Wednesday, April 22, 2009

American Idol Season 8
Top 7 (Again) Disco Week

It's Disco Week on "American Idol," and though we expected train wrecks, what we mostly got was boredom. More than half of the contestants seemed so afraid of doing a disco beat that they dramatically rearranged their music. Except for the lyrics, some of the songs were so melodically different from the originals, they could have been given new titles (yes, we're talking about you, Adam). So while the producers might call this disco because the songs all came from the '70s, there was very little performance-wise that evoked the excitement of that era's music or the vibe of mirror balls, fringe, spangles and Studio 54 (or, in Kara's case, Studio 57). When did the "Born to Be Alive" genre turn into emo, slit-your-wrist music?

This week, the pre-performance videos were eliminated and all four judges got to critique the contestants. And except in one case (for Kris Allen), Randy starts all the critiques and the judges go straight down the table as they've done in seasons past.

It's become obvious that the producers are so over Lil Rounds and want to make quick work of eliminating her. But the joke is on them. The harder they try, and the worse she performs, the more votes she gets, at least according to We laughed when we saw she wound up in 1st Place(!) in spite of getting the death position (going first) and giving a barely acceptable vocal. In our opinion, she deserves to be one of the two getting the boot tonight. Though DialIdol is declaring no one clearly safe this week (which means the producers will have free rein to eliminate the two of their own choosing and still look legit) and though they've wrong in the past, no one has ever come in first on and been eliminated. Some online commenters are suggesting that the show's producers have found a way to successfully tamper with DialIdol's busy signal rate, the way in which they calculate the number of votes each contestant is receiving. We don't know who dialed and texted for Lil (though we suspect Vote for the Worst came out en masse), but we couldn't wait for her frequently painful rendition of Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman" to end. Yet, if Allison, who finished dead last on DialIdol, does get eliminated tonight, Lil's song title could become a ghastly reality. Randy Jackson says that Lil still didn't show them what kind of artist she is and what she can do in the competition. Kara DioGuardi says that all of America has been waiting for her to sing Chaka Khan but she's not sure if it was worth the wait, telling Lil she's been every woman on that stage -- every other woman except herself. Paula Abdul defends Lil and says the day before she had no voice and was on complete vocal rest, but adds that though Lil was hot, she didn't hit the boiling point. Simon Cowell says, "Oh, Lil, you look so sad." She tries to answer him, telling him she had fun performing, but he cuts her off with, "Sweetheart, I'm glad you had fun, because I think this is going to be the last week that we see you. I do. I do. I'll tell you why, because there was no originality, it was very copycat, the arrangement, your vocals were a mess and I absolutely believe this is your final shot. Sorry." Well, Simon, it might be you (and us) who is sorry instead.

Watch video of Lil Rounds singing "I'm Every Woman"

Kris Allen has one of those useless Coke chats with Ryan Seacrest, explaining that he chose Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money," because it's a story song about a, er, woman, who, er, works hard for her money. Ryan sarcastically thanks Kris for clearing that up for us. Kris is the first contestant to really change up a song, playing acoustic guitar with a couple of other acoustic instrumentalists. He gives the song, as Paula correctly points out, a Santana feel. We like the arrangement, though it feels nothing like, or even near, disco. Kara tells Kris that he took a risk with the arrangement, but that it paid off big time, saying it sounded like it could go on his record and she has to give him props. Paula tries to use the analogy that a lot of women are known to shop in the men's department but there aren't many men who are willing to shop in the woman's department (ahem, Danny has shopped the woman's department all season, Paula)."I must tell you, you shopped and found a perfect fit. It not only showed your originality, but it showed us why you're a contender in this competition." Simon, who can't stop laughing at Paula's remarks, says, "You know what? I actually need a translator on this show. I don't understand it." Paula starts breaking in with, "He's known to shop in the women's department -- La Perla." Simon: "Are you saying he buys ladies underwear?" Paula: "No, I'm saying you do." Simon: "Sorry, Kris, I have no idea what that meant." Paula starts butting in again, and Simon actually pushes and sssshs her. Simon to Kris: "Kris, that was a complete polar opposite to the first performance. Insomuch as it was original, it was well thought out. That was not karaoke ... it was a fantastic performance." Randy says "You are ready for the Big Time, dawg, because you know who you are. You perform great. You pick great arrangements. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing."

