Posts Tagged ‘Adam Lambert’

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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 3 Results

May 17, 2012

Image from Mike Licht, Notionscapital.com via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Wow. Next week will be the finale. Will I end up rooting for both contestants or just one? Let’s see!

First, here are the musical performances in order they were on the show.
1. Top 3 – “Got To Get You Into My Life” I thought the group songs were supposed to be for coasting. Based on the quality of singing these three are demonstrating, everyone deserves to be here (if only to perform that song and then get the hell off the stage!)
2. Ford Music Video: Why doesn’t Phillip ever play along? Jessica and Josh should be the final two. That’s all there is to it.
3. Lisa Marie Presley – “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” You know, if it was Elvis night last night this performance would make sense. That said, this doesn’t sound too bad. It has kind of an alt-country, Cowboy Junkies/Nancy Sinatra vibe to it. Presley’s slight low drawl fits the music like a glove. It’s not novel or anything, but for a big loud show like this it was a little refreshing.
4. Adam Lambert – “Never Close Our Eyes” While Lambert wasn’t the last great Idol contestant, he was the last one I liked who made it to the finals. He remains the only Idol alum whose post-show album I have bought. This new song opens like a classic rock song but quickly transforms into a driving dancefloor scorcher. The sound is huge and Lambert’s voice rises to meet it. He had a ton of aid from the backup singers and his stage presence looked a little tired, but fun is fun. Welcome back, dude!

The Loser
The show isn’t doing anything to halt the prediction I made back in Top 24 week, because Josh is out while Phillip and Jessica are in. His performances were up and down the first few weeks of the competition, but towards the end he shored up his vocal chops and delivered the awesome. For the past three weeks he was my number one pick. I just hope that he doesn’t do just retro soul for his album, because he can go so far beyond that if he wants to. Also, while Phillip has been by far the most deserving low key guitar player to compete on the show in years, Jessica is by far the better singer. No other singer on this show has made me cry. Go Jessica!

Finally, rest in peace, Donna Summer. She leaves a legacy of awesome, awesome dance music. Her work with Giorgio Moroder bridged the gap between disco and house. While she made her biggest hits before I was born, I still have memories of her music. I remember in high school getting down to “Bad Girls” in Dance Dance Revolution 2nd Mix. In the first paying DJ gig I had in college, I closed my set with “Last Dance.” “Stamp Your Feet” proved she still had the groove 3 decades into her career, and was one of my inspiration songs my first year out of grad school. She will be remembered as one of the pillars of dance.

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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 13 Men

February 28, 2012

Image edited from original by Maks Karochkin on Flickr, used under Creative Commons

It’s time to get venomous and vindictive on a show I love to hate. This is American Idol!

Notes: We’re off to a good start – the judges aren’t dressed like shit! I have nothing mean to say about any of their looks.

Theme: Contestants can pick any song.

Here are the Top 13 male performers in order of appearance on the show.

1. Reed Grimm – “Moves Like Jagger” Reed opens with some generous eye fucking of the camera on this gratuitous lounge lizard rendition of a song made famous by the coaches on that other show. Reed’s performance had tons of cheese, scatting, bad dancing, and a drum solo on a stand-up kit like he’s in The Stray Cats. However, it was still kind of fun. His singing was totally in his range and he gave the performance a full commitment. Seriously there was zero irony there. Props for kicking things off with something different and sounding good, dude!

2. Adam Brock – “Think” OK, nobody can be Aretha, but Adam had a good run on this song. For the most part he stuck to his range and didn’t oversing too much. He stuck the big notes and seemed to really show a solid mix of self-assurance and empowerment, which you need for a song like this. It was a somewhat rough start for him, but I could see myself rooting for this guy in spite of his Steelers fandom. Please don’t be Danny Gokey Part 2.

3. Deandre Brackensick – “Reasons” …Aaaaannnnddd things grind to a halt on this EWF ballad. This actually could have been cool if Deandre had used his full range instead of staying flat in his falsetto. The high notes only work if there is successful mid and low-range singing. He sounded clunky for most of the song, and gained his composure for the big finish. If he stays after this week, he needs to work his vocal control, lest he blow his voice out on a Bee Gees song.

