Posts Tagged ‘Jennifer Lopez’

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Thoughts On American Idol Finale Part 2: The Decision

May 23, 2012

Image edited from the original by Bill McIntyre via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Two surprisingly talented contestants have duked it out this season, but only one can win! I voted for Jessica. Let’s see if it made a difference. Buckle up!

Here’s most of this show’s padding, the musical performances in order of airing:
1. Top 10 who are out of the running – “Runaway Baby + So You Think You Can Dance Promo Breakdown” So Jermaine Jones really did get the hard boot from the cast. That said, I’m glad they reprised one of the more fun performances from this season. In a sea of bad harmonizing, Josh and Hollie’s voices stood out. The dance breakdown with the abrupt music changes was fun, but jarring. I will be watching So You Think You Can Dance tomorrow.

2. Phillip Phillips + John Fogerty – “Have You Ever Seen The Rain? + Bad Moon Rising” Fogerty has to be 2-3x Phillip’s age, but he is way more lively than the mellowed out finalist. He’s also doing a much better job at hitting the belt notes on “Rain.” Phillip can’t shake that cartoon dog singing style for this song. For the second song, Phillip woke up. He looked much happier to be up onstage and slowly began to match Fogerty’s energy as the performance went on.

3. Josh Ledet + Fantasia Barrino – “Take Me To The Pilot” Josh’s voice is in top form tonight. His vocal runs were cool, casual, and awesome. He should be one of the finalists tonight. I never saw Fantasia’s season 3 Idol run, but I thought her super high signing was unique and on point. This performance was just two talented singers jamming out, and I appreciated the relaxed tone.

4. Idol Ladies + Chaka Khan – “Ain’t Nobody + Through The Fire + I’m Every Woman” Erika and Elise have an ouch of a start, but quickly find the soul hook. Shannon sounds much more competent than I remember her. Skylar kicks ass. Hollie gets in two solid notes and Jessica gets one short ad libbed run before Chaka Khan enters the stage. She starts off buried in the mix, but she kicks out enough power notes to show that she’s doing it live. She had a few rough runs up there too, but she had more enthusiasm than at least a third of the ladies on that stage.

5. Ford Music Video – “I Was Here” At least the gimmicks were cute and silly from video to video. It’s just a shame that Phillip wasn’t in the last third.

6. Rihanna – “Where Have You Been?” This is much catchier than “We Found Love” and the bigger stage production allows for a bigger spectacle than when Ri-Ri performed this song on SNL. It still sounds like the hooks of three songs instead of one fully formed song, but I dig its driving beats and laser pyramid. Its production is emotionally devoid, but on a show like this it’s an oasis.

7. Skylar Laine + Reba McEntire – “Turn On The Radio” This rocks! Skylar and Reba sound tough and triumphant. Skylar has been my favorite country contestant this show has offered in a very long time, and that’s because of her transcendent talent and no-bullshit style. She also has way more chemistry with Reba than Lauren Alaina has during her duet with Carrie Underwood last year. That performance felt combative, whereas this performance felt like a passing of the torch. I had a lot of fun with this one.

8. Jessica Sanchez – “I Will Always Love You” This performance didn’t affect me to the same level that Jessica’s first go at the song did. There wasn’t the same emotional rawness that was there the first time, and maybe replicating that was an impossible task. Jessica’s delivery hit most of the notes but sounded a little flat. I felt like she was trying, but it just couldn’t live up to her earlier run. It’s too bad.

9. Idol Guys + Neil Diamond – “Coming To America + Rosy Child + I’m A Believer + Sweet Caroline” Colton sounds high and nasally. Heejun hits the notes but is digging way too low into his range. DeAndre actually did aim for the low end of his range and sounded good enough that the falsetto payoff was worth it. Jeremy had no memorable moments, but he didn’t choke. Josh’s vocal run 3/4ths in was a nice touch. When Neil Diamond came out for the last song, he got most of the spotlight. He didn’t exert any effort on his vocals, but like Chaka Khan he did it live. I just would have liked it if he didn’t perform like he found out he wasn’t getting paid after the show.

10. “Sing The Phone Book skit” The premise was silly enough, but the takeaway was that Shannon Magrane was a better singer than I ever gave her credit for. Where were these notes and this enthusiasm when she was actually a contestant?

11. Jennifer Lopez ft. Lil Jon, Flo Rida, and Wisin and Yandel – “Going In + Follow The Leader” I’m not a fan of the sequined pajamas that J.Lo is rocking, but “Going In” is moderately catchy. I like the ebb and flow of its bassline. Flo Rida’s bridge was abrupt and workmanlike. Then “Follow The Leader” came on and shit got real. That beat was so slinky and W&Y’s hip house flow sounded so freakin’ cool. Lopez also sounded quite on her game. I might have to seek out more from these guys.

