Tuesday, May 19, 2009

American Idol: Thoughts on the top 2?

As I warned yesterday when I linked to my "American Idol" finale preview, I wasn't sure if I was going to get to watch the final performance show live. I couldn't, so The Star-Ledger's Vicki Hyman filled in for me on "Idol" recap duty.

I did manage to see most of the show, sort of, and the one thing I was struck by was how patronizing all four judges were to Kris after his final performance, basically telling him to be proud he was going to finish second. It wasn't quite as brutal a case of a finalist being thrown under the bus as what Simon said to David Cook last year (which backfired on him, and he had to apologize the next night, no doubt because he knew big David was the winner), but that sequence is going to be more fodder for the people who are convinced the show desperately wants Adam to win.

What do you think? Who did better tonight? And at this late stage, does that even matter, or is it all about fanbases (or anti-fanbases)?


Mike F said...

I think Adam probably deserves to win after tonight's mostly restrained performances...I do think he managed to be himself without giving too much fodder to his haters (the screeching huge notes and hystrical theatrics was kept to a minimum tonight).

Kris had some nice moments tonight and although I think it was pretty clear he was the lesser light tonight, he definitely wasn't blown off stage. His argument is that his style is more current.

I'm having trouble getting through to DialIdol tonight, but when I did briefly earlier it had Kris up in a close race and well within any margin of error.

I enjoyed the judges tonight primarily because I hit the mute button each time it was Kara's turn to speak. Still, her hand gestures manage to get on my nerves.

The other judges seemed to be setting up the possibility that Kris will win tomorrow by making sure to keep saying he belonged in the race...had they called him a featherweight and said he didn't belong on the same stage as Adam, there might be a lot more backlash against the show in the event Kris wins.

I chose not to vote tonight as I don't have particularly strong feelings overall. I don't feel as strongly about either as I have in the past, and either one of these guys should be the best runner-up the show has had other than Clay Aiken and Archuleta. The others have not done much after Idol...Guarini, Bice, McPhee, Diana D?.

Kris needs the win more than Adam who is already a bit of a household name and will be sought after by lables regardless of what happens tomorrow night. If Kris does win, then I think its without question that both of these guys will make some sort of splash in the real world. And that hasn't always been the case with Idol finalists. So that might actually the best case scenario.

Above all, I'm impressed with the way both guys handled themselves all throughout the show. They're both all right in my book. During a season with a lot of shenanigans from the producers and judges, the Idol contestants themselves have handled themselves quite well.

Hyde said...

It's mostly about the fanbases this late in the season, but if you're among that small group who is voting based primarily upon how each singer did tonight, it's hard for me to imagine that anyone is going to come over to Kris's side. It's not his fault that the last night of the season favors singers who can put across big, dopey ballads with utter sincerity, but life isn't always fair.

I thought the true gamechanger of the night was "A Change Is Gonna Come." Adam was phenomenal on the song picked for him, while Kris barely fought Marvin Gaye to a draw.

Word verification word: "Byegrad." I guess somebody here has to be getting a degree this time of year...

MattB said...

They only had to pander in reviewing Kris's final performance because the song Kara wrote was pretty bad. Very nice of her to spend Adam's review kissing her own butt.

While I like Adam, I actually thought that Kris had the better night and that being the underdog to Adam is a huge advantage for him.

Anonymous said...

As usual, a song written specifically for the contestants was pretty awful and I'm bummed that they saved it for the last performances of the night. The fact that Kara was dogging her own song (mostly because Kris sang it in the wrong key at first) has to clue the producers in on how stupid these songs are for performance night (especially the last performance of the night). I was surprised that Cathy Dennis cowrote that No Boundaries drek too since she's a better writer when it comes to dance songs (like Kylie's Can't Get You Out of My Head).

It could go either way tomorrow and I wouldn't be mad with either result. Although Adam has dominated with talent, Kris has a great underdog vibe that has appealed to me throughout the season. All this talk of ____ needs to win to have a career is not entirely true. Elliot Yamin had to make do with an independent label for his successful first album and managed to "make it" with at least one hit, something Katherine McPhee and Diana DeGarmo can't say. I'd probably buy a tune or two for each contestant.

Linda said...

"the screeching huge notes and hystrical theatrics was kept to a minimum tonight"

See, I'm one of the people who doesn't like the screaming, and to me, the second song was about 75 percent screaming. It's largely the fault of the fact that the songs are so short, and there's just no opportunity to build the song to the point where you have come close to earning that amount of screeching.

I want to stress that I like Adam as a guy, I think he seems like he would be great fun to have a drink with, and I will not at all be mad if he wins. I think the performance of most media outlets and the judges this season in terms of one-sided "Adam Lambert is God" coverage has been profoundly embarrassing (I predict EW, for instance, will one day look back on the way they covered this season and realize they blew the story utterly by pretending Kris didn't exist until this week), but that's absolutely not Adam's fault. I think he's a transparently good guy; I just don't like the singing at ALL.

