Tuesday, April 07, 2009

American Idol, Top 8: Songs From The Year You Were Born Night

I ordinarily top off these "American Idol" reviews with a picture of one of the performances, but the image of the night was Simon Cowell up on his feet, giving a standing ovation for the first time in a long time, if ever. (Can anyone remember him doing that before?) Thoughts about what Adam did to absolutely deserve that, and all the other performances, coming up just as soon as I apologize for my bad attitude last week...

Danny Gokey, "Stand By Me": How you feel about this performance depends largely on how you feel about contestants cheating the theme. Yes, Mickey Gilley recorded a cover of the Ben E. King classic in 1980, but Danny wasn't really using the Gilley arrangement (which you can hear here). He wasn't doing the King version, either, though, and I did like his gruff R&B take on the song in that usual Danny Gokey way. But the purist in me dings him for not picking an actual 1980 song.

Kris Allen then does a Seacrest-erview where he tells a story about some Ferris Wheel operator trying to use him to hit on Adam Lambert, and Seacrest doesn't even raise an eyebrow. Is it possible that "Idol" might be moving past its sniggering attitude towards being gay? Nah...

Kris Allen, "All She Wants to Do Is Dance": Well, it's a night for different arrangements, and while I think Randy is a moron (as always) for complaining that he was paying attention to the song and not the singer, I do agree with Kara that it was just a bad arrangement, surprisingly lifeless in spite of the tempo and the presence of those big horns.

Afterwards, Simon gets in the line of the night, as a girl in the audience screams out, "Kris, you're hot!" and Simon replies, "But so am I, but it's not about that." Whether Kris is in the bottom three this week will prove a nice test of that theory.

Lil Rounds, "What's Love Got To Do With It": This will be the first of two Throwing Things links in this post, as they nailed this as the obvious pick for Lil. Unfortunately, it was too obvious, in that it exposed her as an imitator -- and not a very good one this week -- rather than an artist. Say what you will about all the other arrangements tonights, some of which worked, some of which didn't, but at least all the other contestants were trying to inject their own personalities into the songs. This was just copycat, minus Tina Turner's phrasing and charisma. Bad, bad, bad.

Anoop Desai, "True Colors":
After a patented Damage Control Seacresterview, in which Anoop apologizes profusely for being snotty to Kara last week, Anoop goes with a song choice that's all about saying, "That jerk last week isn't who I am; these are my true colors!" After Adam, Anoop probably has the best pure singing voice of anyone else who's left, and while the arrangement got a little dull in the middle, the falsetto was great, and he sang it with the same passion he brought to his great "Always On My Mind" performance on Country Night. Now if Anoop can just find a way to do an uptempo number without ticking off the judges, all will be right with the "Idol" world.

Scott MacIntyre, "The Search Is Over": You may have missed the most self-aware line on the show in a long time, since the band started playing over it, but just before Ryan came over to give Scott's numbers, he said, "At least I'm versatile. I wanted to show that before I went home." I'll give Scott credit for that: he knows where he is in the pecking order, knows he's on borrowed time at best, and is now just trying to catch the eye of some adult contemporary record label out there. Given that, I'm not going to bother pointing out all the things wrong with this performance. If he somehow survives to next week, I'll pile on him again, but I liked that moment.

Allison Iraheta, "I Can't Make You Love Me": As our only contestant born in the '90s, Allison made a fairly disappointing song choice. I love the song, but we've heard it a bunch of times on "Idol," and 1992 had so many other possibilities for her (see the Throwing Things link above for their suggestions). While she started off the performance fairly understated -- for Allison, anyway -- when she hit the chorus she started doing the stupid runs and other vocal gymnastics that please Randy but are completely unnecessary for such a beautiful song. Just sing the notes correctly and it'll sound great! Geez!

Matt Giraud, "Part-Time Lover": I'm going to reproduce my notes verbatim (with the profanity altered for family consumption):
Predictably, Randy loved it. Kara, too. (I am so done with her.)

