Season 10

Final 7 perform

The theme this week is “Songs from the twenty-first century”. This is much more current than the next most recent theme for this group: “Songs from the year you were born”, or “songs from the Old Testament”. This could also be called “Songs written after Terry’s thirty seventh birthday”, so I’m going to feel old tonight. Let’s get to it….

The singers, the songs-

The show started up with the booted contestants singing “Rock Star”. It was fun, I guess. Paul is really funny when he dances. The girls all looked terrific. Nobody sang remarkably well but what the hell, it was fun to see them out there.

Scotty: “Swinging” (Leann Rimes by way of John Anderson)

This is such a hokey song. I’ve played it several hundred times, and even sang it a few dozen times (badly). It’s perfect for Scotty I guess, but kind of goes against the intent of the theme. This was a 1980’s anthem in country music, driven by John Anderson’s thick accent and smooth, smoky voice.

He did the second verse an octave lower, and it was effective. Scotty looked much more comfortable this week, and he was free and easy through the whole performance. Nicely done, if somewhat forgettable.

Judges: Actual judging? ACTUAL JUDGING? Steven called him out for not moving around enough. Jen dunned him for his song choice. Randy, as he always seems to do lately, just parroted Jen. Their overall thought was that Scotty played too safe this week, and his song was boring.

Since they critiqued Scotty, this must mean that they are going to give some “pointers” to everyone. We can hope. It would be a good thing for the show; and good for the contestants at this point.

James: “Uprising” (Muse)

JD makes all these weird faces when he isn’t talking. It’s his autism and Tourette’s that causes them, I think. He has to know that he’s doing it and that he can’t help it. I don’t envy the kid, dealing with that on national TV…… Muse is an awesome band. Karen loves them, and she turned me on to them last year. This will be interesting, and it has some train wreck potential. Muse is a subtle band, and JD is about as subtle as a sneeze.

He hit the screams ok and he was mostly in tune, but the screams didn’t belong and he never reached the proper mood. The snare drum corps was complete garbage; fancy packaging with no product inside. This was more of a competition performance than a real performance. It was forgettable to the point of throwaway. If this is JD’s vision, he needs some glasses. Train wreck? No, not that bad, but he didn’t do justice to the song. It was a horrible song choice for him; like Lauren singing Norah Jones or something. It sounded hokey, cheesy and lame on TV. It might have sounded better at high volume in the theater.

Judges: Jen gushed. Randy parroted Jen again, but he gave some important mitigating evidence for what I thought was a totally cheesy performance. Matt Bellamy (lead singer of Muse) was on board with this version, and he even challenged JD to sing the last chorus with the raised octave. This changes my own opinion quite a bit. While I didn’t much like it, it was approved by Muse. That matters, a LOT.

A big part of why I didn’t like it was that JD didn’t produce the right mood for the song. If it’s good enough for Muse, though, it’s sure as hell good enough for me. I’ll raise the grade appropriately. I still didn’t like it. I like JD, though. He’s gonna get spanked eventually, since he keeps making dumb decisions. The judges aren’t doing him any favors right now by delaying that. NOW is when he needs to get some tough love, not when he is in danger of getting the boot.

Haley: “Rolling in the Deep” (Adele)

This was the first song that I thought of for Haley to sing. I dismissed it, though (thinking that Haley should do some KT Tunstall instead), because there are some notes in it that might expose Haley’s weaknesses. Adele is a much more polished singer, and this song has some melody moves that are out of Haley’s range of experience. It’s a great song, though. Let’s hear it…

Did they have to play it that fast? It was a good bit faster than Adele’s version. Haley nailed the melodies, and gave it some cool style, but it took her about half the song to get in rhythm with the thundering herd backing her. How do I express it? Haley was terrific, and the second half of the song was very terrific, but it took her some time to get herself in line with the tempo. Did they get the wrong key signature? I don’t blame Haley, not this time. She was on point and she connected very well. She even moved fairly well, which has been a concern. Did the band let her down? It should have been done at 120 (beats per minute), and they were up around 137 (I went back and counted with a stop watch). I tried to find (quickly) the actual time signature for this song, but the ones that I found didn’t have the bpm on them. I’ll try to find it by the weekend. I am pretty sure that it was close to 120, not one thirty freaking seven.

Judges: Steven noticed the problems with the tempo. Randy gushed, and Jen acted like she wanted to go in a completely different direction, but was afraid to. She did mention that she liked that Haley put some of her own spin on the song. Randy did mention some pitchiness, in a specificly that she was sharp when she went to her falsetto. He is right. Haley did get a bit loose a couple of times, but the power of the performance should be remembered more than the lack of pitch perfection. Haley was good tonight.

These kids are worked very hard, and in most cases this means that they will have their voices taxed, and lose some of their vocal strength and flexibility as they go along. Not Haley. Her voice gets better every single week. The hard work and overuse seems to be having a positive effect on her voice, and she is also frankly learning how to sing better every week. I am really impressed with her progress. Haley wasn’t nearly this good a month ago.

