American Idol has Found its Own Rat Pack

April 29, 2009

This week American Idol is down to its Top 5, the same number of members in the Rat Pack.  So it was fitting that we were treated to the sounds of the Rat Pack tonight.

Top 5.  Photo Courtesy of American Idol

Top 5. Photo Courtesy of American Idol

Personally, I’m so glad they saved this theme until now so we didn’t have to hear anyone butcher the songs of the greats.  And overall I’d say that the Top 5 put in a good showing even if no one came out to sing smoking a cigarette and carrying a glass of Jack Daniels #7.

The night started out on a good note.  I was as blown away by Kris Allen’s performance of “The Way You Look Tonight” as Guest Mentor Jamie Fox.  He came across as very sincere, sophisticated and sexy.  He just took a golden oldie and made it golden again.  And more than anything, I’d love to hear it again!

But Kris wasn’t the only one shining tonight.  Beautiful that’s the only way to describe Allison Iraheta’s rendition of “Someone to Watch Over Me.”  She sounded fantastic and she looked wonderful.  I noticed that if I closed my eyes during this performance, Allison sounded older, but not in a dated way.  Not only was her voice well suited to the song, but she had great composure as well.  And she showed us that she could sing more than rock songs.

On the other hand, we saw more of the same from Matt Giraud.  It’s not that Matt had a bad performance tonight; it’s just that he paled in comparison to the others.  He had his moments, but overall I thought his version of “My Funny Valentine” was drab.  And I definitely am not seeing what Simon saw in this performance.  He called it authentic, but I thought at best it was copycat.

Simon was also a big supporter of Danny Gokey.  Now it’s no secret that I’m not a big Danny fan.  I think most of his songs all sound alike.  But this week, I liked his sound.  He added a nice little jazzy feel to “Come Rain or Come Shine” that worked well.  However, I think he got a little over zealous towards the end.  As a whole, not a bad performance, but please don’t give us a whole album of that as Randy suggested.

And closing out the show again this week was Adam Lambert (he does that a lot, anyone else notice?).  As usually, he wins the award for most unusual arrangement.  His “Feeling Good” was like Big Band on steroids.  The performance had the full orchestra, but still had the rock edge.  I’m still not sure if I liked it.  I think I need time to digest it.

For traditionalists, I’d say that Kris won the night.  Even going first I think he had the strongest performance.  However, if you go on originality, Adam is still in the lead.

I think Matt is going home this week and my pick to join him in the Bottom Two is Danny.  But since Simon really liked both of them, I could be totally wrong.

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Idol Down to Four Men, One Woman

April 23, 2009

After 45 million votes, American Idol has dwindled down the finalists to five.  After saving Matt Giraud last week, two contenders were sent home after less than stellar disco performances.

Last year's runner up, David Archuleta returns to the Idol stage.

Last year's runner up, David Archuleta returns to the Idol stage.

No suspense tonight as Ryan got right to the first elimination (not bottom three spot, but elimination) 16 minutes into the show.  And that’s okay, because I don’t know that there was anyone out there that didn’t expect Lil Rounds to be sent packing this week.

Ironically, her version of “I’m Every Woman” was 10 times better tonight than anything she’s sang in weeks.  It’s amazing at how much better she sounded when she didn’t have to worry about being judged.

It took the rest of the hour to whittle down the other six to Anoop and Allison sitting on the stools.  I have to say that I was surprised to see Allison there instead of Matt, because I think she gave a better performance Tuesday.  In the end it was Anoop singing his swan song.

But I have to wonder if the judges were at all worried.  If Allison had the lowest votes, it would have been an all male Top 5 and the judges had already used their save.

For those of you who wanted to hear real disco, the producers brought out a medley of former disco performers including KC minus his Sunshine Band and one-hit wonders Freda Payne and Thelma Houston.

The Top 7 also performed their group number to “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground) by The Jackson 5.  But this week, the contestants really had to work hard in this number because Paula did the choreography for this number.  It’s about time Paula starts earning that paycheck!

And finally, returning to the stage tonight was last year’s runner up, David Archuleta, singing “Touch My Hand.”  To me, he sounded just like he did last season.  Now I’ve never been a big Archie fan, so I didn’t expect to suddenly like his song, but at the least I expected him to have a bit of a makeover.  But he looks exactly the same.

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Disco gets Remade by Idol’s Top 7

April 22, 2009

Last week, history was made when the American Idol judges used their save and sent no one home.  But that means the fate of two are on the line this week.  And disco definitely set apart the real contenders from those just hanging on.

Originality was the name of the game tonight and you can expect to find those that came out big this week among the final three.