Adam Lambert, "Mad World":
You want to know why I got so irked at the previous two for not just singing the damn notes? This is why. Adam sings the song, doesn't resort to meliasma, is remarkably understated (as understated as you can be while singing in a falsetto under a neon green spotlight, anyway) and sounds amazing.

Was it the best performance in "Idol" history? Probably not, no. But I think what Simon was responding to when he got to his feet there was the way that Adam has so clearly distanced himself from everybody else this season. There are a number of very good singers left, but he can sing rings around them and he's a hundred times the showman any of them hope to be on their best day. He can be annoying at times, and I can certainly see scenarios where he doesn't win (either because people dislike him, or because he gets cocky and starts doing self-indulgent stuff like that "Ring Of Fire" again), but if there's a reason I'm watching "Idol" for the rest of the season beyond professional obligations, it's because I can't wait to see whatever it is Adam Lambert's going to do next.

Best of the night: Adam. No doubt. I may need to start doing a running feature on whoever the second best of the night was. (Here, probably Anoop, since I'm docking Danny points for the theme-cheating.) And while we're talking about Adam, you really, really, absolutely must go and watch The Adam Lambert Roundtable. It's one of the funniest things you'll see all week.

In danger: Scott, definitely. Lil, probably. If Kris isn't in the bottom three, it's a testament to the power of the pretty. I could see Anoop there, as he has some factors working against him (good but not brilliant, performed in the middle of the show, plus whatever residual bad feelings there are from last week), or Allison, if Simon's right that people just don't like her very much and are only voting for her when she's great -- which she wasn't here.

What did everybody else think?


Carmichael Harold said...

I haven't watched enough of Idol to know where Lambert's Mad World stands in the pantheon, but it was very good and, in a night of many mediocre to poor performances, absolutely memorable.

By the way, "docking Danny pants"?

MattB said...

Adam clearly won.

Was I the only one who noticed a guy in the audience who looked an awful lot like The Observer from Fringe in the audience? For the first few performances at least, there was a bald guy in a suit in the audience, looking very joyless with his hands on his knees. Is this some sort of new secret insider cross-promotion?

Alan Sepinwall said...

By the way, "docking Danny pants"?

"Points." Yeesh. Thank you.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Was I the only one who noticed a guy in the audience who looked an awful lot like The Observer from Fringe in the audience?

Yup, that's him. Fox snuck him into a bunch of football telecasts in the fall, too.

Theresa said...

Do DialIdol results count as spoilers? I can't seem to tear myself away from there.

That said, I thought Danny's performance was overrated; far too many flat notes for my liking. Adam was really, really good. I like when he doesn't do the screaming thing; I think I would die if he did that every week.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And, seriously, go watch The Adam Lambert Roundtable, guys. You'll thank me for it.

MattB said...

Yup, that's him. Fox snuck him into a bunch of football telecasts in the fall, too.

That's actually pretty neat, I like how they never tried to make it obvious or pan to him or anything.

I think I must be reading too many television blogs if I recognize this guy and I don't happen to even watch Fringe...

Alan Sepinwall said...

Do DialIdol results count as spoilers? I can't seem to tear myself away from there.

This early in the evening, they don't count as anything.

And, no, I don't object to people mentioning DialIdol here.

55 said...

Yeah, game over. Adam will win.

I'd say it's up there with Katharine McPhee's "Somewhere over the Rainbow" and David Cook's "Billie Jean" as my favorite performances.

Chris the TV Sage said...

Are we to the point yet where I'd actually be dating myself by giving the all-time nod to Kelly's "Stuff Like That There"?

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I watched Fringe tonight for the first time just to see what the weird bald guy in the American Idol audience was all about. (I Liked Fringe btw.)

I feel lame that I didn't know Tears for Fears originally sang Mad World. I only knew of the Gary Jules version from a few years ago. Adam nailed it though, although I felt he was a bit creepy (probably because of the lighting).

