Final 8 perform

Songs from the 1980’s is the theme tonight, with Gwen Stefani mentoring (music mentor, not fashion mentor, thank God). I sent a list of songs to Bob and Mindy, songs that I would personally like to hear them sing (the contestants, not Bob and Mindy). I was oh-fer. My list:

Deandre: “She Drives me Crazy” (Fine Young Cannibals)

Elise: “Kiss Me Deadly” (Lita Ford)

Phil: “I’m on Fire” (Bruce Springsteen)

Joshua: “Don’t Say a Prayer” (Paul Carrack)

Jessica: “The Warrior” (Scandal)

Hollie: “Walking on Sunshine” (Katrina and the Waves)

Colton: “I Melt With You” (Modern English)

Skylar: “Little Rock” (Reba McIntyre)

Ryan announced, yesterday morning, that he was going to work on the Summer Olympics. That was a huge relief. I thought he was going to announce that he was taking over the Today Show. Idol can live without just about anyone – but not Ryan. He’s gonna be one tough cookie to replace.

The singers, the songs:

Deandre, “I Like It” (Debarge)

He packed a lot into the performance and hit some nice notes, especially with his chest voice. His song choice was a good one. Now the bad news: He hit some of the wonkiest notes of any Idol in several weeks. His falsetto was fine when he was hitting the notes of the triad, but he missed pretty much every blue note, and he missed them badly. It wasn’t as painful as it would have been had he missed the primary notes, though. Most of his misses were passing notes. Still, it was too intonationally sloppy to give him more than a B-

Elise, “I Wanna Know What Love Is” (Foreigner)

Terrible song choice. Elise sees herself as a rocker, and she IS a rocker by today’s standards, but 1980’s rockers didn’t trill like that. They powered up and threw it in your face. Elise was her usual terrific self on her hard notes, and she sang the holy crap out of the last chorus, but her phrasing on the early, lower parts were off putting. Her intonation was just fine, but her phrasing was sub-standard and inappropriate for the song. She might have thought that softening the song up would work. Well, it didn’t. Grading it is hard, because Elise sang very well, but the song was a terrible song for her. I’ll itemize. Song choice: C-. Creative concept: D-. Phrasing: D-. Intonaton: A-. Delivery: A. Stage presence: A. Appearance: A-. Overall: C+

Colton/Skylar, “Islands in the Stream” (Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton)

It was originally a Bee Gees song, but who cares? Dolly and Kenny owned it, and so did Skylar and Colton. The performance was basically just karaoke, but the best kind of karaoke in my opinion. Both of them represented their lead parts (Skylar sounded even better than Dolly did), and both of them nailed their harmony parts. A karaoke performance like this always brings down the bar, and the kids brought down the Idoldome.

The judges all seemed surprised at how good they sounded, which makes me wonder if they trainwrecked the dress rehearsal.

Phil, “That’s All” (Genesis)

For some of the song I was just enjoying the groove, and this was a really good song choice for Phil’s style. It was cool that he got his brother up there with him, but….. BUT…:

Why does Phil get such a huge pass for doing the same thing week after week, when nobody else gets that pass? Why can Phil sing out of tune, week after week, and nobody gets on him for it? Why does Phil get the “musician” tag when all he does is strum his guitar? I can play guitar as well as he can, for chrissakes, and that’s not even my second best instrument.

I ain’t mad about it, I like Phil, but the “Emperor has no clothes” effect is there even more than ever now. I enjoy his performances – BUT. Having his brother in law up there with him was premature, wasn’t it? There are eight contestants left. I wasn’t impressed with him, either. I’ll give the groove an A (loved the groove), but the rest of the performance was barely above an F. Overall I’ll give him a C-. I’m being kind, honestly. If any of the women had sung like that the judges would have just destroyed them. Phil sucked, even by Phil standards. I’ll give him credit for the ending, that was much better, but the rest of the song was a horrible train wreck.

