Tuesday, May 12, 2009

American Idol, Top 3: Judge's Choice/Contestant's Choice

Spoilers for the "American Idol" Top 3 performance show coming up just as soon as I note again how pathetic the show is, in that they needed to schedule a 64-minute episode to fit in six performances (in a week when they used to be able to do nine) and they still ran a minute long!

With producer incompetence cutting a song from each contestant, we didn't get to see what sort of music Clive Davis might have thrust upon these three, nor did we get to see the producers try to sandbag somebody the way they did with Syesha and that silly penguin song last season. Just one choice from the judges, and one from the contestants.

Judge's Choice

Danny Gokey, "Dance Little Sister" (Paula's choice): Paula's made some really awful and/or cheesey selections for contestants in past seasons ("Satisfaction" for Bo Bice, "Roxanne" for Blake Lewis), but she makes a pretty good one for Danny, if you assume getting stuck with the most obscure song of the night won't hurt him. It's a fine match for his voice, and if it sounds like every other uptempo Danny performance, it at least showcases the more interesting side of his persona. He's basically a more vocally-gifted, younger-looking Taylor Hicks, which may be a bad thing for selling records but seemed to do Taylor just fine on the show.

Kris Allen, "Apologize" (Randy and Kara's choice): I love that those two got thrown together, because if you take gender, race and any physical attributes out of the equation, they're basically the same person, and equally useless to the show. What's really amusing to me is that, in all the discussion of whether Kris should or shouldn't have re-arranged the song, not one of the judges managed to point out how awkward Kris' falsetto sounded. I don't remember him showcasing that before, and certainly not to this extent, and now I know why.

Adam Lambert, "One" (Simon's choice): I was halfway through a Tweet making fun of the constant use of the blue spotlight for Adam performances when I had to pause and unironically appreciate Adam's vocal work on the opening verse, which is maybe the best he's ever sounded on the show, including that "Tracks of My Tears" cover a while back. Once he got to the chorus, it was into the upper register stuff I don't enjoy nearly as much, but when he's just singing a song straight without embellishment or showing off, he's pretty amazing.

Contestant's Choice

Danny Gokey, "You Are So Beautiful": Hey, Taylor sang this! Danny's version is better than Taylor's (Taylor looked scared and confused as he sang it), but it also wasn't quite the "vocal masterclass" that Simon and the other judges tried to dub it. For one thing, a vocal masterclassman might have realized that a simple, plaintive, yearning song like this, in what to that point had been an appropriately stripped-down arrangement, didn't need that obnoxious power note at the end. For another, of all the times for Danny to lose the raspy tone in his voice, it would be on a song made famous by Joe Cocker? A solid performance (other than the one show-off note that went against the spirit of the rest of it), but not spectacular.

Kris Allen, "Heartless": Kris tackling a song that Kanye West auto-tuned within an inch of its life on a results show earlier this season was the biggest artistic risk of the night, and it paid off. Kris' mannerism was a little too peppy at times for a song about being destroyed by a heartless woman, but the vocals and the acoustic guitar were excellent, and it made me appreciate the song in a new way, which most "Idol" covers fail to do.

Adam Lambert, "Cryin'": What was that Adam was telling Ryan about not wanting to mess with the Aerosmith version? That bore very little resemblance to the Steven Tyler vocals, and seemed mostly an excuse for Adam to go wailing in six different octaves. If you listen to the Tyler version (or even to the one that Storm Large did on "Rock Star"), you'll realize that what makes the song cool is how Tyler starts off simply before building to those huge notes near the end. Because of the 90-second "Idol" performance slot, as well as Adam's own inclinations, there was no opportunity for a build -- just instant, annoying vocal gymnastics.

Best of the night: As an overall performance, Kris' "Heartless," though the opening half of Adam's "One" was the best section of a song I heard.

In danger: This oughta be interesting. Simon wisely warned the Adam fans against complacency, and I have to assume he's so far ahead of the other two that he'll make it into the finals. Danny seemed like the season's inevitable runner-up for a long time, but Kris has been gaining on him for a while. Kris had one of the night's weaker performances, but he also had one of its strongest, where I felt Danny was just solid both times. Really, at this stage, it comes down to fanbases, and I have a feeling Seacrest is going to be boasting about the thin margin between the second and third place contestants tomorrow night.

