Wednesday, March 31, 2010

American Idol: The Top 10 Tackle R&B With Usher's Advice

I was impressed with Usher as this week's mentor; his advice was specific to the contestant and to the song that person was singing. The issue is that some contestant's took his advice and others did not, and in every case his advice was correct.

Siobhan started the show off with "Through the Fire" by Chaka Kahn, and she appeared to be quite nervous meeting Usher. Randy said it was not her best by any means. Simon said it was so all over the place, it sounded like she was running a marathon, singing, and running out of breath. Simon also did not like the fact that she screamed at the end of the song. I agree, overall, I felt like this had the potential of being an amazing performance and instead it was just ok. Score (in my opinion): 3.9 (out of 5)

Casey found an r&b song that perfectly suited his bluesy style, "Hold On, I'm Coming" by Sam & Dave. Randy said it was another hot night for Casey. Kara said she feels he has more range than he displayed in that song and she hopes that he is able to show it. Simon told Casey that it was his strongest performance thus far. Score: 5

Big Mike displayed sensitivity singing "Ready for Love" by India.Arie, another song by a female singer/ songwriter, but it needed more. Randy loved his sensitivity and said he is in the zone and Randy is loving all his performances. Ellen said it was beautiful and she loved it. Kara said he did an incredible job with the song and it was one of her fave Mike performances. Simon said he can finally take him seriously and he believed the performance. Usher loved it and said he connected with the audience.
Score: 4.5

Didi's rendition of "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" by Jimmy Ruffin left me feeling like I was at a Broadway show; I was overcome with the theatrics of the entire performance, including the shouting. Randy found it flat from start to finish. Ellen thought it was too dramatic. Kara called it overdone, and said Didi has lost her way. Simon agreed and added it was like swimming in jelly, off melody and all. I think she is in trouble tonight. Score: 2.9

Tim didn't do much better with an almost mumbled version of "Sweet Love" by Anita Baker. Usher gave Tim amazing advice, he told him to picture the woman he loves standing in front of him while singing the song. Randy said it was too flat, and he didn't add enough to the song to make it special. Ellen said he shouldn't have chosen that song because it was too tough for him. Kara called it Vegas and Broadway and said he took the soul out of the song. Simon said that what he says doesn't matter because he will be voted to stay. I am annoyed because I think Tim is capable of this, and I tire of him choosing silly songs.
Score: 3

Andrew's acoustic take on "Forever" by Chris Brown put him back in the mix this week for the first time since Hollywood week! Randy said Andrew is back, best performance in a long time. Kara said it was a great leap in the right direction. Simon told him it was miles better than so many of his other performances but encouraged him to show his personality because that is what is selling at this point of the competition. Score: 4.75

Katie sang the Aretha classic, "Chain of Fools" and received a real range of comments from the judges. Randy and Kara thought they were some of the best vocals of the night. Simon said it was ridiculous of Randy to compare Katie to Christina Aguilera vocally because she is miles from there and he found her performance "cold and robotic". I am leaning more towards Simon's opinion, I didn't love it as much as I should have.
Score: 3.9

Lee had a breakout night with "Treat Her Like a Lady" by the Cornelius Brothers. Usher was impressed with Lee's voice and told him to believe in himself. Randy called it unbelievable, and Ellen said it was the best performance of the night. Kara said you brought the song into your own, and it could be on your record now; amazing. Simon said he always believed in him, and that he should watch his performance back later because this may be the night that changes his life forever.
Score: 5

Crystal sang her own version of "Midnight Train to Georgia" by Gladys Knight and the Pips; her vocals impressed the hell out of me, and I continue to be surprised by her. Randy said he loved it and it was another great performance. Ellen loved the whole idea, and Kara said she was happy she took the risk playing the piano. Simon said the backing vocals should not have been there, and told her not to change who she is.
Score: 5

Aaron closed the show with a safe performance of "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers. Unfortunately I was thinking about the Kris Allen version of this from last season, and so this was just too safe for me. Randy said it was all right and it got better as it went on. Ellen and Kara both liked it. Simon said it was not as good as some other versions he has heard on the show, but there is no chance of him being voted off. Score: 4

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Top 11 American Idol Season 9, Who Goes on Tour?