Jacob: “Dance with my Father” (Luther Vandross)

Jacob (yeggityyeahyeah) Lusk gets to sing a song from his personal Idol. I don’t hate the guy, despite the bile that I’ve been piling on him. He has, frankly, the most raw vocal ability of anyone left on the show. His problem is that he hasn’t shown that his rubbery runs and over the top vocal calisthenics can translate to anything more than a bunch of rubbery runs and over the top vocal calisthenics. It’s nice to be able to run fast and jump high. Jacob needs to apply his skills into something artistic, and moving. If he can’t nail Luther, I don’t know what he can nail. Let’s hear it.

He was obviously very emotional, and it got to him. I don’t understand why anyone would call Jacob on not being connected, really. His two main (non technical) problems are that he is 1: Too connected; and 2: Too emotional. He does have one main technical weakness, which we all know about. His vibrato is way too strong, and he can’t sing a note straight. It gets away from him, and drives his notes sharp. He is like a bowler that gets too much spin on his ball and he has to practically approach the lane from the next lane on the left, just to give himself a chance to hit the pocket instead of the left gutter. Most singers work to develop a vibrato at all. Jacob’s vibrato is a runaway train that he can’t control. Most singers need to get bigger. Jacob’s need is to make his voice smaller.

I liked his performance. He dialed it back as much as he can, and the mood was perfect. He missed a lot of notes, though. If he can’t fix his intonation, and reign in his out of control vibrato, he is going to waste his amazing, rubbery voice before he ever learns how to truly perform a song.

He took out his in-ear monitor again. He is just not comfortable with it. I don’t know if it’s because he has the need to hear everything else, or if he gets shy about hearing his own voice. Either way, until he learns how to sing on the tuning fork he needs to do something different. He isn’t hitting the notes as often as he needs to. The kid has a million dollar voice – and a ten cent intonation.

Judges: Nicely said that he missed a lot of notes. Randy got hammered for this before, but now I agree with him. It’s time for Jacob to take a song to church again. Jacob said that his in-ear was all drums, which explains why he took it out. He did it last week too, though. Idol runs at a pace that doesn’t allow a lot of adjustments, but I think that they should take a moment to fix this. We all want to hear this amazing voice in tune, don’t we? Maybe he can, maybe he can’t; but let’s give him every chance. They are professionals. They can fix the monitors.

Casey: “Harder to Breathe” (Maroon 5)

This might get weird. Adam Levine can hit some ridiculous notes and this song is dynamically wild everywhere – but the lead vocal. The lead vocal itself is the stay-at-home part of the song. I didn’t like JD singing Muse, and I am worried that I won’t like Casey on this one for the same reasons. Can he not force it? Lets’ hear it….

Yeah, a lotta weirdness, especially the J-Lo kiss on the cheek thing. Casey actually sang really well, but it didn’t seem organic. Even the George Benson harmony guitar solo fell flat, but that wasn’t Casey’s fault. His guitar wasn’t loud enough for the lead part because he was strumming without a pick; they had to lower the volume to keep him from ruining the mix. Someone was probably supposed to raise his guitar volume when he started picking, but they missed it. The Idol band is having a rough night. I don’t really blame them. The contestants are really pushing them tonight, asking for a lot of quick changes and complex production adjustments. I love that they are pushing the envelope, so I don’t mind the occasional mistake. It’s all part of the process. Idol is learning right along with the contestants.

Judges: Gushed. Does anyone else get the feeling that Casey and JD are getting the “cool kid” treatment on the show? I am almost fall on the floor laughing about it. I seriously doubt that either one of these guys have ever been considered “cool” before Idol. They were in the geek squad. I remember high school, and how rough it was for the artistic kids. They were either made fun or, or forgotten about. JD has those facial tics, and Casey is a walking talking facial tic. I am half floored, and half fall on the floor laughing, that these “geeks” are getting the cool kid treatment on national TV. Either way I am on the floor and glad for them. They didn’t deserve to be called “geeks” in the first place.

While I’m down here, though, I wonder what Haley thinks about it. She doesn’t seem to be part of the Idol clique. I can hear her thinking; “Hey guys, I’m cool too, right? I’m not Meg Griffin, am I? Why are you treating me this way?” Let’s just hope that Nigel doesn’t hog-tie her and drag her down to the judges table and brand her. Yes, that happened to Meg on Family Guy. Haley deserves better, doesn’t she?

Stefano, “Closer” Neyo

Stefano has a good O-face. We get it. Ok, how about some foreplay? This song is just more O-face singing.

