Idol Finds a Couple of Piano Men Among the Top 9

As American Idol’s Top 9 flaunt their version of popular iTune downloads, it was a couple of men behind the pianos that really stole the show tonight, proving that you could make an old song new again.

As much as I complain about theme nights, the free-for-all song choice nights are worse.  This week the contestants got to pick song of their choice as long as it was a popular download on iTunes (way to work in that sponsorship).  Unfortunately, this late in the game, there are still contestants that don’t know the difference between picking songs they love and songs that are right for their voice.

Luckily, a few have mastered that skill and they showcased it tonight behind the ivory keys. 

When you put Scott MacIntyre behind a piano, you know you are going to see mad piano skills.  But tonight I think we finally got the vocals to match those skills.  For weeks, Scott has suffered from the wrong song choice.  This week he got it right and his rendition of Billy Joel’s “Just the Way Your Are” had me loving Scott just the way he is.

Likewise, Kris Allen left the guitar behind this week, but not his vocal groove.  Instead he brought out the keyboard and belted out a soulful version of “Ain’t No Sunshine.” I was so taken with his rendition that I forget the song was more than 30 years old. In a sea of talented guys, Kris is giving it his all to stand apart.  And I’d have to say he’s succeeding.  If he keeps turning in performances like this one, he’s got a chance at winning.

But not all the stars played an instrument tonight. 

Some might call him outlandish; others might say that he’s just weird.  But the truth is that Adam Lambert is mesmerizing.  I never know what to expect from him, except that he’s going to be unique and different.  In a night full of bad songs choices and copycat renditions, I really enjoyed Adam’s version of Wild Cherry’s “Play that Funky Music.”  It was fun.  It was hip and it was marketable.  And he gets kudos for giving credit to the band.

Adam has a real talent for picking the right song and so does Allison Iraheta.  After I finally stopped laughing over the tidbit that 16-year-old Allison “grew up” with her song choice, “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt, I really enjoyed the performance.  It was very cool to see her with a guitar tonight.  I honestly think she was born a couple decades too late, because she reminds me of an 80s rocker.  She even looked the part tonight.  I would really like to hear her sing Pat Benatar or Joan Jett.

On the other hand, for the last few weeks, Lil Rounds has been suffering an identity crisis with her song choices due, at least in part, to conflicting advice from the judges.  Tonight, we saw the return of the diva Lil when she belted out “I Surrender” by Celine Dion.  Although the performance might not have had a lot of originality, it proved that Lil is a vocal powerhouse and that she’s still in the game.

But powerhouse is not how I’d describe Danny Gokey.  What hurts the most about Danny’s performance of Rascal Flatt’s “What Hurts the Most” is that it solidifies my opinion that he’s plateaued in the competition.  I think we see the best that Danny has to offer already.  Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t do a bad job on the song.  But we didn’t see anything new from him.  He didn’t bring anything original to the stage tonight.  However, the judges loved him.  But I have to wonder if that’s because his performance was so good or because those that preceded Danny were so bad.

But not everyone is improving.

Last week Matt Giraud found himself in the Bottom Three, but I believe it had more to do with singing first than with his performance, which I loved.  But this week, the doubt got to Matt and he went against the judges’ advice to stick with R&B, choosing “You Found Me” by The Fray.  And I think it was one of the worst things he could have done.  And his performance left me hoping Matt finds that blues again before next week.

And although I was so glad to see Anoop Desai finally decided to do a little something with his wardrobe this week, I’m not sure it helped his performance.  His look was more memorable than his performance.  He’s already been in the Bottom Three once and the combination of his lackluster rendition of Usher’s “Caught Up” and the dreaded first spot to perform will probably land him there again this week.

Finally, poor Megan Joy.  She can’t pick the right song to save her soul.  The girl has a really unique voice, but without the right song it’s just wasted.  And “Turn Your Lights Down Low” by Bob Marley and Lauren Hill was definitely not the right song.  If this girl has any hope of really being a contender, she better get some help with song choice.

My best three performances for the night were Scott, Kris and Adam.  My bottom three were Matt, Anoop and Megan.  And I really have to say that it’s time for Megan to go home, but I wouldn’t be surprised in Anoop went instead.

And lastly, I have to make a couple of comments about the female judges.  More than once tonight, Paula had insightful, well constructed comments.  In fact, they were so well formed that I have to wonder if someone is whispering them in her ear because they are so different that what we are used to from her.

And Kara needs her own personal fact checker.  She has great advice, but she keeps stumbling with her references.  Tonight she told Adam that his performance was reminiscent of Studio 57.  Now, I was a little young for the party scene in the 70s, but even I know it was Studio 54.  A couple weeks ago, she called The Grand Ole Opry, Opryland.  And last week her “six words” for Adam turned out to be eight.

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