Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Diamonds Are Not Forever

Neil Diamond night on American Idol was more like Diamonds In The Rough, with more than a few performances that are not Top 5 worthy. Only David Cook was able to conjure up two strong performances on the night, even while singing two more obscure songs, while Jason Castro sang two of Neil Diamond's most famous songs while boring me to tears and David Archuleta made a cheesy song even cheesier, if that was possible.

The worst performance of the whole night, however, came from Paula Abdul, who completely exposed herself as a total loony-tunes (even more so than usual). After all six contestants performed their first song, Seacrest lined them up on stage to have the judges recap real quick. Paula went on about Jason's two songs and how disappointing he was. Before he even performed his second song. And then she tried to play it off as if she was giving the second performer's critique, but we all knew better. She was obviously going off notes she took during dress rehearsal, and I hate that the judges make their opinions before the performance in question. It's not really fair.

Unlike Paula, I'm going to judge based on the actual show:

Best of the Night:
David Cook (I'm Alive/All I Really Need Is You) - David brought back the David Cook concert series to the stage. I liked the first performance, but I loved the second one. The acoustic to rock band to acoustic was brilliant.

Welcome Back:
Brooke White (I'm A Believer/I Am ... I Said) - After weeks of looking like a beaten puppy, it was great to see Brooke's vibrancy back on her first song, even if it was a little Sesame Street-ish. Her second song was vintage Brooke White and reminded me why I loved her so much in the beginning of the season. I fully expected her to go home last week after forgetting the words. I don't think she should be on the chopping block this week, but if she goes home, I'll be glad she went out on a good note.

Upward climb:
Syesha Mercado (Hello Again/Thank The Lord For The Nighttime) - From a technical standpoint, Syesha is probably the best singer left in the competition (sorry Archuleta). She sang her first song well technically, but I didn't feel it from her, especially with all that goofy grinning she did during the song. The second song was right up her alley - very theatrical, where I totally see her going after this show. I about threw something at the tv, though, when Simon said she's a very good actress/singer and she nodded and said "yeah". Wow. Like yourself much, Syesha?

Weakening:
Jason Castro (Forever In Blue Jeans/September Morn) - Jason picked two of the more famous Diamond songs but did absolutely nothing with them. Forever in Blue Jeans was dull, and September Morn just magnified his vocal weaknesses. He cannot hold a note to save his life.

Working My Last Nerve:
David Archuleta (Sweet Caroline/America) - Sweet Caroline is, by nature, a cheesy song, and a song that you pretty much associate with drunken people singing in a bar or stadium. David Archuleta made it a different kind of cheesy, and I like my cheese a certain way, and certainly not HIS way! He boybanded it, and I hated it. Give me back my drunken bar singing! America was better (albeit repetitive as hell), but for Paula to say that his voice couldn't be more on point is totally ridiculous (and she was obviously going off the dress rehearsal) because David's voice was about to go Peter Brady "Time To Change" on us. Totally agree with Simon about the "clever" song choice. Simon says clever, I say pandering. And you know Kristy Lee would have been all over this one!

I think Jason's on his way out. Simon's comment to Syesha at the end about her being in trouble just about assured Jason's demise. But then again, maybe the one time I don't pick Syesha to go, she actually will.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Don't Sing Mariah! Oh wait ...

For years, we've heard the American Idol judges tell contestants that they should never sing Mariah, Whitney or Celine. So what do they give us this week for Top 7 night? A Mariah Carey theme night.

I was seriously waiting for someone (RANDY!) to get on someone for trying to sing a Mariah song. But the key to tonight was to avoid a direct comparison to Miss Thang herself. The guys had it easy because they wouldn't have any chance of reaching her five-octave range and wouldn't even try. The girls had to pretty much either pick an obscure song or change up the song to avoid the comparisons, with the latter being the best strategy, IMO.

Changing it up and hitting a home run:
David Cook ("Always Be My Baby") - This sunny-sounding song got turned into a haunting rock song. I was unsure of this at first, but then the strings kicked in and then the drums, and then the glory notes, and I was really kind of blown away. And wow, Paula's dead-on (who knew such words could be spoken? HA!) - that COULD be in a movie soundtrack. I do hope, though, that people don't think that his tears had anything to do with the praise but all to do with his cancer-striken brother being in the audience.

