Wednesday, May 18, 2011

American Idol Top 3

American Idol Season 10 is headed down the home stretch. The year has been full of surprises and the competition seems close. I am enjoying the television drama. Being a political junkie, I am also of course fascinated with the liberal vs. conservative ethos/fanwarring that is likely to be seen between Haley and Scotty/Lauren. I think a part of me fears that I may prefer my fellow Cook County person Haley vocally tonight if she sings better songs than the country kids, and I sort of do not wan to find myself on the same side as the leftists. I will keep it honest though in my opinion. A two hour episode with homecoming footage before the actual voting could really influence things in the results.

However, as I am about to watch my recording of this evening's proceedings, I am not really feeling the excitement. For one thing, I just may not like the songs that will be performed tonight. It could be a little boring for me. A couple of the more good/interesting singers from my perspective are gone, and while everyone left is good, I am just not pumped about what I may be about to watch. Plus, I spent this evening watching the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, which wound up with a disappointing outcome, so that sort of puts a damper on all this. Still though, I will soldier through and try to at least offer brief comments, and probably not overly witty comments on the performances. I think the Final 2 will be going next Tuesday, which will also conflict with a Chicago/Miami playoff game. That will just be something else to deal with.

Here goes with the liveblogging--- Round 1. Priscilla Presley is in the house. Is she still involved with Nigel? Contestants' choices will be first. The special mentor is Beyonce. She better know about country music. After the break, Scotty will be going first with some LoneStar. He may not need the help, but it is amazing to think that not a single time has he gotten to sing last. Of course, they may mess up the order of performances in each round, which would be sort of dumb.

1. Scotty McCreery- "Amazed"

Very smart song choice. It was a big country cross-over hit and Scotty sang it very well. He did not have to worry about Kara DioGuardi being there to question the wisdom of singing a song by this band at his young age, the way she did last year with Aaron Kelly.

This was probably my favorite performance of Scotty. He stayed true to his usual low noted style but then brought it up at times and sang in his upper register. Those notes sounded ok to me, but even if they were not perfect, he at least avoided two of his major pratfalls. He was not boring and was not too corny. Grade: A-

2. Lauren Alaina- "Wild One"

Beyonce encourages Lauren to channel her inner Sasha Fierce. I do not know this Faith Hill song. At least it is not called "Evil One."

Lauren gives a sassy and reasonably decent performance. Perhaps though because I do not know the song, it was sort of hard to make out a whole lot of the lyrics. When she sings fast numbers, Lauren has a bit of a problem with breath control and her phrasing and I detected a bit of that. Grade: B

Rounding out the trio will be Haley, who is once again referred to as the "Pride of Chicago." If Randy Jackson criticizes her, she may borrow a page from brand new Mayor Rahm Emanuel and drop some serious profanity bombs all over the Idol stage.

3. Haley Reinhart- "What Is And What Should Never Be"

I really am not that familiar with this Led Zeppelin tune. Haley is obviously trying to pick a song to appeal to an audience who may not be into the country music. In an Idol first, her father plays guitar for the performance, and then stands with her during the judging critiques. I bet her fans on the blogs and in the media will love that. I can imagine the outrage though if somehow David Archuleta's father had ever been on the Idol stage playing the trumpet or Katharine McPhee's mother had sang back up for her.

Part of me appreciated Haley's vocals. This seems like a very tough song to do with all sorts of lyrics. There is just something about her vocal tone though that was a bit off putting. Making things even tougher was the fact that Haley was running around a lot, including down by the judges. When she went back on stage, wearing high heels, she slipped and took what looked to be a nasty fall. It was something I suppose out of "Dancing With the Stars", but like a trouper, she carried on without really missing a beat. Being cynical, I almost want to wonder if she fell on purpose, in order to motivate people to vote for her.

The judges loved it, and this week Randy and J. Lo, declare that she won the round. Are they pimping her now, or trying to practice reverse psychology? So many theories. Her father really does look familiar. I must have run across him somewhere in the suburbs at one point. Grade: B

My Round 1 Rankings:

3. Lauren Alaina
2. Haley Reinhart
1. Scotty McCreery

Round 2, songs picked by the universally disliked Jimmy Iovine. Scotty is in the audience, sitting next to 'Cilla. I wonder if she made him do his Elvis impersonation for her.

