Monday, March 30, 2009

Week Three

Well, we said goodbye to big Michael Sarver this week - and frankly, it was no surprise. Mike was never going to win Season 8 of American Idol. He was clearly one of the weaker performers, and if he didn't go this week, he would've departed next week or the following week. But he was never going to be there at the end. He seemed to know it was his time. Michael appeared accepting of the fact that he was unable to compete with the likes of Adam, but was obviously proud of how far he had come in the competition - and rightly so.

I have been describing my dislike of Adam Lambert since the beginning of Season 8. And even though I still stand by the opinion that he seems somewhat fake and almost a caricature of a performing artist, the boy can certainly sing. His performance of "Tracks Of My Tears" was nothing short of sensational. This is a song that can easily be murdered by a lesser vocalist, but Adam was up to the task, delivering a soulful version that seemed to make Smokey Robinson himself trace his own tears of joy at the rendition. However, appearing on stage dressed like some 21st Century Elvis was again a clear depiction of Lambert's penchant for theatrics. Far from being original, Lambert is 'playing the game' - but is there a real Adam Lambert inside the shell?

It was a shock to see Matt in the bottom three this week. This guy, as Randy pointed out, has been a strong contender since the beginning. Matt has delivered a great performance every week - so what gives, America? Of the 30-odd million votes, were 20 million of those just for Lambert or Gokey? Lend your support for Matt, because he is only going to get better and better as the competition progresses.

Some of the other contestants, such as Megan, need to choose their songs a little better. Megan has grown on me after her "kooky" beginnings, and she definitely has the looks and an unusual voice to propel her to the top. But her performance this week was rather dreadful, as was the perpetually boring Scott, who must go next week.

by Idol Man

Week Two

With one person to be eliminated and thus, missing out on a spot in the coveted Idol Tour, there were a lot of nervous faces during the Week Two eliminations. It came down to Alexis Grace, who was perhaps a little unlucky to leave the Idol whirlwind. She had been consistently strong throughout the early stages of the competition but delivered a weak performance during Country week. She was definitley among the worst for Week Two, and even when given another chance for a "save" by the judges, she could not turn the song into her own. Perhaps she was also done in by her smug attitude, which may have alienated some Idol viewers.

Country week sorts the men from the (cow)boys. It is certainly not a style of music that suits everyone. Adam Lambert could not deal with Country and chose a cover of a cover of a Country song. In performing Jeff Buckley's version of Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire", Adam delivered almost a parody of popular music itself. His over-the-top "indulgent" (said Simon) performance was unintentionally hilarious. Lambert is a seasoned performer with a strong theatrical background, which gives him both an advantage and a disadvantage. The former being his confidence on stage, whilst the latter consists of a certain amount of 'acting' which is in stark contrast to the rest of the performers.

Scott was typically dull. I cannot understand the fascination with this guy. Is the reason he is still in the competition simply because he is blind? OK, this is harsh of me to say, but let's be honest - he is the weakest performer in the competition. His reliance on the piano will become a hindrance to his longevity. I mean, he's boring to me now, so I can only imagine how he's going to get to me after another ten weeks of piano ballads!

On the other hand, Matt's use of the piano and his soulful crooning are winning me over. Knowing that Matt can easily move away from the piano, he is far more interesting as a performer than Scott. Half of Idol-watching is actually becoming accustomed to a particular performers' sound and genre (for example, Allison has fast become known as a "rocker girl"), and the other half is seeing how they grow in these roles. Some performers do not have much room for growth, and Scott is one of these.

Michael was of course right at home singing a Country tune. He was solid as always and so was Danny Gokey - one of the early hot favourites. Megan led a uncharacteristically mellow performance - she was clearly ill and was given praise from the judges for her "consummate professionalism". But the real surprise of the night was another favourite, Anoop ("Dogg") Desai. After Week One's horrid rendition of Michael Jackson's "Beat It", Anoop was back in form with a smooth, impressive performance. Now that the Top Ten have been selected, American Idol Season 8 is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in the history of this groundbreaking show.

by Idol Man

Week One

It was a rather insignificant first week for the 13 Idol finalists. Only a handful of the contestants managed to really shine in the first Performance Show of the eighth season of American Idol. The stand-out performance for me was from Danny Gokey, who displayed a ton of passion amidst some awkward dance moves. Danny's refreshing, self-deprecating humor was a long way from the arrogance of Adam Lambert, who, despite a strong vocal performance, seemed to agree with Paula's emotional assertion that he was already the competition winner.

