Posts Tagged iPod

Idol Thoughts — 05.25.10

It was a night Crystal Bowersox did everything she needed to and a night Lee DeWyze did somewhat less than he could have.

It was the night American Idol‘s Top 2 went head-to-head at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.

And it was a night that I give to Crystal Bowersox. But who’ll get the Idol crown tonight? For that prediction, stayed tuned until the end of this blog.

Each singer sang three songs last night: one of their favorite songs from earlier in the season; one picked by Idol producer Simon Fuller; and a song that’ll be their first single if they win.

I’m not sure who picked the third songs (probably also Simon Fuller). But this is where Idol producers diverted from their formula of past seasons. The single has always been an original, although often schlocky, song written for the winner to sing. The songs in the past have been fairly “cookie-cutter” and not necessarily the best jump-off point for a singer’s new career. So I’m glad to see the show trying something different. Even so, the idea of a “first single” has become less meaningful ever since the show started selling studio versions of all the Top 12 songs. The real excitement for Crystal and Lee comes in about six months when the first single from their first album gets released.

Here are my rankings of the last night’s finale performances

1) Lee DeWyze – “Beautiful Day” by U2 (Lee’s single if he wins) – Right from the get, I have to admit my bias. My pick here is heavily influenced by my work in the radio biz…and my personal taste. This was the performance last night that I’d most enjoying playing on the radio. For that matter, the song last night I’d most want my iPod to shuffle into. On Lee’s third song of the night, he finally got his nerves under control, which were noticeable and palpable up to this point, and things came together. Lee stayed true to the original while hitting some nuanced vocal differences that spotlighted both Lee’s unique sound and the gorgeous arrangement of the song. The only downside, I couldn’t feel Lee’s connection to the song.

2) Crystal Bowersox – “Up To The Mountain” by Patty Griffin (Crystal’s single if she wins) – Okay, to be totally honest, my first reaction when this came on last night was, “Huh? Did someone die?” It seemed a little light on levity and heavy on gravitas–especially for a “single.” But with subsequent listens, this has become one of my favorite Crystal performances. She delivered a controlled yet nuanced vocal and seemed really connected to the song. Not to be Debbie Downer. But I still prefer Kelly Clarkson‘s version with Jeff Beck from Idol Gives Back in 2007.

3) Crystal Bowersox – “Black Velvet”  by Alannah Miles (picked by Simon Fuller) – I’m with Simon Cowell on this one. I kinda dread this song–for being so obvious, such a “bar band/audition” kinda song. But Crystal did something with it, made it her own and gave us her most confident guitar-less performance of the season. Yes, she looked a little uneasy at first as she attempted to descend the staircase in her L.B.D. as she sang. But by the end, she seemed to be having fun and interacting with the crowd, which is important because there’s been plenty of times this season when it’s been hard to tell if she’s been enjoying this whole process.

4) Crystal Bowersox – “Me And Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin (Crystal fave from earlier this season) – Crystal’s first song of the night showed that she was comfortable and confident in front of the 7,000 people at the Nokia (significantly larger than the usual Idol audience at Television City). This was solid, if, literally, something we’ve seen before. I gave the edge to her “Black Velvet” for showing us something different.

5) Lee DeWyze – “The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel (Lee fave from earlier this season) – This was the first indication Lee might have an off night. Nothing wrong with this version. Except that it wasn’t as good as the first time he sang it on the show. I went back and “A/B-ed” both versions. Lee sang this with much more passion and purpose during “Inspirational Song Week.” This was a good song choice; the song’s kinda his “underdog” theme song. In a way, the song here should’ve been “Hallelujah,” if the idea is to go with a singer’s best effort of the season. But that would’ve meant ended last week’s show and starting this week’s show with the same song. I’m sure show producers either did or would’ve put the kibosh on that.

6) Lee DeWyze – “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. (picked by Simon Fuller) – Uggg. Terrible song choice for Lee by Simon Fuller. The result was an ill-fitting, low-energy effort that played into the general criticism that this season has been nothing spectacular. Lee seemed to be inside his own head as he performed this. I wouldn’t want to say I know what was going on inside. But on the outside, it seemed like Lee wasn’t enjoying the moment.