Watch video of Kris Allen singing "She Works Hard for the Money"

Danny Gokey, thankfully back in glasses, works the crowd and the stage with Earth, Wind and Fire's "September," changing it up a bit, but at least maintaining a disco vibe. For that alone we thank him. It's a nice if forgettable performance, but, once again, he has the audience and, except for Simon, the judges in the palm of his hand. For us, Danny has a great white soul voice and gives a solid performance every time out, but we've seen no growth in him since the beginning of the season. He started out good -- and stayed there. There haven't been any bad performances, but, unlike Adam, there haven't been any meteoric ones, either. Randy says that Danny turned the song into something that really worked for him, adding "good job, good job." Kara says she was worried about Danny on disco night, that "it was sort of like asking Simon to wear a plaid shirt or something." But, she says, he is an incredible vocalist and his pitch is right on -- always. She calls it another solid performance but says she is concerned that the audience will remember it by the end of the night. Honestly, we didn't. Paula says that instead of changing the song, Danny showed his vocal agility and brilliance, and that she thinks he has one of the sexiest voices ever, adding "And I think women of all ages will agree." Simon says he pretty much agrees with what the other judges said. "You can't fault the vocals, the arrangement was interesting. As a performance, though, I didn't really get any star power from that," says Simon. "Because at this stage, that's when you've got to start doing something special, and I thought the performance, overall, was a bit awkward and a bit clumsy." Paula yells out, "I'll still see you in the finals!"

Watch video of Danny Gokey singing "September"

Allison Iraheta is a tried and true rocker. She gives everything a rock vibe, even disco. She starts off Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff," from a sitting position, giving it a slow, growly edge. We wait patiently for the beat to pick up, especially when Allison stands up after the line, "almost rang the phone off the wall." But to our disappointment, even though the music picks up a beat, the vocal never does. And that is the performance's biggest flaw -- it just kind of lays there, dead. It also must be said that Allison has a big enunciation problem. Though her phrasing is always dead on, many of the words are inarticulate. But we like the tousled look of her hair this week, so much better than when it looks like a helmet head. Randy calls the arrangement over-indulgent (this season's favorite judge criticism), but emphasizes that Allison is one of the best singers in the competition, so even though he didn't love the arrangement, he loves her. Kara says making the arrangment slower hurt the performance, but that Allison picked the right song and she deems the vocal portion a 9-10. Paula doesn't mind the arrangment, says compromise does not exist in Allison's vocabulary and that speaks to her authenticity. She adds that the last note of the song was off the charts. Simon says that Allison was always going to come into this week as an underdog, but that taking everything into account, it was a brilliant performance. It's so obvious that the producers he wants Allison to stay and Lil to go, overpraising one and ultra-slamming the other. Will their his wish be granted? It's doubtful, if the results are reported honestly.

Watch video of Allison Iraheta singing "Hot Stuff"

It's Adam Lambert's turn and, like the rest of America, we're waiting to see what he's going to sing and how he's going to sing it. We figure it's going to be slow and plaintive, both because of the suit (more than any other contestant, this musical-theater vet understands the importance of dressing for the role he's playing) and slicked back hair (which is so high and Eddie Munster-ish this week it looks ridiculous) and because he sang a fast, frenetic song last week. The one consistent thing about Adam is he seems to alternate fast and slow performances. In his Coke interview, he tells Ryan he's singing Yvonne Elliman's (or the Bee Gees) "If I Can't Have You," because he wants to sing something he can relate to emotionally. OK, we would have thought maybe Kris would sing that, but Adam can sing pretty much anything. Although we can't fault the quality of the vocals, the song melodically is unrecognizable. Talk about self-indulgent! We're not loving it, but we're obviously in the minority. Whatever happened to the judges saying when you have a simple, beautiful melody line, you don't need to change it up? The audience and Paula give Adam a standing O. Randy says, "Dude, you are ready right now. You have it, major league, going on. He's the hot one tonight, America!" "Adam, you're brilliant. I don't know what else to say," says Kara, and then goes on to talk more than any other judge. She calls this his most memorable performance, says he looks like "the guy from 'Saturday Night Live' (OMG, did Miss Studio 57 mean "Saturday Night Fever"???) meets Clark Kent' " and swooningly tells him that the way he connects with his emotions is inspiring. While Simon makes amusing faces as she critiques, Paula tells Adam she felt his pain and vulnerability, "as if you tore your heart out and left it on the stage." She also calls him fascinating, awesome and brilliant and says "you will be in the finals." Simon says, "I would have put $10,000 that you would have done Donna Summer, but that's what so good about you. You did something that we weren't expecting. But once again, what I loved about this performance was, it was original -- never ever heard that song sung like that before. Most importantly, you're going to remember it. And even more important, the vocals were immaculate. Congratulations." After the tongue bath by the judges, Adam, always the gentleman, thanks Michael Orland, the show's arranger and associate musical director, for helping him come up with the arrangement, calling Orland a genius.

