Saturday, March 27, 2010

American Idol Top 11

So, it wasn't Teen Idol Week after all, despite the annoying Miley Cyrus as the week's special guest, and despite the musically dubious duo of Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato. Instead, it was "Billboard Number One Hits" week. Very interesting. Sounds like a bit of a last minute switcharoo, and with all sorts of American Idol cliched and overdone song choices, it does feel like much of this was thrown together sort of last minute.

I am going to try to be concise this week. While I still find the show entertaining and enjoy "ranking" the contestants, etc, it just does not have the appeal of recent seasons. I did these rankings and made my grades before I had heard any other analysis of the show, so in some circumstances, I was kinder to some performers than virtually anybody else.

Lee Dewyze- "The Letter"

I bet he was thrilled to get musical advice from Miss Cyrus. Overall, I probably found this as Lee's strongest performance, though there is little relevance to what kind of artist he would be after the show. The nerves seemed less and I liked the sort of loungey, old school aspect of his performance more than the goaty Dave Matthews stuff he often does. It was weird though how the singer of this song just died this week and that was not mentioned on the air at all. Did Lee even know that?

Congrats to Lee for making it to the tour. Hopefully, he will find the visit to Allstate Arena a highlight of his young career. Before that though, if he makes it to the Top 3 and gets to return to the Northwest suburbs of Chicago for the "Homecoming", should I try to go? There may only be about 18 people or so that show up anyway. Grade B

Paige Miles- "Against All Odds"

I actually really like this song, but it has been done soo many times on Idol. Believe it or not, that only decent rendition of it to ever be done was by none other than Scott Savol.

As far as Paige's performance this week, I just watched it back for the second time, and yeah, it was pretty bad, and I feel ashamed of myself for thinking on Tuesday night that it was averageish, at least for Paige. I was apparently being very kind. I don't really know anything about music, so I have not gotten this Paige thing from the beginning. In every performance, I have had issues with her breathiness, straining and mumbling. This was certainly the same thing, but at first listen, it did not really seem all that different than anything Paige had done before. I guess I just found it more interesting her than her horrid take on "Smile", which she had survived. Grade (based on my flawed listening Tuesday) C

Tim Urban- "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"

Timmy taking on Freddie could have been brutal. It certainly was when that David Radford kid did it a few years ago. The best I can say about this performance is that it could have been much worse.

There were not really any horrible notes, but needless to say, I think this is nowhere close to American Idol caliber. It reminded me of another contestant from a few years back; Jon Peter Lewis and all his ridiculous antics. They are about the same height too. The slide across the stage appeared to have worked better in the rehearsal clip. If this was baseball, the catcher would have easily tagged him out. Still though, this was very smart strategy for Tim to appeal to his bases of Vote for the Worst and tweenage girls, who were likely watching in higher numbers because of that Hannah Montana girl being on. So, bravo to Timmy for doing what he needed to do to make the tour, where he will certainly be doing this same song in an amateurish fashion. So Simon, it really wasn't so "pointless" and "silly" after all. Grade C+

Aaron Kelly- "I Don't Want to Miss A Thing"

Another song I enjoy, but yet another one that has been done to death on the Idol stage . The show itself made sure that everybody knew that young Aaron was dealing with laryngitis, tonsillitis, and maybe even a case of anorexia. He really needs to eat a burger or something. Throughout the show's history, some contestants have suffered in silent sickness, but that was not going to be the case for Aaron this week, and he was certain to get some sympathy votes. I also was not entirely convinced on his confession of a Miley crush.

True enough, I did detect some problems with his voice, but I give him points for soldiering through it and giving it maximum effort. He really had to strain though to hit the high notes, turning his entire head while doing so. (Kris Allen only had to do the side mouth thing at those moments.) The country version of this Aerosmith song has been heard before, so this may not have been a genuine "moment" for Aaron, but it was certain to not lose him any fans at least. At the end, Seacrest jokingly referred to him as David Archuleta. America should be so lucky. Grade B-

Crystal Bowersox- "Me And Bobby McGee"

Singing a song about McGee would be a really bad idea right about now for Sandra Bullock's idiot husband, but it was a smart, if somewhat predictable choice for Crystal to take on Janis Joplin. The concept of her being mentored by Miley Cyrus on singing is somewhat laughable, but it was nice of Crystal to gather her signature to go along with the others on her guitar, before it gets auctioned off on Ebay.

Crystal was her usual stellar, seemingly effortless self on this song, and the part towards the end where she really picked up the tempo seemed almost non-rehearsed. She got some judges comments though related to the sameness of her performances and Crystal promised that next week (which we know now is R&B/Soul week) she had "big plans" and would not feature the guitar. It will great to see if she can pull that off. If I had to pick a song for her, I would recommend something like Jackie Wilson's "Your Love Has Lifted Me Higher." She might really be able to go to school on that in a gospel sort of way. Grade A-

Michael Lynche- "When A Man Loves A Woman"

There goes Big Mike again appealing to the feminist vote. They should have a Misogynist Week on Idol. I would be curious to see his song choice. As I have mentioned before, he went into this season as sort of a neo-soul 350 pound black John Mayer type of singer, but now appears to be following the 2003 Ruben Studdard game plan. I think it is smart of Mike to try to appeal to older viewers.

