Wednesday, May 11, 2011

American Idol Season 10, Top 4 Compete

This is the most important week ever.  Well, since the week where we thought we were picking the Top 10 who would make it on the American Idol Live Tour.  And, of course, there's next week when we'll narrow it down to the final two.  Oh, and the week after that where we crown a winner and Lee DeWyze no longer has to crumble under the weight of that title.  But whoever lasts this week will finally get to meet the deputy mayor of their town and get a newly created key to the city that was hastily glued together for the occasion.

Big, right?

We get two songs from each contestant -- no duets like last year at this time -- the first an inspirational song (please, Jeebus, no "You'll Never Walk Alone" or "My Heart Will Go On"), the second, one from the catalog of some old guys who wrote songs before I was born.  I did say old.

Tonight's show had drama (Haley talking back to the judges), comedy (Scotty worrying that hanging with Gaga was going to condemn him to Hell), tragedy (Haley's hair, Lauren's outfits) and horror (Casey Abrams and Paul McDonald back on my TV screen). 

First up tonight is James Durbin.  James is the most recent unfortunate beneficiary of the tabloid attack dogs who decided yesterday to put a salacious, and misleading, headline on their rag.  Did he know and did the pressure get to him?  Well, he certainly didn't look like he was stressing as he dragged out the most overplayed song of this and the last century, "Don't Stop Believing."  James did not let last week's vocal stumble shake his confidence and he was all cocky bravado and rock star moves as he took on the Journey classic.  He approached the song a la Paul McDonald, like we were popped into the middle of his concert (Cmon, James."Anyone know this song?"  Really?  There's cheesy and then there's taking a mozzarella stick, dipping it in Velvetta, then plunging it into a simmering fondue pot of Gruyere.)

At least his vocals were solid and he has enough youthful enthusiasm and unbridled joy at performing to almost make up for the silliness.  James doesn't need the shtick and I hope someone tells him that soon.  He actually has the best natural voice in the competition and the more stripped down it is, the better it sounds.  Anyone can scream, yell, shout, screech.  If that's all it took to make a good record, you'd lock your singer up in a room of wasps.  The power is in the sublety and there was nothing subtle about this performance.

James was followed by Haley Reinhart who has defied all expectations by making the final four.  I hate the judges' critique that a contestant doesn't know what kind of an artist they want to be, but it almost fits here.  Haley annoyed me when she was the growling sex kitten, yet the last few weeks I've found myself strangely impressed by her confident vocals.  But tonight, to quote my least favorite AI judge, she took two steps back.  Her take on the Michael Jackson weeper "Earth Song" was strained and weak. 

She had no breath to speak of and the only time you could hear her was when she was screaming tunelessly at the end.  She sounded like that nasty old codger in the neighborhood always yelling at the kids to get off the lawn.  That wasn't a vocal, it was an aural assault.  But when two of the judges pointed that out, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson, Miss Reinhart got all "oh no you didn't" and copped enough attitude that I wanted to send her to her room. 

He didn't sing the opening from Mighty Mouse ("Here I Come to Save the Day"), but Scotty McCreery might as well have, because his emotional, tender take on the Alan Jackson 9/11 tearjerker, "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning") brought the show back on track.  He picked the perfect song (it had God AND Jesus in the lyrics -- score), was playing his guitar (so no awkward poses with the mic) and his voice was as pitch perfect as ever.  How he managed to get the Navy SEALS to take out Osama bin Laden to make this song even more timely is impressive! The only question lingering after this performance is how long before he is the next country music superstar.

Last up for the first round was the effervescent Lauren Alaina.  I'll admit it, I have a soft spot for this girl.  She's adorable, talented and totally unaware she possesses the first two traits.  She gave Scotty a little competition for the Bible-belt vote with "Anyway" by Martina McBride.   While I appreciate that Scotty is the real deal, I can't see myself ever buying one of his albums.  While I don't break out in hives when he sings, it could be because I take a Claritin ahead of time, just to be safe.  But Lauren is more current country than Scotty and I think she has great crossover potential.  She's a little bit Dolly, but also a little bit Carrie. 

After the break its time for Lady Gaga to mentor the Idols.  She dresses conservatively for her.  No pants, natch.  But at least she's not wearing food.  And none of her body parts appear more altered than normals.  If she goes outside, the black under the eyes will make it easier for her to catch a pop up, so it's nice to see she comes prepared.

Haley is up first this round and she's singing the rather intense Lieber and Stoller song "I (Who Have Nothing)".  She sounds amazing in rehearsal and the suggestions Gaga gives her (make it more dramatic...imagine that suggestion from the lady who goes on stage covered in blood!) are right on.  Haley does a great job on the show, though her voice was a tad too shaky and thus lacked the punch it could have had.  And she missed the last note by about a mile.  But the judges, feeling guilty or worrying that Haley may be armed this time, lavish her with praise.  I'm sure that won't confuse the young lady at all.

So what happened when Scotty met Gaga?  The queen of the monsters told seventeen-year-old Scotty McCreery to pretend his microphone is his girlfriend and "Put your mouth on that microphone or that... is going to leave you."  She also suggested sticking his tongue down the girlfriend's throat.  Well, that certainly wasn't awkward at all!  He later kisses his cross and says, lord, this is not my doing.  I'm sure God already got the memo on Gaga, kid.  No worries.  Scotty took a hokey song and had some fun, but it paled by comparison to his first song and seemed like a wasted opportunity.  But Scotty is golden, so he can afford a silly number like "Young Blood".