Kris Allen was channeling a little Dave Matthews tonight as he added a cool funky beat to Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money.”  This outing was the most original performance we’ve seen from Kris and I have to say that he nailed it.  That is how you reinvent a song.  I can so see this song being a single on his first album.  I’d buy it.

Likewise, Allison Iraheta took some liberties with another Donna Summer tune.  Her rendition of “Hot Stuff” was definitely hot tonight with that cool old school rock twist she added.  I would never have picked a Donna Summer song out for Allison, but let me tell you the girl made it work and work well. 

Slowing things down, Adam Lambert showed us that disco could have a softer side with “If I Can’t Have You” from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.  It was not my favorite of his performances, but you can miss the emotion that came through with the song.  As always, Adam delivers with originality.  This guy knows how to win over a crowd and he knows how to perform.

However, hose that stuck with the pure disco theme struggled this week.  At this point in the competition, uniqueness went a long way and not everyone had it this week.

It was nice to see Danny Gokey try something other than a ballad/tribute to someone.  He looked like he was having a good time out there instead of ready to weep.  But given his competition, Danny’s version of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” just didn’t measure up.  I expected showgirls to come out any moment.  The song just had too much of a Las Vegas strip feel to it for my tastes.

Even the double meaning of Matt Giraud’s song choice wasn’t enough for him to standout.  I felt the energy and gusto behind his rendition of the Bee Gees’ “Staying Alive” but it wasn’t enough to impress me amongst all the other stars shining this week.

While two of the contestants hit big this week with Donna Summer numbers, the momentum did not carry over to Anoop Desai.  I honestly did not see what the judges liked in that performance.  I thought it was lackluster and boring.  Normally I like Anoop’s ballads, but this one was missing something.

I’ve lost my enthusiasm for Lil Rounds so it’s really hard for me to stay objective about her performances lately.  But I can say that this week, she seemed more confident and enthusiastic, so maybe venting last week helped her.  Unfortunately, her rendition of “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan came across as very dated.  While I enjoyed her passion, I wouldn’t care to hear the performance again.

For me, the Top 3 are very clear cut – Kris, Allison and Adam.  However, the order depends on the week.  I also find the bottom three to be very clear cut – Matt, Anoop and Lil.  And it a very distinct difference between the two groups – and that is the willingness to venture from the norm.

The wild card is Danny.  For me, I tend to pair him with the bottom group.  However, he has a big following and seems to be a favorite with the judges, so where he ends up is still up for grabs.

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Judges Use the Save, Idol Remains at 7

April 16, 2009

The American Idol judges finally did it.  They pulled out the save card and they used it.  The good news is that Matt Giraud is staying for another week.  The bad news is two contestants get eliminated next week.

Jennifer Hudson returns to the Idol stage.  Photo courtesy of American Idol.

Jennifer Hudson returns to the Idol stage. Photo courtesy of American Idol.

I didn’t expect to be so emotional as Matt sang for his life.  But as I listened to what I thought was a much better version of “Have you Ever Really Loved a Woman?” than what we heard on Tuesday, I found myself hoping against hope that the judges would pull out their trump card.

I was not surprised to find Matt in the Bottom Three, but I thought it would be one of his fellow bottom dwellers – Lil Round or Anoop Desai – who would be sent home.  Deservedly so, Anoop was saved right away.  But I was shocked to find Lil safe.

The competition will be extra rough next week when the Top 7 face off again, because two heads will be on the chopping block.

But if anyone has any doubt that there is life after Idol even if you aren’t then winner than they need to look no further than this week’s guest performer and Season 3 finalist Jennifer Hudson.  The Oscar and Grammy winner returned to the Idol stage to sing “If This Isn’t Love.”

I didn’t watch Idol back when Jennifer was on the show, but I can see why she’s been so successful.  I thought the song was beautiful.

Also guest performing was Miley Cyrus, the star of the Hannah Montana:  The Movie.  Now that is one composed 16-year old.  And I have to say she looked and sounded beautiful tonight.  My daughter will be very disappointed she missed this performance because she really likes “The Climb.”  We already own the soundtrack and listen to it daily.

It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed an opening number on Idol.  Usually I’m a fan of them, but since they’ve been lip syncing them I’ve lost interest.  Until tonight.  The group version of “Maniac” from the movie Flashdance had a lot of energy.  And I enjoyed seeing the judges get into it as well.  Or it could just be that I enjoyed the flashback to ’80s.

On the other hand, Ford Video to “Freeze Frame” was predictable.  They do this contestants-on-the-magazine-cover thing every year.  I think the Ford video people are running out of ideas.

And it was only fitting given this week’s theme that the Top 7 got to go to a movie premiere on Tuesday.  They saw the premiere of 17 Again, which opens this weekend and stars teen idol Zac Efron.

Next week the theme is Disco.  Get out your bell bottoms and platform shoes.

