Prom Balloons

Derivative Boy Next Door Does Good!

Nineteen-year-old Manhattanite Peter Cincotti just doubled Diana Krall's record sales, becoming Billboard's top trad-jazz seller of the moment. He burst into national consciousness recently with performances on Late Night With Conan O'Brien, CNN Headline News, and Today, as well as features in People, USA Today, and The Washington Post. Hmm.

Nothing wrong with success. But there's something pernicious about achieving it through airbrushed swing, deceptively tooled mass-marketing, and helium-balloon rides through TV land, under the guise of strong adolescence. Not to mention:

1. Easy-to-swallow music empty of nutrients. Code Orange has frightened us into parenting the boy next door, whose retro-cool aesthetic falsifies Frank Sinatra's swagger via Harry Connick's crooning, by regurgitating both rather than examining either's implications. On "I Changed the Rules" on his debut album, Cincotti plunks at the piano with a detached stiffness that's more arthritic than aggressive. On "Ain't Misbehavin'," he stretches syllables into self-ridiculing caricatures. And on "Lovers, Secrets, and Lies," he musters a mild vibrato that betrays his talents, which do include natural breeziness, but which become diluted in his lukewarm mix of mild counterpoint and forced syncopation.

2. Celebrities dig him. Chevy Chase clicked him smiles during the NYC CD release party, which had TV cameras just like the ones at the L.A. release party, where Joe Pesci clicked him winks.

3. Photographs. In every shot, he tilts his head down to convey humility (falsehumility, given that he invited Jennifer Love Hewitt to his prom by calling her publicist, who sent balloons), crumples his forehead to affect curiosity (though he presumes total knowledge of Connick's trade), and sports a tie loosely around his neck to imply approachability (despite the Concord executives stapled to his side at public affairs). He also wears suspenders.

 
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