Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Personal Blog Down...Must. Post. American Idol Top 9 Recap.

Sorry guys, here's a change of programming. Well, because I can!

My personal blog is undergoing some difficulties, so I must publish my American Idol recap, and satisfy my hungry AI fan base!

Voila. Enjoy:
I'm like Simon: I don't "get" country music

I long for the days of the Top 24, when the singers could pick material in an unfettered fashion, and when they seemed to thrive in the more intimate environment. Is it just me, or have most of the performances of the Top 12 been below the level of their earlier performances?

Now they are all uniformly competent, but uniformly exhibit basic flaws in their performances. I find it almost impossible to not only predict a bottom 3, but even pick my own.

And don't get me started on Country Night! Well, OK, I'll get started on Country Night:

1. Taylor Hicks sang Country Roads (John Denver)

I know I didn't much like Taylor's Buddy Holly a coupla weeks ago, but this trumps that performances as his worst yet. And I like Taylor. I really do. I think he's the most grounded authentic one of the bunch. But this performance was vocally generic and physically awkward. He must stop looking like he has to pee when he sings. And he must find something better to do with his hands. And I can't believe he couldn't find a better country song to about even a Kenny Rogers tune, since they have similar raspy tenors? Again, much as I like the guy, this performance deserves bottom 3-ness, even if it doesn't land him there.

2. Mandisa sang Any Man of Mine (?) (Shania Twain)

This was a fine performance, especially when it got up to and stayed in her higher range. It had some verve and vocal energy. But man, country music melodies have a tendency toward the boring and repetitive, and the singers last night didn't make much effort to pick songs outside that mold. A word about Mandisa's appearance. She needs to draw focus to her truly beautiful face, and having that softer, curlier hair is a good start. But to further do that I think she looks better with sleeves that hit at least to her elbows, and with tops that go at least past her hips. She's got style, but she could use it to better frame her assets. Mandisa should be safe.

3. Elliott Yamiin sang If Tomorrow Never Comes (Garth Brooks)

Kenny Rogers, like Barry Manilow before him, had some good old-fashioned advice about how to actually interpret a song, not just assault it with melisma and belting. Elliott should have listened to Kenny's wise advice that he wasn't trying to impress the audience, but rather make them cry. I could see Elliott straining to show more than his usual placid emotionless-ness during the song, but it was an obvious strain...sort of like when Christina Ricci as Wednesday Adams tried to smile in Adaams Family Values. Beyond his slightly physically awkward and emotionless delivery I found the vocal a bit rambly. He was trying to rein it in, I suppose, per Kenny's advice, but without hiiiis funky melisma to fall back on I don't think Elliott really knew what to do with the song. Very. Average.

4. Paris Bennett sang How Do I Live Without You (LeAnn Rimes)

First, this was her best look yet. She looked young but not baby-ish, nor like a girl playing dress-up. She looked hip and sleek. Now, vocally: this girl needs to sing high. In the middle to low parts of her range her voice is not only generic, but frankly she gets pitchy down low. Up high it is effortless and impressive. And unlike Mandisa and Katharine who both start to sound shrill up high, Paris sounds easy.

5. Ace Young sang I Wanna Cry (?)

Ace, if he survives, need to sing ballads, needs to sing in as high a register as he can, and needs to stay there in his zone. He had some moments of pitchy weakness, but I'd like to point out that not a person on that stage last night didn't have such moments. But this was Ace returning to form.He generally sounded really pretty, especially at the end. And we know he looked pretty.

6. Kellie Pickler sang Fancy (?)

Her best performance yet, no question. Although I really couldn't understand her at all when she was in her lower register, the song rested up nice and high in the money part of her vocal range. Plus she actually looked connected to what she was singing, unlike previous performances when she looked either a) generically winsome or b) like a scared rabbit. Great job.

7. Chris Daughtry sang I'm Gonna Love You (Keith Urban)

Nice, simple, direct delivery of a pretty song. Vocally pretty consistent. Yes, he had that same vaguely concerned look he always has, complete with sincere, furrowed brow, but color me impressed that he pulled it back and delivered a credible rendition of this song.

8. Katharine McPhee sang Bring Out the Elvis in Me (?)

OK, this is what I was talking about...let Katharine be spunky and perky, not just sultry and sexy. Sure she got some hot looks in there, but mostly it was more sassy than sultry...and that seems more authentically Katharine. Wouldn't say, on the other hand, that it was her best vocal performance. Sometimes she sounded awesome, sometimes a little weak. I couldn't always find the melody, but that could be the song. Towards the end she clearly muffed the words, so she got strangely quiet. I guess her fan base isn't as strong as some of the others, but I would hope she stays based on a performance that shows her coming into her own as a performer, not just a vocalist.

9. Bucky Covington sang Best I Ever Had (Gary Allen)

What a way to miss your moment. First off, this isn't a very country song. I know this song and am pretty sure I've heard it on adult alternative stations fairly regularly. Yes, he sang a little prettier than he has before, so vocally it was his most pleasant performance. But my God people: the boy has NO performance skillz. None. His recent hat-wearing penchant can't hide the fact that he is blank-eyed. You cannot understand a word the boy sings. Sitting down certainly masked the fact that usually he is completely physically aimless and awkward. It's a pretty song, but it was bo-ring. Bucky should have been sent home weeks ago, and I'm holding out hope that he may go...dim hope, but some hope.

Bottom line:

If I could pick the bottom 3 based purely on last night's show, it would be:

Bucky, Taylor and Elliott, with Bucky going home.

But let me say that only Bucky really bugs me. I honestly think all of the other 8 share a similar level of general skill and likability. Some have more natural talent, but none of them are hitting it out of the park with their actual performances, so it's hard to rank them right now.

I have no illusions that the above 3 will actually be the bottom 3.

If I have to predict I'll say that the bottom 3 may likely be: Ace, Bucky and Taylor, with Ace going home.

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