Tuesday, April 28, 2009

episode 8-33 (April 28): Top 5 performances

Holy crap! It's a big band! The rays of hate for Rickey Minor will be abated for the evening.

Jamie Foxx is an interesting choice for mentoring Rat Pack night, as he's best known musically for R&B, and also apparently a T-Pain impersonation. He's also introduced as having a classical background, as he also of course has his Oscar for his performance in Ray. An impressive range, but not one that immediately lends itself to being an expert on the Rat Pack style... and yet he gives some killer advice and gets great performances out the competitors. It's the out-of-left-field mentors (Foxx, Quentin Tarantino) who are doing the best mentoring, probably because they're not stuck in their own parochial musical worlds (Randy Travis, Andrew Lloyd Weber, etc.) and are more concerned with what makes for a great overall performance. The singers know how to sing, but how to translate that singing into an overall performance requires the Big Step Back that Foxx and Tarantino have provided.

Kris Allen starts "The Way You Look Tonight" (one of Randy's "favorite joints") in super slo-mo, but thankfully picks up the pace aftert he first refrain. There's nothing bad to say about it-- he's smooth, dead in tune, and makes some great choices. But that's it; it's like jazz oatmeal.

Is it a bit odd how the fangirls in the crowd start cheering when Kara says he's "set the technical bar so high"? Nothin' gets the great unwashed goin' like complimenting the technical aspect of a performance, huh?

Allison Iraheta may be a bit out of her depth on "Someone to Watch Over Me". Not performance-wise-- her focus and connection is still impeccable-- but her vocal tone is just not appropriate for a jazz ballad. Not that jazz vocals should be limited to one particular tone-- Ella vs. Billie, e.g., or even Darmon vs. Peter-- but her otherwise fantastic grit is a distraction here. I'd still vote for her, just to keep her in the running so she can return and kick everyone's butt once again.

I'm really annoyed how they cut the second 8 out of the song. We get it, the show is running long every time, but taking a full quarter out of a 32-bar form is insulting and makes it feel odd. (I mean, it's called the freakin' 32-bar form for a reason! 'Cuz it's 32 bars long!)

Foxx (and the anonymous vocal coach at the piano) gives the first indication of transposition consideration this season, implying that Matt Giraud might be taking "My Funny Valentine" up or down a key. I'm guessing they took it down, because this mostly sat in a terribly uncomfortable and Dave-Matthews-esque part of his range, which was exacerbated by the ballad tempo, just for the sake of trying to hit a mythical money note at the end. And said money note was belted at full volume, completely out of character with the rest of the arrangement. I'm in rare disagreement with Simon tonight; this was a badly thought-out performance after all.

Danny Gokey is singing yet another ballad... and then the feel picks up like crazy. At first he seems to be coasting on his breathy-dreamy voice, and then he amps it up (backed with, I'm reluctant to say, a killer performance from Rickey Minor's band) to another level entirely. Out of control. If he (or Allison) doesn't take this competition, America is officially as stupid as the rest of the world already thinks we are.

Adam Lambert doesn't seem to get much coaching from Foxx for "Feelin' Good". He plays it safe, so to speak, at the beginning, by having the Rhodes piano come in to accompany his histrionic-by-default voice, reminiscent of Supertramp or other '70 arena rock, which is his strength. But when it goes into jazz mode, it doesn't work; his voice, like Allison's doesn't fit. And the screaming, the theatricality, the sneering, the smarminess, the strutting... as Simon likes to say, this was terribly indulgent.

Tomorrow, Taylor Hicks returns... to... do... whatever it is he's doing nowadays. Singing, I suppose.

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