1. Scotty McCreery- "Are You Going to Kiss Me Or Not"

I have never heard of this song before. Is it newer or old? Nonetheless, it was a good country choice for Jimmy (who appears to be sitting next to Neil Sedaka in the audience) to give to Scotty. Considering the microphone advice that Lady Gaga gave to Scotty last week, perhaps that is where Jimmy's head was.

Scotty plays his guitar, which very much helps him come across better performance wise on television. The song is about a wedding day,which is certain to appeal to many of his young female fans, and while I did not love his vocal, especially at the end, I think he sang it pretty well. He is definitely exhibiting effort and emotion tonight, and no matter what happens or is said during his critiques, he always come across as completely comfortable with the situation (he offers to shave his head) and with himself. Humility in an Idol contestant is a good thing, and Scotty never comes across as cocky, but the self-assured attitude he has probably does not hurt with the voting in any sort of political competition. Grade: B

Since Scotty appears seriously on the verge of winning the most prominent t.v. singing competition of them all, I wonder how he would have done on the now defunct "Nashville Star", which I did not watch. Would he have been considered just as good, or is he just very popular on Idol because his genre has never been too saturated on the show?

2. Lauren Alaina- "If I Die Young"

Oh dear. During the break, her pantyhose allegedly ripped, so now they are putting "shimmer" on her legs. Seacrest says he knows all about that process. Yeah, this has to be a bit embarrassing. I wonder if it will affect her confidence on the song. There ought to be an emergency pair of pants or something like this for such a situation. I also wonder if all sorts of sympathetic females who have had things like this happen to them in the past will now want to vote more for her. If these things happen in threes, Scotty should be worried about what kind of mishap he will have in the final round.

This was an interesting performance. I am not sure if I have ever heard this song or not. The theme of it seems sort of morbid, but it was also kind of appealing in a way. Lauren sounds a lot better to me when she is singing slower songs or ballads. This was not really either of those in a truer sense, but vocally, her tone was impressive. While I do not know the song, I did absolutely detect a point where she seemed to miss some words or a cue or something. The judges said it was because she was so emotionally caught up in giving an "honest" performance. I do not really know how to explain it, but to me, there was something about her take on the song that made me as a viewer want to root for her in the moment. I guess that is what she would have been going for. Grade: B+

Lauren's mother, Kristy Suddeth, has a microphone at her seat and answers a question. Now, a parent of two of the contestants have gotten some live campaigning in. This particular one gets all sorts of hate on the blogosphere. Just because she looks like a "Stage Mom" is not necessarily proof she is one. Just saying.

3. Haley Reinhart- "Rhiannon"

Now, this song I know. Jimmy picks it for Haley because her voice reminds him of the vibe of Stevie Nicks. I suppose I can see that a bit on this song at least. I thought the beginning of it, which was either acapella or acoustic was great. Then, a drum track kicked in, along with a wind machine, and I did not think it was as good. However, I think Haley brought it home at the very end. Unlike Randy, I was glad at the very end that she did not go too crazy with it. Grade: B+

Seacrest asks for opinions and Steven Tyler gives the round to Lauren, while Randy, J.Lo and Jimmy give it to Scotty. Just like Round One, I differ from them, at least on my ranking of the vocals alone.

3. Scotty McCreery
2. Lauren Alaina
1. Haley Reinhart

Before Round Three, I have to sit through a video of a horrible Beyonce song about girls. That reminded me of the pro-female anthem that Jordin Sparks sang on the results show last week. If this were a competition, I would put Jordin ahead.

It does not look like we will be getting extended clips of the Homecomings tonight, just like we never have on performance night in the past. So, no tears to influence things. It also seems as if the three judges (if they are really even doing it), in this post-Simon Cowell era, are choosing for the contestants collectively, instead of by assignment.

1. Scotty McCreery- "She Believes In Me"

For the first time in a while, he is not wearing a plaid shirt. Some of the lyrics of this song might not be the most appropriate for a 17 year old, and if they wanted him to sing an emotional Kenny Rogers ballad meant for older people, they maybe should have gone with "Through the Years."

Once again though, while his voice has some issues when he tries to sing higher, it was another very solid performance. His performance downfalls as far as the facial expressions seem to be completely gone tonight and he seems to be in the zone, bringing a great amount of effort and connectivity to each performance, using his story telling skills. Grade: B+

Scotty's dad gets to say a few words and sing a bit too. That's only fair. His parents look so GOP, I guess I have to root for them all. I wonder if I can talk them into backing Romney.

Scotty says some remarks backstage and calls someone "Mike" and then realizes he should not have said that and tries to do the soundbite over. It got to air anyway though. I guess that was his "mishap."

