Tuesday, March 20, 2007

American Idol - Top Eleven: British Invasion

Week 2, Top Eleven, British Invasion - featuring Peter Noone (Herman's Hermits) and Lulu
Well, here we are with the top eleven, minus Brandon who went home last week. My pre-show prediction has been that Phil Stacey will go home this week - let's see how the show shakes out this week...

Haley Scarnato: Tell Him

Hmmmm. My pick to go home in week one performs Tell Him, and she is at least better than last week. She definitely looks great, she looks the part, and she sings the song well. But there's no real "oomph" in her voice, no real power, nothing to show off her talent as a singer. I think I agree with Simon - people will remember this performance more for her shorts and backless top ensemble than for the actual singing.

Chris Richardson: Don't Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'

A beautiful arrangement of a song by Gerry and the Pacemakers, Chris starts out seated next to an acoustic guitarist on stage. Glad to see that the JT posing is at a minimum, though he can't keep the stereotypical boy band performance off his face. A much better performance than last week, sang it pretty straight, and it worked out well - the lack of vocal gymnastics throughout made his little falsetto run at the end much more dynamic. Very well done.

Stephanie Edwards: You Don't Have to Say You Love Me

Without hearing the performance yet, I must say this is a great song choice for Stephanie - hope she can make it smolder.Oh no - a VERY hokey instrumental introduction, and she blows the initial rhythm on her entry. And then again later in the song, blows the same rhythm. She sounds OK, but she is pitchy, not quite 100% in control of this song; she could have really made this one soar, and it never really even gets off the ground - this is not a great performance in my opinion - let's see if the judges throw her a life preserver to keep her chances afloat this week. Yay, Randy agrees with ME, Paula compliments her fashion sense, and Simon says she may be "losing her edge...losing her soul". I think they actually got this one right. Not her best performance so far.

Blake Lewis: Time of the Season

So what will Blake come up with this week? He's the real innovator of the group, and the dark horse favorite to take it all. Peter Noone cautions him not to go overboard with the beat boxing... he starts it out with a bit of the beat boxing, and it really works. Problem is, he's a little flat in places, and just like last week, the performance lacks the energy we saw in the first few weeks of the show. He's stretching to hit the high notes, and they sound strained. I fear that Blake is on a downward swing right now. Randy calls it "brillaint", Paula thinks he "raised the bar" and Simon says..."a million times better than last week". Hmmm. I'll agree that he made it sound contemporary, the arrangement was fine, but I completely disagree that it was even close to being his best, or even a simply great performance. I think they just did him a great disservice - he needs to get back to the energy he displayed early on, and he's being pointed in the wrong direction.

Lakisha Jones: Diamonds are Forever

Lakisha foregoes Lulu's advice to sing "You're My World" and instead tackles Shirley Bassey's title track from the James Bond movie of the same name. And, well - it's good enough. But it has some iffy moments; she bottoms out on a low note here and there, missing them a bit, but it's not awful. She looks good, the green dress works well on her, but for once, Lakisha isn't making the song look good. She performs it well, but she doesn't own it, like the songs she's sung in past week. Simon makes a good observation - it seems like the performance was something she'd do fifty years from now, once her career is long over. The song fell a bit flat, BUT let's be honest - it's still better than Haley or Stephanie right now.

Phil Stacey: Tobacco Road

He says he chose it because it's fun for him to sing. Well, let's hope he gets his entrance right, doesn't oversing it, shout it, or fail to sell it - all problems he's had in weeks past.
Well...now this is a refreshing change of pace. Phil's rocking it pretty well, no missed notes in the entrance, he does oversing a bit, but it works in this song. He throws in a few nice, bluesy runs, a couple falsetto jumps, and he works the stage. All in all, a good performance and I think my prediction just went out the window after that. But was it good enough? Not sure. As Simon pointed out, it didn't sound gritty enough, it needed to sound a bit harsher, a bit more rock and roll than it came off, and I think his point is a valid one. I guess I'm just happy to see Phil doing better than he has in the last few weeks.

