Wednesday, March 23, 2011

TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT MY FACE:  (Adam:) So, Kim, it's "Songs Released By Motown Records" night on Idol -- as opposed to "Motown Night," because there's no way Stefano gets to butcher Lionel Richie's 1984 "Hello" on the latter. Anyway, I can quickly separate tonight's singers into three groups:
  • Competent Singers Who Performed Well: Scotty, Pia, Jacob, Lauren, and Naima ... but that dance at the end? Once she stopped, I was waiting for someone to sing "She's Your Queen To Be."
  • Competent Singers Who I Didn't Like As Much As Dan Did: Casey's whole pose was too angry for "Heard It Through The Grapevine." Paul was just kinda there, and James just didn't do it for me. (I think there's something about "Living for the City" that, for me, resists being covered by a white guy on a karaoke show.) But they're all sexually non-threatening white guys, so they're safe.
  • They're In Trouble: Thia was fine, I thought, but she's got no support anyway and is inherently at risk. As Dan rightly tweeted, Haley Reinhart is scarnatoing her way out of the competition, but I think Stefano's the one who actually goes home. Boys are safe this early in the competition unless they're at all "ethnic" -- and Stefano is likely to join Jorge Nunez, David Hernandez, Chikezie Eze and Andrew Garcia among those who fell early.
Turning the mic over to Kim (is there some more 21st century way to do that?) for response:
  • No! I Am Not Looking For You! I totally agree with Adam on the bottom three. Stefano was painful. Once David Cook performed whoever-it-was's version of Hello, any straight version of the song was going to feel anachronistic, and Stefano's bombast threw it back even further. Ick. He deserves to go home even without the "ethnic" slant. I continue to like Haley's voice, but it's not enough to keep her around. And even though Thia finally heeded a bit of advice and stepped out of the ballad box (unlike a certain other performer), her Heatwave didn't have enough heat to ignite any real interest.
  • Set Me Free, Why Doncha Babe? I'm not sure which was worse for me: Scotty's cheesy-assed aw shucks take on For Once in My Life or Pia's utter unwillingness to sing anything that isn't a ballad. I feel a little better about Pia since the judges let her have it for the nth consecutive performance in her Celineathon, but praising Scotty for once again sitting down firmly in his box is just annoying.
  • You're All I Need to Get By: Doing their thing and doing it well were Casey, Naima, and Lauren. (And kudos to Adam for the totally perfect Coming to America reference.)
  • You'll See My Smile Looks Out of Place: On the one hand, I was glad to see Paul pick up his guitar tonight -- it anchored him to the ground in a way that he so desperately needed this week. And I was so glad to hear someone on the show this season -- anyone -- express a desire to reinterpret a song. But Paul apparently could not resist the urge to flash his shiny teeth at America once again, grinning his way through such an emotional song. The judges danced around the issue, telling him that they liked the "tender" bit at the end instead of slapping him upside the head and saying "hey, idiot, Tracks of My Tears isn't a feel-good anthem!"
  • You Really Got a Hold on Me: Tonight convinced me of two things: there was a single best performance, and there might be a single best performer. I have been moaning about Jacob Lusk for weeks, and tonight he got the memo that maybe, just maybe, he might want to dial it back just the tiniest bit and see what happens. That You're All I Need was loaded with nuance and interesting little riffy things and I thought it was just fantastic. And then there's James Durbin. I know Adam thinks this isn't his show, and maybe it's not. But every week, I want to see what James is going to sing and how he's going to sing it -- which is more than I can say for anyone else on this box-like-a-prison season. I am no Stevie Wonder fan, as I have mentioned on this blog maybe a million times, but James was interesting. If he can pull something like a Mad World out of his pocket, he could become a player.


  1. Maggie11:55 PM

    Something must be wrong with me - I really hated Jacob's performance and kind of like Naima's.  On twitter, Linda Holmes described Scotty as "a block of cheese wrapped in a ton of corn," which I think may be a perfect description. 

  2. Daniel Fienberg11:55 PM

    Too angry for "Heard It Through the Grapevine"? It's a song about a dude hearing rumors that that his girlfriend is cuckolding him with an ex. Isn't anger OK in that situation?


  3. Hobart12:05 AM

    Yeah, I blame the California Raisins for ruining what that song is actually about.  Of course, 8 year old me was all about some California Raisins.