12. Hollie Cavanagh and Jordin Sparks – “You’ll Never Walk Alone” The music is still plodding pageant fodder, but I have to hand it to Hollie for upping her emotional game. She made some subtle changes to her stage moves that she seemed to form more of a connection to the material than she would have earlier in the season. Jordin Sparks knocked her part out like it was nothing. Both ladies sounded spectacular. I just wish it was on a cooler song.

13. Idol Guys – “Robin Gibb Tribute – How Deep Is Your Love + How Can You Mend A Broken Heart + To Love Somebody” The guys (minus Phillip – where the hell has he been?) can actually harmonize together pretty well. Other than a botched falsetto run from DeAndre, they kept the vocal theatrics to a minimum. Jacob did a reprise of “To Love Somebody” and it was minimal, tasteful and classy. Given the limited amount of time the show had to prepare a tribute, I thought this was nice.

14. Jessica Sanchez + Jennifer Holliday – “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” When Holliday whipped out her vocal ion cannon 2/3rds of the way in, all Jessica could so is stand there and shake her head as if to say “yeah I can’t touch that.” It was actually kind of neat, because otherwise these two women matched each other pretty closely for most of the song, right down to the super-growly nightmare belt at the very end. It was like a bombastic guitar battle for singers and it was surprisingly cool.

15. Aerosmith – “Legendary Child + Walk This Way” This new song sounds like a slurry blend of “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion,” two Aerosmith songs that are actually good. This song, not so much. It’s basically a “here’s our crazy life story” that name checks their albums in the lyrics. Joe Perry can still shred like whoa, but really that’s all this performance has going for it. Steven Tyler’s vocals are flat and the harmonizing by Brad Whitford and Tom Hamilton is off-key. Not an Idol-worthy performance, that’s for sure. And then when the band did perform “Walk This Way” Tyler could barely hit the notes. The little jam-out at the end was cool.

16. Jessica and Phillip – “Up Where We Belong” This syrupy ballad is in Jessica’s wheelhouse. She sounds right at home. Phillip kept up with her for most of the song, but he ultimately gave up with a string of flubs on the last chorus. Still, these two crazy kids are nice and I hope they both find some success. Jessica just deserves to win this show more.

The Winner
I think we all saw this coming. I said as much back in Top 24 Week. One low-voiced white guy with an acoustic guitar passes the trophy to another low-voiced white guy with an acoustic guitar, as Phillip Phillips is the season 11 winner. I’m not as mad as I am with last year’s results, as Phillip actually turned in some top-ranking performances this season, but for shit’s sake how much longer is this going to go on? See if I tune in next year, Idol….

Thank you all for reading these recaps. I’m happy to bring this run to an end.

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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 4 Results

May 10, 2012

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

Josh and Jessica deserve to stay on. Phillip and Hollie will probably stay on. Will this crazy show prove me wrong?

First, here are the musical performances in order they were on the show.
1. Top 4 – “California Dreamin’” This performance reminded me of the Disney Hall of Presidents. When the lead vocal fell to a contestant, they suddenly became animated and emotionally invested. When they fell to the background they became stiff like an inert animatronic. Based on Josh’s expressions they were probably lip synching in the background.

2. Ford Music Video: The behind the scenes montage was longer than the video itself. Jessica can conjure up plantlife.

3. David Cook – “The Last Song I’ll Write For You” The guy who started the whole “only low key white guys with acoustic guitars win Idol” thing is boring me to tears. The midtempo neo-grunge adult contemporary music sounds really dated. David isn’t even doing anything interesting vocally. If Chris Daughtry performed this song back in season 5, he would have been accused of phoning it in.

4. Jennifer Lopez – “Dance Again” I get the feeling whoever wrote this song was listening to a lot of Moroder-era Donna Summer. I understand the idea, but the execution feels like everyone involved is going through the motions. By the end of the song, J.Lo wasn’t even trying to lip synch (though she can still dance.) The takeaway: when you finally make it, you never have to perform live again. Singing live is for chumps.

Bottom 2
1. Hollie Cavanagh: The Freddy Krueger of Idol (six proper films in the franchise before it went meta, six times in the bottom for Hollie) continues to lurk in the depths of this show’s rankings, ready to eviscerate every contestant slightly less popular than her.

