Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Inglorious Idols

Ginger-philes, here is an example of my devotion to you and this blog. This week is tech week for the play that I'm in. (Have I mentioned that I'm in a play? It's a small part -- on for about five pages -- in The Sunshine Boys, but tech week stress is still tech week stress no matter how small your part!) I was at the theatre last night until 9:30, but I still came home, collapsed into my chair, pulled out my legal pad and pencil (Yeah, I take notes during Idol. Wanna make something of it??), and queued up the DVR to watch last night's Idol. Last night's theme was "Songs From Movies," which can often encompass just about anything. The judge was Quentin Tarantino. My first thought was, "WTF? Since when is Quentin Tarantino a vocal expert?" While I most definitely remember his appearance as a guest judge during season three, last night initially seemed more like an opportunity to promote Tarantino's upcoming movie Inglorious Basterds (so excited to see it, thank you very much) rather than provide any real assistance to the contestants. I have to say, though, that QT proved himself to be pretty thoughtful in his advice, and I liked that a lot of his advice dealt with tapping into the emotional intensity of a song. As a director, I totally got where he was coming from. Too bad the judges didn't often seem to be.

Because of last week's overrun, the post-performance critiques were limited to just two judges per person, with each contestant hearing from either Kara and Randy or Paula and Simon. While I appreciated the brevity of commentary, I thought everyone onstage last night could have used a little truth talking from Mr. Cowell. I would have loved to have heard his thoughts on Kris's "Falling Slowly." Oh, well. I'll talk more about the judges later.

1. Allison Iraheta: My favorite contestant was up last night, again doing a song I've never been particularly fond of -- Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" from Armageddon. It was a good choice for her, though, even though I found her performance a little breathy and thought her nerves were palpable. Something amazing happened last night, though. Simon rejected the story arc the producers have been shoving on us all season by announcing that Allison was "the women's best hope" and had a shot to make it to the finals. The look of shock on her face was nearly as stunned as the look of shock on my face when he said it. In one week, Allison went from having a "likability issue" to being a frontrunner. Rock on, Wonder Girl!!!!

2. Anoop Desai: Again, a song I have never really liked -- Bryan Adams's "Everything I Do (I Do For You)" from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Sigh. Anoop's version of the song was actually quite lovely, but I was distracted by the shimmering sweat that hovered on his upper lip during the performance. I guess I'm no better than the judges, but it really was distracting!! I think Anoop is the one, though, with a likability issue, which explains why he keeps landing in the bottom three even though he probably does have one of the strongest voices in the competition. At times, I think Anoop comes off a little arrogant, and I often wonder how much his lack of votes is connected to his ethnicity. Our love of Slumdog Millionaire is not translating to votes for the brown one.

3. Adam Lambert: Adam never fails to not surprise me. He tends to go one of two ways -- soft and emo-ish (kind of a later Depeche Mode feel like we saw with "Mad World") or hardrocking and shrieking. Last night, he chose "Born to be Wild" from Easy Rider. In his meeting with Tarantino, he talked about adding an "electronic element" to the song, a comment which elicited a Bitch, please!" from me. I will give Adam this, though. Thanks to his musical theatre training, his lyrics are always 100% understandable. I heard words in that song last night that I never knew were there. I tried an experiment last night with Adam's performance. For the first half of the song, I didn't look at the television at all, and the performance was hot. I would dig that if I heard it on the radio. Unfortunately, I DID look at the screen for the second half and what I saw was a really self indulgent, borderline ridiculous spectacle. I felt like I was watching American Idol: The Musical. My sis commented last night that the best thing that could happen to Adam would be to NOT win and then spend his career rocking out on Broadway, ala Constantine Maroulis who is currently starring in Rock of Ages. Adam's performance did lead to the best quote of the night from Ms. Paula Abdul: "You dare to dance in the path of greatness." Welcome back, Paula. I've missed your zany, whacked out comments.

4. Matt Giraud: Yet another song which I've never really liked -- "Have You Ever Loved a Women?" by (again) Bryan Adams from the underrated Johnny Depp classic Don Juan DeMarco. Matt's energy seemed a little off, leading me to wonder if he was maybe under the weather, and he hit some wonky and scratchy notes throughout the song. I did love the ending of the song, though -- and not just because it was over. He hit a really lovely note there that both my sis (who has decades of vocal training) and I both commented on. I think Matt, though, suffers from the same likability issue that plagues Anoop in that he often seems arrogant and petulant when being critiqued. I suspect he is one of the more vulnerable contestants at this point when you combine that perceived attitude with the lukewarm responses he receives from judges.

5. Danny Gokey: Well, at least Danny sang a song I've always kind of liked, "Endless Love." Unlike Simon, I liked the presence of the harp onstage, but I'm always a fan of bringing more classical instrumentation into pop music. I thought Danny managed to keep his shouty tendencies under control a bit more, although it did pop up at the end. I also give Danny props in that he clearly chose a song that, for him, was all about his dead wife BUT he didn't milk that by making any mention of it other than the heaven-wards glance at the end -- a glance which had me near tears. The cynics out there will accuse him of fakery and manipulation, I'm sure, but the idealist in me thought it was a sincere, lovely moment. But then, I cried at the end of The Mighty Ducks, so what do I know?

6. Kris Allen: First off, props to Kris for picking the relatively unknown "Falling Slowly" from Once. It was a cool choice in many ways and proved a nice showcase for Kris's mellow vibe. The song also really exposed Randy Jackson's ignorance to me. Because Kris wasn't up there screaming and stomping and running up and down the melody, the song "didn't work for him." But you know what, of all the performances last night, this was the only one I would consider buying. So there, Mr. Stupid Head! I'm telling you, it's Randy that's becoming the increasingly most irrelevant member of that judging panel. It's time to send him on a new journey -- back home.

7. Lil Rounds: Before her performance, my sis and I were sure Lil was going to pull out one of the great diva chestnuts like "And I Am Telling You" or "I Will Always Love You" -- songs clearly much too powerful for Lil's diminishing instrument. So her choice of "The Rose" was a surprise and we thought, perhaps, a pleasant one. I did like that she tried to instill some gospel into the song, but overall, something was just missing for me. And clearly, I wasn't alone. Paula rambled some nonsense that I don't remember outside of the note I wrote: "Paula = high!" My sis pointed out that Paula's critique did not include one mention of the actual singing. Simon continued to level criticism about Lil's choices. And here's where Ms. Rounds perhaps dug her own grave -- it seemed as though she became very defensive and fought back, which okay, good for her, but history shows that "voters" don't tend to like that sort of sassiness. WE can boo Simon, but the contestants can't! I say "seemed", though, because my DVR cut off just as Lil was starting her rebuttal, so I don't know exactly what was said. The beginning seemed a bit defensive and snotty, and I'm sorry I didn't get to hear Simon's response, if any. We'll see tonight if Lil's moxie paid off. My money, though, says, "No."

Bottom three tonight: Anoop, Matt, and Lil. Any of those three could be the ones packing their bags, but I think that her defensiveness and Simon's dismissal of her when he suddenly took up Allison's cause may be enough to send Lil back to the hotel.

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