Lauren is getting down and dirty with the song "Trouble."  It didn't suit her.  I'm no prude, but I don't like seeing sweet, seventeen-year-old girls romp around the stage telling us how evil they are.  Lauren didn't even feel comfortable with the lyrics. Good lesson for your instincts!  Betty White exudes more naughty sexiness than Lauren.  It's just not who she is.  I'm starting to wonder whose idea Lieber and Stoller night was because we have one overwrought song and two silly ones -- not really the body of work you want to pin your entire future on.

The last performance of the night was James doing "Love Potion Number 9."  So Gaga was digging James' vocals, but not so much his lack of sexiness.  So, while his eyes are closed, she goes around behind him and plants a hand on each hip and starts showing him how it's done, Elvis style.  Well, that was less awkward than her moment with Scotty!

I'm not used to James being off key, but I had plenty of opportunities to experience that in the first minute of the song.  But I love the way he finished up the song, holding the audience in his hand and toying with us like we were his little plaything.  The guy can control a stage. 

I'd say Scotty and James are locks to make it to the final three and it's between the girls.  I worry that Lauren splits her votes with Scotty and that Haley fans would not likely be fans of anyone else still in the running.  But her feisty verbal altercation with Randy does not always sit well with the audience.  Conversely, after watching Haley batted around by the judges like Lenny playing with a puppy, the audience may actually come to her defense.  We'll see.  I'm still betting on a Haley ouster tonight.

Who do you think is going home...and not to homecoming?


  1. Just a comment or 2 and maybe a quick math lesson. First, the lesson:

    AI + MJ = 0.
    Believe it or not, there are still millions and millions of MJ fans out there who go all OJ on us when anyone even thinks of singing one of his songs. Haley did a respectable job, but JLo (in keeping with the OJ theme) had a field day. If I'm ever in prison with this woman, I want her in my headlights at all times. Q.E.D.

    Scotty's first tune was a nice safe choice that contained enough apple pie to put Sara Lee in jealous attack mode. Wow. Log Cabin, eat your heart out. The 2nd tune was another marching hillbilly nightmare led by Slim Pickens and the Sons of Muscatel.

    James did the Journey tune that was played in the final episode of The Sopranos. It resurrected old memories how much I hated the writers for that lame, cop-out ending. I paid extra for the premium channels and dammit, don't set me up for a blood bath and then give me Archie and Veronica in an ice cream shop. James did well on his 2nd tune, but it seemed out of place--like a Russian in a wool suit trying to infiltrate the Arizona CIA in July. It was okay and he should be safe.

    Lauren's first song was excellent. "Trouble", however, was so bad that it most likely had Elvis spinning like a corn dog. It was completely unbelievable and a very slothy walk-through at best.

    The AI buckboard seems to drop another wheel each week. What's that? A shocker you say...just to keep it interesting? Okay, how about Scotty and Lauren in the bottom 2 with Lauren putting them there boots in the street.


  2. I think that the judges were deliberately harsh on Haley in order to influence the viewers against her and it backfired. Instead people who may not have voted otherwise, came out in droves and voted for Haley in standing up against the unfairness of the judges and in sync with Steven Tyler!
    Tragically, it is James Durbin who became the victim. He is the most talented contestant ever on Idol, and I have no further desire to watch Idol now that he is gone. He did say that he learned a lesson as a result of getting so emotional about a particular song that he was unable to sing effectively. And I agree with Shari that going for the high note is not what its about. James has amazing power in his voice, and can sing anything. In the duet with Scotty alias Howdy Doody, on the results show, James sounded more country than Scotty. James Durbin has a gift like no other.

  3. "The power is in the subtlety and there was nothing subtle about this performance." Yeah, he's always on 11, even when he's trying to be on 4. He would fit right in with a full compliment of rock dudes, sharing the stage and the sonic spectrum.

    "She sounded like that nasty old codger in the neighborhood" named Casey Abrams. Tee hee.

    "How he managed to get the Navy SEALs to take out Osama bin Laden to make this song even more timely is impressive!" You are just sooo clever. :) Well, if it were true that he did that, he'd certainly get my vote. But it ain't, so he won't.

    "She's adorable, talented, and totally unaware she possesses the first two traits." That is absolutely the best description of Lauren I have ever read. Though she seemed like she was aware at her audition, without her best friend and family around, she seems so... sad.

    "She's a little bit Dolly, but also a little bit Carrie." I love 'em both.

    "I'm sure God already got the memo on Gaga, kid. No worries." Ha ha. That reminds me of when Calvin and Susie were in class (April 4, 1989) and she was caught writing a response note to the nasty note he had just written and she had to go to the Principal's office and once there, the Principal told her not to worry because "We've got quite a file on our friend Calvin." Heh.

    "I don't like seeing sweet, seventeen-year-old girls romp around the stage telling us how evil they are." You must not like current pop music then. And I must not either. Big surprise.

    "Lauren didn't even feel comfortable with the lyrics." Good for her. I wish she would've just asked for a different song. Was she not allowed to change it? Did she not have the courage to request a song change? Or did she not know she could make such a request?

    "The guy can control a stage." That's the awesome thing about him. I seriously hope he has a metal career after all this. He'll fit right in with the scene.