So, who wins tonight? One of my contentions (I have many, mind you) is that people watched the show last night already knowing who they’d be voting for. That’s a good thing for Lee, who definitely had an off-night, because his fans will remember “Hallelujah” and not “Everybody Hurts” when they vote. I also suspect Lee’s a bigger hit with Idol‘s notorious “power” voters and texters–people who vote hundreds of times compared to more casual viewers. The fact that the judges seemed to pummel Lee, while praising Crystal, will actually energize his supporters to vote hard. I’ve also said in this blog that going into last night, Lee was the actual front-runner. (That’s contrary to what most of the media has been reporting.)

Tonight, Lee DeWyze is crowned the new American Idol. It will not be an “upset,” as many will call it tomorrow. However, there will be a perception that Crystal Bowersox was the better “artist,” and with these people, a sense that she was “robbed.”

Greg Valentine
check me out on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gregvalentine

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Idol Thoughts – 04.27.10

Shania Twain. Country crossover superstar who’s lived for years in a chateau in Switzerland and seemingly “retired” from music way before her time. Meanwhile, we’ve since learned her husband and musical partner, producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, was having an affair with their secretary/chateau manager. Mutt divorced Shania to be with his mistress. Then Shania started dating that woman’s ex-husband!

Damn! What was really going on at that chateau? Sounds like that would’ve made a hell of a reality show.

As for the “Songs of Shania Twain” episode of American Idol last night, it wasn’t nearly as compelling or intriguing. But it was great seeing Shania again, who mentored this week and who was a guest judge earlier this season during the Chicago auditions. Yes, since her divorce, we’ve seeing much more of Shania than in recent years–which is always good news for my eyes.

So let’s go to the rankings and see who impressed me much, and the ones that don’t:

1) Casey James – “Don’t” – Casey got the message. That appearance in the Bottom Two last week was America saying, “Give us something different, change it up!” The thing that pushed Casey to the top in my rankings this week was “salesmanship.” He really reached inside and sold this sit-down, acoustic-guitar ballad. Yes, the song challenged Casey’s vocal limitations. He made sure not to push too hard for notes that are beyond his grasp. Smartly executed. This one goes on my iPod.

2) Lee DeWyze – “You’re Still The One” – Love this guy’s voice. That’s the only reason I’d rank this performance this highly. Lee stayed kinda close to the original arrangement. Even so, I thought he struggled a little to stay in key. After hearing the nice changes he made to the very end of the song, I kinda wished he would’ve re-vamped more of it. This was not his best, and I wasn’t entirely sold on Lee as “The Love Song Guy.” But tonight, it was good enough. The others listed below could’ve stepped up on this list. But didn’t quite get there.

3) Aaron Kelly – “You’ve Got A Way” – Finally a theme week that plays to Aaron’s strengths. And Aaron delivered a solid version of this country ballad. Of course, that was to be expected. This is exactly the kind of music he should be recording. Aaron will snag a few extra votes this week by making sure everyone knew that he was “thinking of his mom” when he sang. Based on a couple recent Bottom Three appearances, those extra votes will probably come in handy.

4) Michael Lynche – “It Only Hurts When I Breathe” – Big Mike went “Luther Vandross” on this song. Nice-sounding results. Well-played. I’m rooting for this guy to do something that I want to put on my iPod. Hasn’t happened yet.

5) Crystal Bowersox – “No One Needs To Know” – Yeah, wow. I thought this was a mess. And Crystal’s usually at or near the top of my list. Some of the problems were out of Crystal’s control. The group of musicians performing with her didn’t seem to be on the same page. The playing was sloppy and the background vocals were doing their own thing, not following Crystal’s lead. Nevertheless, Crystal’s responsible for the song choice, which could’ve been much better. Honestly, too bad for Crystal she didn’t get to “Don’t” before Casey did. Crystal needs a song like “Don’t” that reveals some vulnerabilities–that something matters to her on a personal level. I think Crystal’s going to need a moment like that to keep the momentum going before the inevitable anti-Crystal backlash kicks in. And believe, it’s coming. This is Idol. And that’s how this thing goes.