2. Phillip Phillips: Haha made you look. He’s totally going to win. At least Josh and Jessica will make him work for it.

The Loser
Let’s call this episode Freddy’s Dead, because after this round Hollie is finally out of the game! I flung a lot of venom Hollie’s way, but I commend her for lasting this long. She beat out at least a few contestants who I felt were far more talented (cry for Elise and Skylar), despite having a performance style barely beyond pageant contestant. It was a shame because Hollie really could sing. Going forward I think she should try work out the music she likes beyond what she thinks will work in a performance competition. From there she can find the emotional connection that she was lacking in her Idol run. This crazy show did prove me wrong, at least halfway. Two weeks left!

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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 12 Women

February 29, 2012

Image edited from original by Brandon Heyer on Flickr, used under Creative Commons.

The voting kickoff continues with the Top 12 women contestants taking the stage. How come there got to be one more guy? I don’t know. Seacrest even highlights the fact that a woman hasn’t won the show since Jordin Sparks won season 6. You can hear the sadness in his voice. I know it’s shitty, dude. This is American Idol!

Notes: Man, Steven Tyler loves those long shirts and hats. He looks like such a tool! Also, note all the white, blonde contestants standing up there. There looks to be one, maybe two women of color onstage. Yay for diversity?

Theme: Contestants can pick any song. Same as last night.

Here are the Top 12 female performers in order of appearance on the show.

1. Chelsea Sorrell – “Cowboy Casanova” I don’t know this song, but it sounds really upbeat and rich. It was a good choice to start off the night. However, I can’t say the same for the live mix of the music or for Chelsea’s slightly delayed singing and nasal belting style. She was really awkward on the staccato parts of the buildup to the chorus. I also wish she emoted more. I failed to feel the hot, casual lust that was in the lyrics. It wasn’t a shitshow, but she could do a lot better. Also, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of the Tim Riggins-lookalike fiddle player this season.

2. Erika Van Pelt – “What about Love?” For a big ballad like this Heart original, there’s the temptation to oversing like crazy, but Erika keeps things dialed back and lets her volume build and build until the big held note climax at the end. She has a lot of control in her delivery, and her deep melodic singing style reminds me of Cher (that’s a good thing in this case.) She exuded defiant confidence, and I really got into that. Kids, EVP isn’t fucking around. As Lil Wayne would say, “Go DJ! That’s my DJ!

3. Jen Hirsh – “One and Only” Another Adele song? Jen finds her groove late into the song, and while she’s belting like a pro, her performance feels cold and plodding. I felt like she was mugging way too much onstage, especially for a song like this. It failed to pique my interest….ZZZZZZZZZZZZ………….

4. Brielle Von Hugel – “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” So she’s the one with the pushy stage parent? Well, maybe she would have coached her not to sing below her range. Jeez, the first verse sounded like a dryer cycle. Halfway into the song, Brielle found some energy and caught my attention. Her big gospel ending felt cloying and tonally inappropriate, but technically she was ok. She’s the middle of the pack.

5. Hallie Day – “Feeling Good” Jazz standards like this are done to death, but you could make the case that the “new dawn, new day, new life” lyrics work with Hallie’s backstory. Vocally Hallie was noticeably off-key, but she had a good sense of timing and command of the stage. And that big note at the end was totally earned and gave me chills! When Hallie is on she’s on, but otherwise she can be a hot mess. [Sidenote: Stop talking about Adele, judges! She’s good, but she’s one singer! And no, Lana Del Rey doesn’t count. Do you have any other cultural touchpoints?]

6. Skylar Laine – “Stay With Me” Dressed like a Mardis Gras float, Skylar lays into a song I haven’t heard of. I give her points for delivering one of the more energetic performances of the night. Her delivery was a little unintelligible, but she hit every note but the last big one (which…ouch….) Her bopping stage moves were awkward and klutzy, but maybe that will come off as endearing. I give her points for trying to be fun and not completely choking onstage.

7. Baylie Brown – “Amazed” Another country performer? And this overdone wedding staple? Baylie needs to deliver a flawless victory. How did she do? OK, remember Denise Richards’s Becky Leeman character from Drop Dead Gorgeous? Entitled, overconfident, smug, and underwhelming? Well, this is what Becky Leeman sounds like singing “Amazed.” Her performance was off-key, bleating, messy, and harsh (and her ill-fitting “don’t vote me off” dress is just icing on the cheesecake.) I hope I don’t have to listen to her failures for much longer.

8. Hollie Cavanagh – “Reflection” Are all these contestants blondes from Texas? It’s like the cabinet of the George W. Bush administration up in here! The ersatz, schmaltzy music arrangement that accompanies Hollie screams “pageant” to me. Did you notice that Hollie wasn’t really articulating the lyrics outside of “MY RE-FLE-EC-TION?” I’ll concede that for her big notes Hollie did a decent Xtina impression, but outside of that her pitch and delivery combined to form a slurry of immature singing.

