Final 12 perform

A little bird told me that I might have been too hard on the singers last week, too critical. It’s almost as if I needed to be Simon since nobody else seems to want to be the bad guy. Well, I don’t want to be Simon either. The show doesn’t need another Simon. I will ease up a little. I like everyone who is left in the game, and I respect all of them. I will still be a little bit harsh at times if I think it’s appropriate, and I will take advantage of the fact that none of them will ever hear about it.

Tonight’s theme is “Songs from the year that you were born”. I made a few suggestions this weekend. I will be surprised if I got any of them right. I’m going to try being on the table again, and try to limit myself to 20 words or less. Ok, here we go!!!!!

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The singers, the songs:

Naima- “What’s Love Got to do With It”, Tina Turner

“Good start, good finish, but sloppy and harsh in the middle. It didn’t flow naturally, and the song might have been too big a bite for your voice.”

Judges: Steven: “It was beautiful, I loved it”. J-Lo and Randy both hammered her for her intonation, which was appropriate. She really struggled with the melody once the song got into her upper range.

Paul- “I Guess that’s Why They Call it the Blues”, Elton John

“Nice job, I recognized the melody this week. I was entertained.”

Judges: Randy went for the “pitchy” again, and he was a little bit off but his voice is the type that can cover for some off pitch notes without sounding horrible. Paul has been sick, so that probably had some effect.

Thia– “Colors of the Wind”, Vanessa Williams (I got this one right)

“I like the Pocahontas look, it suits you. Your voice was perfect for the song, and it was pretty. Sooner or later, though, you are going to have to do more than sing a canned melody.”

Judges: Randy called her out for singing nothing but safe ballads. They all said that it’s time for her to break out something more exciting. J-lo commented on her vibrato, that she needs to work on it. I agree, with the caveat that she is just 16 and her vibrato is one of the things that will come to her with some experience. Her voice is incredibly mature for such a young kid. She sounds, to me, a lot like Charlene; a one hit wonder from the 1970s who sang “I’ve Never Been to me”.

James– “I’ll Be There for You”, Bon Jovi”

I picked this as his backup, if he didn’t sing some GNR.

“I loved the high note into the modulation. I want more of that.”

Judges: Steven was funny as hell. J-Lo did a Paula, but a sober Paula, while Randy was back to “pitchy” a little, but overall very positive. I tend to get on JD’s back a lot, but don’t take it the wrong way. I love the kid, and I think that he has Idol Winner potential. It’s hard for me to be fair to him, because he not only sings Adam notes: he has Adam’s eyes, and he even moves a little but like him. It’s just eerie how much he reminds me of Adam, though he sings in a completely different style. I will keep begging for the screaming blow the stage away high notes, but he is smart to be patient. Just keep in mind that, when I am being critical of JD, it’s because I am so high on his potential. He scares me, because he can be scary good.

Haley- “I’m Your Baby Tonight”, Whitney Houston

Haley is the fifth contestant tonight, and we are now three for five hearing a parent sing. I want to hear more; I love that kind of thing. My family is very musical, and you can’t overstate how important it is to encourage your kids to explore music, even if it’s only to shake a tambourine once in awhile and sing karaoke. Music is good for the soul, and like the old joke says you don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it.

“Taking on Whitney with your voice is like trying to knock down an elephant with a pellet gun. Let’s hope the voters understood the Amy Winehouse rewrite.”

Judges: The judges were nicely very negative, which might mean that Haley is in trouble. I hoped that they would give her some credit for changing the song up, but they didn’t talk about it. Haley flat doesn’t have enough voice to contend, so she is on borrowed time no matter what, but I have loads of respect for how hard she is working. It’s not easy to find a song to overpower when you have so little power. I’m a little biased, because she is sooo cute and sooo earnest and soooo the kid who spends time in the woodshed as well as bending her face in the mirror, so I really hope she makes it to the tour. Nobody on the show has worked harder to get there.

Stefano– “If You Don’t Know Me by Now”, Simply Red

“Don’t try the “triple axle” until you have it down pat, or you are in a position when you have to gamble. You are still too good for most of the competition, so don’t make a dumb mistake early.”