I actually liked Matt tonight, but I hope Danny joins Lil and Scott in the bottom three instead of Kris. However, if Danny joined them, it would only inspire him to do faster songs instead of something understated or just singing a ballad since his overenthusiastic performances spoil it for me with him usually.

Nicole said...

I missed the show. Was this Mad World the Gary Jules version used in Donnie Darko?

I think Randy had some influence on my verification word : didog

Alan Sepinwall said...

Are we to the point yet where I'd actually be dating myself by giving the all-time nod to Kelly's "Stuff Like That There"?

Not to that point yet, no. And that's certainly in the discussion.

Linda said...

I understand that Adam Lambert is talented, and at that level, I take nothing away from him. But it's so unaffected and utterly devoid of anything genuine or relatable that it bores me to tears. From the moment they said "Mad World," that performance was exactly what I would expect from him. To me, it's just a persona, it's obviously phony, and it has nothing to do with any real emotion experienced by humans. I understand he's talented. He just deploys it in a way that makes it mathematically impossible for me to remotely care. It's the vocal equivalent of a very well-executed painting of dogs playing poker: I respect your skill, but so what?

Anonymous said...

Heh, "meliasma" sounds like a disease.

Linda said...

Incidentally, when I said "unaffected," I meant "affected." Because I'm a goober.

Anonymous said...

Dude. Kelly's "Stuff Like That There" is in my ipod. Top Five all time best.

Adam's fantastic, but I'm back and forth, week to week on whether I actually like him or not. This week is a definite "like" week. He was great.

I think the bottom two *should* be Scott and Lil, but will most likely be Scott and Allison with Scott dodging the bullet one more week before being sent home. Allison was better than both of them, but the fact that she's been stuck at the bottom so much in weeks where there were far worse performances convinces me that the voters just don't like her.

ghoti said...

I forgot about the overflow into the 9:00 hour and when the show was over I reflexively hit "erase" on my DVR and wiped out Fringe. (#@%%!)

Is that why they put Adam last? He has no chance of being eliminated, so if some people miss him, no big deal.

Anonymous said...

wrt the overruns, I figure that *they* figure that by now everyone should know to set their DVRs long, so they don't care about time shifters as much as they care about getting people to stay tuned after the show to watch "fringe". And of course even though I remember that AI runs long, I didn't think ahead to the fact that "fringe" would as well, so there was a mad scramble when everything started flipping at 10pm.

Anonymous said...

I kind of love Alison but she seems to lack the maturity to hit the right emotional notes. "I can't make you love me" breaks my heart every single time I hear it. But Alison was smiling and sounding just the way she does on every song. I thought that was a big problem.

Adam was great but more than that he was smart. As soon as I realized what song he chose, I screamed with delight. On a show where song choice is everything, he picked a killer. Great song, not too well known, and perfect for the persona he is cultivating. This guy really knows how to play the game.

Gokey was Gokey and I continue to love him, good or average. He's never bad.

Everyone else was entertaining. Yay for them.

Alanna said...

I don't watch Idol (came over here to see about the time overrun), so I had no idea it was a live episode and would require TiVo padding. Sigh. Not the end of the world or anything, but still rather annoying. Will these live episodes continue for a while?

Alanna said...

Er, just remembered that AI is live *every* week. Disregard the last line of my previous comment!

Deanna said...

Found this video:

KC said...

Scott was just bad, I was listening without looking at the screen and I found it grating, couldn't wait for him to end.

Every week Lil says she understands what the judges are saying and that she will change things the following week, then she comes back and does the same dumb thing. She doesn't get "it", which means she should leave.

Adam can sing and he knows how to interpret a song, at this point it is about emotion, style, and emotionally connecting with the audience. He is the only one that seems to do it consistently. You have to give him props for giving his songs emotion and depth.

The rest were really just OK, not even memorable enough to comment on.

Jenn. said...

I just don't like Adam's voice very much, although I do prefer his "too much falsetto" songs to his "too much screaming" songs, so, to that extent, it was pretty good for me.

I double dare Adam to do a song next week that does not go into his upper register at all.

55 said...

