Thursday, April 21, 2011

21st Century Idols

Last night, the Idols tackled songs from this century. I know they were calling it “Songs from the last decade”, but technically, 2011 is a new decade, the first year of a new decade, so since I saw people singing songs older than four months, I am assuming Ryan was just reading the cue cards wrong.

Again, the judges showed some weak attempt at criticism, and the only real honesty came from Jimmy Iovine, whom I grow to love more and more every week. The fact that it’s becoming increasingly clear which of these kids he likes (Casey) and doesn’t like (Haley) charms me all the more. I am probably in the minority, too, in saying that I enjoyed the funny little film segments this week where the contestants sort of poked fun at each other’s quirks. It reminded me of that sort of fun spirit season one often had, and it does help to give these kids more character to see them in this silly sort of moments.

What I did NOT enjoy was the “let’s troop out our losers and make them sing” and then condescend to them by telling them America was probably regretting letting them go. Sure, Pia made a slight case for herself, but considering that she’s banging Mark Ballas and already appearing on Dancing with the Stars to perform next week, I’m not worrying about little Pia. As far as the others….ew. Would I rather have Karen or Ashton in this competition over, well, ANYONE still in it? No. I would even choose Haley (who you know I hate) over those two bland diva wannabes. Let’s save the “loser medleys” for the finale from now on, thank you very much.

Again, the Idols did a fine job last night. Their worst is probably better than a lot of performances we’ve seen at this point in seasons past. I mean, put any single one of these kids up against Nikki McKibben or Jasmine Trias, and well, there would be no contest. And yet, I rank….

1. James Durbin – This kid is a freakin’ showman! I mean, come on – that costuming? That entrance with a freakin’ DRUM CORPS? INSANE! Add to it a brilliant song selection in Muse’s “Uprising” and it’s becoming more and more likely that we could have a metal Idol come May. This kid just keeps raising the bar and then leaping over it with ease. He’s setting a standard, and the others really need to up their game to keep this kid from blowing them away.

2. Casey Abrams – The Casey I fell in love with a couple months ago is coming back. I thought last night’s performance of Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe” was pretty darn terrific with all of that growl and sexuality that makes Casey such a terrific performer.

3. Lauren Alaina – This is where things get a lot tougher because, to me, last night belonged to James with Casey running a comfortable second. Everyone else did fine, but they really didn’t leave the impression of James. Nor did they really seem to try. I don’t know why the others aren’t trying to match James’s performance level. Is it a lack of effort and creativity on their part or is there backstage workings that are giving James that unfair advantage? Are there shenanigans in the works? Hmmmm… Anyway, I thought Lauren did a fine job with Sara Evans’s “Born to Fly” – a perfectly serviceable country song. Not being a country fan, I struggle when she and Scotty go this sort of “real” country route in terms of trying to determine what is and is not a good performance. My sis pointed out last night that the difficulty with this country route is that the songs themselves aren’t often designed to really be a tremendous vocal showcase. I do agree with Steven that I would love to see Lauren tackle some Allison Kraus. Her music could give Lauren a stronger shot at creating a moment. I think, too, that some Dixie Chicks could be a good fit for her since Lauren’s spunk is often a bit reminiscent of that same spunk that can get Natalie Maines in trouble. Imagine Lauren doing “Goodbye Earl” or even the D.C. version of “Landslide.” As far as her confidence issues …. Lauren is 16. I know that girl. I work every day with that girl – that girl who is FILLED with talent but just doesn’t quite get what she’s packing. Give her time. Give her help. She’ll get there.

4. Scotty McCreery – First off, I kind of enjoyed Scotty’s “Swingin’” even though it was the kind of country song that normally makes me cringe. It was nice to at least see him go a little more uptempo and have a lot of fun. He seems like a sweet kid. Again, I know that kid. It was time, though, for judges to push him a little more, although I wish they’d done it sooner. Every week, they have complimented him on sticking to his country guns. Slapping him down now seemed a little disingenuous.

5. Haley Reinhart – Here’s the thing. If you have never heard Adele’s version of “Rolling in the Deep”, Haley’s performance last night wasn’t too bad. I appreciated that she reserved the growl until that first chorus (although it then came back for every other note thereafter, which really is starting to get on my nerves). If, however, you have heard Adele’s version, it was a pretty mediocre performance. Seriously, go listen to Adele right now. Do it! You’ll see how wrong the judges were in basically telling Haley that there were moments where she made them forget Adele. THERE IS NO FORGETTING ADELE!

6. Jacob Lusk – Okay, everyone, raise your hand if you were shocked that Jacob pulled out, like, the ONE Luther Vandross song released in this century. Yeah, me either. First of all, clearly the song meant something to Jacob. His tearing up during his session with Jimmy was quite moving. When it came time to the actual performance, though, I found Jacob quite mediocre. I don’t know what happened to Jacob, but lately, his heart just doesn’t seem to be as in it as it was in the beginning. Maybe the competition is wearing him down. It just feels like he’s not willing to push the way that he was when he tore the roof off the Kodak during Hollywood Week and that performance of “God Bless the Child.” If that Jacob could come back, he could have a shot at this thing. As it stands now, I feel like his weeks might be numbered.

7. Stefano Langone – Let me preface this all by saying that Stefano upped his game in terms of physical performance last night. He moved. He grooved. He gave a star turn. The unfortunate thing is that this star turn was to go with a song that was not particularly well sung. Ne-Yo’s “Closer” is not really a singer’s song. It’s a decent enough little jam, but there’s not really a great chance to showcase a voice. Think if Stefano had gone with some Raphael Saadiq (as suggested by EW) or Bruno Mars where he could have grooved and sung. I’m glad Stefano has become a scrapper the past couple weeks and is working to stay on this show, but as the weeks continue, his status as the weakest one left standing will sign his ticket home sooner rather than later.

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