“american idol” top 4: consider the shark jumped.

If all of the preceding episodes of American Idol this season were distress signals, then last night’s performance episode was those signals flat lining. “Songs of the Cinema” night was an all-around disaster. The judges could barely muster up any relevant critiques, and even the praised performances were just so-so in comparison to other things we’ve seen from the contestants this season. This is the top four, people! This is the time when you need to step up your game, not sit back and churn out something mediocre that borders on karaoke.
Before I get to the actual singing, I have to address the ridiculous theme and equally ridiculous mentor. Ryan proclaimed that everyone loves the movies, but that doesn’t mean that everyone loves songs from the movies. Based on the pathetic list of songs the top four had to choose from, I gathered that the theme was actually “Songs Written Specifically For a Movie,” rather than “Any Song In a Movie/On Its Soundtrack.” Nine times out of ten, songs that are penned to play over closing credits of movies are dull and schlocky, which explains why I spent most of last night waiting for Idol to be over so Glee could start. This type of theme is usually a momentum killer, which is exactly what happened.
Jamie Foxx was partly to blame; he spent more time obsessing over his silly “artist” and “contestant” shirts than he did offering any useful critique. No, I don’t think sticking his face in Lee and Casey’s personal space counts as mentoring. Maybe I’m still riding high from the excellent mentoring of Harry Connick, Jr. last week, but it seemed like Foxx was just there for the face time and didn’t care too much about the contestants.
Lee Dewyze and his face full of spray tan opened the show with a shaky version of Seal’s “Kiss By a Rose.” First of all, way to pick an awful song, Lee, and second, please stop dressing like you’re performing at Zeta Chi’s Beer Bash 2010. The pitch was just beyond his grasp the entire song, and all of the words ended in a vague mumble. You know I adore Lee, but I had to hide my face behind a pillow in embarrassment.
Here’s a shocker: Big Mike picked one of Michael Jackson’s cheesiest songs, the Free Willy song “Will You Be There.” Nothing about this performance indicated that Mike has the chops to become the next American Idol. I’m hoping Big Mike will be heading home tonight. Free Willy, indeed.
I missed out on season 8, so I hadn’t seen any duets on Idol until last night. I think it’s a great idea, and I’m all for duets being introduced earlier on in the season. Group night creates lots of drama and entertainment during Hollywood Week, so why not carry that into the rest of the show? Lee and Crystal sang “Falling Slowly” from the movie Once. I loved how their mic stands were positioned to face each other, and I also loved that they both played guitar. I wasn’t too keen on how their voices meshed; Crystal’s Joplin-esque howl was a bit grating against Lee’s gravelly tone. Things definitely picked up around the chorus, and Lee redeemed himself for his hideous solo performance just minutes before. Bonus points to Crystal for calling Lee her “musical crush.”
Back in solo land, Casey chose “Mrs. Robinson,” which is hands-down my favorite Simon and Garfunkel song. It could have been okay, but he chose to sit in the crowd and play a mandolin to a slowed-down version of the song. The judges were so proud of themselves for making the connection between the Graduate and Kara’s supposed crush on Casey, but anyone with half a brain/knowledge of music history knows that the song was originally titled “Mrs. Roosevelt” and was changed only to fit in with the movie. Nice try, though, Randy.
Crystal was the only solo performer to change up her song a bit, but no amount of orchestral rearranging could hide the fact that “I’m All Right” is the song from Caddyshack. It was the best performance of the night, but that’s like saying it was the pile of dog poop that smelled the least. I did enjoy her boyfriend’s American flag pants, though. Forgive me if this sounds incredibly mean, but her boyfriend is way cuter than I thought the boyfriend of Crystal Bowersox should be.
The duet between Casey and Big Mike was like a nonentity, as I think one of them will be going home tonight and the other next week. I do enjoy “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” for the cheesy ballad that it is, and I thought the guitar stylings of the two gents worked well. Casey may not be the next American Idol, but damn, that guy can play the guitar. Their harmonizing wasn’t as bad as I thought, but someone was way sharp during the chorus (methinks it was Casey.)
Will there be a shocking, Chris Daughtry-type elimination tonight as we see who makes it into the top three? You never know with American Idol
Photo courtesy of Fox.com.

