iTunes Top Downloads... as a theme? Whatever pays the bills, Fox, whatever pays the bills. Are we to believe that all of these songs can be found on one "Top Downloads" list (before tonight, that is)? What single sales-based list could possibly include "Caught Up", "What Hurts The Most" and "Just the Way You Are" within a hundred places of each other? Really? How long is this list?!?!
Anoop Desai goes first for once, and chooses Usher's "Caught Up". (We see clips of him working with the vocal coach we haven't seen since Hollywood, which is encouraging for Rickey Minor because now he doesn't have to be the scapegoat when bad choices are made). He shows flashes of strength, but a song like this doesn't show off his smoothness. Yes, there's swagger (as Randy says), but this is the equivalent of Lil Rounds singing "Heat Wave" last week.
Lauryn Hill's (or perhaps Bob Marley's) "Turn Your Lights Down Low" is Megan Joy's choice of music to sleepwalk by. This may be a good song for her odd singing accent, but she needs some serious coaching in the "what the hell do I do with my hands" department. It actually doesn't sound half bad for what it is, but she looks like a marionette without the strings. Simon says that "the things we liked about you are disappearing," but Samantha and I are still trying to figure what her appeal was to begin with, considering all of the much better (and less distractingly quirky singers) they could have chosen from even during Hollywood week. (Kara suggests that Adele would've been a far better choice, which is spot on.)
Danny Gokey chooses Rascal Flatts's "What Hurts the Most". He annunciates the T's at the end of words, which is really distracting, but he holds on to the power in his voice all the way through. The ending was a bit odd, and the song felt very short, but this really worked for him. This guy knows how to connect with an audience; it quite uncanny. (Paula: It was strong from the beginning "to the cadence"? Um, which cadence? Coda, perhaps?)
Allison Iraheta makes a bold choice with No Doubt's "Don't Speak". (She "grew up with this song"? Good lord, am I old.) She also make the bold choice of dressing like an anime character by way of Wednesday Addams, which doesn't work to her advantage. She definitely makes the song her own vocally, but her guitar becomes more of a hindrance than a help as she speeds up like crazy.
Man, these song are so short tonight! I don't feel like we have much to judge from tonight.
Scott MacIntyre comes full circle with Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are". We first met him in the cattle-call round, performing a beautiful understated "And So It Goes". His hair looks like late '70's Joel, but his voice reveals a whiny tone that doesn't work here. The judges, predictably, are gushing, but perhaps you had to be there. Being behind the piano does him good (SAT moment: Scott is to piano as Megan is to stool), but doesn't make him any less boyish sounding. That felt really odd. (Paula: it was a "legato performance"? Is that supposed to make sense?
The Fray's "You Found Me" is an interesting choice for Matt Giraud. His jump to falsetto at the end was really impressive, but overall it wasn't particularly effective. (Randy looked bored!) Playing a keyboard in the audience is a paradox: you're literally in the audience, so there should be a connection, but if you're stuck playing at said keyboard, you can't make a connection. It's like you're the anti-social guy who feels isolated at a crowded party, expect in this case everyone actually wants to talk to you but you've made it impossible because you're hiding behind a damn keyboard. (Unless it's a guiboard, of course. Or perhaps a keytar.)
Lil Rounds makes the outside choice of Celine Dion's "I Surrender". (I love the typos in the lyric sheet in the clip. Are they pulling them from a fan web site?) She channels Roberta Flack at the beginning, but then pulls out Jennifer Hudson and takes it home. Her conquer-the-song-by-half-steps passage was a bit dicey, but at least she hit the notes. And lordy, can she hit notes. I don't know why the judges are harping on the age of the song; if the song killed, why rain on the parade?
(Audience: Shut up. Seriously. Why are you booing compliments? Why are you booing half-sentences? Are you actually listening? Are people being paid to boo?)
Adam Lambert chooses "Play That Funky Music" and performs in a half-time arrangement (and in a haircut stolen from Sha Na Na). Finally, I have a reason to like this guy! This is the first time I've been able to hear vocal power from him without the distraction of Goth moodiness or "how slow can I perform this song and still appear original without inducing sleepiness?" Adam, interestingly, give RIckey Minor a shout-out, . (Kara: Studio... 57? Is that some crazy dance club where they pour ketchup all over each other?)
Kris Allen reveals that he's chosen "Ain't No Sunshine", which immediately sets off the alarm in my head: he's better sing the hell out of this song. The gimmick of bringing a keyboard and a string quartet on stage is manipulative, but it totally works in giving the illusion of a contrast of moods. Oh, and he happened to have sung the hell out of it. Interestingly, he doesn't change the tempo-- just the feel, which is tricky. But man, does it work.
Megan shows more energy being a goofball behind Ryan Seacrest while he's closing the show than she did during her performance. The girl needs a movement coach, a deep breath, to see herself on videotape, and to be in the bottom three by 12:25 AM Pacific time this morning. Please, screaming masses, send Megan, Megan's long locks and Megan's mysterious accent packing.