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Adam Goes Wild with Cinema Hits on Idol

April 15, 2009

This week American Idol partnered with Quentin Tarantino to take on the songs of cinema, where in lies the problem.  First let me say that I have no doubt in Quentin Tarantino’s movie making ability, but what qualifies him for as a musical mentor?  Sure, he has experience picking songs, but how does that qualify him to coach others vocally?  Is Idol that desperate for mentors?

Secondly, the hits of cinema are huge, popular songs that we all loved; that’s what made them such great songs for the movies.  But it also makes it real hard for the Top 7 not to be compared to the original.

However, the crowd seemed very into the performances tonight while I felt that the night was ho-hum.  I expected more of the Top 7 this late in the competitions. But there were a couple of exceptions that stood out. 

What can I say about Adam Lambert but that he knows how to bring out the unusual in a song.  I can’t say that I would have pictured Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper cruising down the highway to that techno version of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” in Easy Rider, but Adam made it work and that is what makes Adam a forerunner.

On the other hand, Kris Allen stood out tonight because he sang a song I’d never heard before – “Falling Slowly” from the movie Once.  But he sang it so beautifully that I now want to see the movie.  It was an absolutely gorgeous song both in the words and his delivery and I wanted to hear more.  I can’t tell you if the song sounded different from the original, but by picking an obscure song, Kris shined.

Unfortunately, the others picked songs so popular; you couldn’t help but compare them to the original.

A perfect example is Allison Iraheta.  The best thing about Allison is that she knows how to pick the right songs for her voice.  And “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing” from Armageddon was definitely a song that suited her.  But I think she missed the opportunity to stand out by not doing anything original with the song leaving her to be compared to Aerosmith.  And in that case Allison just didn’t measure up.  However, Allison is still a contender to be reckoned with.

Still other performances were just forgettable.

I’ve never been a big Danny Gokey fan and I’m really starting to lose any interest I had in him now.  This week he did another ballad, this one the title song from Endless Love by Lionel Richie.  And to me it sounded like every other ballad he’s done in the last few weeks.  He even does the same hand gestures.  I know Danny is a fan and judge favorite, but if he really wants a shot at the title, he needs to change it up a little.

Meanwhile Anoop Desai continues to do what he does best – ballads.  This week he chose Brian Adam’s “(Everything I do) I Do It for You” from Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves.  And while the performance was okay, it was forgettable.  Anoop is a good guy, but I think he’s going to struggle to be remain in the contest from here on out.

Similarly, Matt Giraud also had a nice performance that was easily forgotten.  He chose a beautiful song – Brian Adam’s “Have you Ever Really Loved a Woman?” from Don Juan DeMarco and had a solid performance.  However, unfortunately, by the end of the night I couldn’t remember it.

And finally we have Lil Rounds who might have saved herself for at least another week with the title song from The Rose by Bette Midler.  I wouldn’t say that this was the best performance ever, but it is the best one we’ve heard from Lil in a long while.  I personally liked the stripped down beginning and end much more than the middle.

Overall a mediocre night, no train wrecks, but it’s still hard to pick the bottom three out of all the so-so.  I guess my bottom three are Anoop, Matt and Lil.  I honestly have no idea who’s going to be sent home – maybe Anoop, maybe Lil.

And finally, can I just say that I do not like the new judges comment format.  I’d rather hear from all four judges and less fluff from Ryan.  Besides, even by limiting the comments to two judges per contestant, Idol still went over.

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Suspense High on Idol’s Top 8 Results Show

April 9, 2009

The suspense was high tonight on American Idol as the judges debated the use of their save in the final moments of the show.  But a 2-2 stalemate was not enough to render the unanimous vote required by the save and Idol said goodbye to Scott MacIntyre.

Kellie Pickler returns to the Idol stage with her new single "Best Days of Your Life."  Photo courtesy of American Idol.

Kellie Pickler returns to the Idol stage with her new single "Best Days of Your Life." Photo courtesy of American Idol.

While Scott’s exit seemed inevitable to some, the way the results played out tonight was interesting.

Joining Scott in the Bottom Three were Anoop Desai and Lil Rounds.  Once the stools were filled, Ryan asked Simon if the save would be in play tonight.  He said maybe and that there was at least one in there worth saving.  Who was Simon talking about?

Watching the judges during Scott’s encore – which by the way I think it was better than his performance Tuesday night – it looked like Paula and Kara were the two voting in favor of saving Scott.  So who would Simon have been willing to save?

I can’t imagine the save would be used for Lil Rounds who has been on a downward slide the last few weeks.  Ironically, she was the first of the bottom trio to be deemed safe this week.

