Posts Tagged ‘Reba McEntire’

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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 The Voice: Sing-Off Part 4

May 31, 2011

This is the last battle round! Two singers enter, one singer leaves, and there is not much else to say that wasn’t said three weeks ago. After tonight, we’ll have the final 16 acts, give or take a few extras from the duets.

 

Team Adam (guest coach Adam Blackstone)

Jeff Jenkins vs. Casey Desmond – “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”

This feels like a battle of the leftovers. Previous sing-offs felt like the combatants had something in common. You know, so as a coach you have a basis for comparison. Jeff and Casey are incredibly different in terms of genre, look, and singing style. Just like Blake’s battle last week it will come down to which style Adam likes more. I’m also kind of blah about the song after Elton John night in Idol.

I’m not quite keen on Jeff’s singing style (too cartoony), but his steady twang carries him through this snorer. Meanwhile Casey gives a good effort, but it’s a hard fight. Her voice seems better suited to shorter quiet-loud bursts than sustained holds, and this ballad is all about the holds. In my opinion it was kind of one sided.

Winner: Jeff (Objectively he did better, but his voice is better for this kind of song. This felt rigged to me.)

 

Team Blake (guest coach Reba McEntire)

Xenia vs. Sara Oromchi – “I’ll Stand By You”

Both of these singers give off a cute/precocious/low-key vibe to me and given the ballady tone of the song, this feels like an Idol audition (that’s not good.) Nonetheless if either singer can convey sincere emotion on this song (along with a little cannon), she can win big.

Both singers fail in their own unique ways. Xenia, being 16 and all, still has some room to grow in her vocal range. I was yelling, “Sing louder!” While Sara can indeed sing louder, that’s all she has going for her. She misses notes left and right, like she’s hearing the song for the first time. What a failfest!

Winner: Xenia (She kind of hit her notes, and she’s green enough that she might take to Blake’s training.)

 

Team Xtina (guest coach Sia)

Lily Elise vs. Cherie Oakley – “Since U Been Gone”

Finally some uptempo goodness! Christina is testing for stylistic range, but this is also a challenge of raw power. Remember, Kelly Clarkson has enough vocal power to rival Christina (and when Christina sings parts of the song in the practice montage, I actually wonder what the song would sound like if she did a full on cover.) Both contestants have demonstrated that they can blast ‘em, so this could be a good fight.

When the song starts, I’m reminded of all the somewhat difficult note-y parts during the verses. Cherie puts the expected twang flavor on it and hits most of the notes, but keeps her singing in a set boundary. Meanwhile Lily (who is cosplaying Avril Lavigne) flubs at the start but is the only contestant to really hit that BIG note. She had the worse overall performance, but she had the best moment.

Winner: Lily (She’s a risky pick, but this performance demonstrated the cannon that Ms. Aguilera can relate to.)

 

Team Cee Lo (guest coach Monica, who apparently taught Cee Lo the whiny “whyyyyysss” from “Fuck You/Forget You” – you learn something new everyday)

Emily Valentine vs. Curtis Grimes – “Need You Now”

Once again this feels kind of one-sided, as Curtis has that aw shucks pop-country vibe that fits this song to a T. By contrast Emily is more of your garden variety rocker and so forth. The angle Cee Lo and/or the producers are playing up is a kind of forced romance to make this duet more of a method act.

Emily jumps out to an early lead, as her quiet voice is tons more melodic that Curtis’s. When the chorus kicks in, Curtis feels like a backup singer following Emily’s vocal lead (though they do sound great together.) He eventually takes some of the spotlight, but Emily sings circles around him: power, control, and stage presence. And their ending kiss (predictable, but you still don’t see that on Idol) elicits an actually good zinger from Daly.

Carson: Is something going on?

Curtis: Um….

Emily: We’ll see.

Carson (incredulous): Someone’s going home….not alone I guess.

Winner: Curtis (Bad call! He totally shrunk in Emily’s presence. He was a backup singer! I guess he has a “wrecked by love” story, but picking him on that basis is bullshit.)

