Thursday, April 28, 2011

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

Carole King, we thought we knew you. Apparently not. I only recognized three of the six songs performed by our Idols on Carole King Night. CK has achieved far greater success as a songwriter than as a performer. (Did you know she wrote "Natural Woman", made famous by Aretha?)

Now that we've established that Carole King is a songwriting bad-ass, let's review:

Stella Gets Her Groove Back

JACOB - you went back to your roots last night and put your Lusky-Stank on "Oh No Not My Baby" - a song I personally had never heard in my life. Although your bright outfit reminded me of a cross between Carlton Banks from "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and Boyz II Men, I thought this performance was Vintage Jacob. Swinging, confident, vocal runs all over the place. I appreciated this performance vs. the past few weeks, when you seemed downright depressed over Life in the Bottom Three. Keep your head up, Jacob, even though I think yours is the next on the chopping block.

Clearly, Randy and Jacob take wardrobe cues from Boyz II Men

Fear of Flying

LAUREN - you got to meet Miley Cyrus this week. You got to wear some GIGANTIC earrings. And you got to sing "Where You Lead", another Carole King song that is completely unfamiliar to me. As Randy would say, "it was just ok for me, dog." Aside from the usual therapy session from the judges and more of your tears, the performance was forgettable and kinda boring. If it makes you feel better, my private focus group (comprised of two girls aged 4 and 6) love you and gave you two thumbs up. But someone has to be on the bottom, and your fear of the big notes is going to put you there. Which is sad, considering you can hit bigger notes than Scotty and Casey combined.

Stretch Armstrong reaches for the country stars

SCOTTY - yes, I have the Garth Brooks live album in my iTunes library. And your performance reminded me of Garth so much, proving once again that you are a force in this competition. Your "You've Got a Friend" was commanding, sweet, expertly sung, and the arrangement behind you was KILLER. J Lo praised your storytelling abilities, which is what country music is all about, and she is absolutely right. And as Randy said, " you did your tender moment thing" and I loved it. For me, an oustanding performance. And none of that sideways-mic-hold to distract us. Loved it, Scotty, and loved your WOLFPACK FOOTBALL t-shirt during the intro. A nice shout-out to your Raleigh friends.

James + Jimmy = BFFs 

JAMES - let's recap this season for you: a great performance every week (usually the best of the night); you've had Steven promise to perform with you at the finale, you've had Jimmy Iovine profess his eternal love for you and declare your talent "the reason he entered the music business in the first place;" Randy got out of his seat last night to give you a man-hug; what else can you achieve on this show? "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" Yes, please.

One Big Jam Session

CASEY - you said yourself, singing is great, but there's nothing better than jamming. Your strength definitely lies in your musicality, your depth of music knowledge, you are a musician's kind of singer. But you are not an American Idol-winning singer. At least not for me. Your performance of "Hi-De-Ho" was Hi-De-Hokey. Hi-De-Taylor-Hicks. I appreciate what you bring to the show, but I just can't favor you over someone like James. So while I hope you stay and continue to entertain us, surprise us with your choices, I'm pretty sure you're not here to win. But if Haley ends up as your consolation are doing pretty well for yourself, dog.

Get it while the Gettin's Good

HALEY - even with King James (not you, Lebron) still in the competition, THIS was my favorite performance of the night. Haley, you've made me giggle, applaud, and root for you this entire season. I love your personality as much as your look and singing ability. And last night, you KILLED it for me. You took an unrecognizable song, "Beautiful", and showed it who's boss - you took those tempo changes and smacked them around. You owned it. Your voice sounded so strong, so confident, and your girl-growling fit in so perfectly, I was watching a seasoned professional just crush it onstage. More of this, please!

A note on the duets of the evening:

Lauren & Scotty - "Up on the Roof" was your third duet together this season. Lauren, you sound much more confident with Scotty by your side, I wish you could channel that energy into your solo performances. And Scotty, your low voice was almost impossible to hear underneath Lauren's sweet country tone, but I still enjoyed it.

