Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Naughty Number Nine

Number Nine will put you on the spot.
Number Nine will tie you up, oh, in a knot.
When you're tryin'
Multiplyin' by nine,
You might give it everything you've got
And still be stopped.

Somehow, this little ditty from Schoolhouse Rock came to my mind last night as I watched what was, for the most part, a pretty abyssmal episode of American Idol. We started off with a ridiculously vague theme -- top downloads from itunes . . . top how many? The top downloads covers potentially decades of music. While I'm sure the intention was to have the contestants choose modern music (and ideally present a picture of what kind of artist they intend to be), I suspect it kind of backfired on them as all but three of them picked songs at least a decade old -- and some even older. While a couple put a nice, fresh twist on these older gems, several did flounder in the arena of karaoke/wedding singer material.

While the judges kept a lot of their hijinks to a minimum (I'm looking at you, Abdul and Cowell!), their comments were often a bit odd at times -- if only because I wondered if they were watching the same performances I was watching.

So let's get down to business . . . .

1. Anoop Desai: Anoop's choice of Usher's "Caught Up" was not an overly surprising choice, but it was also not an overly wise choice. This song didn't really give Anoop the opportunity to show off much of anything other than an icky sneer and some pitch issues. The song had the potential to really kick off the night with a lot of energy, but it just didn't work here. Plus, there's just no ignoring the fact that Anoop is no Usher in any fashion. It was a pretty "meh" performance, and I think it could land Anoop in the bottom 3 tonight.

2. Megan Joy: Oh, Megan . . . you dear, sweet, ridiculous little girl. Bob Marley's "Turn Your Lights Down Low" -- not a good choice, sweetie. I love that you tried to keep those crazy arms of yours under control (with a modicum of success). I also think I hate her voice, which is weird because I am a fan of those neo-soul songstresses like Joss Stone, Adele, et al, but to me, Megan's voice often seems like it is a put-on. I think Megan is most likely going to join Anoop in the bottom 3 and MAY be the one to head home tonight.

3. Danny Gokey: I was a little put off when Danny, announcing his choice of "What Hurts the Most", declared that "everybody likes" Rascal Flatts. Um, not Mel!! I will admit that I sort of enjoyed Danny's performance, but at that point, the bar had been set so low that Danny could have gotten away with just about anything and seemed "good." I did come to a realization, though, that Danny may be a bit of a douche. I don't think he's as good as he thinks he is (or as good as the producers want me to think he is). He's a solid mid-pack performer -- think RJ Helton or Josh Gracin. I wonder how marketable Danny really is (especially considering the presence of far more marketable performers this season), and I ultimately just don't think he's going to still be standing by the time the finale rolls around -- again particularly since there are at least two others more deserving of taking on Adam. I also wondered last night how Danny affords all those snazzy glasses on a choir director's salary. He must live near an awesome America's Best!

Also, is one of the members of Danny's family/posse a drag queen? Seriously, go back and re-watch his performance and check out that hot mess in the middle who apparently just went to Wal-Mart and rolled her face in the entire Maybelline aisle!

4. Allison Iraheta: My beloved Allison started off on the wrong foot for me this week when she announced she would be performing what may be my least favorite song of all time -- "Don't Speak" by No Doubt. Seriously, I LOATHE that song. (My sis wasn't able to watch last night's episode with me, but before she did sit down to watch it herself on DVR, I gave her a brief lowdown on the episode and said, "And stupid Allison did the song I hate the most, the song I have railed against for years," and Julie's response was, "What did she do -- 'Don't Speak'?" That's how infamous my hatred of that song is!) To top it off, she came out lookin as if she had literally been put through a blender -- that hair! that outfit! Oh, sweetie! NO! I will have to say that, hatred of the song aside, Allison did a respectable job. I loved that she played the guitar, I loved that she didn't let the song go to that same whiny place Gwen Stefani does, and I even loved that she flubbed the lyrics ever-so-slightly. I was a little annoyed that the judges focused more on Allison's abyssmal attire than her actual performance, and I worry that she may be the third unlucky leg of the bottom three tonight if only because this performance lacked the water cooler buzz appeal of her performance last week. I personally made about a dozen calls on her behalf last night, so fingers crossed our little spitfire stays in the competition. She is one of the people that I think is a more worthy candidate to take on Adam in the finale, and I'd hate to see her go home before significantly less talented foes.

5. Scott McIntyre: Quelle surprise! Scott chose not only to do a Billy Joel song but he chose to do "Just the Way You Are." SHOCKER!! Initially, I was put off by Scott's choice. I didn't mind the Billy Joel choice (anyone who knows me knows that I love me some Billy Joel -- he rivals Barry Manillow for the title of "King of My Cheese-Loving Soul!"); I just thought it might have been wiser to pick one of the Piano Man's less overdone and, well, cheesy choices. What about something like "Big Shot" or "Matter of Trust"? Scott's choice, however, to strip the song down to just him and his piano was wise and really a great reminder of the beauty of this song. While his performance wasn't pitch perfect and his voice lacks the grit and soul of Billy's, I would agree with the judges that it was his best performance to date -- but is that really saying much? This performance may keep Scott out of the bottom 3, but I just can't help but feel his time on Idol is (and should be) numbered.