Changing it up and grounding out:
Brooke White ("Hero") - She didn't change much vocally except for the end, which I totally loved, but by doing the song alone with just the piano, she set herself apart. Unfortunately, her piano playing was not very good tonight, and I think it messed up her vocals.

Jason Castro ("I Don't Wanna Cry") - Jason gave this song a Carribean vibe (or luau vibe, as Randy put it), and I totally did not recognize the song at all until the chorus. I felt like we've seen this performance from Jason before; it was very reminiscent of "Fragile", which landed him in the bottom 3. I think he should be in the bottom 3 after this as well. This song is all about anguish, but I didn't feel that emotion (or any emotion) from Jason at all.

Picking a more obscure song:
Syesha Mercado ("Vanishing") - This is an great song from Mariah's first album. I pegged Syesha to try to out-Mariah Mariah, and she really didn't disappoint. I don't remember if Mariah threw in the ridiculous hystrionics that Syesha did, but I suppose glory-noting has been working for Syesha all season, so why not continue?!

Kristy Lee Cook ("Forever") - Not sure this song was released as a single, but it was on Mariah's Daydream album, and I didn't remember the song by name. Kristy struggled a little with the low notes, but overall I thought she did really well. She's really been the most improved in this competition and probably one of the most improved competitors ever on this show.

Obvious choices and glory noting:
David Archuleta ("When You Believe") - Everyone and their mother knew he would pick this song. I thought he was trying to do too much with it and kind of made it a bit overwrought and overcooked. The kid has a nice, pure voice, and he did make one run in the middle of the song that was pretty cool, but it was by no means a perfect vocal. The gasping for air was very noticeable in the beginning, the high notes were a bit shaky, and the low note he tried at the end didn't work. The clothes didn't work with this song either. Leather pants and spiky do while singing THIS song? HEH?!

Carly Smithson ("Without You") - I thought the judges threw her under the bus here. I really liked it and thought she was mostly terrific. Not as good as the Dolly Parton song but still good. She showed great control on both the low and the high notes, and she looked nice. The last note, however, almost ruined the performance for me. It was unnecessary, and it looked like a struggle for her.

My least favorite performance tonight was Jason's, but I think Syesha should go home due to her whole body of work. I think that, combined with someone having to take the fall for Michael Johns' shocking departure, will spell her demise.

The bigger question, though, is will the producers make someone choose between safe and bottom groups again, a la George Huff? I can see them forcing Brooke into it just to see if she'd have a melt-down. Because they're cruel like that.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bite Me, America

WTF?!?!?!

I had a bad feeling when I was getting through a little more often than I should have been when I voted last night, and those feelings were confirmed tonight when Michael Johns got voted off American Idol in the first real (and WAY too early) shock elimination of the season.

I call total shenanigans on this one. And Ryan Seacrest? Could you BE any more of a douche-bag tonight with your false hope b.s.? Sometimes I frickin' hate this show. So. Much.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

You're The Inspiration

In honor of tomorrow's Idol Gives Back show, the American Idol Top 8 performed "inspirational songs" for tonight's show. I never would have expected to hear an Aerosmith or Our Lady Peace song on this night, but I guess I should be grateful that it wasn't an hour of schmaltzy ballads.

My rank order:

Brooke White ("You've Got A Friend") - I have a total soft spot for Carole King's version of this song, so combine that with Brooke wearing her heart on her sleeve while singing this song, and I just love it. The judges called it "pleasant" and not exactly in a complimentary way, but just because she didn't glory-note it doesn't mean it wasn't beautiful.

Jason Castro ("Somewhere Over The Rainbow") - Awww the ukelele version. That's a great pick for Jason. It was lovely, but the jumbling of lyrics really bugs me. I know that's how the Hawai'ian singer did it, but it's disconcerting to me. As are some of the faces he makes when he sings. But overall, one of the best of the night.

Michael Johns ("Dream On") - I'm not quite sure how this song is an inspirational song per se, and that stupid scarf thing is back, but Michael can do little wrong lately. He's really using his powerful vocals, and he didn't Jordis Unga the high notes! Randy Jackson can STFU with his pitchiness and pigeon-holing. Oh, and hi, Lacey Schwimmer!

Kristy Lee Cook ("Anyway") - OK I have to give it up for Kristy because she actually did a really nice job. This is a great song, and I didn't think she was a good enough singer to do this justice, but she totally did. It WAS her best performance of the whole season. I still, however, do not like her singing stance. That shot of her crouching on stage with Paula in the foreground doing her weird Paula dancing kind of thing just looked VERY odd.

