Monday, May 06, 2019

American Idol Top 5

I have watched the Chicago Cubs sweep the St. Louis Cardinals to officially take first place on this Cinco de Mayo and now it is time to watch the DVR recording of tonight's American Idol, pausing to liveblog along the way.

I am headlining this post as Top 5, because one of the two lowest vote-getters is definitely going to be saved tonight, as that judicial tool ends on this episode. That means that we will be down to three after next week's Mother's Day edition, and then as per last season, a three-way Finale the Sunday after.

Seacrest welcomes us to "America's number one singing show." Once upon a time, Idol was the number one show period. Now, they are bragging that they are beating "The Voice" in the ratings. Most of America is probably watching "Game of Thrones" anyway but tonight's Idol is being broadcast live from "Hartford to Honolulu." That means that people in Hawai'i need to be tuned in at 2 pm. Is that really very likely?

The first round will feature a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock. How wholesome. Hopefully, all of the kids are well prepared to take on their '60s songs and will have stayed away from the Brown Acid (h/t Wavy Gravy.)

1. Madison VanDenburg- "Piece Of My Heart"

Whoa, she's out there with an electric guitar. I was not exactly expecting that. Madison always sounds like Kelly Clarkson and tonight I decided she looks like a young Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. The vocals were pretty good, though probably not her best. She may not be as natural a rocker as Allison Iraheta for instance, but was quite credible in rocking out to this Janis Joplin tune. Madison also seemed to be very conscious of moving around a lot on stage and flipping her hair around as Katy Perry asked her to do. Throughout her entire run on this show, I think it would be tough to find large groups of people who actually dislike Madison or are rooting against her. That could put her in good steed as they head down the final stretch. (Watch out for Maximum Security though!)

2. Laine Hardy- "I Don't Need No Doctor"

Horribly inappropriate joke warning..... Don't need no doctor? What if you have been "partying with a Hardy" for more than four hours?

Anyways, if Laine is singing Joe Cocker for Woodstock Week, what is Wade going to do? At least Laine did not try to sound like Cocker here and at least he did not do a performance from that '50s cover band that somehow played Woodstock. It was a very credible blues-rock performance and Laine sounded well, but it was not exactly rangy and did not offer much in the way of vocal dynamics. It looked almost too easy for him. The time will still need to come where Laine puts the guitar away and sings a ballad. Perhaps in the next round.

3. Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon- "Swing Low Sweet Chariot"

As I pause the recording, the three judges are on their feet with hands raised to the sky. I am not sure if I agree with this one. It felt like a weird song and weird arrangement. Perhaps Joan Baez got applause for this at Woodstock from a thoroughly medicated crowd but it did not have the same effect on me. Jeremiah always sings well, but he seemed a bit off kilter with the music this week. I thought it got better at the end when he got up from the piano and wailed a bit but even then his voice sounded sort of shrill and was hard to break through all the instruments playing in the background.

4. Laci Kay Booth- "To Love Somebody"

I did not know this song had a connection to Janis Joplin or Woodstock. I just know that Barry Gibb wrote it, but apparently that was back in the '60s, long before Disco. LKB might have overdone it with the hair extensions and spray-tan this week. She sort of at least facially resembles those blonds who used to live with Hugh Hefner. I hate to say that I did not really like the vocals tonight either. She definitely has her stylized way of singing that many people love, but her voice sounded extra strained tonight and I think even cracked a couple times. While she attempted to do a more mid-tempo song than she usually does, complete with her playing electric guitar, it just is not what she is best at and I think I may wind up liking all of the performances in this round gradually less as they go down the line.

Both of her parents and her stepfather are there to cheer her on. That's great, but I think her stepdad may be like 30 years older than her actual father. The judges are more critical of her than they have been previously.

5. Alejandro Aranda- "White Rabbit"

Well, this is certainly the most drug-inspired song ever to be done on American Idol and to think, two weeks ago was Disney Night on ABC. Go tell Alice indeed. At least Alejandro took a song that was most in the spirit of Woodstock and while I do not love his voice, I have to say I probably thought this was his best performance. He did not play an instrument and did not sing in a falsetto voice and seemed to actually be trying to come across powerfully via the microphone. Older viewers probably really hated this but this  homage to a festival from 50 years ago, was the kind of performance that would have had the biggest impact on all the drugged out rich kids at Coachella in 2019.

Hoping for all five of them to better in the next round, though I doubt Alejandro will be able to.

Woops, I proceeded to rank them and I totally forgot about Wade. At least that will be easy to fix.

As we return from commercial, we see that the Chucky Doll has somehow relocated to Atlanta, changed his name to Will and is now an Idol Superfan.