Last night was quite possibly the worst batch of performances I have ever seen for a group of contestants in the finals of American Idol. The bottom three for the most part tonight was not a surprise for me; I believed that the bottom three would be Paige Miles, Didi Benami, and Andrew Garcia with Paige Miles going home. All that was important was that my end result was correct and it was.

Paige gave consistently "off" performances throughout the semis and finals and last night was possibly the worst. Her rendition of Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" was pitchy, possibly the worst vocal of season 9, and she never seemed to find her comfort zone in the song. Simon said they would not even consider using the "Judges' Save".

The other two contestants in the bottom three were Tim Urban and Katie Stevens; both had off nights but on a night were most performances were lackluster at best. Urban took on "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Queen and received mostly criticism from the judges, I thought the song was right but he should have done more with the tempo and the arrangement. Katie Stevens actually took the judges' advice and went with a younger more contemporary song, choosing "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie. It was a bit of a shock to me to see her in the bottom three, but then again, there was nothing special about her performance.

I agreed with Simon's take on Didi and Andrew's performances. Didi was over the top and overly dramatic with her performance of "You're No Good". Simon said there was quite an irony of you singing, you're no good over and over again. Andrew basically destroyed Marvin Gaye's "I Heard it Through the Grapevine"; Simon said he is starting to think that his performance of "Straight Up" was overrated all those weeks ago in Hollywood.

My two favorites of the night were Crystal Bowersox and Aaron Kelly. Crystal gave a soulful performance of "Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin; Randy said that she is a star and Simon said he would not have changed anything about the performance. Aaron sang the ballad "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing", a number one by Aerosmith; Kara praised his consistency and Randy said he is a fan.

Lee's performance of "The Letter" was impressive and I can see that he improves every week. Randy said he knocked it out of the box and Ellen compared him to her favorite pen. Kara said he raised the bar for himself and has never sounded better.

Michael and Casey were both acceptable but should definitely try to improve next week. Michael sang "When a Man Loves a Woman" to split reviews of the judges. Casey's choice of "Power of Love" by Huey Lewis was an odd song choice which earned him split reviews as well.

Siobhan, unfortunately, sounded like she was screaming throughout her rendition of "Superstition", made famous by the legendary Stevie Wonder. Simon said that she needs to stop screaming at the end of every performance.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

American Idol Season 9: The Top 8 Guys

Wow! The guys completely surprised me tonight. I really don't care what the judges say because tonight the guys proved that they are the stronger of the two groups, and I think ultimately a guy has a great chance of winning the whole thing this year. Their song selections were better, their voices were stronger, and five out of eight of them played guitar of some sort. Unfortunately a favorite may go home, while someone who should have gone home a long time ago probably will this week.

The show kicked off with Lee Dewyze putting his own spin on the Owl City song "Fireflies"; I actually liked Lee's version better than the original. Randy liked how he made it his own. Kara, like myself, thought it was better than the original. Simon thought Lee was better than the version of the song that he did. Score: 4.6 (out of 5)

Alex Lambert took on Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble"; Randy criticized him and thought it was too fast. Ellen said Alex, unlike most people, consistently gets better, and she loves his vulnerability. Kara thinks the only thing in the way of Alex winning is him and his struggles with confidence. Simon emphasized that once again he needs to learn how to be comfortable. Score: 4.5

Tim Urban sang the famous Jeff Buckley version of "Hallelujah", and for me, it was one of the best performances of the night. Randy said he walked in some big shoes (those of the contestants who performed it before him) and he did a pretty good job. Ellen hugged him and said it was fantastic; she felt bad about being so hard on him in the weeks past. Kara loved the honesty of his interpretation. Simon said terrific, by far his best performance thus far. Score: 5

