Tuesday, April 21, 2009

American Idol Top 7- Part II

Get out your leisure suits and platform shoes because it's time to Disco! Ok, I really hate this theme. It has been done at least twice before on American Idol, and there are usually some severe train wrecks. This year brought about the likelihood though of enough drastically altered versions of these disco tunes to make things interesting. Indeed nobody tonight was as horrible as Rick Dees' "Disco Duck", but once again, I do not think there was a contestant who vocally brought the house down.

Here are the performances in order and my opinion of them, although I realize that many people, including myself would rather hear the honorable and courageous views of Miss California on these matters:

1. Lil Rounds- "I'm Every Woman"

Lil chose to do a song by Chaka Khan, who I already knew has the same birthday as me and was the closing performer at the 2000 Republican National Convention. I suppose Lil was entertaining to the Idol studio audience as the kick-off performer as the number is considered a crowd-pleaser. To me though, it did seem to be pretty karaoke, or something that might be done at the Harpo Studios in Chicago right before Oprah took her seat to proselytize to her followers.

Mrs. Rounds has been struggling for at least a couple weeks now and it sounded to me during the performance as if her voice was in rough shape. After the performance, Paula Abdul pointed out that Lil had been sick and could not even speak yesterday. The lack of speaking ability certainly never stops Lil from trying to defend herself to the judges, but the general consensus of them and the show itself seems to be that she has to be one of the two people to be eliminated this week.

I thought Lil had a really strong semifinal performance on a Mary J. Blige back what seems ages ago. On the big stage though, she has just never lived up to her potential, (even though I liked at least one of her songs more than most people.) Every week though just makes it harder to ignore her deficiencies. While Idol has always seen an African-American female soul singer finish at least in fifth place, Lil is going to probably break that streak. All of the others, in addition to some who did not even come in fifth (such as Mandisa who sang Lil's song tonight as the opening number of the Season Five Pop Tarts tour) were able to prove themselves as better singers.

2. Kris Allen- "She Works Hard for the Money"

I knew it was likely that Kris would take his guitar and put an acoustic spin on a disco song, but I have to admit that I was quite surprised to hear he was going to do this Donna Summers number. While the music video was about a waitress, I believe the original song was about another kind of working girl, which Kris seemed aware of, in a bit of an awkward exchange with Seacrest before the song began. I really like the fact that Kris chose to do this song, but maybe he should have claimed it was really about a waitress, as some people could possibly be a little surprised that the southern church worship leader would go that route.

While Kris did not do any sort of crazy vocal gymnastics, I really thought it was a good performance and I enjoyed the arrangement, which Paula likened to something that sounded like Santana. I have not tried to search YouTube, so perhaps there has been a version of the song done this way before, but it is probably more likely that Kris figured it out on his own, and if that is the case, I just think it is one of the most creative things ever done on American Idol.

During the judges' comments, Paula and Simon got into a little bit of a weird thing related to if perhaps the wholesome Kris might not only sing a lady's song, but could possibly also wear ladies' underwear. If so, his Mansion roommate Adam Lambert is a worse influence than first thought.

3. Danny Gokey- "September"

I really sort of like this song, but can it truly be considered disco? I looked it up on Wikipedia thinking it came out earlier than it's 1978 release, so I guess it might have been spun at Studio 54, or Studio 57 as Kara DioGuardi might say.

Gokey made some Idol blogosphere headlines this week for hanging out with a popular Contemporary Christian singer (who happened to sing at the 2004 GOP Convention.) That raised some eyebrows considering Danny's wife passed away less than a year ago, but the young lady insists it's not like that, you know. Indeed, Danny's best avenue in the music business will probably be to do CCR music (and I do not mean Credence Clearwater Revival.)

While I really find his dancing annoying, this was probably a good selection to fit Danny's vocals. I think it was fairly decent, but it was not as good as it could have been or as much as I thought it would be. His voice seemed a little off as has been noted by others, he is always far more committed to singing choruses than the other verses. Also, this is a song that really requires a lot of additional voices, such as those of backup singers, and that might have taken from it a bit. Of course, Paula once again proclaimed him to be a certain participant in the big Finale next month, and that probably angered a lot of Gokey detractors.

To continue a theme though, this is a song that has been a crowd-pleaser at Republican Conventions, and once again, I think I would enjoy Danny singing songs like this more at those than his trying to be the next American Idol. Perhaps in 2012, he can sing it to the delegates alongside his new friend.

4. Allison Iraheta- "Hot Stuff"

Between the lighting and the stage set up at the beginning of the performance, it looked as if Idol had a lot invested in wanting to keep Allison around. She did a somewhat rocked out version of this Donna Summers song, and while I think she was good, as she always is, I have to agree with some of the judges that I did not really like the arrangement too much. It should have perhaps been faster and had more of a rock vibe than it did. Despite the fact that Allison has a great rock voice, it just never really kicked in as it could have.

Detractors of Allison sometimes point out that her enunciation is far from perfect. That really does not matter too much to me personally and I also realize that the braces on her bottom teeth might have something to do with it. Tonight though, I did sort of see a little bit of a connection with a portion of this very same song which was sang by another "rocker chick", a seemingly drunken Amanda Overmyer, during the Season Finale last year.

All things considered, Allison probably did what she wanted to do considering the theme though. I sense she might be a little tired both vocally and emotionally though at this stage in the competition. Who could blame her for that though? As mentioned last week, she is by far the youngest competitor and also has her school requirements to worry about. She can still belt like nobody's business, but there might be a little bit of a strain when she has to sing verses.

5. Adam Lambert- "If I Can't Have You"

Adam was decked out in a full suit this week, and Kara said he looked like "the guy from Saturday Night Live." Did she mean Saturday Night Fever? It wasn't a white suit. What exactly was she talking about?