6. Wade Cota- "With A Little Help From My Friends"

Of course he was going to do this Joe Cocker song. How obvious was it? It's like wondering if Tatiana Del Toro would have found a way to do "Saving All My Love For You."  This was close to a full on impression of Cocker at Woodstock at first. I was really not digging it. Then Wade put some more energy into it, as always happens with all of his performances and it was at least slightly more impressive. I sort of feel like I have been over Wade and his potential for a while though now. He is what he is and there are better all-around singers in this.

The judges loved it.

Round 1 Rankings:

6. Laci Kay Booth
5. Wade Cota
4. Alejandro Aranda
3. Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon
2. Laine Hardy
1. Madison VanDenburg

How did Maddie and Caleb beat Gabby Barrett again last year? Oh, maybe she was hooking up with the older Cade Phoener. Now, they are engaged. She's still a teenager, right?

The  mentor for the next round is Lauren Daigle, whom I legitimately had never heard of before they announced her last Sunday. She is billed as an "American Idol alum" although she never got past Final Judgment. We learn she is a big Christian artist, which is ironic considering both the Woodstock round they just had and that Ms. Daigle looks and acts like some sort of New Age Priestess.

The theme is "Showstoppers."

1. Madison VanDenburg- "I Surrender"

Well, this is some chutzpah. Both taking on the Celine Dion song itself and the fact that this Kelly Clarkson American Idol 2002 to the extreme. Before I watch Madison, I am going to pause right now to actually watch Kelly do this on her season from YouTube so I can determine just how much they sound alike or not... I am not going to scroll down to the comments because there might be spoilers. I remember watching this live. If only someone back then would have told me whom the next two Presidents would wind up being...

Ok, back to the present. Maybe because Idol production values are better now, with a live band, etc, or maybe because Kelly was "hoarse" that night, but I actually think Madison just sang it better, at least for two-thirds of it. She clipped one word too fast and might have run out of a bit of steam at the end, although she did put an original vocal flourish right at the conclusion. Obviously, I continue to be impressed with her talent. I just get the impression that Madison has listened to Kelly's performance of this song at least three times a day for the last ten years just waiting for the day she got her chance to sing this on American Idol.

2. Alejandro Aranda- "Poison"

Why are they changing the performance order now after Madison went first twice? She probably should have been given the pimp slot.

This "showstopper" was an original song. I am almost certain he is the first Idol contestant to ever get to perform more than one original during competition. I would have preferred the Alice Cooper or even Bell Biv DeVoe version of "Poison" perhaps. It started off sounding nice and pleasant as far as coffee shop ditties would go but then after about thirty seconds I was ready for him to be done. The lyrics sounded kinda lame. I noticed the audience went craziest at least twice during the song when he stopped singing completely and started playing some weird acoustic guitar solos. Isn't this supposed to be a singing show?

3. Laci Kay Booth- "Open Arms"

I give her credit for choosing a really good song and one fitting for the theme. She really tried to have a "moment" with this one, and I liked the performance a whole lot better than she she did in the first round. However, she just does not have the kind of voice to pull this song off, at least in the way that Journey fans would want to hear it done. Laci, Alejandro, and Wade all just have their own specialized sound which gets boring after a while. Madison and Jeremiah have tremendous range and I think Laine has a lot more to show than has demonstrated lately too. Again, I give her a thumbs up for effort but the execution was still lacking.

Again, I hate to harp on this but I think her look tonight is way too distracting with the earrings and the eye-shadow, and the tiara, etc. Now, I am seeing her as a grown-up Jon Benet Ramsey in pageant mode and nobody really feels comfortable about that. I think it's going to cost her a lot of votes.

4. Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon- "Somewhere"

I do not have time to check out Candice Glover's Idol performance on YouTube, but I probably would have preferred that one. That is not to say that JLH did not do a stellar job on this song from "West Side Story." His vocals are beyond impressive. I think he started in too high of a key though and needed to start lower in order to climb up to the top of his range by the end. It sounded like he went down a little bit on the second verse and then was able to climb back up. He continues to be really good, but seems perhaps a very slight degree off his game tonight to me. Maybe it's just too different to hear a male voice do this song. The Idol contestant I would have really liked to hear sing this was Dimitrius Graham.

Oh wow. I had forgotten Dimitrius's name, which is horrible on it's own, and I went to look it up on Google and I just saw a pretty surprising spoiler. That's the risk I take from watching this show hours after it airs. No wonder Idol was trending on Twitter right after it ended.

5. Wade Cota- "Through The Valley"

I really regret seeing that spoiler. As for Wade, this was pretty much something right in his wheelhouse. He was able to distinguish himself using his gruff intensity. This is the kind of music I can see him making in the future, but it might have come across as too intense for some.

