Idol Thoughts — 05.12.09

Let’s get right to it. How’d they do last night on American Idol? No, not the “they” you’re thinking of. I mean, the judges. We’re down to the final three. And for last night’s show, Idol followed the formula from previous seasons. The finalists performed two songs, one of which was picked by the judges. So were those judges picks home runs? Or infield ground-outs? Uh, well, to continue with the baseball analogy, it looks like these judges need some steroids!

But what a compettion this has turned out to be. A super-talented top three (just as we had super-talented top four). Each with seemingly solid fan bases. Predicting how the votes will go tonight isn’t a no-brainer. But I’ll give it a go-go-gokey in a moment. First, the performances.

DANNY GOKEY: “Dance Little Sister” by Terence Trent D’arby – Paula Adbul selected this soulful rave-up for Danny to sing. Right idea, wrong song. While the song definitely lives in the sweet spot for Danny’s voice, it’s kinda lightweight. And it seemed to me, Danny had little connection with the song. Simon was on-the-money when he said another Terence Trent D’arby song would’ve been a better choice (“Wishing Well” or “Sign Your Name”). But Danny made the best of it. In other words, Danny’s performance was better than Paula’s song choice.

KRIS ALLEN: “Apologize” by OneRepublic – Another fail by the judges. Randy and Kara co-picked this one (yet another awkwardness created by having a fourth judge: “sharing” picks). Awesong song! But here’s the problem when you make Kris Allen sing it. There’s not a lot of places for Kris to take it. So what we got was a performance that was very good, but not as good as the original. Kris did sound great, and was definitely more connected to this song than Danny was to his. The thing Kris could’ve done to spice this one up was unfortunately something he really couldn’t do: strip it down and do an acoustic guitar re-interpretation. The reason obviously being that Kris had a better acoustic re-vamping planned for later in the show!

ADAM LAMBERT: “One” by U2 – Finally! A pick that demonstrates what it’s supposed to–that these judges know what they’re talking about. Then again, Simon had the easiest job, choosing one for Adam. Whatever was picked, Adam was going to take it, make it his own, and deliver something special. And he did. The quieter vocal parts of the song were actually beautiful. I preferred the more tender vocals to the powerful screams later in the performance. At least I did last night. I listened to just the audio a few times this morning and it all works as far as I’m concerned. Performance of the night. But just barely.

DANNY GOKEY: “You Are So Beautiful” made famous by Joe Cocker – Picking his own song, Danny went for, in my opinion, one of the most over-done songs of all time. But one on which he obviously felt he could stretch out vocally. And after that first song, Danny was wise to go sentimental and try and tug a few heartstrings. (BTW, where did THAT phrase come from? Strings attached to a heart? Huh?) Danny’s vocals were mostly on point. He made some melodic changes that bugged me. Just a personal thing, but when people make changes that don’t sound better than the original, I tend to ask, “why?”

KRIS ALLEN: “Heartless” by Kanye West – The revelation of the night. This choice by Kris was bold and inspired. Out-of-the-box and off-the-hook! Kris used his acoustic guitar and voice to tranform this hip-hop track into a singer-songwriter confessional. Nearly THE performance of the night. Certainly the most original of the season. American Idol would benefit from more efforts like this one. A performance that if there’s justice should put Kris where he belongs–in the finals.

ADAM LAMBERT: “Cryin'” by Aerosmith – Well, here it is. Finally an opportunity for me to demostrate that I’m not an Adam Lambert “Kool-Aid” drinker. I usually have much (deserved) praise for Adam. Fact is, this was a disappointment. The song choice seemed lazy and obvious. The performance was less-controlled and screechier than we’re used to hearing from Adam. Ironically, by picking a huge hit song from a band so universally loved, Adam probably won over a few new supporters. Question. The reason we haven’t seen Adam sing Guns ‘N Roses, “Sweet Child Of Mine” is: a) Axl Rose won’t “clear” the song for use on Idol. or b) Adam’s been saving it for the finale. I’m hoping the answer’s “b”!

Ranking and predictions (altered slightly from my Twitters last night):

Performances ranked:
1 – Adam, “One”
2 – Kris, “Heartless”
3 – Danny, “You Are So Beautiful”
4 – Kris, “Apologize”
5 – Adam, “Cryin'”
6 – Danny, “Dance Little Sister”

Performers ranked:
1 – Adam (tie)
1 – Kris (tie)
3 – Danny

Viewers sending home tonight: Danny

Greg Valentine
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