Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What Next, Celine Dion Week?

American Idol loves themes like Rob Lowe loves nannies, and this season has been no exception. We have already had two Beatles weeks, perhaps one too many, an inspirational week, a year you were born week, and Dolly Parton week. Now, in maybe the worst Idol idea ever, we have Mariah Carey week. Not that I don’t enjoy Mariah, but the overriding message delivered by the judges over the last 7 years was simple – never ever ever ever sing a Mariah Carey song. So ummm, who thought up having her songs as a theme? I know Randy Jackson and Carey are tight and I’m sure she wanted an appearance on Idol to assist with her new record. Idol is so effective at selling songs via itunes, even big time artist ask to be on the show. I heard rumors the producers almost made the theme top 100 songs instead of restricting the song universe to just Mariah’s catalog, but probably relented when Mariah told them she wouldn’t be on the show unless they used her songs. Syeshsa and David A. should excel tonight, but what about the others? Can Kristy sing a Mariah song country? Can David Cook turn a Mariah song into a rocking hit? Can Jason Castro – oh my god what the heck is Jason going to do with a Mariah song? The performance might not be the best tonight, but tackling Mariah’s songs should be interesting. Also, who will get the coveted pimp spot and the dreaded spot of death. I’m guessing they put Jason first and David A. last.

We are down to 7 and it’s up to us. I think I just saw Teri Hatcher in the audience with her daughter. I still have no idea why they thought her singing would be a good idea during Idol Gives Back. Ryan starts off discussing the elimination of Michael Johns. Every year there is always a surprising departure. Conspiracy theorists might suggest Idol ensures a favorite goes home early to scare the crap out of the show’s fans and guarantee increased voting in the following weeks. I wonder if Idol can get more money from advertisers based on the number of votes each week. The Idols come out from back stage. It seems a little silly to show them before the show begins, and then make them run backstage so they can come through the moving stage door. During Mariah’s introduction video they of course mention her involvment with Randy Jackson, and then use his use of the word dawg into brilliant transition to her meeting the Idols with her own dog. She calls American Idol a music bootcamp and feels weird about judging people in general. The Idols do not seem that impressed upon meeting Mariah, or at least less impressed than they were with Dolly. Ryan asks Randy about the whole not singing Mariah songs rule, but Randy says they should just sing the songs as themselves. He wants to see who the Idols really are through their singing. Randy threatens us with the possibility of a song tonight. Up first is David A. Wow, I didn’t think they would put the wonder boy up first.

Donnie Osmond’s Love Child (Mini Jesus)– “When You Believe”

David was really scared to meet Mariah because he listens to her music a lot. Mariah thought his performance with her was very moving. Mariah suggested he use a little falsetto during the song and tells her not to fear the performance. Mariah is proud of the person David is and loves his beautiful singing. At least David isn’t wearing a jacket again this time, but is he really wearing leather pants? I guess after cornering the teen vote he is after the biker vote tonight. The song starts off sounding like almost every other David song. I think I’ll call him Ballad Boy. The crowd screams for no apparent reason when he hits a few sustained notes. David gets the most unwarranted cheers this season. His voice cracks going into a note, but he recovers pretty nicely. Honestly, he looks silly trying to sing with passion. His falsetto is incredibly thin but he pulls it off. Shortly after he hits the falsetto notes he attempts his first really low note of the season and again does a passable job. This is text book ‘ok’ ‘doing your thang’, but nothing special. In fact, at times this song feels all over the place. Hopefully the judges respect our intelligence and refrain from calling this performance the best vocals ever in the history of everything every where for all time. Randy says he was a little worried about tonight with Boys singing Girls songs, but David can sing anything – he calls it the bomb baby. Excuse me while I laugh at the boys singing girls comment. I mean are we sure this kid has reached puberty yet? For all intents and purposes I think he might still technically be a girl. Paula says it must feel great for Mariah to hear his interpretation of the song and suggest she must be beaming after hearing David. Really? Mariah has been waiting all her life to her a little Mormon kid sing her songs? Simon says he knew David A. would sing this song and says the song was good. He thinks the guys will have an easier time tonight because there are no comparisons with Mariah and based on his producing the song in England says David sang it very well. Ryan asks David if he ate tonight (he is so nervous when he sings he doesn’t eat) and David assumes him he did eat something. Stupid joke that I don’t agree with but have to say – yeah he eats the other contestants for breakfast.

