Wednesday, April 27, 2011

American Idol Top 6

Live blogging from my DVD recording. It is supposed to Carole King night, and also I read that there are supposed to be duets. I dislike that occurring in the competition. They should save it for the result nights. There will be no spell-checking or grammar corrections here. Just letting you all know...

Constantine Maroulis is in the audience and unfortunately on tv once again. Was that Susan Boyle I saw there too?

Playing the part of tonight will be Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds.

1. Jacob Lusk- "Oh No, Not My Baby"

If things go according to conventional wisdom, this week will include the swan song for Jacob. There has already been speculation about "sabotage" against him last week, with the issue regarding the drum beat in his in-ear monitor as he was beginning his song.

I do not know the song that Jacob sang tonight, but once again felt he did a pretty good job. I am also sure that his many detractors in Idol fandom will once again not like it. For whatever reason, Jacob's personality, as a gregarious African-American man is not as pleasing to many as contestants such as Rickey Smith and George Huff in previous seasons. The "look in the mirror" comment and "diva" tagline surrounding Jacob continue to hurt his long-term viability this season.

The song started out a little slow and very much akin to what he has done week after week. Then, it picked up in tempo and Jacob was able to give more of an energetic vocal performance, that including scatting and dancing around on stage. For the most part, I thought he showed off his talent, but I do not know if it will be overly memorable by the time the show is over. Grade: B+

Did Seacrest just say the Summer Tour will contain the Top 11? Did he make a mistake or is that some breaking news that I missed today amid my copious examination of Donald Trump's birth certificate?..... nevermind, I got confused. Eleven is correct. It has been a long day.

2. Lauren Alaina- "Where You Lead"

I had to just look up the song title because I thought Lauren was either saying "leave" or "live." Wrong on both options. Anyway, Idol producers seem to be pushing really hard for her to advance. She is getting the storyline of being the insecure teenager, afraid to sing big notes. Then, she can be expected to suddenly blossom at Top Three or at the Nokia Theater during the finale. They also brought in Miley Cyrus for some special mentoring to Lauren, and that could help her pick up some votes from young girls. Miley must really hate Jimmy Iovine now though. Let's hope there was no salvia smoked among any of them.

To me, Lauren was just ok vocally this week. It seemed a bit safe and boring to me. It sounds a bit countryfied and maybe that's why I am not totally digging it. The judges really seemed to like it though and oddly enough praised her for the fact that her voice cracked. Lauren was happy enough to tear up after the judging. Shrewd move on her part.

She also pulled some random dude from the audience to sit on stage with her and serenaded him as he gamely nodded his head along. I bet the whole thing was orchestrated and rehearsed, whomever he was. It felt a little pointless to me. It turns out though that he said he was 19, and while Lauren is just 16, a 19 year old would have been too young for Ms. Cyrus back at that age anyway. Grade: B-

So, now it is the time for the first of the duets. I wish they would at least have those in order. It messes up my ranking system, but the only thing I can do, which is what I have done for the two previous seasons, is rank them each individually by round on the first time they sang and the second.

3. Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart- "I Feel The Earth Move"

Looks like we are going to get predictable duet partners. Casey and Haley are supposedly an item, so the show will try to get mileage out of that. Young Lauren and Scotty are both aspiring country artists and have to go to school together, so I suppose it's easiest for them to rehearse together this way. That Jacob/James duet is going to be sort of unusual I bet.

Anyways, before I listen to a note of this performance, I wonder if this song, which got Katelynn Epperly eliminated surprisingly last year, is insensitive to the people of Japan at this time.

I really do not even know what to say. Apparently, there was only time for Steven Tyler to offer any comments. Like he is going to say anything negative? This was nowhere near as good as the jazz duet these two crazy kids did a couple weeks ago on the results show. When they had the individual numbers, they sounded pretty decent, especially Haley, but when they tried to harmonize or whatever, it was not as good, especially Casey. It felt like they needed more practice together. Perhaps, they were spending their rehearsal time working on "growling." Casey's Grade: B, Haley's Grade: B

Yep, after I finished typing, they mention backstage that they did not practice much because they were too busy "chillin.' I knew it.

4. Scotty McCreery- "You've Got a Friend"

This is a nice, pleasant song, and there is a well-known James Taylor version, but it can also be a bit sleepy. Scotty did a nice job this week, and I preferred it to his more upbeat attempt in last week's round. When he sits on stage and doesn't move around as much, he is less awkward as a performer.

Where there were some rough notes, and while I think the judges actually made some valid points about how Scotty needs to attempt to support some of his notes better as he is ending them, he did a good job of putting a slow, country spin on the song. It remains similar to the stuff we have seen him do before, but his fans will continue to really like it. Grade: B

Also, I think Steven Tyler has longer nails than J.Lo. They seem to be about even in the ring department though.

Up next is James, doing what looks like will be an acoustic guitar ballad. Please be good! I do not want to have to consider Jacob the best in this round, as I did last week.

5. James Durbin- "Will You Love Me Tomorrow"

So, it was an electric guitar self-accompaniment. He might not have actually been playing much though anyway. I never knew that Carole King had written this song. I was familiar with it, but James really made me appreciate it more than I had. I bet my mother probably really liked it too. I believe this is one she used to used to sing with her guitar back when she did some performing.

