Posts Tagged ‘Jason DeRulo’

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Thoughts On American Idol Finale Part 1: The Duel

May 22, 2012

Image edited from original by Dimi15 via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Theme: It’s the freakin’ finals! Low key white guy with an acoustic guitar Phillip Phillips takes on early 90s RnB-pop diva avatar Jessica Sanchez. To pad the show out (at least it’s only an hour,) the two finalists perform three songs a piece.

Round 1: Idol Creator Simon Fuller’s Picks
Round 2: Contestants Pick Their Favorite Performances from This Season
Round 3: Potential Coronation Songs

Here are the Jessica and Phillip’s performances in order of their run on the show.

1. Jessica Sanchez – “I Have Nothing” Those sway hands at the front of the audience are annoying. This performance felt like a slog, even though it was better than when Shannon Magrane did it earlier this season. Jessica had solid breath control but couldn’t quite stick the big notes. Her emoting during the song seemed a little forced until the very end. She has talent that makes her a natural for this kind of music, but I wish people would stop pushing her in this direction. If she had nailed more of the notes, I feel like I would have respected the performance more but I wouldn’t give it a second listen.

2. Phillip Phillips – “Stand By Me” This arrangement sounds different from the shimmying original. It definitely sounds more contemporary, but the downside is that it sounds like a John Mayer throwaway. Phillip’s not doing a whole lot to differentiate himself vocally. He had one of his signature blues wails and it sounded like a disappointed Labrador retriever. Otherwise he stuck to the boring low end of his range. If Jessica’s performance was heavy and stiff, then Phillip’s performance was light and lazy. I didn’t care for either performance.

3. Jason Derulo’s Coke Commercial – “Undefeated” Well, this dance-pop-by-the-numbers performance is still way more fun than Taio Cruz’s inspiration bait-down last season. Derulo also sounded surprisingly good on vocals. I saw him perform on Dancing With The Stars a few years back and he sounded like he was in over his head, so either he brought his A game or was really good at lip synching. He seemed happy to be onstage, and I give him props for that.

4. Jessica Sanchez – “The Prayer” She couldn’t have done one uptempo number to show off her range? I guess not. It’s more dated arrangements, vibrato-coptering, and two colossal note runs. Jessica had much better technical execution this time, but the sheer lack of engagement here made me angry. I want to root for her so badly, but her lack of verve is upsetting.

5. Phillip Phillips – “Movin’ Out” I didn’t care for this performance the first time Phillip did it, but after the past three songs this performance seemed downright bouncy. Phillip still had the drinking bird dance going on and he hadn’t expanded much emotionally. I felt like he took a few more risks with his vocal runs, but for Phillip that’s not saying much. Oh my gosh these two have such little self-awareness because they’re picking some of their most boring performances.

6. Jessica Sanchez – “Change Nothing” While Jessica’s first two performances sounded stale and old, this potential coronation song sounds current and makes good use of her pipes. The arrangement was bombastic and slow, but the instrumentation sounded rich. I can imagine Beyonce or a processed-like-whoa Rihanna releasing this as a ballad. Jessica’s vocal affectations effortlessly rose above the big sound. She definitely made the best of a difficult situation. I respect what Jessica did with the material, but if this came on the radio I would skip it. I agree with the judges that she should have done something with a little more soul. Change more things, Jessica!

7. Phillip Phillips – “Home” This was probably the most lively performance of the night. The drum corps definitely gave it more rhythm, that’s for sure. Instrumentally this sounded somewhere between bland-ass The Script and earnest ol’ Guster circa 1997, while Phillip’s vocal performance sounded like Chris Martin on a bad day. It’s not the worst mix but between the judges’ convulsions of praise and Seacrest’s carnival barker-esque hustle of the audience this is practically a done deal. Grrrr. It’s time to go home, Phillip!

8. Scotty McCreery – “Please Remember Me” Ha ha you thought we were done? As much as I complain about Phillip’s predictable ascendancy, at least this final round isn’t between two young country teens. As for Scotty, his workmanlike vocal is pleasant enough but I’d much rather forget him thank you very much.

And what would I have sung? Looking back on my picks from covering this past season, I think I had the most fun writing up “Blue Monday” from “Songs from the Year You Were Born” week. Plus a few days ago I was rocking the Orgy cover and there was much headbanging! My hybridized performance of this New Order classic would stand out against the ballads and rootsy claptrap from tonight.

Meanwhile what past performances should the contestants have picked? My favorite Jessica performance was probably the bouncy, upbeat “How Will I Know?” It didn’t make me cry like “And I Will Always Love You,” but it would probably better hold itself up to repeat performances. My favorite Phillip performance was definitely “U Got It Bad.” It was both a fun and respectful cover one of my favorite early 2000s slow jams. Those were both such fun performances!

Performance Rankings
1. Jessica Sanchez
2. Phillip Phillips

I’ll concede that the runs Jessica and Phillip have had on this show beat my expectations. Both pretty much played to their types with only a little risk-taking, but they both executed with a surprising level of professionalism that I didn’t see as much in last year’s finalists (especially Scotty.) While I wasn’t wowed by any of their performances tonight, I voted for Jessica because I think she sounds more mature, has the potential to put out music of higher caliber, and would be the first woman and person of color to win the show since Jordin Sparks back in season freakin’ six. Phillip is very good at what he does, but guys like him have been winning for years. Go Jessica! See you for the results show.

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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!!!