6) Siobhan Magnus – “Any Man Of Mine” – Overpraised by the judges last night. It’s like the judges were told the show’s running late, be quick with your comment, and just decided to say, “Yeah, whatever, it was good.” It wasn’t. I think Siobhan’s performance, while more fun to watch than Crystal’s, lacked the sass of Shania’s original. Lately, Siobhan’s vocals haven’t been living up to what I originally thought they were. And the return of the screaming big note at the end of the song? Totally unnecessary. But, I suspect there’s a ton of Idol viewers who are not country music fans. For a bunch of those people, I’m guessing Siobhan’s was the performance of the night.

It’s interesting that the guys fared better with the Shania songs, and that the two women came up short. That’s counter-intuitive. But that is what is was.

Now for some predictions. I honestly forget if they do a Bottom Three this week. I think so. With only six left, that’s half of them in “the bottom.” So I think this week in particular, almost anyone could end up in there. Here’s what I’m feeling. Bottom Three tonight: Michael Lynche, Aaron Kelly and Siobhan Magnus. Siobhan gets sent to safety. Between Big Mike and Little Aaron, Michael Lynche exits.

Of course, this is the third time this season I’ve predicted a Big Mike/Aaron Kelly showdown, and it hasn’t happen yet!

Greg Valentine
check me out on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gregvalentine

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Idol Thoughts — 04.21.10

When America gets it right and I get it wrong…well, it’s hard to be upset about that. The man they call “Teflon Tim,” Tim Urban, was eliminated during last night’s Idol Gives Back charity event.

My own rankings had Tim at the bottom almost every week on American Idol this season–including this week. Even so, I felt his Teflon-mojo would slide him through another week.

Why Tim got the ax last night, during a stretch where’s he’s been improving, instead of weeks ago when his performances were especially weak, will have to go down as one of those Idol “Unsolved Mysteries.”

The other big story last night was the appearance of Casey James in the Bottom Two. I wrote about this yesterday, saying Casey would take a big hit with Idol voters. I happen to dig the blues-rock that Casey’s been churning out week after week. He’s consistently good, and his performances generally go on my iPod the next morning.

But in the Idol-verse, here’s the problem. Casey’s song choices look lazy and repetitive–like he’s not progressing. Never mind that what that what he’s doing he’s doing very well. Viewers (and the judges, from the feedback they’re giving) want to see other “layers.” The solution: do some more ballads, like his recent heartfelt “Jealous Guy,” or take a page from the David Cook playbook and surprise us by re-inventing a well-known song. Casey’s needs to show some other sides. Or else the opportunity to be in the Top 5, which I feel he deserves, will slip through his guitar-virtuoso fingers.

Other than that, a tip of the hat for bringing back Idol Gives Back. With the show being a cultural phenomenon, American Idol is in a unique position to really raise awareness (and money) on the issues of children in poverty, world hunger and malaria. It’s the kinda thing only Idol could pull off on this scale. And it’s cool that they choose to do it.

That said, might I suggest that the time to alert viewers that the broadcast will run over-time would be the night before, not an hour into the night of. Grrrr. That’s two nights this week I’ve had to go hunting on the web for the material my DVR didn’t record because Idol went too long.

Or maybe that’s their revenge on us for skipping through the commercials. Hmmm. Topic for a future blog, perhaps.

Greg Valentine
check me out on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gregvalentine

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Idol Thoughts — 04.13.10

Tim Urban had the best performance of the night? Yes. And also in today’s blog, up is down, right is the new wrong, and we’re now encouraged to mix stripes and plaids.

It was Elvis Night on American Idol, and the contestants went last night where, well, Idol has gone several times before. Last season’s runner-up, Adam Lambert, was on hand, the first former AI contestant to mentor the finalists. Acknowledging to the contestants that he’s at the beginning of his own recording career, Lambert mainly focused on encouraging the contestants to make their performances more interesting both vocally and visually.

The case can made that Elvis Presley was America’s first idol. He was part rocker and part crooner, part rebel and part choir boy. Musically, there were a lot of flavors in the Elvis catalog to choose from–a little something for everyone. As usual, the finalists’ choices ranged from inspired to hackneyed.

Last  night’s performances ranked:

1) Tim Urban – “Can’t Help Falling In Love” – Yep. Tim’s breathy and tender acoustic take on this classic wasn’t perfect. But it was the performance most people will remember from last night. Tim’s tweaks were spot-on and he made the song feel “new.” Anyone who reads my stuff knows I haven’t been drinking the Tim Urban Kool-Aid. I’ve been pretty critical. That’s because I call it as I see it. Last night, what I saw was a guy with the most memorable and satisfying performance.