What did everybody else think?


Mike F said...

Adam still exhibiting his gifts with flare, but the screeching just isn't at all for me...or my wife...and we're both young and appreciate rock/alternative.

Kris has turned into the guy who's musical taste I identify with the most and I hope he gets through tonight.

Danny, also very talented, but he's not current at all...he's got the best back story of the three BY FAR, and that's what's continuing to carry him through and will likely do so into the final...but I'm glad it hasn't been mentioned in a little while on the show...and I'm hoping this is the end of the road for him.

Adam should probably win this thing, but I might prefer Kris at this point.

Dialidol has it as a pretty tight three-way race. Even though Simon acknowledged the need for people to actually vote Adam through, its hard for most people not to see this as a 2-person game to get to the finale with Adam. Thus, he's still at risk.

Yet another anonymous said...

I'm a huge Adam fan overall, but Kris' "Heartless" is the performance I'll remember. Hope he makes it to the final two.

Alan, ditto, ditto, ditto on how lame the producers are: 64 minutes and 2 song each? And they didn't even have tons of filler about the hometown visit, either.

Talk about bloated. And yes, I would have liked to have seen what Clive might have suggested.

Fred App said...

I thought Adam's "One" was his biggest train wreck since "Ring of Fire." What makes it such a great song is the way Bono builds to a powerful chorus, which is different than building to a banshee wail.

I like Danny, and thought that his performances tonight were perhaps his best, but I agree that he's a nice guy with an interesting voice, limited charisma, and probably no niche in popular music. I think that of the three, Kris has potentially the most interesting career ahead of him.

Anonymous said...

After Danny sang his second song, I didn't think Kris had a shot at all at making the final two, but Kris may have saved himself with his guitar only performance of Heartless. It reminded me a lot of Bo Bice's In a Dream acoustic performance (yes I know Bo didn't have a guitar) where Kris could strip the song down and show off his underrated vocals that the judges really haven't highlighted throughout the weeks.

Of course, it seems the judges still want a Danny/Adam final, but I'd buy a few songs of Kris Allen's music over Danny any day.

Also, I loved watching Kara almost fall down at the end of the show before the recap. I hope they rethink her role on the show next year. Maybe have her help up until the semifinals, then leave and only come back to help write the coronation song for the final week.

Hyde said...

There was just way too much of the judges meandering tonight, which was (as it has been most of the season) the main reason things ran long again.

All in all, not a great night. Adam took the wrong approach with "One" and chose a dull song with "Cryin'." Kris failed on "Apologize," and Danny's second song was alternately boring and desperate.

If you're going to vote based on the whole season, you have to choose Adam and Kris. If you vote based only on tonight, it's also Adam and Kris, though less definitively. The de facto winner of the night was Allison.

Anonymous said...

I've not really had a problem with Kara for most of the season because I just don't care enough about Kara to spend that much time on her. As best as I can tell she's pretty and easily excitable and she knows nothing about any music that she, herself, didn't write. So after being completely "meh" on her all season I was surprised to actually *hate* her tonight. Good grief. It's pretty bad when you're sitting up there with Randy, Paula and Simon and *you* manage to make the whole "it's all about me" thing totally obnoxious. We get it. You wanted Kris to do something different with the song. And he didn't. Because he's not psychic and assumed, like most, that when the judges pick a song for you to sing that they chose it because they wanted to hear you do that artist and that version. We. Get. It. And twenty minutes later we still got it and she still wasn't over it. She made the "it's a singing competition, but that saxophone was atrocious and your dancing was awful and so on and so on" BS way less annoying by comparison. Oh...and I can't be the only person who, everytime she shrieks "who has a voice like that??" or "who can sing like that???", replies with "Axl". Right? Because Adam's doing a good job and he's got some pipes, but he's doing Axl most of the time. What the hell?

But, that's my gripe. In a week I won't have to deal with any of them again for awhile.