Andrew Garcia's interpretation of Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" left me a little disappointed. Randy said it was pitchy and there wasn't enough range in the song. Ellen liked the end, and commented about how much the viewers love him. Kara said he peaked early and now he has been chasing that performance ever since. Simon agreed with Kara and feels like Andrew is going backwards. I think he chose the wrong Christina song, he should have gone with "Beautiful" or "All I Want is You (Come on Over)". Score: 3.5

I enjoyed the sincerity of Casey James singing "You'll Think of Me" by Keith Urban. Randy felt it was too safe a choice for him, which I disagree with because he sounded good. Ellen thought it was great and positively commented on his comfort level. Kara said she liked it better than last week and said he was singing from his heart; she said what was missing was that spark that he has. Simon praised the sincerity of his performance ans said he sounded great. Score: 4.9

As the youngest contestant left in the competition, Aaron Kelly showed that age doesn't mean you are better. His performance of "I'm Already There" by Lonestar showcased his emotion when singing. Randy thought he sounded good but told him to work on the lower register of his voice. Ellen liked the song but thought the song was too big for him. Kara thought the song was irrelevant for him, saying it is about a man calling his kids. Simon called Kara out and said her statement was complete and utter rubbish, and that she is taking it too literally. He said it was a good vocal, the type of song he should be singing, and he could tell that Aaron was really trying. He also commented that the judges tell the contestants one thing one week, and something different the next and it is driving the contestants crazy unnecessarily. Score: 4.9

Todrick Hall's over the top version of "Somebody to Love" by Queen sounded so pitchy to me; I really think his voice cracked within the first few seconds of the performance. For some reason though, all the judges loved it saying that it was good singing. Simon said he proved that he is a Broadway singer, and that what he did may have saved him. Score: 3

Michael Lynche closed the show with "This Woman's Work" by Maxwell which is honestly one of the most difficult songs to sing by a very stylized artist. Randy said, "Really?"; it was dope and hot. Ellen said it was beautiful. A crying Kara said the song was absolutely relevant for him and that it showed his respect for women by the way he sang it. Simon said it was an incredibly difficult song to sing and he nailed it, best performance of the live shows so far. Score: 5

American Idol Season 9: The Top 8 Ladies

Last night was exactly what Simon Cowell said, possibly the most important night in the careers of these eight young women. That being said, I was unimpressed with the majority of the performances; here are my predictions for who will make it into the Top 12, and you may be surprised.

Crystal Bowersox and Didi Benami gave the best performances of the night. Crystal sang a soulful rendition of "Give Me One Reason" by Tracy Chapman that left all the judges singing her praises. Randy said loved that, loved you, loved the song, and loved your honesty. Ellen called it her fave performance of the night. Simon said the competition is hers to lose, and she is the one to beat.
Didi Benami has been mediocre every week of the semi-finals, but last night, she really rose to the occasion, and sang a beautiful cover of "Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac. Didi was torn apart last week by the judges and instead of allowing their criticism to conquer her, she took it as constructive and performed the best I have ever seen her perform. Kara even said the performance was her favorite of this season so far. Randy said that there wasn't a "wow" moment in the performance, but Simon disagreed with Randy saying that the whole performance was the "wow", and called it brilliant.

Lacey Brown, for the first time, proved to the judges and the viewers why she is here with her performance of "The Story" by Brandi Carlisle. Randy, Ellen, and Kara agreed that she is back on the right path. Simon said that is was her personal best so far, and that it what she sang could be on the radio right now. Lacey sang something that was not only contemporary and relevant, but that fits her voice and style perfectly.
Lilly Scott's performance of "I Fall to Pieces", the classic by Patsy Cline slightly confused me. Randy called it hot, but I thought the performance was weird and outdated. Kara saw it as her making Patsy Cline contemporary but I really disagree, the whole sound and vibe was strange, but Lilly will most likely make it into the Top 12 based on her originality.
Siobhan Magnus has too many "wow" moments so far to not be a part of the Top 12. Her take on "House of the Rising Sun" by the Animals left Ellen captivated, but Simon under impressed. Kara liked the risk she took in starting the song in acapella; in general Siobhan's risks have paid off thus far because the viewers reward that.
I think Katie Stevens has done just enough to scrape by and make it into the Top 12. She's done everything that the judges have asked, Simon gave her a ten out of ten for trying. Randy thought that her version of "Breakaway" paled in comparison to the original by the original American Idol. Ellen thought it was the right song but lacked personality and believability.

