Posts Tagged ‘Scotty McCreery’

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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 American Idol: Top 9 Results

March 29, 2012

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

This week we were back to the vague themes and questionable tastes as the Top 9 sang songs from their “personal idols.” About half of it was ok. Let’s see who heads home tonight.

Here are the musical performances in order they were on the show.

1. Ford Music Video: You know, an 80s pop metal theme night might not be such a bad thing, especially if the contestants all had to all dress up in neon, spandex, and hairspray. It might motivate some of these jerks into being entertaining.

2. Nicki Minaj – “Starships” Well, Nicki isn’t even trying to lip sync and it shows in her lack of energy in the performance. This is in spite of a decent melody and perfectly danceable beat (along with a completely different-sounding hook a la “Party Rock Anthem.”) The realistically-dressed beach bum backup dancers were refreshing and enthusiastic as well. It’s just a shame that Nicki didn’t bring the fire she has in her studio recordings. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind if she bumped Steven off the judging panel.

3. Scotty McCreery – “Water Tower Town” The season 10 winner’s performance has a few things going for it. One, Scotty lost that performance tic where he holds his microphone like a flute. Two, his singing is quite on pitch. Three, the melody is upbeat and breezy for a pop country song. It’s just that I can’t get behind that small-town whitewashing and as Robot Chicken Charlie Brown might say “Strong Christian Overtones!” Those themes will resonate with a big audience, but I wasn’t feeling them.

Bottom 3
1. Hollie Cavanagh: It was only a matter of time. Hollie seems stuck in pageant mode almost every time she gets on stage. She executes like a great technician, but the only spark of life I have seen from her was in the Madonna medley. Maybe the music of Madge will inspire her, should she stick around. What she needs to remember is that 66% of her competition whips out vocal acrobatic ballads on a weekly basis. She can win by doing different things. Remember, performing the same thing week after week is what got Erika the boot.

2. Heejun Han: I’m tired of alternately being disappointed by and feeling sorry for the comedian. His caving into producer pressure to be boring drained every last drop of goodwill I had for him. I’d tell him to be more upbeat, charming/awkward, and self-aware, but he embodied those qualities during Billy Joel week and he was in the bottom three then. If only he put a little more thought into his song choices or tried to embody more of a party spirit like he did offstage, he could have been more of a contender.

3. Skylar Laine: OK, so Skylar didn’t bring her A-game this week but COME ON PEOPLE! Skylar balances the masculine and feminine in her stage presence, sings like she gives a damn about what’s going on, and knows how to engage the audience like a seasoned professional. I’m normally down on the teen contestants but Skylar, like Jessica, blasts that away with attitude and true talent. If she’s out I’ll be disappointed.

The Loser
First, it’s a good thing that Skylar is quickly sent back to the chairs. Otherwise I’m ok with the Bottom 3. I would have been disappointed about this a few weeks ago, but it looks like the comedian gets the big cane-yank offstage. Heejun followed the trajectory of contestants who seemed interesting but had terrible taste in music. I had hopes for him after he performed “My Life,” but it was an aberration instead of a sign of change. Maybe he’ll find his groove in another setting.

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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 25 Results

March 2, 2012

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

I apologize for the lateness of this post. Since Idol’s results shows will likely be on the same night as Project Runway, I will not be doing same-night recaps in order for Kathy to do hers at Plastic Runway. I’ll then do a quick hit on Friday. In my opinion, this is a good thing since it keeps out the padding, vamping, and tragically hokey Ford Music Videos, and points the focus straight at the results. I’ll still be doing the same-night performance show posts. Let’s break out the results!