Deandre/Hollie, “I’m So Excited” (Pointer Sisters)

Deandre was really loose, dancing around and moving freely while Hollie was about as graceful (and animated) as a corpse tossed out the back of a panel van. Both of them sounded good, but Deandre won that battle too. I was impressed with his harmony, while Hollie didn’t sing any harmony. She can, she just didn’t tonight. I give Deandre a B+, but Hollie just a C. Her voice was its usual B or better, but everything else was pretty awkward. Can someone train-wreck their stage presence? Hollie just did, so I guess it can happen. Oh, and who the hell dressed her? She looked like she lost a bet or something.

Aside, Judge interlude:

Steven: Song choice, song choice, song choice. I like Steven more and more on the show, and if he can get juuuuuust a little bit more honest I’ll love him on the show.

Jen: Am I the only one who is sick of her constant shilling for Deandre? I like the kid, but J-Lo is supposed to be impartial, isn’t she? She does this all the time, and it irritates the crap out of me. Simon’s largest fault wasn’t his meanness, it was his bias. Jen is much nicer about things, but she has a huge bias problem too. Someone needs to call her on it.

Randy: He ticked me off earlier, but he nailed it here: “if they sing the song great, who cares what song they sing?” Well done, Randy. That was…… brief….. He started ranting about “who’s gotta have it” and all that crap, and I lunged for my remote to hit fast forward.

Joshua, “If you don’t know me by Now” (Harold Melvin/Simply Red)

I don’t care how well he sings the song; I’ll still believe that it was the wrong song choice. Josh, my man, please quit doing these overwrought ballads every week, ok? We know you can kill songs like this already. You are probably safe for a couple of weeks right now, so this is the time to show your versatility. You can’t make an interesting album without that versatility, and if you don’t show it toAmericanow it might be too late in a couple of weeks.

Ok, I got my angst out already so I can just say amazing again, Josh. It’s an A, A, A, A…. He reminds me so much of Johnny Mathis it’s scary, but Mathis didn’t have that extra gear in his upper range that Josh does. I tend to be negative about Josh because of the Lusk experience last year, but it’s time to give that up. Josh isn’t going to turn into Lusk, and even if he does a little – so what? Lusk’s problem was intonation and a lack of connection; like he was doing calisthenics instead of blocking out a song. Josh has dammed near perfect intonation, and he seems to know how to deliver a song instead of just doing a bunch of “look what I can do” runs.

Of the singers so far, Josh has clearly won the night. Ok, my man, how about something completely different next week? I still hate the song choice. You blew it up? Terrific. It might have been one of the better Idol performances ever, and it’s at least on the short list for this year, but so what? You sang an overwrought ballad and you blew it out the back of the building, but so what? We already know you can do that. You aren’t winning the voters over with it, so you need something else. You need to find another gear to win the competition; to be something more than just a niche singer. You have it in you; we can hear it in snippets during the group songs. Show us.

Oops, Randy is raving again. Where’s that ****ing remote?

Jessica, “How Will I Know” (Whitney Houston)

Jessica was dressed really weird. It looked like she was wearing her older sister’s clothes, taken in several inches to fit her tiny little body……. This was a safe, nice, seeya next week performance. Jessica is so good that she can get away with it, and still grade out very well. I liked the choice, even if I cringed when I found out that it was another freaking Whitney song. She didn’t do much with it other than just sing it well, but the one thing that she did do impressed me. Last year Haley got a lot of praise for her growl, and she used it heavily, especially early, to survive. Jessie has an even better growl than Haley; hers is harder and more powerful. Haley used hers to break up melodies, and avoid her lower range weakness. Jessica uses hers as a hammer, to punctuate and make points. I can’t give an A for such a copycat, karaoke styled performance, but giving her anything less than a B+ would mean that I am judging her by a higher standard.