2. Lauren Alaina- " I Hope You Dance"

I do not really love this song, but I am familiar with it. I hope Lauren knows all the lyrics. Scotty attempted to do it at Hollywood Week, was totally clueless and wound up singing about "nuts of wonder." For this round, Lauren is wearing a Prom dress. I could have predicted that.

Her vocals are really good though. It's looking likely that for the first time in my Idol viewing memory, I may award a round to three different singers. I could imagine Lauren's vocals on this song on the radio, and she brings in some changes in inflection to a part or two that I thought were really good. While I did not really love her first performance, she wound up having a strong night overall. Grade: A-

3. Haley Reinhart- "You Oughta Know"

For all the busing conspiracy fears surrounding her, she sure has gotten the pimp slot a whole bunch this season. Her hometown visit to Wheeling, Illinois only cost the taxpayers of my neighboring town $2500. That is quite different from the $62,000 event I read that Garner, North Carolina put on for Scotty. Good job for fiscal conservatism Wheeling! However, the weather here on Saturday was absolutely horrible, with cold and rain, especially when Haley was doing her concert at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights. Even Mother Nature must be conspired against Haley. At the same time, it was even colder though at Wrigley Field, where I sat through six innings of baseball, in what was sort of a miserable experience.

Anyways, Haley is definitely going to need to clean up a few of these lyrics for family viewing. Even so, the whole vibe of the song and performance is in such contrast to the relative wholesomeness seen by the two country teens tonight. Vocally, I certainly did not hate it, and this is one of the songs that I will definitely check out the studio version on YouTube, but it seemed as if Haley was trying to hard and straining too much to sound like Alanis Morrisette. Last year in the Finale, the singer dueted runner-up Crystal Bowersox, and that was probably better. It is kind of interesting that Haley did not do any sort of jazz song tonight. This season, she has done so many different kinds of music, and definitely gotten better as things went along. I respect her versatility but others may consider it a musical identity problem. Grade: B

Steven gives the final round to Haley, while Randy and J.Lo give it to Lauren. I have it as:

3. Haley Reinhart
2. Scotty McCreery
1. Lauren Alaina

All things considered, this was a really strong night for all of them. Somebody is going to be eliminated, but whomever it is should leave with their head high. That is sort of hard for me to do at the moment, as I have this really bad stiff neck, which coupled with being pissed about the Bulls losing, made me not too enthused at the start about tonight's Idol, but I have to say, it was better than I thought.

This was probably the closest Final Three competition ever. Physical mishaps aside, everyone brought their A game, and nobody got Syesha'd with a song choice, like Casey James was last year.

When I average the three rounds together I have an absolute three way tie as far as how my rankings went. Everyone's grand placement total adds up to six. Please allow me some time to deliberate....

3. Haley Reinhart
2. Lauren Alaina
1. Scotty McCreery

It was even tougher to choose between 2 and 1, since I gave both of them the exact same letter grades at one point or another. It's an extremely small edge to Scotty. If Haley did not have to do two of the more difficult songs, she may very well have been ranked first overall.

Who will advance? This is going to come down to politics. Yesterday, a special Congressional primary was held in the Los Angeles area in a liberal district, in which a conservative Republican was a surprise second place finisher, knocking off one Democrat who had hoped to make it to a runoff.

This is going to be similar. If the voting audience is composed overwhelmingly of Red State folks (or country music fans), Scotty and Lauren will both advance. Those left of center in America are going to be far more likely to want to vote for Haley. Since I think it is a relatively divided country politically and culturally, my head tells me that Haley makes it through. All the demographic groups that both Lauren and Scotty appeal to are going to finally come to an ending conclusion for one of them.

While Lauren did very well tonight, because Scotty is a guy, and because his fans have likely been larger in number for a while, and are likely to remain loyal, I think he gets the other spot, and Lauren will sing her swan song tomorrow, in what will probably involve tears.

In a sense, fan loyalties have been set for weeks and like in past seasons, it really does not matter if they sang well or poorly tonight, or next week. While in other seasons, the fans of the third place finisher might rally around the perceived "underdog" and deliver them a victory, I think this year, Lauren and Scotty share so many of the same, that the opposite thing will happen.

I think our cultural divide will produce two different Finalists tomorrow night, but since it is a center-right country, either Scotty or Lauren will be on top a week from tomorrow.

Walter Mondale. Michael Dukakis. John Kerry. Haley Reinhart?