Top 5 Men

1. Phillip Phillips – What a shocker! The guy who’s like the last four winners moves on to the next round. Verdict: Root Against

2. Heejun Han – He’s been disappointing musically but kinda cool offstage. I hope he develops better taste in music. Verdict: Hold

3. Josh Ledet – I think this gospel singer’s going to end up just like Jacob Lusk – awesome pipes wasted on boring R&B and Gospel numbers. Verdict: Hold

4. Colton Dixon – He doesn’t deserve to be on the show, his hair sucks, and his confidence in his abilities makes his histrionic performances extra unbearable. Verdict: Root Against

5. Jermaine Jones – While I haven’t been the biggest fan of his slower performances, at least this guy doesn’t overindulge in his singing. He also comes across really in this really unassuming way, so when he hits those super low notes it’s like “Boom! Bass attack!” Verdict: Root For

Top 5 Women

1. Jessica Sanchez – Well, she’s the only person of color among the women, which is reason enough to keep her on, but she did a pretty good job Wednesday night. She came off as mature and soulful, regardless of her age. Verdict: Root For

2. Hollie Cavanagh – One more blonde from the southern pageant factory. She’s too immature for this competition. Verdict: Root Against

3. Shannon Magrane – How dare this one-percenter bring her empty affirmations to the stage without the slightest bit of fun or menace. I spit on your inspiration-bait claptrap! Verdict: Root Against

4. Elise Testone – Decent talent in a package devoid of originality. Since her main rival got bumped off, maybe she’ll seem less cloying. Verdict: Hold

5. Skylar Laine – While she seems like what would happen if Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery got fused together in a nuclear meltdown, she gives a lot of effort and sings decently. She’ll be more about fun than Verdict: Hold

Wildcards, bitches!

1. Jeremy Rosado – I still think this teen is a mediocre performer, but he does have decent pipes and Kathy liked his song on Tuesday. Verdict: Hold

2. DeAndre Brackensick – Well, Eben the Lil Bieber is out of the game, so this guy must be this season’s cute teen boy. At least he’s more talented. He just needs to stop leaning on his falsetto like a crutch. Verdict: Hold

3. Erika Van Pelt – EVP has a lot of the qualities I look for in a contestant – good backstory, a nice sense of showmanship, decent singing talent, and above-average taste in music. If she be this season’s rock star, then rock on! Verdict: Root For

See you next week!

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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 The Voice: Audition Round 4

February 20, 2012

Image from Mil on Flickr, used under Creative Commons

25 contestants picked, 23 to go! Will this be the last of the blind audition rounds.

Contestants’ Notes

-I wondered when I would hear a Black Keys song on a show like this. Ducky has the right kind of blues-rock swagger in his rendition of “Tighten Up.” He had a few vocal dips and dives in there as well. It’s too bad that he gets no turns (and the Sweeney Todd look isn’t helping either.) Keep at it, dude!

-Jonathas (wow, 2 one-named performers in a row!) does a pretty good Usher impression on “U Got It Bad.” His voice sounds just like him and he can do the power belting with no problem! He even does a few Ursh-inspired dance moves, which turned out to be a winning play. The coaches can’t see him, but the crowd can, and that burst of applause on his floor slides was just the right thing to get turns from Cee Lo and Christina. Both could be good fits for Jonathas, since they have treaded in R&B and dance pop, but ultimately Xtina is smoother and a better fit for that kind of style.

-I don’t go for midtempo rockers like “Mr. Know It All,” which is what Monique Benabou sings. She throws out lots vocal moves, especially the up and down runs, but for me it’s all show and little go. It’s enough to score a turn from Christina, but I won’t be rooting for her unless she does something more uptempo.

-When I first heard “The Lazy Song,” Bruno Mars was performing it on Idol. I recall that it sounded pleasant. Naia Kete kicks it out for audition and does a pretty good job of capturing its casual exuberance, in spite of her straining voice. Her hippie tip isn’t my bag, but she’ll fit well on Blake’s team. That folksy singer-songwriter thing reminds me of Dia Frampton at best or a more competent Xenia at worst. She ends up picking Blake and I predict that she’ll make it past the battle rounds.

-I give Erick Macek points for taking “Free Fallin’” in a slightly different direction, melody-wise. Unfortunately it feels way blander than the Tom Petty original. This is something your youth pastor busts out at a church retreat without being aware of the slightly druggy undertone in the song. To summarize, he brought no edge! See ya!

