Last night's Primetime Emmy Awards felt more like a 3-hour memorial despite many (ineffective) musical comedy numbers to lighten the mood. (Comedians should really reconsider the outworn Billy Crystal approach to hosting events. Not to mention the AARP choreography.) Yet surprisingly, senior musical vagabond Elton John took the cake as the least effective performer of them all.
During what could only be considered as a half-baked tribute to Liberace, Elton John's uninspired performance could not even be rescued by the 'background vocalist' student choir, which was carefully directed to cover all the notes he can no longer reach. The song Home Again had nothing to do with the lugubriously closeted Mr. Candelabra, despite the futile efforts to make it so. A typical Elton John approach that had its best day with Empty Garden (a tribute to John Lennon) and its worst day when a rushed version of yet another tribute -- Candle In The Wind for Marilyn Monroe -- metamorphasized into its zombie rendition with Goodbye England's Rose; a musically/lyrically deplorable Princess Diana sob-fest.
No one disputes Elton John's success. Although the title 'Sir' only makes him sound like a wax museum piece, John's impact on popular music is tremendous. His successful writing collaborations also led him to major Broadway acceptance. Where Elton John falls short -- possibly due to his insecure tantrums that block any kind of constructive feedback from his unctuous entourage -- is that he can no longer sing. Period. Spoiler alert: Voices give out at some point due to aging.
Another one of his contemporaries, Tina Turner, retired after her last tour in 2009. In an unprecedented interview with Oprah Winfrey, she said that she could no longer hit 'those high notes' and her high blood pressure became an obstacle in giving a world of fans what they were used to seeing: A mind-blowing song-and-dance goddess who can rock it like nobody's business. This candid revelation was not a sad moment for Turner. She loves her retirement and basks in her glorious success story unlike other performers who cling to the stage only to fall flat on their 'living-legend' faces.
Age does not need to be an obstacle, but it does need to be managed well when it comes to musical performances. It is a fact that no matter how long one tries to sustain physical vigor, there is a time to put things in perspective. Elton John, who is still a phenomenal piano player, has always been plagued with being 'current' as a vocal performer. His awkward collaboration with 'lyrically' homophobic Eminem, his deconstruction of a hit collaborative effort with Kiki Dee through Don't Go Breaking My Heart with (of all the possible contenders) RuPaul, his appearance with Lady Gaga as her drag-monster-grandfather at the Grammys, his relentless criticism of Madonna for using vocal tracks in her (still mind-blowing) dance performances made our solipsistic Elton John look like a desperate attention junkie; his ongoing addiction problem to which there seems to be no cure.
He truly does not need to do anything else as a performer; Elton John is a phenomenal composer with songs like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Madman Across The Water along with countless other classics. He was -- and is -- an admirable philanthropist; especially with regard to AIDS causes. However, before tarnishing the pseudonymous Elton John's legendary status any further, Reginald Dwight has to refer to Anna Mae Bullock: It is time to acknowledge that just like the faded Captain Fantastic coat he wore at the Emmys, it's no use to pretend we are still living in the 70's. There is a better way to leave the performance stage with some dignity and grace. Timely exits are much better than being a televised caricature of past glories.
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