Wednesday, March 31, 2010

American Idol, Top 10: R&B/Soul Night

Due to the Passover holiday, as well as my own disenchantment with this season, I took the no-frills approach to watching "American Idol" this morning: just the 10 songs (plus the judges' comments on Andrew and Crystal, because I was busy doing something else for a moment during each). Quick thoughts on how things went just as soon as I point out that the bumblers producing and directing this show somehow ran a minute or two long even though they had 10 performances to sprinkle over two hours...

After mentioning in the column linked to above that Crystal and Siobhan were the only real reasons to watch, Siobhan turned in a complete stinker, while a couple of other contestants stepped up. Still not a great night overall, though.

Siobhan Magnus, "Through the Fire": Starts off bland, then turns disastrous quickly. If some of her previous performances were about showing off the power of her upper register, the message here was "with great power comes great responsibility to find the damn key and stay on it." Terrible.

Casey James, "Hold On (I'm Coming"):
Once again, Casey James being Casey James (and sounding oddly more like Huey Lewis than on last week's "Power of Love"). He has his one thing, he does it pretty well, and he at least made an attempt to step away from the mic stand for a moment. Definitely his most energetic performance to date, but there's not a lot of variance to what he does.

Michael Lynche, "Ready for Love": The blinding white spotlights didn't really suit the vibe of this relaxed, intimate ballad, and the idea that he was performing behind the judges kept distracting me. (I know other performers have done parts of songs on that riser, but the whole thing?) Solid but unspectacular on a night you figured Big Mike would own.

Didi Benami, "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted": I've got a high standard for blonde women singing this song, which is Joan Osborne's incredible cover of it from "Standing in the Shadows of Motown, and Didi doesn't have the range, power or confidence to do something like that. Instead, it was her usual sultry thing, a bit sleepier than usual, and her attempt at a big note just seemed goofy - like it was something she felt she should try, but not something she was comfortable doing.

Tim Urban, "Sweet Love": I will confess I started fast-forwarding about halfway through this one, in part because I was creeped out by the stalker eyes, in part because it's yet another Tim Urban arrangement that strips away anything remotely challenging about the song so he can be sure to hit the notes. Zzzz....

Andrew Garcia, "Forever":
Much, much better. Like Casey, Andrew's only got the one trick, but he's very good at it (and for some reason has attracted the judges' ire for sticking to it, while Casey gets a pass). Not only was he much more comfortable with the acoustic guitar again, but his voice again sounded crisp and clear, where he's had a lot of pitch issues the last few weeks.

Katie Stevens, "Chain of Fools":
Speaking of high bars, this is Fantasia's song as far as "Idol" is concerned. (I wonder if the show should start retiring certain songs if a contestant does a definitive rendition of it, the way sports teams retire uniform numbers.) Katie's vocals were okay (if froggy as usual), but couldn't quite overcome the inherent goofiness of her trying to sing this song.

Lee Dewyze, "Treat Her Like a Lady": Lee has always had a good voice, but he's hit a lot of bum notes in past performances, and he wasn't particularly confident on stage the last couple of weeks. Tonight, though, he was strong vocally throughout, very energetic, very committed, and his voice was a great match for this Cornelius Brothers oldie-but-goodie. When I handicapped the Top 12, I said Lee was one of the few with a chance to win. If he can deliver a streak of performances like this one, he's got a definite shot.

Crystal Bowersox, "Midnight Train to Georgia": I appreciate the effort to not do the same thing every week - piano instead of guitar, high heels instead of Birkenstocks - and I suppose that's necessary to keep (some of) the judges and/or the audience from getting tired of her, but I'm with Simon: Crystal knows who she is and should do just fine sticking to that. This was one of the best of the night, but also probably my least favorite performance of Crystal's so far. The phrasing was great as always, but you could tell she was distracted by the piano-playing and then the move to stand up, and the falsetto wasn't that strong. A necessary gambit, but one I hope she doesn't try to repeat later on.

Aaron Kelly, "Ain't No Sunshine": Another snoozer, with Aaron, as usual, sounding strained in spots, passable in others.

Best of the night: I'd probably give it to Lee, followed by Crystal and then Andrew.

In trouble: Andrew could still be at risk, because you'll often see a singer who's been struggling but skating by finally get some compliments from the judges and then go home, because the fanbase gets complacent. My hope is that it's Tim (Fienberg suggested that Simon performed the famed reverse juju on him that he's used to eliminate the likes of Kevin Covais in seasons past), but I fear we're stuck with him and his stalker eyes for another week or two.

What did everybody else think?

14 comments:

Miken said...

Alan,

I disagree with you on Andrew. I think he has a bigger fan base than you think because he comes off as so unbelievably nice. As an Andrew fan, it was nice to see something good out of him for the first time in a while. I also felt it was the first good performance of the night.

I did not understand Casey (Everyone has stepped out of their element EXCEPT him) or Big Mike (even though I think he's the dark horse to win the whole thing). After Andrew, Crystal and Lee were great and that was about it.

Aaron shouldn't do a song the previous year's winner killed. Kris Allen set a high bar for that song, and Allen's performance was all I could think about it while Aaron sang his.

Over two hours for 10 TWO-MINUTE PERFORMANCES is a new low for this show.

