Posts Tagged ‘Carrie Underwood’

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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 5 Results

May 3, 2012

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

While there weren’t a ton of wow moments last night (that and nobody sang any Spice Girls songs during British Night), we still got a solid show. Who will make it to the Top 4?

First, here are the musical performances in order they were on the show.
1. Ford Music Video: Given the number of times she’s been in the bottom three, Hollie should have stayed in that egg cage. Also, Phillip Phillips is too good for this Ford Music Video shit, since he was nowhere to be found.

2. Coldplay – “Paradise” They’re still hawking this song on TV? I’m not into Coldplay, but this song isn’t too bad. That piano track is solid and the rhythm section has some nice bounce to it. Vocally Chris Martin was all over the place. During the verses he stayed in his range, but when he tried anything resembling a vocal run (or a high note) he sounded unprofessional and tired. That mic feedback didn’t held either. Was it just me, or was Chris’s own chorus too high for him to sing?

3. Carrie Underwood – “Blown Away” Underwood’s quiet-loud vocal dynamic probably sounds better on the studio recording of this song. Otherwise I thought this song sounded ok. It had a nice rolling intensity and when it was firing on all cylinders Carrie’s belting sounded great! I’m not sure if she pulled off the “stiff, damaged, and intense” look, though. Her stage presence seemed more uptight than it should have been.

4. Coldplay – “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” I like that Chris is trying to vamp up the crowd like he’s in The Prodigy, but this just isn’t that kind of music. He looked and sounded tired. While his singing was much better than in their first song, he still sounded bleary and out of breath. Kathy said that he’s getting too for this shit, and I’m inclined to agree.

Bottom 2
1. Hollie Cavanagh: Five times in the bottom. Is she going for a record? For all the defeats she’s suffered, she has the tenacity of a Bowser. Sorry Phillip, but the American Idol title is in another castle.

2. Skylar Laine: Normally Skylar is a power pro, but last night was heavy on attitude and light on commitment. I think those messy performances were reflected in her vote pull.

The Loser
Sometimes a night’s performance can mean everything. For her elimination song, Skylar chose to sing “Gunpowder and Lead,” a song that I don’t recall her doing very well on when she first sang it. Tonight she sang it much, much better. She had better pitch, better emotion, and way more commitment than her original run. If only she kicked something like this out the night before. It’s really too bad, but with talent like that Skylar is going to be ok.

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Thoughts on The Voice: Audition Round 5

February 27, 2012

Image from &y at Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Alright people, I think the coaches have fewer than 10 picks to make, so hopefully they can wrap this up and we can get to the much more fun and very probably rigged battle rounds.

Contestants’ Notes

-Whitney Myer is giving off that Nikka Costa vibe, and it’s not because of just her curly red hair. It’s also that light, uptempo, janky R&B. She’s doing “No One,” which I think was originally by Alicia Keyes, and I quite light this bouncy rendition. She earns turns from all four coaches. Whitney goes with Adam, whose experience fusing pop-rock and R&B might help develop her overall brand with minimal genre clash. What a good start to the show!

-David Boreanaz lookalike David Dunn goes the lite-rock route on “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved.” When I heard the first few notes of this song, I thought this was going to be another jerk with an acoustic guitar, but I saw him with just a mic, which was a relief. David tried to make the bleh song lively with some walking around the stage, but he just didn’t have the emotion or charisma in his voice (and he just blew that falsetto section.) No turns for you!

-The Shields Brothers seem like some kind of rock n roll Coreys. At least their dual-tenor duet of “Dancing With Myself” is different than the usual schtick duo acts pull. Nonetheless, they have the same problem most of the duos on this show have – neither one of them is a very good singer individually. They skate by on their uptempo style and their harmonizing. They end up on Team Cee Lo.

-I must compliment Cheesa for taking on Beyonce, especially on the midtempo clunker “If I Were A Boy.” She starts off sounding way, way, way too low for her range at the start, but she pulls out the stops for the big, soaring chorus and knocks out most of the notes. I didn’t care for the performance because it felt like so much oversinging. Still, I respect her vocal prowess and she definitely has the charisma worthy of a Beyonce song. She gets a turn from Cee Lo.

-I think Preston Shannon could have used a sparser arrangement for “In The Midnight Hour.” singing was rough and solid, but it couldn’t quite stand out against the big, clean arrangement of the house band. While Preston seems to come from a blues background, he kept the soloing to the beginning and end. He was good on the axe, but it’s called The Voice, not The Guitarist. It’s too bad, and I hope this guy finds a good avenue for his art.

