Motown night! Can't go wrong with Motown, right? Right? Or maybe you can. Smokey Robinson looks good! He and Kenny Rogers had a competition going on for who could have the beadiest Botox-affected eyes, but apparently Smokey cried uncle.
Matt Giraud's rendition of "Let's Get It On" starts at the piano. Vocally he's very strong, and is adding some cool add9 and 9sus voicings on the piano. Samantha immediately said to me "The judges are going to tell him to get out from behind the piano." Eight measures later, sure enough, he's up! And... he's really, really unsteady. Obviously you're going to have a better overall presentation if you're up and moving about, but for some reason he lost the control in his voice. The judges were oohing and ahhing over him, calling him a sudden front-runner. Did I watch something else?
Kris Allen walks into Smokey's practice room with his guitar strapped on, and I got a sinking feeling. "How Sweet It Is" actual goes very well for what it is: a milquetoast and complete unpretentous song. His singing is nearly flawless, and he really looks like he's enjoying himself. But again, it's milquetoast and unpretentious. Kara is impressed with his artistry (i.e. not imitating James Taylor or Marvin Gaye), Paula says it was a good song, and Randy cryptically says "It's all good", but... it wasn't. It was a dull song that I certainly won't remember by the time he's eliminated.
Scott MacIntyre balladizes "You Can't Hurry Love". In the clip, Smokey says he likes how Scott has modernized it, but apparently Scott changed his mind, as it was rhythmically identical to the Supremes version with the exception of some throwaway brass stabs and an occasional inappopriate piano riff between sections). Alas, he's not only sounding reedy like an overeager musical-theater high schooler, but also out of vocal control (see Kara's comment on executing improvised lines). I didn't get this at all. (Flesh colored pants? The flesh of a salmon, maybe.)
Megan Joy did the watusi to the camera before the fade to commercial, so our expectations are a bit low. "For Once In My Life" is an interesting choice; a killer groove with a wide range. In the clip, It's a "good Megan song"? Is she referring to herself in the third person now? Oy. And back on live TV she fails to back this kind of arrogance, wailing bizarrely through the song. She's got power, but her voice is so... bizarre, like she's channelling Billy Holliday mid-fix. Randy even calls it bizarre, too. How in the world has she made it this far? Simon suggests that "whoever is advising you should be fired,"; hmmm, who's in charge here? A musical director, by any chance? Interesting, her speaking voice is just as odd; that's a problem. She's got a 90-year-old woman stuck in her throat of something.
Anoop Desai makes a fantasticchoice with "Ooh Baby Baby". And... sleepwalks through the first verse (Simon later agreed). The belted notes on the second verse sound killer, but this whole thing seems like it's running in slow motion. And the outfit... oh lord. A windbreaker, over a shirt & tie... it's like me in 6th grade. And I had terrible fashion sense in 6th grade. Kara makes a good point about the difficulty factor, and I do appreciate that holding those notes strongly for such an extended time is impressive; I just wish it weren't so damned slow.
In his clip, Michael Sarver says he's going to "church it up", and explains that that means he'll "sing off the cuff." Because God loves unpredictability? In performance, he's brought back some of the charm and power that I loved in the cattle-call round. This is easily his best performance of the season; it's about him, and it's killer. His attempt at a run near the end hit a snag, but other than that (and, admittedly, a failure to his falsetto in the first chorus), it absolutely kicked my ass. Then Paula, Simon, take him to task for not bringing his game. If we make the assumption that what the judges experience in person is substantially different from what we experience at home, I think we should all feel cheated as a viewing public. Unless I'm really just crazy and, as Samantha suggested, I've lost my credibility. Have I? Somebody please comment and tell me why that performance sucked. I don't get it.
Lil Rounds makes an unfortunate choice with "Heat Wave". Her singing the hell out of it seems like a sure bet, but suprisingly she was quite unsteady. Part of the problem is that it's not that great of song. (*dodging Motown thunderbolts*) And then the song ended so awkwardly, like a bad variety show. (A worse variety show than this one, anyway.) I'm totally with Randy, Kara and Simon on this; she needs songs that lets her voice "breathe" (I thought that exactly), because her power is in... her power! A series of rapid-fire notes doesn't suit her.
Great. Someone else is turning a mid-tempo song into a ballad. Adam Lambert takes a lot of liberties with the melody of "Tracks of My Tears", and not all of them good. He's got a hell of a falsetto, which comes out in the bridge. But this transformation from freaky-goth to Extreme-meets-Dean-Martin doesn't work . Kara seems to have be swayed by the band on stage when she compliments his artistry. It wasn't bad, but a killer falsetto can't make you the best performer of the night, as Simon declared; otherwise, the "I climbed the frosty mountains" guy from season 7 would've made it to Hollywood week.
Danny Gokey makes some vocal missteps in the clip where he's preparing "Get Ready", which is otherwise a great choice. I thought, "this might be too high for him", and lo and behold, Rickey Minor did something useful and brought it down by a full step. Quite notably, he refrains from the ends of the lines in the verse, which left gaping holes in the melody. It otherwise was fantastic, and even when he strained to reach higher notes, something about his voice worked anyway. He's like the anti-Megan; everything Megan sings is wrong, and everything Danny sings is somehow right.
Allison Iraheta has a command of the stage well beyond her years. Just the way she plants her feet and stands still kicks my ass. That combination of intense focus and the depth of her voice is unreal. Absolutely unreal. Not only the best performance of the night, but perhaps, minute-for-minute, the best performance I've ever seen on Idol. That was so good, Sam and I watched it again. And considering how much crap on our DVR we have to catch up on, that's saying a lot.
Stevie Wonder schools Ruben Studdard tomorrow night. Humiliating fun for the whole family!