I think Katelyn Epperly and Paige Miles are headed home. Paige's performance of "Smile" garnered my worst of the night vote. Ellen said she found it sad and heavy rather than uplifting, and I agree. Simon said the song choice was horrible and the arrangement was terrible. He said she had so much potential, and yet this could be the end of the road for her.
Katelyn Epperly really did not impress me last night with the exception of her hairdo. Simon summed it up best, it was a simple song on possibly the biggest night of her career, so it appeared like she wasn't trying as much as everyone else. If Katelyn doesn't go home, look for Katie to receive her walking papers.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

American Idol Season 9: The Top 10 Ladies

I know that this post is late, but I have been without Internet since last Wednesday. After watching the results show, one elimination was obvious, and the other was a surprise at best for the ladies. I will post their results following my show summary; as for the guys John Park and Jermaine Sellers were eliminated, no surprise there.

The best for the ladies in week 2 was the first and the last, Crystal Bowersox (who almost had to bow out of the competition) and Siobhan Magnus. Crystal sang a gospel song called "Clear Water As Long As I Can See the Light". Kara said that she completely recovered from last week's "just ok" performance, and that she is Americana rock. Simon believes that Crystal has been underestimated and much like Kelly Clarkson they have a real artist on their hands. I am happy that Crystal is a part of this competition; she is so different, and I love that about her.

Siobhan sang "Think", the soul classic by Aretha Franklin, and Randy called her performance dope and fearless. Kara said she has no idea how Siobhan hit the high note in her song. Simon called her interesting and talented. This young woman is a dark horse in this competition and I think she is going to continue her consistency.

Haeley Vaughn gave by far the most dreadful performance of the night. I was actually looking forward to hearing her sing "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus. Randy said it was so pitchy and she had no connection to the song; Ellen agreed. Simon called it a complete and utter mess. I think the vocal was totally forced which is why it is no surprise that she was sent packing this week.

Lacey Brown tackled "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer and Kara agreed that she stepped it up from last week but must continue to do so if she wants to stay in the competition. Simon said that she is acting like she is in a singing competition rather than showing the judges and the public who she is as an artist.

Katie Stevens also improved from last week but continued to struggle with the youth factor; she is acting older than she is. Ellen and Kara agreed that she should have chosen a hipper song than "Put Your Records On". Simon said that once again she failed to tell the public who she is.

Didi Benami was the other woman I thought would be eliminated this week (besides Haeley). Her take on "Lean On Me" was all over the place; Simon went as far as to say, she was screeching.

Michelle Delamor took a chance and left her comfort zone singing "Arms Wide Open" by rock group Creed. Kara called it her face Michelle performance ever because she did something different and believed in it. Simon agreed with Kara and appreciated the risk she took.

Randy called Lilly Scott's performance of "A Change is Gonna Come" his favorite of the night; Simon liked it but said that Crystal was better.

I have to agree with the judges and say that Katelyn Epperly's performance of "The Scientist" by Coldplay was so slow that I thought I was going to fall asleep. Simon thought it was a million times better than last week.

Paige Miles sang "Walk Away" originally sang by Kelly Clarkson and co-written by Kara. Kara said it was meant to be angrier, but overall she liked it. Simon did not like the song choice and Randy was not crazy about it either.

The two ladies sent home were Haeley and Michelle; I disagree with Michelle being sent home I think she is better than that, and I don't think she had the chance to show America her true talent.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

American Idol Season 9: The Top Ten Guys

So for some of the gentlemen, tonight was a great improvement, and for others it will be the end of the road. On a night when the ladies were supposed to perform, some men proved that they should not be counted out of this competition yet.

