Slash takes on mentoring duties this week. As I mentioned last week, I'm now a bigger fan of the non-musicians as mentors, because they tend to see the bigger picture. Slash, of course, is a rock musician par excellence ("Sweet Child o' Mine" was, after all, the song that launched a thousand Long Island garage bands), and so now, in my reactionary mind, I'm expecting him to be supremely musically fussy. Instead, he's surprisingly general, and doesn't seem to say much beyond the obvious, at least in the videos, which is disappointing. The practice-with-a-full-on-rock-band-as-you-perform idea is brilliant, though; I was getting sick of hearing these guys wail next a five-foot grand piano.
Adam Lambert takes on Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love", with some decent vocal advice from Slash-- to lay off the improvs in the upper register. Matching Adam with a Robert Plant lead is a no-brainer, given his natural histrionics up there, and finally, this is a performance of Adam's I can finally say I truly liked. (What?) For once, his over-the-top nonsense worked in his favor-- except his "way, way, way..." improv, which was sloppy. (See? When in doubt, listen to the guy who's sold 100 million albums.)
(Where exactly is Kara going in clothes and a hairstyle like that? Did CBGB reopen in L.A.?)
Allison Iraheta chooses Janis Joplin's "Crybaby" over Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody To Love". At first, like Simon, I though she had nixed the Queen song; certainly, that song would've been a more obvious foil to Adam's song, but she certainly rocks the hell out of "Crybaby" anyway. (JA's "Somebody to Love" was even in consideration for her? Is she trying to channel Janis or Janis-wannabe Amanda Overmeyer?) As relatively repetitive as this song is, her power is undeniable. I sit in slack-jawed amazement and how effortless it is for her. I'd hate for her to lose her place in the show based on a less-than-perfect song choice, as opposed to, say, her ridiculous talent and preternatural focus.
Which leads us to Kris Allen's first appearance, which unfortunately for him is alongside Danny Gokey. Ryan makes a point to note that there won't be any phone numbers on the screen during the duets, implying that these songs don't count as much as the solos. But when Kris and Danny team up for Styx's "Renegade", there's no comparison. Not that Kris isn't a strong singer in isolation, but Danny's tone is so much more interesting and powerful, it makes Kris sound like a boy on a man's-- albeit an increasingly-metrosexual man's-- stage. Also, Kris looks exhausted, or perhaps just doesn't want to be there anymore. And lucky him... he's on again next! Somebody get him a cup of coffee, for goodness sake.
Kris seems eerily committed to The Beatles, and runs with "Come Together". Even in the setup video, Kris sounds so small and boyish with Slash's band. Slash opines "If he manages to pick up the actual live performance, that'll help." Uh, yeah, that's kind of the point of the show. Surprisingly, his singing is stronger live. Perhaps he's feeding off the audience, or off of the army of guitarist behind him, or off of the guitar he's playing, but he looks a lot more awake, and sounds bigger somehow, than in the duet. He's still a boy in a man's (and woman's) competition. I'm realizing now that this is the issue I've had with Kris from the beginning; it's not that he's not talented, it's just that he's just kinda there, and that kinda-there-ness is in stark contrast to Danny, Allison, Adam... Anoop, Matt, Alexis... hell, even Tatiana del Toro and Nick Mitchell, bless their neurotic hearts.
Danny dares to take on Aerosmith's "Dream On", and I expected the opening to be stronger, since it seems to perfect for his moody breathy John-Mayer-ish tone. Instead, he seems to be out of his element (and out of tune). It pains me to say this, as I've called him to win from the beginning, but this is the first time I ever thought he was delivering a less than stellar performance. Then the chorus (actually the coda, if were in Real Unabbreviated Song land) kicks in, and he kills it. Oh wait, now here comes the screaming... (Samantha and I brace ourselves)... and it's a little out of control, ruining his comeback. Samantha: "He lost control, so he just decided to shriek, and my ears were the victim."
Foghat's "Slow Ride" makes for slightly more compatible pairing of voices, although Adam's histrionic highs sound so forced compared to Allison's otherwordly grit. Although this was not nearly as interesting of a song as "Renegade" (it's quite dull actually, upon second listen), it was a more even vocal performance in comparison, no thanks to Kris not pulling his weight earlier. They did, however, spend most of the song facing each other in rock-god mutual-encouragement bliss, which I'm sure made for a dull performance in person.
My favorite tonight, for appropriateness of performance: Allison, with Adam a close second. Allison and Danny still remain my top two, partly because they have the best voices of the entire Top 36, and also because I don't care to see Adam's smarmy mug looking at me from a Skechers ad.