Final 13 Performance Night

I found tonight’s songlist online, posted by someone who was in the arena when Idol taped tonight’s show. The judges aren’t quite ready to take it live, apparently. They didn’t say specifically, but I got the sense that Idol will eventually go live later in the season.

Starting tonight I’m going to try writing my capsules as if I was on the judging table and I had fifteen to twenty seconds to get it out and move on. We’ll see how long that lasts; I give it an over/under of four and a half singers before I want to run off at the word processer. I will be much more critical here than I would be (or expect anyone else to be) on the show, because I am looking for what they need to do to max out their run. It’s pointless to just keep saying “beautiful job”. These kids can all sing very, very well. I’m going to nitpick and hammer, almost like Simon, but I plan to use my powers for good, not evil. Well, that and maybe for fun.

 

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Jimmy Iovine

Let America’s most popular karaoke contest begin!!!

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Tonight’s theme is “your personal Idol”. Jimmy Iovine (pronounced “eye-VEEN”) is the mentor tonight, and I’ve heard that he’ll be mentoring the contestants quite a bit this year. He’s the head of Interscope Records. I’m not completely sure what his role will be, but I will be keeping a sharp eye on him. He’s a no bull guy, and he knows the business as well as anyone.

The Singers, the Songs-

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Lauren Alaina: “Any Man of Mine,” by Shania Twain “You picked a tough song to sing there, Lauren, and the range was a bit much for you. It was a bit shouty at the top, and too breathy at the bottom. Given the song’s difficulty (Siobhan did it last year, and it got her dumped from the show) I liked your performance, but you need to make sure that you choose songs that you can handle with more confidence down the road. Also, take some time to work out where you are going to breath during the long passages.”

Judges: Mostly agreed, but they also reinforced that they love her voice. I’m on board with that. Is Steven going to stop saying “beautiful, I loved it” after every performance? Stay tuned….

They are doing “exit interviews” tonight. They did this once last year and it was a disaster; All they got was a massively awkward moment after Simon roasted Siobhan over the coals, and a bunch of hooey. Lauren looked crestfallen, after what was her first real taste of negativity on the stage, but she kept her chin up.

Casey Abrams: “With a Little Help from My Friends,” by Joe Cocker

“Casey, we love how you bring this kind of swagger and manic energy to the stage, but this song already had all of that. It didn’t need the Casey spin. Your version seemed tame compared to Joe Cocker’s version, and you sounded more like a Cocker Spaniel (sorry, channeling my inner Simon). You will be here next week, obviously (it wasn’t THAT bad, and I love the crap out of you), but you should make sure, when you want to blow a song up, that it’s not already fully inflated.”

Judges: They ignored the obvious, and gushed like schoolgirls. I’m fine with that, I love Casey, but hopefully someone will get him aside quietly off the stage and remind him to pick songs without huge arrangements, so that his special and unique spin will stand out. You just can’t out-Cocker Cocker. Oh, and stay in tune more. Casey was out of tune a LOT. Did I mention that I love Casey? He’ll still be number one in my power rankings. This was just not his best night, yaknow, from me to you, dawg, good lookin’ out….

Casey, in his exit interview, alluded to what I picked up on. He knew that it wasn’t his best, and that they had things that they could have hammered him for. He’s a pro, and he knows what’s up. He’ll be fine. Even the best have the occasional off night.

Ashton Jones: “When You Tell Me That You Love Me,” by Diana Ross

“After last week I was nervous, but you hit every note and your glory note was spot on; and beautiful. This is your zone, Ashthon. You can do Dianna. Nice job. What’s with the “huh” thing that you do? It doesn’t always fit in, so you should be careful when you do it. Still, very nicely done.”

Judges: They damned her with some faint praise while being positive overall, which is understandable. They got hammered in the media for picking her for the finals instead of Lauren Turner or Kendra Chantelle. I agree with them that she needs to sing something that is more mainstream; that people have heard before. Maybe she could have sung the “Theme From Mahogany” or something from Dianna’s career fronting the Supremes. Going forward, I think that she might be able to handle some Lauren Hill or maybe a tamer Aretha song, like “Chain of Fools”.

Paul McDonald: “Come Pick Me Up,” by Ryan Adams

Don Was mentored Paul, as well as Scotty and Lauren. Quickly, Don Was is an industry legend. He was part of the Was (not Was) project group from the 1980’s, who recorded with so many huge names that it would take a page to list them. He produced Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time” in 1990, and won the 1995 Grammy for Producer of the Year. He also wrote the soundtracks for about a dozen movies, most of which we have all seen. He’s a titan, just saying. He looks like a Rastafarian Rabbi. I’d love to meet him.

Anyway, back to Paul:

“How can so much movement produce so little noise? Was your microphone on? All that motion, and nothing to move. It was like you were trying to hide up there, creating a diversion with your hands to distract us. Well, we can see you, Paul. We can hear you. Well, if we strain our ears we can hear you. I like you, Paul, but this was one stinker of a song choice for your voice. The evil bastard that set your microphone level should be fired, along with whoever let you choose that song.”

Judges: They commented on the fact that he chose a song that nobody knows, and went back to how much they love his voice.

