Thursday, March 26, 2009

American Idol Season 8
Top 10 Motown Week

We grew on classic Motown music, so we weren't particularly excited about this week's theme. Why? Because we feared this year's crop of singers wouldn't do justice to the music. And for the most part, we were right. In spite of mentor Smokey Robinson thinking this year's group is more special (well, they are, but in bad ways), than previous seasons, there were only two performances that shined and held their own. That the first belonged to Adam Lambert doesn't surprise us at this point. Though still over-theatrical, he is turning into this season's David Cook, crafting each performance very carefully and finding -- or inventing -- nontraditional versions of classic songs that become identifiable solely with him. Does anyone even doubt at this point that he is winning this competition, fer sure?

The night's other very pleasant surprise was Allison Iraheta. Not that we were surprised she could be burning hot -- we've been feeling her power for weeks. But because she earned and owned the week's pimp spot, plus sung a much-more recognizable song, we're hoping that the rest of the country is finally catching up on her incredible talent. That Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell had to steal some of her limelight by acting as children during her critique (more on that later) is inexcusable. But according to DialIdol.com, which places Allison second this week, the judges' escapades didn't seem to impact her phone calls as we feared they might.

Aside from a bunch of other mediocre-to-outright horrible performances, our biggest disappointment was the Motown artists on display. This was a group that encompassed Mary Wells, The Marvelettes, Jimmy Ruffin, The Four Tops, Tammi Terrell, The Spinners, The Isley Brothers and Gladys Knight, among so many others greats. Yet we heard three songs by The Temptations, two by Marvin Gaye, two by Smokey Robinson, and one each from The Supremes, Stevie Wonder and Martha and The Vandellas. Yes, they are all superstars, but we were hoping for more variation and, in some cases, a far better song selection.

Watch video of Motown restrospective and the Idols visiting Hitsville in Detroit

As with a number of this week's contestants, Matt Giraud sounded better in rehearsal with Smokey Robinson than he did during the actual live performance. We were hopeful about his choice of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." We agree with the judges that his shift from beginning at the piano and then doing the rest of the song standing is a nice change. But as the song progresses, we find it pitchy in parts and the falsettos not nearly as pure as they are at the beginning. The worst part is that it lacks the pure sensuality of the Gaye version, which gives us chills. We're not sure what ruins it for us, whether it is Matt's appearance (when singing and smiling he shows too much gum and his teeth are yellowish -- a smoker?) or that he just doesn't exude sexuality. We think it is just OK, and by the recap we realize we have forgotten the performance completely. Randy Jackson likes the run at the end and the strength of the falsetto, enough that he says that Matt is challenging the other boy front-runners for the top spot. Kara DioGuardi, who has to convert everything to sex, says, "I think there are a lot of girls out there saying, 'Yeeeeah, let's get it on. Let's do it.' " If they are, they're aren't saying it to Matt, heh. Kara also likes that Matt's losing his shyness and coming out of his shell, but would like him to push the envelope more. Paula, twisting her thoughts (what else is new?) says, "I'm glad that you're as comfortable behind the piano as you are coming out here," when she obviously means the obverse (after all, professionally Matt is a dueling piano player). She also says Matt has a sexy-cool vibe and that his riffing is tasteful, classy, spot-on and fits the melody. Simon calls it a brilliant choice of song, says it is a cool performance and that Matt's voice exactly suits that kind of song. He also reiterates what he said last week, that Matt is now one of the front-runners in the competition.

Watch video of Matt Giraud singing "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye

Simon had it right the week he called Kris Allen a puppy. He is sweet and pleasing, but lacks the soul to really give Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is" the oomph it needs. It tends toward the James Taylor version but isn't even that soulful. And sue us, but when Kris plays the guitar, he looks as if he is strumming way too fast and out of tempo with the song. It's becoming a distraction and as much of a crutch as the piano is for Scott. What's weird about Kris is that he has a good voice, but there is absolutely nothing distinctive about it. It sounds like a million other good voices. The performance has some moments, but overall we found it lackluster. And what was up with that shirt? It looked like something a military prisoner would wear. The judges, however, jump aboard the Kris Allen train. Kara thinks Kris put his mark on the song with different phrasing, different rhythms and riffs and did everything right. Paula thinks he picked a great song and that his personality is infectious. Simon says it was smart that Kris did his own version of the song but that he needs to believe in himself. Randy says Kris is now very consistent, has hit his zone and that he should keep his stride 'cause it's all good, baby. Yawn.

