Posts Tagged Jason Mraz

Idol Thoughts — 03.16.10

I recently added some Rolling Stones classics to my iTunes library. This was a few weeks ago. I didn’t know American Idol was planning a theme night for them. I just realized that I needed to hear these guys again.

I’m listening to the Stones as I write this. And one big thing is clear about last night’s Idol. The musicians that back up the contestants, led by Rickey Minor, were a disappointment, lacking the vitality and energy of these original recordings.

But, what did anyone expect? The Rolling Stones are considered one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all-time for a reason. The contestants have no control over the band behind them. So let’s look at what they do control–their performances. I will attempt to rank from best to worst.

Best of the night:

1) Aaron Kelly – “Angie” – I’m as surprised as anyone to be typing Aaron’s name at the top of the list. The standard I’m using to determine the best performance is this: What song from last night do I want to hear again the most? This is it. Plain and simple. It’s a case of a contestant landing the perfect song among the choices available, and nailing it on show night.

2) Siobhan Magnus – “Paint It Black” – Of all the Top 12-ers, Siobhan is one the that convinced me she “gets” the music of the Rolling Stones the most. Looking great and sporting Jennifer Grey‘s Dirty Dancing hairdo, the Idol folks threw all their support behind this performance; Siobhan got the best light show. Even so, she needs some more time on that big stage to work on making every move seem effortless. And watch out on these massive notes she’s hitting to end songs. Last night’s got a little screechy.

3) Lee Dewyze – “Beast Of Burden” – Yeah, this was a safe choice. I suggested Lee should sing “Gimme Shelter” in my previous blog. Instead that song got mangled by someone else. But the fact is Lee’s Dave Matthews Band take on this song sounded great. And better each time I re-listen to it–which is why Lee’s name is here and not one slot below.

4) Crystal Bowersox – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – Good stuff. But I expected more from her because she’s so talented. To resurrect a complaint from earlier in the season, Crystal’s performance last night was a little “coffee house-ish.” Especially those funky little phrases Crystal tossed in between lines of lyrics that Ellen DeGeneres applauded as “showing her personality.” I disagree. That crap is lame and hacky.

Middle of the pack:

5) Didi Benami – “Play With Fire” – A great vocal that was downgraded by a tentative performance. I mean, there were split seconds where it felt like she was going to stop due to forgetting the words. Didi’s another one who’ll need some time to learn how to use the big stage. Overall, it seemed she needed some more rehearsal time.

6) Casey James – “It’s All Over Now” – Does it bug me that this isn’t a song written by the Stones? Yeah, a little, cuz I’m a geek like that. But it was a smart song for Casey. Every several years comes along a young, good-looking guy that makes blues rock “cool” again. Casey the latest “that guy.” He was very comfortable and in his element last night. And is clearly the best musician on the show–by far.

7) Michael Lynch – “Miss You” – Okay. I suggested this was a Stones song that would not be performed because it’s not a great showcase for the vocalist. So “Big Mike” made a good move by changing the arrangement, giving himself more room to “sang it.” But for me, I didn’t really like the new arrangement as much. Otherwise, I’d be rating this higher. One thing was clear, though. Big Mike is definitely at home on the larger stage; he’s one of the show’s most natural performers.

8 ) Katie Stevens – “Wild Horses” – This performance won’t make fans out of Lilly Scott fans, who probably feel Katie should be watching the show in her family’s living room. But Katie made something of a comeback. Solid version. I heard the potential in her voice last night to record country music, if that’s something she wants to do.

Lagging behind:

9) Paige Miles – “Honky Tonk Women” – Paige revised the lyrics (the song’s about honky tonk women, she sang it as a honk tonk woman). I’m not sure the song made any sense. But it did make sense for her to sing one of these rockin’ bluesy Stones songs. Paige was back in her comfort zone, and turned in a capable vocal despite some serious laryngitis.

10) Lacey Brown – “Ruby Tuesday” – I’m not sure why I’m rating Lacey so low on the list. Maybe because of the original of this song is just gorgeous. Lacey’s version seemed a little “precious.” Don’t ask me to define what I mean by that. I’m simply typing the word that best reflects what I felt.