I like Paul a lot too, even after his piece of crap song tonight. It didn’t bother me that he picked an obscure song so much as it bothered me that he couldn’t even sing the melody; that it was too much for his voice. Paul is going to have to be very careful about song choice if he wants to make the tour. He has no range, just the coolness of his voice and his look. I use the pitcher reference for the females a lot. Paul has that same problem. He has no fastball at all. He’s not even Jamie Moyer. He’s a knuckleballer. While he wasn’t effective at ALL tonight, he should survive to next week. I really look forward to hearing him, which is more than I can say for some of the others.

Pia Toscano: “All By Myself,” by Celine Dion (Eric Carmen)

People my age wouldn’t call this a Celine Dion song. This song was on the soundtrack of my teen angst years. We had this one, “Seasons in the Sun”, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, “Rocky”, “At Seventeen”, “Don’t Cry Out Loud”, Killing me Softly”, “Just When I Needed You Most”, “Disco Duck”….. No wonder we were all depressed.

“You have a HUGE voice, Pia (lots of applause….); terrific tone, professional phrasing, effortless intonation. It was a tremendous performance for this early stage of the competition. If I have to complain about anything (and I do, lol), I would ask you to hold your upper range notes longer in the middle of the song, make your melodies flow smoother, and RELAX. Don’t take it all so seriously, just let it flow and stop thinking. Trust yourself, Pia. You can sing. You don’t need to prove that to us next week. We want to feel your emotions now, grasshoppah. Prove to us that you aren’t just painting inside the numbers. You are soooo good. You can win this thing.”

Aside: I figured out who she looks like: She is the love child of Salma Hayek and Jay Leno.

Judges: As they should have, they gushed about her performance. Pia was pretty amazing, and she has even more upside to go. Scary.

Pia’s exit interview was just a simple nod to her father, who taught her to be a worker bee so well. I’ve talked about her looks before, but I wanted to make one more comment. Pia is a looker, but not so much the type that blows you away right off the bat. She is the type that grows on you. I think that this will help her as we move into the later rounds.

James Durbin: “Maybe I’m Amazed,” by Paul McCartney

“JD, I’ve been preaching restraint to you for weeks, but maybe I’m amazed that you overdid it, and were too restrained? Your tone was beautiful, and you hit every note, but maybe I’m amazed that you didn’t go for ANY of the huge notes that Paul hit? If I hadn’t heard you nail those notes before when they didn’t always belong, maybe I wouldn’t have been so amazed that I missed you blowing them out when they did belong? Can we go back and do this song again, and tell you to just flat out overdo it as much as you can? I love that you are working on what people are saying, that you need to work on being more restrained, but is this you? Maybe this is what you need to do, to get past the Adam comparisons, but maybe I’m amazed that you picked THIS FREAKING SONG to hold back?”

Judges: Randy sounded like a valley girl. It was hilarious. Jennifer talked about how he sang the melody, and I want to expand on that here. I hammered him somewhat in my own judging for missing the chance to blow McCartney away like Crystal did on this song last year, because he CAN. JD could have knocked this song out of the park, and made a moment out of it instead of a safe, see you next week qualifier. He has the vocal chops to have made mincemeat out of this song. Instead, he played it safe and just sang the melody like this was the first round of a karaoke contest. I know that it’s early, and JD needs to save something for later, I get all of that. But this was McCartney (said in a plaintive, whining voice…. MCCARTNEY!!!), and JD could have blown this song up to the freaking SKY!!!! I am soooo bummed. It was good, but it could have been fr^&@*ing GREAT. He held back too much, dammit.

His exit interview was about as exciting as his performance. Safe, and forgettable. He can do more.

Haley Reinhart: “Blue,” by LeAnn Rimes

“Loved the switches between full voice and falsetto, you pulled them off masterfully. Well done, Haley, it was a good song arrangement and a good song choice for your voice. I didn’t see you as a country artist before, but I can see it now. My only complaint was that you missed some notes in the lower register. You always have to be careful at the edges, and know your voice. Tonight, again, you were able to find a song that you can sing well. As we have heard earlier in the night, not everyone knows how to do this. Good job, well done.”

Judges: Randy called it boring, which might sway some voters, but I didn’t see it that way. Jen called him out, as she always does when he is negative (not a good thing if she does it every time), and tried to point out that Haley isn’t the rah-rah type so much as she is sultry and bluesy, sort of Etta James more than Gwen Stefani. I agree with Jen this time. Haley doesn’t have a big fastball, but she has great stuff. Is she Jamie Moyer, or Greg Maddux? I’m leaning more towards Maddux. She has been impressive for several weeks now. Let’s give her some credit. She brings it every single week.

Jacob Lusk: “I Believe I Can Fly,” by R. Kelly

“I don’t even care that you missed a few notes, Jacob. You are ready to go out and make records and sell out auditoriums. Idol is very proud that they have produced so many stars, 261 number one records. You don’t need to win, though I sort of think that will. You are going to have number one records, and you are going to sell out auditoriums. You have generational talent, and a generational voice. I didn’t think that anyone would ever have a better voice than Adam Lambert on Idol. I was wrong. Just keep working, and the intonation will come. Even God himself can’t teach that voice.”