Watch video of Kris Allen singing "How Sweet It Is" by Marvin Gaye

Things go from bad to worse. The only soul that Scott MacIntyre possesses -- he is so refined that he makes Wonder Bread seem like a whole-grain product -- is in his fingers. He can really rattle those keys. But what comes out of his mouth still reminds us of dentist-office music. With the exception of his excellent piano skills, his version of The Supremes "You Can't Hurry Love" could be heard at any karaoke bar. And that he tried to make it inspirational by saying that he's a single guy and relates to the sentiments of the song was laughable. Fortunately, the judges for the most part are no longer looking at him and Megan through rose-colored glasses. Paula says Scott brings a whole new light to his performance by having the backup singers stand the piano. Apparently we're still in the dark. Simon makes us LOL when he begins with, "Oh dear. There was a line in song when you sang, 'How much more can you take.' " He continues with it wasn't a great version of the song, plus he hated the honky-tonk piano (we kinda liked it) and the backing singers, thinks it was the completely wrong song for Scott and that it was a bit "cheap." Randy calls it a very hotel kind of performance and says that Scott needs to start taking some risks ending with, "It was just average for me." Kara likes that Scott brought tempo to the song but doesn't like that he took liberties with the melody but didn't nail it, saying he had good ideas but bad execution.

Watch video of Scott MacIntyre singing "You Can't Hurry Love" by The Supremes

And just when we think we've heard the worst, the light at the end of the tunnel is the freight train. Barreling down that tracks is the train wreck named Megan Joy (Corkrey) singing Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life." For once in our life we wish we didn't have to listen. Our only question: How have the judges not heard how bad she is before this week? Her horrible phrasing because she has no understanding of the lyrics, her pitchiness. These are not new phenomenons. Yes, she's got an interesting tone to her voice (this, however, does not make her a great singer) and, yes, she's one of the most beautiful women we've ever laid eyes on (though we think it's a bit weird that she matches her dress to her arm tattoo every week). But we've suffered enough with her and Michael Sarver. Can't they both go home this week? Randy comes right out and declares it a train wreck. He says it was rushed and hectic and mad-crazy. Kara tells Megan she should have sung "My Guy." Why? So she could ruin Mary Wells for us, too? She also tells her she hit bad notes all over the place (as she does every week, Kara), the phrasing and rhythms were weird (and this is different from last week how?) and that the song dominated her instead of Megan dominating the song. Whatever. Paula starts with the kiss of death: "Your stunning beauty just takes my breath away. And the camera loves you." Pause. "But I'm gonna have to agree, this wasn't the right song for you." She tells Megan that she just didn't find the pocket and wasn't as comfortable as she normally is. Simon again resorts to, "Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear. Megan look, the good news is you look good, the bad news is it was horrible. And whoever is advising you, I would fire. Seriously. Because you're getting some really, really terrible advice. It was an atrocious song, it was a horrible arrangement and the vocals were just all over the place. And you know what? I think you could be in serious trouble after tonight's performance. I really hate to say that [WHY!!!!], but you really could be. Sorry." The only part of Simon's critique we didn't get was his regrets. Give her the hook!

