Tuesday, April 7, 2009

episode 8-27 (April 7): Top 8 performances

After much fussing with baby photos, we get on with "Songs From The Year You Were Born" night. Time to make me feel ancient. I can hardly wait!

Danny Gokey starts an R&B version of "Stand By Me" really disappointingly. He's got a whole lot of fast standing going on tonight, and does little to show us the amazing voice he's shown us before. Things picked up in the last coda, though. Paula makes reference to the chord changes and how it was a good reflection on him, which again begs the question: who does the arrangements? The performer or the musical director? (He's looking very Clay Aiken-ish too, no?)

Kris Allen gives us an interesting take on "All She Wants To Do Is Dance". Fascinating funk arrangement, considering how very '80s the original recording is (when i hear the original I can't help but also think of Robert Palmer's "Simply Irresistible" for some reason). And he sounds... okay. I still don't quite get his appeal. And again, we've got a guy stuck on a mini-stage in the middle of the crowd; even in a medium camera shot, he looks like he's trapped in a sea anemone made of people. Kara makes an interesting comment about it sounding like "jazz-funk homework", which I disagree with for the most part, although I understand her point. I do agree with Simon and Randy that the arrangement was more of a distraction than anything else, and his in-crowd performance tipped it over the edge into lack-of-connection oblivion.

Lil Rounds semi-powers through "What's Love Got to Do With It". If I were Paula, I'd stamp this song untouchable on behalf of Tina Turner. While Lil channels Tina Turner very well, this song was a poor choice, because she's shown repeatedly that she doesn't have control over the lower half of her range. It's not until the bridge that she starts to reach into the meat of her range, and that's too short a time. Combine that with a mid-tempo song done exactly the same mid-tempo way as the version, and you have a disappointing performance from an early-favorite.

Paula takes a roundabout swipe at Rickey Minor, which somewhat clarifies the issue: perhaps the contestants are responsible for their arrangements. But that makes for a disturbing proposition. This is the highest-rated show on American television, as Ryan so kindly reminded us earlier. Isn't in the producers' best interest to put on a more interesting show? And can they leave the kind of quality in the hands of the contestants? And if they can, then is "artistry" the new voice, as opposed to, you know, the voice?

Anoop Desai bolts out of the gate-- so to speak considering the slow-jam feel-- with a Brian McKnight-ish "True Colors". His voice sounds fantastic, and while down-tempo usually means death, he goes less-is-more on us and doesn't bring in excessive frilly nonsense like certain other singers. (Samantha, however, moaned "Boooooring" near the end.) I couldn't put a finger on why I liked it so much until Paula remarked that the song sat in a "magic" part of his range, and that was it: it sat just on the cusp of his belting range, and it worked so, so, so very well.

Scott MacIntyre will bring us the histrionic arena-rock ballad "The Search is Over"... please no piano, please no piano... finally, no piano. Guitar is actually a good prop for him ("prop" as in something to hold, not that he wasn't playing it), because it allows him stand up while also giving his arms to do. For once it wasn't uncomfortable to watch him... but his voice is sounding thinner in relation to the competition each week, and . Randy says "It didn't show you as a star, as one of the best undiscovered talents in America," but upon further consideration over the past few months... is he? Really?

"I Can't Make You Love Me" was popular when Allison Iraheta was born. Good Lord, do I feel old. It's annoying to hear another slow song, but I can't hold that against her after this powerhouse performance. Her choices are so ridiculously... mature. Such an amazing palette of tones. Paula makes the great comment that it doesn't matter that the arrangement was the same as Bonnie Raitt's, because she killed it in her own way.

Matt Giraud half-times Stevie Wonder's "Part-Time Lover" (which is The Jam as it is), to really impressive effect. This is the first time I've been truly impressed with him, and his voice in particular. The rather big He cops out with a falsetto on "by day" and the, um, high parts. I definitely love when he dips into his lower range, which was thicker than I'd realized. Alas, the judges are pressed for time and have to give a series of hyperbolic sound bites, instead of explaining in detail to the voting public why they should keep this guy in the competition.

Aaaaaaand then my DVR cut off. Nice, Fox. Why is it that the smaller the group of contestants, the more off-schedule they get? Fox can pretty much schedule the show for as long as it needs the show to be (and indeed it has before, making all of the other networks scramble to accomodate it). Fortunately, I've got the Internet and other obsessive bloggers to make it all better.

Adam Lambert's performance of the Donnie Darko arrangement of Tears For Fears's "Mad World" (let us briefly recall some other auditionees' take on that song earlier this season, shall we?) begins in a chair, lit from behind for maximum broodiness and wheezing out high falsetto notes like Mr. Herbert on Family Guy. Man, Fox will do anything for a promotional tie-in, won't they? There's no doubt that he's got a killer falsetto, but, again, so does the "frosty mountains" guy. He hits one really impressive note near the end, but all in all, that is the performance that got Simon off his butt for a standing ovation? Really?

Allison nailed it, and deserves every save the judges can give her. They should make a special save just for her. Will tomorrow night will be the night Scott finally goes? Please?

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