11) Andrew Garcia – “Gimme Shelter” – Not good. A big disappointment. This song needed a bigger voice behind it. Lacking that, Andrew needed to take another route with the song. Instead, he went straight at it. And hit the wall.

Worst of the night:

12) Tim Urban – “Under My Thumb” – I hated this. Tim revamped this one in the style of some Jason Mraz acoustic reggae. The whole thing was a disaster…and came off a little creepy. I warned against doing this song in my previous blog. The only question in my mind: will general “adorableness” save him with voters this week? I say it will.

So, who will be in the bottom three tonight? I’m going with the three at the bottom of my list: Tim Urban, Andrew Garcia and Lacey Brown. Although, I’d hardly be surprised if Paige Miles landed in there.

Who’s going home? My feeling is Lacey Brown.


Greg Valentine
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PS: Oh. And my prediction for the group sing tonight? “It’s Only Rock And Roll.”


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Idol Thoughts — 03.10.10

Tonight, it’s the guys, fighting for a place in the Top 12 on American Idol. Here we go…

Lee Dewyze – “Fireflies” by Owl City – Great song. Lee sounds good singing it, doing an acoustic guitar-driven version with the raspy, rock vocal Lee’s clearly suited for. I’d say the song loses a little of its quirky charm in this version. But this guy is strong.

Alex Lambert – “Trouble” by Ray Lamontagne – Funny how certain songs keep popping up this season. This is one of those. I’m not sure it felt that authentic coming from Alex. Nice vocal. But that song calls for some deep soul. And maybe some life experience to back it up. Alex does have a unique vocal sound that he’s developing. Props for improvement. But he needs to start enjoying the moment–relishing his time on stage.

Tim Urban – “Hallelujah” (Jeff Buckley version) – Tim’s strummin’ the acoustic guitar tonight. Adequate vocal, considering he’s tackling some difficult material. We keep wanting more from this guy. And it does seem clear that Tim’s working hard. Another guy showing improvement. Hard work + general “adorableness” (for the ladies) = Tim Urban in the Top 12.

Andrew Garcia – “Genie In A Bottle” by Christina Aguilera – Well, my fave cover of this song is still by the band Speedway. But the song’s definitely one that lends itself nicely to some re-imagining. Nothing about Andrew’s version tonight was effortless. He did kinda battle with rhythm of the song without finding the groove. But I’d say Andrew makes the Top 12 without having to use any of his three wishes.

Casey James – “You’ll Think Of Me” by Keith Urban – After last week’s loud “I Don’t Want To Be,” Casey returns to the quiet. Just him,  his guitar and a stool, and this song. Well, and a couple of subtle background singers. Seems to me he could’ve done even more with this. But it was solid–if maybe a little too simple and plain.

Aaron Kelly – “I’m Already There” by Lonestar – I thought Aaron started the song with too much “warble” in his voice. Too much vibrato. He got control of that pretty quickly and turned in a nice vocal. This guy can go as far as his continued improvement will take him. Nice touch by Simon Cowell telling Kara DioGuardi that her comment was “complete rubbish.” Although I thought Kara made a point worth bringing up: this song is about a dad calling home to his family, and really doesn’t relate to 16-year old Aaron’s life-experience in any way.

Todrick Hall – “Somebody To Love” by Queen – I always want to like this song–whoever’s singing it. It’s just a fantastic song. I’m finding the background singers distracting for some reason. Todrick is barely there for me. I didn’t hear a vocal that lived up to the song. For me. Judges seem to have enjoyed it more than I did. Todrick clearly has the vocal chops–for Broadway, at least. That’s not a bad thing, as Broadway is where his paychecks have been coming from. But is he the next American Idol?

Michael Lynche – “This Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush – Despite Big Mike’s attempts earlier in the competition to be the big teddy bear version of Jason Mraz, he’s doing much better as a soul crooner. I liked this. A lot! Not familiar with the song. At all. But wow. You had to take notice. Kudos from judges are much deserved. Best of the night, fo’ sho’!

Greg Valentine
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Idol Thoughts — 03.02.10

I don’t remember this happening before on American Idol; In a last-minute switch, the guys are performing tonight instead of the girls. Crystal Bowersox is in the hospital and wouldn’t have been able to perform. Something to do with diabetes.