Casey & Haley - "I Feel the Earth Move" was fun, watching two soulful artists complement and battle each other at the same time. Ah, young love. Casey, Haley can crush you with the strength of her voice, but you kinda like that, don't you? A hot chick to boss you around?!

James & Jacob - "I'm Into Something Good"...or not. When this was over, I said WTF?! I felt like I was watching a really bad performance on the Good Ship Lollipop. I appreciated your sense of humor about the whole thing, and overall, this performance isn't going to hurt you, James. And Jacob, we got to see you lighten up a little. But overall...a train wreck. Or a ship wreck.

My clear top three: Haley, James, and Scotty
Who's left: Casey, Jacob, and Lauren
Who's going home: JACOB

What did YOU hear last night?!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's a 21st Century Meltdown...

Pick a song, any song from the "21st Century". Doesn't sound too hard. But clearly, this was a tough challenge for our remaining 7 Idol wanna-be's.

For the first time this season, I was UNDERWHELMED.

A swing...and a miss!!!
SCOTTY - since you chose to sing "Swingin'", let's use a baseball analogy here. You know your friend and fellow contestant, James Durbin? Heard of him? Well, he swings for the fences every week. He knocks it out of the park every week. You are happy just to get on base. This performance was so lightweight and silly, I felt like you were phoning it in. A trip to the Bottom Three might solve THAT. But your raised eyebrows, sideways-microphone, and camera-flirtation came across as you...taking this whole thing for granted this week. Worst performance of the season so far for you. Don't take our love for granted, Scotty. Even YOU have to earn it. I'm not going to vote for you JUST because I live in North Carolina. Dude.

The lunatic escapes the asylum
JAMES - I love it that you go all out, every week. If you go down, you'll go down in flames. Or at least your piano will go down in flames. But not this week. You were like an insane circus conductor, waving your poker stick in the air and taking your falsetto to decibel levels we've never heard on this show before. Hey, if Matt Bellamy asks you to perform HIS song on American Idol, what are you going to do? Crush it. And you did. This is one "Uprising" that I'm ready to join.

Our pin-up girl
HALEY - there are some of us out there in the viewing audience who have been waiting for you to sing Adele all. season. long. And now that you've done it...I wish it had been better. It pains me to say that. Adele's original of "Rolling in the Deep" just kicks so much ass, you had to come out there and KILL IT to do it justice. Instead, you looked a little intimidated. This song is about a woman done wrong and she's PISSED about it. You just weren't angry enough. This performance wasn't terrible, but you could have taken it so much further, and I'm disappointed. You looked like a beautiful, bodacious, curvy pin-up girl in the polka-dots and wavy hair. Michael thinks you are totally hot. And you are. I just wish this performance had been, too.

The Diva Dances with his Father
JACOB - I feel for you this week. This performance was restrained. Who would ever think the judges would need to ask YOU for more?! But it was clear, you were very moved by this song and what it means to you. I'm cool with that. But I was worried the entire performance that you were going to break down in tears, so I couldn't concentrate on how great you can sing. I have a feeling you'll bust it out next week. But you can spare us the shiny suit next time.

I'm back at Rick's Bar in Ann Arbor
CASEY - I felt like I was back in college for Monday $1 Beer Night - everyone is wasted, talking too loud, and the band is just sawing away onstage and no one is listening. There is something very loose and unrehearsed about you that I like, but like Scotty, this just felt lightweight to me.

Ne-Yo's not worried
STEFANO - you flirted with the camera for this entire performance, begging us to come "Closer." No, thanks. We got Stefano Gone Sexy this week. Although you kept those pleading-looks to a minimum (for you), you tried to convince us that you are tortured by your sexiness, crushed under the weight of how damned good-looking you are. PUH-LEASE. This was a timid dance performance, not a strong vocal performance. Unless people are voting for style over substance, you should be in the bottom.

Jennifer Lopez, licensed therapist?
LAUREN - girl, if you don't get some confidence fast, you are going home. You know it's not a great performance when the judges spend all their time telling you what they WISH you had sung, instead of what you DID sing. Idol is not a therapy session. Yes, you are only 16. But you better start acting like you belong on that stage, or America will very willingly throw you off of it. I love you, but this Sara Evans song came across as another featherweight performance (I'll throw you in there with Scotty and Casey). Come ON. If you were "Born To Fly", then you need to prove it. This was kinda weak, kinda safe, and it kinda sucked.