-When Charlotte Sometimes first hits the stage, she sounds so bland and mumbly she pulls a convincing Lana Del Rey impression. Eventually she picks herself up, but replaces the bluh-bluh-bluh mumbles with pitchy, snarly signing. I suppose you could tell that she was trying hard and I give her props for doing dynamic in that crummy song “Apologize,” (stupid Ryan Tedder) but I was shocked that she got four turns. Blake compared her to Xenia, which he meant as a compliment, but it’s more of an ominous sign to me. Will history repeat itself in a Naia vs. Charlotte rivalry on Team Blake?

-OK, Tony Vincent is off to a great start simply because he sang a Queen song and it wasn’t “Somebody To Love,” one of the most done-to-death audition pieces I have ever heard. Instead, he went the stadium route with “We Are The Champions.” His only problem was that his vocal reach exceeded his grasp and he couldn’t quite hit those Mercury highs. I hope that he will overcome his twitchiness and nerves and bring the pain on Team Cee Lo.

-Stop singing from your throat and start singing from your gut, Anthony Evans! Unless you’re singing The Bee Gees or Curtis Mayfield I need to hear at least a little low register from you. But if you’re doing “What’s Going On,” you have to fill the whole song, not just the high parts! It’s like Andy Samberg’s Shy Ronnie on the mic. Anthony did get a turn from Xtina, so maybe he’ll pick up a few tricks from her.

-Jamie Lono is a low-key, high-voiced guy with an acoustic guitar. Shit. Four notes into “Folsom Prison Blues,” he gets a turn from Adam, who probably needs a few more Javier Colon Clones on his team. However, Cee Lo wins him over. To his credit, Jamie kicks out more snarl and menace than last year’s winner ever did. He’s likable enough, but he’ll have to work really hard to avoid being just another chotch with a guitar.

-Dylan Chambers had some good opportunities to wow the coaches on the Mark Ronson/Amy Winehouse version of “Valerie,” but he was just too bleary and messy to really make an impression.

-Nathan Anderson sounded like he was mixed way too low. Project, dude!

-Luna Searles does Ethridge, which means immediate Beverly McClellan comparison. She’s no Beverly McClellan, so…adios!

-Adam Lasher lazily growls his way through Nickelback. How does he fare? As Jay-Z once rapped “So Poof! / Vamoose, sonofabitch!

-David Gray’s “Babylon” is a pretty neat song with its quiet-loud dynamic and shoutalong chorus. Justin Hopkins could have gone note-for-note, but he throws in a few little belting runs that might have come across as self-indulgent on a lesser performer. Justin’s moves make the piece feel more energetic in the live setting. Way to score the Cee Lo turn, dude!

-Nicolle Gaylon could stand to maybe tighten up her singing on “You Save Me,” but she still did pretty well. While I didn’t know the song, her performance reminded me of when someone does a slow-burning karaoke song really well. The end result is, for lack of a better word, human connection. If your nerves can fuck you up and you still come off as relatable, you are a good performer.

-Ashley De La Rosa got only a five-second clip, but she sang “Shark In The Water,” when it feels like maybe 500 people in America know who V. V.  Brown is. That takes guts! The few seconds the show featured sounded good, too. Christina gives a turn, so good for Ashley! I hope she doesn’t end up as cannon fodder during the battle rounds

-5-second clip victim Jordan Rager sounded like Scotty McCreery with the bass turned down. He had energy but he’ll be a human shield on Team Blake during the battle rounds.

-Karla Davis did “If I Die Young.” It sounded like your garden variety acoustic jam. She seemed ok, but she’ll be a human shield on Team Adam during the battle rounds.

-Alyx didn’t even get 5 seconds of show time for “Just Like A Pill” and Blake picked her. This show needs to work on its pacing.

