Friday, May 13, 2011

Mama, He's Going Home

Well, Blogger has been down, so many of you may not have seen my post where I said my DVR malfunctioned Wednesday night and I was unable to see Idol. I do go and read the recap on Entertainment Weekly (I miss you, Michael Slezak!), and I was able to catch the performances on the Idol website, although I did not see the introductory film footage nor watch the critiques.

Friends, let me tell you, American Idol is a significantly different experience when you skip the critiques and don't let Randy, JLo, and Steven tell you who gave the better performances. Just watching the actual performances left me with no doubt that Haley Reinhart was the strongest performer on Wednesday and that James Durbin was most definitely the weakest. I'm sorry, Randy and JLo, but Haley knocked it out of the park, and if ANYONE is in it to win it, it is that spunky little chick from Chicago. (Haley is from Chicago, yes? I mean, that accent? Come on!) Sure, Lauren did fine with a serviceable Martina McBride (or whatever country-lite diva of the week Lauren is trotting out) song, but her "Trouble" was kind of a laughable mess. Scotty pulled out the maudlin "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" that always makes me throw up a little inside and then topped it off with a short bus rendition of "Youngblood" that was remarkable more for the ridiculous faces and t-rex arms he was flailing around with the entire time he was onstage. As for James, be honest, the whole James-ness of him just kind of got old. The choice to do "Don't Stop Believing" felt a bit pandering (Randy, after all, yo, was once a member of Journey), and his "Love Potion #9" just felt off. My sis, who has had years of vocal training, pointed out that his notes were sloppy and a bit all over the place. There's no denying that James is a showman and an entertaining presence on that stage, but the three best technical singers are left in the competition.

As for Haley.....

What a tremendous Idol journey that young woman has my heart. Yes, weeks ago I railed against her. I called her a petulant faker. I thought the growl was beyond overused. I hated the way she stomped around on the stage and kept waving her "Help me, Jesus" arm up and down during her songs. I waited for her elimination with a bottle of champagne ready to help celebrate the end of her era. But then something happened. She brought the growl a little more under control. (It's still a bit too much, but it's certainly not as bad as it was!) She's slowly getting better stage presence. What really has won me over is the fact that this girl seems to have a tremendous passion and fire burning in her. For the past couple weeks, Haley has walked off that stage emotionally battered around by the judges. They can't knock her for her actual skill, so they ding her on her song choice. What's remarkable, though, is that Haley takes risks. I can see dinging her on song choice if she pulled a Lauren and came out every week with some middle of the road, safe little ditty that gave her a big note or two but ultimately offered her no real challenge. No, instead Haley is out there stomping and growling and singing her heart out on some pretty ambitious choices like "Call Me" and an unreleased Lady Gaga tune. For two weeks in a row, she has stood there and received these beating and then come out and sung ANOTHER SONG. And her second performance exceeds the first because instead of pouting and crying about how mean the judges were, she channels that into what can only be called rage and gives a compelling, raw, passionate, fierce, furious performance. After the ridiculous Gaga beating last week, she turned around and gave the night's best performance with "House of the Rising Sun." After getting slammed to the ground for her quite powerful and moving "Earth Song" Wednesday, she trotted right back out there in her big girl shoes and hit a home run with "I (Who Have Nothing)". More than once in the past two weeks, Haley has moved me to tears. She FEELS this. She NEEDS this. And if the judges don't like it, well, they can just go forget themselves. (Thanks, Cee-Lo)

Does Haley have a shot at the finale? Sadly, probably not, and that leaves us with the very scary but totally realistic possibility that we will have an all-country finale with Lauren and Scotty. I'm not sure I can handle that, to be quite honest with you. The past couple weeks of having to listen to Martina McBride and Sara Evans and Alan Jackson and whatever else these two have trot out for us is really starting to wear on me. Remember when Carrie Underwood was able to win this thing by singing songs by POP artists? Her "Alone" remains one of the greatest performances to ever take the Idol stage. We all knew Carrie was a country artist, but she was able to paint outside those lines at least a little and bring some country flavor to pop music (which is why she's been a pretty darn successful crossover artist in ways that Martina, Sara, and Alan have never been able to achieve). Consider, too, that fact that an all-country finale will likely only lead us to more and more twang next season and suddenly American Idol becomes Nashville Idol, and that's my stop on this crazy train, my friends. That's my stop.

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