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.