With the exception of last week, I have liked all of the James performances this season, whether he was singing a ballad or rocking some heavy metal. This was a lot better than last week for him in my mind, and it was good to see him just sing, without any pyro or crazy things happening. He found a way to fit his obligatory rock screams in and he may not have even needed to do so, as I think he sounded good enough just on the ballad parts. Steven Tyler agreed with me and actually found something to criticize!

There was some crazy pimping though afterwards by both Randy Jackson and Seacrest. Randy gave his first performance night contestant hug in 10 seasons, and Seacrest seemed to endorse Durbin for the win, in a way he never came close to ever saying about anyone else in 10 seasons. That all felt a little manufactured perhaps, but it indeed was one of the best of the season thus far. Grade: A-

So, now, they have all gone once and here are my Round 1 rankings from worst to best:

6. Lauren Alaina
5. Casey Abrams
4. Haley Reinhart
3. Scotty McCreery
2. Jacob Lusk
1. James Durbin

Round 2. Let's see some birth certificates!

1. Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery- "Up On the Roof"

This is the third time these kids have dueted together on the Idol stage and they always do a very good job. Why then did they have Lauren sing her first song to some guy? Some teenage girls out there will be on Twitter saying she is a loose woman or something.

Lauren and Scotty really do have strong vocal chemistry on country style ballads, but Scotty insists that's its purely a sibling like relationship. If he said anything else, those teenage girls might have gotten mad at both of them! Would Donny and Marie have sang this song though?

Since the Idol Powers That Be really seem to want James to be in the Finale, which one of these two are going to have the vote splitting equation work against them in what people think will be the Top 3 round? Or will they actually both be able to make it to the Nokia? Would that match-up be a little too country and a little too young?

Anyway, this was certainly a very strong performance. I found Lauren to be far superior than she was earlier in the night and sounded extremely good. Scotty was described by J.Lo as the "second voice" on the number, but I also agree that he complimented her vocally well and sounded good. I think it is a given that these two will be doing at least one duet together during the tour. Lauren's Grade: A-, Scotty's Grade: B+

2. Casey Abrams- "“Hi-De-Ho That Old Sweet Roll"

What is this song called? James Durbin has a fiancee and baby mama named Heidi, whom he dedicated his first performance to tonight, and Casey is basically calling her a ho? Will anybody else realize that or am I just being weird? (I am not serious of course, readers.... it doesn't sound as bad once I looked up the actual song title)

Anyways, this is a song I have never heard and Casey did his jazz/blues thing again, and sounded ok, and did some interesting things, but nothing he did felt that surprising or fresh for him on the Idol stage. He also maybe once again did too much growling and serial killer faces. J Lo told him that she wants his body to be looser when he performs. There is a colitis joke in there somewhere. Grade: B

Nice to see that Penny Marshall is looking reasonably healthy in the audience. Her ex-husband Meathead was there as well not long ago. Speaking of washed-up sitcoms, I would love to see Idol do a "T.V. Theme Song Week."

3. Haley Reinhart-"Beautiful"

The "Pride of Chicago?" No, that would be Derrick Rose. Perhaps Haley is the "Pride of Wheeling" but that may not really be saying much! (Ha, she went to my alma mater's rival High School. Lee DeWyze went to another one of them before he got kicked out.)

Almost a technical glitch to delay the performance? Nope, worked out just in time and the show will go on. How come these problems never happened in the early seasons?

There is no doubt that Haley is way improved from early in the season, both as a singer and a performer, from when I considered her to be mere Idol fodder. Whenever this journey for her ends, she should consider it an accomplishment. Singing a song named after Steven Tyler's favorite word, Haley sounded pretty good and had some impressive runs. I agreed with Randy that the end was better than the beginning, but the audience and J.Lo tried to silence him with boos and interruptions. No wonder the judge have been reluctant to say anything negative. Grade: B+

4. James Durbin and Jacob Lusk- "I'm Into Something Good"

Once again, I really do not know what to say. Carole King wrote this song too? It reminds me of the Naked Gun movie.

Both James and Jacob seem less than pleased in having to duet together but they gave a pretty good effort. Their wardrobe choice were tragic. Were they off for a day at the Yacht Club?

As a duet, this did not really gel all that much, and it felt a bit like one of the cheesy Results Show group numbers. Still though, it could have been far worse. James was able to adapt a bit better to the kind of song than Jacob was. I wonder if J.Lo knew she was going to be used as a prop? I guess once Casey kissed her last week, it was all fair game. The end was sort of interesting in how both gentlemen simultaneously did their best scream note attempt. James' Grade: B, Jacob's Grade: B-

Round Two Rankings:

6. Jacob Lusk
5. Casey Abrams
4. James Durbin
3. Haley Reinhart
2. Scotty McCreery
1. Lauren Alaina

Now, it is time to average the scores together for tonight's overall ranking. While the bottom two are alone with their score, I have two two way ties to break for the other positions.

So, taking everything into consideration:

6. Casey Abrams
5. Jacob Lusk
4. Haley Reinhart
3. Lauren Alaina
2. Scotty McCreery
1. James Durbin

Based on merit tonight, and what appeared to be overall effort, Casey should be the one to go home. However, I think it's more likely to be Jacob. He just does not have enough of his fans left to save him much longer.

Also, while he got to share the pimp spot, (in a bit of a weird performance), he also performed solo at the very beginning of the show, and thus had his singing, with his actual call-in information on screen, earlier than anyone else. Idol seems to want him gone anyway. I will probably enjoy his sing-off tomorrow night.