Jordin Sparks: I, Who Have Nothing

Woah. A bold choice. Lulu is giving her great advice, telling her to really scream it out near the end - this is a powerhouse of a song, another Shirley Bassey number, gobs of drama. Can Jordin handle it?

OK, a first for the competition - Jordin outsang Lakisha. She did a fabulous job, fantastic control, fantastic emotion, AMAZING range, and all kinds of drama conveyed in her voice. A 10. Excellent job. Wow.

Could Jordin win the night? It will take a very good performance from one of the remaining contestants to convince me otherwise at the moment...

Sanjaya Malakar:

OK, Ryan's making smarmy jokes about Sanjaya before the break, so I think even Seacrest wants Malakar out. I fear what is about to be unleashed upon us by the Boy with the Teflon Hair. And Sanjaya is trying to choose between singing You Really Got Me, and (embarassingly) Something Tells Me I'm Into Something Good.

And he goes with The Kinks.

Oh dear.

Shiny happy people should not try to emulate The Kinks, much less a song even more closely associated with Van Halen. This may have been one of Sanjaya's better performances, but everything is relative, and this is not even remotely entertaining. It's creepy, really. I can't reconcile DLR's spandex prowl with DazzleBrite Boy's faux pawing.

Gina Glocksen: Paint It Black

I really like Gina. I love her attitude, I love her drive, and her ambition. I also like the new haircut and the funky black outfit. And to sing this Rolling Stones classic rocker? This COULD be good. Let's see if it works.

An interesting arrangement, if they put any more metal edge on it, it might be a goth rock/emo variant that we'd hear from Garbage or (forgive me) Evanescence. She doesn't start strong, but she warms up to it, and I think that if she could do the whole song, it would work even better than the short AI timeslot allows. She did OK, but I really don't think she really has a chance at winning this thing. Hope she can stick around for at least a few more weeks, at least to give us some change of pace among the female singers.

Chris Sligh (glasses ON this week): She's Not There

Oh, this one SHOULD work well for Chris. It's got all kinds of opportunity for him to show off his range, some dynamics and some style.

I think that this is the PERFECT song choice for Chris this week. I think he did a great job with it, nice falsettos, and then to return to the same notes in full voice - Niiiiiice. Very good performance overall, and definitely an improvement over last week's song.

Melinda Doolittle: As Long As He Needs Me

OK - first things first. New Haircut, a sort of modified Dorothy Hamill bob, I think. It's cute, but I'm not sure it's the best look for her.

But that really doesn't matter, because Melinda is far and away the best singer in this competition. At least, she has been until tonight. Until Jordin raised her game tonight. Can Melinda maintain her position at the top? She admits that she's out of her comfort zone with the "British Invasion", but I think this is a good choice for her. She ALWAYS manages to find the heart of each song she sings...

And only a few bars into the performance, it's still clear: Melinda is the woman to beat this year. She is SO good. It would be criminal for her to not win this thing, but of course, winning AI is not the end all and be all of having a career in the music industry. Let's face it, Melinda does NOT need AI to succeed. She could walk away, wait out the contract and come back to sell a gazillion albums.

Hearing the playback of the eleven at the end, a surprise: now that I can hear all the performances relative to each other, Stephanie comes off the worst, with Blake a close second. Interesting - I now like AquaNet Man's take on The Kinks better than the performances of those other two; how odd. However, I think that I will have to now go with Haley Scarnato as this week's sacrficial lamb; she drew the dreaded first slot, and her performance was less memorable than her outfit - not a good combination.

And another thing - I think that Jordin actually DOES have a chance at winning this thing; she's young, she's adorable, and she's VERY talented. She COULD take this whole thing if enough of the voters decide to put her through over Melinda - could it be that Melinda is TOO talented to be voted the American Idol? Stay tuned...

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