Hey, it's time for Simon's very FAVORITE week of the season...guess that's why we're getting it out of the way early.
The mentor tonight will be Randy Travis's skeleton. Back when he was alive, he was one of my favorite country singers. Seeing the way he looks now, "Diggin' Up Bones" has a completely different connotation then it did in 1986.
On with the show!!
1) Michael Sarver - "Ain't Goin' Down Till the Sun Comes Up": Bold choice...that is a LOT of words. And he nails every one of them, which is impressive. Not so impressive is the fact that, just like in his initial top 36 performance, he's out of breath by the end. Just like last week, this is not bad, but I feel like with his style (he's a country singer, no matter how many times he tells us he's not) this should have been better. It's a fun performance, and he sounds pretty good, I just expected more from him this week. In retrospect, he was also hurt by going first...there were a LOT of performances after this one that were much more polished and simply better than this one.
I don't usually talk too much about the judges commentary afterwards, but there were two disturbing trends tonight that started with Michael:
1) Kara giving dumb advice: "we're looking for those BIG NOTES." Sorry, I disagree, and I think Kris and Anoop prove me right later. You don't have to include vocal dramatics in order for it to be a good performance. Also, you don't have to do the SAME TYPE song every week, which is another piece of advice she gave a few of the contestants (most notably Lil and Alexis). She's quickly becoming the female version of Randy.
2) Contestants talking back to the judges. I thought this happened way more often than normal last night...maybe because I was watching it live due to some DVR malfunctions, and I wasn't able to FF through Randy and Paula like I normally do. Michael had me at "Country is supposed to be fun," but he lost me at "If we were perfect, we wouldn't be here." Ummm...what does that even mean? There were 100,000-plus applicants for the job of 2009 American Idol...I think they are looking for excellence at this point. "Trying your best" is not excellence. I would go off on a "public school is ruining our country" rant here, but these things are too long as it is.
Anyway, there was a LOT of talking back to the judges this week, and as a rule that is almost always stupid.
2) Alison Iraheta: "Blame it on Your Heart" - It's funny...Alison is probably one of my top 2-3 contestants this season, but I always have the least to say about her. It happens every time: she finishes singing and I realize I haven't made any notes because I've been too busy listening. I guess that's a good thing. This was another amazingly polished and mature performance from the youngest contestant left in the field. I love the style of her voice, but I again have fears that it may not hold out for 11 more weeks.
As a side note, this song had a prominent part in the "Country Musical" I was writing back when I was around 13. Just thought you'd like to know.
3) Kris Allen - "To Make You Feel My Love": My first thought was that it made no sense to me that he used the guitar LAST week, and then chose not to use it on this one...but I ended up loving the arrangement, so what do I know?
This was really a lovely vocal performance. The only problem I had with it had nothing to do with Kris...why do the sound people insist on putting the annoying re-verb on all of the ballads? The echo effect was distracting, and it sounds bush-league. But that's not his fault, and he did a great job. This was a perfect song choice for him, and he sang it well.
4) Lil Rounds - "Independence Day": Wow, I didn't even recognize her at first, but she looks really nice. And, actually, if you showed me a tape of this performance and a tape of her Top 36 performance, I REALLY wouldn't have recognized her. Remember last week when I said it was a "typical" fun performance by Lil? Well, this was the opposite. I totally agree with Simon...she sang like somebody was forcing her to. She looked uncomfortable, and her insistence that she was holding something back in order to "honor" country music was stupid and made no sense. Her voice sounded fine, but it was boring and forced.
5) Adam Lambert - "Ring of Fire": Dude...Undead Randy Travis is TERRIFIED of Adam and everything he stands for. That was hilarious. "Ain't seen too many fellows with nail polish on." HA!
As for the song, well...that was...unusual? Disturbing? I'm not going to go to the "How dare you do that to a Johnny Cash song!" place, because let's face it: Johnny would have loved that (remember, he had a big comeback not long before his death with a Nine Inch Nails cover). Technically, the vocal was excellent (of course), it was just....weird. This was maybe the one time I agreed with Kara tonight: I was confused, and yet somehow happy.