-OK, so the alliterative Lex Land lands two turns (Adam and Cee Lo) within the first 8 notes of the song, but damn she is undersinging the hell out “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” I heard serious mush mouth problems in her singing and the dulcet, plinky music didn’t help al all. Maybe if she did something with more menace and smokiness (Portishead, Goldfrapp, early-2000s Moby, etc.) she would have come across better. Then again I just want trip-hop to make a comeback. Eh, maybe Blake can help bring out her inner torch singer.

-Cameron Novack starts out strong, doing a weird Savage Garden-esque soft sell of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” Then he gets bogged down in the flow of the build up to the chorus (back off the freestyling, dude.) He then shifts to oversinging the chorus. Overall Cameron’s performance wasn’t too bad, but his abrupt shift in delivery style for each part of the song might have been too jarring. If he stuck to the restrained pop style or even charged in with aggressive oversinging I feel like he could have done better. Also, letting the coaches “cheat” and pick him after the turn would have set the worst precedent for the show, because then every hot contestant who walked up onstage would have a second shot, and that would be shitteous!

-At the start, Orlando Napier comes across as a low-key guy with a piano (which is still better than an acoustic guitar.) He got away from that once he got up from the piano, but he failed to win me over. The John Mayer song choice and Randy Newman singing style was a bad combination. Also…ENUNCIATE! Adam picks him has his final team member.

-Lee Koch has guts for taking on Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” which karaoke connoisseur Brian Rafferty called one of the worst songs to sing since the verses are so rambling and weird against the familiar chorus. Lee is trying his best with the material and doesn’t flub any of the lines, but he just could not hit those “how does it FEEL” lines in the chorus. He earned a turn from Christina through his harmonica playing, which in my opinion is a bad sign. I don’t like when competitive singers use instruments as crutches. It feels like cheating. I predict that he’ll get eaten alive in the battle rounds.

-WADE (is the all-capitalization really necessary?) tries something kind of cool with a warm Stax-ed out soul rendition of “Rehab.” Vocally WADE (and that’s the last time I’m all-caps-ing that) has bursts of greatness, especially in the verses, though he hit some rough spots in the other parts. He just needs a little practice. Otherwise he’s a good combination of traditionalism and risk-taking. Cee Lo should be able to work his voice out, as Wade becomes his concluding pick.

-Adley Stump takes on Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name” (uh-oh) and it’s a bit of a wreck. She wasn’t bad, just mediocre. You could walk into any karaoke bar, and someone singing that song would sound just as good. Frankly the performance felt like so much mediocre singing except for those few belts (which I concede gave me chills.) She really couldn’t sustain her run and stick the landing. Predictably, she heads for Team Blake, and I think he’ll have more faith in her. Maybe he’ll coach her on fashion as well (go-go boots, star bandana, and Victoria Jackson hair?) She is the last pick of Team Blake.

We get a brief montage of failed singers (the Beta lady who sang Jason DeRulo sounded kind of interesting to me.) Also, Danny Devito sings “Three Times A Lady” during a Lorax crossover commercial skit. I was just wishing he’d sing “Troll Toll” from The Nightman Cometh. Then….

-Sera Hill pulls out every trick in the traditional R&B singer book – up and down runs, extended holds, power belting – and she kills every one. I thought her song choice was super slow and boring (and way too Idol) but damn she was good! She was a pro doing her thing, and that’s just wonderful. She becomes the final pick of the show as the last contestant to join team Xtina.

And now a summary of tonight’s winners, in the order they were announced:
-Mark Ronson should pay attention
-“I can’t tell Corey Feldman from Corey Haim.
-Charisma without the power
-Will Beth Gibbons come on as a mentor?
-Bad meets icky
-Karaoke cannon fodder
-Tradition meets risk
-A lot of people could do that
-She could have a good run on Idol

And there we have it! We have our Top (shudder) 48! Tune in next week for the theatrical battle rounds and tune in tomorrow for the start of my recapping of American Idol’s Live Top 25 rounds. SO MUCH SINGING!!!

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Thoughts On American Idol Finale Part 2 – Coronation!

May 25, 2011

image from Emotional Competency

…And here we are. Buckle up for one hour, fifty five minute of filler and five minutes of actual results.

Top 13 – “Born This Way”

Damn that sound is mushy. Everything is whitewashed literally and figuratively – everyone is wearing white, the dance moves are straight out of a middle school production of High School Musical and the group singing is clipped and rote. Someone dump some red paint on these kids, please!

James Durbin + Judas Priest – “Living After Midnight + Breaking The Law”

This is what James should have been doing all season – hardass metal with some growly falsetto vocal fireworks. He’s also dressed leather and steel biker gear just like Rob Halford used to sport back in the 80s. Meanwhile the actual Rob Halford hasn’t aged one bit and his voice is in top form. It just rocked!