4. Colton Dixon – “Decode” This spot belonged to your sister, you freeloading chotch! It’s tearing your family apart. See if she gives you a kidney when you need it. Now to the song. Colton tries to go for the high power singing over the nu metal power chords, but he’s out of his league. There was no genuine emotion. Whether it was on the belting or the piano mount, he couldn’t touch a lesser alum like James Durbin, let alone a killer like Adam Lambert. That was painful to watch. And that haircut looks like shit. It makes the mullet look classy. Fuck off, you skunky charlatan!

5. Jeremy Rosado – “Gravity” This guy seemed like a nonentity in Hollywood and Las Vegas. Jeremy goes for restrained and understated, which is admirable on an intimate song like this. The orchestral arrangement kind of buried him in the mix, which is a shame since he seemed like he had a grasp of the emotional component of the material. Of course he had to have the big cathartic finish, which felt messy, but it’s one meh spot on an otherwise decent performance. Frankly I was a little bored with the song choice, but I respect what he did. Just don’t do it too much.

6. Aaron Marcellus – “Never Can Say Goodbye” Once again I’m not so ok with jumping to the Motown catalog so early in the show, but that aside this was pretty good. Aaron showed good vocal control throughout the performance and he was just upbeat enough to convey coolness without overdoing it. I love that cool professionalism, especially when there’s some boppin’ within. And that super high ending? I think Aaron just took Deandre to school.

7. Chase Likens – “Storm Warning” Unlike last year’s country boy who shall not be named, Chase displays his solid tenor with ease. Like Aaron, he showed good command of a stage and some personal investment in the song. Way to use those theater chops, dude! When he was smiling it conveyed fun, not playing around. He blew a lot of the big notes at the end, but he might tighten up if he sticks around. I don’t listen to country music much, but I’m not sad by this performance.

8. Creighton Fraker – “True Colors” It’s tough for me to root for this guy because I don’t like his face. He makes things worse by singing “True Colors.” Look dude, if the Glee cast couldn’t make this sappy claptrap interesting, you shouldn’t try. That performance felt empty and forced like so much inspiration bait. His singing was halfway decent, but it was quickly overshadowed by the rest of the bleaty shitshow. Get off my TV.

9. Phillip Phillips – “In The Air Tonight” A low-key white guy with an acoustic guitar? Ladies and gentleman, your season 11 American Idol winner! Demographic predictability aside, this was a good song for Phil to do. I give him props for doing an alternative take and he did a good job singing, but the arrangement just sucked. It was grungy and hoary, and the song is supposed to be quiet and resigned. The matter-of-fact dread and self-hatred in the piece comes from the emotion and the minimal instrumentation. There was a little too much naked anger and bad sax playing. Show me “haunting,” you demographic bait!

10. Eben Franckewitz – “Set Fire To The Rain” I should be down on this Lil’ Justin Bieber, but he seems too nice and self-deprecating for me to root against him on principle. However, I will root against him for this underwhelming karaoke car wreck of a performance. The song choice did him in. He’s singing notes he can’t yet hit for emotions he hasn’t felt yet. He’s a small child and there’s a good chance he’ll develop both vocally and emotionally. One day Eben’s power might rival Adele’s, but it is not this day. Sidenote: notice the judges trying their best not to sound critical of this probable chosen one. Remember when people made fun of Paula Abdul for being too nice to the bad contestants? Now it’s like that for all three judges most of the time. But I digress.

11. Heejun Han – “Angels” I’m disappointed that Heejun picked another slow ballad, since they seem like such a departure from his offstage persona. I’m not familiar with the Robbie Williams original, but Kathy says that Heejun’s version just wasn’t as good. He just couldn’t make those big vocal moments count. Ballads like this tend fraught with emotion and vocal acrobatics. I felt some of the emotion and conviction in Heejun’s delivery, but his vocals just didn’t match. Kathy played the original for me, and yeah, it’s better. Robbie Williams’s soaring highs on the chorus were damn impressive, so I can understand her disappointment with Heejun for failing to deliver the same.

12. Josh Ledet – “You Pulled Me Through” Josh is taking on Jennifer Hudson and he’s throwing everything but the kitchen sink at this song. It’s a good demonstration of his raw vocal power, but there were a lot of times where the big oversingy moments felt unearned at best and screechy at worst. He can’t handle the power yet. This plodding yet overindulgent performance style can lead me to only one conclusion: Josh Ledet is Jacob Lusk without the sibilant “s.” ZZZZZZZZZ………..

HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER!

13. Jermaine Jones – “Dance With My Father” Wow! They brought the talented bass singer back! I did not see that coming. I thought he came off as pretty good in the Las Vegas round. The producers actually made a good decision! This sentimental grinder made famous by Luther Vandross isn’t my favorite song, but Jermaine sure makes good work of it though! He had great conviction in his singing and in how he came across onstage. There was tender emotion and some fabulous low note holds. Way to do us low-voiced guys proud, Jermaine!

And what would I have sung? I’ll admit that I’m not a very good singer overall. My voice tends to be in the lower range and I love to perform slightly alternative, uptempo songs in karaoke and Rock Band. The focus in this fairly open round is to make a good impression on the audience, many of whom are turning in for the first time. I suppose I would kick things off with one of my karaoke staples – “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie. It’s one of his better-known songs and when I’m warmed up I can stay in my vocal comfort zone and still pull off some the song’s builds and held notes. If was lucky I’d come across like Taylor Hicks.

My Top 3 Performers
1. Aaron Marcellus
2. Jermaine Jones
3. Reed Grimm

My Bottom 3 Performers
1. Colton Dixon
2. Creighton Fraker
3. Eben Franckewitz

Tune in tomorrow when the women take the stage!

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Thoughts On American Idol Top 4: Elimination

May 12, 2011

Oh no! J.Lo is wearing harem pants again! Your career is back on track. Don’t push your luck with ugly, ugly pants! Also, if Randy “Status Quo” Jackson says “In It To Win It” one more time, I’m gonna scream.

There are duet performances….

Scotty & James do some country song, (“Start A Band?”) I don’t know. James gets a kiss from some woman in the audience. I hope she’s his wife. I don’t know because WE NEVER SEE HIS WIFE! Apparently her nose hit his eye. The guys can both pull of the twangy thing, but they do not sound good together at all.

After the commercial Lauren and Haley come out to sing Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead.” Haley is all summery and revealing while Lauren is head to toe in black like a supervillain. It was too disparate. The costuming of the show has been absolute shit this season. Luckily they continue to harmonize well. It was actually a pretty good performance and another win for the women.

Afterward we get a videoconference montage and confirmation that the woman in the audience was indeed James’s wife and it kind of makes me happy.

Lady Gaga – “You and I”

Oh man, I thought we were gonna get a live performance! This is just a clip from Gaga’s HBO concert. The clip features her performing “You and I.” She was really going for the 70s singer-songwriter vibe here. Not really my cup of tea, but I’ll still probably buy Born This Way.

Enrique Iglesias – “Dirty Dancer / I Like It”

Well this is just some out and out rave music. Not dance pop, just dance! The beat is kind of hot, but I cannot hear him over the beats. There’s a recorded clip of Usher singing a verse and the whole thing probably sounds better recorded. Things pick up a little bit when he shifts to his comeback hit “I Like It.” He gets the crowd to sing along and he sounds kind of live, or just live enough for the whole thing to feel mediocre and sloppy. Oh well at least he hasn’t aged since 2002.

Ford Music Video – “Fireflies”

Instead of Harold and the Purple Crayon, we get Harold and the Purple Glowstick.

Jordin Sparks – “I Am Woman”

The last woman and person of color to win American Idol emerges from a slick theatrical intro to knock out a well-executed uptempo R&B number that sounds like something Beyonce took a pass on. Highlights of the performance include a group of male backup dancers dressed like Justin Bieber and a moment whereSparks tries to get her trenchcoat off but just can’t seem to shake it. Eventually she has to keep singing (or lip-syncing, as it may be) with the jacket still half on. She still sings really well, though she’s not the best. I appreciate that she did an uptempo number. I hope that she continues to do well.

Steven Tyler – “It Feels So Good”

Why does he have a sloth? Kathy wants a sloth. Also, this song would not be out of place in the early 2000s performed by Vertical Horizon, Nine Days, BBMak, and/or Evan and Jaron. Really Steven? You’re bringing that back? At least with Aerosmith there was a little blues rock soul in your music (and yes, I’m counting the power ballads in there). Also, Nicole Scherzinger, don’t you have more important things to be doing right now, such as prepping for your X-Factor gig?

