The singers, the songs-
Jacob, “Man in the Mirror”, Michael Jackson
Thad Johnson sang this song last year inHollywood. He was the big lumpy guy with the overly enthusiastic mother. His performance was one of my favorite performances ever on Idol.
I liked how he put it together dynamically as well as visually, pulling it down at the end instead of taking it to church. The arrangement was tight, and other than the harmony singer drowning him out on the first chorus Jacob stood out just the right amount. He pulled his left ear monitor out at the beginning, and my guess is that it helped, since he was much more in tune.
Judges: The harmony singer wrote the song along with Glen Ballard. Her name is Siedah Garret. Judges gushed.
Haley, “Piece of my Heart”, Janis Joplin
Late night at the karaoke bar, but in the best possible way. It reminds me of one of those late night blow out songs that gets everyone sweaty and screaming happy. I’ll dun her a bit because she never really had command of the song, but she hit the notes and pulled out some cool runs. I think she stole Opus the Penguin’s outfit from “Billy and the Boingers”. All she needed was a tuba and some face paint.
Casey, “Have you ever seen the Rain?”, CCR
Hit the notes, my man. I love this song; I even used to sing it about 400 cartons of cigarettes ago.
Casey keeps doing this. He hit lots of cool notes, but also some really wonky ones. I liked how he started it, slower and softer, but he bit the lollipop and had to leave the melody and show off. If he had shown off with good notes that would be ok, but he missed most of them badly. Not his best. I believe that Casey is going to have a very good shot at a recording career, but he needs a vocal coach with a bull whip.
Judges: Gushed. Do I need to keep saying this?
Casey said that he feels like he needs to give 150 percent every time. If I was his mentor, I would sit him down and tell him, “Pretend that you are Thia for a week, and get back to the melody. Once you have re-established that you can sing a melody, start CONSERVATIVELY adding other notes.”
Lauren, “You make me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)”, Aretha Franklin
Will.I.Am is giving very good advice to all of the contestants. I didn’t know why an R&B guy would be here for Rock and Roll night, but I’m impressed with him. He’s a smart cookie, and he’s been a huge help.
There was one sort of wonky note, when she went up right at the beginning of the first chorus. That’s all. She hit every other note right on the fork, and she went after some notes that aren’t easy to nail. I think that Lauren purposely held the song down, making it a softer, countrier version. While it was slightly sleepy, I think that it was intentional. She didn’t smile at all the entire song, probably because they told her not to. She couldn’t help her little giggle (thanks Bob for pointing that out) at the end. I rate it a solid performance, not brilliant but very professional.
Judges: Even the judges seemed subdued, it was such a low energy performance. They gushed anyway. Gushapotamuses?
James, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, George Harrison (Beatles)
I’ve heard JD sing this song on youtube, before Idol. It’s a good choice, to do that change of pace and showAmericahis softer side after a few weeks of rocking out.
I’m always of two minds about JD. He has this huge, huge voice and this huge, huge personality, and it seems like he is pulling at his chains and trying to break out every time that he is told to stand still. It’s his Autism, I think, that causes it. All of that makes me very much attracted to his performances. On the other side of the coin, though, he suffers from the nearness of his doppelganger Adam Lambert. JD isn’t within light-years of Adam as a performer yet, or as a vocalist. Adam is a smoothly cut diamond; a product of 16 years of hard training. JD is a guy that has spent his life in a place very similar to the worst parts of Hillyard, and this is the first time that he’s been exposed to the kind of training and advice that can polish him. I believe down to my soul that JD has every bit as much raw talent as Adam, but I also know that he is over a decade behind him in his training.
This performance was JD’s attempt to mimic Adam’s “Tracks of my Tears” performance at the same juncture of the competition (final 9) in season 8. By the standards set by the rest of the competition THIS year, he was right in there with them and his voice is just frankly better than most of them. By the standards of Adam, it was (comparatively) weak to the point that it sounded like the pathetic attempt of the “grasshopper” to beat the master, early in his training. I could almost see Adam standing on his chest, and telling him, “You have much to learn, my child. To be audacious, you must first be humble.”. JD doesn’t have the luxury of being humble on Idol, so that part of his training will have to come later.
Judges: Gushed (lol….). I got off on a tangent, but I want to note that JD was truly in the song, and his emotional impact was very real. What is that saying? Ham and eggs. The chicken is invested, but the pig is committed. JD was committed. I’d prefer that he didn’t have to explain it. It’s like explaining a joke. If you don’t get it, move on.
Scotty, “That’s Alright Mama”, Elvis Presley
Good choice, if maybe a little bit obvious. You would think that this broad of a theme would give the contestants a huge body of work to choose from, but that’s not how it works. Last week’s pool was 20 songs, for 11 singers. Lotta choice there. Since I am pretty sure that their list was less than 100 songs this week, this was a very good choice for Scotty; maybe his only choice.
