Wednesday, April 1, 2009

American Idol, Season 8, Final 9

It's Digital Download night, and I have no clever intro to offer., except to say it's been far too long since I wrote anything of interest to anyone. Amy and I are guest judges tonight for GG's AI Season 8 project: read his mashup here. That business over, down to other business.

Anoop Desai
Usher "Caught Up"
Anoop says that he's "eager to get back to the high energy stuff". Ah. I hadn't realized that 'Noop was lighting up the stage at any point this season. The ballads have been all right so far, but after the judges give him a well-deserved "meh", Desai begs to differ by explaining that Usher's popular and energetic version was great. Which apparently means that Anoop's version must also have been just as good, because he sang a lot of the notes. Um, no. 7 out of 10 for managing a couple nice runs, 4 out of 10 for forgetting his high energy promise. And I'm not going to give him the benefit of rounding up: 5 out of 10 for 'Noop Dawg.

Megan Joy
Bob Marley "Turn Your Lights Down Low"
Megan doesn't know how to choose the right song. Period. She has a unique, interesting voice, but that's about it. As with Desai, Megan has very little energy on stage, doing very little to connect with the song, much less communicate it well. I think she's just going through the motions at this point, waiting around to be cut, singing songs because she has to. Kara spells it out for her - wrong song, forgetting her strengths. Paula throws away a few hundred thousand dollars worth of air time, Simon lays it out there as usual "BORING", and Randy book ends the proceedings by agreeing with Kara. My scores - 6 out of 10 vocally, 3 out of 10 for performance: a well deserved 4 out of 10 from me.

Danny Gokey
Rascal Flatts "What Hurts the Most"
DISCLAIMER: I am a BIG fan of Danny Gokey. I would give Amy's new iPodto be able to sing like Danny ('cause you KNOW how much that would end up costing me) - he's real, he's raw, and he can probably sing anything. But here's the thing about tonight's performance - it was good. But it just wasn't quite good enough. I think he can go bigger than that in a song like this, and if he was holding back for any reason, I don't know why. Sure, it sounded great, and his voice is miles better than the first two (thank you for agreeing with me Simon), but it didn't quite satisfy my expectations for him. The judges lap it up, and set him up for future greatness. I give him 8 out of 10 for an ALMOST great vocal display, 7 out of 10 for a performance that should have given at least a little more. Danny gets the benefit of the doubt from me, so 8 of 10 for Mr. Gokey

Allison Iraheta
No Doubt "Don't Speak"
And from the moment she opens her mouth, Allison shows that she is the dark horse of the competition, and quite probably soon to be the frontrunner if Adam ever slips up or gets lazy. I gotta agree that her outfit is distractingly awful, but appearance is only a small part of what I look for. The guitar wasn't necessary, and as Amy points out, it kept her in place, when she really should have been pacing the stage angrily and letting the song really take over. Tough call here - mixed responses from the judges, and from me as well. 8 of 10 for vocals (I LOVE her tone) and 7 of 10 for handcuffing herself to center stage. But I'm going to use my Judge's Extra Point and give her an 8.1 of 10, ahead of Danny.

Scott Macintyre
Billy Joel "Just the Way You Are"
Scott is nice. I like Scott. His piano playing is nice. I like his singing. Scott should consider enrolling in the David Foster Institute for Young Men with Lots of Hair Who Sing Nice and Can Sell Tickets to Older Women and Their Daughters Who Have Finally Realized That What They Really Don't Want to Do is Spend Another Ninety Eight Bucks on Josh Groban. That would be a smart career choice for him. I know. He has a Great Back Story. He has Sympathy on his side. I get it. I like him just the way he is, but that's not good enough to win this thing. 7 out of 10 is a nice score.

Matt Giraud
The Fray "You Found Me"
Interesting song choice, could be pretty cool. Playing keyboard in the middle of the college cutie corral is a new conceit for Idol... none of the cuties seem very enthused about the performance until the end when they do the obligatory clap they are instructed to do for everyone (seriously - they are brought in to look good, sway and clap on cue). And Matt doesn't manage to make this one sparkle - I think it COULD have worked, but as with Allison's positioning at center stage, I think he limited his performance by having to stay behind the keyboard out in the middle of the corral. He can sing well enough, he can play piano well enough, but this one just falls flat, and the judges let him knowit. 6 out of 10 vocally, 5 of 10 for performance - I'll give him 6 of 10 overall.

Lil Rounds
Celine Dion "I Surrender"
Uh oh. Can Lil manage to avoid the "Don't Even Go There" problem that plagues many contestants who've tried and failed to do Big Songs by Big Artists? (Also known as the"Whitney Houston" rule). And the answer is...No. This is too much song for Lil. Randy actually compliments her singing. Dude. She was FLAT. She was UNINTERESTING. And Paula gives her first decent advice tonight - I don't want to see the Adult Contemporary Lil ever again. I don't understand why they are saying that she sounded good, because she was not all that tonight. 5 out of 10 for relatively poor vocals, and 5 of 10 for a boring performance. Lil gets a lil 5 of 10 tonight.