Jacob Lusk + Kirk Franklin + Gladys Knight – “I Smile”

Now this is some piano-driven bouncy R&B! Religion aside, I wish Jacob did more lively stuff like this. I would have rooted for him then.

Casey Abrams + Jack Black – “Fat Bottomed Girls”

There’s a cute intro when Casey kicks the couch aside to reveal a reclining Jack Black. Casey is just a vocal trainwreck onstage and it’s a relief when Black takes the mic to show him how hamming it up is done.

Idol Ladies + Beyonce – “Single Ladies + Irreplaceable + Get Me Bodied + If I Were A Boy + Déjà vu + Crazy In Love”

Despite the diversity of their singing styles, all six ladies kill their solos. Even Thia and Ashthon! Damn! Where was this during the regular season? They should have done a Beyonce night, because if some of these contestants performed like they did tonight I would not have been so quick to get frustrated with them. Beyonce’s mere presence made each of the women come off as better performers. Beyonce, you are the Steve Nash of R&B.

Haley Reinhart + Tony Bennett – “Steppin’ Out” (?)

I like Haley like this. She sings really well in the jazzy setting and the cool, classy vibe has her dialing back her big antics while still having tons of fun. Tony Bennett gives a performance like you would expect him to give – understated and smooth.

Montage: You know, J.Lo was my favorite judge this season. She gave the occasional constructive criticism and had a sense of humor without being crass. Plus “On The Floor” is hot!

Idol Ladies + TLC + Lil Jon – “No Scrubs + Waterfalls”

Damn, Chilli has not aged a day. Meanwhile T-Boz doesn’t look old, just different. After Lil Jon’s bombastic intro, TLC get the stage to themselves for “No Scrubs” before the women join them as backup singers on “Waterfalls.” You don’t see too many girl groups with all male backup dancers.

Scotty McCreery + Tim McGraw – “Live Like You Were Dying”

When Tim McGraw sings the “I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying” lyric, he sings right at Scotty as if he wants to say, “You have potential, kid, but for shit’s sake take it seriously! You do not sound credible when you sing about going 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu.”

Audition Freakshow Montage: This is why I don’t recap the auditions. I just feel bad for the camera and sound operators who have to get beat up by pissed stage parents.

Marc Anthony & Jennifer Lopez

OK, that was hot.

Idol Guys + Tom Jones – “Kiss + She’s A Lady + What’s New Pussycat + Delilah + other songs I didn’t catch + It’s Not Unusual”

Unlike the women’s numbers, the guys don’t sing together. This is because they sound like ass when they harmonize. When Tom Jones came out for “It’s Not Unusual,” the guys finally pulled it together and sounded like good backup singers (or just shut up and lip synched.)

Ford Music Video – “Whenever You Remember”

Were all the other contestants that much more interesting than these two?

Lady Gaga – “The Edge Of Glory”

Mother Monster sings from the top of what looks to be the Aggro-Crag from Nickelodeon’s Guts. Highlights of her performance included Gaga playing her keyboard with her boot and Mark from So You Think You Can Dance climbing up for some contemporary ballet grinding. It’s Gaga so it’s crazy fun.

Lauren Alaina + Carrie Underwood – “Before He Cheats”

Underwood’s legs were several shades darker than the rest of her body. Lauren was singing at her like it was a direct challenge. Not a bad move.

Beyonce – “1 + 1”

I wasn’t into it. I just like her uptempo numbers better. Beyonce sang well but the song didn’t really go anywhere.

Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark ft. Bono & The Edge – “Rise Above”

While it would have been cool if the high-flying Spider-Man landed onstage and started singing, this song was still pretty good. It had that heavy, melancholy tone of mid-90s U2 with some of that electronic pop edge (no pun intended.) I really want this musical to do well.

Steven Tyler – “Dream On”

It was no Aerosmith, but Steven can still wail when he wants to.

The Results

Scotty McCreery wins. Scotty will be the fourth white guy with an acoustic guitar in a row to take home the prize. He overcame a fairly diverse slate of competitors, several producer-ordained Chosen Ones, and a performance style that barely deviated from smirking frat boy. This is disappointing, Lauren was robbed, blah blah blah. Did you really expect anything else? I did, and my optimism was misguided. I now realize how out of step I am with this show’s audience and that Jeb Bush could totally win the presidency. In conclusion, fuck you very much American Idol.

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Thoughts On American Idol Finale Part 1 – Competition!