 

Once again I agreed with half of the coaches’ picks tonight. Right now it feels like more of these picks (at least for the contestants I’m not rooting for) are being made on the basis of storyline, not on the basis of “the Voice.” Still, it’s naïve to think that as soon as the voting opens the audience won’t just vote for the most likable or folksy contestant, vocal prowess be damned. We’ll have to see how the voting plays out next week….

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Thoughts On The Voice: Sing-Off Part 3

May 25, 2011

We’re halfway through the battle rounds! Two singers enter, one singer leaves, and there is not much else to say that wasn’t said two weeks ago.

Team Xtina (guest coach Sia, who I forgot wrote 4 songs for Christina’s Bionic)

Raquel Castro vs. Julia Eason – “Only Girl In The World”

Seeing as how this song was probably written with so much vocal processing that not even Rihanna can sing it live, this will be a challenge. When I hear someone sing it live it just sounds weird, especially on the chorus. “Julia and Raquel have pitch problems,” says Christina, but that’s not entirely their fault. The challenge is making the best out of a bad situation.

Both women have very rough starts but pick things up by the chorus. Raquel uses her naturally fuller voice to barrel into the song head on. Julia takes a more cerebral approach by adding notes to the chorus’s flat progression to make it sound more natural. By the end of the song Raquel seems to still be having fun while Julia looks like someone is choking her.

Winner: Raquel (It kind of made sense. She sounded richer, though one could also make a case for Julia’s vocal acrobatics.)

 

Team Blake (guest coach Reba McEntire, who founded Starstruck Entertainment, which I think manages Blake Shelton)

Dia Frampton vs. Serabee – “You Can’t Hurry Love”

Blake is really on a Motown kick. He sets two of the more experienced singers against each other. Dia has a softer folksy style, whereas Serabee sounds like she aims for the cheap seats. I can’t call this one. It will depend on how their vocal styles overlap.

Except they don’t, not really. Dia sings the first half and her singing is like a muscle car that takes forever to reach top speed, but when it does it’s just cruisin’. Meanwhile Serabee goes full gospel, zipping all over the song like a Porsche 911 on a test course. When the song fades out Dia stays the course and sings straight on while Serabee does runs on top. They each play to their strengths, so victory will be a matter of which style Blake likes more.

Winner: Dia (She had to settle into the song, but once she found her groove she reduced Serabee’s runs and loud aesthetics to so much sound and fury.)

 

Team Adam (guest coach Adam Blackstone – seriously? A music director?)

Rebecca Loebe vs. Devon Barley – “Creep”

I never thought I’d hear a Radiohead song in an American singing competition. Adam is trying to pair the ominous song with shiny singers to see what results, though Rebecca might have an advantage given her Tori Amos-meets-Jewel performance style. Given how situations like this have worked out before on this show, pop-rocky Devon has a chance for a come-from-behind victory.

Early on it looks like the song is just too low for Devon, and he sounds flatter than Al Gore. Rebecca at least sounds on key, though her belting is like “what if Evanescence covered Radiohead?” By the song’s climax, it’s just an off-key mess. Devon was flat and Rebecca was oversinging.

Winner: Devon (Did I hear a different performance? That song would have mauled Devon’s ass in Rock Band. On Medium.)

 

Team Cee Lo (guest coach Monica, who I found out is married to pro basketball player and Michigan State alum Shannon Brown)

Kelsey Rey vs. Jonathan Taylor Thomas Tori and Taylor Thompson – “Unwritten”

Great. Now I’m flashing back to The Hills. Thanks Cee Lo! From the practice round it sounds like the danger might be in screaming this song during the loud parts, so control might come in handy. Despite her numbers disadvantage, Kelsey could still beat these cult siblings back like Jared beat the Elenowen couple last week.

Kelsey has trouble finding the key at the start of the song, but she settles into things nicely and she sings with control and style. She sounds like a pro. Meanwhile Tori and Taylor sing kind of flat when they solo and miss cues when they try to sing alternations. Together they still sing well, but will it be enough?

