Wednesday, April 27, 2011

American Idol Season 10, Top 6 Perform -- Songs of Carole King

So it wasn't a train wreck and two of the contestants actually had something approximating a "moment" which only goes to show you just how good a songwriter Carole King is.  We actually had nine total performances tonight as there were three duets along with the six solo numbers (no, I didn't have to use my fingers to do the math...I have a calculator).

We begin with Jacob who found himself in the bottom two last week and needs to do something big this week to stave off elimination.  Jimmy Iovine tells him that the judges want him to soar and go off.  If any of that involves him leaving the stage and not returning, then sign me up!  He's singing a song I'm not familiar with, "Oh No, Not My Baby."  He started out well -- for all of one line.  Then it all completely fell apart.  The vocals were rough and all over the place, almost bad enough to distract from one of the more unfortunate wardrobe decisions this side of Paul McDonald -- Bill Nye the Science Guy meets Pee Wee Herman (thank you to the chat room for the PWH suggestion).

When Jacob wasn't emulating Paul's dud duds, he decided to channel Casey Abrams and start scatting...because, when I think of what the show needs, the first thing that comes to mind is -- more scatting!  He bounced around on stage like an apoplectic toddler who needs to go RIGHT NOW.  I couldn't tell if it was an American Idol performance, or an outtake from the latest Tyler Perry movie -- Medea's Big Happy Karaoke.  Of course, the judges were hard pressed to say anything negative, though a little truth started slipping out as they mentioned some wonky notes. 

Next up was Lauren Alaina and she chose "Where You Lead," which was the theme song to the Gilmore Girls, one of my favorite TV shows.  Except for the last year which I will never buy on DVD and have to pretend never happened.  How they could continue the show without its creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, is beyond me.  She was the heart and soul of that show and without it, it lost its way. Not that I liked her decision to give Luke a daughter in season six; I really hated that story line.  But the last year was even worse, and how it ended, with Rory moving away to become the next Christiane Amanapour and Lorelai and Luke not officially together, was awful.  Is this a digression or a whole new post?  Back to American Idol.

Lauren is still struggling with her confidence, but will a surprise visit from role model and occasional salvia smoker Miley Cyrus help her believe in herself?  I'd say yes.  Because while I wasn't blown away by her vocals, Lauren did seem more at ease and more in control on the stage.  But her voice took a weird Dolly Parton quiver and was weaker than in past weeks.  The song really started off strangely, she seemed off beat and somewhat unconcerned with the melody.

There was a lot of screeching thanks to the background singers and more wayward notes, till the last "I'm gonna follow where you lead" which was really nice and ended with the cutest little laugh.  At the end of the song, she sat down next to some random boy from the audience.  Ryan brought him back up on stage to get to the bottom of the story and found out that he was three years older than our 16-year-old contestant.  That was awkward.  I'm concerned may move what he's thinking from a misdemeanor to a felony, but Ryan scooted him off stage before the authorities had to be called.  Meanwhile, I have no idea what the judges told her.  The vocals were not perfect but she brought it, she had swagger but her voice broke.  I'm not sure they know if they want to promote her or not.

The first duet of the evening were the little lovebirds, Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams, singing "I Feel the Earth Move."  This is probably the only opportunity Haley will ever have to say that to Casey.  Haley pulled out the growl and the jazzy vibe she's been working recently, Casey comes in and throws her off since he's incapable of singing.  He talks through his part of the song, while making random scary faces when he's supposed to be sexy.  In fairness, that's probably as close as he can get.  I think finally, now that the judges can hear the difference between Haley's singing and Casey's talking, they'll tell him he has to stop faking it...but no such luck. They love everything about him including that performance which would have been gonged back in the day.

Steven, forgetting this is a competition, then discusses the not-so-secret nature of their relationship, asking Casey how much in love with Haley he is.  That wasn't uncomfortable at all!  For the record, I get partial credit in predicting Casey would sing this song, writing last week:  "When I suggested what I thought what Casey Abrams, our band camp nerd cum ladies' man, might take on, I thought it would be I Feel the Earth Move as it seemed to have more than its share of growling opportunities."  Well, with all the feral sounds coming off the stage, I think I can say, Nailed it!