My Bottom Three: Scotty (for lack of effort), Lauren, and Stefano
Who will go home: Stefano (if there's any justice in the world)

What did YOU hear last night?!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Top 8...tell Jimmy Iovine where to stick it!

"Songs from the Movies"...hmm...we got songs from those timeless classics like Risky Business...Hannah Montana: The Movie...Boomerang...(although I have to admit, I liked Boomerang quite a bit!)

And although I wasn't blown away by the song choices, I was blown away by the sense of self our young Idols possess at this early stage of their careers. At least 3 of our contestants told Jimmy Iovine and his 20+ years of experience, his gazillion hit records with multiple Grammy-winning SHOVE IT. That takes some serious...cahones. (And there were 1 or 2 who did change their songs, per Jimmy's advice). Jimmy and Will.i.Am seem to be having one helluva time with these kids, don't they? But on to the reviews...

Viva Las Vegas
PAUL -  if you had taken Will.i.Am's advice and charged onto the stage in your underwear, it couldn't have made the performance any worse. At least we could have had a laugh. This performance was pure the worst way possible. Cheesy outfit? CHECK. Frantic, mediocre vocals? CHECK. Terrible dance moves? CHECK. I'm always afraid you're just going to topple over at some point. Sorry, Paul. I can't be on your side anymore. There are too many left who are better than you. You have got to go.

Better than Miley, and without the bong water
LAUREN - I'm not going to hate on you for singing a Miley Cyrus song. As Jimmy said, you sing it better than she does. You looked beautiful, sounded great. But I think you better kick it up next week, or you run the risk of fading into the background. But I loved you and your performance of "The Climb."

Corn meal...corn syrup...corn flakes...
JACOB - hands down, my favorite moment of the season so far was when Jimmy gave you THE SMACKDOWN: "Don't preach to 24 million people when you haven't sold a record yet. Just sing." Thank you, Jimmy! Praise the Lord! Get some humility into this boy! So welcome to the newly humbled, borderline-depressed Jacob. I thought your performance of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was  great - how do you hit those notes, girlfriend? But I said a few weeks ago, you just aren't for me. So while I remain impressed and awed by your talent, I'm thinking you are not going to win. Sorry.

Backstreet's back, alright!
STEFANO - if it were 1992 and boy bands were still the rage, you'd be GOLDEN. But alas, those days have passed, and your performances every week don't make us yearn for the old days. "End of the Road" from Boyz II Men was so you, I almost liked it. And though I'm wishing this were the End of the Road for you, I fear we'll be seeing you for at least another week or two. You weren't terrible this week, you did your thing, dog, but it just isn't for me. And hasn't been for awhile.

Julia Roberts wants her boots back
HAILEY - let's start with the good news: I LOVED your dress. But I'm pretty sure Julia Roberts circa Pretty Woman wants her purple thigh-high boots back. Either way, this performance of "Call Me" was just...silly. If you had changed it up a little bit, slowed it down, done anything except executed a featherweight version of Debbie Harry, maybe it would have worked. But no. I'm afraid you and your thigh-highs are in terrible danger tonight!


SCOTTY - are you trying to tell me that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you? You're perfect, ready to go, ready to sell millions of records? The judges can't find a single. thing. to. criticize. Hmm. I don't mind that you stood up to Jimmy and chose "Cross My Heart" - we could see that you really felt that song, it means a whole lot to your sweet country heart. And damn it...I can't find anything wrong with you, either. You're going to breeze through this week again.

CASEY - if Simon were still around, he would have called your performance of "Nature Boy" the dreaded I-word...INDULGENT. Sorry, Casey, but of all the songs, this is the one you thought would win the night for you? Please remember that it's teenage, hormone-fueled girls who are out there voting, and I'm pretty sure that voting bloc isn't into obscure songs like this. Does anyone remember when John Leguizamo sang this song so eerily and beautifully in Baz Luhrmann's MOULIN ROUGE with Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman? That time, I liked it. This time, not so much. Casey, you were just trying too hard. And it may send you home.