2) Lee DeWyze – “A Little Less Conversation” – I can’t help but say that I’ve always blamed this song for sending Chris Daughtry home prematurely because he performed this song that ill-fated week. Of course, Daughtry tried to play it straight up Elvis-style. Lee made it his own, giving one of his strongest, most confident performances.

3) Crystal Bowersox – “Saved” – Leave it to Crystal to stump me with her song choice. I thought I had a pretty good overview on Elvis tunes. But Crystal strayed from the hits most people have heard, and dove into his Gospel catalog for this one. It was something different and authentic from the woman who’s known for that. (Known for being different? That sorta makes anything “different” not different, yes?)

4) Michael Lynche – “In The Ghetto” – You had to think that this would work even before you watched him do it. And, it did. Nice, acoustic-driven interpretation of this classic, validating the judges decision to “save” Big Mike last week. Hey, maybe Crystal should’ve let Michael sing “Saved”!

5) Casey James – “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” – Another good vocal. But a missed opportunity. Felt similar to the blues rock he’s churned out in the past. This is one of those times I wish I could pick a song for a finalist. I would’ve suggested Casey do “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road,” a lesser-known Elvis nugget that Casey could’ve owned. But “Lawdy” was not interesting enough to make my iPod this week. I make a point to say that only because Casey performances the last two weeks have been showing up in shuffle.

6) Siobhan Magnus – “Suspicious Minds” – Loved her look again. Never a good thing when I mention looks before vocals. This was really two performances. The first half of the song stayed true to the original. It was okay, but she looked uncomfortable playing it straight. On a second listen, I realized I originally liked that part mainly because I love Elvis version. The second half of Siobhan’s split-personality performance had her slowing it down and pushing herself to some of those vocal histrionics we’ve heard in past weeks. This half actually worked better. But here’s the deal on Siobhan lately. She’s like a boxer who swings wildly and repeatedly, whose punches aren’t connecting.

7) Aaron Kelly – “Blue Suede Shoes” – Difficult week to be Aaron. He’s done so many ballads lately, he kinda had to go upbeat this week. But an Elvis ballad would’ve been the better choice (just ask Tim Urban). Aaron looked to me like he was in his high school’s production of “Grease.” And Aaron was shooting for Danny Zuko. But came up Kenickie.

8 ) Katie Stevens – “Baby, What You Want Me To Do” – After last week’s top-notch “Let It Be,” this uptempo, lesser-known Elvis song was the fall of the week. As a performer, Katie generally feels a little contrived–like every move had been carefully thought of in advance. I actually prefer her on the ballads, in part because she stays put. Overall, she hit some bad notes last night, and sounded to my ears a little weak-voiced.

9) Andrew Garcia – “Hound Dog” – Awful vocal. Horrible performance. I tried to listen a second time to verify my original reaction, and couldn’t even re-watch the whole thing. “You ain’t nothin’ but a…goin’ home tonight!”

So, thanks to “The Save” last week, tonight two will be packing their bags. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a complication–a “wildcard”–when it comes to predicting what’s going to happen. Predicting the one who’s the most likely to go is pretty easy (did it…see above). But that other is the harder one to nail.

Here what I’m feeling. The Bottom Three will be: Aaron Kelly, Katie Stevens, and Andrew Garcia. And heading off to Heartbreak Hotel: Katie Stevens, and Andrew Garcia.

Whatcha think about that?

Greg Valentine
check me out on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gregvalentine

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Idol Thoughts — 03.30.10

It was Soul and R&B night on American Idol. Yep, “timing” can be a cruel jokester; The season’s last remaining black female contestant was sent home last week. So it was up to “Big Mike” and a bunch of white folk to bring the Soul.

R&B singer Usher mentored this week, promising the contestants tough love. And he was in the audience last night to watch his students’ efforts. How’d they do? Here are the performances ranked:

1) Lee DeWyze – “Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose – When you add all the crucial elements up, Lee takes the top spot this week. And what are those crucial elements again? Vocals, performance, song choice, and what I call “The iPod Factor” (would I put this on my iPod?). Lee gave a strong rock vocal and is stepping up his game on the performance side of things. He makes better song choices than most of the others this season. And he did Soul last night his way–which is the artist test of all these theme weeks on Idol.