9. Haley Johnsen – “Sweet Dreams” Haley comes across as likeably quirky and I really want to root for her, especially for bringing a new wave song to the Idol stage. Sadly, she had the same problem as some of her competitors – singing below her range. Haley and the house band were so divergent key-wise I thought they were performing two different songs. The big belt-off at the end was cool, but so were those from a lot of the other contestants. Let’s go back to Haley’s montage that showed her doing gymnastics. If her performance was a floor routine, she would have scooted her ass around the floor for 5 minutes but she would have totally stuck the landing!

10. Shannon Magrane – “Light Your World” I don’t know this song either! I feel so out of touch! This feels like another one those shitty inspiration-bait songs. I blasted Creighton for this shit last night and I’m blasting Shannon for it now. The empty charity lyrics and tacky arrangement seemed like bedding for cheap vocal fireworks. And that pageanty sound-off didn’t help either. Chant it with me now: One percent! One percent! Jennifer Lopez, Shannon may have good passion for a 16 year old, but if a 28 year old went on stage and did that same shit would you be giving the same kudos? This stupid panel!

11. Jessica Sanchez – “Love You I Do” Project, dammit! When Jessica isn’t belting she’s like a shy Joss Stone. But I think she’s one of the better singers among the women in that she can hit the notes, whip out the vocal firepower, emote like someone who understands her song, and command the stage. I feel weird rooting for a teen contestant, but Jessica came across like an experienced professional. You go, player!

12. Elise Testone – “One and Only” Didn’t Jen just do this earlier in the show. Well, that’s points off for not finding another damn singer (or at least another damn Adele song) to perform from. Elise’s performance was competent enough, but for fuck’s sake I couldn’t feel this one. Hey Adele, can your label temporarily forbid contestants on this show from performing your music?

In conclusion, I think the judges did a horrific job picking female contestants. While last night’s performances were overall decent with two clear clunkers, tonight I saw mostly trainwrecks with two clear winners. It was so hard to pick a third “top” from this group. Seriously, these were the twelve best female singers of the audition pool? There had to have been a better bunch of contestants out of thousands of applicants. And so many of these contestants look the same! This cannot be reflective of America! Tonight felt like some craptacular pageant. I really hope that some of these contestants can wake the fuck up and convince me to root for them. I want to root for them, especially since guys have won the past four years, but I can’t abide such bad performances.

My Top 3 Performers
1. Erika Van Pelt
2. Jessica Sanchez
3. Skylar Laine

My Bottom 3 Performers
1. Baylie Brown
2. Shannon Magraine
3. Elise Testone + Jen Hirsh [Tie, because they sang the same song]

Some housekeeping: Kathy will be busy recapping Project Runway on Plastic Runway on Thursday night, so expect a quick post from me tomorrow or Friday about this week’s results.

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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.)
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Thoughts On American Idol Top 3: Homecoming

May 18, 2011

We’re almost done! Counting tonight we have only 4 more episodes to go! This is not an optimistic way to start things off!

Tonight is the “homecoming” episode, which means we get to see a lot of clips of the three remaining contestants in their small hometowns. They have to find some way to stretch this show out to two hours (the very thought of which makes me tired.) The other way they’re stretching this out is by doing 9 songs in 3 rounds. Who will have the worst taste in music?

Round 1: Contestants’ Picks (Mentor: Beyonce)

Round 2: Jimmy Iovine’s Picks

Round 3: Judges’ Picks

Scotty McCreery – “Amazed”

Here’s a slow song you may have heard at a lot of weddings and school dances back in the early 2000s. This song sounds perfect for Scotty on the verses, and he doesn’t have to stretch too much on the belty chorus, but he could have gone so much bigger and it would have worked. There wasn’t much emotion in the song: from the “heh heh aren’t I folksy” facial expressions to the lazy belting, this was singing by numbers. “Amazed” is a sweet song and the Lonestar original earns its big sound. If Scotty tried harder, he could have delivered a knockout. I’m not impressed. Bad call, Scotty.

Lauren Alaina – “Wild One”

Well, at least she didn’t pick “Breathe.” Lauren goes for more of a fun angle and at tries to sing for the cheap seats (though she gets buried in the mix at times.) Otherwise I appreciated her hints of stage presence, her bombastic attitude, and her shiny disposition. She sang pretty well, albeit a bit harried. With some post-Idol experience she could actually make a really good country singer. Good call, Lauren.