Bottom 2 (Announced in 2 rounds)

  1. James Durbin
  2. Scotty McCreery

The ladies are in! James is out! Bye bye, Mr. Histrionic! In a way James was a victim of expectations. The show set him up to be a successor to Adam Lambert when he wasn’t nearly as skilled or fun. He had a tendency to wail and scream at the most inappropriate times in his songs and he relied on too many gimmicks (including a marching band and a burning piano). Plus there was that scarf tail thing. To his credit, James tried to do harder and more obscure songs (at least for Idol) and his “give metal a chance” mission was refreshing. I actually kind of wish he had brought some real hardcore metal to the squeaky-clean Idol stage. Go back to your family, dude (after you finish the seemingly neverending concert tour.) It appears as after a season of absence they are still there for you.

Next week it’s Haley vs. the teen assholes. We’re in for a wild ride.

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Thoughts On American Idol Top 4: Inspiration / Leiber and Stoller

May 11, 2011

Tonight we have two rounds. Round one is songs the contestants find inspirational (did anyone miss Idol Gives Back night?) Round two is songs by the songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller. The mentor for round two is none other than Stefani Germanotta, Mother Monster, the Hardest Working Woman In Show Business…Lady Gaga! Isn’t it funny how this show brings in the interesting mentors when the themes focus on really old material? This reminds of season 9 when Adam Lambert came in to mentor during Elvis week. Silly Idol….

James Durbin – “Don’t Stop Believing”

“Does anybody know this song?” yells James as the piano vamps up. He also calls out Randy “Status Quo” Jackson (a former Journey member) before he starts….singing? James holds the notes at inappropriate times, sings incredibly off key, and just bleats in that way that made me root against him when the Top 24 was picked. He also seems to have caught the old Mush Mouth disease from Haley when he sings about taking “the fidnight train going anywhere.” I’m upset because this is a popular, catchy song that has been sung by a lot of people and at best James’s performance was drunken karaoke. Not to be outdone by the flubs, Status Quo offhandedly calls James “girl” during the criticism portion.

Haley Reinhart – “Earth Song”

Why don’t people do the fun MJ songs on this show? Resembling Victoria Jackson circa 1993, Haley does the minimal accompaniment intro thing again and she sounds alright but when the song tries to take off poor Haley gets sucked into its engines. By the big sing off closing, Haley sounds like her voice is about to blow out. During the criticism J.Lo talks to Haley like a disappointed football coach talks to a quarterback who throws the third interception of the game (I’ve been watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix.) I wish she displayed this kind of tough love earlier in the season. When Status Quo tries to pile on, Haley brushes his words off like so much dust. She is so completely over it and it’s awesome. I’ll reiterate: I really like Haley as a person, but her performances can be wanting.

Scotty McCreery – “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?”

Scotty takes on the 9/11-inspired Alan Jackson song. He sings it competently enough and the arrangement is nice but….ah fuck it! This feels like total patriot-bating. My visceral reaction is to say, “It was 10 years ago and you were, what, 6 years old?!” In the past people have appropriated this tragedy to come across as “down home” and push whatever reactionary bullshit they want (and don’t even consider New York to be real America.) It feels like Scotty is trying to equate voting for him with patriotism. That’s not patriotic, that’s cynical and disingenuous. Fuck that shit and fuck the judges for affirming it!

Lauren Alaina – “Anyway”

Wearing the most WTF outfit of the night (seriously she looks really uncomfortable up there) Lauren also goes for the “affirmation in the face of tragedy” angle. However, her choice feels more genuine that Scotty’s since she is from down south and she has mentioned the recent tornado disasters earlier in the show. She also doesn’t pick a song that calls out the specific event that inspires her (maybe that’s only because one doesn’t exist yet.) Performance-wise she sings well enough, though I wasn’t wowed by it. Maybe if she picked a different dress she wouldn’t seem so uncomfortable.