Watch video of Adam Lambert singing "If I Can't Have You"

As if they're trying to doom him no matter how good he is (and he isn't), the producers once again curse Matt Giraud by positioning him right after Adam, as they did last week. This unenviable spot is not helped by his uninspired and boringly karaoke version of the Bee Gees "Stayin' Alive" -- something Giraud won't be doing after that performance. Especially after the judges inexplicably wasted their one save of the season on him last week. Randy "didn't love the song choice, didn't love the arrangement," but tells Matt he can really sing. Jackson then goes on to say that this group of seven kids is one of the most talented they've ever had on the show. Is he kidding? Add the word "least" before talented and he would have nailed it. This group competes with -- and maybe beating -- Season 6 in that esteem-less category. Kara says Matt brought disco back. Too bad he didn't do it in a good way, Kara. She then less enthusiastically adds that his vocals were good and it was a solid performance. Paula tells Matt that he picks songs like she bowls: "sometimes you throw gutter balls and sometimes you get strikes. And this was a strike." Er, no. Analogy correct, choice wrong. Gutter ball from the release. Continuing with her incorrect appraisal, she says, "Last week the judges saved your life. Tonight, after this performance, you saved your own life. You are staying." Simon tells Matt he didn't like the performance because it came over as a bit desperate, the vocals weren't great and there was no originality.

Watch video of Matt Giraud singing "Stayin' Alive"

In the pimp spot, though not deserving it (actually, no one did this week), is Anoop Desai, who looked killer this week with his pretty-in-pink sweater, a new haircut and some facial hair. Actually, it was around this time last season when David Cook started sprouting facial hair and we also noticed Danny had some extra growth. We're guessing this is a routine "Idol" stylist suggestion -- but hey, it works. Anoop chose another Donna Summer classic, "Dim All the Lights," and put his R&B spin on it. It wasn't bad, in fact the vocals were among Anoop's best, but the song ended before it ever had a chance to take off. Randy says it was a little bit of a rough last note and he didn't love the arrangement, but that Anoop, like the Matt, can sing. Gee, isn't that why he's there? Randy ends with, "Anoop. Nice, baby. Nice." Kara says it is a great song choice and really liked the beat, saying that she thought it could be on the radio. She tells Anoop that the past two weeks were his best performances and that he's really hitting his stride. Paula tells him he looks fantastic and "real men know how to wear pink." She also tells him he has beautiful teeth and to smile more. And, yes, she liked his vocals, too. Simon says he completely disagrees with the other judges. "That was mediocre at best. Sorry. I prayed that the tempo wasn't going to come in. It did. It was a horrible version of that song. And in my opinion, genuinely, that was your worst performance by a mile. It really was." Nope, we couldn't disagree more.

Watch video of Anoop Desai singing "Dim All the Lights"

Our Top Three (we didn't love anyone this week):
Danny Gokey
Adam Lambert
Kris Allen

Our Bottom Three:

Matt Giraud
Lil Rounds
Allison Iraheta

Should Be Eliminated:

Matt Giraud
Lil Rounds

Will Be Eliminated:
Lil Rounds
Anoop Desai

Tonight, the group number is choreographed by Paula. Musical guests include David Archuleta, and Harry Wayne "KC" Casey (of KC and the Sunshine Band), Thelma Houston and Freda Payne will sing a medley of their hits, "Get Down Tonight," "Don't Leave Me This Way" and "Band of Gold."

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© 2009

1 comment:

Barb said...

Get ready for a shocker--Adams going to be in the bottom 2. He could even go out Wed.

Not because he had a bad performance but because he sang a standard song theatrical style with a little rock to it. This would be AI's opportunity to get Adam off the show as he is unlikely to make mistakes.

I love Adam and think he should win it, but it looks like they have their eye set on a Kris-Allison finale with Kris winning.
AI finally gets the white male ballads they wanted. They want Allsion to be another Miley Cyrus.

The show is sooooo rigged. I will hate to see Adam upset if he goes, I hope Im wrong!