Tuesday, March 31, 2009

American Idol Season 8
Top 9 Digital Download Week

Groan! It's another one of those "Idol" performance nights where what the audience and the judges hear is totally at odds with what home viewers hear. This week's "theme," if you can call it that, is popular digital downloads, otherwise known as sing any damn thing you want. While the contestants think this is a great opportunity to finally sing the songs they love the most, what many don't realize is that there's a difference between loving a song and being able to perform it well. Sometimes the songs you're best at singing are not necessarily the ones you'd choose to listen to.

It's become really obvious that the producers need to get a handle on time management this season. First they s-t-r-e-t-c-h the opening of the show with a useless clip of the contestants visiting Ryan Seacrest at the studio where he does his America's Top 40 countdown radio show, but by the end of the night they're rushing the judges on the last two contestants who receive one-sentence appraisals. Of course, time management this week became a bit tougher when the scheduled one-hour time slot increased by 25 minutes after the network cut the premiere of "Osbournes: Reloaded" nearly in half. Still, someone needs to budget the time better.

And a final note: What was up with Paula Abdul's eyes? They haven't looked this glassy for at least two seasons. Although she wasn't slurring her words, she definitely looked like she was stoned.

The evening started out on an uneven note (and rarely left it) with Anoop Desai's rendition of Usher's "Caught Up." Like many other artists Tuesday night, Anoop tells us he chose a song that he would want to hear as a viewer. He also said he wanted to up his energy level from the past two weeks as Randy Jackson had suggested. Instead of adding energy, he nearly sucked the air out of the room. Boring? That would be generous. Though his look this week had swagger, with restyled hair and a Michael Jackson-ish jacket, we just don't think he has a distinctive enough voice to be a successful recording artist. But then we feel that way about most of the Top 10 this year. Randy thought the vocals were good but it wasn't the right song choice for Anoop. Kara DioGuardi thought he played it too safe and says it felt like a bunch of frat guys dared him to get up and sing Usher. Paula loved that Anoop returned to the playful side, thought the vocals were good, but advised him to work on his stage presence. Simon Cowell called it "a complete and utter mess," saying he came over as a wannabe, there was no originality, the arrangement was a mess and that it actually gave him a headache. Anoop's expression at that last comment was priceless. But he handled the criticism politely. Charm is one thing he doesn't lack.

Watch video of Anoop Desai singing "Caught Up" by Usher

But as bad as Anoop is, Megan Joy makes him look like a master after she sings Bob Marley's "Turn Your Lights Down Low." We want to turn the lights -- and the TV -- off after listening to that. OMG, she is so off-key that the dogs in the next house start to howl. Even her beauty can't distract from it anymore. It's really time for her to leave. Kara tells her "I really like you, but I think you're in trouble," then goes into her "it's not the right song choice for you." An audience member yells out, "Broken record." It was pretty funny. Kara then tells Megan that part of her register was getting irritating. She gets booed and sasses back to the audience, "Allllll right. You get up here and do it, then." Simon tells her, "Don't fall out with our audience." Paula goes into some blather about Megan needing to sing a sensitive ballad while just sitting on a stool with a spotlight on her and no distractions. When she's done, Simon says to Paula, "So she needs a chair." LOL. Paula says, "It would be nice to see her on a stool." Simon: "OK, a big chair." He then tells Megan, "The song was boring, it was indulgent, it was monotonous and all the things we liked about you are disappearing." Randy tells her "It was like watching paint dry. ... it took forever, and I like the song." Then Randy says the most profound thing of the night, "The thing is, you can love a song, but it doesn't mean you're going to sing it great." After all this, Megan tells Ryan, "I think that the audience was feeling it and that my fans were feeling it." What fans?