2) Crystal Bowersox – “Midnight Train To Georgia” by Gladys Knight & The Pips – Crystal promised a surprise this week, and made good by starting this song singing and playing the piano, then getting up and singing with just the mic, no guitar to hide behind. So how’d that work out for her? Pretty good. But not perfect. She’s far less confident, and proficient, on the piano. The attention required to actually play the right notes distracted from singing, and selling, the song. But Crystal made a good move mixing things up. Viewers want to see the contestants grow and stretch. Despite marking her down a tad on performance, this was the best pure vocal of the night.

3) Casey James – “Hold On I’m Coming” by Sam & Dave – This was the most joyful effort of the night. Great song choice for him. Both Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi felt it was too similar to his recent song choices. But here’s the only thing that matters: Casey did this song much better than those others! This one I’ll put on my iPod. Casey’s best performance yet.

4) Michael Lynche – “Ready For Love” by India.Aire – A solid effort that worked its way higher on this list as other contestants last night dropped the ball. I was a little bored by the song and sit down performance. But “Big Mike” got the message of last week’s critique: less can be more. So he scaled back on the riffing, turned in a sweet soulful vocal, and did a much better job of connecting with the song and audience.

5) Andrew Garcia – “Forever” by Chris Brown – Okay. What a difference a week makes. The fact is this is what this guy does: intimate, acoustic new interpretations of songs. Andrew should have never gotten away from that. I’ve written honestly about how awkward he’s been without his guitar. But with it…it’s a night and day difference. Does that mean Andrew’s a one-trick pony? Personally, I think so. But it’s a nice trick.

6) Aaron Kelly – “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers – Not his best. Just OK. I wouldn’t have picked this song for him. For starters, Kris Allen did it (much more) memorably in last season’s finale. Still, one of my fave voices this season.

7) Katie Stevens – “Chain Of Fools” by Aretha Franklin – Katie ranked higher than Siobhan Magnus? Yep. And quite simply, being able to stay in key for the whole song is the reason. It’s a nice step forward for Katie, who up until now, hasn’t made it through an entire song without hitting a number of off notes. The performance suffered a little from her trying to mimic Aretha’s sass. Katie should watch for that–and make sure her on-stage persona is more organic to the 16-year old she is.

8 ) Siobhan Magnus – “Through The Fire” by Chaka Kahn – Because we like Siobhan, I wonder if many people today remember this one a little rosier than it really was. I listened to it again this morning and it was all kinds of wrong, starting with being a poor song choice for her. Her lower-register didn’t carry the parts of the song that needed it. Then she belted out some high notes that were painful (especially when you hear them again). At the moment, Siobhan’s trending down. She could use a home run next week to regain some mo’.

9) Tim Urban – “Sweet Love” by Anita Baker – Wow. There hasn’t been a soul-sapping, white bread R&B effort like this since…Pat Boone changed “Ain’t That A Shame” to “Isn’t That A Shame.” Yes, the “dot dot dot” back there was me Googling music history to come up with the Pat Boone reference. Like a Vegas lounge singer. Tim’s vocal tone was decent. But, yuck.

10) Didi Benami – “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted” by Jimmy Ruffin – The 1966 original of this song is on my iPod. And I love it! A total classic. That may be partly why this was the performance last night I’d least like to ever hear again. Her voice and this song–not a good match. And yes, Simon Cowell‘s right. Didi’s lost her singer-songwriter vibe. She’s diving into these theme nights entirely wrong. She’s trying on the various musical styles–and losing her own style. This would have never happened to Lilly Scott. I’m just saying. For that matter, somewhere last night, I’m thinking Paige Miles was watching Tim and Didi struggle with Soul and R&B. And I’m thinking that had to a rough night for Paige.

Here’s what I’m feeling for the Bottom Three tonight: Katie Stevens, Tim Urban and Didi Benami. But as a wild card, Michael Lynche‘s unfamiliar song choice could land him in there. Katie will be sent to safety. And between Tim and Didi, Tim dodges yet another bullet, and Didi Benami goes home tonight.

We’ll see what happens. Your thoughts today? Let’s hear them.