Tonight: Kris's "Heartless" killed. Most interesting of the night. Best of the night. Adam's vocals on half of both of his songs were awesome (and nice job picking one of the songs Kara said Danny should have sang last week). Danny did a really nice job with both songs, especially a TTD song most of the audience had probably never heard before. Which sort of makes me wonder where all those people who claim that the judges are so pro-Gokey win are coming from. Maybe it's just too hard for me to see through the big Adam curtain they've pulled in front of everyone else.

Honestly, a Kris Allen upset would be a fun thing to see at this point, but in spite of possibility that Adam's losing a few votes everytime the judges drool all over him, he's probably got this in the bag.

Adam said...

Our ALOTT5MA review is up, and Kim and I both liked Lambert's "Cryin'" more than Alan did -- I just love the balls to say, "Hey, Gokey: this is how it's done."

Not his fault the backup singer was over-miked.

Indeed said...

I thought Kris' Heartless was by far the performance of the evening.
Adam was way over-praised by the judges tonight, particularly on One. I haven't been a huge Adam fan all season, though he's grown on me. But One tonight was just not good at all. Cryin' was a bit better, but not much.
Danny was uninspriring though i liked his judge's choice better than YOu Are So Beautiful, which pretty much put me in a coma.
Kara is insufferable and unwatchable. I really hope she is not invited back next year, because she's just awful.

ghoti said...

I thought "Heartless" was clearly the best performance of the night.

"Cryin'" was, IMO, the worst.

If the voters don't come through for Adam, it won't be because he slam dunked the final three.

Jaynee said...

Well, I haven't voted at all this season because I was bitter over the rejection of Ricky Braddy (who would TOTALLY be beating Adam right now if the judges hadn't booted him). However, tonight I broke out the cellphone and voted for Kris. I made about 30 text votes and called his 5702 number, getting through about 50 times. Hopefully there are others out there like me who haven't voted thus far, but decided to get involved tonight in order to keep Kris around. I think he's got great potential.

KC said...

Frankly, I was just dumbstruck how the judges' own rampant self-regard overtook their comments after Kris's performance. It was less a critique then a bully pulpit of egos. If the kid wasn't so polite, he should have broken up their non-stop bickering with, "Shut up you raving egomaniacs this is about MY performance."

Anyway, there is no doubt Adam shows the most versatility. I agree with "One" his softer voice shows a wonderful melodic range and I have to say listening to the studio version he did of "Mad World" has become my favorite thing he has done, beautifully phrased and heartfelt.

Theresa said...

I think my favorite moment of the night was when Kara asked Kris why he didn't strip down Apologize like he did Heartless and he said quite simply, "I didn't want to." Awesome. It would've been dumb to do the same treatment to two songs in the same night and they would've eaten him alive for it. Instead, he did an ok performance of the first one and a great performance of the second one. Going into the season I didn't even think he was going to make it to the top 13, but now I have a faint hope that he might even make it to the finals. We shall see.

BigTed said...

As much as I like Adam's singing style and his arrangements of other songs, I thought he totally lost the melody of the U2 song tonight... he could have been singing anything. The other guys, to me, are competent singers with very little charisma, and I don't really care which one makes it.

(At one point, though, I was struck by how much Danny Gokey reminded me of Topher from "Dollhouse" suppressing his smirk.)

Anonymous said...

I think at this point the overruns may be by design in the hope that more people will watch live, meaning that they will watch the commercials and thus increase ad revenue.

Undercover Black Man said...

Whatever "not it" is... Danny Gokey's got it. He has less star quality than any top tier "Idol" contestant since maybe Diana DeGarmo.

But Alan, I co-sign you on Lambert's "One." First verse was beautiful... then he got all showgirly with it.

And I hope Kara DioGuardia's kidneys fail.

LA said...

Finale should be Adam and Kris.

Steve said...

The judges missed the boat tonight. I hate the Top 3 because the judges always praise them to pump up their artists for the Idols Tour, and they want to act like they pick great songs for the singers.

Adam Lambert- I've said my piece on him in weeks past. He has incredible chameleon-like range, but I don't buy his performances. He is not a rockstar, he is an emo, theater queen playing dress up (again, this has nothing to do with his sexuality... check out youtube for videos of him pre-idol). His performances are not believable because he goes from zero to pretend emotional in 0-60.