  4. It was downright hostile. Maybe it's still the afterglow of last week, but I'm wondering if he has a second emotion he can convey through song, or if everything just feels too intense.

  5. Fred App12:11 AM

    I agree with Dan: Anger is the right emotion for "Grapevine." True, Marvin Gaye's version was more distraught than angry, but I think Casey's was closer to the CCR version. They both work, in my mind.

    On the other hand: Smiley jumping around is NOT the right emotion for "Tracks of My Tears." And anyone who thinks "Livin' for the City" is a song full of hope hasn't really paid attention to the lyrics, or to the little spoken vignette that plays out at the end on Stevie's album. (Really? "Get in that jail cell, nigger" is an optimistic perspective on our judicial system?) Good Lord, James Durbin made Taylor Hicks' version of the song sound downright somber; at least Taylor didn't ask anyone to clap their hands.

    Speaking of emotion: I don't think Jacob has a chance in hell of winning, but he's the only one with the potential to blow you away, which he did here. Marvin Gaye's version of the song was soulful. Jacob's version was praise-the-Lord joyful. It sounded more like he was singing to Jesus than to a lover, but either way, it certainly was moving. When he's able to capture the emotion of a song like that, without over-the-top histrionics, he can be an awfully powerful performer.

  6. PiledHighandDeep12:21 AM

    I had that Lionel Richie album on cassette, and I remember the first time I heard "Hello."  I knew instantly it would be released as a single and be a huge hit.  Though I'm no longer caught in teeny-bopper pop music land, I still have a soft spot in my heart for that song.  It is gentle, it is nervous, it is a tentative love letter (put the stupid video out of your mind...), it is NOT a bombastic screamfest, and I hope that Stefano goes home for that misstep.  He was warned, very appropriately, by Iovine not to do that, and he did it anyway. 

    Thia=boring, I'm sorry to say, so it might be her.

    I really only had a bottom two tonight...most of the rest was at least interesting.  James is really wonderful, and he chose just a fantastic song.  That song always moves me, but his version was also very moving in its own way.

  7. I'd be very surprised if Haley does NOT go home tomorrow night.  The others in danger - Stefano, Thia, maybe Paul - all have either fanbases or some goodwill built up in previous performances.  Haley's been bottom-feeding since the finals started, and that was NOT a good performance.

    Pia and Naima were my favorites of the night.  I really want Pia to switch it up -- she's probably got the best *voice* of the finalists, but I want her to show some personality, like Kelly's "Stuff Like That There".  And there's a chance that Naima could just be (to borrow a Sepinwall-approved phrase) cuckoo bananas, but that was a fantastic performance.  More, please.

  8. Jenn.1:11 AM

    Good-plus:  I enjoyed Naima, Scotty, and Lauren the best this week.

    Good: Pia (who really needs to shake things up, as she's boring me to bits), James (although the screech annoyed me)

    Fair: Paul, Jacob---two performers whom I have not enjoyed, but I won't be bitter when they aren't in the bottom three this week.

    Weak: Stefano, Thia, Casey (so tired of the screaming), 

    Very weak: Haley

    Just a thought:  If Stefano goes home, maybe, instead of being because of his ethnicity, maybe it would reflect that he oversang an outdated version of a song that was previously nailed by an Idol winner?  I mean, I think that Haley is going to go home, but if the bottom three is, say, Stefano, Thia, and Haley, to me, that would reflect that they were three of the weakest performers this week.

  9. Cecilia6:43 AM

    This season is better than last year, but it really reminds me of those middle Idol years.  The ones where the newness of the show had worn off a little and everyone just stood there and sang what felt like the same songs over and over.  It's making me miss people like David Cook -- where I looked forward every week to what he was going to do and make me really listen to the song he chose.  No one's really doing that for me this year, at least not yet.

  10. There aren't angry lyrics:

    <span>I know a man ain't supposed to cry
    But these tears I can't hold inside
    Losin' you would end my life you see
    'cause you mean that much to me
    You could have told me yourself
    That you loved someone else</span>

  11. I'm starting to look forward to Paul every week.  Damn if his voice isn't the most interesting and unique thing we've ever heard on Idol.  And I'm a straight man, but boy is that smile intoxicating (lyric-appropriateness notwithstanding).