Winner: Tori and Taylor Thompson (This was a bad choice. Notice how when the judges were complementing them it was all on concept and “innocence” and not on singing ability. And what Cee Lo calls “innocence” I call “creepy.”)

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So tonight I agreed with half of the coaches’ picks. As with any reality competition, there are bound to be choices I disagree with. We’re still seeing a diversity of contestants come out of the battle rounds (and there’s still one more round to go), but the real test is who the audience votes for. Shit, Idol had a somewhat diverse field this past season and look how that turned out. I guess my thread of hope is that the viewership for this show will be younger and fresher; more open to new and exciting performers as opposed to Idol’s conservatism and blandness.

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Thoughts On The Voice: Sing-Off Part 2

May 17, 2011

The battle rounds continue! Two singers enter, one singer leaves, and there is not much else to say that wasn’t said last week.

  • See last week’s Voice post for an explanation of how it all works.
  • These rounds are set up to reward compliance. Since the coaches do the picking, mentoring and judging, the singers have a disincentive to take risks. Open voting in the audience a la America’s Funniest Home Videos would have been better.
  • Exactly what is the purpose of the “v-correspondent?”

Team Cee Lo (guest coach Monica)

Nakia vs. Tje Austin – “Closer”

As I said when this song came up on Idol a few weeks ago, this song can be challenging to sing competitively because of its vulnerability. Simply belting this song is missing the point. To do this song well is to be both a good singer and a good actor, as Cee Lo indicates during the coaching.

Tje’s tenor is thin and silky, so it’s naturally a better fit for this song. Early on it feels like the battle is his to lose. Nakia tries to make up for the rougher sound of his voice by turning up the emotion and going for deep-welled growls. He also stuck more of his notes. Both singers had good individual performances, but these guys do not sound good together! Yuck!

Winner: Nakia (Good for him! He tried harder.)

Team Blake (guest coach Reba McEntire)

Elenowen vs. Jared Blake – “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

The newlywed couple has a special advantage, as he can be Marvin Gaye and she can be Tammi Terrell, and Jared knows it. Can he close the gap? Also, it’s weird to hear Blake try to falsetto. Stick you your drawl, dude.

Jared uses his grungy low range to the best of his ability, but he hams it up a lot with his arm movements (though as Adam points out, that may have been because he was missing his guitar.) At least he’s trying to play to the audience. Elenowen spend half the song facing each other. It’s cute and sweet and they sing well together, but at times their performance felt insular. Elenowen put on a show. Jared brought the audience into the show.

Winner: Jared (A bit corny, but he also tried harder)

Team Adam (guest coach Adam Blackstone)

Javier Colon vs. Angela Wolff – “Stand By Me”

This battle pits the early coaches’ favorite (4 turns in the auditions) against the second chance slide-in (1 turn in the leftovers round.) Adam emphasizes playing things straight and minimizing the vocal pyrotechnics. At the outset it feels like things could go either way.

Javier’s singing is solid as ever and he has this wailing wistfulness in his voice. You could see it in his face. Meanwhile Angela goes for more belting. With her laughing, smiling, and getting close to Javier, she just looks happy to be there. It’s very endearing, but Javier’s take fit the tone of the song better. He remains the clear favorite of the coaches too (who are not coy about it – thank you for not beating around the bush!)

Winner: Javier (Predictable, but fair)

Team Xtina (guest coach Sia)

Beverly McClellan vs. Justin Grennan – “Baba O’Riley”

Early into the rehearsal rounds, Beverly shows that fighting snarl that reminds me of Roger Daltrey’s original performance of the song. Justin takes Christina’s advice and plays with the range of the song, going super high like Half Baked.

The battle commences and both singers bring their A-games. Justin reigns in the nasal and Beverly hits a few highs on her own. What’s awesome is that they sound really great together! Justin gets an extra run in the end, but Beverly shows more range throughout her performance. It’s clear going forward that Xtina will push her team to its limits.