But I knew with complete certainty what Scotty McCreery would pick, writing "I will bet the farm that Scotty will sing You've Got a Friend."  When I mentioned this to my husband tonight, he asked in the future I not risk something we don't actually own.  But I knew this was a mortal lock.  What I didn't know was what a fine job Scotty would do with the song.  The mentors, Jimmy and Babyface, convinced him to de-twang himself just for this week. And it worked like a charm.  It was restrained yet moving.  It gave me and at least one other member of the chat room chills (and it was 80 degrees here in LA, so that wasn't an easy feat). 

At first, I just listened a la The Voice, without looking.  I didn't want to be distracted by Scotty's inability to carry a mic one-handed or his skeevy looks into the camera.  But you know what?  Someone taught that boy how to hold the microphone and introduced him to all sorts of fun things his other hand can do rather than provide counterbalance.  And he even cut down on the smarmy grins and held cocking.  But most importantly, he brought lovely tones -- in a higher than usual register -- and knocked it out of the ballpark.

Let me take a moment to correct Randy Jackson.  The phrase "to turn the other cheek" does not mean to change things up.  It means to not meet violence with violence.  I'm a heathen and I know that.  But three separate times Randy used the expression as if it meant to do a 180 or switch things up and it was really annoying.  Someone take him aside before the next show and fix that.

While James Durbin has sung ballads before, it still seems always newsworthy (at least to Ryan) when James takes it slow.  Maybe if Ryan spent more time paying attention to the performances, and not so much on makeup retouches, he'd realize that.  Anyhow...James takes on "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." At first, I don't get his choice.  It's outdated and corny.  But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.  Before he sings, however, James pimps Scotty -- and is even more adorable for it.  He seems oblivious to the fact that this is a competition...or he's the wiliest person ever to compete. 

James decides to go this week with just his guitar and  is going to sing without bells, whistles or pyrotechnics.  And it's a brilliant move, because he has by far the best voice in the competition and he needs to let people hear it in its purest, unadulterated form.  He starts out with a nearly a cappella rendition and his voice is exquisite.  Then the band comes in and we're transported to the 50s, yet it's not hokey or old fashioned.  Okay, I'm a fan.  He sings the hell out of the song.  He does soft, he does loud, he croons, he screams, he even channels Axl Rose at one point, yet can turn on a dime (while keeping his cheek in the same place) from one vocal trick to the next.  Jennifer correctly points out that James has been consistently excellent and nailed it again tonight.  When Randy goes nuts and declares him the winner, I can forgive his exuberance.

For the third time, the producers put Lauren and Scotty together for a duet.  They're about the same age and they both sing country, so how did they ever come up with that pairing.  Did it strike anyone else that Lauren likes Scotty but that her feeling is not reciprocated?  Will that upset his little girl fans, or give them hope that he's saving himself for them?  The two twangers take a song that is  risky choice, "Up on the Roof."  The song is all one long buildup to the big payoff at the end.  But since neither of them go for the glory note, it's pretty monotonous, all set up and with no happy ending. 

Vote for the Worst pick Casey Abrams is up next with "Hi-De-Ho," a song most famously done by Blood, Sweat and Tears.  Unlike James who takes an old song and makes it relevant, Casey takes a less old song and makes it sound ancient.  I cannot think of someone more out of touch with popular music than Casey Abrams.  Is every station on his car radio set to Swing music?  I am more than ever convinced that Casey has no interest in the music industry and his goal in going on American Idol and his planning behind every performance has been to further an acting career.  He wants to be Jack Black, not Jack White (see what I did there, one is an actor, the other a singer, but they have the same first names and their last names are opposites.  Okay, not impressed?  You know I just got lucky?  That's fair).