Adam Lambert
Wild Cherry "Play That Funky Music"
The lovechild of k.d. lang and simon le bon struts to center stage and turns out another hot vocal performance. For me, the thing about Adam is that his performances usually feel forced; vocally, he's easily the best in this competition, but I would like for him to find some way to make his performances feel more real. I'll give him a well deserved 10 of 10 for that vocal and a great arrangement, but the performance gets an 8 of 10 from me. Adam takes the lead with an overall 9 of 10.

Kris Allen
Bill Withers "Ain't No Sunshine"
A lot of artists have done this song - ever hear Paul McCartney's version? LOVE. IT. This is a make or break choice - if Kris can make it his own, it could work really well. I really like the quiet and reflective start, and the string quartet is a nice touch as well. Kris sells the song convincingly, but almost ruins a near-perfect vocal workout with a weak finishing note. If he could have hit that solidly, I'd call it even with Adam. Kara's right - it was artistry. Simon agrees with me about the good arrangement. I'm going to give him second place tonight - 9 of 10 vocals, 9 of 10 forperformance, a 9 of 10 overall.

And as we wrap things up, oh yeah - Anoop sang tonight. Awoops. Forgot about him. NOT a good sign. But the next clip seals it - I think I called it correctly when I wrote up Megan's Mess. Buh-bye, Miss Joy. With a side of Lil Annop on the stools tomorrow night.

Adam gets the nod over Kris by a very slick hair's breadth, with Allison taking third.

Top 3
Adam Lambert
Kris Allen
Allison Iraheta

Da Middle 3
Danny Gokey
Scott MacIntyre
Matt Giraud

Bottom 3
Lil Rounds
Anoop Desai
Megan Joy

Thursday, October 2, 2008 » Ghosts Of ‘81: J - T - O

There's a brand new dance that has yet to earn fame
That people from SF do again and again
It's big and it's bold, makes your loyalty clear
They do it over there but they don't do it here
(apologies to David Bowie)

GG invents the J-T-O (Forty Niner fans will understand...) » Ghosts Of ‘81: J - T - O

Josh Silver: How the Media Sold Their Souls to Wall Street

Excellent article on the media's non-coverage of what many real economic experts are saying.

Josh Silver: How the Media Sold Their Souls to Wall Street

Thursday, April 10, 2008

American Idol Dessert Break(down)

Dreyer's Slow Churned Ice Cream. Yummy.

American Idol's Melinda DooVeryLittleSinceComingInThirdLastSeason and Chris "NO. I'm NOT Justin Timberlake, But Oh Dear Lord, How I Wish I Was" Richardson pitching Dreyer's Slow Churned Ice Cream. Not so yummy.

It's so marvelously schlocky that I'm afraid mere words cannot do it justice.

This is something that must be seen to be believed.

Here you go:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

American Idol 7.3

American Idol 7.3: The Year They Were Born

Week One of American Idol without Amanda's streaky hair and strong talent. Alas for our rocker chick, America loves barrel horse riding non-talent more than nurses who can actually sing...

Tonight's theme - each contestant sings a song from the year they were born. Was "Amazing Grace" written when Kristy Lee Cook was born? So, we won't be hearing the only song she can sing well...

So what's in store for tonight? Probably a bunch of stuff from the mid to late eighties or so...

Ramiele Malubay: Heart "Alone"
Hey - if it vaulted Carrie Underwood to the top, it might just do the same for me, right? Why do people insist on singing songs that other people do well, hoping for some sort of talent to seep into their own performance by some weird form of musical osmosis?

Anyway - Ramiele tries to bust out with a big rock ballad by Heart - at least she's trying something unexpected, but this is bigger than anything she can adequately handle. Randy's right and Simon's wrong - this WAS pitchy. (Just listen the end of each phrase in the chorus and you'll hear it) Rami's delivery is fine, the tone of her voice is pleasant, but she can't contain the pitch when she Goes Big. Simon IS right that it was better than last week (and in my opinion, anything else she's done), so it's likely that she stays on again for next week. And Paula said something too - blah blah blah

Jason Castro: Sting "Fragile"
For a song that's been recorded in Spanish, Portugese and English as well as rearranged a few times for various albums and concert tours, Jason's managed to bring something original to the song - it's a nice, simple Latin vibe, and I like that he switches over to the Spanish lyric of "Fragilidad" at the end. Randy has apparently not been paying attention over the years to what Sting has done with the song, and his comment is way off the mark. Paula la la la la. Simon thinks it another bad week "the equivalent of someone busking outside the train station" - well, maybe, but I thought it was aight. Certainly not horrible; Jason should be safe for next week.

Syesha Mercado: Stephanie Mills "If I Were Your Woman"
Well, Syesha cheats a bit on the theme - this was originally a Gladys Knight song, but Stephanie Mills covered it in 1987. And hey - Syesha is BACK! Wow. That was STRONG. A very solid ballad, a lot of soul, and it's about time she performed up to her potential.

