Idol Guys Put a New Twist on Motown

American Idol this week might have been a tribute to the 50th anniversary of Motown, but for the contestants it was a chance to show what they could do with great music.  And the guys really stepped up to the challenge this week with the some great, original performances.

This week the Top 10 perform Motown hits.

This week the Top 10 perform Motown hits.

I don’t know if they got inspiration from their visit to Hitsville, the home of Motown, or from their mentor, the great Smokey Robinson, but creativity was in the air among the contestants this week.

I have to wonder how many women wanted to get it on with Matt Giraud after listening to his rendition of Marvin Gaye’s classic “Let’s Get it On.”  Personally, I think he did a great job with the song and was glad to see him change it up by only playing the piano during the beginning of the song.  Now that’s how you lead off the show!

Marvin Gaye was really working for the guys tonight.  Kris Allen had a sweet performance of Gaye’s hit “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).”  He put his own spin on it by slowing it down in the beginning and the end, but picking up the tempo throughout the rest of the song.  And I liked that Kris had his guitar out again.  There’s just something about Kris with the guitar that says fun.

But the most original performance had to go to Adam Lambert this week.  The thing about Adam is that you never know what to expect from him.  Love him or hate him, you have to admit that he’s always got something original in store.  Tonight, he not only brought a new sound, but a completely new look with a suit and slicked back hair.  We saw the softer side of Adam with his unplugged performance of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ “The Tracks of My Tears.”  I think this was by far one of his best performances.  And I loved learning from Smokey why he wrote the song.

But the night didn’t go entirely to the guys.  Allison Iraheta proved tonight that she is the girl to watch in this competition.  She performed a rousing rendition of “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone” by The Temptations that marks her as a real contender.  The song was perfect for Allison’s voice and she maximized on it.  This performance was definitely her best.

Scott MacIntyre also did a fabulous job of updating a Motown song.  Even though the vocals might not have been the greatest, I really liked the way he slowed down the beginning of Diana Ross’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” before jazzing up the middle.  I’m glad that Scott didn’t take Paula’s advice and stuck with piano.  He’s a real artist with the piano and as he said it’s a part of who he was.  And I loved the way the background singers surrounded the piano while he played.

On the other hand, Anoop Desai came out with a nice soulful version of “Ooh Baby Baby” by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.  But I’m having a hard time taking him seriously when he dresses like a college student.  Someone please give this boy some wardrobe help.  I think a nice slick suit – or at the very least a blazer – would have helped him continue the emotion he was trying to project with the song.

But Motown didn’t work for everyone.  I like Danny Gokey best when he’s not doing sappy songs.  But his version of “Get Ready” by The Temptations was a little rushed and awkward at points.  The other guys have really stepped up their game and Danny’s going to have to work a lot harder if he wants to remain a contender.

My biggest disappointment of the night was Lil Rounds.  Motown week should have been her time to shine and I’ve been waiting all week to see what she’d come out with.  Unfortunately, her version of “(Love is Like a) Heat Wave” by Martha Reeves & the Vandellas didn’t offer anything new.  Don’t get me wrong, Lil sounded great.  But here was her chance to really show what she could do and all she did was sound like the original.

Every time I see Michael Sarver perform, I want to smile.  He’s just got such a great personality; you can’t help but love him.  But tonight I had to smile because he just looked like he was having so much fun singing “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by the Temptations.  Sure Michael doesn’t have the strongest vocal, he never has, but I enjoy listening to him and watching him perform.  I’m hoping he’ll get some sympathy votes since he had the flu this week. 

Megan Joy Cockrey’s has a particular distinctness to her voice that I’ve been struggling for weeks now to describe and tonight Smokey Robinson finally put into words (or a word) what I’ve been wanting to say – cabaret.  See I can totally see Megan Joy performing in a cabaret show.  What I can’t see is her singing a Stevie Wonder song.  However, I don’t think her performance of “For Once in My Life” was nearly as bad as the judges made out.

The boys definitely took the night with Matt, Kris and Adam leading the pack, and Allison had the best performance of the girls.  My bottom three would have to be Lil, Michael and Megan.  I’m hoping that Michael is going to make a career out of constantly surviving the bottom three.  So my pick for going home is Megan Joy.  She just can’t seem to pick the right songs to showcase the uniqueness of her voice.

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