Hopefully, it’s not a serious thing for Crystal. She’s on track to do very well in this competition. But how will this play out tonight? Will the guys’ performances suffer in any way by going a day early? Let’s find out (all comments live blogged during the show):

Michael Lynche – “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown – We learn more about “Big Mike” in his video piece. The football playing, not surprising. The musical theater, maybe a little. Tackles the song right from the beginning–more determined than we’ve seen him. Nice vocals again. There’s a few phrases he stops short on–a couple notes he could’ve held longer. But some great soul going on here. Judges praising Mike’s performance. And it does feel like he’s stepped up his game–a lot! Good move.

John Park – “Gravity” by John Mayer – John Park’s backstory is still boring. Video piece not resonating. The singing isn’t doing it for me. Seems a little contrived and too “breathy.” How you do that with a deep voice, I’m not sure. But he manages. Ellen DeGeneres is right, though. Better song choice than last week. Simon Cowell says he’s in trouble, and that sounds about right.

Casey James – “I Don’t Wanna Be” by Gavin DeGraw – From the video piece, we find out that lighting hit their house and blew out the T.V. a while back and they didn’t replace it! Casey claims to have never watched American Idol…or much television at all. Playing some tasty licks on that electric guitar tonight. The vocal is not my fave from him. Despite saying he wanted to do something different, it feels about the same, but not as good as Gavin. But here’s the deal, with his guitar skills and a clear musical mission, this guy’s going to make music people buy. Just needs to settle into that musical mission, whatever it is. He’s close to it now.

Alex Lambert – “Everybody Knows” by John Legend – “I was trying to be so likable, that I wasn’t likable at all.” A good analysis from Alex’s video piece of his performance last week. Playing his acoustic guitar tonight. The prop is helping with the nerves. The vocal feels okay. Great, unique tone. But something about it’s not quite 100 percent for me. Seems like the potential’s there. More work with the vocal coaches will undoubtedly help.

Todrick Hall – “What’s Love Got To Do With It” by Tina Turner – Video piece gives us more info on his theater background–he started as a kid. Todrick’s version is another re-vamping of the original. He slows this one down. A better move than his Kelly Clarkson re-working last week. Here’s the thing, though. These arrangements are all over the place and this one’s showing Todrick’s vocal limitations. So he’s not helping himself. He’s not the strongest guy singing tonight. And that’s that.

Jermaine Sellers – “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye – His video piece reveals that Jermaine “rocks his Onesie.” The silliness of him jumping around in a frog-green Onesie will earn him some votes. The song choice and arrangement won’t silence the judges that this guy is coming off “too old” for this competition. I actually don’t think he’s very good. If Jermaine’s your fave, I say you’re giving him too much credit. Kara DioGuardi‘s got it: He’s doing too much. And all that “over-singing” is making it hard on the ears.

Andrew Garcia – “You Give Me Something” by James Morrison – We learn that Andrew’s a breakdancer. Guitarless tonight. This song’s not suiting his voice. Not working. Love this guy anyway. Great tone. Sounds very recordable. Randy Jackson‘s on top of it: Andrew’s not wasn’t doing his thing–he’s more of a guitar-playing, Jason Mraz-kinda guy. Judges are letting him know.

Aaron Kelly – “My Girl” by the Temptations – The song choice is kind of “talent show.” But his fans will probably dig this. He’s got some vocals in there. But still waiting for him to put it all together: the vocals and song choice. Seems comfortable performing, though. I agree with Simon. I think they could’ve made the arrangement on that more contemporary, and it would’ve had the potential to be much cooler.

Tim Urban – “Come On Get Higher” by Matt Nathanson – Video introduction shows how the judges have been piling on this guy. Tonight, he’s better than last week. That’s not saying too much. His voice seems a little lost inside the song. From the screams in the crowd, it’s clear the ladies love them some Tim Urban. I suspect the votes are there to move him forward. So he’ll get another chance to improve. Good on ya.

Lee Dewyze – “Lips Of An Angel” by Hinder – Lee went to “alternative school” during his high school days, according to his video introduction. I think he sounds great. Just a couple pitchy moments. Lee’s version is more tender than the original and his vocal more nuanced. Judges want him to be more comfortable while he performs. And that’s seems like good advice. Good stuff.

Thoughts? Leave a comment.

Greg Valentine
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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
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