The Only Non American Left (Carly)– “Without You”

Carly gets a Ryan interview and he asks her about her emotions when Michael left. She says it was really sad and the whole week has been boring without him around. Things are not the same without Michael cracking jokes. Mariah gives Carly a big hug and says she loves watching her do her thing. Carly says she tried to forget Mariah was watching her sing. Mariah says Carly made wise decisions fitting the song with her voice. Translation – she can’t sing all the notes I can but she figured out a way to fake it pretty well. Carly is standing next to the piano on stage. I’m almost surprised she isn’t on a stool. This is one of those songs that has a built in ‘stand up’ moment. She is using her thick full yet subtle voice, and sounds good. But when the song gets big will she start to scream? She continues her nice tone on the song’s bigger parts. She is doing a good job but I cannot help thinking how her vocals pale in comparison to Mariah. If I had never heard the original I would think this was a really good vocal. She finishes the song with a nice ascending note progression. When she is done they show a random flash of Rickey Minor for some reason. Before Randy talks we can hear Simon asking Paula if she wants his advice and then he proceeds to tell her something she should say to Carly. Undeterred, Randy says he likes that Carly challenged herself, but he doesn’t think she trusted herself in the beginning of the song, but calls her pretty good. Paula thinks she showed some vocal restraint and then swelled and soared and made the song her own. Simon really wanted to hear her sing this song, even before this week, and based on a direct comparison he doesn’t think she pulled the song off tonight. He says he thinks she has the capability, but tonight she held herself back. Ryan asks her if she was able to pretend she was back at the bar singing in front of a few people instead of thirty million and she thinks she was successful. I’m sorry judges, but there is no way that David A. sang his song better than Carly; hopefully America will agree with me and not the judges.

The person who should have gone home last week instead of MJ (Syesha)– “Vanishing”

Ryan is in the most pit selling itunes when we return. Mariah liked Syesha’s song choice; a song Mariah wrote when she was a teenager. Unlike some of the other Idols, it looks like Mariah actually sang the song the way it should be sung for Syesha. She is standing in literally the same spot on stage as Carly but she gets three back up singers on stage to her right. This song’s melody is very similar to “I’ll be there for you” by the Jackson 5. She sounds really good on the first part of the song showing a lot of control hitting notes in her higher octave. I think she goes a little flat on a note halfway through the song. She hits a bunch of power notes near the end of the song yet gets half as much applause as David A. does just by singing the simplest notes. I have a feeling the original version this song might have had a few more ‘big’ notes, but I like this arrangement for Syesha. I can’t believe I’m saying this, since I wanted her gone last week, but this might be the best performance all night. Randy says the last couple weeks Syesha picked the hardest songs but tonight she did a good job all things considered, despite a few pitchy moments. What a minute, I thought he called David A.’s song the hardest. Paula says singing these songs are difficult and she was smart for picking a less well-known Mariah song so people cannot compare her vocals. She calls Syesha magical. Simon says technically it was very very good indeed, but he is not sure he would have picked such an unknown song. Simon says he is in the middle with the theme tonight and thinks so far David A. has stolen the show. I have David A. as the third best performer tonight through the first three.

Brooke – “Hero”

She gets the next interview, which gives Ryan the chance to ask her about her sister’s wedding. Brooke says she cried about missing the event and ruins Ryan story about her family using a cardboard cutout of Brooke at the wedding – they weren’t able to get one in time. Mariah wrote this song for Gloria Estefan originally. Mariah seems again to be actually giving advice to an Idol. Who does she think she is Barry Manilow? Mariah hopes people will not compare Brooke to Mariah’s version. Translation – this girl doesn’t have a very big voice and can’t really sing this song like me so don’t kill her for simplifying things. Uh oh Brooke is at the piano. She sounds like she is going to actually play a lot of notes but then falls into her normal simple piano playing. Since Brooke cannot sing ‘big,’ she has the right idea turning the song into a piano ballad. This song is clearly too big for her voice but she is emoting with every ounce of her 100 pounds. She is at least playing the piano better than last time, actually playing pretty well halfway through the song. I think she loses the tempo of the song a little near the end, rushing to the conclusion like someone was screaming ‘wrap it up.’ I don’t think the speeding up is intentional. Her husky voice sounds pretty good on this and she is not even trying to do Mariah, which should help her as compared to Syesha and Carly who both displayed this big voices. I’m a little ambivalent about this performance, but I’m pretty sure I like it, even though he voice feels sooo small tonight. It’s like Mariah is an aircraft carrier and Brooke is a little tug boat. Brooke puts her shoes back on when she is done at the piano. Randy likes that they brought a singer songwriter vibe to the song but was down on things at the bridge because vocally this is tough for her. She agree that this song is hard. Paula says every ounce of Brooke is authentic and she thinks the song’s unplugged nature was really brave and sounded really good, but says she shouldn’t let her struggles speed her up. Simon chimes in he’d like to speed Paula up after hearing her comment. Simon says he doesn’t think Brooke had much choice but to do what she did, but it was a bit like ordering a hamburger and only getting the bun. In other words, the vital ingredient, the important part, was missing. He doesn’t think he voice is big enough to carry this song. Ryan plays up the food metaphors and says if we want to order take out call Brooke’s number.