I admire his determination to just be himself, no matter the genre, similar to what Daughtry and D. Cook managed to pull off. I mean, it's not like he's going to make a country album, so why try to be country? But that was...weird.
I was thinking he could have done something like the Garth Brooks cover of "Fever," which is actually an Aerosmith song...I think he could have out-Steven-Tylered Steven Tyler.
6) Scott Macintyre - "Wild Angels": Copy and paste from last week...
As a singer, he's not that talented...average at best. Great pianist. Picks the most corny, boring, white-bread song available on a weekly basis. Seems like a great guy.
With one addition...he also seems like a genuinely FUNNY guy:
Paula: I feel like the piano is keeping you from connecting with the audience.
Scott: We could always move the piano CLOSER!
7) Alexis Grace - "Jolene": I really enjoyed this performance...first of all, this is my very favorite Dolly Parton song by far. Then I thought Alexis did a really good job with it, giving it a little of a bluesy feel, and built the song nicely by saving the "big notes" for the last chorus. I have no idea what the judges were listening to, and I'm totally confused by their advice to her to get more "dirty." Kara said she should have picked a song like "Before He Cheats," which is a) cliched and b) stupid, since she doesn't have Carrie's pipes. Kara really got on my nerves tonight...
One interesting note...DialIdol.com has a fairly decent tracking record for predicting who goes home and they show Alexis in last place by TONS. What is up with that? And...if that holds true, will we see the Judges Save come into play this early in the process?
8) Danny Gokey - "Jesus Take the Wheel": If I hadn't made the decision last week that I was going to start being nicer to Danny, I would be making jokes about him choosing "The Dance" or "If Tomorrow Never Comes." But since I'm being nice to him, I'm not going to make those jokes.
But then, he one-ups me and chooses "Jesus, Take the Wheel." Don't get me wrong...I don't necessarily have anything AGAINST this song, I just think he has done too many of these Archuletta songs already.
The verses don't sound good, and he looks uncomfortable doing them, and they go on too long...but then he really blows away the chorus, and sounds fantastic. I'm going to keep being nice for one more week.
Oh, and one more Kara thing...her fascination with "Big Notes," if it continues, is going to put her in the Automatic Fast-Forward group along with Randybot and Paula.
9) Anoop Desai - "You Were Always on My Mind": To get this out of the way first...they pulled out the echo effect on this one, as well, just like they did to Kris. KNOCK IT OFF!!
OK...this was a tremendous improvement over last week, and was probably my favorite Anoop performance since he blew me away with his initial audition. Just took a great song, didn't try to do too much with it...just changed the melody up a bit to show off a little of his style. Great song choice, great performance, and I loved how happy he was with Simon's comments. And Simon was right...THAT is how you handle criticism from the judges. Don't argue and whine about it...just prove them wrong. Anoop just jumped right back into the thick of this thing, in my opinion.
10) Megan Joy - "Walkin' After Midnight": OK, she looks GORGEOUS, first of all, although she could have used a little more....support. Vocally, she sounds not good at all, and I was ready to blast her until the judges revealed that she was apparently at death's door some time earlier in the day. Going back and listening to it again, I can see how she probably COULD have done a really good job with it if she had a healthy voice, so I'm going to give her a pass.
Shut up. I love her, what do you expect?
11) Matt Giraud - "So Small": Wow, he just looks SO much more comfortable now than he did back when he was trying to do Coldplay in his Top 36 performance. Just a natural performer, and you can see his experience as a piano-bar man. Great quality to his voice. He does lose the pitch a little at the end, but overall a very good job, and a performance I can actually see myself paying for.
Overall, this was really another good showing...no train wreck performances, in my opinion, depending on how much Adam weirdness you can stand.
Who I voted for: Nobody. Watching this live really threw me off. I probably would have voted for Alexis, Anoop, Alison, and Megan. (What?!? Hey, she's sick...it would have been a sympathy vote, just me comforting her from afar)
Who SHOULD be in the bottom 3: Lil, Michael, Scott
Who SHOULD go home: Michael
Who WILL be in the bottom 3: Megan, Michael, and Alexis (Alexis just based on Dial Idol...I don't get it)
Who WILL go home: Michael (or maybe nobody, if Alexis is last...I REALLY don't get it)