On last night’s American Idol, high-note rocking rocker James Durbin blended art with commerce with his hair-raising rendition of Muses’ “Uprising.” It was the first time anyone attempted the Brit rock group’s music on the program, and with good reason; very few could pull it off, and fewer still would want to. Muse’s sound is more Radiohead than Coldplay, with a bit of Queen and sci-fi theatricality mixed in for good measure. They’re too dark to be overly commercial friendly, but too catchy to be ignored.
As it turned out, Durbin, a 22-year-old Californian who suffers from Tourettes and Asperger Syndrome, can sing “Uprising” about as good as Muse singer Matthew Bellamy can, giving everyone chills and causing the judges to salute him. Dressed like a goth vampire from the future, Durbin took the stage with a cadre of drummers in marching band outfits, who later flanked J. Lo, Steven and Randy, no doubt freaking them out a little. Durbin added his own special sauce to the chorus, taking it an octave higher than the original version, hitting notes that Robert Plant would struggle with on his best day. Later, Durbin explained that the octave jump was a challenge laid out for him by Bellamy himself.
“I think that’s the highest we’ve ever heard you sing,” gushed Lopez, and, as is customary for him, Randy added, “Muse is one of my favorite bands” (Randy has a lot of favorite bands.) But what about the lyrics? (“They will not force us/they will stop degrading us/They will not control us/We will be victorious.”) Was Durbin suggesting the talented contestants — six of whom came back, including Nashville’s Paul McDonald, to sing again, reinvented as attitude-sporting rock stars in black leather — rally against the evil judges and Ford and those who would reject them, and vote them off their island of dreams?
An actual uprising on American Idol would be a glorious thing to watch.