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

Find my latest American Idol article here.

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.

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American Idol Season 8, Wednesday, February 25

There were several things that caught my eye tonight.  One was the realization that I like the new format more (except for all of the talking).  By having three groups of 36 go through, the producers of Idol have forced the Idol voter to vote for more different people.  By the time the top 12 rolls around, people who actually vote every week will have voted for four different contestants.  In this way, they will not be as entrenched with a favorite by the time we get to the top 12.

Also, it looked like it took about 30 minutes for the Zanex to kick in for Paula.  For the first three contestants she was as loopy and out of it as ever.

Ryan needs to be told that it is stupid to ask if a person deserves to go through after the first performance of the night.  What an idiot.

In the end, last night’s group was an overall disappointment that made the one really good singer stick out like a sore thumb.

Jasmine Murray- “Love Song”- I had high hopes for Jasmine coming into last night.  She had received a lot of camera time, she was cute, and she sang well up to this point.  Unfortunately, she- like half of the girls that go onto the show- picked a song that was too low for her, and was nothing like the singer we had seen perform successfully before.  The song did nothing to showcase her talent even if she had done a good job of it.

Randy found it pitchy.

Kara thought it was all over the place and too low.

Paula Agreed.

Simon was disappointed.

Matt Giraud- “Viva La Vida”- From the beginning of the song, I was not sure if he was channeling Freddy Fender or just nervous with all of that vibrato.  He was just nervous.  He sang badly.  He could not hit the high notes.  And, he had a bad attitude about the criticism.  No one will miss this guy.

Paula’s remark was complete and utter nonsense.

Simon said that it verged on horrible and was badly performed.

Kara said that it was not his type of song.

Randy agreed with the others.

Jeanine Vailes- “This Love”- The first thing I thought was, “She picked that song?”  It very pitchy and proved to be an irritating mess by the end.

Paula was possibly drunk at this point, but I was not sure.

Simon thought it was terrible and the wrong song.

Randy agreed and said that the best part was when it ended.

Kara thought it was overdone.

Nick ‘Norman Gentle” Mitchell- “Living Without You”- This guy is a total mess and a joke.  And, just so you know Randy, No, he is not entertaining in the least.  He never proved that he could do the Idol thing, and I personally think that if he could have, he would have.

Simon said that it was one of the most atrocious performances ever on the show and prayed that America would not put him through.

Randy found it entertaining, but the vocals were not there.

Kara thought it was not terrible and enjoyed it.

Paula (whose meds had kicked in by now) said that he is a true performer and found him memorable and fun.

Allison Iraheta- “Alone”- She was just as screechy and ‘screamy’ (not a word) as I thought she would be, and I do not like her voice at all.  It was obvious that the judges were getting a little desperate at this point by their comments.

Randy thought she blew it out.

Kara said that she was serious, and did not know how good she was.

Paula thought she was the best so far.

Simon said that she was the best by a clear mile.

Kris Allen- “Man in the Mirror”- This Michael Jackson song was not as iconic as the one from the week before.  It had a nice syncopated style, and he hit all of his notes.  It was pretty good, but not great.

Kara thought it was the wrong song, and that the end was better than the beginning.

Paula disagreed completely, and thought he nailed it.

Simon agreeing with Paula thought he showed confidence and personality.

Randy thought that he did it well.

Megan Joe Corkery- “Put Your Records On.”- I think she stole that tattoo from the inside of a gothic cathedral.  It was vomitous (not a word either).  It thought this song was extremely cabaret and affected.  She hit the notes, but I hated the presentation.

Paula thought that she did everything right.

Simon thought that she over-sang the second part of the song, but asked America to vote for her.

Randy agreed.

Kara thought that she could be on the radio.

Matt Breitzke- “If You Can Only See”- I thought it was a good performance.

Simon hated the boring song.

Randy thought it was a cool song with a boring performance.

Kara thought that it fell flat.

Paula did not like the song choice either.

Jesse Langseth- “Betty Davis Eyes”- It was nice to hear a song that I know this season.  It was a little affected, but she hit her notes, and for the most part it was good.  I also thought her personality during the judging was great.

Randy thought it was OK, but not exciting.

Paula found her to be captivating with an identifiable sound.

Simon thought it was forgettable.

Kara did not think she hit all of her notes, but thought it had good spots in it.

Kai Kalana- “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.”- This song was no vocal showcase, but for the most part he sang it well.  It was forgettable.

Kara thought there were pitch issues, and that it was too old-fashioned.

Paula thought that he sang good except when he was out of pitch.

Simon thought it was old fashioned and corny.

Randy found it to be safe and not hit.

Mishavonna Henson- “Drops of Jupiter”- I liked her a lot.  She was the first woman in the program to sing with strong vocals without screaming.  Unfortunately, I was the only one who thought this way.

Paula did not like the song.

Simon said that the performance left him cold.

Randy thought that she felt older than 18.

Kara thought that she was too put-together.

Adam Lambert- “Satisfaction”- I thought he would come out and sing Freddy Mercury, Sting or Steve Perry, and when I heard that he was singing this I was worried.  There was nothing to worry about.  He made the rest of the contestants look like they were in a high school talent show.  He showed me what Taylor Hicks could have been if he could have actually sung well.

Paula thought that she was at an Adam Lambert concert, and that he was leaving the others behind.

Simon thought that parts were bad, but the end was great.

Randy loved it.

Kara said that his vocal technique and ability were outrageous.

I will probably be wrong this week, but give me: Adam Lambert, Mishavonna Henson and Jesse Langseth.