Randy recognizes this and calls it "blazing hot". PA chimes in. Simon pulls back a bit on the praise; he did seem to like it, but he thinks there are limits to how far to take things. He's right, but I don't think she overdid anything with this performance.

Chikezie: Luther Vandross "If Only For One Night"
Ryno grills the Ezie on the uncomfystools. ChikMan talks about how it's time to do what he feels is right, a song that resonates deeply with him. In other words - his week one experiment was terrific, the second week's repeat attempt sucked, so now it's time to get things back on track by going back to basics. Probably a wise choice for the Big Ezie...

And what better way to get back on track than to attempt a soulful Luther Vandross ballad (oh wait. another cheat - this was a Brenda Russell song) Chikezie starts a bit weak, yet as the song moves on into the bridge and final chorus he really warms up and finishes strong.

Randy makes a good point that the arrangement wasn't "hip and cool, the vibey Chikezie that I love". Paula makes a lucid point about the origin of the song - and Simon makes a good point about a lack of originality in the performance. Chikezie needs to find that personality again, the spark he displayed in week one.

Brooke White: The Police "Here Comes the Sun"
OOOH OOOH! Please sing "Mother"! Oh too bad. She starts out the more obvious choice of "Every Breath You Take" in the wrong key, corrects it quickly and moves on into a Brooke White piano version, but unfortunately, this does NOTHING for this song. Here's the thing - Sting wrote this song as a joke in twenty minutes, his attempt to show how easy it is to write a shallow pop ballad, and so this song is very, VERY basic. Even though it sounds nice enough with just Brooke and the piano, it is NOT anywhere near original or interesting. This is one song to avoid unless you are Sting. (FWIW - Sting plays this one as an encore at most of his shows, and these days, it's a MUCH stronger rock ballad than the original recording. Even Sting has punched it up since it was first released...)

Randy's right (he's pretty well on his game tonight), Paula blathers, and Simon's with Randy - he doesn't hate it, but he's not happy about it. Neither am I.

Michael Johns: Queen "We Will Rock You / We Are the Champions"
Well now: THIS is a good choice for Michael Johns to sing - oh wait, he's not singing the rock anthem anymore (and FWIW it was pretty good) and now he's on to We Are the Champions. And you know what? I think this is the most entertaining performance of the night so far - Syesha's in the lead for musical talent so far. but Michael made this work. He was fighting it in parts, but he managed to rise to the occasion. Both songs fit his voice really well, but I think he should have simply chosen to sing one or the other, not both. However, it did give him the chance to rock out and also to show a little bit of tenderness too... Queen suits Mr. Johns pretty well, I say

Randy was blown away, Paula said something I missed while typing a couple more thoughts and Simon christens the performance as the only memorable one of the night to this point - I disagreee with him, but he's right that this was quite good.

Carly Smithson: Bonnie Tyler "Total Eclipse of the Heart"
Well, Tyler sang it, but this is a Meatloaf song through and through, and Carly does the big guy proud by outsinging Tyler and AI's pro backing vocalist as well. If you can outsing those ladies, you're doing something right. (of course, any really great backing vocalist knows better than to sing better than The Talent, so this observation is probably off a teeny bit...)

Randy gets it mostly wrong - he's right about the last notes (they didn't fit), and Paula decides that she's going to contradict him and love on the ending notes. Poor, poor, deluded Paula. Someone hand her a ticket to ride - wrong week. Simon didn't like it as much as he'd hoped - I think he and Randy are both wrong; it was pretty good, maybe not the best of the night, but definitely solid.

David Archuleta: David Foster "You're the Voice"
Another "cheat" - John Farnham wrote and recorded this one in '86, but since David Foster put it on his 1990 album "River of Love", it's the first song performed on Idol that I have never ever heard before. It's all a bit theatrical, but it's not bad. Randy is mildly surprised to have never heard this song before, and he likes it, which means Paula's definitely cool with it, and Simon's back to comparing songs he doesn't like to theme park musical numbers.

During the break, we get to see the AT&T ad about the unused Motorhead tickets - the best ad from my company in a while. Still makes me laugh after having seen it a lot. Yay us.

Kristy Lee Cook: Lee Greenwood "God Bless the USA"
1984! I graduated that year - so many great songs to choose from, but OH CRAP. She is likely to murderize something I really love and - oh that's a relief. She's singing one of the worst songs ever. No, seriously - I. HATE. THIS. SONG. Trust me - it is not unpatriotic to dislike crap like this, no matter how many heart strings the cheesy lyrics pull on, and (adopting the voice of Scrub's Dr. Cox) OH DEAR GOD, it's a key change, and it's KristyWhoMakethEverythingCountry singing it, and please oh please, won't you just make it stop.

And when it finally does stop - the judges let me down completely. I've been thrown under the bus here - Randy "loves that song" and Simon calls it "brilliant". Sometimes I really wonder about these judges - what is in those Coke cups?