Haley Reinhart – “What Is And What Should Never Be”

Once again Haley picks a song that’s probably really familiar to a certain musical demographic, in this case classic rock aficionados, and totally new to everyone else. Also, her dad is playing guitar onstage. To a casual Zep fan like me, he does a decent Jimmy Paige impression on the blues guitar. This is the most fun I’ve seen Haley have with a song in a long time, and that’s probably because she rocked out to this song with her dad when she was younger. Way to use the platform to seize the moment. I have to ding Haley a few points for floundering on the blues wailing (I bet she has a lower range than Robert Plant), but I give her mad props for taking advantage of an opportunity. Good call, Haley.

Scotty McCreery – “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?”

You know they weren’t gonna let us go without one more clip of the “Your Man,” audition. Hell, they’ll probably bring out Josh Turner for an awkward duet next week. When it comes to the performance, the way Scotty is kind of awkward in the way he holds his guitar and how he almost yodels on the end of every syllable. Scotty did a better job with this song than with his first song, but he still needs to be a little more engaging. He should also follow J.Lo’s advice and cut his hair so he looks less like you-know-who. Bad call, Iovine.

Lauren Alaina – “If I Die Young”

Her intro clip is the reminder of why I thought she was the producers’ Chosen One. She makes a huge improvement from her previous song. Her pipes in are in much more of a working order (even with a few flubs she really is the best singer of the Top 3) and I really felt her connection to the song. She looked like she belonged on the stage, which is not something I can say about one of her competitors (see previous paragraph.) While I’m not rooting for her (still too young and green) I won’t be completely pissed off if she wins the whole thing. Good call, Iovine.

Haley Reinhart – “Rhiannon”

Wow! I really don’t remember Haley’s audition. Did they even show it? Given the soft focus filming, pink lighting, Haley’s flowing locks, and the wind machine, the whole thing feels a little cheap 1980s. “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” anyone? Haley shows a lot of vocal restraint here, which works for parts of the song, though sometimes it felt like she was chickening out from the big parts and letting the backup singers do the really hard work. Yet if she really went for it, I feel like she would have crashed and burned so I suppose it could have been worse. Haley also carried herself well and mimicked the somber, spacey style of Stevie Nicks, but this wasn’t a game she could win. Bad call, Iovine.

Video Break! Beyonce – “Run The World (Girls)”

Diplo produced this song and it shows. It sounds like an early M.I.A. track and not one of the catchier ones. The video had an interesting apocalyptic savannah vibe to it, and Kathy caught one McQueen dress, but between the cold, monotonous beat and the awkward dancing, I was not a fan. Eh, Beyonce sang pretty well.

Scotty McCreery – “She Believes In Me”
We see a rare moment for Scotty: he cuts the crap. No Bush, no pied piper, no flubbing, just good emotional singing. He held the mic like a person is supposed to, he took the material seriously, and he delivered a good performance, maybe because he felt relaxed and less manic. Maybe these pop ballads aren’t so bad. Good call, judges.

Lauren Alaina – “I Hope You Dance”

I don’t like this song. Lauren is dressed in a cheesy pageant princess dress and it looks like the Tammy Faye eyelashes strike again. I don’t like this song. Her outfit is a good complement to what’s probably the soundtrack to loads of shitty saccharine inspirational graduation montages. I don’t like this song. Lauren tries her best with the material she has to work with, but there’s only so much one can do with the musical equivalent of Splenda. I don’t like this song. Bad call, judges.

Haley Reinhart – “You Oughta Know”

I’m surprised Haley didn’t have the band out on stage with her. It felt kind of empty with just her onstage. Haley does the Mush Mouth thing when the song starts to get going (though in fairness that first verse is really hard to learn), but by the chorus she uses her growl to the best of her ability. Her natural attitude is great for the vitriol and rage in the song. When the song goes to the bridge and Haley is just humming, it’s just the eye of the storm. Good call, judges.

I liked some performances (and performers) more than others. It would be cool if the two women faced off in the finale. Nonetheless, I still wouldn’t buy (or otherwise procure) music from any of these contestants. They fail in the most consistent ways. It’s gotten so that anything I have to ding them on is the same old claptrap. After more than ten weeks of recapping this competition, I am driven to the watch the end only for closure. I kinda feel bad for Kathy who repeats her mantra “I don’t give a shit about any of these people” and busies herself doing other things, relegating the show to boring background noise. Is it done yet?

Ranking

  1. Haley Reinhart (She had the most interesting performances and I just like her the most)
  2. Lauren Alaina (She did her best with the material she had to work with, but she’s still too young)
  3. Scotty McCreery (His songs were basically the same with marginal improvements)
  4. Jimmy Iovine (He had the worst picks of the night)
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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.