Judges: Gushed. Jen wanted to pronounce him the winner, but she choked on it and let it go. Randy pointed out the intonation problems, but all of them were blown away, as they should have been. If he hadn’t hit some bad notes, this would have been a moment. It was a moment type performance, just incredibly charismatic.

Exit interview was “give it all I got”, the usual stuff.

Thia Megia: “Smile,” by Michael Jackson

“Thia, you have amazing intonation, and you hit the notes like you always do, and it was entertaining and enjoyable, but I have to say that it was also fairly forgettable. We need to hear something more from you. I know that you are just 16 years old, but this isn’t a high school talent show. This is a 22 million viewer national talent show. You sing beautifully, but you are competing with people like Pia, James, Casey, Jacob and Lauren. Do you think that singing some simple melodies will be enough?”

Judges: They liked the spare early part, which I liked too. They didn’t like the later part so much, for the same reasons that I didn’t like it. Thia has a terrific voice, and incredible intonation for such a young kid, but this isn’t high school. She is (I hate to say this) better than Allie in most ways. Allie had more emotional power, and more scratch, but she couln’t dream of this kid’s command. Idol needs better consolation prizes for the teenagers. Just give them scholarships, ok? Thia has huge potential, but her good but not great current level might keep her from reaching it.

Exit interview: Thia took it way harder than I would have expected her to. I have her as being safe as hell this week, did I miss something? She sang really well.

Stefano Langone: “Lately,” by Stevie Wonder

“I love your emotional connection to what you sing, and you have an amazing, almost angelic voice. Your performance was sloppy as hell, and I think that you know that. I don’t care, I LOVED IT, but take the time to learn how to breathe, and work on your intonation, ok? You have a ton to give us, my man. Don’t let trivial issues derail you before your time. I believe that you will grow and grow as the competition goes on. Just keep on working on your weaknesses, so that you can showAmerica your strength.”

Judges: Loved it. Randy mentioned the sloppiness, but he was very positive.

Exit interview: He mentioned that being a wild card was a blow to his self esteem, but he was cool about it.

Karen Rodriguez: “I Could Fall in Love,” by Selena

“Karen, you look stunning, and you sang beautifully, but I have to ask you: Are you aware that this is AMERICAN Idol? You don’t need to pander to your Latin roots to survive. If you do, you are not a serious candidate to win, are you? I wonder if you are serious about winning the show over winning a recording contract as a latino artist. I don’t blame you if that’s your goal, but can we just get you signed and let Lauren Turner or Kendra Chantelle back onto the show? They aren’t angling for a niche recording contract. They want to compete.”

Judges: Jen hammered her for her intonation. Randy hammered her for her energy. Steven hammered her too. Are they looking to get her out? I’ve never heard this group of judges hammer anyone this much. I am surprised. She wasn’t all that bad.

Scotty McCreery: “The River,” by Garth Brooks

This song was written by Garth Brooks along with Victoria Shaw, an underrated songwriter who has a dozen number one songs to her credit. She sang “Cry Wolf”, a very good song that got very little airplay when it came out.

“Nice job, Scotty. Nobody can beat you on your lower range, and you didn’t shy away from the higher notes. Well done. Oh, it would have been nice to have some emotion, but I don’t expect a 17 year old kid to have that. ”

Judges: Gushing….. I don’t agree. I’ve sung this song several hundred times as a backup harmony singer, and it’s just not a lead singer’s song. This song was always about Garth showing love to his band, and showing off the harmonies. It’s not a song to show off lead vocals. I know several hundred people that could sing the lead as well as Scotty, other than the low notes. That is Scotty’s stock in trade, his primary talent. Good luck when you have to sing anything else, my man. I love the kid, but this isn’t a country karaoke contest. I hate to hammer on the kid; I like him, but seriously. He does one thing, and it’s not even a unique thing. He is going to ruin the curve for everyone else. 2011 Idol won’t make any sense until he is gone.

Naima Adedapo: “Umbrella,” by Rihanna

“Ambitious visually, and a strong vocal performance. There were some bald spots, but I was entertained. I am aware that this song and dancing performance is something that most ofAmericaknows well. I have no clue, so you are on your own with the speed dialers. I liked it.”

Judges: They nailed her for the mix of dancing and singing, and losing the vocals at times in the mix, but they all loved the ambition of the attempt. I personally thought that she was really good, trying to pull off the most ambitious performance of the night. Nobody really stunk tonight, so it won’t be easy.

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Safe to in danger-

Locks:

Casey

Jacob

James

Pia

Scotty

Lauren

Hard Chair candidates:

Stefano

Naima

Haley

Karen

Thia

Ashthon

Paul

DialIdol continues to have Casey down very low in their rankings, which isn’t a good sign. I have him safe anyway, so screw dialIdol. Paul is ranked at the bottom, but Karen was ranked at the bottom last week. Nobody sang that poorly other than Paul, and Paul was terrific last week. Taking everything together, it looks like Ashthon will be the one getting the green weenie. We’ll see.