Also, you didn't mention Ryan's AWFUL put-on-the-spot moment for Didi. She kept avoiding the question and Ryan pushed harder than a Jim Grey interview. That was one of the worst things Idol has ever done. It looked like Didi was going to clock Seacrest (which would've been awesome).

Alyson said...

I loved Andrew this week, which is a big change from his last several performances. Good for him.

Crystal looked so uncomfortable up there this week, it was hard to watch.

Most of the other contestants bored me, especially Big Mike. I thought Usher did an ok job with the mentoring, though.

Tom said...

Other than Simon's reverse psychology comments about Tim, the best part of the show was Simon likening Didi's performance to "the singers on one of those dancing shows". I personally didn't think Didi was that bad, but still great to hear someone comment on the hideous performances on DWTS.

Adam said...

re retiring songs, I agree with the sentiment but then we'd have never gotten Allison Iraheta's "Alone," which catapulted her from unknown into the final four. It's more of a "don't try a song someone else has owned unless you're really, really sure."

Frederick said...

Alan,

The trouble with this season is that there is no one that is required viewing from week to week. The last 2 seasons had contestants you just didn't want to miss.

This year has been a difficult watch as there is very limited depth in the top 12. Crystal is the best of the bunch. Big Mike & Casey are usually solid but predictable. It was nice to see Andrew and Lee turn in a solid performances this week as I like their respective "styles" when they are on.

I am not sure what happened to the "great" year for women that the judges predicted. I see only one making it to the top 5. I would be shocked if the final 3 or 4 was anything other than Crystal and Big Mike, Casey, or Lee.

If the judges said that 5 people were going home tonight and that there were only 2 weeks left in the show would anyone really care this year? I don't think they would.

Carrie said...

I LOVED Big Mike's performance. Perhaps it's because I've never heard that particular song before so it was new to me (and after downloading the original, I can definitively say it's a great one), but I thought his performance was out of this world. Unfortunately, placing him behind the judges and lighting him with the halo backlight was completely distracting and tried it's hardest to take us out of the emotional connection to the song.

Dave T said...

Crystal may be the Melinda Doolittle of this season. A great singer week after week, but maybe not the kind of singer who can win in the final weeks' voting. By finishing 2nd or 3rd, she could sign somewhere she'd have the freedom to do what she wants, as opposed to winning it all, and being forced to be a generic pop singer. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's not what she wants to do.)

I wonder if the show should start retiring certain songs if a contestant does a definitive rendition of it, the way sports teams retire uniform numbers.

I was thinking of it like hurricane names, but sports is probably a better analogy.

Either way, they ought to retire songs after a certain number of performances so we don't have to hear the same songs year after year, as the singers get told "you chose the wrong song."


Ryan's AWFUL put-on-the-spot moment for Didi. She kept avoiding the question

The answer would likely have evoked sympathy for her. I give her credit for not trying to trade on that.

but still great to hear someone comment on the hideous performances on DWTS.

On DWTS, it is the dancers who are should be featured. The singing is merely background. It shouldn't be of such quality that it would upstage the dancers.

bmfc1 said...

Your comment on the podcast of how poorly directed AI is was shown again last night. Seacrest made a big deal about Crystal's clothes, especially her shoes. When her turn began, she was sitting at the piano. When she arose, the director switched to a shot so far away that it might have been from the Goodyear Blimp! Then, they went to a closer shot but it was so tight that the phone number banner cut off her lower torso. If someone wanted to see her clothes, as Seacrest suggested, they were blocked because of these poorly chosen shots.

Anonymous said...

The show is poorly. I'm tired of seeing family & friends right after a performance. Who cares? What a waste of time.

I certainly understand why AI never wins an Emmy. The show is sloppy, even for live television.

Brown Shoes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brown Shoes said...

ENOUGH with the arguing amongst the judges! Their conflicting (and confusing) 'advice' has been utterly without merit this season, and as filler for an otherwise soulless season, their chatter is wearing thin. Is it me - or has Kara become creepier with every episode? Her grotesque snuggling and rubbing against Simon gets more pronounced every week
and her overtly rapacious staring at Casey is just...pathetic. Last season she often seemed to be the only judge who offered any kind of informed and useful advice - but she seems to have morphed into some kind of Paula Abdul/Springer spaniel mix and it is really grating. I think this season might just be Idol's swan song...

ben said...

A national poll conducted by Mediacurves.com on 3,418 American Idol viewers found that the contestant with the lowest percentage of votes, who should be eliminated from the top 10 on tonight’s show, was Aaron Kelly, with 3.8% of the votes. The study parallels American Idol voting to determine the weekly winners based on a democratic, “one person, one vote” methodology.
More in depth results can be seen at: http://www.mediacurves.com/Entertainment/AmericanIdol-3-31-10/Index.cfm

Pierre said...

Siobhan really messed up badly but I think that she has enough fan support to stay.

astral_monkey said...

I was glad Crystal stepped out of her comfort zone this week. I believe her when she said she wanted to prove to herself that she could do it, and even though she was nervous and it effected her performance she clearly got a confidence boost from it. I'm hoping despite a bit of a shakey performance, she now has the confidence to make the right artistic choices for future songs/performances.

It was also perfect timing for her to do it, because she is clearly one of the favourites and at this point in the competition an off night isn't going to effect her too much.

In saying that, I love her behind a mic with her guitar. It's organic and honest.

(I've already made myself a playlist of some of her songs - both Idol and original!)