Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Final 8 Performances

A few notes:

1.) I am currently listening to Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey's "One Sweet Day," still very much in mourning for Pia Toscano. Though there seems to be a silver lining: perhaps Pia's early/shocking ouster will land her a record deal/fanbase that might have otherwise eluded her should she have finished at a more expected 5th/4th place... I'm hoping for more sweet diva music to come from Pia, Jennifer Hudson style.

2.) For those of you who wondered if American Idol would work without Simon Cowell's reality-checking honesty, here's my answer: X-Factor starts in September.

3.) Idol is like a bag of Skittles... I can endure endless bites of yellow and green and purple (eww) knowing that a sweet red is on the way. In fact, anticipating red makes me enjoy the non-fantastic skittles a little more. It makes me think the less-superior flavors are a valuable part of the experience. Red makes other skittles seem better than they are, even.

But what happens if you remove red from the package?

Suddenly, the other skittle flavors don’t taste as good. In fact, I find myself detesting these inferior flavors, having robbed me of the joy of my delicious Pia (er, uh, I mean red!). What was once a yummy supporting act in a delightful ensemble of flavors becomes, instead, a bitter array of yuckiness. And I'm learning in a post-red-skittle Idolworld that I better learn to like a very specific flavor: Tween Country.

4.) Mom has stopped watching Idol, and sadly, I currently have no reason to even try and entice her back...

(Forgive my solemnity-- I'm sure the second someone (HALEY) delivers a swoon-worthy performance or one of the judges (JLO) says something remotely worthwhile, I'll be back on my cheery Idol game).

Till then...

The Hot
Stefano Langone: “End of the Road.” Albeit imperfect (Stefano really needs to watch that sometimes unpleasant vocal tone and choppy cadence of his), Stefano made me FEEL something tonight. By the time the climax of the song hit, I felt a bit of tingle creep back into my almost-dead Idol carcus. Seriously, Stefano brought some vocal power and emotional energy to the end of the road (though let's hope the ominous-lyric Idol curse doesn't strike Stefano down). I'm so so happy to see him finally perform up to his considerable potential (and also sport a tight tshirt. You snag them girlvotes, bro). But I have two questions: why are this season's contestants fighting so damn hard to bring the key change back into pop music? And also, why has no one pointed out that Stefano has sung about twice as many ballads as Pia by now? Shame, Idol. Shame.

Jacob Lusk: “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Oh, Jacob, you fling me like a yo-yo, you jolly gay thing you (two sidenotes: don't try to hit on women at TMZ and don't wear tight tshirts, mmmkay?). Ok, I'm sorry, that was really really mean of me, but I'm gonna cite last week's Pia ouster/mirror comment combo and call it even. But I digress-- Jacob, that was kind of spectacular. Combine one incredible song with several reality-defying notes and a generous heaping of humble pie (Lusky pouting duly noted) and we get one delicious batch of Idol glory. Jacob's problem is clearly consistency: if he stays more on the earnest/humble/restrained end of the dramatic/egotistical/shrieking scale, he'll be sailing right behind (Scotty/Lauren/James into the finals).

Scotty McCreery: “I Cross My Heart.” Let's face it: no matter what any of us coast-dwellers say or do (or vote), Scotty is going to win American Idol Season 10--and perhaps deservedly so. After all, he has all the superstar potential we fans have been squawking that Idol needs, whether we like it or not. Though what's all this talk about Scotty "returning" to his country roots? He's been about as country-vanilla as they come, on Idol. (Sidenote: anyone else notice that if you cover Scotty's hair, he bears a striking resemblance to one Clay Aiken? Ch-ch-check it out!) Take that, tweenage heartthrobbers!!!!

The Warm
Lauren Alaina: “The Climb.” Almost, Lauren-- almost. I don't know why, but Lauren can't ever quite seem to nail a performance all-around. There's a certain conviction and commitment that Lauren lacks (hmmm, maybe it's because she's 16 and she freaking deserves to have some flaws?). But if I think back to Carrie Underwood's Idol run, there were few truly standout moments aside from "Alone" (which was still remarkably stiff)-- Carrie just consistently delivered unfathomable vocal horsepower and small-town charm. Luckily Lauren has both in spades, not to mention her status as a teen girl might actually earn her some peer votes (as opposed to Ashton/Karen/Naima/Pia/every female contestant for the past 4 years). I mean, I don't think it's a coincidence that our last female Idol winner (Jordin Sparks) was a teenage girl-- times have changed people, and we better get used to teen queens and cute boys, cuz American tweendom demands they stay (even if they're not quite ready to).

Haley Reinhart: “Call Me.” I'm going to let the song take the hit for this one-- I've yet to hear a single version of Call Me anywhere that I've even remotely liked. And while Haley gets an A for Effort and is at least beginning to define herself as a singer (or dare I say--as an artist! What, no, we can't assign that moniker to a female! Blaspheme!), Haley's gorgeous dress/killer boots outshined her vocals here. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I wants a ballad, Haley, and I wants it without the Bandzilla. I recommend Bonnie Raitt's "Dimming of the Day" or Joan Osborne's version of "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted." Or dare I even say, Christina Aguilera's diva-throwdown "Mercy On Me." (Don't know theses songs? You should!) All of these possess the type of growl that defines Haley, as well the kind of honest emotion/unplugged vibe that she needs to rock to make herself a true contendor.

James Durbin: “Heavy Metal.” Every week, I find it difficult to figure out what to write about James-- and this week is no different. He's not quite good but not quite bad week-to-week. I guess he's just-- heavy metal? I don't know, all I hear when I listen to James lately is a cheap Adam Lambert knockoff. What happened to the magic behind Maybe I'm Amazed? Is James destined for a Casey James-like run to the end, studded with only one or two standout performances amidst a sea of mediocrity? Only time will tell...

The Cold

Casey Abrams: “Nature Boy.” Oh, no. Just-- no. This performance would indeed have deserved a standing ovation if: 1.) Casey had hit all of his notes (which he really didn't) and 2.) He removed all the ridiculous, cartoon gestures from his face. I'm happy that Casey stood up for himself (why won't go away until they find a cure for tone-deafness?), but I'm not happy that Casey has used the precious Judges Save only to deliver second-rate lounge music, crazy muppet band style. If you want to bring soulful, jazzy style to Idol, see Melinda Doolittle and Elliott Yamin. 'Nuff said.

Paul McDonald: “Old Time Rock & Roll.” Why hasn't anyone criticized Paul for delivering the SAME EXACT generic jaunty cheer week after week? (Seriously, dude seems to have the emotional range of a teletubbie). Oh wait, I know why! Because Paul's off-color dance moves and strange suits make him an "artist." Right. Listen, judges-- just because someone is odd (and male), it doesn't make them an artist. It just makes them odd (and male). While I saw a brief glimmer of hope in Paul's energetic performance last week, this week he has returned to "I'm too cool to take Idol that seriously" status.

Predictions: I think James/Lauren/Scotty should continue their reign of country/rocker safety and Jacob/Stefano will bounce out of the B3 after respectively solid showings. That leaves three vulnerable... I'm hoping Haley will collect some of Pia's voting block (not Lauren!) and I'm betting Casey will glide through based soley on Judges' overblown praise. Which leaves Tinky Winky, er, Sir Shiny Teeth, er, Paul McDonald to win tonight's prize for most-likely-to-sing-whilst-sobbing-come-Thursday-night (did I mention I miss Pia?).

Till tomorrow kiddies,

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