Watch video of Megan Joy (Corkrey) singing "For Once in My Life" by Stevie Wonder

We take a break from the terrible for Anoop Desai, who brings sweet poignancy to Smokey's "Ooh Baby Baby," but also s-l-o-o-o-o-w-s it down so much, we can't wait for it to end. Yes, we'll take it over "My Perogative," any day, but Anoop really knocked it out of the park with last week's "Always on My Mind," and this didn't play quite as strong. Still, it was a good performance and reinforces his length of stay on the show. Kara says overall it was a hard song to sing and that Anoop did a pretty good job. But she wants him to be more creative with how he changes up the melodies. Paula says Anoop's phrasing, delivery and falsetto are not only spot-on but sweet and tender. Simon calls it a great vocal, but says Anoop looked like he was half-asleep throughout the song. He adds that Anoop has had two good weeks in a row. Randy wants Anoop to turn it back up next week and get the party on (sounds like the recipe for disaster Desai was previously adhering to). Jackson wants more energy with the great vocals, but says it was nice to hear him "croon and swoon."

Watch video of Anoop Desai singing "Ooh Baby Baby" by Smokey Robinson

We've officially had enough of Michael Sarver. We had a moment when we felt bad for him last week when his critiques were going badly, until he decided to sass back at the judges. And this week, during his post-performance interview, he pretty much tells Ryan Seacrest that as long as he's made the Top 10, it doesn't kill him that he might not have what it takes to go all the way. It doesn't matter whether the judges get him or not, as long as he stays true to himself. Then let him sing to himself. Though Simon still seems to have this man love for Sarver and his All-American virtues, on "Idol" his work ethic sucks. He's lazy and mouthy. He knows he can't win so he'd rather take the next eight weeks off and then join the tour where his payday is. The one small comfort we have is that he'll probably never get a recording deal. And if all that isn't bad enough, his version of The Temptations "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" is Las Vegas cheeeeezy. And what's with all the glad-handing with the mosh pit? You're hardly a star Sarver. Paula calls his performance Las Vegas loungy. Simon tells him that he couldn't wait for it to end because Michael was screaming and shouting the song. He adds that Michael has no chance of winning the competition with that type of vocal. Michael, of course, has to answer back, telling Simon he knew it wasn't going to be good, but he gave it 150 percent and wasn't playing games. Simon says he knows that Michael is a sincere guy (he is???), but he's just got to take the criticism for how it's meant. That it's supposed to help him. Randy thinks the song was too big for Sarver and that he made it a little bit corny because he was trying to do too much with it. Kara went off on her artistry rant again, which we've already heard at least three times this night.

Watch video of Michael Sarver singing "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" by The Temptations

We know that Lil Rounds is making a sincere effort to pay tribute to the ladies of Motown with her wig and flapper-fringe dress, but it somehow comes off as old-fashioned, costumy and almost patronizing. In that getup, the performance feels more like musical theater, as if Lil is treading into Adam Lambert territory. Though her voice is a breath of fresh air based on most of the acts that precede her, Rounds version of Martha and The Vandella's "Heatwave," -- an "Idol" kiss of death song -- sounds shouted and is way too fast and frenetic. It falls well short of being great. Randy calls the front of the song torture for him and says, "It just wasn't the right kind of song for me for you" and that she was rushing through the song. Kara tells her it wasn't the right song for her and that she was screaming in certain parts. Paula disagrees completely with Kara, saying that Lil made a classic song fresh without really changing anything. Simon says it was an authentic Motown tribute, but the song was the wrong choice because it didn't give her a "moment."

Watch video of Lil Rounds singing "Heatwave" by Martha and The Vandellas

Though we hated how Adam Lambert slicked back his hair with oily looking gel, looking like a Vegas Elvis for Smokey's "Tracks of My Tears," we absolutely loved what he did with the vocals. Smokey said he's heard many versions of the song, but none the way Adam sings it. Its irrelevant whether Lambert borrowed this unplugged version from someone else or arranged it himself, it is amazing either way. He has the "moment" that Simon was speaking about. It is like how we all held our breath as we listened to David Cook sing "Hello." It is standing O time all the way, With Smokey the first one up on his feet. Kara says, "I don't stand up a lot, but I've got to stand up for that." She then pulls a Paula (who is actually beginning to sound smart next to Kara), by saying, "I have just six words for you: 'One of the best performances of the night.'" Er, dear, that's eight words. But then, you think that an amazing singer can, ahem, sing the alphabet (instead of the phone book). Paula loves his handsome and classy look (no, it's oily), then says that Adam's exciting and "it." Simon says he's going to disagree with Kara, "because it was: the best performance of the night." Well, at least that's six words, ha! He ended with, "And you tonight really have emerged to me as a star. Congratulations." Randy calls it "Unbelievably hot. Da bomb tonight."