-Eric Tipton kicks out “You Make My Dreams” and he sounds solid. His range isn’t as dynamic as some of the other contestants, nor is he packing the raw power that the other contestants have. He fails to earn any turns, and the coaches attribute it to sounding too close to the Hall and Oates original. I get where they are coming from.

-OK, we have another Adele performance, this time from Mathai. She takes on one of the livelier numbers from 21 – “Rumour Has It,” and she scores turns from Adam, Blake and Cee Lo. Adam gave it up 8 seconds in, before she turned on the power. To Mathai’s credit, she really conveyed both the righteous defiance and the playful vengeance in the song and nailed most of the runs too! You go, player!

And now a summary of tonight’s winners, in the order they were announced:
-Silky smooth R&B karaoke
-Lots of power, crummy music
-Hippie Dia Frampton
-Xenia Mk II, Now With More Lana Del Rey
-Rock Opera Man
-All Treble Gospel
-A Guitar Guy I Don’t Want To Yell At?
-Engaging Adult Contemporary
-Tell Me More About Piano Country….
-R&B Cannon Fodder With Good Music Taste
-Country Cannon Fodder
-Acoustic Cannon Fodder
-Pop Rock Cannon Fodder
-Fun Adele Impersonation!

And we have one more audition round to see 9 more picks! I can’t wait for this round to be over!

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Thoughts On The Voice: Top 16 Part 2 – Team Adam vs. Team Cee Lo + Elimination

June 15, 2011

“Let’s get on with it,” says Carson Daly at the start of the show. We have a bit of a Time Crisis here, since the show has to cram a competition portion and a results portion into the same 2 hour block. Can everyone involved shoot through the filler to get everything in on time?

Team Xtina Bottom 3

  1. Lily Elise (No poise, no control, no fun)
  2. Raquel Castro (Needs to get a few more experiences and some vocal power)
  3. Frenchie Davis (She held her own against a Kelly Rowland song. Need I say more?)

Beverly wins the popular vote (good for her, she totally deserved it), while Frenchie takes Christina’s vote. Both winning women are proven performers with lots of experience. We’re off to a great start!

Tori and Taylor Thompson – “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”

The teen creepshow is up first. Also, did Cee Lo just find a song that’s too old for Idol? It’s Flag Day, so I guess that excuses the song choice (though you can hear the acid in Daly’s voice as he sarcastically yells “HAPPY FLAG DAY EVERYONE!” at the end of the song.) Jonathan Taylor Thomas sings almost entirely in harmony with rarely a solo moment for either sister. I suppose that plays to their strengths and the hooks of their audition, but frankly I wasn’t impressed with their harmonizing. The spectacle, as catchy as it was with its WWII aesthetics and troupe of dancing bugle boys, failed to cover up the mediocrity. Also, Christina rightly calls Cee Lo out for ripping off her “Candyman” video (which was a lot better both musically and stylistically).

Casey Weston – “Black Horse And The Cherry Tree”

Katherine McPhee rode this song to a runner-up spot in Season 5 of Idol, plus it’s damn catchy. As over the top as the arrangement was, Casey held her own and never got overshadowed up by the backup singers, trashcan drumline, or pushy harmonica. I say this because I feel like some of these contestants would have choked like LeBron James on a song like this. My only criticisms are that Casey should have been more at the forefront and that she brought out the belting way too early in the song. Otherwise it was pretty good.

Vicci Martinez – “Jolene”

Right at the start, Vicci uses her smoky voice to lend a dusty, emotional quality to this country heartbreaker. Even when the percussion kicks in and the performance gets closer to a Stevie Nicks parody, Vicci stays in control and maintains the tired desperation in the performance. When she finally goes for the power note, it feels earned because of her vocal buildup. Yes, there was an actual buildup! Overall the arrangement was herky-jerky, but Vicci’s singing was impeccable. Go Vicci!