As Simon rightly pointed out, there is still a long way to go in the competition, and making comments such as the one Paula made towards Adam is not only premature, but decidedly unfair to the other contestants. It also adds to the inflation of Lambert's already bursting ego - and it is not a pleasant thing to watch. His strutting on stage during his rendition of Michael Jackson's "Black Or White" was evidence of his theatrical/stage background, but it felt more like a performance from an actor than coming from any place real.

By contrast, Danny Gokey's rendition of Jackson's "P.Y.T" was brimming with personality and a goofy sense of who Gokey really is. It was endearing, joyful, and totally 'real'. This is exactly the sort of Idol that the voting public (ie; Idol fans) crave - a common man/woman with extraordinary vocal talent that is eventually shaped into a quality performer. Some, such as Allison Iraheta, have already defined themselves and their job now is to grow that definition into a well-rounded 'act'. Lambert, though, seems to have nowhere to go except to become more of a 'rockstar' cliche - he seems to be playing the game instead of being 'in' the game (if that makes sense....?)

Lil Rounds opened the Michael Jackson-themed show with a solid version of "The Way You Make Me Feel". She looked at home on stage and gave a soulful rendition of the song - but she wasn't mind blowing. Following Rounds was Scott MacIntyre who delivered a totally limp performance of "Keep The Faith". The judges are treating Scott with kid gloves, unable to be totally honest for fear of appearing insensitive. But let's face it - Scott is a boring performer. Sure, he has musical talent, having learnt the piano piece for his performance in less than a week. But his presence on stage is void and his vocal ability is really quite dull. There, I said it...

Third for the night was the aforementioned performance by Danny - the highlight of the night, for me. Following Danny was Michael Sarver, the Texan 'roughneck' with the smooth chords. He was good and gave a pleasant version of "You Are Not Alone", but I fear the man does not have what it takes to be a recording artist. He may be more at home fronting a country band than singing solo on Idol. Jasmine took to the stage for a truly horrendous performance of "I'll Be There". Simon was correct in his assessment that she does not act her age - she is like one of those girls who takes up smoking to hopefully look older. Her tone was shrill and irritating and was rightfully booted out of the competition the following evening.

Kris Allen can sing - but did he really need the guitar to accompanying his version of "Do You Remember The Time"? However, he did provide the other highlight of the night when he revealed that he was married, prompting Simon to quip that that should have been kept under wraps for a few more weeks (to develop the female following that he could obviously acquire). When the camera cut to his wife, she was seriously pissed at this comment.

Allison Iraheta once again proved that she will go a long way in season eight. Her rockin' version of "Give In To Me" was the perfect choice for this now developed "rock chick", although she will have to progress as a performer or risk becoming a cliche of herself. One good performance was followed by perhaps the worst performance of the night - Anoop Desai's "karaoke" version of the Jackson classic "Beat It". It was a woeful experience watching "The Dogg" stumble through a song which Paula rightfully pointed out was basically "untouchable". Still, Anoop has a large following and he was saved from the axe when it came to the crunch the following night. If he doesn't improve next week, he'll be leaving the luxurious Idol mansion for good.

Jorge Nunez was the other victim of the first week of Idol finals. Jorge displayed an infectious, likeable personality throughout the initial rounds of season eight. But his rendition of "Never Can Say Goodbye" was saccharine and dull. When Jorge said he didn't want to sing Jackson's "Bad", the forever witty Simon replied "You sort of did." Alas, farewell the Pride of Puerto Rico. Following Jorge was an equally bad performance from Megan Corkrey. Her twisting and flailing and irritating voice makes me think she'd be more at home singing for a folk-rock band, doing gigs in small clubs where she could garner a small cult following. Her annoying version of the Jackson 5 hit "Rockin' Robin" was a joke. Norman Gentle had more cred than this girl.