Judges: Randy gave him the “you slayed it” treatment, which I am on totally board with despite my own negative critique. I am deliberately being harsh and nitpicky. He was pretty amazing, even with the sour notes. Stef is fine for now, and he will get some well deserved love in the media this week. I caution him to be careful, though. The judges can give, and they can take away. Like Casey last week, they gave to Stefano this week because he was so charismatic. They might not be so kind in a few weeks. Stefano has a chance to go deep, but he can’t be 90% in tune, no matter how high the degree of difficulty his notes are.

Pia– “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”, Whitney Houston

I originally chose this song for Pia (it’s one of my favorite Whitney songs), but I tossed it out of fear of Whitney, period. Haley did a very cool version of a Whitney song, trying to balance her lack of vocal power by changing the arrangement up, and got catcalls. It’s just not a good idea to do Whitney in front of Randy Jackson, but maybe it won’t be so bad. At least Simon is gone. Simon hammered anyone who did Whitney, no matter how well they sang. Randy might be ok, if Pia can hit the high notes.

“You have every tool, every vocal talent that you need to have a true moment on this stage. Every week you get closer, and every week you get better. Just complete a song, and you will have your moment.”

Judges: J-Lo accidentally hit on the number one problem with this year’s crop of singers: Too many freaking ballads. Can we get Lauren Turner back? Just kidding. Oh, and they were all blown away, as they should have been. Pia has upside, mad upside left. She has some issues to deal with, but they are minor issues and none of them have a thing to do with being able to sing. She just needs to nail that one perfect song, block out that perfect arrangement.

Scotty– “Can I Trust You with My Heart”, Travis Tritt

We got both parents singing this time. Very cool. I love Travis Tritt, but this wasn’t one of his best songs. It might actually be better for Scotty than it was for Travis, since his voice fits it better. Travis is more of a screamer and a growler than a low voice guy.

“This was your best performance since your audition, and I liked it even more than your audition because you were doing “you” instead of imitating someone else.”

Judges: All positive, and they pointed out that he stretched himself a bit. Scotty is always going to be the outlier, the contestant that can’t be judged by the normal standards. I maintain, as I have from the start, that this isn’t the competition that he should be in. He’s getting a huge pass, because he has that low range that makes him special. He doesn’t have to compete. That said, he earned his spot tonight. He was terrific. I liked his version more than I liked Travis’ version. That’s what the contestants are supposed to strive for. Well done, my man.

Karen– “Love Will Lead You Back”, Taylor Dayne

Six parents have sung now, and all of them were beautiful. Karen’s mother is really sweet. I saw Taylor Dayne all over 1989 when I was looking songs up, but I would have expected Pia more than Karen to sing one of them. This is a good one for Karen to stretch out on, but it’s another freaking ballad.

“Nice effort, but the top end was lacking and your intonation was almost painful at times. I don’t know that the change to Spanish was a good idea.”

Judges: Jen hammered her for her intonation. I noticed that they have been editing the judges tonight, and only showing part of their critiques. They should have done that years ago. Karen is in deep trouble, I think. She has about the same vocal ability as Haley, but nowhere near the intangibles Haley brings to the table. She might survive for another couple of weeks by the grace of her Latino voting bloc, but that’s probably all she has going for her at the moment. I like Karen, but someone has to go. She is on borrowed time.

Casey– “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Nirvana

Ryan was sitting in the audience, and he gave a plug for Mary Murphy and Tamyra, who were sitting next to him. Carly Smithson was sitting next to Mary Murphy, and he ignored her. I don’t care why he didn’t mention her, I was just curious. She smiled, but the smile didn’t make it up to her eyes. She might have been pissed. I would have been. Who in the hell is Mary Murphy?

I mentioned “Smells like Teen Spirit” for Casey, but I didn’t think he’d be bold enough to take it on. This is just another reason why I love Casey Abrams. This will be fun. Will it be good? Well….