"To me, it's just a persona, it's obviously phony,"

How could you possibly know this?

Andrew said...

I've got to agree with Linda about Adam's talent being unsupported by a complete lack of genuine, relateable emotion. It's like he's playing a character and there's something so affected about his performances that it doesn't click.

But no one else from the group has the same vocal talent and stage presence. There's a big gap between Adam and the rest. And then a bigger gap between the pack and Scott. Words can not express just how dreadful of a performance he turned in this week.

Rachel said...

I am in the same camp as Jenn. Most of the time Adam reads as screaching to me instead of singing, and I just don't really like anything he has done that much. I hated his rendition of Ring of Fire, but Tracks of My Tears was probably the only one I have really enjoyed so far.

I was expecting a Tears for Fears version of Mad World, but instead it just felt like and Adam Lambert doing Gary Jules doing TfF. I guess I like the song too much to be able to let go and enjoy him doing it. I am just waiting for him to bust out his "falsetto" that has my cats running for the other room.

Sometimes I feel that because everyone else is pretty mediocre it makes him look so much better by default so people are excited with everything he does because it is better than good, but at least to me, not GREAT.

Ok, I'll stop now. I think I am being too mean, or at least too biased.

TN said...

I'm beginning to think Kris Allen plays guitar the way Kevin Jonas plays guitar.

Eric said...

I can't agree with you more Linda!

Adam DOES have talent (although his high notes are the stuff nightmares are made of) but, as you said, there seems to be nothing genuine about him. The way he mouths "thank you" every time he is complimented; I always feel as if I'm that one character in the story who notices that the charming new guy is actually completely evil. I try and tell everyone but by the time they realize the truth it's too late.

... does that make absolutely no sense?

Honestly, I'm surprised Simon hasn't pointed this out yet.

Theresa said...

I'm beginning to think Kris Allen plays guitar the way Kevin Jonas plays guitar.

I'm taking that to mean either "not at all" or "not well" based on my limited knowledge of the Jonas Brothers, and I can vouch for him that neither of those is true. I've seen him play live with just his acoustic guitar, and he plays quite well. That's why it annoys the crap out of me that we can never hear his guitar and yet Scott's guitar we heard loud and clear.

Ann said...

Did anyone else's DVR cut off all of Adam's performance? Any place where I can see it online?

jimmo said...

the roundtable link was funny, but those guys are all just pretenders to the screaming/singing throne, sat upon now and forever by Geoff Tate, pre-throat problems.
Its just too bad Adam wasn't born in 1984 so he could've busted out "Take Hold of the Flame."

Terrence said...

"Idol" has never run this long before. I missed Adam's performance and with that, the first Simon Scowl Standing Ovation.

I was livid last night but am just mildly annoyed now.

The networks have absolutely NO concern or consideration for the oft-justfiably dwindling audience numbers.

Anonymous said...

The dialidol results genuinely surprised me this morning. I suspect that Kris and Anoop probably get a lot of text votes, but maybe not enough to save them. I prefer both of them to Allison, but good for her climbing out of that hole this week. Assuming the results are anywhere close to the actual votes...

Castaway said...

I actually agree with those of you who said Adam screeches too much and there isn't much to relate to personality-wise. He does have a great voice when he uses it correctly---maybe I'm just not in the target demographic. Actually, my main thought with him is how he didn't become a star before this show. He's 27---you'd figure someone would have marketed him by now as some sort of Jonas brother with Axl Rose's voice.

With that said, my DVR cut out before I could see his performance, so all I got was the rest of the mediocre crap from the night. Figures.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Linda, I don't disagree that Adam's playing a character. But at this point, I find his artificiality to be a lot more compelling than any of the other contestants' authenticity.

Linda said...

"How could you possibly know this?"

I sincerely doubt he walks around all the time glowering at people like he glowers at the camera for every second of every performance. That's why it's obviously phony to me. I also think it's phony because his entire look and persona is such a totally played-out cliche. As one of my friends commented when Randy Travis said he'd never seen anyone like Adam before, "Randy Travis has never been to Hot Topic."

