Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Idols' Eleven, er, Five

Our top five Idols hit the stage tonight to tackle some of the greatest songs in American music history in this "Rat Pack" themed night. This night brought to mind one of the greatest nights in Idol history, Big Band Night from Season 1 where, for many, Kelly Clarkson made her case that she most definitely should be our FIRST American Idol. Tonight had a similar vibe with all the guys in suits, a big band on the stage, and a lot of really great songs being performed.

I was initially a little put off by the announcement of tonight's mentor, Jamie Foxx. I have to confess that I've always been a bit lukewarm on Jamie Foxx. When he's good, he is GOOD. When he's not, though, he's unbearable. It has felt a lot this season like they've been really reaching for mentors what with Jamie Foxx and Quentin Tarentino. When they mentioned that Jamie had appeared in Dreamgirls with "our own" Jennifer Hudson (Don't you love the revisionist history of Idol where a contestant that was basically treated like a fourth-tier diva during her time on the show is now celebrated like she won the damn show?), it made me wonder why they haven't brought a former Idol back to mentor. Who better to guide these singers through the gauntlet of Idol than someone who has survived it him or herself? Bring in Carrie Underwood for a country-themed week (even though I, as a general rule, hate country-themed weeks). Have Kelly Clarkson guide them through a "Top Download" week. What better way to show that the Idol relationship is a healthy one? Despite this journey into "What If Land," I do have to say that, like Quentin Tarentino a few weeks ago, Jamie Foxx proved himself to be a great mentor, perhaps the best of the season. His classical music training combined with his acting skills allowed him to guide the singers to some of their best performances of the season and created what was, for me, the best evening's worth of performances all season.

Before I get to those five great performances, I do want to give a "oh, come on!" shout-out to Ryan Seacrest who implied that it was popular demand that gave each contestant TWO phone numbers this week. Ryan, this happens every season when we get down to five. It wasn't popular demand that made this happen; it was the elimination of 8 other people. Just had to get that off my chest!

1. Kris Allen: I LOVED it when Jamie Foxx praised Kris for not engaging in "Throat Olympics" when he sings -- a comment on Kris's more mellow, understated vibe. Kris's choice of "The Way You Look Tonight" was not a huge surprise, but I did love the lovely, cool delivery he gave. While most of the comments he received from the judges were complimentary, Simon clearly had taken a sip or two of Paula's "special" Coke when he referred to Kris's performance as "wet." (I could make a really inappropriate comment here about wetness and Kris, but I'll just let that live in your imagination rather than putting it out there to float through the Internet and haunt me for all eternity!) He went on to tell Kris he can't win the competition. I still don't understand how the guy who fits best what's going on in music right now isn't being hoisted up on the judges' shoulders and paraded through the studio like a Greek god. My sis and I were listening to the radio the other day when a Maroon 5 tune came on. My sis turned to me and said, "Yeah, I can hear Kris Allen doing something like this and being a huge star." He is marketable, contemporary, and talented, so cut the kid some slack, Cowell.

2. Allison Iraheta: Allison won me over right away with her choice of "Someone to Watch Over Me." This song has always held a special place in my heart in that it was my father's favorite song. It always makes me a little teary because it reminds me so much of him. When Jamie Foxx suggested that the now-seventeen-year-old Allison think of her family when singing this song rather than an imaginary lover, it kind of got to me since that song always makes me think of my dad watching over me. Poor Allison, though, may be doomed. Mere seconds after Kara predicted Allison would make it to the finals, Simon killed all hope by telling Allison that, since she doesn't seem to believe she can win, she's finished. You know, Simon, the teenaged ego is a pretty fragile thing. For every cocky, arrogant teenager I've worked with, I've worked with even more self-doubting, self-conscious kids who haven't quite got a grip on how smart or talented or beautiful they are. Looking at Allison, I can see a kid who has probably struggled with a lot of self-doubt. She's a kind of awkward kid who isn't conventionally pretty and who has, rather than hiding in her shell of uncertainty, has tried to forge through it by dying her hair and wearing funky clothes. And now here she is on national television being told she has "personality issues" and now a lack of confidence. She can't win! And if the fact that in the 25 minutes I spent hitting redial on Allison's number without getting a single busy signal tonight is any indication, she won't win. And that's a damn shame.

3. Matt Giraud: According to Randy, Matt chose "the hardest song to sing ever" when he chose "My Funny Valentine." Really? The hardest song EVER??? Harder than opera? Seriously, dawg? Well, bravo to Matt. While I didn't think Matt's performance was all that bad (again, I thought all the performances tonight were pretty stellar), I have to say that I am really tired of the runs that Matt feels the need to insert into a song. Just respect the damn melody. Part of the power of these songs is the perfection of their melodies and inserting all those extra notes just diminishes that perfection and comes across as self-indulgent. It kind of reminds me of something my friend Larry (with whom I recently worked onstage in The Sunshine Boys) says about actors who ad lib onstage: "Has your work been produced on Broadway? No? Then leave the play writing to Neil Simon and just say the words he wrote for you." The same is true here -- just sing the notes written for you.
4. Danny Gokey: Danny promised in his video intro that in his version of "Come Rain or Come Shine" he wouldn't be changing much. When has he ever? (Okay, yeah, there was the shenanigans of "Stand By Me" a couple weeks ago.) So he promises this and then comes out and pretty much knocks it out of the ball park. He did put a great spin on the song and while I hated that he felt the need to shout the song to us at the end, I have to admit that he had not only his best performance of the season so far but the best performance of the night. I root for his ouster, but he doesn't deserve it this week. Damn him and his funky glasses!

5. Adam Lambert: Not only does Adam get the pimp spot tonight, he gets the pimp entrance, the pimp lighting, AND the pimp suit. He also got one of my favorite songs in "Feeling Good." I really thought that his performance was a bit of a mess until the very end when he hit a couple really amazing glory notes. Of course, the judges were falling all over themselves to praise him. Even Randy Jackson's labelling of Adam as being "theatrical" became complimentary for the first time in Idol history. Paula compared him to Michael Phelps. It was an Adam love fest, as usual. It's a foregone conclusion (or as Brande on Celebrity Apprentice would say, a "foregoo" conclusion) that Adam is going to win, so let's just leave it at that.

Bottom three: Kris, Allison, and Matt. I think my girl might finally be heading home after Simon's damning her confidence. Oh, well, kiddo. I always worried about all the school and social experience you were missing because of Idol, so I guess now I can take some solace in the fact that maybe you won't miss Prom.

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