  12. I agree with the kinda boring sentiment about the season, but last night, honestly, was pretty good considering the last few weeks. I mean, no one said "pitchy"? It's got to mean something when Randy cuts out one of the four things he actually says. As for the performances:

    Casey: A little to raisin-y and not enough emotional connection to the song. Dude's gonna have to find his groove again pretty soon. Either way, safe.

    Thia: Don't call it a comeback, but it might be enough to save her. This week. She's starting to show enough potential. Still not into her, but if she can get the entire state of Hawaii to vote for her...oh wait. Never mind. Still, likely bottom-three this week.

    Jacob: Restrained after the last few weeks, but I feel his performance was overrated a bit. He's a little too affected. Needs to find some depth and subtety. Safe, though.

    Pia: Again, great vocal. Needs to find some energy. Even Whitney wanted to dance with somebody. Easily safe.

    Lauren: Finally showed some clean vocal ability. A step in the right direction for her. Wasn't my favorite performance, but good. Safe.

    Naima: So, despite the oddness of the dancing (though with Nigel and Shankman in the houise, they could've judged So You Think You Can Sing and Dance), was pretty good...though pitchy. Surprised they didn't call her on it. Still, she's one of the more original contestants they have. Not sure this is enough to keep her out of the bottom three. I'd say 50/50 vs. Thia (Stefano and Haley are almost guaranteed).

    Haley: Please. Make. It. Stop. The preciousness, the attitude, and the complete lack of a clean vocal or interesting performance continues. She needs to go. Some people like her voice, sure, but the growly thing has been done. And done. And still doesn't work. Be surprised if she's not the one going home (see also Stefano).

    James: I really liked this performance. Didn't think her got the lyrics, per se, but it was nicely done. A little too Adam Lambert, I think, but that's his vibe. Safe, though.

    Paul: Umm. All I have to say is...umm. Still don't get it, but the guitar helped. Think he missed the boat on the song though. And honestly, after the Lambert performance with Smokey *there*, I'm not sure I would've gone for that. That all being said, pretty sure Smiles is safe.

    Scotty: Good. Not great, but good that he found a way to keep it in his "wheelhouse." For us country fans, that's where he needs to be. He needs to find a way to feel more authentic on stage and to really dig into his lower register (I thought he could've gone deeper on that last note), but he's getting there. For you non-country fans, not sure what to say to help. Country only has four notes. It's what you do with them that counts. So, y'all might be a bit bored over time. Alright, so I'm exaggerating a bit, but Scotty's not going to be the type of country artist that explores new musical ground. He's got that old school vibe. Either way, he's safe and then some.

    Stefano: What, in the name of all that's holy, were you thinking, dude? Not only did you pick the one song I thought you should avoid when Seacrest said "Lionel Ritchie," but you went and chose a song utterly mastered by a previous Idol *winner*, and then, on top of all that, totally missed the point of the song and failed to connect to your audience? You're in the bottom three, for sure, and if somehow, Haley's not the one going home, you better bet your patootie on the Judges Save.

    Anyone *still* reading this? ;)

  13. Still reading it.  Utterly agreeing with it, although I thought that Naima had better pitch this week than you did.

  14. isaac_spaceman12:34 PM

    Sounds pretty angry to me.  And even if you think it should be about sadness (or about raisins), you can respect the reinterpretation.   

  15. isaac_spaceman12:37 PM

    I was going to say the same fucking thing about "Livin' for the City."  The smile and the little jig -- Jesus Christ.  The only way that that song sounds optimistic and full of hope enough for a smile and a jig is if you are a white supremacist. 

    Stefano's miniature soul patch plus detatched goatee is an homage to Randy Jackson's miniature soul patch plus detached goatee. 

  16. victoria12:51 PM

    My rankings:

    1. Naima. So I had a hard time ranking 1-4; in my mind each one could legitimately be the best performance of the night but they all have some flaws. I thought of the four performances that seemed "complete" to me, Naima's was the one with the fewest flaws, so I'ma put her first. I still hope she's the last woman standing and I loved the dance break. She sang mostly on-key tonight to boot.

    2. Paul. I get the YMMV factor with him, but I happen to love his voice. The guitar helped a ton. I also thought that -- Adam Lambert slaying this aside -- this was a shrewd song choice, especially the moments where he broke his strangely flourescent smile. It was kind of a way of saying "This chicken dance! It is camouflage for the PAIN I carry with me all the time!" whether that's true or not.

