Season 09

Final 5 Performance Night

Harry Connick Jr. will be the mentor tonight, as the contestants take a shot at ole’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. I know of a few of his songs, but I have no clue which ones will fit which singers. “Strangers in the Night” is probably my own personal Sinatra favorite, and I am guessing that someone will take that one on; Aaron, maybe? Big Mike is dressed to the hilt, and they are all dressed fairly formally.

Connick Jr. is going to back the contestants up with his own combo, which is kind of cool. Nothing against the Idol band members, who are terrific, but it might add some intimacy to the show. Sinatra’s daughters are in the crowd, includingNancy. She looks pretty good, but not like she did back in her “Boots” days. She looks like a NASCAR mom now, all the way up to the slick racing windbreaker.

The singers, the songs-

Aaron Kelly, “Fly Me to the Moon”

Last week might have been in Aaron’s country music wheelhouse, but this week was even more in his zone. This week he got the chance to show off his high school music program chops. He was as comfortable tonight as he was last week, doing the “other” musical style that he knows well. He was really, really good and, for the first time ever, I rewound and listened again.

I liked how he started it out slowly, next to the piano. He was a little bit awkward moving into tempo, but not terribly awkward. Once he got into tempo he soared fairly well. He did some nice upper range notes, and he was mostly in tune despite a fairly rangy melody. He avoided most of the blue notes, which was probably a good idea. His intonation isn’t mature enough to stand up to the master at his age. My only quibbles with his performance are trivial nitpicking. His voice isn’t mature enough yet, but he did his best with what he has available. The kid is good, even if he isn’t my cup of tea. I am not much on fashion, but I liked his look a lot. I’ve always liked the vest look anyway, and it reminded me of my own high school music days. For the first time I am warming to the kid. B+

The judges mentioned that he seemed to be a little bit “small” in his performance. I agree with that. His voice isn’t anything like the Sinatra that we’ve all heard from his later career, but I’ve heard some of Sinatra’s early stuff. Aaron’s voice isn’t all that different from Sinatra before the first ten thousand cartons of lucky strikes and the first five hundred gallons of Glenlivet.

Casey James, “Blue Skies”

Good choice for Casey, I think. It’s a very tough week for him. I won’t soon forget Leah Laurenti singing this song at her audition. Here’s a link to that:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbMdugy5CK8&feature=PlayList&p=56EC1853A9E7A5A6&playnext_from=PL&playnext=1&index=12

Casey doesn’t have the right voice for this genre, and that reared its head in his performance. He can’t sustain notes, and he can’t vibrato. Sinatra made a career out of sustaining notes and working his vibrato. Well, also nailing starlets, schmoozing mob bosses and punching out black jack dealers, but never mind that. Casey needed to be perfect in his phrasing, and he was good but not perfect. I like Casey, but this wasn’t nearly as good as Aaron and it might be the weakest of the night when they are all in the tank. Casey was in the bottom two last week. You can do the math. C-

Crystal Bowersox, “Summer Wind”

Hold on, I have to listen to that again….

Thank you, Mr. Connick, for that beautiful arrangement.Crystalwas understated and sweet, and the arrangement was one of the best that I’ve heard this season. It was soft when it needed to be soft, and it was big when it needed to be big. It started out here, and it made its way naturally and organically to there. Crystal didn’t hit every note perfectly (she was a little bit flat when they did the key change into the second verse and she missed one of her melody jumps a bit), but she wasn’t badly out of tune and she nailed her glory note right on the tuning fork.

This performance was, like Crystal’s own journey on the show, a very nice counterpoint along the way to the blow-off. Like Adam doing “Mad World”, it was the place where the audience gets to take a breath, relax and reset themselves for the mad trip to the end. Crystalstill looks somewhat nervous on stage, which is alarming, but she also looks achingly human when she smiles right into the camera. She has incredible eyes, very expressive. Get her back behind her guitar, and let her blow something up. The last couple of weeks have been like a root canal for the kid. Give her back her toys, ok? B+

Michael Lynche, “The Way You Look Tonight”

Mike looks just ridiculously sharp tonight, with the suit and the fedora…..

This was Mike’s best performance of the season, and by a mile. He was perfectly in his element. He was understated, not over the top. He set the key of the song perfectly, and his limited range was plenty enough to make this song soar, and make his glory notes resonate. He nailed his phrasing, and he nailed every single note. It was dynamically sound, meticulously performed, with not one hair out of place. I really liked it, and I listened back for fun (I never listen back to Mike’s performances, he usually bores me). A-

Lee Dewyze, “That’s Life”

Lee went for the whole act, played the part, and he was probably more animated onstage than he has ever been; but, man…

His vocal was so rhythmically and melodically off that the whole performance reminded me of drunken kamikaze karaoke. Casey’s performance was still probably the worst of the night, but that’s because Casey doesn’t have the proper skill set for Sinatra. Lee made a mess of a song that he should be able to sing the holy crap out of, because he worried too much about his look onstage. Oops… B-, but it really should have been an A- at worst. Lee popped up a fat changeup, right down the middle.

Safe to in danger-

Casey is going home tomorrow night unless something really weird happens. I like Casey a lot, for reasons that I’ve talked about already. If he is the one in the barrel, I’ll give him a good sendoff tomorrow night. The order:

Crystal

Mike

Lee

Aaron

Casey

Last thought-

Harry Connick Jr. was terrific tonight, in several ways. He arranged the performances, and the arrangements were the best of the season, if not the best in several seasons. The man knows how to block out a song as well as anyone, and it showed. He had the contestants inspired, and he got all of them to care about developing dynamics in their minute and a half. Because of this every performance seemed to be over too soon. None of them, even the weakest ones, seemed to drag on like they do in most weeks.

Harry is also funny as hell, and just a natural at banter. He comes off at all times as cool, natural and real. I come off liking him a lot, and I want to hang around with him. He would be the perfect guy to take Simon’s place at the judging table.

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