“american idol” top 9: part deux

…And I’m back! Since I last discussed the goings-on at American Idol, we lost Didi and almost lost Big Mike, but then the judges had a momentary lapse of judgment and decided to save the beefy, lip licking super dad. Between Big Mike and Andrew constantly reminding us that they’re fathers on Idol, and Kate Gosselin exploiting her motherhood on Dancing With the Stars, there has never been more parents on TV looking for sympathy. I literally shouted at the TV last week when Simon told Big Mike he was safe. I hate the judges’ save in principle, and it was even more annoying tonight when they were tripping over themselves to congratulate themselves on their great save. On to last night’s festivities…
Adam Lambert, he of the screeching and eyeliner, became the first former Idol contestant to serve as a mentor. As an Idol purist, I called foul at this; why not bring back a truly successful Idol, such as Chris Daughtry? Carrie Underwood? Jennifer Hudson? Before I get a bunch of Lambert fans jumping down my throat, I’m not suggesting that Adam isn’t successful, just that he’s only had a year to cultivate his post-Idol career, while others have had more time. That being said, I thought Adam was the best season 9 mentor thus far, offering useful and insightful advice to the contestants, but whether or not they decided to use it was another story. (I’m looking at you, Andrew.)
Crystal Bowersox started the night by singing “Saved,” an Elvis song I was previously unfamiliar with, although my knowledge doesn’t extend far beyond “Heartbreak Hotel” or “Love Me Tender.” Big shocker here – Crystal vocally nailed it. It wasn’t bad karaoke, but it was fairly forgettable. My whole issue with Crystal is that she’s predictable. I don’t know if I can see her winning the Idol crown this season, and I think her career is going to be middling at best. I just had an argument with a coworker about Crystal, because he thinks she’s going to be “huge in the hippie community.” I responded that a) the fact that he thinks there is a hippie community concerns me, and b) if Crystal is signed by 19/Jive/any sort of Idol-related record label, the hippie community is going to reject her, because she’s going to be all sterilized and pasteurized of her crunchy granola goodness. (It’s also important to note that my coworker’s grasp of reality is practically nonexistent. He still goes to Phish concerts.)
I enjoyed how Adam bluntly told Andrew Garcia that his rendition of “Hound Dog” was boring, and urged him to pep it up. Great advice, but Andrew completely disregarded it and sang a half-assed, lethargic arrangement. If Andrew doesn’t get the axe as part of tonight’s dual elimination, I’ll be shocked. Dude’s been seemingly phoning it in since the top 10.
I never thought I would write this phrase, but Tim Urban had one of the best performances of the night. His version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” was great. The guitar part was nice, it actually seemed heartfelt, and the vocals weren’t terrible. Way to go, Timmy. You’re probably safe for another week.
Lee has always been my favorite Idol, but it’s getting kind of transparent that the judges are trying to create a competition between him and Crystal. I liked his take on “A Little Less Conversation.” He made it sound modern, and his vocals were, for once, growly and in tune.
Aaron Kelly‘s performance of “Blue Suede Shoes” was vocally on point. It showcased his lower register quite nicely and got rid of that going-through-puberty crack he has going on sometimes. The vocals were about all that went right, though, as Aaron had trouble connecting to a song whose lyrics included “drink liquor from a fruit jar” (or something like that.)
When Siobhan met Adam, the world did not collapse into a black hole of screeching and big hair. Rather, she seemed shyly starstruck, which was cute. I love “Suspicious Minds,” (see Chris Daughtry’s version for proof) but I don’t know if it was the best song for Siobhan. The arrangement was definitely too slow, which hindered her vocals, and the whole pacing seemed off. I loved her pseudo-Elvis jumpsuit and pompadour hair, though. I’m quite scared that Siobhan could be in danger due to the double-elimination tonight, but she’s had worse performances and stayed on, so we’ll see.
I’m still peeved the judges saved Big Mike, so I took a Twitter and potty break during his performance of “In the Ghetto.” Please go home tonight.
Simon’s critique of Katie‘s performance being “very loud and a bit annoying” was spot-on. She sang “Baby, What You Want Me to Do,” and her performance definitely felt very karaoke-ish. Someone in the wardrobe department must hate Katie, for she was in another unflattering, bizarre outfit with way too many accessories. I hope she gets the ax tonight. I’ve had enough of the Miss Teen Connecticut act.
The final performance of the night belonged to Casey, and I have to admit, I don’t remember what song he sang or anything about the performance. (Wikipedia tells me it was “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” No wonder I couldn’t remember.) That doesn’t bode well for Mr. James.
Stray observations:
-Mama Lambert is very pretty. (She being the woman sitting next to Adam throughout the show.)
-Kara, stop using “fire” as a way to describe things. It’s not an adjective.
-Ryan Seacrest must be stopped. Between his dancing in the aisles during Tim’s performance to his Dunkleman joke, he was out of control last night.
-Having the cast of Glee right behind the judges all night was great; Jane Lynch’s visceral reactions to various comments were priceless.