Haley Reinhart – “I Who Have Nothing”

Gaga tells Haley to go psycho and up the theatrics. That’s a dangerous game given Haley’s past history of mugging. The arrangement is cinematic to the max, with a big orchestra set against some crisp rock drumming. It kind of works. Haley sticks to her spot onstage and goes for a controlled chaos. She builds up her volume, minimizes the growl, and (dare I say it) sticks the held note at the end! Haley makes almost no eye contact with Status Quo during the criticism. You can cut the tension with a knife.

Scotty McCreery – “Young Blood”

During the mentor round Lady Gaga tells Scotty to sing into the mic straight on, advice he could have used at the start of the show. Also, Scotty seems to be really nervous around people who are different from him, saying he needs to “kiss his cross” after meeting with Gaga as if she’s a vampire, or other minion of Old Scratch. Ugh. However, this is a good song choice for Scotty. It has a nice rockabilly feel to it and he can fit his voice to its playful tone. He’s a little off key at times and his usual stage crap is in full effect, but when it comes to the singing he’s competent.

Lauren Alaina – “Trouble”

She got hung up over the word “evil?” It’s pretty central to the song. Did she not know the song when she picked it? Did she think it was “I’m a weevil?” Did she think her glittery 80s Tammy Faye grandma outfit was a good choice? Questions aside, I felt that she was overwhelmed by the arrangement. She just couldn’t climb her way out of the mix. She had good energy though and if you’re gonna dress like Tammy Faye you might as well work it like a televangelist.

James Durbin – “Love Potion #9”

The highlight of the mentor round was Lady Gaga grinding on James to get him to loosen up and move his hips. James’s performance feels like an 80s pop metal show, right down to the purple and green lighting. He doesn’t seem to show any more wiggle in his hips than before, but his singing is more on point and on key. He also employs the right amount of showmanship. I admit I was a little pleased when he stopped the song to do a little wailing theatrics. It was still self-indulgent but still kind of fun.

Tonight’s episode was mostly ok. There were one or two songs that made me angry, but otherwise nothing was terribly disappointing. With two weeks to go in the show, I still don’t feel much star potential from these contestants. They just seem like really lucky regular people who sing about as well as your more talented classmates or co-workers. We need a Max Martin night when everyone gets to use vocal processing. Then we’ll see who can be a pop star.

Ranking

  1. Lauren Alaina (She’s the closest to being an artist)
  2. Haley Reinhart (She’s the most likable)
  3. James Durbin (Mostly craptacular with the occasional bright spot)
  4. Scotty McCreery (Anger-inspiring!)
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Thoughts On American Idol Top 9: The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

April 6, 2011

Tonight’s theme is songs from artists who are in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. During the intro montage, Steven Tyler demoes a wax bust of himself mid-scream. It looks like a soul frozen in hell. Also, Interscope darling Gwen Stefani is styling the ladies in L.A.M.B. and Will.I.Am is backing up Jimmy Iovine as a mentor. I like both artists as performers, but we’ll have to see if they can make the transition to this show. On the judge fashion front J.Lo’s hair and makeup are impeccable and Randy Jackson is wearing a pleather raincoat. Hey Randy, 1995 called….

Jacob Lusk – “Man In The Mirror”

So Jacob allegedly picks “Let’s Get It On” to be his song, then chickens out saying “it isn’t me.” So I guess “fun” isn’t him. Instead Jacob picks one of my least favorite MJ songs (though something tells me that he may have had some backstage pressuring). Poor song choice aside, Jacob does some neat things during the performance including ripping out his earpiece 4 notes in (take that, Marc Anthony!) and generally vamping it up with the crowd. He’s showing more animation than he normally does, which I appreciate. In short, I liked Jacob’s performance, but would it have killed him to have done “Bad” or “Another Part Of Me?” I have little patience for his good intentions.

Haley Reinhart – “Piece Of My Heart”

Oh snap! Did Mush Mouth find a song that turned her weakness into a strength? Haley’s manic growl sounds right at home with the Janis Joplin classic. She’s generally strutting around and rocking out with everyone and getting compact on the low notes and for once she looks and sounds like a pro instead of a punk. I agree with the judges’ comments here – she should stick to the blues. Hell, you never heard diction as a selling point for B.B. King. There were some moments when she sounded out of her league, but overall this was a good performance. Haley had a good performance. Wow! Did I just write that?