So this would explain why Casey doesn't sing so much as talk through most of his songs.  It explains the menacing stage stalking.  The creepy facial expressions and camera stares.  The growls and grunts placed where notes should be.  The intentional, planned nature of his every move and utterance on stage.  It is one long audition not to cut a record -- under no circumstance could he record an album anyone but his parents would buy -- but to get on stage as a performer.  I'm sorry, I almost did a spit take when JLo said to him "You're such a great vocalist."  I think she accidentally shuffled the yellow notes she invariably refers to during her critiques.

The last solo of the night has Haley singing "Beautiful."  I had originally written that I'd like her or Lauren to sing the song, then decided it would better fit Lauren.  I still stand by that.  This is a really emotionally challenging song and if you don't believe it or can't convey it, it saps the song of what makes it special.  Part of the fault lies in the arrangement, it's too bouncy, too 50s.  She also takes too many liberties with the melody which really doesn't need her help.  I've really enjoyed Haley the past two weeks and thought she did fine in her duet, but this didn't work for me.

The cameraman came very close to getting the show a parental advisory and needs to be careful taping her when she's wearing a super short dress.  Steven says he saw God, I think it might have been some Victoria Secret instead.  Randy correctly mentions that this wasn't a great performance and gets shouted down by JLo.  Please, Randy is so rarely right, don't interrupt when one of those magical moments comes along.

Doing the math, there were two people left who had yet to duet...James and Jacob.  Well, this should be's in the name of the song after all.  So they do "I'm into Something Good," and, call me insane, but I didn't hate it.  Jacob was actually dressed normally for a change, James looked cute in his outfit and they seemed to have a blast.  Usually, I find the old standby "we had fun" the ultimate cop out, but when you're two guys, with completely different styles, singing a duet, that's about all you can hope for.  They had fun, and so did I.

My favorites:  James and Scotty
My bottom three:  Casey, Jacob and Haley
Predicted bottom three: same (though I wouldn't be shocked to see Laurent there instead of Haley)
Going home:  Jacob, I bet the... chair in the bonus room

What say you?


  1. Lovin my James Durbin from day 1, and always love your recaps Shari! Thanks for sharing!

  2. The Next American Idol Scotty McCreery - No Doubt !!! You’ve Got a Friend !!!

  3. Karen Smith from HillsboroApril 28, 2011 at 3:10 AM

    How can I say this without being cruel to someone's precious son? Uh.....I hate Jacob. I can picture him in Church on Sunday morning with Madea..Halleluure..But, please, Tyler Perry, come rescue him from American Idol and put us out of our misery. Good job Scotty and James. Oh, yes, and Shari!!!!

  4. "I didn't have to use my fingers to do the math... I have a calculator." Hey now. No counting cards. "I think I can say, Nailed it!" Hey now. Ease up on them hammers, lady. That's what WE say. You just say thanks. Let the facts speak for themselves. :) "Okay, not impressed?" I would've been if you had used the phrase 'a pair of jacks' at some point, but you didn't. Ho hum. Soooo not impressed. :) "He asked in the future I not risk something we don't actually own." That's why you still have a place to live. You got yourself a smart gambler. The best risk he ever took was when he bet it all on your heart, and won. (cue country music) "Randy is so rarely right, don't interrupt when one of those magical moments comes along." Here here. Huzzah. "Is this a digression or a whole new post?" You need to do at least one post on the triumph and the tragedy of the GiGis.

  5. "Lauren ended with the cutest little laugh." Yes, she did. To me, she is the most effervescent performer out of all of them. Yet, she's just too young to know how to conjure up all her power and passion when she performs. She needs to go find herself and then come back to the stage, lay it all out for us, and then walk all over it. "Did it strike anyone else that Lauren likes Scotty but that her feeling is not reciprocated?" I know the feeling. Anyway, Lauren just can't win. This girl is craving a confidence boost, and she can't even get it from the only remaining contestant who gets what she's about. I'm afraid something must have happened a few weeks ago that broke her spirit. I guess some prick came down way too hard on her and she just broke. The spark in her eyes vanished in the cool prairie dusk, or something like that. I truly love her voice. Life's not fair.

