The first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club.
The first rule of American Idol is that you don’t choose a song because you like it. You choose a song because it’ll show off your voice.
And just about every contestant violated the first rule of American Idol last night. It’s the fifth season of this show. Haven’t they learned anything yet? I think every last one of the video packages leading into the song included the contestant looking earnestly into the camera with a smile and saying, “I picked this song because I flat out like it.” (I think that was Bucky’s exact phrasing, actually.)
In almost every case, it was their downfall. I’m not sure there was a crash and burn amongst the group, but very few did anything different or outstanding.
The second rule of American Idol is that the big long loud note at the end isn’t enough to save the performance anymore. It used to work in the first season and maybe partway into the second, but then everyone caught onto it. It also hurts when you’re hoping that note saves the day, but then you don’t nail it. Numerous people fell into that trap last night, too.
It was just a lot of karaoke in the show, and I’m surprised Simon didn’t use the word more often.
Lisa began with original American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You.” It was, to put it mildly, a risky choice. Simon might even have called it “ballsy” on another week. But he was also right in saying the song was bigger than her voice and that there’s not much you can do with it. I thought she sounded clean and clear, but it was just a bad song choice. Hey, it was a song she liked, I’m sure.
The part that all the judges missed that impressed me is that she really sold the emotion of the song. She wasn’t smiling through a song about breaking up and hating the guy for it and everything he’s done to her. She emoted throughout the performance. It’s something Barry Manilow harped on a lot last week. And it’s likely something her previous Broadway training helped her with this week.
She did, however, warble a bit on the big last night.
I think she’s in big trouble again this week, though. She’s already a constant in the bottom three, and then she went first with a forgettable performance.
Kellie went with “Suds in the Bucket,” back to her country roots. Hey, it’s a song she likes! Kellie’s biggest problem is that she sleep walks through her performances. I saw almost no emotion in her face. It was a blank stare as she sang the whole thing. The heavy makeup job didn’t help, either. Her eyes looked Asian. (She might also want to reconsider the peek at the bare mid-riff. . . )
The last note was a bit pitchy (see a pattern developing yet?), and the song was completely uninspiring. I’m afraid Pickler might start bleeding fans soon. She saved herself a little with her fanbase through her cute apologies to the judges, but I know a lot of people will be turned off even by that. I don’t think it’s an act, though. I just think there are a lot of bitter and cynical people who’ve been manipulated by the mass media too much throughout their lives to believe that there are more innocent people in the world who haven’t been.
Ace did one of his favoritest songs ever! Ohmigod! “Drops of Jupiter” by Train, though, is practically a novelty song. It works because its singer has a crazy voice that suits the song. Doing a karaoke cover of it means either imitating every inflection of Pat Monahan (I think that’s how you spell it — and I can’t believe I remember his name off the top of my head), or taking it someplace completely new. Ace did neither.
He saved himself by ripping the top of his shirt open to bare his chest– er, show a scar. I could feel the humidity in the studio rise from the drool of all the fangirls.
Ace is also in denial, though, believing he picked a song he really felt. I want him to be in the bottom three just for that little bit of hubris.
Taylor went with “Trouble,” a song I wasn’t familiar with, but is perfectly suited to his singing style. The problem with it is that it never got out of second gear. It tried near the end to really ramp up, but otherwise just stayed in the middle. He’s right in that it was a nice choice to show off his vocals, rather than his dancing. But the end effect is a “so close but yet so far” feeling.
Simon compared his styling to that of Clay Aiken. (I’m guessing he’s thinking bank to the Grease week.) He’s not that far off. The jacket needed a collar, and I think they cut his hair a little shorter than normal. He looked awkward like that — either an adult dressing as a kid in a size too small, or a big kid trying to dress cool but failing. Hopefully, he can go back to being the crazy guy we all know and love next week.
Mandisa went with a song of praise she loves so much that is one of her favorites. “Wanna Praise You” is, as Simon pointed out, “self-indulgent.” There’s no real vocal in there for her to sing. The first 45 seconds were atrocious, and the rest of the song involved her warbling around the melody, but never on it. It was all over the place. There were moments where it worked, but the general feel of it was just too wild.