Rose said...

The way the judges acted really turned me off. They were way too invested in trying to pick the winner. They should be impartial, you know, like a judge!

Anonymous said...

They came short of just coming right out and patting Kris on his little head, didn't they? No matter. Adam should win, Kris should get a contract, or vice versa.

Judges did a lot of dodging tonight - Kris, Kara's lame song, etc.

Benjamin Standig said...

Condecending, party of four...

I really did not care who won going into tonight, though I have been saying all year that Adam is to polarizing to win. But, after listening to the judges basically give Kris a "participation" award ribbon, I am rooting for him now.

Brad W said...

The show started off great, faltered with the classic soul songs, and finished with the song written by Kara which was excruciatingly awful, and they made us listen to it twice.

Adam said...

Our Throwing Things recap is now up: http://is.gd/BxuL

As for the judges, I don't mind it when they judge. But excessive fawning is unhelpful, and bad songwriting is even worse.

The bigger problem this season were the other biases -- the use of the pimp slot, the lack of an audition package for Kris, etc.

BigTed said...

I was pleasantly surprised how well both singers did on their second songs -- even though they basically showed how neither one has any blues in his soul. (Leave it to Brit Simon Fuller to give classic R&B songs to two guys who have no business singing them.)

The last song really was right in the tradition of lousy "uplifting" songs for the "Idol" finale, and each guy sounded pretty bad singing it. I do expect Adam to win, and it'll be interesting how quickly he tries to distance himself from the "Idol" machine so he never has to perform dreck like that again.

Anonymous said...

I thought the judges were way too hard on Kris for his "What's Going On" performance. I'm not sure what they expected him to do with it? Rap? Use dry ice?

Matthew said...

Haven't watched it yet - it airs in New Zealand (with the results show) on Friday night . But I'm rooting for Kris to win, partly because I made a passing comment about how I would put money on a Kris win (because of Adam's polarising nature) and now find I have $20 on the line. But I also don't like Adam - he may be the better singer, but he screetches far too much, and even when he is being more moderate in his performances, I feel like there's no depth to the performance, where I feel like Kris achieves a better connection with the song.

But one thing I find odd is that they always seem to end with the two singers singing the same song. I can understand it in some ways - it allows a contrasting view of the two people - but it's still the same song heard twice in a row, and it's usually the worst song sung all season. I would be tempted to start the show with the first artist singing the song, and then end with the last artist singing, just to get a bit of space between the two performances.

Jenn. said...

Man, that coronation song is awful. Just awful. It didn't work for either contestant.

Setting aside round three, and just looking at the other four performances, I'd say that you have three clumped toward the top. I had Ain't No Sunshine as the best of the night, followed pretty closely by Mad World and What's Goin' On. Kris did a great job of up-scaling Ain't No Sunshine to fit the venue. Adam similarly did the same with Mad World (although there was less concern there, given his huge voice). I'm generally not crazy about songs that are so much in the falsetto/high register zone, but he sounded good to me on Mad World. And I liked Kris's interpretation of What's Going On.

I hated what Adam did to Change Is Gonna Come. Really, he has a habit that a lot of Idol contestants have, which is to think that sticking in your favorite vocal schtick (in Adam's case, in-tune high-register wailing) into a song is somehow "making it your own." Here, it led to what I see as an invalid interpretation of the song. Set aside that I don't particularly enjoy Adam's voice, sometimes at least the screaming makes sense. Here, like with One last week, it really did not.

I have a preference toward Kris anyway, in terms of enjoying what he does more than Adam, but in light of Change Is Gonna Come, I've got to say that Kris won the night.

Steve said...

After spending so much time watching the show this season, I am outraged by the hatchet job in the finale.

Let me preface this by saying that I did not have a dog in the race.

First of all, the format of the show went against everything the judges have said since week one: that it is important to pick the right song. Tonight, in the three final performances, the contestants were only allowed to choose ONE song and it was the first of the night.

They were then at the mercy of creator Simon Fuller (who doesn't have an agenda at all, I'm sure) to pick the second song.

The third song was the hatchet job. Here, the contestants have to sing the same song, and because it's a brand new song and Kara's song that AI wants to pimp, the contestants sang the exact same version. Way to let them showcase originality and interpretation. It was one of those cheesy, uber-pop/rock ballads that completely correlates with Adam's big voice but makes Kris look awful.

THere was no way Kris was going to sing that song well and it was obvious from the first four bars. So Kris has to end his entire journey on AI singing a HORRIBLE song that does not fit him one bit. American Idol should be ashamed.

I will say that I was more than impressed by both performers tonight.