6. Matt Giraud: I may be in the minority, but I thought placing Matt and his keyboard in the midst of the mosh pit was kind of cool, if a bit Jonas-y. I was, though, in the majority in thinking that Matt's choice of "You Found Me" by the Fray to be a really poor choice. It was, however, a particularly telling choice. Over and over, Matt has been "told" (read: commanded) that he is a bluesy, Robin Thicke-esque artist. I think it's clear that Matt does not want to be that. He wants to be Chris Martin. The problem is that Matt's voice just isn't as suited to those rock numbers as well as it is to the bluesy songs the judges want him to pick. Last night's song was kind of a mess. And maybe part of that was my utter lack of familiarity with it, but it just didn't work for me. I felt Matt's frustration, though, as the judges continually read him the riot act about his song choice and kept trying to make him into the new Justin Timberlake -- the not-at-all subtle subtext of their critique was, "BE WHAT WE WANT YOU TO BE!" If enough people voted for Megan or Anoop (and if my repeated calling for Allison made a difference), Matt could be returning to the Stools of Shame tonight if only for the sort of petulant attitude he displayed both last night and last week when he found out he was in the bottom 3. For someone who is only there by the grace of the Fab Four (judges), he seems to display an awful sense of entitlement.

7. Lil Rounds: Speaking of an awful sense of entitlement, that brings us to Lil. While her choice of Celine Dion's "I Surrender" might seem brave to some, to me, it smacked of arrogance. Here's the thing: I'm beginning to think that Lil is not as good as the producers want us to believe she is. I think back to the great divas who have graced the Idol stage over the past several years -- Tamyra Grey, Kimberley Locke, Trenyce, LaToya London, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Vonzell Solomon, Melinda Doolittle. Lil can't hold a candle to any of those women. She really can't. She has been mightily pimped by the producers, but there's just no ignoring the fact that Lil has turned in at least three disappointing performances in a row -- and a cute kid hugging Randy isn't going to distract us from that much longer.

8. Adam Lambert: Okay, Adam, you had me last week. Your stripped down "Tears of a Clown" was gorgeous. You cut the histrionics and the showboating and just performed a simple, lovely song in a simple, lovely manner. And then you came back this week and pulled out "Play That Funky Music" and were back to that ridiculous screaming, caterwauling nightmare who haunts my Idol dreams. Beside the fact that I SWEAR I saw him grab some peen during his performance, I just was not on board the genius train. I hate the screaming and the tongue stuff. I suspect Adam is probably a decent guy (the shout out to Ricky Minor and the band was classy), I just can't get past the fact that I finish his performances always conscious of the fact that I've witnessed a PERFORMANCE. Every second of his time on stage seems scripted and manufactured. He may be a lock for the finale (and there's no denying the guy's voice is amazing), but I still have some real problems with the winner being someone who has been so totally manufactured to win. To me, Idol is about discovering diamonds in the rough, finding people that may have been overlooked by the industry, and coming to that realization that, hey, this kid has talent. Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood -- would the recording industry have given them a second look without the Idol stage as a backup? The magic of those people is seeing THEM realize that they have star potential right along with us, that feeling of "I can't believe this is happening to me" that they all seemed to have. It's not as powerful when the performer walks onstage knowing he is destined for stardom. Wouldn't it be so much more gratifying to see someone like Allison Iraheta or Kris Allen singing the schmaltzy victory song and seeing that look of genuine shock, joy, and emotion rather than Adam's carefully choreographed one? I'm just saying . . . .

9. Kris Allen: A couple weeks back, I really goofed up. I predicted that Kris would fade into obscurity after getting next-to-no airtime leading up to the semifinals. His inclusion in the top 13 was, to me, a testament to his cuteness rather than his talent. I am here to say that I stand 100% corrected. This guy is the bomb! His performance last night of "Ain't No Sunshine" (a song I LOVE) was absolutely amazing. He is one of those performers who manages each week to put his own spin on a song while still respecting the integrity of the song (cough -- Adam -- cough!). His performance is always about the song rather than the singer. (COUGH- Adam -COUGH!) I loved the arrangement of his song last night. When the strings came in, I was a goner! (I am a sucker for strings in pop music). I think this guy is the real deal and, along with Allison, remains truest to the real heart and soul of this show. In a perfect world, we would have a Kris-Allison finale, but with the juggernaut that is Adam gobbling his way through the competition, we may have to settle for their appearance in the top 3 -- as long as the producers stop standing in the way and shoving their beloved Lil and Danny down our throats.

My feeling is that it's either Anoop or Megan on their way home tonight with Matt or Allison rounding out the bottom 3.

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