"One." Judges, just because he didn't sing the original arrangement, it doesn't mean it's his version. He BUTCHERED Mary J. Blige's rendition... it was disgusting. The first sixteen bars were actually sung very well, but it was when he went into the chorus that I wanted to vomit.

"Cryin." Nothing great. He can hit crazy notes, but it pierces my ears and I don't want to listen to him any more.

Danny Gokey- I used to like him a lot, and I still think he's the best "Singer" of the group. But as the weeks go on, he becomes consistently predictable... he fell into the same trap as Archuletta.

"Dance Little Sister" I have never heard of this song before. I liked it. The sound of his voice fit the song, but there was too much band noise involved and seemed like a Top 12-type performance.

"You Are So Beautiful. It was a solid performance, but it didn't blow me away. I still think his best performance was his audition song, "Kiss From a Rose"

Kris Allan- I don't even think he is a good singer. He has a VERY weak voice, and doesn't hit notes like Danny or Adam. But he's the most commercial. He's the Jason Mraz/Adam Duritz/Jesse McCartney acoustic guitar playing musician. The judges go whichever way the wind blows on whether this is actually a singing competition.

"Apologize" I thought it was very bad. He didn't sing it nearly as well as the lead singer of One Republic. And again, his voice pales compared with Adam and Danny. I think it's ridiculous that he got this far. Again, he sounds like a college band playing a frat party.

"Heartless" was okay, but again, it sounded like some college kid playing at a frat party. He didn't show any singing ability in the song. Besides, "The Fray" has a similar and much better rendition of the song (piano over guitar, but same gist).

Overall, I think it should be a Danny/Adam finale because they are the too strongest singers. In the end, Danny will try to succeed where Taylor Hicks failed, and be a Michael McDonald type, and Lambert will probably end up on broadway because he is too animated and fake.

It's a shame that Allison wasn't in it this week. She was probably the most enjoyable.

Jack said...

hey there STEVE -

When you say Adam butchered Mary J Blige's version of a U2 SONG maybe you should step back. Seems to me like he took a U2 song they expressly gave him permission to use, and (for everyone out there who says he butchered it) HE CHANGED THE KEY. If Mary has already done it, good great grand wonderful. She's not singing in this competition right now, and if she was the pressure would be forcing her to use again. Changing the key of the song means the notes Adam sings are NOT GOING TO BE THE SAME ONES BONO SINGS. HENCE its going to sound like a DIFFERENT SONG. Which if you havent figured out yet, is what the judges have been telling the contestants to do all season long - make a song your own...Personal preference you didnt like it fine. But you cant sit there and complain it didnt sound like the orig when aside from killing it, he changed the damn song and that's what the judges lambasted Kris (Chris? Cris) for not doing on his first song that was assigned to him.

Fred App said...

UBM -- Thanks for the line about kidneys failing. Best laugh I've had in days. Yeah, I haven't seen anyone so useless and incompetent since Brownie was doing a great job in New Orleans.

K J Gillenwater said...

I think last night's show proves that the judges and possibly the producers desperately want Adam to win. "One" was terrible. He mixed up the notes to make it almost unrecognizable and then sucked all the meaning out of the song with his horrid screech/KISS tongue wag. I mean, what in the hell was that? Then, we get the train wreck of "Cryin'." Yes, that back up singer was overmiked...but the arrangement was a MESS. There was too much going on in the background and on top of that we had to sit through ear-splitting screech after ear-splitting screech.

What bugs me most about Adam is that instead of using his range sparingly in order to wow the audience, he uses it ALL the time which becomes irritating and comes across as a guy merely showing off rather than singing.

Danny did all right. Nothing special. I thought his first song was a little shouty and an odd choice. Paula never does good song choices from what I remember. He did do better with "You Are So Beautiful," because he showed us that he's not just the gravelly-voiced singer. He can do gentler, sweeter stuff too.

Kris was my favorite. I think "Apology" was just fine. Nothing spectacular, but well done. I thought his falsetto was pretty good, actually. But "Heartless" KILLED. That was incredible! I agree with Randy...better than the original by a mile. I'm downloading that sucker off iTunes TODAY.