Surprised he chose "Mad World" over "Tracks of my Tears," as I didn't like his first rendition of "Mad World" when compared with the Gary Jules version. But tonight was a lot better, as it had more of a Jules haunt to it.

He did as well on A Change Is Gonna Come as I would have expected. He still shrieks like a woman too much. Then again, he didn't get to pick the song.

Kris- I always thought Kris was overrated, and that he had a very weak voice. However, tonight I really appreciated how contemporary of an artist he could become.

"Ain't No Sunshine" was terrific. I could definitely see myself listening to this on the radio.

"What's Goin On?" It was unfair to criticize Kris for being a bit of a jam-style singer. That is the type of musician he is. He is an acoustic-rock, chill-vibe singer and I thought he re-interpreted Marvin Gaye very well. I would definitely listen to this version.

Final verdict:

Lambert the most chamelion-like singer I have seen on Idol or anywhere else. He can sing an array of genres and he has a very rare gift with his voice. However, he is overly theatrical and screams too much.

Kris, on the other hand, has a good, but ordinary voice. However, he creates enjoyable covers that could be very popular.

If I were judging this based purely as a "singing competition," I would have to pick Adam.

If I were judging this based purely on who I think could be more successful in popular music, then it's Kris.

But again, I can't believe the way they ended the final night of performances.

Anonymous said...

I think Adam overwhelmingly deserves to win- both on just tonight and the entire season- but I wouldn't be too bummed if Kris wins because I like him and I know Adam, though polarizing, will be successful no matter what.

A lot of haters on his blog love to argue that Adam has no future, but I think that's dead wrong. He could easily be the front man for a rock band--- I mean, freaking Fall Out Boy has gone double platinum and My Chemical Romance has sold over a million. Adam has way, way more talent and creativity. And that's just the hard rock side; he's shown that he could do pretty much whatever he wants.

I also agree that it was a total hatchet job tonight and that the judges were giving Kris condescending "2nd place is good!" speeches.

David said...

"See, I'm one of the people who doesn't like the screaming, and to me, the second song was about 75 percent screaming. It's largely the fault of the fact that the songs are so short, and there's just no opportunity to build the song to the point where you have come close to earning that amount of screeching.

I want to stress that I like Adam as a guy, I think he seems like he would be great fun to have a drink with, and I will not at all be mad if he wins. I think the performance of most media outlets and the judges this season in terms of one-sided "Adam Lambert is God" coverage has been profoundly embarrassing (I predict EW, for instance, will one day look back on the way they covered this season and realize they blew the story utterly by pretending Kris didn't exist until this week), but that's absolutely not Adam's fault. I think he's a transparently good guy; I just don't like the singing at ALL."

Linda, it's not what you say, it's the way you say it. God knows I agree with you that Adam isn't all the show's making him out to be, but I would have thought a former TWoP mod would be less likely to browbeat other people into following your opinion, which is basically what the majority of your comments here are doing. Grow up.

Jack said...

I've been an Adam fan ever since his take on "Ring of Fire". When it started I thought to myself "Oh god, what is this..." but by the time it was over I realized I was watching maybe the most interesting Idol contestant ever. While I dont like all his song choices (SO many better Aerosmith songs than "Cryin'") He's never ever boring. Kris I've found to be quite boring at times but his cover of "She Works Hard For Her Money" was brilliant. IMO WAY better than hs cover of Kanye's "Heartless". AND if you're gong to rock a Kanye song, why not "Stronger"? It's tailor-made for an acoustic cover. That being said, his version was still pretty damn good and I think he did prove he deserved to be here.

As for the finals.....Simon Fuller should be shot. Look, we know you're replacing Paula with Kara, BUT LETTING HER WRITE THE FINAL SONG!?!?! Unforgivable, especially when's it's a song as terrible as that was. The fact that she had 2 co-writers is even worse. When Adam started in my wife and I looked at each other and shivered...this song would be great for Hanna Montana and her "believe in yourself" junior high message. For two guys who have shown MUCH greater depth in their singing and song choice this was a slap in the face. You should be ashamed Kara. But don't worry b/c you can "climb that mountain, and overcome your fears. You can walk proudly down that road and never shed no tears..." or whatever crap that was.

Not being a Kris fan I thought he did really well tonight, tho I agree he was too restrained in his second cover. Having played the first song low key, he should've picked one to go BIG with, instead of playing both for a coffee house. Adam's cover of "Mad World" is arguably better than the original. Wasn't totally sold on his second song but it wasn't bad. I think this vote is going to be closer than anyone thinks.

The reason the judges are pimping Adam is bc he gives them a different artist to promote from last year's winner Cook. Kris IS Cook, but with an acoustic guitar, not electric. Everyone else that has won this show has been pretty well pegged into pop (only Carrie had made inroads into "country"). With Adam the show's record label gets an artist they can breach the world of Rock N Roll with. And no, sorry people, Cook doesn't count. He's as Rock N roll as Nickelback.