Greg Valentine
check me out on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gregvalentine

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Idol Thoughts — 03.03.10

American Idol let us know that Crystal Bowersox is a tough cookie. They made that point right away tonight, putting to rest the worries that health problems might prematurely eliminate one of the top female contenders. So, how did the Top 10 girls do?

Crystal Bowersox – “As Long As I Can See The Light” by Creedence Clearwater Revival – This is way this competition would be less intriguing without her. They pumped fluids into her at that hospital. And she came back and pumped out soul on Idol!

Haeley Vaughn – “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus – To her credit, she doesn’t just mimic Miley’s vocal or phasing. Haeley puts her own touches on it. Unfortunately, her singing is often flat. This is the contestant I want to to like the most. But she’s inconsistent and the singing just doesn’t earn that support. Or hasn’t. Yet.

Lacey Brown – “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None The Richer – Lacey takes Kara DioGuardi‘s suggestion from last week and performs this Sixpence song. For a moment at the beginning she hits a note that makes me think it’ll be another annoying vocal like last week’s. Thankfully, Lacey gets the ship back on course. The song got better as it went along. Far from a home run. But she got on base this week.

Katie Stevens – “Put Your Records On” by Corrine Bailey Rae – This is still and “old” sounding song. The judges have been asking her to “young” it up. I’m not sure Katie understands what they’re asking. I’m sure Katie feels that Corrine is closer to her age. But it’s the sound of the song that they’re talking about. And Corrine’s stuff is retro-sounding. Good vocals. Song choice still an issue.

Didi Benami – “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers – The song choice is solid and populist. I’m guessing Didi’s concerned about being too cool for the room. Didi said she picked it to show her soul. I’m with Randy Jackson on this one. Didi showed more limitations than soul. Wrong song for her.

Michelle Delamor – “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed – She takes the judges’ suggestion to “take some chances” to heart. Unexpected and potentially brilliant song choice. On paper, at least. I’m not sure her re-arrangement is one I’d put on my iPod. But I appreciate the effort. She’s thinking outside of the box. And she’s got skills.

Lilly Scott – “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke – Lilly probably has the most unique voice in the competition. She’s also one of the few that really understands at this point who she is as an artist. Ellen DeGeneres nailed it: Lily’s was a great performance that we all watched as fans for a moment, forgetting it was a singing contest. Nice job. Again.

Katelyn Epperly – “The Scientist” by Coldplay – I like. Katelyn did a great job of connecting with the lyric and making it believable. Her first time playing an instrument on the show (piano). She definitely knows how to sell a song. Some of the criticism Katelyn got from the judges about energy level has more to do with Coldplay than Katelyn.

Paige Miles – “Walk Away” by Kelly Clarkson – Paige has vocal skills, no doubt. But this version of “Walk Away” could be any cover band in any bar in the country. I’d suggest putting a lot more thought into her song choices. She should look for material that will really set herself apart. Kara makes a great point about Paige missing some of the feeling behind the song. Kara should know–having co-written it!

Siobhan Magnus – “Think” by Aretha Frankiln – Wow. This girl’s got some soul! Big voice tonight. Huge note at the end. I can see why they gave her the last spot on the show–the showcase slot. Tonight, she brought down the house.

Thoughts? Leave a comment.

Greg Valentine
check me out on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gregvalentine

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Idol Thoughts — 02.24.10

So, I wasn’t gaga about the ladies last night on American Idol. And looking around today, a lot of people felt the same way. So with that backdrop, how did the dudes fare tonight?

Here’s the play-by-play from my live blog during the show:

Todrick Hall – “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson – Radically revamped. Slower and funky. Seasoned-performance coming from a seasoned performer (remember, Todrick has worked with Fantasia Barrino on Broadway in The Color Purple). I won’t be deleting Kelly’s version from my iPod for this one. In fact, re-watching it during the commercial break–and it’s a little harder on the ears the second time around. But clearly, Todrick shows enough potential and creativity to easily move forward. Not in trouble.

Aaron Kelly – “Here Comes Goodbye” by Rascal Flatts – When this kid first auditioned, I thought he might want to explore going down the country music road. His voice has some very nice qualities. But he’s lacking some power on this song. Except for the long, crowd-pleasing note toward the end of the song. Simon’s right…Aaron will benefit from some stage confidence. Aaron will do well. Got the ‘tween votes locked down.