David Cook: Michael Jackson "Billy Jean"
Hey! 1982 - how about some Huey Lewis or Hall and Oates, or maybe even some - no way. Michael Jackson by way of another cheat - Chris Cornell. OK David - we get it - you're the guy who knows all the alternate rock versions of famous songs. I just don't think this version works very well with the lyrics, what's being sung doesn't quite fit the feel of the words, but I gotta admit, David rocks it. He is really good at this sound - so, as long as he sticks to this genre, he should be fine. But I really would like to hear him try something totally unexpected - I'd have paid a stack of money THIS high to see him romp across the stage in a bustier singing Madonna's "Holiday"... oh sorry, that would have been Sanjaya, had he been in this week's competition.

The judges pay homage to David (Paula with a particularly inspired babbleblather delivered entirely from a standing O position), and we're done for the week.

Hmmm. A tough call this week. Strong performances from a couple unexpected sources - Syesha and Michael rediscovered their spark this week, and turn up the heat on front runners Carly and David Cook. I'm going to give MJ Most Improved; Syesha gets the Most Likely to Succeed (for another couple weeks, at least) award, and David Archuleta earns Most Likely to Go to a Prom with his Implied Girlfriend Sitting Next to His Dad Because He's Not so Interesting Anymore Though Certainly Still Talented and Cute and All.

So who's going home? KLC cranked out a song SO bad it made her sound good in comparison and VFTW can't possibly vote for anything else but that horrific combination. Ramiele noticeably improved this week, and she has been noticeably missing from the bottom three - she has a fan base, that much is certain. David A is the cute one the teengirls love, David Cook is solid, Michael Johns and Syesha surged at the right time. Chikezie went back to basics and didn't impress, and - oh no - here's the bottom three:

Chikezie, Carly and Brooke.

Who's going home? Well - I am going to kick myself if it turns out to be true, but I am going to say that Brooke is going home. Carly will pick up the votes left behind by Amanda and Chikezie has his demographic all to himself right now.

Brooke is simply overmatched.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

American Idol 7.2

American Idol 7.2: The Beatles

As if the Lennon - McCartney songbook weren't incredible enough, this week, the contestants get to choose from the entire Beatles discography - that's well over 150 solid songs to choose from this time. And the stakes are high - who will miss out on touring with the AI juggernaut this summer? Everyone who makes it past this week makes the tour - tonight is make or break night for someone...

Amanda Overmyer: "Back in the USSR"
I love Amanda's realistic view of her place in American Idol - sure, she's out of place, out of another time, and probably out of bleach, but she sticks to her guns and goes for the gusto every week. Last week, she shouted her way through "You Can't Do That" - oh yes, yes she can...

If ever there was a Beatles song built for Amanda Overmyer, "Back in the USSR" is it. And maybe that's my problem with her performance - this is what she's supposed to be good at, but we're not learning anything new about Amanda tonight as she screams and shouts her way through this bluesy rocker. OK - she can rock. We knew that. When will you show us something new Amanda?

Randy breaks out a numeric 7 out of 10 for Amanda, Paula tries her hand at critiquing rhythm, and Simon is solidly with me: "predictable". "You are in danger of becoming a bit boring". Simon is the Man."

Kristy Lee Cook: "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"
Where to start? and that's not a good wow, people. I mean, Kristy Lee can sing, but she hasn't shown she can "sang". And I really do think she can - if she can ever stop making with the eyes… Oh, right - she murdered "Eight Days a Week" last time. Yee. Ha.

Back from commercials (new ATT ad! woot!) to find Ryan and Kristy on the notsocomfystools discussing her continued presence in the bottom of the voting pile. And in her pre-song piece, she admits that she heard her song choice for the first time today. This does not bode well for her chances to join the group on tour. Kristy strides forward with zero stage presence as she sings along with a really cool arrangement, a hybrid "Live and Let Die" mix of the song. I'm typing all this up as she sings and my ears confirm that she's not doing much with it at all - what a wasted chance! By the time Randy and Paula blah blah blah their way through it, Simon says pretty much what I'm saying - bland, no energy, no nuthin. Don't bother with a TiVo replay, darlin' - Kristy ain't worth it.

David Archuleta: "The Long and Winding Road"
Two things, David: 1) Don't try to sing ANY Stevie Wonder arrangements. It's not your thang, dude. 2) Under no circumstances are you EVER AGAIN to step out onto that stage without a complete and utter comprehension of each and every lyric. "We Can Work It Out" deserved better from you - you really need to work it out this week, L'il Dave...

David says that he CAN do a Beatles song well - and he's chosen a safe, dependable McCartney ballad. Question is - will he be able to make it uniquely his, or will it suffer the same fate as the original (over produced, smarmy and syrupy sweet - yes, I just trashed what most consider a "classic"). oh look - the crowd waves it's arms right on cue as the band plays it straight, it's the Phil Spector arrangement. David sounds fine, he's hitting all the right notes really well, but he's simply singing the original track and throwing a few runs in to give it that oh so fresh modern sound. Bleah. Sorry dude - I don't care how well you sing, you really need to recapture the magic.