And while Anoop had a good week, I don’t see Simon saving him because of his lack of consistency.  I’m glad that Anoop is still hanging on, but his days are numbered especially since he was in the bottom two after a decent performance.  And it’s not a good sign that only 30,000 votes out of the 34 million separated Anoop from Scott.

Personally, I think the judges are reserving their save for Danny Gokey, who seems to be their golden boy.  But it would have been interesting to know which of this week’s bottom three had the potential to be saved.

But onto the rest of the show.

The appearance of Frankie Avalon singing his 1959 hit “Venus” to open the show tonight was a pleasant surprise and a nice way to continue the birth year theme.  And now we all know that Simon Cowell will be celebrating his 50th birthday this year.

We were also treated to performances by rapper Flo Rida and former Idol finalist Kellie Pickler.

Flo Rida sang his current single “Right Round” which is a partial remake of Dead or Alive’s 1984 single “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record).”  I’m not a big fan of rap, but here was an interesting example of someone taking an old song and making it their own. 

But I’m really wondering what it was he was saying about his tour when they bleeped him.  Was it a sound problem or did they really bleep him in a live show?

And Kellie returned to the Idol stage with her new hit “Best days of Your Life,” which she co-wrote with Taylor Swift.  I thought the performance was okay, but am wondering if Kellie is riding Taylor’s coat tails?

The group performance also carried out this week’s theme with a song picked from the year of Idol’s birth – “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.”  Allison really shined again this week in the group performance.  By having fewer females, they are spotlighted a little more.

However, I’m not sure where the Ford Video to “Circus” fit into the weekly theme.  But I liked this video, probably because we got to see how it was made.

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Idol’s Top 8 Relive Music from their Birth Year

April 8, 2009

While American Idol’s Top 8 go back in time with hits from their birth year, Allison Iraheta proves that boys haven’t entirely wrapped up this contest.

One of only two female contestants left in the competition and the youngest competitor, Allison came out swinging tonight.  Bonnie Raitt is not what I expected from the only 1990s baby in the contest, but I have to admit that Allison knew what she was doing when she picked “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”  The song was perfect for her voice and she had an excellent delivery.  Her ability to pick the right songs makes Allison the only female giving the boys in the contest a run for their money.

Also landing at the top this week is Adam Lambert who surprises us again with a rock opera version of the 1982 Tears for Fears hit “Mad World.”  As always, Adam delivers a true performance with the vocals and the theatrics.  Adam fans will be pleased.  His opposition will not.  But however you feel about Adam you have to recognize that it’s not often that Simon gives a standing ovation.

In addition, Anoop Desai was riding an up wave again in his roller coaster career on Idol.  When I heard that Anoop was singing a 1986 Cyndi Lauper song, I was wondering what he was thinking.  But after hearing “True Colors,” I’d have to say that Anoop pulled it off with true grace.  He did a beautiful job, but now I’m wondering if he’s repertoire is limited to ballads.

But Kris Allen is up for more than ballads.  In the last few weeks Kris has wowed us with his softer side, but tonight we got to see him rock out to the 1985 hit “All She Wants to Do is Dance” by Don Henley.  While Kris had a solid performance, I think he might have gotten better results if he slowed it down and put a blues feel to the song. 

It also looked like Matt Giraud was back on again this week with a bluesy version of Stevie Wonder’s 1985 hit “Part-Time Lover.”  Due to technical difficulties, I did not get to see his performance, but the clip at the end sounded like an improvement from last week.

But not everyone shined with golden oldies from their birth year.

I felt like I was on a cruise ship as I listened to Danny Gokey’s rendition of Mickey Gilley’s “Stand By Me” from 1980.  You can definitely tell we were coming out of the disco era when this song came out.  Danny would have done better to keep the song stripped down like he did for the beginning.  It was a little slow for my taste but it was still better than the cruise ship persona the rest of the song took on.  Still, Danny can still do no wrong in the judges’ eyes.  But will their influence be enough to negate the impact from going first?

On the other hand, Scott MacIntyre might not have the strongest vocal in the contest.  In fact, I’m sure he doesn’t, but all of his songs have a lot of passion behind them.  Tonight’s “The Search is Over, a 1985-hit by Survivor, was no different.  Sure the vocals weren’t spot on, but you really feel the song when he sings it.  And it was really nice to see him with a guitar instead of a piano.

But really trailing this week was Lil Rounds.  For weeks, Lil has been searching for her vocal identity and unfortunately, she still hasn’t found it.  This week, her rendition of “What’s Love Got to Do with it” (1984) came off sounding like just a knock off version of Tina Turner’s.  It wasn’t bad; it was just forgettable.  And unless Lil finds her niche soon, she’s going to be forgotten all together.

By bottom three has to be Danny, Scott and Lil.  And while I hate to see the contest down to just one female, it’s time for Lil to go home.

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