Jermaine Sellers – “Get Here” by Oleta Adams – Great song. But the melody has gone M.I.A. I’m not a fan of this performance. And come to think of it, some of his others. Yup, Randy Jackson‘s right on the money. Jermaine tried to do too much. Sometimes less is more. Now, let’s put out an Amber Alert for the melody of that song!

Tim Urban – “Apologize” by OneRepublic – Umm, there was a reason they cut Tim in the first place. So much for second chances. Tim’s ability to hit those high notes must be hiding out with the melody of Jermaine Seller’s “Get Here.” Tim’s likely heading home again. If not this week, then soon. Sympathy votes could push him through. But if this is all he’s got, voters will lose patience.

Joe Muñoz – “You And I Both” by Jason Mraz – Has some nice moments. But it’s not all cake. So far, no one has been consistent enough to nail down a whole, complete song. Simon with the bulls-eyes. Where’s the star wattage? It’s one thing to sound OK, and do a nice job. But that’s not an Idol.

Tyler Grady – “American Woman” by The Guess Who – This guy studies–literally–all those 70s rocker icons. Well, he needs to throw away his “book learnin’,” and go with his own gut. What he’s doing here doesn’t feel authentic. It’s the difference between “I’m trying to impress you with my rock skills” and the much more genuine and direct approach of getting out there and just rockin’!

Lee Dewyze – “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol – I think he’s doing pretty well. Changes the song in a way that works alright. Yes, the song’s unrecognizable. But it suits his voice the way he’s decided to sing it. I’m not sure the advice from Kara DioGuardi (who looks like she raided Ace Frehley‘s closet tonight) is that great. I guarantee if Lee does a Bad Company song, he’ll get reamed by the judges for being “predictable” and sounding like a bar band-singer. Simon straight up disagrees with Kara. The voice of reason, as usual.

John Park – “God Bless The Child” by Billie Holiday – Not sure what to make of this one. Other than to say I wouldn’t hire this guy to sing at my wedding. And wedding singer and lounge singer is kinda the vibe he was sending out. Bad song choice for this competition. Fantasia Barrino could’ve pulled that off with this audience. John is no Fantasia. He’s got some voice in there, though. Will be interesting where this guy will go musically on the show if he sticks around. IF!

Michael Lynche – “This Love” by Maroon 5 – I just thought I heard a few little vocal similarities to Terence Trent D’Arby. A momentary thing. “Big Mike” definitely has a niche on this show. Kara makes a good point. On a different night, the judges (and the rest of us) would be more critical of this performance. Against the others tonight, his upbeat personality and a not bad performance are looking pretty good.

Alex Lambert – “Wonderful World” by James Morrison – This guy’s kinda off my radar. And he’s actually one of the better ones tonight. Bluesy and soulful. Simon hates how uncomfortable he looks performing–while acknowledging he has a voice. Kara says he sounds too much like James Morrison. To which I say, who’s James Morrison? And I know a lot of music. OK, I’ll need to look into it. Maybe I’m missing something good. Back to Alex, re-watching the performance, it’s clear he does need some seasoning in the performance department.

Casey James – “Heaven” by Bryan Adams – Good stuff. Opens the song with just acoustic guitar, spotlighting a tender vocal that continues through out with just the right amount of rasp. This guy’s a real contender on this show. I’ve said it all along. Called him a “ringer,” in the sense that Simon torpedoed his initial audition, calling him “boring.” Now that’s makes him the Comeback Kid. Good storyline for Idol. The judges comments for Casey turn into the comedic highlight of the night, with all the jokes about Casey’s model looks and Kara’s apparent crush on him. The first time this season the whole panel of judges, with Ellen DeGeneres, really gelled. For this stretch, it felt loose and comfortable like the old days with Paula Abdul. As for Casey, best performance of the night.

Andrew Garcia – “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” by Fall Out Boy – I like what this guy does–the re-arranging of songs on his acoustic guitar. I agree with Simon. Tonight, I was a little disappointed. For starters, I think he may have started the song in too high a key. And had to stick it out. But basically, the quibbles here are because much is expected from Andrew.

So there it is. Another so-so night. Dudes…you did it! You matched the ladies’ mediocrity. Those are my thoughts. What did you think?

Greg Valentine
check me out on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gregvalentine

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