Randy says the hotness is back - I disagree. Paula beams and pronounces that David has risen above adversity, and that he is buidling character. Simon thinks that he was amazing, a "master class". Well, I think it was good, but not memorable like his version of "Imagine"

Michael Johns: "A Day in the Life"
Dear Michael - I was touched to hear that "Across the Universe" is a song with special meaning for you. So - what exactly does "Jai guru deva om" mean to you anyway? I wasn't feeling the love when you sang - that.

Ryno schleps for AT&T and Apple by grabbing a conveniently placed iPhone from a cute blonde in the most pit and the rambling through a cheesy product placement bit - Randy and Paula top it off with equally cheesy grins and raised Coke cups as Simon grimaces. Not complaining about the boost my company gets from AI, but can't we get a decent job of it from Ryan? Prolly a bit much to ask for.

Michael's made the brave decision to condense "A Day in the Life" into ninety seconds. Dude. The piano echo at the end of the track runs out to about seventy seconds. This is NOT going to be an easy fit for a compressed AI performance. There's no originality to this arrangement either, just a quick cut and paste job as Michael bleats his way through a condensed verse, chorus, abridged bridge, second chorus capped by the wrong lyrics and a final stumble into a weak ending. Not a nice day it seems after all.

Randy says that Michael hasn't found the right song to connect with - I'm blaming this one on a really BAD arrangement of a fantastic song. Paula tries to give him an out by blaming it on the fact that Michael's not wearing the in-ear monitors - I'm not buying this one either because there are very likely on stage monitors up there, and I doubt that the overall sound sucks on that stage. Simon tells it like it is - he's batting three for four tonight.

Brooke White: "Here Comes the Sun"
The shimmering songstress lost a bit of her lustre last week with a slightly too tenuous version of "Let it Be" - Brooke needs to find a song that will let her rip…

Brooke is perched on a stool, "the sweetest person alive" declares HairBoy. I'm liking Brooke's hair tonight, actually, and I think I'll be loving "Here Comes The Sun" a GREAT choice for her. With her voice, the song comes across a little more country than the original, and it works. Brooke sashays across the stage, twirling around in her mustard yellow dress - she's really enjoying herself, despite yet another less than appealing arrangement from Ricky and the band. What's up with the lack of originality this week? Brooke makes the most of it though, and manages to project her personality well this week.

Randy thought she wasn't connected with the song, Paula couldn't help but smile and she loves the yellow for the sun and yadda yadda yadda Paula liked it? Simon thought it was a terrible performance, not digging the Yellow theme, the lack of conviction, and Brooke actually interrupts him to sort of apologize "it's not OK but it is." Well, I liked it better than the judges, maybe they were looking for more of the same, I liked it because she tried to bring something new to her style tonight.

David Cook: "Daytripper"
The show's real male rocker stands tall after dressing up "Eleanor Rigby" in orchestral rock majesty last week. The only questions about David's skills right now have to do with his comb and that hair…

Welcome back and Ryan's shilling iTunes in the mosh pit, and gives a shout out for Ruben's goodbye song written for this season's show. Meh.

David admits to ripping off a Whitesnake version of one of the Beatles best songs ever (IMHO) - and he's got a Talk Box to use for his guitar solo in the middle eight. I agree with Randy - another solid performance. I agree with Paula (ouch!) he's ready to go sell records. Simon misses the Geico commercial reference Paula makes, and says that he looked a bit smug throughout - David's "lost his element of surprise". A good observation there - David's established his niche, so how does he maintain the momentum throughout the rest of the season?

Carly Smithson: "Blackbird"
Carly growled out a scintallating "Come Together" last week, and should easily maintain her position near the top of the heap again this week if she keeps up the consistently solid performances.

Ryan reminds us that we get to watch a performance from Kelly Pickler tomorrow night. Oh. Goodie. And now Paula is doing a faux Simon/Brit accent trying to illustrate what they were talking about during the ads.

Would someone please stop the crowd from doing that stupid hand wave every time the lights go down as a slow song starts up? It's really stoopid. Now, this is a nice arrangement - the chords have been changed up a bit, and they set off the melody very nicely, which is fortunate because Carly doesn't sound quite as strong as she has in the past. It's a decent performance over a really really good arrangement -could've been so much better. Not bad at all. And Paula just gave her an 'F' (for "fantastic" she says). Simon doesn't like it, and Carly defends the performance with an impassioned plea about how artists feel broken down by the music industry. Now Simon feels awkward. Me too. That was - odd.

Jason Castro: "Michelle"
The embodiment of the importance of being earnest. And cute. But will the dreadlocked dude be able to coast on these virtues if he continues to limp through songs he isn't really connecting with? Not sure what other people thought they heard when he sang "If I Fell" last week, but he'd better not let the tempo fall apart again. Stay with the band, man...

Ryan wants to know if we've heard our favorite Beatles song yet - not me, not yet. Not sure that I will. And I'll have to wait longer since Jason is tackling the French/English lyrics of "Michelle".