01 Michael Lynche performed "This Is A Man's World" by James Brown-- Randy thought it was crazy good. Kara said, I didn't get it, til now and you can potentially be a great artist. Simon said, you went from being a pussycat to a lion in a week; it was the perfect song for him, it didn't sound dated, and it was the best he has heard from him thus far. Amen to that; I thought big Mike sounded better than he ever has, and he needs to keep this up.
Score: 4.9 (out of 5)

02 John Park performed "Gravity" by John Mayer-- Randy said there was nothing special about it, nothing he added to it to make it better. Kara said it lacked connection and she didn't totally believe it. Simon said it is what he calls a "so what" performance; there was nothing special about it. I like John but I have to agree with the judges; this is a great John Mayer song and he needed to feel it more than he did. He took about ten steps back tonight.
Score: 3.1

03 Casey James performed "I Don't Wanna Be" by Gavin Degraw-- Randy loved his guitar playing as well as the changes he made to the song; he appreciates his musician/ singer/ songwriter vibe. Kara thought he took two steps back, and Simon agreed with Kara. I liked it very much, I like Casey very much, and unlike Kara, I don't need him to return my calls.
Score: 4.7

04 Alex Lambert performed "Everybody Knows" by John Legend-- Like Randy, I loved Alex's new found confidence. Ellen said it was so much better and called him the most unique person there. Kara said everyone is routing for him and he has something that every aspiring singer wants, a great recording voice. Simon said you should only be nervous if you are useless, and you're not cause you have a good voice. I personally cannot help but rout for Alex, he seems like a kind soul with a great voice; I hope to see him in the weeks to come.
Score: 4.9

05 Todrick Hall performed "What's Love Got to Do With It" by Tina Turner-- I really did not like this, at all. Randy said sing without changing the arrangement of the song. Ellen said move on stage because it's better, but the song choice wasn't good. Simon said move but don't sing because it just isn't working.
Score: 3

06 Jermaine Sellers performed "What's Goin' On" by Marvin Gaye-- Randy said it was much better than last week but he still needs to pull it back and make it even more simple. Kara said you don't need to show us every trick in the book every week; pick one, and make it mean something. I agree, it should be a trick that makes sense depending on the song. Simon said you watered down the song. I agree, it was watered down to the point that we couldn't appreciate the song for the reason we usually do. "What's Goin' On" is arguably one of the best pop/ R&B songs ever recorded, and it was ruined in my opinion with that performance.
Score: 3

07 Andrew Garcia performed "You Give Me Something" by James Morrison-- It was pitchy all over the place; Randy said it, and I could not agree more unfortunately. Ellen joked that she likes him so much that she wants to tattoo his name on her neck, but she also agreed the song was wrong for him. Simon simply called it, the wrong song and disappointing.
Score: 3 (unfortunately)

08 Aaron Kelly performed "My Girl" by the Temptations-- Randy liked it. Ellen liked him and his voice, but not the song. Kara said she likes him and thinks it was better than last week. Simon likes Aaron but thinks the performance was old fashioned. So in more simple terms, the judges like Aaron. I do too and I happen to think this performance was a bit underestimated.
Score: 4.8

09 Tim Urban performed "Come On Get Higher" by Matt Nathanson-- Randy said very karaoke, nothing special about it. Ellen said he should be on "Glee" but didn't like the performance. Kara liked the song choice but thought he needed to make it his own more (she does want him back next week). Simon disagreed with all the other judges, and so did I. He said Tim made a marked improvement, it was not karaoke, he listened to the critiques, didn't whine, and got on with it. He was relevant, and Simon was impressed with his attitude and work ethic.
Score: 5

10 Lee DeWyze performed "Lips of An Angel" by Hinder-- Despite pitch problems here and there, Randy still liked it. Kara called it a big improvement over last week, and she can even hear him on the radio right now; I can too. Vocally, Simon said, he is head and shoulders above the other guys in the competition, and that he may be the one to beat.
Score: 5