Watch video of Adam Lambert singing "Tracks of My Tears" by Smokey Robinson

There's a veneer of arrogance about Danny Gokey that we just can't get past. Tonight it exhibited itself in the video segment preceding Gokey's performance of The Temptations' "Get Ready." In rehearsal with Smokey, Danny didn't sing the ends of the verses, leaving it for the background singers. Robinson advises Danny that in order to strengthen his interpretation of the song, he needs to sing them, too. Danny says in the video, "At first I was like, 'Oh man, is that gonna work?' It is going to work, because he [Smokey Robinson] knows what he's talking about. And he's been in the industry way longer than I have. So I really trust him." Guess Danny lost that thought onstage, 'cause guess who decided not to sing the ends of the verses? Er, that would be Danny, who apparently reconsidered and decided he knew better than the man who's been in the business way longer than he has. It isn't the best of Danny's performances, but, as always, is solid and very energetic. Running short on time, Paula tells Danny he's undeniable, identifiable and always reliable on giving a first-class performance every week. Simon calls it "clumsy and amateurish." Randy says Danny's got a dope voice, that it isn't his best performance, but he loves the energy and feeling of it. Kara thinks it is good but not great, adding "but I'm still a huge Danny fan."

Watch video of Danny Gokey singing "Get Ready" by The Temptations

Last up is Allison Iraheta. Though Adam earned the pimp spot, Allison definitely held her own with a dynamic version of The Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." Please, we no longer need to hear "she's only 16," but the fact is she brought raw emotion and wisdom way beyond her years to the song. It was her best performance to date and showcased her growling vocals beautifully. The last note was amaaaazing. Randy calls her one of the dopest singers this season, saying "That was blazing hot." Kara says, "Oh ... My ... God! 16 years old and you were in the Bottom 3 last week? Whaaaaa? America, you've got to vote for her! Are you kidding? Amaaaazing. You sing like you've been singing for 400 years. That is from God, You can't teach that. Wooooo!" At this point the camera pulls back and we see that Simon is doing something to Paula's face. But what? Well, at the beginning of the show, Paula said if Simon was going to act like a child, she had something for him. She reached under the judges' table and came up with a coloring book and a box of Crayola crayons. Simon is now drawing a black mustache on Paula's face with a crayon. What a pair of idiots! Did either of them listen to Allison knock the house's socks off? As she tries to rub the crayon off and hits Simon, Paula says, "You look fantastic, you kept your rocker edge and I just want to say [covering her upper lip and mouth] you are awesome, you belong in the competition, you are amazing. Beautiful. Simon can't stop laughing at his prank, and spits out between guffaws, "Allison you are a survivor. You had a terrible week last week (not!), a very difficult song to do and that was really one of your best performances that you've ever done. Very good." Gee, thanks for your time, Simon. Sorry we interrupted your coloring.

Watch video of Allison Iraheta singing "Papa Was a Rollling Stone" by The Temptations

Our Top 3:
Adam Lambert
Allison Iraheta
Danny Gokey/Anoop Desai (Tie)

Our Bottom 3:
Michael Sarver/Megan Joy (Corkrey) (Tie)
Scott MacIntyre

Should be eliminated: Michael Sarver and Megan Joy (Corkrey)
Will be eliminated: Michael Sarver

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© 2009

2 comments:

Chaotic Bliss said...

I totally agree with you! Michael will be hitting the road tonight! We shall see if our prediction are on point!!

coffee said...

final three prediction: Adam Lambert, Daney Gokey and Allison Iraheta; i can't wait for about half the contestants to go home