Winner: Beverly (Oh yeah! It was close, but she kicked ass!)

There just weren’t a ton of shockers tonight; I found myself agreeing with the coaches’ choices pretty much across the board. We have two more weeks of battle rounds to go and while the novelty of this show is wearing off, the substance of the performers should hopefully keep its audience coming back. I want to get angry and outraged, but there just isn’t reason to. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Only time will tell.

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Thoughts On The Voice: Sing-Off

May 10, 2011

For this round, the coaches pit their chosen singers against each other by having them sing battle duets. To quote Dane Cook’s character in Waiting, “Welcome To Thunderdome, bitches!” Two singers enter, one singer leaves.

  • Each coach picks the singers who will fight each other, arranges the song, and decides who moves on (though each coach gets to weigh in beforehand.) This allows for so much rigging of the competition.
  • I love that the stage is an actual ring. Yay for theatrics!
  • Also, Carson Daly is the most wooden ringside announcer I have ever heard. After a battle I want him to break from his typical “this will be a tough call for Blake Shelton,” act and say “Well this was easy,” before turning to a contestant and saying “You sucked.”

Team Xtina (guest coach Sia, who I know as the singer on Zero 7’s “Destiny”)

Frenchie Davis vs. Tarralyn Ramsey – “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”

Christina works with the women in the “ring stage,” and she just loves getting to play the referee as the attitudes come out. I’m just glad we’re starting the battles with an uptempo song! Tarralyn has the greater stage presence and attitude, moving to the front of the stage early on and cutting off the sightline to Frenchie. However, she gets kind of screechy when she goes for the power moves. Frenchie responds with better overall singing and more control reflective of her years of experience. She’s cool and calm and doesn’t sound nearly as desperate.

Winner: Frenchie (Yay!)

Team Blake (guest coach Reba McEntire, about whom I know nothing apart from her country success and her TV show)

Patrick Thomas vs. Tyler Robinson – “Burning Love”

This seems pretty one sided, as Patrick is familiar with the material while this is new material toTyler. Patrick starts things off solidly, but he fails to go above and beyond his initial level.Tyler’s solo is way more dynamic and fun. When they get to the trade off ending, desperation sets inTylerand his attempt to go full power sends him off the rails. Patrick sticks to his range and doesn’t take any risks. The last few lines are really a trainwreck of attempted harmonization.

Winner: Patrick (Boo! In that my preference is for risk takers over the safe and boring. But I’m honestly not surprised Sheltonand I do not share this stance.)

Team Adam (guest coach Adam Blackstone, who is Maroon 5’s music director)

Tim “I Thought You Were A Chick” Mahoney vs. Casey “I Thought You Were A Cartoon Character” Weston – “Leather and Lace”

It’s the battle of the unusual voices! Things slow down for this number, which turns out to be a great fit for both singers’ voices. They both hold their own for the song, and harmonize like whoa at the ending. I feel like Casey was the more solid singer, but Tim had some good moments. Also, neither one came off as desperate, which might owe to the more intimate tone of the song. It’s a close one!

Winner: Casey (I’m OK with this!)

Team Cee-Lo (guest coach Monica, who I remember as dominating the TRL charts in the late 90s)

Vicci Martinez vs. Niki Dawson – “Fuckin’ Perfect”

I can’t tell if Cee-Lo is wearing pants or shorts. They’re “shants!” Both singers are good. Vicci has a scrappy growl that fits the rock vibe of the song whereas Niki employs more R&B moves and affectations which could play more to Cee-Lo’s genre experience. However, they do not at all sound good together. I totally disagree with the judge consensus that their duet was the best of the night.

Winner: Vicci (Put your rock signs up!)

This is turning out to be a strange show: one hour time limit, ring setting, singing battles, and lots of desperation! The over-the-top “what can we get from the props department” sets are oddly endearing, and the judges continue to be fun to watch. Replace Daly with an actual human made of flesh and blood, and this show would be straight-up fantastic. I genuinely hope this show is raking in the ratings.