Ok, ok, we'll give Metal a chance!
JAMES - it's your world, and we're just living in it. I felt like I was at your own rock show, complete with long-haired, shaggy, kick-ass guitarist at your side....which gives you quite a bit of credibility, by the way. This wasn't my favorite song, but you owned it, as usual. I've compared you to Adam Lambert a few times in the past, but you really stepped out of anyone else's shadow last night and became a full-fledged Idol original. Can anyone stop you from taking this whole thing? I'm not so sure!

Again, a great show!

My BOTTOM THREE: Hailey, Paul, and Casey
Who's going home: Casey

What did YOU hear last night?!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Are the girls...doomed?!

Bottom Three...
...and the lovely Pia goes home
Pia goes home?! Of the 9 contestants left, this lovely and talented girl generated the least amount of votes?!

Pia goes home before Stefano?!

Back in season 3, Jennifer Hudson's early exit (she placed 7th overall) got all the conspiracy-theorists talking. Why were all three of the "Duelling Divas" in the bottom 3 in the same week? Why was the country hating on the girls?!

In 10 seasons, we've had 4 girls win the title of American Idol - Kelly, Carrie, Fantasia, and Jordin. But the past three seasons have been boys - David, Kris, and Lee.

Pia's exit will inspire a lot of anger. Is the teen-girl voting block really the driving force behind the show? Are we always going to end up with the cute boy winning in the end, because that's who the prepubescent girls are voting for?!

In the end, I don't think there's a controversy here. I don't think our remaining girls - Haley and Lauren, are necessarily doomed. Think about it - last year's standouts were Lee and Crystal. Crystal made it to the finale, and although she didn't win, her talent drove her to the end. I think voters will vote for talent, whether it's male or female.

But how do you explain Pia? Whatever it is, I am bummed for her. Maybe she didn't connect with the audience. Maybe she was a little stiff, unapproachable, too perfect. Maybe her backstory isn't tragic enough... America loves a good, sad story to go with their Idols.  But she had the strongest voice in the competition. She is a classy, composed queen on the stage, and I felt that in her capable hands and voice, she'd only improve week after week. Maybe she lacked that stage-charisma that we wanted to see, but you definitely felt that she'd get there.

I wonder, do the judges regret using that one-and-only save on Casey?

(One last note: apparently, America looked at itself in the mirror and decided it didn't like its Idols to be preachy and self-righteous. We don't need another morality-barometer. We've got Fox News for that. Jacob, stick to singing, baby. It's what you do best.)

Until next week!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fabulous...

What a great show!

Songs from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Mentoring by Jimmy Iovine and Styled by Gwen Stefani. Idol is bringing out the big guns this season!

In seasons past with 9 contestants left, there are usually still 1 or 2 that need to go. It's always obvious. But not this year. With our top 9, everyone can sing. Everyone can deliver a great performance. Who do you like the best? Because that's where we are. Lucky us!

Like everyone else, my feelings toward our remaining contestants are getting stronger and more clear, week after week. I have a clear idea of who is...and isn't...for me.

Reality check, please?

JACOB - last time I checked, you haven't sold any albums yet. So when you pronounced "if I end up in the Bottom Three this week, it's because America's not ready to look themselves in the mirror"....I'm thinking someone needs a reality check around here. Immediately. "Let's Get It On" was too sexual of a song choice for you, but with all that hip-swangin' you did during "Man in the Mirror", the difference was lost on me. Your self-righteousness and preachiness are really getting on my nerves.  And in your post-interview, when you said, "If you want to change the world, start with you and everyone else will follow"...gag. Maybe I'm old and jaded, but enough already. We don't need you to preach to us, we just want to be entertained. You're not a big star yet, Jacob. It's not even about the vocals now - we know you can sing with the best of 'em, but this is a personality contest, too, baby. I like my Idols with a dose of humility. I'm just sayin'.