Photo courtesy of fox.com

‘american idol’ top 11: too awful to make a witty headline.

I almost didn’t want to write about American Idol again, because I mentally checked out of the show about halfway through last night, and because it was so damn boring/awful/pitchy/etc. that I don’t care who goes home tonight; it could be any one of six people and I’d be happy. But I have some perverse dedication to this blog, even though about four people read it on a regular basis (Hi Mom!), and honestly, last night was just too awful not to discuss. The Idols could pick from any number one single in Billboard‘s 50-year history, and they managed to pick some of the schlockiest, cheesiest, over-performed songs on the list. Guest mentor Miley Cyrus wasn’t as bad as I thought she’d be, although her statement that, “People take me seriously because I take myself seriously,” proves all that is wrong with today’s youth.

Lee Dewyze, my current favorite, started the show with “The Letter,” by the Box Tops. The brass ensemble was borderline hokey, although it was a nice departure from the ‘dude stands behind mic stand with guitar’ performances in Lee’s past. I liked the vocals, and he definitely brought more stage presence, although he clearly had no idea what to do with his left hand, the one not holding the microphone, and flailed it around awkwardly.

Why Paige Miles thought it would be a good idea to pick “Take a Look At Me Now (Against All Odds),” a song already covered on Idol by Corey Clark, George Huff, Jessica Sierra, Scott Savol, Katharine McPhee, and Ramiele Malubay, is something I can’t fathom. Calling her performance ‘pitchy’ is an understatement. My living room cleared when Paige started singing. I think my dog was in pain. The girl sang better when she had laryngitis, for crying out loud. It was just awful.

Another performance that falls into the ‘just awful’ category is Tim Urban‘s take on Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Freddie Mercury rolled over in his grave, for sure, during Tim’s performance. There was nothing exciting about the vocals, and Tim’s attempts to be fun by sliding across the stage, touching audience members’ hands and standing amongst the audience were just cheap gimmicks to cover up the fact that he’s a terrible performer.

Aaron Kelly – whom Ryan called David Archuleta when giving out his numbers – picked another tried and true Idol favorite: Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.” It was okay. It’s nothing I’m going to remember in a week or two, but his vocals were decent, and his performance was another chance for him to show off his earnest faces.

Crystal Bowersox‘s “Me and Bobby McGee” was yet another crunchy granola acoustic jam, this time with a rug on the stage! She really makes it seem effortless, but homegirl has to mix it up with the musical choices in the upcoming weeks if she wants to be a true contender. Enough with the Starbucks music. Take a page out of the books of Lambert, Cook, Allen et al, and find a song that isn’t from your genre of music, and revamp it to fit said genre. Otherwise, I think Mamasox will find herself amongst the eliminated former front runners, including but not limited to Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson, and Melinda Doolittle.

I missed Big Mike‘s performance; I’m not sad at all. I don’t like him.

Andrew Garcia‘s performance of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” was cheesy and amateurish. I know, I know, this is an “amateur” talent competition, but I’ve seen more skill from drunken coeds doing karaoke. He lost the guitar and gained a whole lot of awkward stage presence. I won’t be surprised if he’s in the bottom three tonight.

Katie Stevens‘ attempt at being young and cool resulted in ill-advised suspenders and Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” It reeked of high-school talent show. I just can’t get behind Katie as a valid contender for the Idol crown. Her voice is great, just not technically at the level it should be to compete on a nationally televised talent competition.

I may be the only person who enjoyed Casey James‘ “The Power of Love.” Sure, Huey Lewis and the News isn’t the most current song choice, but Casey’s vocals were great. I could have done without the horn section blasting down from the band loft; they definitely contributed to the outdated feel that Randy spoke of, and they pretty much muted Casey’s guitar playing. (I did quite enjoy his comment to Miley that he’s a big fan…of her father. Zing!)

Didi Benami just plain sucked last night. There’s no other way to say it. Her performance of Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good” was cheesy, overdone, and flat. I believe I may have changed the channel to check the weather forecast during this performance.

Siobhan Magnus and her magnificent pink faux-hawk took on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” Vocally, it wasn’t perfect, but I did like hearing Siobhan’s voice against a more upbeat, less morose song. “The shriek” is getting old fast, though, and while I don’t hate it, I find myself bracing for impact throughout her performances, waiting for that note.

My bottom three prediction for tonight: Urban, Miles, Garcia, with Urban going back to safety first and most likely Miss Miles heading back to her kindergarten class.

Photo courtesy of USA Today.