I must really be getting old, because I thought this was a really great vocal, as far as vocals go. He did a variety of things with his voice and did not go off the rails once. Like my generous C to Paige though, I probably graded him higher than most anybody else, but I really liked the old-school vibe he did on this number. The judges said it was old-fashioned and not relevant. Perhaps the better term might be "timeless." I think that while he was singing it, I was just placing too much emphasis on my thought on how much better he was on this song than Michael Bolton. I have to be honest though; as far as vocal performance alone, it was maybe the strongest performance of anyone thus far this season. Considering next week's theme, expectations for him should be pretty high. Grade A

Andrew Garcia- " I Heard It Through the Grapevine"

It might take a team of psychiatrists to figure out what is going on in Andrew's head, because he is getting worse every week. To think he was once considered the front-runner to win the whole thing. I actually though this was worse than Paige, if that was possible, and found it cheesy, awkward, and I was counting the seconds until it was over. Plus, with the khaki jacket, Andrew was looking for like Kim Jong-Il than ever before.

Somehow, someway though Andrew has continued to avoid the bottom three these first two weeks. Either there is a heavy Latino bloc vote for him or he just has a ton of YouTube fans turning in. I actually caught a clip of him in YouTube playing acoustic guitar and doing a medley of Jackson Five songs and it was pretty good. For his sake, he better try to recreate that next week. Grade D

Katie Stevens- "Big Girls Don't Cry"

When I saw the list of song spoilers for the week, I first thought she would be doing the old Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons version, considering how none of the other kids were doing a song from the past decade. Also, a bit ironic considering how Katie is caught crying during the eliminations every week. Instead though, she took on Fergie, and you have to give her some credit for doing something modern. While it was not enough to keep her out of the Bottom Three, it was probably her strongest performance to date.

Anyways, I thought the first verse was pretty good, and then it got pitchy in the chorus and stayed that way throughout. I did not expect her to be in too much danger, because I thought the Miley fans tuning in might be persuadable to support her for the week. I have a feeling though that not only will Katie be singing this song on tour to semi-empty arenas of people not paying much attention, but that she will also be singing this song pretty shortly before the Judges pretending to deliberate on if they will save her. Grade B-

Casey James- "The Power of Love"

Looking at the song spoilers, would he be singing Celine Dion or Huey Lewis. I was really hoping for Huey, and thankfully that was the case. He also had a good line in telling Miley that he was a big fan..... of her dad. I bet the new Democrat nominee for Lt. Governor of Illinois will be hearing that a lot on the campaign trail.

I do not know if Casey accomplished what he really set out for as far as showing a ton of personality to the audience, but one person who was showing way too much personality during the performance was Idol Musical Director Ricky Minor who serious needs to dial back on the weird faces and the guitar goose walking. Vocally, I thought Casey was pretty good, though I just kept thinking about the movie "Back to the Future" during the whole performance and calculating that going back in time to the date of that movie would be close to how far back in time Marty McFly went back then.... Anways, Simon compared him to an 80's cover band, which this season, I think is a high compliment. I am pretty sure he has yet to take the stage without a guitar though, same as Crystal. Grade B

Didi Benami- "You're No Good"

While I think it was not anywhere near as good as she was the previous two weeks, I think the judges were too harsh on her. Despite the ironic nature of the song choice, it wasn't that horrible. Not sure what else there it to say about this performance. I do sort of see where Kara DioGuardi was coming from in regards to Didi trying to play a character (I detected a put-on New York accent throughout the song) but isn't that often what American Idol is about? What's her name.... every week, I have a hard time thinking of it here... oh yeah, Syesha, got high praise for doing that in the later rounds in her season. For the record, Syesha was a heck of a lot better than almost all of these Finalists, and it's hard to believe American Idol will not have a black woman in the Top 10 and I know "Conservative Democrat" will agree with me.

Anyways, back to Didi, while Crystal and Casey need some less guitar for variety at least, Didi will probably be better if she picks one up. Possibly more cowbell too. Grade B-

Siobhan Magnus- "Superstition"

The pimp spot went to the most newly pimped "star" of the season. She has some weird friends and continuing the theme I have discussed of her weirdness since the semi-finals, that might ultimately come to hurt her with the voting public. I am speaking mostly this week of the results show where the evening opened with some girl's face seemingly covered in blood. I said right away that they had to be there with Siobhan. Sure enough, I was right.

I definitely think that Siobhan is one of the more talented singers this season, but she still has issues when she tries to sing normal and the Adam Lambert-ish gratuitous screaming at the end of the song is indeed becoming somewhat predictable. She likes to scream though and if Idol has a Death Metal Week, she can scream the whole song. Will there be screaming next week? She always picks older songs and if she takes on Aretha again, there just may need to be. Grade B

So, having ranked them on vocal performance on Tuesday night:

1. Michael Lynche
2. Crystal Bowersox
3. Siobhan Magnus
4. Lee Dewyze
5. Casey James
6. Didi Benami
7. Katie Stevens
8. Aaron Kelly
9. Tim Urban
10. Paige Miles
11. Andrew Garcia

Who should have been eliminated: Andrew Garcia
Who I predicted would be eliminated: Paige Miles
Who was eliminated: Paige Miles

And they didn't even go through the charade of her "singing for her life" on the dumb judge's save thing. I guess it is as selective as most Obama campaign promises. The guest mentor this week probably hurt Paige, as she needed a lot of African-American votes to survive, and I envision most of them turning off the tv as soon as Miley Cyrus showed up.

We have our Top 10 set though and they should all feel good about making the Tour... assuming it does not get canceled for lack of interest.

I am also now two for two, both in my weekly elimination predictions, and in the macro ones I made on who would finish where before the Finals began. If I am that psychic, Katie should be pretty nervous, as I predicted her to finish in 10th place. She has made her first trip to the Bottom Three, and Tim has now been there twice. How much longer will Andrew avoid a trip to the silver stools?

I am pretty sure that next week's American Idol, featuring Guest Mentor Usher, is only going to be an hour in length, and I will be watching it live with my family, after our little Passover dinner. For those who will be having more formal Seders, the Fifth Question of of the evening may be "Why is this season so much worse than any other season?" or "Why was that so pitchy, dawg?"