American Idol Top 11, Season 8, March 17, 2009

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This may have been my favorite episode of Idol ever.  It had everything.  The performances from top to bottom were easily the best that we have ever seen on Idol at this point in the competition, and some verged on greatness.  The show contained the strangest moment in Idol history when Adam Lambert sang what he purported to be Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”.  And finally, we were treated to the best ‘on air’ brush up between the judges ever when Paula told blind performer Scott MacIntyre that he was using his piano as a ‘crutch,’ and suggesting that he should lose it.  Simon rightly commented that Paula’s suggestion was ‘stupid’, but rather than take a breath and realize how offensive and stupid what she said was, she told Simon that he was being disrespectful of her.

Later Paula quoted Eddie Murphy when asked about her comment to Scott saying, “You want to impress me?  Take the Wheel M&*%@$ F*%$@#!”  Later she criticized paraplegic Joni Eareckson Tada for always painting with her feet, and the late Christopher Reeve for sounding breathy in his later roles (all made up, but funny).  Scott was seen trying on tap shoes, a top hat and cane after the performance, and suddenly several tickets were available for the first three rows on e-bay.

It was country music week.  This is the one week that keeps me from completely supporting everything that Simon says.  He usually cannot get by the fact that he simply hates country music, and criticizes anyone who tries to sing it, no matter how well they do.  This week, was different.  Simon seemed much more objective, and the performances were much better, and varied.

Also, every year some contestant feels the need to be a smart ass to Simon.  First, contestants need to remember that Simon is right 90% of the time.  Second, you will look like an ass if you show disrespect for him, and the audience will send you home for it.  Third, there is no quicker way to destroy your ‘likeable guy’ (or girl) image than by doing this. Michael Sarver should have known better.

Randy Travis was one of the best advisors that they have ever had on the show.  His advice was good and positive.  He was personable, and his interaction with Adam was priceless.

On a final note, I write my opinions of the performances before I hear the judges’ reactions.  I don’t want to be influenced by what they have to say.  It makes it more interesting for me that way.

On to the performances:

Michael Sarver- “Ain’t Going Down (‘Till the Sun Comes Up)”– This week was right in his wheelhouse.  There are a lot of words in this song, and I thought he missed the intro on the second verse.  He has no diction at all.  The vocal was OK, but the stage performance looked like he was in slow motion.  His body carried none of the emotion that comes with the song, and that caused him to pale in the light of a performer like Garth Brooks.  I thought he missed his best opportunity with this song.  He could have done any country music song, but what he did was simply not good enough to make him stand out.  It’s time for him to go back to the rig.

The judges’ comments were mixed at best.

Allison Iraheta- “Blame it on the Heart”– I thought it was a little too affected, but she sang it very well.  I like her voice better in this genre than as a rocker.

The judges were generally positive with Simon somehow noting in a positive way that it was tuneless, and verged on precocious.

Kris Allen- “To Make You Feel My Love”– I thought this song sounded great, and the falsetto was very nice.  It was excellent in a Simon & Garfunkel sort of way.

The judges unanimously loved it with Simon calling it terrific.

Lil Rounds- “Independence Day”– It was nice to see a girl contestant pick a song that had low verses, but keep it in her range.  As far as the performance went, it was good, but nothing to write home about.  She also talked way too much after she sang.

The judges did not love it.

Adam Lambert- “Ring of Fire”– Wow!  Or maybe, wow?  This performance was completely crazy.  I had no idea what to say about it or whether I liked it or not.  It was way too affected, but there was still something great about the vocal.  It had a strange sort of James Bond quality to it.  If you did not see it, there is no way to describe it.  You need to Google it.

The judges seemed as confused as I was.  Kara summed it up by describing it as ‘strange in a good way.’

Scott MacIntyre- “Wild Angel”– He had a very nice tone to his voice, and looked very professional behind the piano.  I thought it was easily his best performance so far.

The judges generally liked the performance except for Paula’s specious criticism which was referenced above.

Alexis Grace- “Jolene”– I thought she was definitely the best girl singer of the evening.  She had good inflection and emotion.  I thought it was great, unfortunately, I was alone.

The judges seemed to not like it at all.

Danny Gokey- “Jesus Take the Wheel”– I’m not a big fan of this song.  The lyrics seem a little contrived.  There was a nice tone to the verses, but they were too long.  This brings me to something that I have noticed on Idol.  Idol performances are little more than sound bytes, and the audience is used to that.  Contestants need to get to the point when performing.  The problem with this song is that it told a story, so he had to sing all eight lines of the first two verses before he got to the chorus (Lil Round’s song suffered from the same problem).  However, when he got to the chorus, the vocal was transcendent.  I thought he was the best of the night.

The judges did not like the verses, but loved the chorus.

Anoop Desai- “You Were Always on My Mind”– It began very nicely, and got better.  His emoting was great.  Everyone was worried about him choosing another song that was so associated with a particular singer, but he pulled it off and more.  It was a million times better than last week, and one of my top four for the night.

The judges loved it.

Megan Joe- “I Go Walking After Midnight”– Who is Megan Joe?  What happened to the Corkrey?  Is it smart to change your name at this point in the competition, and say nothing about it?  I thought her dress was terrible, and reminded me of Clash of the Titans.  She was pitchy all the way through.  She uses the same irritating affectation on her words in every song.  It is irritating, and they all sound the same.  Her attempt at quirkiness made this even worse, and had a Liza Minelli, Broadway quality to it.

The judges spent the whole time telling us how professional she was for performing when she was sick, and how great the performance was.  Right.

Matt Giraud- “So Small”– It was very bluesy and soulful.  It was also very good, and I thought the vocal was something I could hear on the radio.

The judges loved it.

I am not sure who will go home tonight.  It could be Michael Sarver, Allison Iraheta, Kris (due to unfortunate placement in the show), Adam (due to strangeness), Lil Rounds, Alexis or Megan.  I think it should be Michael or Megan, but I think it will actually be Michael.