  6. "Scotty even cut down on the smarmy grins and held cocking." Yeah, totally. He really needs to stop holding his cocking. And tonight, he followed through on that promise his voice made all those months ago. Finally. Oh, and why not give your second farm to Lauren once she loses every single drop of her confidence and goes home ashamed? She'll need it. Sigh. :( "But since neither Scotty nor Lauren go for the glory note, it's pretty monotonous, all set up and with no happy ending." (You are no doubt aware of the double entendre sitting upon the end of that sentence. Right?) So, how could you not mention that Scotty was really - Holy Moses, oh yes he was - way off of the long notes in his harmonies? They were embarrassing and so worthy of the dark laughter which your sharp wit cuts open to reveal. That duet showed how Lauren's voice has a very high thread count compared to Scotty's, much in the same way Haley's velvety sheets cast an eerie shadow over the dead leaves falling from Casey's grizzled pout.

  7. "I cannot think of someone more out of touch with popular music than Casey Abrams." I can. Harry Connick Jr. He even claimed last year to only listen to music in his car from before the Korean War (I'm not sure if I believe him). Plus, Harry fully intended to become an actor once his singing took off, but that clearly wasn't working because neither was he. I'll bet Casey would have really enjoyed working with Harry last season. Too bad for the Caseysaurus, our dinosaur of a bygone era. "Casey's planning behind every performance has been to further an acting career." No. He's just a big doofus. He literally has no plan. He has hopes of being a respected jazz musician, but that's about it. "This would explain why Casey doesn't sing." I love how you're constantly fixated on what the hell Casey is doing onstage (on any stage, for that matter), perhaps so that you can mock him with increasing accuracy every week.

  8. "The judges want Jacob to soar and go off. If any of that involves him leaving the stage and not returning, then sign me up!" You felt the same way about Gimme Iodine's comment during Top 8 week, but it was about Casey. Remember? "James and Jacob had fun, and so did I." But the men on the show objectified Jello again. Again. Doesn't that bother you? I'm beginning to suspect that she honestly needs the attention, and the boys can tell, thus only making it worse. "James seems oblivious to the fact that this is a competition... or he's the wiliest person ever to compete." No. He's just a really nice and honest guy - that's Asperger Syndrome for ya - and he simply knows that Scotty's the favorite to win. "Randy goes nuts and declares him the winner, I can forgive his exuberance." I can't. Yes, it was good, but I think saying that sort of crosses a line, one that Simon accidentally drew after Carrie felt Alone. And you were right about James slowing it way down again. You're so damn incredible. "I bet the... chair in the bonus room" I hope you're right, but I'm so afraid that Jacob will still be loved tomorrow. After Pia's departure surprised us mortals, I don't know what to believe anymore. Take away my fears, Shari. Take them all away.

  9. Durban was by far the surprise there,when you can get on a stage and turn a song from 40yrs ago into what he did that's talent.i hope they go with a little more current opinion the voice is much better.i like the way they take 1 song have 2 people sing it and that determines the winner to move forward in the competition.

  10. Curious question here, Shari. Have you ever met Jimmy Iovine? Most people I wouldn't ask, but you .... hmmm .... it's actually possible. :-)

  11. It was James Durbin night. Period. I'm not counting that awkward stooges on parade moment with Jacob, of course. When James delivered those first lines acapella, the race was over. This was the Ferrari screaming at maximum RPM in a field of '53 Buicks.

    Tonight, we were students.

    Scotty and Lauren gave us a brief lesson in solid geometry. We learned that you can't fit a round twang into a square music hole.

    Casey proved that a Van Morrison hat does not a performance make. Even if you frisbee it into the crowd.

    Jacob taught us about sartorial perfection and that you can't judge a book by its cover. Even if the cover is badly done.

    Haley taught us to appreciate the beauty and mobility of a performance and that we should tip the camera guy on our way out.


  12. First time I enjoyed Scotty's performance, but the country twang will make a comeback and stay on. I can only agree with Shari about Jacob's suit, he is an outstanding singer. But James had me at hello, and to date has never had a bad night. His remarks about Scotty were endearing. He's got it all, AND he's a really decent guy.