-gap-

David Archuleta ("Angels") - I really like this song when Robbie William sings it, but I really didn't like the ways in which David changed up the melody. I'm really not getting Randy tonight because the runs being the hottest moment on this show? WTF?! I thought he oversang it a bit.

Syesha Mercado ("I Believe") - I don't know why Syesha thought she could possibly succeed doing this song. Yes, she sang it well from a technical standpoint and did at times sound very lovely, but there is no way that she won't get compared to Fantasia, who brought SO much emotion to the song, or even Diana in the grand finale. Syesha? The manner in which she sang it was a bit soul-less and vacant. And pageanty. As usual.

David Cook ("Innocent") - Um, where did that voice come from? That low voice thing was kind of scary. While I appreciate that he did not stick us with all ballads this week, WTF was that song, and WTF was that cheesy "give back" thing on his hand? But "pompous", Simon? Huh??

Carly Smithson ("Show Must Go On") - I'm perplexed by this song choice. This should have been her week to Celine it up with a schmaltzy ballad. Last week's song was so beautiful, and this was, as Simon said, angry and out of place with the night. And I don't think her wardrobe improved too much. And I have got to call shenanigans on her claim that she saw Freddy Mercury on Live Aid when she was a little girl. She was 2 years old! There is no way that she remembers that!

Bottom 3: This is a hard one. I think it will be Carly (worst of the night), Syesha (soul-less) and Michael (first)

Going home: Syesha (although I've been saying this for weeks!)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Idol Goes Dollywood

I've got to admit that I'm not really up on the Dolly Parton songbook outside of a few songs, and I didn't have high hopes for tonight's American Idol show featuring all Dolly Parton songs, but the Idol Top 9 delivered with an all-around good show.

From best to worst:
*Michael Johns ("It's All Wrong, But It's All Right") This is OG Audition Michael here. The bluesy soul vibe seems to be his thing, and he really brought that back with this performance. Great vocals and interpretation, and way to bring the sex appeal! It's refreshing for this sanitized show. The only thing I did not like was that stupid ascot thing around his neck that ruined the rest of the outfit.
*David Cook ("Little Sparrow") - It was interesting to me that they gave him the opportunity to address the cover-of-a-cover issues. Makes me think that maybe he is now the Chosen One. And I really don't have a problem with that because a) I need SOMEONE to stop the inevitable David Archuleta coronation and b) David Cook rocks. He delivers standout performances week after week. The arrangement was good, and the vocals were outstanding. Who knew he had such range?!
*Carly Smithson ("Here You Come Again") - I wasn't sure that I'd like the slowed-down version of this song, but it really was lovely. When Carly wasn't trying to steamroll those glory notes, that is!
*Brooke White ("Jolene") - There were a few times that Brooke took the song into her little happy place, and it's kind of a problem when Carrie Underwood sings this song with more edge, but the ending of the song was totally killer. Brooke always seems to find a way to make a song interesting by just changing a few notes here and there. I love that about her.
*David Archuleta ("Smoky Mountain Memories") - I actually really liked it up until the end when he cracked on the high note and totally oversang the song. He sings the same song every week. It's getting very tiring.
*Jason Castro ("Travelin' Through") - This was one of Jason's better performances, and the song suited him perfectly. He's not the best singer on this show, and his voice is kind of weak, but he does his thing.
*Syesha Mercado ("I Will Always Love You") - I loved the beginning of the song, when she sang it softly and in the country style. Then she went into the Whitney version and totally ruined it. The unnecessarily long glory note was out of place right there, and although she really held that note long and sang in tune throughout the song, that stupid glory note right there reinforced my opinion of her as a pageanty singer who tends to oversing all the time.
*Kristy Lee Cook ("Coat Of Many Colors") - Kristy didn't seem to be quite on the beat at times, and I actually expected a lot more out of her this week. I was a little disappointed.
*Ramiele Malubay ("Do I Ever Cross Your Mind") - You could barely hear Ramiele in the beginning, and she just got totally drowned out. She's definitely the weak link tonight (and has been one of the weakest links most nights).

Who needs to go back to a 9 to 5? Ramiele
Who will go back to a 9 to 5? Syesha