I've got to say - this is a perfect choice to fit Jason's style, and he manages to pull off the French pronunciation pretty well, even though we're back to unoriginal arrangements. I need to, I need to, I NEEEEED to say - Jason is coasting on cute right now. He's better than most guys who coasted on this quality in past seasons, but I don't think he'll make it past the top six.

Randy's sucking in his breath again - he pulls out the "not really connected" phrase again, what's really sad about that phrase is that it was Paula's phrase from last week. Paula uses it too, and then Simon says that maybe it wasn't a good idea to continue with The Beatles this week. I have to agree with him - this week's performances are a lot worse than last week's. David was aight, but not so much...

Syesha Mercado: "Yesterday"
Last week, Syesha started off the finalists episodes with a real snoozer version of "Got to Get You Into My Life". Syesha, honey - got to get some real energy into your songs!

Ryan sits on a stumpy stool next to a woman who looks vaguely familiar - where did all the frizz go? Syesha looks hot as usual, but what will she do with the perfect pop ballad?

Here's the thing - "Yesterday" is one of the most covered songs of all time, it's also one of the highest played songs on radio for all time. It's probably impossible to bring anything new to this song, and even all the vocal acrobatics that Syesha adds to this straight version of the song don't do enough to make it hers, I think. It's pretty, it's nice, but it's not all that.

Randy thought it was very, very good, Paula fumbles through something about vulnerability and "connecting" again, Simon gives it a "probably your best performance so far" even though he thinks she chose the wrong song (he says Brooke should have done it).

Chikezie: "I've Just Seen a Face"
With his incredibly energetic, and surprisingly versatile rendition of "She's a Woman", Chikezie was the hands down winner last week. Can he remain fresh for another week? Will there be a return to the orange-suited smoothness of Hollywood week?

Chikezie's wearing an orange shirt under his jacket and he's going to sing a lesser known tune - and it's slowed down a LOT. At this tempo, it's a Bryan McKnight joint with a country vibe, and I really like it OH WAIT we're off into a fast four again. Not good. Chikezie's not keeping up with the change, and he's not selling it like he did last week. I think I would rather have heard the whole song at the slowed down tempo. Randy disagrees with me, preferring the faster tempo. Paula busts out a couple keywords "depth" "range" and some other crap that doesn't matter. Simon thinks Paula's spouting nonsense, and he nails it when he calls it gimmicky and compares the last part of the song to Achy Breaky Heart.

Ramiele Malubay: "I Should Have Known Better"
Poor little Ramiele. Pining for her precious Danny N (look - they're hair twins!!), she dedicated last week's performance of "In My Life" to the memory of "close friends who'd left the show". Luckily for her, she should be joining them soon...

Ramiele MaLOOOOObay is last up tonight, and she's talking about all her really good friends again. This does not bode well for originality in her performance tonight - I'm not sure she knows how to be original. Karaoke is her thing. Her upbeat choice of "I Should Have Known Better" is made all the more sassy by that hat she's sporting - and she doesn't know what to do with the high note other than to scream it out in a bad Christian Aguilera impression. As she wraps it up, I think we've just witnessed the poorest week of the season so far - not a truly memorable performance at all tonight.

Randy thought it was a happy go lucky kinda joint, Paula thought it was better than last week and then says she's better at ballads - so, which is it? Simon likes Ramiele but he didn't like the arrangement at all, and I think he's absolutely right that she chose a mediocre song. There were a LOT of songs not picked tonight that could have worked much better."
"In retrospect, it turns out that Amanda had the most appealing performance tonight, and I wasn't too thrilled with it to begin with. Kristy Lee Cook may have actually had the best arrangement of the night, and she did nothing to make it shine. I'd love to hear what Carly would do with that particular piece -

Maybe I was anticipating more from tonight's theme - no one really made the most of a golden opportunity. A few people gave predictable performances - David Cook's was probably the best, but I anticipated hearing something exactly like that, so it lost a lot of impact. Should he have gone with the even more predictable "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and shown us what he can do with a guitar solo? I guess we'll never know.

Songs that could have made a HUGE impact went completely untouched - a few possibilities I came up with during the week as I mused over who might sing what:

Michael Johns could have rocked the house with a strong arrangement of "All You Need is Love". Brooke could have shaken things up by applying her own light touch to "Lady Madonna". And can you imagine what David Archuleta might sound like if he tried his hand at creating a new "Revolution"? That might have been a train wreck, or it might have been a bold choice, but there were a LOT of strong songs left untouched - of course, with a catalog this good, you're not going to get to all the good stuff, but tonight's lackluster performances made it seem as if all the good songs had been used up last week. Not a good week in my opinion -

So, who's going home? Hard to say. I think that Ramiele might have done enough to stay on again, and Syesha was definitely better this week, so she might not be on the floor this time. I think that Kristy is going home this time - she totally wasted a fantastic arrangement and missed a great chance to finally shine. Against that wonderful chordal structure, the melody should have stood out, and the vocal should have been memorable, but once again, Kristy doesn't project anything at all, and it's all for nothing. Somebody write her a check so she can buy that barrel horse back this week...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

American Idol 7.1

Let's blog this thing LIVE... (well, OK. 90 minute TiVo delay)
Tonight's Theme: Lennon / McCartney Songbook

1) Syesha Mercado "Got to Get You Into My Life"
"a song I can get into and show a little more of my personality"

I hate to use Simon's favorite critical phrase, but this is definitely cabaret.Sysesha is not getting on top of these notes - she sounds a bit nervous, and she is fighting the arrangement. I think the arrangement is winning.Not awful, but not a good way to start things out. Not memorable at all.

