Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Standard deviants

Well, we didn't exactly get a time capsule "American Idol" performance on Rod Stewart Sings The Great American Songbook Night Even Though You'd Rather Hear His 8 Billionth Performance of "Maggie Mae" Night, but overall, this was the best show of these finals since '50s Night. When you devote an entire night to standards, you're assured that the songs are all going to be great -- and, more interestingly for "Idol," that the performances will be less about vocal gymnastics than stage presence and emotion. Only one real stinker, though it was the one you probably would have predicted when they announced the theme. In order...

Chris Daughtry, "What a Wonderful World": For a split-second, I thought he was going to do the Joey Ramone version, but my hat's off to Chris for doing it completely straight and doing it well. Understated and pretty, which are two adjectives you wouldn't think you could use to describe a Chris Daughtry performance, yet he pulled it off without seeming like a chameleon phony. Plus, how often do you see the ascot/chain-wallet combination? And do you think Randy could come up with a compliment other than "da bomb" for this night?

Paris Bennett, "Foolish Things": Talk about a singer born 50 years too late. She sounded like she'd been playing the Blue Note for decades. Again, I buy her little girl with an old voice quality on older songs than when she's doing, say, Beyonce, but this was impeccable.

Taylor Hicks, "You Send Me": First of all, I think he meant to say "Humor's a great form of flattery," not the other way around, during that interminable Seacrest-erview about "SNL." The first half felt way too soft and without the gruff quality to his voice that makes even his bad performances interesting, and then midway through, he turned back into Taylor, for good (growly, passionate vocals) and for ill (that one spastic fist shake over and over and over and over). I would have liked a more natural transition from gear to gear, but he's in no danger.

Elliot Yamin, "It Had To Be You": He really should never be shown in tight closeup like that, though he did look good in the tuxedo jacket and pocket square. One of his more consistent vocals of the last few weeks, but I'm afraid he's at more risk than anybody else tonight. When there wasn't a significant difference among the vocals of the top five performers, then it comes down to personality, show placement, etc., and I don't think the larger audience has fallen in love with this guy.

Kellie Pickler, "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered": Like her performance of "Walking After Midnight" a while back, there was that weird vocoder quality that made some of her vowels sound like whale song. Even if she really is dumb enough not to know what "on paper" or "sal-mon" mean, she's smart enough to fall on her sword and apologize for the performance before the judges could tear her to pieces over it. Not that I'm going to watch it, but the results show is going to be a really interesting sign of how the rest of the season's going to play out. If Pickler's just another contestant, she at least makes the bottom three, even if she doesn't go home; if she's this personality-driven phenomenon I fear that she is, she won't make bottom three and you can pencil her into the final three right now with Chris and Taylor.

Ace Young, "That's All": Who the hell was that? No multi-layered t-shirts, no slack hair or anything; he actually looked the part. Almost sounded it, too, except for that stupid f'ing falsetto that Randy and Paula are in love with for reasons that completely baffle me. A very fine boy band rendition of a standard, and maybe enough to save his ass after being in danger for the last month or so.

Katharine McPhee, "Someone to Watch Over Me": A perfect match for her voice, though I don't know that I'd call her significantly better than Paris or Chris or even Elliot. The end of episode placement and Simon's raves seemed more about boosting a contestant TPTB like who hasn't quite caught on yet. It was great, yes, but not Kelly on "Stuff Like That There" great, or Fantasia on "Summertime" great, or any of the other "Idol" classics I've been name-checking for the last few weeks.

Should go home: Pickler
Will go home: Elliot, I fear; or maybe Ace's averageness kills him

What did everybody else think?

10 comments:

Wiccachicky said...

I've been voting for Elliot!! I don't want him to go home over crappy crappy Pickler!!

Shash said...

Pickler should go, but Elliot probably will fall.

I actualy voted for the first time tonight. I think something is wrong with me...

JA said...

McPhee is way overrated and worse, boring. We've seen her before when she was called "Kelly". For me, Paris was tops. She's just so completely versatile, moving from Queen to Billie effortlessly. Her voice even sounds different. She's really the closest "Idol" has ever had to a Whitney Houston (but without Whitney's pre-crack power vocals). I'm definitely ready to see Pickler or Ace go, since I don't need Carrie II and Ace just can't win. Once those two are gone, it's gonna be hell watching everyone else leave....

Kenji Fujishima said...

Alan:

Yeah I don't know why Simon so enthusiastically overpraised Katharine McPhee's performance; no way was it as good as Chris's or Paris's performances, imo. But I was happy to see Taylor pull out a great finish to his performance---and I didn't mind his hand movements at the end, b/c it seemed to come out of real involvement and passion in his performance.

undercover black man said...

Tonight my poker habit got in the way of my "AI" habit, and I missed Chris and Paris. Really sorry I missed Paris. But based on what I saw... I thought Taylor gave the best performance of the night.

Given the theme, I had the highest of expectations for Elliott and Katharine. But Elliott just didn't wow me. And as for Katharine... um, was she singing a song or selling Pepsodent? "Someone to Watch Over Me" is a song about yearning, and she was steady smiling like she didn't have a care in the world. If this were the Miss America pageant, she'd win in a walk... but this didn't rank in her own top two of "Idol" performances, let alone blow away the rest of the field.

Pickler, at the start, surprised me in a good way... seemed to be feeling the mood of the song. But somewhere along the way, never mind the off-pitch notes and losing step with the band, she slid into Stepford territory, and threw me out of her performance emotionally.

I hope this isn't the last we'll see of Elliott, but I fear otherwise.

dirtgirl said...

I love Sam Cooke and am a big Taylor fan, but the Cooke love won out tonight, and I actually didn't like what Hicks did to his song.

Kellie was just painful to listen to, but they seem to want to keep her around. Poor Elliott. I thought he was really good. Is there a boy band who needs a lead singer? Because I just don't see this guy as a solo act.

Sandi said...

I thought this was a singing contest! If so, shouldn't the worst singer get booted? It's a shame someone less talented could stay just because they make for a good story, i.e. Pickler.

Adam said...

It is not a singing contest, really, because it doesn't matter to Fox who wins. The purpose of American Idol is to convince you to watch the next American Idol. That's all.

I feel like in some order, Elliot/Ace/Paris will be the next three to go, and I don't know if the order matters.

lady t said...

Pickler was so stiff,she looked like one of those Barbie dolls that collectors kept mounted on special little stands and her singing was dull.

I don't get why anyone thinks Ace's falsetto is so good(his outfit made him look as he was on his way to a Sopranos audition)-McPhee is definately using the black arts to stay on the show but Ace doesn't strike me as the warlock type:)

The best performers of the night were Chris,Paris and Taylor-no Bottom Three for them!

Daniel said...

As much as I love Katharine, I'm still not convinced that she has any clue of what her appeal is and the producers also seem to be at a bit of a loss to exactly encapsulate her value. Last night was good enough for me, but not exactly right. I still think she's leaps and bounds ahead of any of the others in terms of being a package-able product for the marketplace. And the comparisons to Kelly Clarkson, while I was making them back in the Round of 24 (as Alan is my witness), aren't exactly right. Katharine has a different kind of voice (i.e. not as poppy and, probably, not as good) and look (vastly hotter for my money) and will probably put out a very different kind of album down the road. I don't think we're gonna suddenly see Rocker Katharine any time soon. But who knows.

Oh and Alan, can't read anything else on your blog because I've been in a TV diaspora for a week and I haven't seen ANYTHING.

Dan