Casey Abrams – “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”

Casey turns in another mellow performance on the upright bass accompanied by some guy with a mandolin. The arrangement is cool and Casey’s singing is sweet but still has some color, kind of like John Fogerty had with CCR. He was kind of stuck in one place with his bass, but he still tried to look out into the audience and engage a little. That said, this performance felt a little bit like coasting to me. It didn’t have the risks or emotion of some of Casey’s past performances. It didn’t crash, but it didn’t engage me either.

Lauren Alaina – “Natural Woman”

Will.I.Am is very animated and funny in these mentoring sessions. He’s way more fun than Jimmy Iovine for sure! Meanwhile Gwen Stefani sure fucked up Lauren’s hair. It looks part rooster comb and part erupting volcano. As for her singing Lauren was solid, but it felt like she was hiding in the backup vocals and her ending belt had more cracks than the U.S. corporate tax code. Plus there’s the whole thing about her singing about being a “natural woman” when she’s only 16. It’s a good song and she may indeed feel like a woman or want to project that adult theme (hey, creepy old Steven Tyler bought it), but it made me a little uncomfortable. She’s still underage and it’s inappropriate!

James Durbin – “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

Ooh, Mr. Histrionic is going mellow! He even has the smoked out floor like when Adam Lambert did “Mad World” two seasons ago. I’m reminded that Durbin is no Lambert in that whenever he tries to sing at a higher volume he stumbles (especially at the end), but overall this was a good move for him. He didn’t come across like a jerk, he seemed involved with the arrangements, the gray motif was cool, and the song just was pleasant to listen to. And he actually mentioned his family at the end. It’s about damn time!

Scotty McCreery – “That’s All Right Mama”

Scotty is trying to sound different tonight, but he still holds the mic like a flute. It’s a vocal mic, Scotty, not a boom. We’ve previously established Scotty’s fondness for The King, so this is a good choice for him. He’s also singing in a much higher range than normal, but still manages to hold his own. He gets points for moving outside his comfort zone, though he gets docked a few for continuing the gang sign antics (which J.Lo seemed to like for some reason). Overall good for him.

Pia Toscano – “River Deep Mountain High”

Oh snap! Is Pia actually pushing the tempo? This arrangement rocks pretty hard for this show’s backing band and Pia carries all the power, pipes, and professionalism over from her slow jams into a song that’s actually fun! She knocked this song out of the park, and it’s a Tina Turner song so that’s actually a challenge! Keep up the good work! It’s just a shame she had to do it all in a cow suit. For shame, Gwen Stefani!

Stefano Langone – “When A Man Loves A Woman”

Hey Stefano, you may think you’re singing Percy Sledge but you’re singing Michael Bolton. Will.I.Am is right to coach him on soul singer moves but that’s more Jacob’s bag, and there’s no way Stefano can out-Jacob Jacob. Also, Stefano is back to the same old awkward, desperate plead-singing that makes me want a giant cane to yank him off the stage. Why does no one ding this saccharine asshole for doing too many ballads? By the way, that sparkly tie makes him look like a Glee reject.

Paul McDonald – “Folsom Prison Blues”

Paul sure looks happy to be stuck at Folsom Prison! Then again, when he sang about shooting the man in Reno to watch him die he seemed like a gleefully crazy motherfucker and at this point in the season I could sure stand to see one on the show. Lyrical incongruities aside, this was some rootsy uptempo goodness. Paul had a few cool blues/country righteous wail moments throughout the song and when he broke it all down for the handclap bridge, that was just magnetic. Great closer!

This was probably the most consistently good episode this series. Overall everyone played to their strengths and some even overcame their performance flaws if only for one night. Will.I.Am also makes a good case for sticking around. I’ve been hard on him for his live performances on the show, but this guy can give great performance advice and be entertaining while doing it. He seems way more connected and involved than Jimmy Iovine has ever been this season. Can we vote mentors off yet?

Top 3 Performances

  1. Pia Toscano
  2. Paul McDonald
  3. James Durbin

Bottom 3 Performances

  1. Stefano Langone
  2. Lauren Alaina
  3. Gwen Stefani, because the women contestants were a trio of trainwrecks, style-wise. The only person Gwen Stefani should be styling is Gwen Stefani.
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Thoughts On American Idol Top 13: Elimination

March 11, 2011

Notes

J. Lo’s dress makes her look like either she has a tumor on her arm or she was really working out that one arm but not the other one. Also, the judges’ save rule is in (and they probably won’t use it until week 4 or 5 when people finally tire of Lauren Alaina’s antics)!