Adam strutted on stage next followed by Matt Giraud. Matt is one to watch - he looked exceedingly comfortable behind the piano singing "Human Nature" and was in stark contrast to Scott. He struggled at the end with a broken falsetto, but all in all, this was my second favourite performance of Week One. Lastly, the cute little "Amazing Grace" Alexis Grace showed us all that she has some slut hidden deep within her maternal bones. It was a great way to end the evening, even though Simon made the comment "It wasn't as good as you thought it was".

See you next week.

by Idol Man

Idol Man Speaks - The Long Road

It's a long, hard road from auditions to becoming a finalist on American Idol. Now in its eighth season, Idol has consistently been able to discover exceptional talent amidst the thousands of hopefuls across the United States who think they have what it takes to become a superstar.

I have to admit that I am a sucker for the audition shows. It's that Chuck Barris point of view that everyone wants to see people make fools of themselves, to laugh at other people's misgivings and lack of perceived talent. But it's also a depressing affair witnessing the delusions of people who actually think they can sing. In an age where everyone wants to be famous, honest self-perception is sorely lacking.

However, American Idol wouldn't be American Idol without the hapless souls howling like drowned cats at audition time, now would it?

For the first time in it's eight-year history, there are thirteen contestants instead of the usual twelve. The lucky 13th Idol was the "Dogg", Anoop Desai, who was visibly emotional after being told by Simon that the judges had agreed to include him in the finalists. Anoop made a big impression at audition time, penning his own nickname "Anoop Dogg" with an amused Randy. The guy could sing, yet was told in no uncertain terms that he needed some image work. After illustrating some crazy dance moves on last week's Wild Card show, Anoop could easily be considered the "dark horse" of the competition (or perhaps the "underdogg").

The judges got it right with their decisions last week. Megan Corkrey has an interesting voice that needs to be explored - let's just hope she ditches the "quirky" act and concentrates on her own "self" (unless that is her own "self", which will become exceedingly tiresome as the show progresses). Ditching Tatiana was the best decision of the night. Sure, the girl has a set of lungs, but her personality was akin to being trapped in an elevator with someone experiencing severe flatulence - you just can't wait to get away from it!

Of the thirteen finalists, my picks for longevity in the competition must go to Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta and Jorge Nunez. Danny is an amiable guy and an obvious crowd favourite. He may not be the most impressive vocalist in the competition, but his highly likeable persona is going to take him far. Allison, on the other hand, has a towering voice that was brilliantly displayed with her rendition of Heart's "Alone". Her performance set the benchmark for the rest of the contestants - she could easily have replaced Heart's Ann or Nancy Wilson on tour if she had have been alive in the 1970s. As for Jorge, the Pride of Puerto Rico - I just like this guy. His infectious spirit was clearly on display when he told the judges that he could only think and express himself in Spanish due to his nervous disposition after making it through. Go Jorge!

As for the remaining contestants, it will be as interesting as always to watch how they progress through the competition. Adam Lambert is a bona fide entertainer, yet he seems somewhat silicone in his presentation. His mantra to evolve his song choices into new and exciting renditions smacks of David Cook-wannabe. David achieved success last season by reinventing songs, yet it came from an honest place. It was David being David. Adam seems to have taken his cue from Cook and wants to cash-in on a previously successful formula.

With the first Finals show airing later this week, my choice for the first person to be ousted would lie with Jasmine. It is tough for many of the Idols to perform well when they are put on stage for the first time accompanied by a band. This was evident in the previous three weeks when a decent majority of the contestants faltered, some struggling to keep their vocal place with the band. Jasmine displayed much promise in her audition and the following weeks, but slipped somewhat when it came to the crunch. The judges, recalling her potential, rightfully put her through, but I feel she is going to struggle again when it's her time to take the stage this week.

by Idol Man