  • Randy says it's an EWF arrangement, "loosen up and fly with it", he calls her on some pitch problems
  • Paula copies Randall on the pitch criticism, then says she sounded good from the midway point to the end
  • Simon liked the choice, and better than alright. He thinks she was nervous, and actually liked the arrangement

Come back from commercial and Ryan and Chikezie chat with each other about his job as a guard at LAX, and how they set things up for Paula and Ezie to meet when she fliesEzie is sporting a tie under that sweater, and a sweatband watch as well. Hmmm.

2) Chikezie "She's a Woman"
"putting my own funk on it"

Oh yes. Bluegrass jam (banjo, tambourine, fiddle), and Chikezie is working it sitting down with this trio. He gets up and the band kicks into a kickbutt rock groove, and Chikezie is definitely keeping up. Stutter vocals, nasty high falsetto screeches. I LOVED IT. Greatness. THAT is how the show should have started. The whole world just forgot about Syesha - It was really refreshing, and it was completely original.

  • Randy "I was thoroughly entertained." "Who knew you had the falsetto? Chikezie smashed it"
  • Paula "those who take the risk, the greater the reward" She says she's been waiting for this sort of thing from him
  • Simon "I'm... really surprised... that I actually agree with these two." "unlike the first singer you actually changed from last week"

Ryan's overdoing the cheerleading afterwords

3) Ramiele Mabulay "In My Life"

"it's for my close friends who've left the show already" (a reference to Danny?)

shaky start, but fixes it pretty quickly. Nice tone through the verse. Very beatle-esque string arrangement, slowed down a lot from the original. A bit of R&B touch in her voice through the second verse. Need to control that last high note - it popped out noticeably. OK, but again - not memorable.

  • Randy "you know, it was kinda pretty, but pretty boring" "didn't move any earth for me" ????
  • Paula "it was pretty safe." positives positives blah blah blah blah blah "I feel like you're holding back"
  • Simon "I was bored to tears throughout the entire song" Forgettable, boring, and I expect a lot better from you
  • Audience doesn't sound enthused either

Ryan stands on a vanity platform up top - hey, we can download audio AND video. "Thank you iTunes" he says chirpily

4) Jason Castro "IF I Fell"

Jason tells us he failed his music minor class at Texas A&M. "oops" "it's a song I can really relate to"

Jason is seated on a stool, and playing his guitar. It's pretty much the Beatles track as originally recorded, and Jason is having a hard time getting into the groove when the band comes in. Jason adds some falsetto here and there, changes up the melody in places. That's about it for making it his song. Yeah, he's cute, but this isn't going to win it.

  • Randy "I liked it, I didn't love it..."
  • Paula disagrees with Randy "what is so special and unique about you - I feel your heart" blah blah blah blah blah "unique" "special" "emotional connection"
  • Simon "Last week you were incredible. This time, it was all a bit student in the bedroom at midnight" "is he going to make the same impact this week - no"

Have to agree with Simon on this one

Ryan and Simon are toying with each other, trading dumb barbs againRyan asks if America wants "the dreads" back again. Ryan and Carly are seated on "the most uncomfortable stools in television history" How is rooming with Amanda going? "pretty good"

5) Carly Smithson "Come Together"

"usually, it goes down a treat - I'm going to change it up a bit"

Well, it's a bit more bluesy than the original, and she's really belting it out (quite well, I might add). She's working the stage, selling it well, overall a great performance

  • Randy loved it.
  • Paula thought she was "already watching a star"
  • Simon thinks she chose the right song - finally. "this reminds me - six years ago - exactly the same week - of Kelly Clarkson"

Ryno high fives Smithson and throws it to commercialAd for Horton hears a Who - the entire cast is singing I Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore - is that in the movie, or made just for this show?

6) David Cook "Eleanor Rigby"

"this song is already so powerful - if I were to play guitar, it would be overkill"

It's a David Cook groove - a moody rock groove, and David drags the mic stand around with him. I LOVE the minor piano arpeggios. And a really strong chorus, HUGE rock orchestra sound. BIG screamer note at the end that he holds out pretty well. I LIKE. I think he's my favorite so far, even if he's not technically the best in this season

  • Randy "once you hit the chorus it was rockin!"
  • Paula "I've been telling everyone you're the dark horse in this race"
  • Simon (after enduring stupid comments from Randy and Paula about him being a Donkey) "David, I thought you were brilliant" Simon also postulates that David COULD win this whole show

Ryno is now hanging out with Ricky Minor on is perch "what up Ricky?" sheesh as we come back from the ads (what ads? we has tivo!!!)