Watch video of Megan Joy singing "Turn Your lights Down Low" by Bob Marley

Danny Gokey says he wants to switch up what he's been doing with a song that would emotionally connect with the audience. He sings "What Hurts the Most," by Rascal Flatts. We didn't like the arrangement and thought Danny was pitchy in places. And even though we could tell he was feeling it (his eyes were watery at times), we felt no emotional connection to the performance. It actually left us cold. We think that Danny was connecting more to his own emotions -- since he lost his grandfather this week -- rather than to the emotions of the audience. But that's not the way the audience or judges heard it. The audience went wild. Paula tells him, "You leave me wanting more. This is a performance [where] I definitely hit 'repeat' in my car." Simon tells him it was his best performance of the series so far. "Just brilliant. ... That's what it's about: Get a great song, sing it brilliantly and do your version." Randy says, "Dude, you definitely brought it crazy with the vocals, right here." Kara says "You moved everyone in this room emotionally (but not everyone at home, heh). ... You gave so much of your heart and soul. And that's when you really connect with the audience."

Watch video of Danny Gokey singing "What Hurts the Most" by Rascal Flatts

Each week, Allison Iraheta delivers a solid performance, yet, with the exception of last week, she is always in danger of being eliminated. This week, DialIdol.com places her second from last. She surprised everyone by playing guitar and her vocals on No Doubt's "Don't Speak" were, as usual, spot on. Yet the judges, beginning with Randy, decided to focus -- negatively -- on her outfit, instead of her singing. Er, Randy, wasn't it you who only last week uttered those immortal "Idol" words, "This is a singing competition"? Did Allison look a bit quirky in the getup? Perhaps. But Gwen Stefani's outfits have always been quirky, too. Randy says, "Vocally, you can sing, you've got the voice, the whole thing, I like the vocals, but you were a little ahead of the beat, you were rushing the band a little bit ... and I like that you came out and played the guitar ... but dude! What are you wearing? What is with this outfit?" Someone in the audience screams out, "I like it." Randy says, "You like it?" then continues to Allison, "Baby, I've got mad love for you, but I did not get the ensemble tonight." Kara continues the theme with, "The rock in you comes out no matter what you're wearing, so you don't need to dress the part. You are that. ... So it was a little distracting, it felt forced. Like you were trying to be something. And you don't have to try. You just are. ... It was a good performance. For me, not your best, but good." Paula, normally the queen of fashion critiques, focuses on Allison's musicianship instead: "I'm glad to see you brought your 'axe' out with you, it added a certain edge. ... I think that your vocal prowess rivals singers that are twice your age ... And I think you are skating by and going right to the finish line." Na-uh. Not with the judges focusing on her clothes, she's not. Simon, laughing, says, "Allison, look, we can't ignore the outfit. It was like something out of 'The Addams Family' or something." Actually, she looked more like Pebbles from "The Flintstones," but who cares? He also says, "It was something like a little precocious daughter trying to dress like a rock star and sound like one ... plus, you shouted the song." Not.

Watch video of Allison Iraheta singing "Don't Speak" by No Doubt

Next, it was time for a nap Scott MacIntyre to perform. He decides to forgo the band and just accompany himself on piano. Perhaps regretting the nasty pink pants trick they played on him last week, the stylists decide to dude him up this week with a new coif. But it looks more like a "do" from the '70s. They also cooled him out with a leather jacket. But Scott is still Scott, just in a new costume. Although this performance is his best so far in the competition, it is still a hotel lounge lizard version of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are." All that was missing was the brandy snifter sitting on top of the piano with some dollar bills in it. And we're shocked when Simon doesn't call him out on it. Kara tells him he made some very smart decisions by picking that song and stripping it down and just singing to the audience in a moving performance, ending with, "And I love the new look." Of course, Scott can't even see the new look. Paula goes into her "Of all the contestants that have graced the stage, I'm most proud of you," saying it has nothing to do "about your challenge and everything to do that makes me forget about that challenge." Damn! Then why don't you let everyone else forget about "that challenge" and not bring it up every single time you critique him? She also says he took a risk by not using the orchestra, making it more of a legato kind of performance, but that it paid off for him. Simon, who looks impatient waiting for Paula to finish every single one of her critiques this week, says, "Your best performance by a country mile so far." He then cracks snidely about Scott's "Ryan Seacrest hair" ("of yesteryear," Randy notes) and how lucky Scott is to not to have followed (pointing at Paula) "madame's advice about not playing the piano." This leads to a time-wasting debate between the Abdul and Cowell, with both saying, "rewind the tape." Randy calls the performance, "one of the best of the night," but he says it so frequently tonight, he might as well have said, "one of the best nine of the night," heh.