I don't hate the kid at all. It just has nothing to do with anything I find enjoyable to listen to. He's very talented. I'm sure he'll win. I wish he made different choices.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. He won me back last night, but I have a different opinion of him every week and a lot of that is a total lack of connection to him. I think he's very calculated. That's not an insult to him, I just think he's doing what he's gotta do. He's not especially original, he's just "different" in the context of this show and I think he's worked hard on that persona. Big points in his favor: he's not Constantine.

>>As one of my friends commented when Randy Travis said he'd never seen anyone like Adam before, "Randy Travis has never been to Hot Topic."<<

That's hilarious. Not a show goes by where there aren't at least a half dozen references to Hot Topic in my house. It is what it is.

In spite of the fact that I do have my favorites (Anoop and Kris, one of which is probably going home tonight) I feel very little connection to anyone on this show this season. Last year there was just so much personality and whether they were a favorite or not, I felt like I knew a lot about each contestant at this point. I really know nothing about these guys. No matter how many times they parade out kids or show somebody's parents, I still don't really feel anything for these people. By this point last season I actually felt something when people were voted off. While I'll be disappointed to see a couple go this year, I ultimately don't care that much. Nevermind that by this time in the previous season I had an ipod full of downloads of performances. This season I haven't even saved anything on the tivo for a replay.

LV said...

You know what I hate the most? When someone gets steamrolled by the judges and then the contestant will say "well if America gives me another chance, I will show them what I've got!" Well how many chances do you need dumbass?

I like Adam a lot.. not in the Axl Rose headbanger, falsetto way, just that he is INTERESTING and I like seeing what twisted minute and a half he is going to throw at us this week. That's exactly what won it for David Cook. Remember when he made Lionel Richie's "Hello" downloadable?

I think Simon gave Adam a standing ovation b/c they were drastically short on time (well already over at that point) and he needed to make a big statement and no words could have made an impact like the first Simon standing ovation. I've watched this show since the end of Season 1 and I don't ever remember him standing up before.

Carmichael Harold said...


I don't disagree that Adam is putting on a performance rather than completely baring his soul, but isn't that true for everyone here (with the possible exception of Allison and, maybe, Kris, though I'm not sure he has one)?

Anoop, who I like, still does the typical a-capella-singer-trying-to-suave-himself-up-to-seduce-the-freshman thing, which was played out when I was in college and makes me laugh uproariously whenever he tries to make sweet eye love to the camera. Matt seems to be consistently trying way too hard to be something (usually, as last night, Justin Timberlake), but ends up seeming like a quasi-talented muddle. Etc.

Basically, you have 5 people trying very hard to develop an ill-fitting persona, you have 2 people who either seem too guileless (Allison) or too disinterested (Kris, who I maintain is just a slightly more talented version of last season's Clifford the Crunchy Muppet) to try a new persona, and then you have Adam, who has developed a mostly formed, well-fitting persona that, in my opinion, works pretty well.

Disliking the persona he has chosen to adopt (and his song choices) is understandable and unassailable (these are subjective things after all), but I don't think it's fair to say that he is a phony while the others are genuine. I think he is just less of a mess, so his persona shines through more.

Carmichael Harold said...

By the way, though I may have said some not-so-complimentary things about Kris in my last post, I can't believe where he is in the Dialidol standings. Scott is made of Teflon.

Anonymous said...

Two memorable performances that stick out in my mind are Fantasia's "Summertime" — I remember she was crying afterward and it really was a quite moving performance — and whatever song it was that Bo Bice did a cappella. I remember realizing that I was watching it holding my breath. I can't remember what song it was (which possibly defeats my point) but I remember it being amazing.

Papua Girl said...

I disagree with your thoughts on Matt Giraud, as I wrote in my review, but agree with most of your other thoughts.

Both Danny and Alison are front-runners in my mind, but they haven't been as interesting as Adam is and are therefore falling behind.


Linda said...