7) Brooke White "Let It Be"

"I really connected with the story"

Brooke is playing the piano. It's the McCartney concert intro I've heard for myself in 1990 at Berkeley. The arrangement behind her at the chorus features more strings, a bit of gospel backing vocals. Second chorus, the band comes in a bit stronger, but it's restrained. She's not able to get the power going that the chorus needs. This week, Brooke just seemed like one of the girls, and in a season that obviously belongs to the boys, that is NOT a good thing. She lost her originality this week

  • Randy "you gave a very heartfelt performance. The dog is a fan"
  • Paula mentions the emotional connection again - it's the emotion that makes people fall in love with you
  • Simon thought is was one of the best songs of the night, brilliant song choice. "It's believable"I wasn't so impressed this week, but I LOVE that Brooke is so real, so genuine, and is just doing her thing the way she wants

At the break, Judge Amy says "prepare for plastic man" referring to David H's pending performance

8) David Hernandez "I Saw Her Standing There"

"it's fun, it's upbeat, and I'm gonna work the stage"

Hmmm. It's the Beatles arrangement with some instrumental breaks thrown in to change things up. David "works the stage" by starting out behind the judges, singing a bit, failing to impress the girls in the moshpit as he runs to the stage. The only good thing I can say about this performance is that David H is actually capable of sounding like Kenny Loggins. But Kenny sings better than this.

  • Randy "I was a little lost. Too much going on for me"Paula "I love your voice" David "I love you too" OOOPS.
  • Paula's trying to keep it positive but failing
  • Simon "No. No. No. Corny verging on desperate"

Ryno and Amanda site on the not so comfy stools. "What's it like back stage?" Amanda "tends to sit in a corner and wait"

9) Amanda Overmyer "You Can't Do That"

"I'm going to speed it up, rock it up a bit"

When you speed things up, start at the right speed, and make sure you don't lose it either. This performance feels more like Tina Turner than Janis Joplin - Amanda needs to sing less sloppy, slurring things up and down into each other. It's energetic, and she's doing pretty well, but it's not up to the same standard David Cook is bringing right now. However, she and Carly are having no problems keeping up with the boys

Randy and Paula love it, blown away.

Simon uses my word! "slurring the words" woo hoo!

Ryno is up in the crowd exhorting them to hold signs higher.

10) Michael Johns "Across the Universe"

"you're not a real musician if you haven't been affected by the Beatles"

He's singing it smoothly, pretty nice until he gets to the jacarudayuh word. It just doesn't work that smooth. How Lennon made it work, I'll never know, but it certainly doesn't work here. The song is nice but should be filed with the forgettable performances of the night

  • Randy "a little sleepy but aight"
  • Paula disagrees with Randy again and gets applause for it. She says connected again.
  • Simon agrees with Randy, then forgets Carly's name referring to her in praise "now is the point you've got to let yourself go a little bit - I'm frustrated still that we haven't yet heard what you're capable of"

Ryan plays judge four again and gives Paula a chance to state her case again. Ryan - you're the presenter. Stop editorializing

11) Kristy Lee Cook "Eight Days a Week"

"I'm changing it into a country song"

News flash, Kristy. It's already a country song. OH. My bad - she's turned it into a hoedown. At least she's doing what works with her voice. WWCUD? I have to say that this speeded up, Hee Haw version is completely boring. There's absolutely no dynamic change, nothing to make the song interesting except the novelty, and I don't think they'd allow this on the stage at Grand Ole Opry.

  • Randy is laughing "I actually liked the idea of the song. Kinda torn with this one"
  • Paula is hemming and hawing. She didn't enjoy it - she thinks that Kristi took their advice too much to heart (to stick with country)
  • Simon "you sounded like Dolly Parton on helium - a very brave, but very foolish thing to do"

And the crowd goes wild as Ryno introduces...

12) David Archuleta "We Can Work it Out"

"definitely the most nervous I've ever been"

He's doing a funky version (is this the Stevie Wonder arrangement?), and he forgot the words of the second phrase. Yes - think of what you're saying David. He's forgetting more words now. I think that this would be a much better song if he was more confident about the words of this song. I will say this - he set a high level of difficulty for himself - he is not in control of this song. I think he bit off more than he could chew.

  • Randy "it was not on point. this kind of vibe is not your vibe. felt very forced - all I heard in my head was that Stevie"
  • Paula keeps it on a positive tip, natch, but she's right that this wasn't his week
  • Simon "I'm going to keep this fair. That was a mess"

In the recap, my daughter says "oh yeah. Syesha performed"

And as we go through this again, I think that Chikezie won the night, with David Cook and Carly Smithson following close behind. Several forgettable performances and a few very, very good ones - here's the kicker. Kristi's performance was horrible AND memorable, so I'll choose her as this week's VFTW target. I think that Ramiele is the one in most danger of going home at this point.

Better formatting next week - promise!