It will definitely be interesting to see what happens tomorrow night.

BUT one last point of contention....we have TWO HOURS tomorrow night, which means bloated promos, bad guest singers, all kinds of filler...and we couldnt instead have 2 hours of performance tonight, like say, either one of them would have to do if they become a star in front of a packed concert hall? Who wouldn't want say 6 songs from these two guys and a ONE hour results show tomorrow? They even wasted Carrie's contractually obligated performance with a terrible cover of a Motley Crue song......*sigh*.

Adam, you are SO right about how badly this show has been produced this year...

Craig Ranapia said...

Re: The Judges. Adam and Kris may be dull as ditch water, but those clowns are waaaay over-compensating, the format 'tweaks' have been one epic fail after another and if this was a drama or sit-com I'd be calling complacency-driven creative fatigue.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Grow up.

Okey-dokey, that'll be enough of that. Nowhere in her comment does Linda do anything but express her own opinion, disagreeing with but not attacking other commenters -- as opposed to you. Keep Rule #1 in mind, or I start deleting comments.

K J Gillenwater said...

One of the worst finales ever. I really hate it that they allow them to sing songs they've already done during the season. i want to hear something NEW.

Also, the final song was just HIDEOUS. And then to say Kris started out in a key too high...? But the beginning is SO low as to be impossible for him to go any lower and sing well in order to hit the awful high notes at the end.

Both Adam and Kris sounded terrible in the last song, with Kris sounding slightly better just b/c that song is not Adam's style at all. It just didn't suit him.

HATED the Judge's choices. Awful. Adam's song did not suit him at all. And why in the hell did they pick some dull 'protest' type song for Kris? YUCK.

I hope Kris wins just because the judges were so horrible to him last night. Basically treating him as if he'd already lost. He wouldn't be in the finale if a LOT of the audience didn't like him, dummies. Get a clue.

Unknown said...

This is simple.

Adam should win. Kris will win.

Steve said...

His sexuality is a non-issue. David Bowie is a legend, Elton John is an international superstar, and I have always maintained that Freddie Mercury is the best frontman of alltime (debate for another day).

It's that he is not a hard-edged rocker. He has the voice to be an Axl Rose/Steven Tyler type singer... sex, drugs and rock and roll. But he comes across as an emo theater kid playing the role of a rocker. Even when he does his scream, it doesn't exude rock emotion, but instead seems like when a chick screams.

There is no denying his vocal ability... it is amazing. But if he were really a rocker, he would be in a band. His voice is that good. Any unknown band that had someone of Adam's vocal ability as the frontman would have been discovered and would have blown up. The fact that Adam went the theater route instead of the band route implies to me that he is not in fact a rocker, but a theatrical performer.

And there is nothing wrong with that. He would do a killer job in a Broadway biopic of a rocker, or in a Jesus Christ Superstar.

The best thing Adam could have done for his image would have been to get caught boozing/sexing it up with some female groupies(would hurt him on Idol, but not for a rock career).

That said, I think if Adam wants to be a succesful rockstar, he needs to embrace glam rock and try to bring it back.

By the way, Intrade has Adam at 55 and Kris at 42 (last I checked) and dial Idol has them neck and neck with Kris a hair higher.

Al said...

I'll just co-sign all the complaints listed above. My favorite moment last night was Ryan's acknowledgement that LOTS of viewers aren't going to bother to watch the two-hour-plus finale live, and to -- ahem -- extend their DVR recording times according. What other show pimps itself by admitting: "We know you're only going to watch the last five minutes"?

LA said...

I echo many comments here, particularly those critizing Kara's song. You picked that song for these two finalists? REALLY? (Thanks, Weekend Update.)

The thing that cracked me up the most was Ryan Seacrest warning us in advance that the two-hour finale was going to run over two hours. REALLY?

I don't know who is going to win this thing. Kris is talented and I'm glad he's in the finals over the over-rated Gokey, but I honestly think it will be a damn shame if Adam doesn't leave with the top prize.

Rich C said...

So tonight's show is 2 hours long. For 2 singers. And Seacrest says "For you DVR'ers, this show is scheduled to go long"?

Thank God I only read the recaps! I just don't have the patience for all that...

Craig Ranapia said...

There is no denying his vocal ability... it is amazing. But if he were really a rocker, he would be in a band. His voice is that good.I wouldn't go that far, but the problem I have with Adam is that too often his song and performance choices just don't come off. Taking a chance is admirable, but as Tim Gunn says over on PR: "Make it work."

He either doesn't have much insight into his own limitations, or really thinks making a noise like he got his junk caught in a blender is appealing. (It obviously is to a lot of people willing to pick up the phone...)