There is a group performance….

It’s a Michael Jackson medley!

Wanna Be Startin’ Something / Rock With You / Black Or White / Man In The Mirror

Lessons:

  • James can’t dance
  • Jacob should have done MJ (good uptempo MJ) last night
  • Thia is sooooooooooo out of her league again! How in the hell is she here?
  • The only time Haley was featured was during “Man In The Mirror,” which I now associate with a half-assed, histrionic attempt at “redemption” by petulant, abusive hyperass Chris Brown. There’s no lesson here, just a lot of fail.
  • Stefano should do this kind of pop R&B all the time. He was fun to watch. I think I’m starting to get his deal.

Ford music video “The World”

Well that was a whole lot of empty bombast and fodder.

Adam Lambert – “Aftermath (Unplugged Version)”

You see that, James? That’s how you use your volume. This cut was restrained and subtle for the most part, but Lambert also built to the cannon parts for the chorus. It’s the crescendo, Charlie Brown. He actually made some big changes for this version of the song, which on For Your Entertainment was a symphonic power ballad.  I love that guy!

Bottom 3 (and announced in fairly quick succession)

  1. Karen Rodriguez (kinda sad)
  2. Ashthon Jones (yay!)
  3. Haley Reinhart (score!)

Diddy Dirty Money “Coming Home”

Notice how the piano track came in after Skylar Gray (?) stopped playing the keys? Oops. She got no love during the filming. The stage lights faded out on her while she was on camera and her walk out to the stage after the song was delayed and felt forced. Diddy is still a terrible rapper. His flow is barely competent and he sounds hoarse and out of breath. They should have given the two women (who must be Dirty Money) more face time. I still feel that Diddy should have been a judge this season. He would have been way blunter in his criticisms.

Final results

Ashthon is out! Eh, she didn’t have the votes to make it into the top ten anyway and she’s been a disappointment since the Top 24. That she chose to re-sing the Diana Ross song that got her kicked off was just icing on the cake.

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Thoughts On American Idol’s Top 24 Contestants

February 24, 2011

And we’re at the point in American Idol where I actually give a damn. Starting next week there will actually be enough contestants where I can keep track. Thank God for online voting. Also, despite the lowered age limits, only 1/3rd of the top 24 are 20 or under. There are contestants I might love, hate, and snore through. For me, the best part of loving this show is hating this show.

8 Contestants I’ll Probably Root For

  • Casey Abrams – I’m normally down on the white guys with instruments (since three have won the past three seasons), but Casey’s bluesy growl, irrepressible sense of humor (“I like looking at you guys”), unconventional instrument choices (upright bass!), and no-bullshit talent make this guy one to get excited, go crazy, and just plain rock the house! Kathy is rooting for him because of his resemblance to Kevin from Top Chef (“He was robbed! Robbed I tell you!”)
  • Rachel Zevita – Her quirky fashion sense and super screech remind me of my season 9 fave Siobhan Magnus. She has the potential to display some range and she’s made a few tries at this, so having some experience under her belt could make her more of a pro. Let’s hope we see more of her grandmother. “Thank you and God bless you, Ryan.”
  • Julie Zorrilla – She has a look and singing style reminiscent of Lea Michele. The judges criticized her for a lack of emotion in her performances, but if she nails her them with the charm she’s displayed so far that won’t matter.  Bonus: for every round she makes it through, we can look forward to seeing her rocking a new pretty dress.
  • Jovany Barreto – This dude has some pipes and I like his classy style. He brings that classic charm of a late-90s latin pop singer or a 1950s Italian crooner. Hopefully he can do something lively.
  • Jacob Lusk – His range and command of his voice make him incredibly fun to watch. He carries himself with a certain animated, fey quality; kind of like Cee Lo Green. He just needs to lay off the old-timey piano-driven slow songs and do something different, something exciting.
  • Ashthon Jones – She can take on the Whitney Houston greats and come out swinging and was fun to watch in the group round. She seems confident and has a sense of fun about her.
  • Jordan Dorsey – He’s a stern perfectionist with the talent and musicality to match. He seems very particular with everything he does, which could potentially lead to interesting arrangements during the theme weeks. He doesn’t seem fun to hang out with, but he’ll be fun to watch.
  • Pia Toscano – She seems like a solid performer, and I agree with the judges that her takes on “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Grenade” were fun and expertly arranged. She brings deliberateness to her performances, but you couldn’t tell at first glance. She looks like she’s having a good time.