May 24, 2011

Tonight is the final voting round! Can you believe that it was only back in January when we first saw these kids, these annoyingly twangy kids? As Seacrest pointed out last week, this is the youngest (and country-est) finale in the show’s history. I’m as happy about this as you probably are. (Not very happy.) The success of these two wholesome country teens is indicative of how far gone the voting audience for this show is. I thought things were bad when the white guys with acoustic guitars were dominating things (oh wait, they still might be.)

J.Lo is dressed in what looks to be a figure skating costume. I wonder if it has the traditional matching skate panty underneath? Randy “Status Quo” Jackson’s look is halfway between Joel Hodgson’s Salesman/Disco DJ character on Freaks and Geeks and a caricature of a drunken pro bowler. Steven Tyler looks the same. Seacrest looks totally out of place in his penguin suit. The contestants do not emerge unscathed from the fashion crimewave. Lauren continues to look like an AARP member who shops exclusively though QVC, while I don’t know what the fuck is up with Scotty’s discount-bin t-shirt. Are those two scuba divers climbing over that lady? Did the stylist pick that up from Googie Rene’s Discount T-shirt Barn?

They have to stretch this thing out to an hour (though thankfully only an hour,) so let’s break this down:

Round 1: Contestants Pick Their Favorite Performance from This Season

Round 2: Carrie Underwood and George Strait Pick Songs and Mentor

Round 3: Potential Coronation Songs

Scotty McCreery – “Gone”

And we kick things off with a mush! Scotty needs to push himself because he is just buried in the mix. His stage presence is light on the crap, which I appreciate, but this performance felt more fun the first time around. I still feel like any reasonably deep-voiced teenage boy could have had Scotty’s experience on Idol (and he probably would have looked less like a smarmy asshole to boot.)

Lauren Alaina – “Flat On The Floor”

Lauren matches Scotty in the lively department, and slightly edges out ahead of him in the vocal power department, insomuch as I could actually make out her voice when she was belting. While I feel like not every teenage girl could have had Lauren’s experience, I feel that she has benefitted from a slight producer favoritism (though to her credit she did fend off challenges to her Chosen One status from Jacob and Haley.) Lauren “wins” Round 1.

Scotty McCreery – “Check Yes Or No”

Good gracious this kid is stiff! He might as well be singing “Walk Hard.” While Scotty sounds slightly better for the first part of the GeorgeStraithit, it goes to shit once the chorus hits and he gets ridiculously off key. He’s not even belting. Fucking try, kid. Don’t even get me started on his smarmy antics and his “heh heh this song came out before I was alive” demeanor.

Lauren Alaina – “Maybe It Was Memphis”

And we’re right back to where we started, because once again Lauren’s sequined dress is straight out of Toddlers & Tiaras. Shitty styling aside, Lauren didn’t perform too poorly. She sang well, hit her notes, and pulled off most of the belts. I was kind of annoyed with the “tee hee aren’t I cute” antics (yep, they both do it), though maybe she’ll grow out of it in a few years. (Also….Oh Snap! Jacob didn’t clap for Lauren.)

Taio Cruz’s Coke Commercial – “Positive”

What if the futuristic fascist riot cops from Equilibrium started a drumline? Seriously, Taio Cruz sounds better when he has a banging dance beat behind him. He sounds bored on this midtempo affirmation junk.

Scotty McCreery – “I Love You This Big”

You know the Interscope folks think Scotty is stupid (or want to market him as such) when they purposefully write a song with such a grammatical nightmare for a title for him to sing. He starts off like he’s running for office – “I may be young.” “I may be inexperienced.” It was eerie. Otherwise Scotty phoned in his vocal performance for this pop-country snoozefest. Status Quo is right about one thing – this is the perfect song for him.

Lauren Alaina – “Like My Mother Does”

Man that string section intro was refreshing. I was getting tired of that Gambit-resembling fiddle player. Seriously though, this was a cute song. I don’t know too many contemporary songs about mothers, so it was kind of sweet and sincere when Lauren kicked this out. She was on with her pipes, too. She was both personal (I liked her mom-hugging moment mid-song) and professional (r&b diva power moves in a country context), and that earns my respect.

It’s kind of funny the journey these kids have taken. I thought Scotty was kind of good early on in the show (after all he has a deep voice like me), but his mannerisms, one-note performance range, and his treatment of the whole show as some hazing dare quickly wore out his welcome with me. Meanwhile I’ve been down on Lauren since Top 24, but she knocked this out. Unless she pulls a Kelly Clarkson 180 and makes kickass pop-rock, I won’t buy Lauren’s music, but she deserves to win this season. Let’s hope that producer favoritism is still riding strong.

Ranking

  1. Lauren Alaina (She’s young, annoying, and probably benefitted from producer favoritism, but she takes this shit seriously.)
  2. Scotty McCreery (Nope….That’s it. Nope.)