“We should break the rules and let you do a four minute song. We needed another minute, at least. As it stood, you didn’t really accomplish anything. Foreplay is nice, but without act 2 it’s frustrating.”

Judges: I am so mad. Randy was fair, accurate, and circumspect in his analysis of Casey’s performance. This is what Siobhan should have been getting last year, but all she got was “too bold, too screamy, too many people are going to hate you, I don’t get you” from Simon. Casey is so cool that I don’t want to get on him, but let’s be real. Siobhan has ten times Casey’s voice, and more importantly she has every bit as much imagination. She auditioned a year too soon. We could use her this year; in a year when the best pure singers aren’t the most imaginative performers. Casey is this year’s Siobhan, but unfortunately he doesn’t have her voice. I love him for who he is anyway, but he is going to have to sing better if he is going to win. The honest truth is that Casey is the worst singer left. He is also the best musician, and the most imaginative performer, and the one that I would put money on to make something happen. If only he had a better voice.

Lauren– “I’m the Only One”, Melissa Etheridge

I’ve noticed that most of the singers are sick tonight. It’s not just the ones they mentioned. James was coughing, and a couple of others sniffed. Idol is sick this week. Sometimes this can be a good thing, and it shouldn’t hurt Lauren when she is singing Melissa. The husky voice should work well. I looked only at the country songs for Lauren this week, so her choice wasn’t a song that I expected. I think it was a good choice.

“Nice job, Lauren. Keep working with your mentors, and try to get 10 years of experience in a couple of months. No worries.”

Judges: Lots of excuses, and they all shilled for her. I’m ok with that, but if Lauren is going to be a serious contender she needs to crap out a lot of chops that her 16 year old body can’t be expected to have. I feel for her. They built her up like she was a fully formed country diva. She is very talented, but she is also just a kid, who has no clue about the things that only come from hard experience.

Jacob– “Alone”, Heart

Another ballad for Jacob, but at least it’s outside of the church. I love church music, but Jacob can win. He needs to sing some songs that everyone can sing along to, to get his candidacy mainstream. I love his Mom.

“Nobody combines your vocal power with your emotional intensity. Keep picking the right songs and you are going to be hard to beat.”

Judges: Randy was flustered and inspired, but also professional. He pointed out the flaws even when he gushed. The other judges also gushed, as they should have. As much as I love Pia, this was the performance of the night. I was on Jacob’s bandwagon last week when he was way out of tune. He was mostly in tune tonight, so I ain’t getting off now.

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Grades:

Casey- C+

Pia- B

James- B-

Scotty- B-

Jacob- B+

Stefano- B-

Lauren- C+

Paul- C

Thia- C

Karen- D

Naima- C-

Haley- C+

There will be A performances. I just haven’t heard one yet, and I want to be a tough grader until I hear one. I am not going to give up an A until I hear a performance that I will want to go back and listen to over and over. So far, it’s all potential and not so much reality for this very talented group. It’s early.

Safe to in danger:

Locks:

Casey

Pia

James

Scotty

Jacob

Stefano

Lauren

In Danger:

Paul

Thia

Karen

Naima

Haley

The next five out are probably going to be the last five listed, unless Lauren blows up or America gets tired of the very talented but very limited Scotty. It’s a big deal what the order is, because three of them are going to make the tour. My personal preference would be that Karen goes home to her Latino opportunities, either this week or next week. Naima, as much as I like her, is a limited talent. Haley is also limited. Thia is almost pointless, so I would be fine with her going along with Karen, but I don’t expect it. My guess is that either Naima or Haley will go home in the next two weeks, and lose the tour spot along with Karen. I’ll miss them, no matter who they are. I like all of them this year. We don’t have any Tim Urbans this year.

We are overdue for some moments, and I believe that they will come later on. Pia will give us one eventually, and James is always a moment away if he cuts loose. Jacob might already be giving us moments, but he is hard to understand. Casey will bring it, so he is always capable. Stefano is a moment machine if he can nail all of his ambitious notes. It’s going to happen. This year’s pool is really talented, and deep. We are going to get our moments.

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