I was bored by his vocal, but I did like how he moved on the stage. Stef has always looked like he was trying too hard, but tonight he looked confident out there. He’s been better vocally, but this was the first time that he looked like he felt comfortable. Overall? I dunno. I liked his restraint early, but he didn’t make the blow-off work. Previously he always started out too big, and didn’t give himself room to crescendo. Tonight he gave himself room, but he didn’t deliver the O-face. It’s all inexperience. Stef is really good, but he is also really raw.

Judges: Restrained, but nice. They didn’t say it, but they were underwhelmed by the performance. It was the opposite of Stef’s previous performances. He never used to give any foreplay. Tonight he concentrated on the foreplay, but he never got around to the O-face. That’s progress. If Stef survives, he is still growing.

Lauren: “Born to Fly” (Sara Evans)

I love this song, and I love Sara Evans. She is so sweet and soooo sexy; with her dark skin, dark eyes, dark hair, and that dark chocolate butter cream voice… The melody and the rhythm of this song are both complicated enough; if Lauren just hits the notes and the rhythms I’ll be impressed. I don’t think that it’s the kind of song that leaves room to be reworked into something weird, so I expect Lauren to simply sing it; and try to sing it well. This is not an easy song to sing. Miley was easy. Sara isn’t quite that easy….

Good. Forgettable. Enough. Just like Scotty. Lauren needs to have a moment soon. This performance was plenty good enough to get her to the next round, but nothing that anyone will want to listen to over and over. I want to hear the I-tunes version. My guess is that it is really good. This isn’t the kind of song that works in 2 minutes. Sara’s full version is over 5 minutes. Lauren was terrific, but she wasn’t allowed any room to do something special.

Judges: That was weird, Steven looking at his notes to tell Lauren about the other artists that she should sing. Excuse me, but that had to be planned ahead. So much for spontaneous judging. It didn’t make any sense. I did like what Jen said. She is telling Lauren to go big; take some time to see what she can do tomorrow that she couldn’t do today. Grow, kiddo, don’t get scared by the competition and lean on what you did last week. Ok, you are 16. Don’t let that limit you. It’s just a number.

Lauren has the potential to make herself that moment, but she is fighting herself; her inertia. “I’m just Lauren” sounds cute, but it’s also a cop-out. Lauren should be telling herself: “I’m so young that I should be crapping out a new talent every day, seven new talents a week. By May, I should be so much better than I am now that nobody will recognize me.

If she takes it on, and works her butt off, she can win. She has the voice, and she isn’t a moron. She certainly has the drive. Can she figure it out? I am skeptical, not because Lauren isn’t capable but because Lauren isn’t getting any time at all to think. She is 16, and living in a very intense and strange world. Idol generally chooses older singers, because they have already thought about the things that need to be thought about ahead of time. Lauren (and Scotty, don’t forget) are working all of this out on the fly, with no real experience.

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Grades (hard grading, again):

Scotty- C (boring and forgettable, but he sang well)

James- C+ (would have been a D- before the Muse approval; I really thought it sucked huge donkey rocks)

Haley- B- (would have been a B+ or A- if it was at the right tempo)

Jacob- C (too out of tune to give credit for emotion)

Casey- B- (not his fault that his guitar solo wasn’t loud enough. Vocal was nice, but not amazing)

Stefano- C+ (no blowoff, but way better body language)

Lauren- B- (she did do some cool things to the song, but she missed one of the glory runs)

Haley was probably the best tonight. Casey was fine, Scotty laid another coat of Teflon, Lauren was solid, JD got the judges pass, Jacob was emotional and restrained – and out of tune… and Stefano’s body made strides while his voice took a backwards step.

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Safe to in Danger:

Locks:

Scotty

James

Mild Danger:

Casey

Lauren

Grave Danger:

Haley

Jacob

Stefano

I have a feeling that one of the locks or milds will land in the bottom three this week, and maybe even get tossed. Idol, this year, has a pattern of obvious one week, and shocker the next week. If that continues, this is one of the shocker weeks. Lauren is the one that I worry about more than anyone else. Her voting pattern is that of a solid contender, but not the leader. These types of contestants are the ones that suddenly get tossed, like Pia, if their voting bloc gets lazy. Casey should have his voters motivated because he was the bottom vote-getter before, and he was given solid praise this week. Haley was terrific, and she has been in the bottom 2 more than once, so if she has any fans they will keep her safe. Stefano is the current “vote for the worst” guy, whether it’s deserved or not. His fanbase will be on it. Jacob is shaky, but he is about the last one standing among several specific demographics and he got a positive spin tonight. He will probably be in the bottom three, but be the first one sent to safety. Scotty ain’t going anywhere. JD sucked, but he was slurped. He is fine.

Predictions:

Yeah, right. How did that go with Pia? No predictions this week. I have my pride. I do know this weird guy, who looks nothing like me, and he thinks the bottom three will be:

Jacob

Stefano

Lauren

Haley or Lauren will go home this week. That’s my prediction. I don’t know that guy Terry. I might be using reverse psychology, but prove it.

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