I am guessing, sadly, that Adam will be in the finale. I'd LOVE to see him kicked off right now, but I have a sinking feeling he will make it through. Hope Kris is the other one. He has brought the most musical talent and singing ability, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with K J on Adam's singing and with Steve on Adam's approach.
And of all the judges they let Paula pick a song alone? look what she comes up with. Really not fair to stick Danny with a song with no range, and that nobody knows. Ugh.

Don't bother me, it's my birthday said...

When Adam started "One," I thought this will be prety good. Then he had to Adam it all up and remind me why I don't like him. He reminds me of countless season 1-4 contestants who want to the Mariah Carey thing in every song, showing off their range rather than actually sing. The judges want this guy to win so bad it's not even funny.

Kris' "Heartless" was pretty good, but if had put the proper emotion into it (don't smile! you're pissed!) it would have been one of the greats from this show.

Danny was ok, but I have soft spot in my heart for TTD. Looks like Paula and I have something in common other than our love of vicodin.

Kay said...

Does anyone know why when the show gets down to four or three contestants, they still insist on 90 second performances? At this stage I'm ready to hear a full song.

Danny's "you are so beautiful" was no masterclass. The first part was a train wreck.

barbra said...

I've listened to it three times now, and there is NO "bum note" in Kris' "Apologize." Proving once again that Paula is on another planet. But we already knew that.

I'm one of those that thinks "One" was BUTCHERED. Changing the key is not anything close to a big deal. Ruining the entire point of an amazing song is what we're talking about. The beginning of the song was gorgeous, but then the rest made me gag.

I could be overly sensitive about U2 songs, though. I admit that.

Sonia said...

I also agree that Adam ruined "One" -- there is no reason to wag your tongue and screech during that song. In my opinion, I have diliked him every time he busts out his wailing screeching notes...I much prefer "Track of My Tears" -- performances like that still show his incredible talent, but our eardrums do not h ave to be subjected to that wailing. And if you want to talk about predictable -- I think Adam is very predictable. Bet you he sings Sweet Child O' Mine in the finale...LOL.

He's just not my kind of idol, I guess. I liked Alison.

I loved Kris's version of Heartless -- I agree with Randy that it rivaled the original. But here's the thing...what's so different about him? Aren't there at least five other male singers in his niche already?

Same goes for Danny...but I do love the sound of his voice.

maura said...

I'm one of those that thinks "One" was BUTCHERED. Changing the key is not anything close to a big deal. Ruining the entire point of an amazing song is what we're talking about. The beginning of the song was gorgeous, but then the rest made me gag.

I could be overly sensitive about U2 songs, though. I admit that.
barbra, I could have written your post. I only wish there were a stronger word than "butchered". He should be arrested for what he did to "One". But yeah, like you, I'm also sensitive about U2 songs.

I wasn't particularly impressed by "Cryin' " either. Who else can hit those notes, Kara? Steven Tyler, for one, and much more artfully than Adam did. And I think I finally figured out what bugs me about Adam. He doesn't hit those notes because it will benefit the song. He does it because he can. I still think he's exceptionally talented, but I'm just fed up with him.

I loved Kris' performance of "Heartless". He actually managed to make the song listenable, which Kanye West didn't do when he recently sang it on both AI and SNL. I didn't like "Apologize" much, but it's a sucky song anyway. I don't know if anyone could make it sound good.

Danny? Meh. I love hearing Terrence Trent D'Arby's stuff (although "Icon" might stretching it a little). But it really wasn't a good choice for Danny. And I like "You Are So Beautiful", but Danny's problem is, despite his wonderful voice, the man can take the soul out of just about any song around.

Poor Ryan. Were the judges drunk last night? I don't know how he can handle them without a whip and a chair.

Steve said...

Jack, I don't have a problem with Adam changing up the song, so long as it works. Adam was terrible.

The high-pitcheds scream is a valuable tool in songs because it conveys a wallop of emotion and sells the singer's convictions.
However, Adam does it every chance he gets and turns it on like a lightswitch. As a result, it comes across very fake.