    3. Jacob. This wasn't the transcendent performance the judges seemed to think it was but it was very good. The first performance of his I've liked, though I didn't see "A House Is Not a Home".

    4. James. The pathos of that song went completely over his head, and the end was overdone, but I do think on the whole it was entertaining and really well-sung.


    5. Thia. She's kind of got the David Archuleta dead, dead eyes going, doesn't she? I appreciate that she made an effort to move some. It's a deceptively hard song to sing and I thought the vocal was very good. She and Pia both give me the vibe that they sing because they are good at singing and want to be good at something, rather than because they love music.

    6. Pia. Best voice in the competition, yeah, but that was a soporific song choice and she seemed unusually wavery in the beginning to boot.


    7. Scotty. I am now rooting for Nine Inch Nails night, because I have always wanted to hear Garth Brooks cover "Closer," and that's as close as I'm likely to get.

    8. Casey. He is no longer my presumptive winner (that would be James), though I think he's safe for quite awhile longer. I find his schtick basically entertaining but more schticky by the week. Big upgrade from Sandler does Nirvana, though.


    9. Lauren. I liked her performance last week but I don't think twanging this song up worked. The vocal was more or less in tune but very thin and nasal. Not as energetic as usual either. And most importantly, I stand with the rest of society in condemning fifteen-year-olds giving Randy Jackson lapdances.


    10. Stefano. You know how people will sometimes compliment a great singer by saying they make it look easy? Stefano has a great voice, but he makes it look SO FUCKING HARD. Awful song choice for obvious reasons, too.

    (Marianas Trench)

    15 gazillion. Haley. Good lord, that was terrible. So she was 1.) in danger previously; 2.) a complete trainwreck and; 3.) right in the middle of the show on a good night? Plus the other people I would've pegged as in serious danger beforehand (Naima, Paul, Jacob, arguably Thia) were among the best of the night? This is going to be the least suspenseful elimination ever.

    Also, my husband pointed out that James looks just like Ianto from Torchwood, and now that I've seen it, I can't un-see it.

  17. isaac_spaceman1:30 PM

    I agree that Craig's pitch was not as good as Naima's. 

  18. I know that Jacob has a quality voice but the "singing to Jesus" thing, the every song is a hymn thing, just drives me crazy.  Is it possible for him to be soulful without being "churchy"?

  19. Nigel from Cameroon1:53 PM

    Lots of race chat here, so I'll ask in a non-threatening way:

    Adam, is the thesis that the reason Jorge Nunez, David Hernandez, Chikezie Eze and Andrew Garcia Stefano, among others went home is primarily because voters found them to be too ethnic? Is there some correlation to performance, personality, and Q?

    Because Stefano is cute, gets pimped by the judges (or at least the hot one), but also just kind of sucks. But if he goes home tonight, it's because of his ethnicity?

  20. Jorge (Agador Spartacus) was actively bad, and I'd argue Chikezie is the only one of the group who really went prematurely.  But I do believe that there were similarly situated (or worse) singers who lasted longer each time, and usually at least one white guy among them; minority singers don't have the same voting cushion early on:

    Garcia: Tim Urban and Aaron Kelly survived him.
    David/Chikezie: Ramiele, Kristy Lee
    Brandon Rogers: Chris Sligh, Haley Scarnato

  21. Jenn.2:56 PM

    I would say that Chikezie is the only one who went prematurely, but it wasn't really a surprise that he left the week that he did---he was boring the week that he went.  Basically, Chikezie wandered between boring songs (when he ended up in the bottom 3) and strong, interesting performances (when he did not).  David Hernandez was hurt by the male-stripper thing---a bad song was enough to get him tossed.

    Looking at WNTS, Andrew Garcia had the worst ratings of the night that he got bounced by 26 points.  By that, I mean that the second-worst person had a 26-point higher rating.

    There wasn't nearly as strong a differential for Brandon Rogers---he was second-worst, actually a bit higher than Sanjaya.  But, you know?  His rating that week was a 12.  I seem to recall him blowing the lyrics pretty significantly and getting thrown by the error.  So a 12 makes sense to me, and I can't see too much room for complaint when someone gets knocked out after earning a 12.