (including Fedorov here) had to sweat out the Bottom 3. Furthermore (and although this is purely a subjective assessment on our part), if you take away a couple of Sanjaya Malakar's debacles, most of the performances on this list appear noticeably underrated to us, perhaps by 5 to 8 points on average.
What's the reason? Judging by some reviewers' comments, it's considered unmanly or worse in some circles for men to sing women's songs. If you find this attitude to be ignorant, sexist, Neanderthal, maybe even a bit homophobic, we'd say you probably have a point. But, we trade in facts at WhatNotToSing.com, and the facts are that Idol guys have not fared well historically when cross-singing. We're planning an in-depth feature analysis on this subject in the summer of 2008, in which we'll also cover the cases when female contestants sang male-associated songs (historically, they have rated far better). For the time being, we leave it to contestants and readers to decide upon the implications.