Get your motor runnin'

HALEY - you revved your vocal engine through Janis' "Piece of My Heart" like you were in the pole position at the Daytona 500.  I swear, Steven was growling right back at you through the entire performance. Girl, you are a crazy-train-wreck of a performer, but I love it.  The big fuzzy hair, the bright red lips, that soulful voice, you make me...giggle. I don't think you're going to win, but I'm going to enjoy this ride while you're still on it. 

The Face of the Revolution
CASEY - I hate Freedom Rock. '70s music makes me itch. The Forrest Gump Soundtrack...blech. And I consider CCR to be in this category. But I've always loved "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" and thought your performance was flat-out great. Your screaming, growling, grunting, humming vocal, all while plucking away at that bass, made for one of my favorite performances of the night. Randy called you a "revolutionary". I just call you "awesome".

Our baby girl is all grown up!

LAUREN - did we know that Country + Soul = COUNTROL? Thankfully, we have to teach us these valuable lessons.  Lauren, your look definitely got hit by the Gwen Stefani-stick this week, and your new, darker hair reminds me of Hillary Scott, the lead singer from Lady Antebellum. And your voice is just as lovely as always. "Natural Woman" coming from a 16-year old could have been a disaster (say, if Thia had tried to sing this), but coming from you, it was mature and controlled. This performance would have worked on the Country Music Awards - a great country artist doing a beautiful crossover performance. 

All sweetness and light
JAMES - at first, I was distracted by the way your ears were so backlit, they looked like red beacons in the night.  But once I chose to ignore that, I loved this performance for what it was - sweet and lovely, but we could still feel the power surging underneath all that restraint. I love your obsession with The Beatles, and you've now performed songs by Paul and George. Your vulnerability during "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was one of the most quiet, yet best moments in the show. 

All hat and no cattle? Don't think so.
SCOTTY -  Last night, we got the sneering, hip-shaking, shoulder-shrugging, Rockabilly-Gangsta version of Scotty! Who isn't charmed by you? Elvis' "That's All Right Mama" was straight up your lane, although you have the amazing ability to own every genre and put your Scotty-swag on it. No one is worried at this point if you're "all hat and no cattle." And that's all right with us.

Strike a pose
PIA - I don't want to say I'm disappointed. It's hard to say that about someone who has probably the strongest, biggest voice in the competition. But if you're going to sing "River Deep, Mountain High" by the ultimate Bad-Ass Tina Turner, then I want more. How about some leather pants, some wild hair shaking, some reckless abandonment? THAT'S what this song needed. Yes, you looked great, sounded strong, and hit every pose on stage. But for me, it was just that...posed. Composed. You gave us the pretty version of this song, which really didn't do it justice. But again, that's who you are. And if I don't like it, I don't have to vote for you. You have the voice, but this left me wondering if you have the performance and personality to match?

Cheese fondue
STEFANO- i need you to go because i hate to put you on BLAST every week. But for me, you are just a cute, earnest wedding singer. Those pleading eyes, burning into the camera...that mouth open so wide I can see your tonsils...blech. And again, I  just don't enjoy your phrasing choices. Every performance of yours, while strong, is just upping the cheese-factor to uncomfortable levels. I'm choking on cheddar. You need to go - not because you can't sing, but you're just not as good as everyone else. 

98 lbs, soaking wet
PAUL - sigh. A last, desperate attempt by a misunderstood would-be Idol to connect with us. In a way, this is the performance I've been waiting for from you. It was joyous, your guitar works wonders for your stage presence...yet it was frantic and frazzled at the same time. You are just too much of a lightweight for this competition. Your "Folsom Prison Blues" was more of the "I-did-shots-with-a-man-in-Reno" variety, than the man-in-black Johnny Cash variety. You're the Idol I'd most want to have a beer with, but I'm afraid you may be gone this week. Too little, too late.

Overall, a fantastic show. We have 9 great competitors, but someone has to go:

BOTTOM THREE: Paul, Stefano, and Jacob (cuz I'm mad at ya)
Who will go home: Paul

What did YOU hear last night?!