Regarding "Heartless." Again, it was entertaining and pleasasnt. But there was absolutely nothing special about it. Taking a rap song and making it into an acoustic guitar song is a very popular, common thing to do. He sound like a guy playing at a frat party.

Kris has the weakest voice of any top-3 contestant ever. He just doesn't sing anything out of his limited range to make glaring errors, and rides his boyish good looks. God bless him, and I think he'll be very successful. In fact, he'll probably be the most successful recording artist of the three... but that doesn't make him a good singer, which is what the competition pretends to care about.

Sonia, I laughed about your Adam comment, because I have been waiting for him to sing Sweet Child O'Mine for weeks. I think he's one of the few people that can emulate Axl vocally and I'd like to hear him try.

Linda said...

I would just like to know when the last time was that the same person had the opportunity to close the show two weeks in a row. I was absolutely shocked that after allowing Adam to both open and close the show last week, he got to close the show again this week, and then Simon and the rest of the judges actually yelled that everyone should vote for him.

I think I liked it better when everyone who said they were trying to push the victory of one person had a rely on something more subtle than them actually hollering that you should vote for one person over everyone else. I don't believe in conspiracy theories, but apparently the desire to see Adam Lambert win is so overwhelming that they've moved beyond conspiracy to directly rigging the outcome. I admire anybody else who's still getting up on the stage and singing when the fix is so obviously and shamelessly in.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch of the imagination, so I've never thought they were rigging this show behind the scenes, but this is the most shameless I've ever seen them be when promoting a contestant for the win. All I can figure is that they're looking at the numbers each week and they're concerned that they're close. It would not surprise me at all if dialidol was right on the money this week as far as percentages go, even after the text votes are added. Those couple of weeks where it looks like Danny might have actually gotten more votes than Adam must have scared them. And Kris can't *not* be nipping at his heels since, if more batshit crazy corners of the internet are to be judged as having any power at all, people seem to be holding Danny personally responsible for the eliminations of Matt and Allison. For a season that hasn't been that great and a group of contestants that might actually be pretty strong but aren't especially compelling, they seem to be inspiring much crazier behaviour than last season when the people were more fun and the winner both charismatic *and* talented.

Steve said...

Adam's screams remind me The Karate Kid, Part II where Chozen, the Japanese bad guy, catches Daniel LaRusso's famous crane kick and says (and i'm paraphrasing) "Dude, the crane kick was cool in the first movie, but come on, man, you can't do that move EVERY TIME, I know it's coming."

Or, for younger viewers, it's like what Iceland did to Team USA's "Flying V" in D2.

Kelly said...

These last few weeks, although there is so much potential, are coming up short and it's getting frustrating. The judges have been saying all season for Adam to sing Queen, yet when given the chance, Simon chooses U2? I'm not saying Adam should sing Queen, but his voice has nothing in common with Bono's and that performance was a train wreck waiting to happen. I can't believe Randy was the only judge to pick up on that. Gokey drives me nuts, but I thought there was potential with a TTD song but it was the wrong song. There wasn't much he could've done with that. It reminded my of all of Gokey's uptempo songs - very 80's, very Lionel Richie Dancing on the Ceiling. Chris was ok for the first song (and I despise that song). I didn't think that was the right choice for him because that falsetto was also a nightmare waiting to happen. Gokey's choice started out ok but WHY DOES HE HAVE TO YELL DURING EVERY SONG HE SINGS? The dude can't reign in the over the top finish to any song you put in front of him. Chris's second was great. He knows he has weakest voice and gets butchered by the judges every week, but he still competes every week. Finally, I can't believe Adam chose Aerosmith- Talk about overindulgent. Last night was the first night since the tryouts that I thought his talent is for Broadway only. He looked like Liza Minneli singing last night.

fishsauce said...

Steve said: "Kris has the weakest voice of any top-3 contestant ever."

Steve, really? Worst than Jasmine Trias??

Anonymous said...

I think one of the biggest problems with Adam's "One" the other night was that it felt short, that he threw the best parts together and that's what we were left with. Check out the studio version on iTunes. It's over 4 minutes long, he lets the song builds, and it sounds great. He did a great job.