Watch video of Scott MacIntyre singing "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel

Last week, Matt Giraud listened to the judges and stuck to their preferred R&B vibe for him. They loved it, but he still placed in the "Bottom 3." (Well not really, but reread the results night blog from last week.) This week Giraud decides to tempt fate by singing to please himself, going very current with The Frays "You Found Me." He plays keyboard right in the middle of the mosh pit. At first, we weren't sure if he could pull it off. He sounded and looked nervous and there was a lot of vibrato in his voice, but he picked up steam -- and confidence -- along the way and by the time he finished he made a convert of us. We thought it was a job well done. But the judges weren't haven't any of it. Paula says he aborted the things that they love most about him -- his riffing and his falsetto, calls him a sound-alike, then gives him the kiss of death, comparing tonight with his Coldplay song performance, ending with it wasn't a great performance. The audience loudly boos her. Simon says he didn't get it at all and that it was somebody trying to be somebody else and felt very put on and uptight. He then calls it not a good commercial song. Huh? It's a current hit. In fact, last month when Billboard reviewed "The Fray," the album on which it appears, they wrote: "It's testament to the band's appeal that "You Found Me" became a Top 10 single before The Fray was even released." Does Simon know anything about the music market in this country? Cowell tells Matt he should be like Danny or Scott (???) and just pick a great song and do what he does best and he'd have a better shot. Oh shut up! If Scott wasn't challenged, you'd have wiped the floor with him. He ends with "This was just uncomfortable. I didn't get it." Obviously! Randy goes into "it's the wrong song for you" refrain, and suggests that Matt should have instead picked something like Justin Timberlake or OneRepublic. Simon interrupts with, "That would have been a great song, 'Apologize.' " Yeah, why? So you could have said that Matt didn't do it as well as David Archuleta did it on last season's finale? Jackson tells Scott, "You've got more chops than that. You're not a rock singer. You've got all that soul in your voice. You've got to let all that flavor out, baby." They are actually giving Matt a worse ass-kicking than they gave Megan. This is unreal! Kara tells him he keeps going between the rock side of pop and the R&B side of pop and that he has to pick one or the other. Why? She ends with, "But I believe you're a talented guy and don't deserve to go home." Well, if he does, all you "knowledgable" judges can take credit for it. You killed off Alexis Grace by trashing her the same way. And she didn't suck either.

Watch video of Matt Giraud singing "You Found Me" by The Fray

We winced a bit when we heard that Lil Rounds was taking on Celine Dion's "I Surrender." Like many of the other contestants, she is grasping at straws after getting trashed by the judges (but not the public) for last week's performance. Her version of "Heatwave" during Motown Week was was no better -- or worse -- than tonight's mediocre rendering. Yes, Lil has great vocal chops, but she just can't compare to Celine Dion. This was not a song where she could really shine and, for us at least, there was a lot more shouting than singing going on. We did, however, love the wig she was wearing this week. A great look for her. Randy calls her out on song choice, because he wants her to have a little bit more swagger, but says she sang it really, really well (actually she sang it really, really OK). He also wants her to young it up a little bit: Mary whaaaat? Keyshia Cole whaaaat? At which point Kara jumps in with her first (but not only) stupid pronouncement of the night: "Mariah, Eric Carmen." Eric Carmen? Eric "freaking 'Hungry Eyes' " Carmen who is going to be 60 in August? Huh? Kara then says we got a glimpse of a singer who can let it out and wow us, but we need to see more of that. Paula says, "I don't want to see an Adult Contemporary Lil Rounds, I want to see the joy that you brought to us when we first saw you." OK, whatever that means. Simon says this was just Lil singing to stay in the competition with a safe sound and that it was quite similar to a wedding performance (can't disagree there) and old-fashioned, adding that all her personality is being sucked out of her. Of course, it's the judges doing the sucking with their sucky suggestions. He ends with, "You've got to stop this. Because you're too good." We hated, HATED, what comes next. Ryan plays the kiddie card. He goes to Lil's family in the audience and actually carries one of her kids over to Randy to punch him for his negative review of mommy. Of course, Jackson snuggles the young 'un in his arms, Ryan says he looks ready to be a grandpa, Lil sheds some tears and it was all worth at least four million unearned votes. Bah!

