Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

American Idol & the butchering of Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On'

Brief thoughts on last night's butchering of "What's Going On" by Mr. Jermaine Sellers:

Attention singers of Earth! Please, please, please, do not try to do Marvin Gaye. I once heard it said that you should never do Marvin Gaye at karaoke because, as good as you are, you ain't Marvin, and those words have never been truer than they were on last night's American Idol as Jermaine Sellers murdered Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On."

Jermaine's failure:

The judges' comments:

As Simon notes, this is one of the all time great songs, and you don't need to screw around so much with the arrangement. (Leave Marvin alone!)

Check out the greatness of the original:

Related story: 'Idol' judges give male semifinalists praise


Comic book icon Stan Lee guest stars on 'The Big Bang Theory'

I still haven't managed to check meeting Stan Lee off my list of life goals, but I did love his appearance last night on CBS's "The Big Bang Theory," quite possibly the geekiest sitcom on network television.

One other great thing about "The Big Bang Theory" is that it's thoroughly centered in Pasadena, with local landmarks often getting discussed. The show centers on three physicists and an engineer who work at Pasadena's Caltech, along with their bubbly neighbor Penny who works at The Cheesecake Factory.

It's filled with inside references for the geeks in the audience, while still telling compelling, heartfelt stories. It's also fun to have a television show less centered around pretty people than the majority of network fare. The characters can be a bit abrasive to begin with, but their quirks quickly become endearing.


Sen. Scott Brown's daughter Ayla Brown's new EP

Bringing together two current cultural motifs, Ayla Brown, 21-year-old daughter of new Republican Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, NCAA basketball player, and former American Idol contestant (top 16!), just released a new EP. Her first single is "Pick It Up."

Her association with Scott Brown helped lead to several appearances on Fox News, including this Web exclusive acoustic performance of the song "No More":

As a longtime American Idol fan, I enjoyed her appearance on the show and was rooting for her until she got voted off. I've yet to pick any favorites this year; has anyone caught your eye in the remaining 20 Idol hopefuls?

Finally, Ayla Brown's American Idol appearance, performing "Reflection" by Christina Aguilera:

Link: American Idol
Link: Ayla Brown's American Idol profile page


Haiti and the return of the charity single

The tragedy caused by the Haiti earthquake has led to a resurgence of a pop culture phenomenon we've seen far less of in recent years - the charity single. Last year's American Idol winner Kris Allen got in the act last night with a stirring rendition of "Let It Be," along with video footage of his trip to Haiti, with proceeds going to benefit Haiti relief efforts. They also announced the return of Idol Gives Back on April 21st, raising money for a variety of charities.

We've also seen the return of one of the classic charity singles, "We Are The World," updated with new artists for 2010, as well as a cover version of "Everybody Hurts" put together by American Idol producer Simon Cowell with a more European-flavored collection of artists.

There was also the excellent Hope For Haiti concert featuring artists like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Taylor Swift and many others.


Time running out for Bukowski postage stamp

Time is running out for fans of the late Charles Bukowski who were hoping to gather 10,000 signatures and have the U.S. Postal Service issue a postage stamp in his honor.

The online petition kindly reminds the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee that Bukowski is the Post Office’s second most popular former employee, after Benjamin Franklin.

In fact, the petition language describes Bukowski’s novel, “Post Office,” as a “wry portrait of the inner workings of the service where he was employed through age 49.” (Insert laugh track here). That’s kind of like calling “Apocalypse Now” a touching melodrama about U.S. foreign policy.

The drive will end March 1, and to date nearly 800 supporters have signed the petition. Eight hundred? Eight hundred is a pretty paltry number considering that Bukowski enjoys international fame, a plethora of imitators, and has several profiles and fan pages on Facebook that total over 150,000 fans. Even Hank Chinaski, his alter ego and the protagonist of “Post Office,” has a profile.