8 Contestants Where I’m Either On The Fence Or Indifferent Towards

  • Brett Loewenstern – At the start of the competition his mannerisms rubbed me the wrong way, but the way his bullying story was told highlights a rare androgyny among the contestants. His singing could go either way.
  • Scotty McCreery – He’s a little awkward, and his reliance on that one Josh Turner song got annoying. I think he’s very talented, though I wonder how his roots-country style will translate to Idol’s pan-pop format. He’s too nice, too aw-shucks, and maybe that’s because he’s too young. He just needs to make it to country week and he’s got it made.
  • Naima Adedapo – She didn’t really stick out to me, save for her janitor backstory and her tacky dress. She was ok singing.
  • Karen Rodriguez – During the final evaluation, Lopez remarked that Karen disappeared in the middle of the many audition rounds. As such, I’ll hold off making a call until later.
  • Robbie Rosen – His voice is fairly rich, albeit crackly, and he resembles a Jonas. Randy called him “unassuming,” and that low key nature has been proven a winning strategy over the last three seasons. I see him as pulling the teenybopper vote.
  • Kendra Chantelle/Campbell – Holding her own with an Alicia Keyes song shows she has the R&B chops. She’s pretty, but doesn’t seem to have much of a personality. Might be Nicky Hilton in disguise. Has a “first name as last name” the way a stripper might.
  • Lauren Turner – I don’t really have much to say for her. She didn’t stand out for me during the past few rounds and her hangar performance was pitchy and uneven.
  • Stefano Langone – Same thing as Lauren Turner – not a lot of screen time since the auditions, so I can’t make a call.

8 Contestants I Don’t Expect To Root For Or Am Actively Rooting Against

  • Clint Jun Gamboa: He has a decent backstory, singing talent and music taste, but dude was a dick in Hollywood week. He might make a good villain this season. Or he might pull an Anoop Desai and crank out boring R&B song after boring R&B song in a carnival of blown potential.
  • Haley Reinhart – During her performances, she has been all over the place. She seems solid enough at low volumes, but when she belts her voice takes on a weird, slurly growl that’s as unintelligible as the late Kurt Cobain. Watching her night after night could be a frustrating experience.
  • Thia Megia – Her twee vibe and her age will net her the parents’ votes, but her voice is too green. She needs to get more experience and get her chops.
  • Paul McDonald – His stoner mannerisms and weird little tics had him come across like Gollum during the Beatles round. He sings like James Blunt, and that’s not a complement. I’m tired of these white guys with acoustic guitars winning the prize. At least he’s a blonde.
  • Tatynisa Wilson – Her singing has been very “crash and burn” recently, and her relative lack of talent only makes it in through the judges’ producer-ordained niceness. She needs to hone her craft more.
  • Tim Halperin – Another singer-songwriter whose talent and sleepy singing come off like Ryan Tedder, a man responsible for a lot what I feel is wrong with pop music today. At least he’s a solid singer. I wish he had more of an ego so it would make it easier for me to love to hate him.
  • Lauren Alaina – What the fuck was up with that Toddlers & Tiaras getup she wore to the sitdown? I know she’s this season’s chosen one, but her performance style and song choices seem too middle school recital (she is 16 after all). Her whole gimmick seems to be the Katy Perry “tee hee, aren’t I cute?” schtick.
  • James Durbin – Adam Lambert without the fun or sex. Replace fun and sex with a super sad story and an untested bleating. The producers have made this guy out to be the next Adam Lambert, but this guy has no subversion, no open challenge to the show’s conventions (remember Lambert’s performance of “Ring of Fire”) and no sense of dramatic subtlety (remember Lambert’s performance of “Mad World”). Cry me a river, asshole.