Watch video of Lil Rounds singing "I Surrender" by Celine Dion

You've got a give Adam Lambert credit. He digs into his little big bag of tricks each week and pulls out something that you might not love, but that you'll certainly remember. That was the case again this week with Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music." His look was more Eddie Munster than Elvis -- the hair was slicked back again, but this week there was a widow's peak. The black nail polish, which returned on Results Night last week, was again removed for his funked out contemporized version of the tune. Truth be told, we really didn't love it. It was way too theatrical and screechy for our taste. On the other hand, we might want to, but won't, forget it. An enthralled Paula pronounced, "True genius does not fulfill expectations, true genius shatters it. There are artists who have longevity in this business because of their unique and riveting performances. I'll name a few: Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler and Adam Lambert." Pretty large prediction, given Lambert hasn't even produced a single recording, much less a hit. In spite of her lofty appraisal, Adam was not even listening to her. He's waiting to hear what Simon has to say (why do they even bother having more than one judge?). "That was very brave Adam," says Cowell. "I've got to hand it to you. At least we get rid of some of this karaoke nonsense tonight. It was original. I don't think it's going to make you as popular as last week, but I don't think it matters with you now." Randy says when he heard the song choice he thought it was going to be corny, but that Adam worked it out and is in "the star zone." Kara, ramping up for her next verbal gaffe, says, "Every week I cannot wait to get to the show to see what you are going to do next. And that's a big compliment. It was like Studio 57 up in here, tonight." Er, Studio 57? Is that the club down the street that you went to Kara, when you couldn't get into Studio 54?

Watch video of Adam Lambert singing "Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry

In a show of, at best, mediocre performances, Kris Allen was well chosen for the pimp spot. It may not have been the best pimp-spot performance of the season, but it was certainly Kris' best performance of the season and the best performance of the night. Proving his musicianship by accompanying himself this week on keyboard instead of guitar, his arrangement of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," was different and current. Except for a faltering falsetto note at the very end, the vocal was excellent as well. We kept thinking that Kris' version could have easily been subbed into the seasonally changing walking scene featuring Hugh Grant in the film "Notting Hill." He has certainly become the dark horse in this competition. Randy tells him for the last couple of weeks, Kris has been slaying it and that he is in the zone right now. He calls it "definitely one of the best (nine) performances of the night. So creative. So cool. I'm loving you, loving you." Kara, carefully counting this week on her fingers, says, "I've got three words for you (uh-oh): That is artistry! Wooooo!" Does the wooooo count? (Later, Ryan tells her, "I always get nervous when you start with the numbers, Kara. Artistry, two words. No, kidding." Heh.) Paula says Kris is pacing the competition to play to his strengths and that he took a 30-year-old song and made it so it's like she's hearing it for the first time. "That could be the first cut from your album," she says. "It was your best performance to date." Simon tells him he's brought confidence to the performance and that it is a "very, very good arrangement of the song. It was very clever, very cool. I like seeing you behind the keyboards. And I agree with the guys: It's your best performance so far. Well done."

Watch video of Kris Allen singing "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers

Our Top 3:
Kris Allen
Allison Iraheta
Matt Giraud

Our Bottom 3:
Megan Joy
Scott MacIntyre
Anoop Desai

Should be eliminated: Megan Joy
Will be eliminated: Megan Joy

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1 comment:

coffee maker said...

now that Adam Lambert has pulled off performing "Play That Funky Music," i'm reasonably sure he can pull off anything