6. Laine Hardy- "Johnny B. Goode"

This song is about a Louisiana country boy, which is what Laine was first introduced as, but he continues to go about every performance with a retro oldies vibe complete with slick backed hair and a snazzy jacket. I continue to wish he would be be more genuine to whom he really is, but hey, he wants to be famous and he always sounds pretty good, and I think knows these kind of crowd-pleasing tv performances are going to get him a lot of votes. This was a good vocal, at least up to the point where he was almost fighting back laughter over the adulation he was getting from the studio audience and the judges. It's like his voice is in cruise control at this point and he does not have to challenge himself. Maybe that will come in the next two weeks, but he is pretty much following the strategies that Scott McCreery and Taylor Hicks used to win the show in years past. However, Taylor showed a whole lot more versatility and sang different kinds of music and even Scotty attempted to do ballads, etc.

I think he should have done "Freebird."

Round 2

6. Alejandro Aranda
5. Laci Kay Booth
4. Wade Cota
3. Laine Hardy
2. Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon
1. Madison VanDenBurg


6. Laci Kay Booth
5. Alejandro Aranda
4. Wade Cota
3. Laine Hardy
2. Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon
1. Madison VanDenburg

Well, if there are to be three in the Finale, I think it is pretty clear which three I would want to see. However, we are to lose one (or possibly two tonight) and I already know it is not to be. I will proceed with predicting as if I did not see the spoiler.

Who should receive the least votes: Laci Kay Booth and Alejandro Aranda

(I would save neither, but imagine the judges would save Alejandro in this circumstance.)

Who I would predict would receive the lowest number of votes if not for the spoiler I saw:

Laci Kay Booth and Alejandro Aranda

Besides the fact I think these two are consistently the least impressive vocalists, I think Laci had some style mishaps tonight and that Alejandro would finally run up against a demographic problem (as the African-American kids did a couple weeks ago) because too many Mexican-Americans are celebrating/sleeping off Cinco de Mayo during the voting window.

I will note that I had Laine and Jeremiah in a tie this week, but broke the tie in favor of Jeremiah.

Who received the least amount of votes:

Laci Kay Booth and Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon

The curse of the three names? Maybe they should be left to serial killers and child actors.

Ok, there's a lot to digest here. I saw the spoiler several minutes ago, but I would have been at least somewhat surprised about Jeremiah being among the two lowest vote getters. This is in spite of the fact that I thought and commented beforehand that he seemed a bit off his game tonight.

Let's face it. The demographic for Idol on ABC Sunday nights is pretty conservative. Everyone else is watching "Game of Thrones" on HBO. Jeremiah being so openly gay finally caught with him in the votes and he was not exactly charismatic or flamboyant enough to become a cause celebre for the gays to save. Plus, last week, the oft-mentioned conflict with his parents seemed to be headed towards a happy ending, so maybe people turned out of his "story" after that. Vocally though, he was definitely deserving of continuing. Even if he was a bit off tonight, he has one of the best pure voices to be on Idol ever.

It seems clear why Madison and Laine are getting votes. They are practically tailor made for television. That now seems like the "Final Two" more than ever. Before tonight, I was almost wondering if Laci and Laine would be the Final Two.

Wade, who every week is surprised to survive, is doing so, frankly because there are a lot of fat white people in America who want to see him succeed on this show.

The Blue States seem all in for Alejandro apparently. He keeps making it despite being incredibly polarizing for Middle America. Maybe they think his being Hispanic would piss Trump off more than Jeremiah being gay. They are probably right on that. Alejandro's liberal voting bloc cost Jeremiah. When I really think about it though, as "shocking" as it is to lose Jeremiah tonight, he would have done no better than third place overall.

Also, it has to be recognized that with just a two hour voting window coast to coast, the left-leaning states of the West Coast, especially massively populated California (where in regular elections, the votes for Democrats seem to trickle in up to weeks later) are at a disadvantage. Watching a show and voting between 5-7 pm is not Prime Time television for them, and this system of "vote only during the show" is causing some really wacky results.

It seems clear that Idol will be back next year, which is great, but ABC really needs to fix this voting system. They have to allow post-show voting as had always been the case and then either give the results next week or find a way to carve out even a half-hour sometime during the week for a "Results Show." After all, this is the "top rated singing show in America" and "The Voice" which it is beating in the rankings is on at least twice a week.

Now, with Laci and Jeremiah both at the bottom, I would have expected the judges to save Jeremiah. Apparently, they did not though, and I about to watch to see what happened.

As the show runs out of time, Katy announces they will save Laci. The saved contestant looks shocked and horrified. At least she has a conscience. Poor girl. She knows Jeremiah is the better singer. Yesterday's "winner", ironically named Country House, of the Kentucky Derby might feel the same way, if it were a human.


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