One thing to point out is that ratings concerns must trump fairness with the Idol producers, because Adam has never gone first or I think even second or third in the show. He really should have had his turn in the "death spot" by now, and he would have almost certainly survived it, but they must be worried that they would lose too many viewers after he finishes.

Most people expected Adam to do a full out glam- disco arrangement featuring a lot of prancing around the stage, but instead, he chose to follow his path of being over the top one week, and restrained and ballady the next week.

While he kindly gave a lot of credit to one of the Idol musical producers for coming up with the much slower arrangement of this Bee Gees' song, I maybe found it a little boring. Still though, Adam's voice was very good for most of it. There were a couple of bars when he demonstrated his Hair Metal screaming skills, but for the most part it was very restrained, but perhaps a little too emo for my tastes. Paula though was once again though beside herself with emotion and chose to also place Adam in the finale. She talked about how emotional it was and how it seemed like he was literally singing his heart out.

Paula, and many others, should keep in mind though that Adam is a very experienced stage actor. I am definitely not saying he is bad at acting, but it does usually seem to me like he is acting, and that certainly was the case tonight with all the frowning during the song, etc. But hey, if he can fool people into thinking that he is genuinely feeling the song and the lyrics, that's great for him.

6. Matt Giraud- "Stayin' Alive"

Next to do a Bee Gees' song was the latest Michigan enterprise to have received a bail-out. . As we all know, the judges' save last week allowed Matt to come back and sing such an appropriately titled song based on his recent experiences. Unlike Adam though, Matt pretty much sang it as if it were the original version. Parts of it were good. Matt definitely has a very talented voice, but again, I think he is probably a lot better in the studio than he is on a live stage. When he tries to do a lot of runs, or demonstrate a falsetto, it can be a little off, to say the least.

I was paying close attention to how the judges would react to Matt though afterwards. Many people though they would have to really praise him by saying things like, "This is why you were saved, because you are one of the best ones here and now, we know we did the right thing, because you really can win this!" While Paula basically proclaimed him to be safe for next week though, the other judges seemed far more critical. That could have a serious impact on the casual voter who realizes how many additional chances Matt has been given.

7. Anoop Desai- "Dim All the Lights"

In honor of the NHL Playoffs, Noop Dogg seems to be growing a "playoff beard" and might not shave until he is eliminated. If Simon Cowell has his way, that will be tomorrow night, as for whatever reason, Simon seems to really, really dislike Anoop on a personal level. The feeling is probably mutual for Anoop and while it seems he is a very competitive and intense person, he is starting to also give an "I'm over this crap" vibe about the show.

This was the only song tonight that I did not know, and I really did not like it when I heard it this evening. It started off slow, as Anoop's most praised performances go, and then went more uptempo, which has gotten Anoop into trouble before. Many thought this would be a very tough week for him because of that reason. He was decent I thought, but it did not seem to me to be one of his better performances, even on the slow parts. There is no denying that he has one of the best voices in the competition, but sometimes it can be hit or miss with him on the performances.

So, to rank them from best to worst on vocal performance alone this evening:

1. Kris Allen
2. Adam Lambert
3. Allison Iraheta
4. Danny Gokey
5. Anoop Desai
6. Matt Giraud
7. Lil Rounds

Two people are leaving this week of course. For the second week in a row, I have Lil last and Matt next to last in my rankings. I really hope, in the spirit of fairness, that they are the two to be eliminated this week, and keeping hope alive, I will make that my official prediction.

While I think Matt is stronger than Lil, let's not forget that he was technically "voted off" before she was last week. Once again this week, I think Lil (despite what Dial Idol might say when I finally check it), will finish at number 6 in the voting. So, while I do not think he was the worst tonight, Matt will need a lot of motivated voters to avoid finishing last again. If he is not in the bottom two, one of the other five should really consider themselves hosed, since they had a guaranteed spot in the Final Six last week before all that "save" business that all of the kids seemed so thrilled over. Even if Matt leaves this week, but is given the official title of Sixth Place finisher, the other person (Lil or whomever) will maybe be done a bit of a voting fairness disservice because they will have to sing earlier on the tour lineup, but more importantly, perhaps take home a smaller check, and have less bragging rights for the rest of their life between 7th and 6th.

The third person in the bottom three, and I think the only one besides Matt who would come in last and leave along with Lil is Anoop. As has been mentioned many times, Matt and Anoop are both splitting the same vote base and neither of them will be saved this week. I think it could potentially be really close between them, but since Anoop had the pimp spot (first time he ever has in a viewer voting show) and received praise from three of the four judges, I will maybe give him a slight edge to "stay alive." Anoop fans are probably now more pissed off at Simon and more motivated than ever to throw him some votes. In the spirit of fairness and Idol historical purity, I hope finishes ahead of Matt.

Tomorrow's Results Show should definitely be interesting though. Last year's runner-up David Archuleta will return to the stage. I continue to be a fan of him and his amazing vocal abilities. I just really do not like the "Touch My Hand" song he will be singing. But if I were producing the show, I would follow the Idol tradition and break the contestants into groups, and just like last year, bring out Archie to choose the bottom three and force him to do it!

And since the song will be need to be played twice, I would tell tonight's audience member Vince Neil to stick around and do a live version of "Home Sweet Home."

"A Timid Advocate of Freedom"

Rather than taking the time to compose a rant of my own about the shameful behavior of our shockingly narcissistic and self-centered President, particularly as it relates to when he goes abroad, I just wanted to post a link to this very well articulated piece in the National Review, from Governor Mitt Romney, the man who should have been the President of the United States:


I just wish Mitt would have said a bit about the whole horrible bowing to the Saudi King incident.