Devon Barley – “Stop And Stare”

Fuck Ryan Tedder! I expected the performance to be boring before Devon sang a note and bless his heart he met my expectations. It’s not that his singing was shitty, it was mediocre. The very sound of his voice didn’t fit the big pop rock arrangement. The coaches say Devon has a strong vocal but to me it sounds heavy and awkward like a lead balloon. I don’t expect Adam to make Devon start singing slacker songs from bands like Dinosaur Jr, but fuck he was out of his league. Go back to med school, Dr. Dumpy.

Team Cee Lo – “Everyday People”

Remember, this is team Cee Lo, so the performance is a colorful retro spectacle. All of the contestants are playing instruments, there are hippie backup dancers, and Cee Lo is wearing a poncho and afro wig. It’s like Cirque du Soleil doing a Sly and the Family Stone show. The only downer is Curtis, whose drawl is a non-entity is this brassy bacchanal.

Nakia – “Sex On Fire”

Two straight weeks of Kings Of Leon? There’s a lot of empty space in the song, so Nakia has plenty of time to build up his voice for a series of concussive bursts of his signature blues wail. He really makes use of the stage and has great sense of showmanship, dropping to the floor like James Brown towards the end of the piece. The nature of the song may have been too easy for Nakia, and I get this feeling that he’s going to be in the producer-ordained top 4 regardless of actual talent, but he did a good job.

Jeff Jenkins – “Jesus Take The Wheel”

ZZZZZZZ. The verse of the song is equal parts Haley Reinhart mush mouth and Awkward Teen from The Simpsons. When the chorus kicks in and Jeff finally gets some power notes, he sounds as off key as an average congregant singing in a Catholic mass. In other words, Jesus Take the Autotune.

Team Adam – “With A Little Help From My Friends”

The church theme continues with the organ, high school gospel choir, and stained glass backdrop. The choir feels like cheating to me, as each singer, including Adam, gets maybe 3 seconds of solo time. Then Javier gets a second go at a solo and kicks his team’s collective ass with some vocal pyrotechnics. It was the highlight of a meh performance.

Curtis Grimes – “Addicted To Love”

Ah now we have some “risk-taking.” OMG he’s a country musician doing a rock song! Did your mind just get blown? Cee Lo’s gamble fails horribly as Curtis melts into a sloppy pile of baritone slush. The audience then has to listen to that slush for another 90 seconds. Scotty McCreery was 2/3rds this guy’s age and had 2/3rds more singing ability.

Javier Colon – “Angel”

This was a poor song choice, Adam. It was sweet and inspirational in the late 90s, but then there was that commercial with the dogs (oh man, the dogs.) So Javier has that against him going into the performance. It’s a good thing that he’s one of the better singers in the competition, as he nails most of the notes and adds about 200 more notes of vocal runs like they’re so much noodling. Objectively it was solid, but it was just no fun.

And for the conclusion of the elimination sandwich.

Team Blake Bottom 3

  1. Jared Blake (A good heart, a great spirit, a meh voice)
  2. Xenia (Too damn green)
  3. Patrick Thomas (Boring at best, shaky at worst)

Dia takes the popular vote, which rocks. Like Frenchie, Dia also has lots of experience from her days in Meg & Dia, and her “Heartless” cover had enough originality and emotion to make her mark on the show. Xenia takes Blake’s vote, which, what the fuck dude? I give the show props for having women make up at least half of the top 8, but Xenia is as stiff and awkward as a Michael Cera archetype played by Thia Megia.

I’m starting to get annoyed with this show. Most of the coaches’ song choices were stale, many of the contestants’ voices were wanting, the visuals were ridiculous (see: the very literal screen background for “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,”) and the coaches are still too damn nice when they should be doing actual coaching. I do appreciate that they cram the whole process into one episode, so it has not bloated to the point of the Idol dinosaur. I’m starting to come around to Carson Daly and the sheer contempt he has for the show and everyone involved. He’s much better sarcastic and bitter than wooden.

Top 3

  1. Vicci Martinez
  2. Casey Weston
  3. Javier Colon

Bottom 3

  1. Curtis Grimes
  2. Jeff Jenkins
  3. Devon Barley
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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.