  13. I loves Casey Jamess singing so much but I have to say James Durban singing is #1 for me.but Casey a very close 2nd.I always go back and listen to Durbans performances,not to try and find flaws but because i really enjoy his
    performances.this guy is definetely going places
    no doubt.

  14. oh wow!Carol King this week,can't wait to hear what theme they're gonna do next week,umm could it be Doris Day week?trust me if anybody could do it James Durban could.I cringed when I heard
    about C.K.week thinking omg what could Durban
    possibly do with this.but as usual he nailed it.

  15. Casey has been eliminated. Now who will you pick on? Oh, yeah... Jacob. But after that, who is your least favorite? I suppose Scotty and James will be in the final. And I am so glad that Lauren is still on the show so we can hear her sing at least once more. I implore you to sheathe your wit whilst analyzing her talent. Or just tear her apart; it's your blog, after all. By the way, I would like to commend you on your courage, both for starting and for continuing your blogs for all these years. You always have interesting and often poignant things to share. Thank you, Shari, for entertaining me each week, and for being so supportive. On a side note, I apologize for the excessively long comments I have placed on your blog, as intrusions of that magnitude are rude and simply inappropriate. I may not have the will to start my own blog, but that doesn't give me license to pollute yours with my voice and my reactions. I shall keep things at less than 1000 characters and spaces from now on.

  16. rar, Please, don't hold back. I enjoy your comments. I didn't have the opportunity to respond to them today! With the blow up of the online poker world, I'm just really slammed right now. But continue to write as much as you like, I really enjoy it!

  17. Of course, I know you're busy; I read your other stuff, too. I merely realized how silly it is for other readers of your blog to wade past my verbose comments just to add their own often-smaller-but-no-less-important contributions. Perhaps I wouldn't feel so conspicuous if you regularly responded to other comments in addition to my own. What we got going on feels so good and so right, but we're not the only people in the room.

  18. Well I must be a 13 yr old girl because I like Casey Abrams. I am going to comment on some of the comments made. First of all I did not want him to go this week(even tho I don't think he's done anything special lately) but agree that he wants to become a jazz musician. Probably should go for the acting. He's good at it. But I do like to give people every chance and I believe in them. As the Monkey's song goes "I'm a Believer". Probably the same reason that I stayed in a 19 yr marriage with a man completely incapable of loving anyone other than himself. :( I am glad that you liked Casey James 'cause it gets rough on here when you don't like someone. LOL BTW I love Harry Connick jr and so did Casey James last yr. Casey James thought he learned alot from Harry and I can see this being the case. All this being said I too am wondering who you will 'pick' on after Jacob leaves. I will look forward to finding out soon. I Dvr'd last night(so didn't do chat) and was almost drooling at Scotty's performance(but not in a creepy way)I too got chills. I thought it was 'Brilliant' and noticed that the judges did not give him the credit due for it and once again when he sang with Lauren they dissed him. :( I also felt simularly about James performance. Loved it! Thanks for entertaining us Shari. I mean that is the purpose of this blog afterall isn't it. :)

  19. I changed my mind. Several others before me have been dumping hugely longish comments of varying use and accuracy into this blog, and nobody seemed to mind. They just hadn't done it in a while so I hadn't noticed. From now on, I'll just do whatever the hell I want, as Shari suggested. ... Jacob has a big heart but he sings like a big heart attack. Haley is a hot Miley Cyrus who swallowed a dirt bike engine. Scotty's freaky carnival sideshow of a baritone is about to enter the tin-roofed Parthenon of country music superheroes. James is crippled by the honesty and innocence of Aspergers, yet blessed with great song arranging guts. Lauren's voice is like the surface of a pearl, if only she would stop running from her dreams, or at least start jogging. Casey is so far the f*ck away. Stefano is still happy to be alive. Paul is out looking for his lucky toothbrush. Pia is bathing in money. And Casey M*therf*cking James is out there in the clubs and in the bars and in the recording studios, rocking this politically-polarized gambling-obsessed country of ours, kicking its @$$ in all the right ways.