Chris went with a Creed song, “What If?” Funny that we go from one worship song to a song sung by Scott Stapp, whose religious yearnings are a matter of public record. And while he might have sung it well — I’m not such a fan of music that loud, so I’m not one to judge it too well — I think Simon is right in that Chris crossed the line. His fans will love that he didn’t sell out. And I know the Belgian Idol was a rocker more prone to Nirvana. And I know Beau Bice set the stage for someone like Chris to go far this season. I just think this one was a little too much, too.
Katharine chose a Christina Aguilera song. I could have told you it was a Xtina song even if she hadn’t mentioned it. The song is unmistakably Xtina. It’s all over the place, ranging high and low, loud and runny, soft and slutty. It’s called “The Voice Within,” and I think Katharine used it to show her range. I’m not so sure I agree with Randy that it shows the kind of album she’d make. At least, I hope this isn’t.
She didn’t miss notes, though, and she transitioned strongly between the various parts of the song. I’ll say it again — she’s got the best voice of the competition, even when I disagree with the song choices.
She also was carefully styled to show that she ISN’T pregnant. Finally, we saw her wearing something that proves that.
Bucky sang a song he flat out liked, “Real Good Man.” He looked like he was playing dress up at a Tim McGraw Fan Convention, and proceeded to play good karaoke. He’s just not believable on stage. His “moves” look choreographed and planned, not natural. He never looks like he’s that much into the song. He tries, but I’m not buying it. He’s coasting. I still want him out.
Boy, it’s getting easier and easier as the weeks go by to pick favorites and see who’s going to go far in this competition and who isn’t. My Top 12 is going to be more wrong this year than ever, I think.
Paris gets caught in a conundrum. Simon asks her to go younger. So she does. Then Simons tells her she looks like a girl playing dress up. Simon wants it both ways.
Her performance of “Work It Out” (Beyonce, right?) wasn’t quite “Bootylicious,” but did make me a little uncomfortable. She’s, what, 16 years old? Maybe I do agree with Simon on this one. . .
Randy is also right, though, that she was fearless to pull that song off. In the end, it will do her well. The vocals were strong. The performance and dancing was memorable. She was crazy, and I think it’ll pay off on a night when everyone else is doing karaoke of their recent favorites.
Elliott wraps up the night with “I Don’t Wanna Be.” He did the right thing in going with a more soulful arrangement of the song, which I really liked. He’s just still so difficult to watch. He looked like Eminem, complete with the hand motions and bouncing/dancing. I’m sure George Huff was proud of him last night. His vocal wasn’t as strong as it could have been or as much as the judges fawned over it, but I think the performance will be memorable enough to carry him through.
He did have one over-the-top silly hand gesture though. There’s a lyric line about “looking around.” He put his hand up to his forehead as if to shield the sun from his eyes, and peered out into the audience. The choreography on this show is getting sillier and sillier. It’s all so very literal. People grab their long hair when the song mentions a person’s locks. They incessantly point to the camera on “you.” A stray finger runs down their cheek for “tear” or “cry.” And Ace shows his scar on “scar.” Insanity!
As Paula said to Elliot, “You’re one funky white boy.” I just thought he was trying to be a boy band member, or an R&B singer. Whatever floats your boat.
The trick with Elliott is to listen to him and not look at him. He still missed a couple of notes, but at least he did something with his song choice.
How do I rank the Top 10 this week? There’s a large chunk of mediocrity in there.
Paris, Elliott, and Katharine have to rank at the top. I think Katharine was my favorite. Taylor is a close fourth, just ahead of Chris. (It was self-indulgent, but not bad. We’ll see if it costs him votes from lesser fans of “rock.”) Lisa would come next, just ahead of Mandisa. Kellie, Bucky, and Ace are my bottom three, and tough to choose between for worst of the night. They were uninspired, but not awful for what they sang. Nah, I think Ace was the worst of the night. And it was a bad night for country fans looking for anything new.
Who will America put in the bottom three? Lisa, no doubt. I think Ace is in trouble. And Mandisa will round it out. I’m sure someone’s about to make the argument for Middle America voting for the religious song in droves, but I don’t think it’s true, or that it would be enough. I’m most curious to see if Chris’ extreme descent in loud rock hurts him, though.
Lisa is done tonight.