I don't necessarily like anybody else better. I think it's a weak season, especially as far as people who are genuinely interesting. I'm just not impressed with anybody, and Adam Lambert is pretty much part of the big pile of people I'm not interested in. I don't see the same artistry or ESPECIALLY originality that the judges are falling all over themselves about.

KrisMrsBBradley said...

My tivo shut off before Adam sang. Gah! Off to find it on youtube.

wjm said...

I keep waiting for Danny to hit one of those high notes he loves so much, and have his larynx break and jab through his neck like a loosened spring. Sort of a Warner Bros cartoon thing.

I thought Allison was great. Adam was haunting, and Kris' tale of the flirting Ferris Wheel dude was my favorite moment of the night.

John Royal said...

Complain all that you want about your DVR cutting off the end of Idol. But damn it, my DVR missed the end of Fringe because it cut off early. However, I got lots of Adam's screeching and Simon's camera mugging. So thanks for that Fox.

lizkdc said...

You know what's weird? How infrequently these music loving kids seem to take the *content* of any particular song into account when picking. I mean

All She Wants to Do is Dance

seems a part of Old School Don Henley's fascination with drug subculture, visible in Eagles' songs like Hotel California and Life in the Fast Lane.

The lyrics are like some sort of drugs/guns/revolutionaries scenarios someplace hot (Cuba? Rio? Colombia? The Carribean?). And the girl who just wants to party and dance is up in or a cause of all the trouble. Basically like a subplot from Miami Vice or a Carl Hiassen novel.

Great song but a some what hilarious choice for a boy that Ryan called at one point a "tender puppy."

I actually liked it though. I like WTF song choices, and this was one; I'd rather see someone try a really different song arrangement then do to death a familiar Idol vibe (Danny, Lil); I thought Kris looked super hot, while I can't stand looking at Danny. But I'm afraid he many go home, when Scott and Lil (who haven't done a single original thing) deserve to.

Adam and Allison were both awesome *and* emotionally delivered on what's in the song. The Lambert especially.

maura said...

My cable went out a few minutes after 8:00 last night. Today I watched the performances on itunes in about 20 minutes. It's like a miracle has happened. I highly recommend it, unless you haven't yet gotten sick of the yapping and screwing around by the judges.

I was expecting a Tears for Fears version of Mad World, but instead it just felt like and Adam Lambert doing Gary Jules doing TfF. I guess I like the song too much to be able to let go and enjoy him doing it. I am just waiting for him to bust out his "falsetto" that has my cats running for the other room.

Hee. Like your cats, Rachel, I also want to run from the room when he hits that damned falsetto, usually while screaming. But even that didn't bother me this week. I thought Adam was exceptionally good. He beat everyone else by several miles. But I know darned well that next week I might want to smack him again.

Like Alan, I was bugged my Danny's cheat last night. And because I always forget that that Clash song is actually called "Train in Vain", I was worried for a moment that he was going to sing that instead. Which would have been either horrifying or completely hilarious. Anyway, he was fair at best.

I think Kris is grossly underrated. The kid has an innate musical talent, and even if he didn't really get what the song is about (I have heard more than once it's actually about Margaret Thatcher), he did much more with it than I expected from him. It seems like a weird choice, but I appreciate the fact that he didn't do a song that's already been a gazillion times. I would hate to see him go.

Speaking of songs that have been over performed and overplayed, I don't need to hear What's Love Got to Do With It ever again. I don't know if the problem is that Lil really isn't paying attention, or if the judges are just messing with her, but she has to do something show stopping soon, or she's out. If she even lasts another week.

It was 50/50 for me. Adam, Anoop, Allison and Kris were good, and the rest not so much. I generally like Matt, but I hate Part Time Lover, so that colored my opinion a lot.

LA said...

Please, America, do the right thing and vote Scott off tonight.

Thank you.

Rebekah said...

It is had to say whether Adam is purely the best or THE BEST! He will surely do well for himself. He has that style that attracts young girls...But also has an amazing voice to match. My Hope...HE WINS!