Scotty, bringing the scratch to American Idol!!!!! Was this a moment? I’ve had massive reservations about the kid, believing that he is an extreme one trick pony. He owned the song tonight, while bringing out an entirely new set of vocal chops. That just doesn’t happen this late in the game. His performance didn’t blow ME away, because I’m used to this kind of singing, but the fact that it was Scotty doing it blew me completely away. This gives him dynamic range to draw on, when he is on tour. It’s like a one pitch reliever pulled out a new pitch, and made everyone look foolish swinging at it. I’ve almost doubled my respect for the kid. Moment? For Scotty, it might have been. This leads me to believe, for the first time, that he can actually win it all.
Judges: Gushed (really?).
Pia, “River Deep, Mountain High”, Tina Turner
Pia ain’t Tina. She doesn’t have the manic energy, charisma and perfect physical timing that Tina has. That said; who does? That’s why Tina Turner is special. What Pia does have is that huge, perfectly tuned voice. Even though she wasn’t in Tina’s weight class visually, she was every bit in her class vocally. It’s a long competition, and Pia is going to get more chances to blow the stage up without the pressure of Tina’s example weighing her down.
Judges: Gushed, but….. what? Some actual advice? J-Lo nailed it, though she held the hammer with kid gloves: Pia, learn how to move on stage. Pia has, as we all know, incredible physical gifts. She has an attractive face; unique because of her weirdly unfocused eyes. She has a great body, and again unique because of her naturally bent spine that thrusts her butt backwards and her belly forwards. She gets the same effect in bare feet that most women need 3 inch heels to get. She has the gifted voice, obviously. In many ways she is similar to JD, in that she has obvious raw talent but she needs to work hard to turn that talent into a finished product. She is well ahead of JD at this point, obviously; I’m not comparing them as equals.
Stefano, “When a Man Loves a Woman”, Percy Sledge
This might be the kiss of death. I thought of this song as a natural pick for Stef, but it’s another song just like his others. He needs to blow it up.
I dunno…. He sang it fine, maybe he went sharp a couple of times but mostly he was in tune. Nothing about it was special. Stefano can’t just keep doing this, any more than Thia could keep singing the melodies. The competition is way too tough this year. Stefano stood out tonight (so far, we aren’t done) the wrong way. I was frankly bored. We know that he can sing this kind of song, and we know that he isn’t so amazing that he can sing ONLY this kind of song. I really wish that he’d picked something that showed another side of him. He is in danger of getting tossed tomorrow night, because there are no more weak links below him to go. If he goes, he might regret that he played safe this week.
Judges: I wish that Randy had gone first. J-Lo gushed, and then she yelled at Randy for not gushing. Stef is in trouble unless Paul screws the pooch.
Paul, “Folsom Prison Blues”, Johnny Cash
Huge gamble, from a guy that needs to gamble. There is no way in hell that he can, or will, sing this anything like the original. WillAmericalike his version? Film at 11….
Jimmy I told him to sing it like he is out of his f***ing mind. I like that idea. I think Jimmy is drinking a little….
He really brought it tonight, tons of energy. I could see this as a song at his concert, and I was entertained. If this is it for Paul, he went out with a bang. I didn’t notice anything that I would want to hammer on vocally. We all know what his voice sounds like. He represented himself very well tonight, thank you.
Judges: Gushed, the perfect end to a perfectly pointless night of judging. Pia needs to learn how to move. That’s it.
I’ve been gushing almost as much as the judges lately, so I don’t want anyone to think that I hate what a bunch of softies they are. This is a very talented group, to the point that a very promising kid like Stefano was probably the weakest performance of the night. If he was the worst, it was a terrific night, wasn’t it?
Every single one of these kids has a lot to work on, if they want to turn their talent into recording reality. They are not smoothly cut diamonds yet. That said; this group is even more talented than the vaunted season 8 group. That group included winner Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta, Matt Giraud and Scotty MacIntyre, all of whom have had recording success and/or touring success. This group doesn’t have an Adam, but it is 9 deep. Everyone left has a shot at a career, which is unusual for Idol.
I’m going back to my old system, which is:
Scotty was the best tonight, relative to his past performances. Pia was the best because she is the best, but not amazing according to her own standards. Casey might have taken a step back to the bottom three again, and Stefano played safe at a bad time. Paul carried the mail and might survive. Jacob turned a corner, but did anyone notice? Haley continued her roll, and Lauren fit into her niche in the middle. JD showed the tender side of his amazing voice, but he also showed his relative lack of experience compared to his constant ghost contestant.
Safe to in danger-
Someone who sang their butt off tonight is going to sit in a hard chair tomorrow night. Look at the nine contestants left. Who sucks? Really, nobody. Idol just lost a couple of very good performers last week, and it’s only going to get harder as we go along.
As I keep saying, it’s going to be bloody tomorrow night. We are down to all good to terrific to potentially great singers now.