Instead of live blogging like I normally do; I decided to just sit back, relax, and watch the show from stem to stern. The theme was “now and then”, with each of the five contestants singing one contemporary song and one from the past. One for the tweeners and one for the tweeners’ mothers, so to speak. Let’s get to it….
The singers, the songs–
James went first in both rounds, starting with “Closer to the Edge” by 30 seconds to Mars. He sang well, as he always does, and the judges gushed, but I didn’t think that it was a very good fit for him. His bag of tricks isn’t all that well developed, so he sounds best when he has a powerful melody to work with. This song didn’t have much of a melody.
His second song, “Without You” by Badfinger, notably covered by Harry Nillson and Mariah Carey, was prefaced by some uncomfortable emotional demonstrations, edited for an effect that I didn’t think was appropriate. JD was fantastic in the lower range first half of the song but he was all over the place in the second half; out of tune and almost shouting at times. I wasn’t pleased by how much of a pass the judges gave him for his emotions, considering what they’ve been saying about other performances, but I don’t blame JD. He’s real, even though Idol seems hell bent on packaging his “realness”. Don’t get me wrong, JD was very good tonight. He wasn’t great, though.
Jacob was second in the rotation, starting with “No Air” by Jordin Sparks. He hit some good notes here and there but, like James, I didn’t think that this was the kind of song that Jacob can pull off. Idol has seen its share of train wrecks over the years, and they haven’t really had any this year since the first couple of rounds. This wasn’t a train wreck, but it wasn’t comfortable to listen to.
He followed up with “Love Hurts” by Boudleaux Bryant (Bryant also wrote “Rocky Top”; this song was originally a bluegrass song), covered by the Everly Brothers, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, and finally made most famous byNazareth. I really loved what he did to the first half of the song, but he lost me when he went all “Jacob” on the song at the end.
Lauren went third, starting with “Flat on the Floor” by Carrie Underwood. Since Lauren sounds a lot like Carrie she sounded very good vocally, but since she is a teenager that won’t have Carrie’s skill set for several years, her rhythm, movement and overall polish was lacking. I thought that it was a fairly sloppy and almost amateurish performance, but I did like how her voice matched up to the vocal. Lauren has a lot to learn about performing, but you can’t teach that kind of pure, sweet tone.
She followed that up with a weirdly disjointed arrangement of “Unchained Melody”. Lauren looked stunning, with all of her colors beautifully coordinated down to her butterfly ring and a very flattering hairdo, and she sounded like she always does, perfectly in tune other than maybe a note or two. The problem, to me, was that the arrangement was Readers’ Digest condensed and hard to follow. The overall effect was to make the whole thing kind of sleepy, and it never really took off.
Scotty went fourth, and started with a hot and charismatic performance of “Gone” by Montgomery Gentry. I give it moment status, more for his stage movement than for the vocal. Scotty was all over the place, and he really made it work. The crowd was blown away, and so were the judges. The kid shows something new every week, and this was the best performance of the night until – I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll get there.
He followed up the barn burner with a soft, sweet version of “You Were Always on my Mind”, made famous by Willie Nelson. Other than his flat, nasal sound on some of the held notes, it was signature Scotty and a solid performance by even his lofty standards. Scotty was extremely good tonight.
Haley got the pimp spot, and Jimmy I talked her into doing “You and I” by Lady Gaga. Remember that for a sec. Haley sounded terrific on the song, and other than some bare spots in her lower register (something that Haley needs to work on, it’s her weakest link) the performance was organic and very cool. Ok, remember how Jimmy talked her into doing this as yet unreleased song instead of something more familiar to the public? Well, the judges hammered Haley (not Jimmy, who they heard say that it was his idea about 2 minutes earlier; who basically forced Haley to sing it, but HALEY) for picking this song. They went on, and on, and on, and on, while Haley stood there and took it with her eyes getting darker and darker. That kid can smolder, can’t she? I wouldn’t want to be the one getting that look directed at me….
And then Haley closed the show with “House of the Rising Sun”. Sheryl Crow (oh, I forgot, she was the mentor tonight) told her to sing the first verse accapella, and then said that she hadn’t heard anyone do it that way before. Well, oops, Sheryl. Siobhan did that exact thing just last year in the semifinals. I’m Sha-Von’s biggest fan, so I was worried that this could be a serious train wreck. Haley was pissed, the judges seemed like they wanted to take her out and shoot her, and she was copying a premise that was done on the Idol stage a year ago.
Well, no train wreck here. Haley took her own wrecking ball to the song, ripped the doors off with her bare hands, and blew the crowd right through the back wall. She didn’t go for Siobhan’s sweet, lilting version. Haley went all in; going growly, scratchy, bluesy, with reckless abandon and passionate anger. In the middle of the song she pulled off a massive dynamic change that literally pulled me out of my chair, jumping up and holding my arms in the air and shouting “YEAH!!!!!!!”
That final look in her eyes as she surveyed the crowd reaction (screaming standing O, by the way) was perfect. “Take THAT, bitches!!!!!” To call this a mere moment would be faint praise. This was Haley’s vindication.
Safe to in Danger:
Scotty is way ahead on DialIdol so he is a near lock, but the other four are so close together that it could be any one of them. Haley is at the bottom, so she will almost certainly be in the hard chairs AGAIN. If this is it for her, though, she left triumphantly. Jacob should be the one gone by pure merit, but the extreme whiteness of the rest of the contestants gives him the kind of demographic support that might keep him on. James is second on the list and Lauren third, but as I said you could throw a washcloth over the bottom four. I hate to say it, but it wouldn’t be a shocker if even James got the boot. Scotty? That would be a shocker.