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? ummmm...wow. 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...

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