Phil/Elise, “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” (Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty)

Phil sounded terrific, looked terrific, and his harmonies impressed the hell out of me. Elise would have sounded terrific too, had I been able to hear her. They turned her mic down halfway through the song; right after Phil put his hand on his ear. Before that she was terrific. After that she was a rumor.

Hollie, “Flashdance (What a Feeling)” (Irene Cara)

Flashdance was a decent song choice for her voice, but her execution was sloppy and she shied away from opportunities to blow the song up. She sang confidently on the power notes, but she was all over the place on everything else. B- because her voice is too good to be anything less without a train wreck, but a B- won’t be good enough this time. She at least had the in-ear this time, in one ear. It didn’t do her any good, because she doesn’t have the experience to take advantage of it.

Hollie is consistent as hell, in both good ways and bad ways. She hits the huge, signature notes but she misses the blue, complicated notes. She is fearless on the stage, but she is also clueless on the stage. She will be fine once she knows what she is doing, but by then we will have forgotten about her.

The judges were trying really hard to be nice to her, but they can’t sugarcoat the fact that she just isn’t experienced enough to survive at this level. I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t go home tomorrow night. I’ll miss her, and it ticks me off that J-Lo keeps shilling for Deandre, but they sang together tonight and Deandre kicked her butt. It’s Hollie’s turn to get dumped.

Jessica/Joshua, “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” (George Michael/ArethaFranklin)

Idol is basically a karaoke contest; the duets tonight are really bringing that point home to me. It’s just not the same thing to copy a song as it is to invent a song. That said there is karaoke, and there is KARAOKE. These kids dominated tonight in their individual performances, and they were maybe even better together. Josh and Jess are two of the fifteen to twenty best singers Idol has produced in their eleven years, and they made mincemeat out of this song. It was masterful, and they made it look easy.

Colton, “Time after Time” (Cyndy Lauper)

I give the arrangement, in the context of Idol’s mission, an absolute A+. Brilliantly visualized, flawlessly executed, this was one of those arrangements that SHOULD have produced a moment. Colton deserves huge kudos for that, and he’ll get them in my grade, BUT:

He sang it well enough for an album cut or a concert performance, but he didn’t sing it well enough for Idol. He didn’t make it a moment. Colt has a good voice, but he doesn’t have the kind of huge voice that this arrangement demanded. It was really good, but in a “hey, good thinking” way more than an “oh my GOD that was amazing!!” kind of way. A+ for the thought, but B+ for the execution. All that said, I would love to hear Colt and Gwen duet this arrangement at the finale. THAT would be a moment.

The judges were careful to avoid judging Colt’s voice, and give him props for his arrangement. Colt credited a band named “Quiet Drive”for the arrangement. I still give Colt credit. David Cook, Adam Lambert, Crystal Bowersox, Kat McPhee, Chris Daughtry, Fantasia Barrino, they all made Idol moments by using obscure arrangements of popular songs. Colt showed his savvy by doing the same thing. Well done.

Skylar, “Wind beneath My Wings” (Bette Midler)

“9 to 5” would have been fine, a good choice for Skylar, but she picked the right song. A-; lack of emotional connection and some rushed phrasing are my only quibbles. I had tears at the end.

I think of Skylar, in Idol terms, as the new Kelly Pickler. In that battle, I would take Skylar. She has a better tone, more power, and a more interesting face by far. Kelly is sort of a generic blonde while Skylar looks like a young Reba. Who ya gonna take? Kelly has done really well inNashville. I expect Skylar to do very well, too. Give her some good songs, and she’ll get rich.

Safe to in Danger:

This is easy. Hollie and either Elise or Deandre will be standing together at the end of the night, and Hollie will be the bottom vote-getter. Hollie will sing for her life (badly out of tune), get told no, and go home to get ready for the Idol tour.

That’s almost too easy, isn’t it? This could be the week; the week when Idol has a shocker of a result. Hollie is the only contestant that they won’t save, so if it’s anyone else they will all be back next week.