The Female Bucky (Kristy Lee) – “Forever”

Mariah really enjoyed Kristy doing this song because a lot of people haven’t heard it before. Mariah says she got goose bumps when Kristy was singing. Mariah didn’t seem to give her any advice like she did some others. I wonder if that is a good sign or bad sing. Kristy starts off so low you can hardly hear her enunciations. Her voice sounds better when the song goes a little higher. The second time around she handles the low notes a little better. She hits a lot of big notes near the end and actually sounds pretty good doing it. Other than a few maybe flat notes on the lower parts, she is sounding really good, even adding a little country twang. This is at least as good as several other performers tonight, but will the judges give her any credit? Randy says he has to tell her that even though it wasn’t amazing because of a couple pitchy notes at the beginning but she really stepped it up at the end. Paula thinks she is really smart and is blown away by Kristy. She loves how the arrangement was done and thinks she could have a country hit with this song. Simon says she probably wasn’t jumping up and down when she heard this week’s theme. He says she didn’t give him chills because it was a little whinny at times, but he thinks she was quite smart. It just wasn’t great he says. Kristy looks sad. I think she mistakenly believed the judges might actually like her singing.

David Cook – “Always be my Baby”

Ryan borrows some guys hat while sitting next to Ramiele and selling itunes. Wait a minute, that’s Ramiele! Couldn’t they have given her better seats? Mariah was surprised David picked this song since she didn’t know what he was going to do with it. Mariah was proud as a songwriter that he was able to change it around to fit a male perspective. Mariah thinks this could be a hit for him. David is guitar less behind a mic stand. He is singing in his lower register, but not the crazy low one he tried last week. This is a realllllly different version of the original. I like it and wonder if he came up with this himself. As the song picks up David enters rock god mode. But unlike earlier in the season when it annoyed me, I know respect him so I enjoy his preening for the camera. He sounds really good on the soaring notes and I’m amazed he turned this pop song into a full on rock song. Wow, David is all the way back and the best of the night BY A MILE. Randy says yo yo he thinks more than anyone on the show David is ready to make an album. Randy stands up for the first time this season calling David brilliant. Paula says this song could be in a movie soundtrack right now and calls him the whole package. Simon says it was like coming out of Karyoke hell into a breath of fresh air because that was original, daring, and stood out by a mile. He says this is the sign of a great potential artist – someone that takes risks. David is so happy I think he is crying, yup he is crying. His brother is very sick and they show him in the audience – this is why David is so emotional tonight.

Duuuuude (Jason Castro) – “I Don’t Wanna Cry”

Someone in the audience is holding up a ‘Simon for President’ sign that Simon notices and suggests they hold it up a little higher. Ryan runs over, grabs the sign, and rips it in half. The girl holding the sign has a classic ‘oh my god’ look on her face, which means she is either a really good actress, or this was not actually planned. Mariah thought Jason’s song choice was really different and interesting. With someone like Jason, Mariah thinks it’s all about connecting to people’s hearts. Translation – this kid doesn’t have the voice to sing my songs so he has to emotionally connect or fail miserably. She gave Jason some advice on the melody and is curious if he will use her ideas. Jason is on the serious stool with a percussionist and two guitarists joining him on stage. He starts the song in falsetto and settles into his normal singing voice. Wisely, he incorporates Mariah’s suggestion into the song. If he didn’t know you know the judges, especially Randy would rip him to shreds. He actually sounds really good doing a Mariah song. I think, like David he benefits from no comparisons to Mariah since the song is so different, but it takes a lot of guts to totally alter a song and make it your own. He does not hit any bad notes and gives much better performance than I would have guessed. He might be my second favorite of the night. Randy says for him he didn’t love it – he felt like he was in a weird beach luau. Paula would love to be at that luau listening all night long. She loves that Jason is getting so confident. Simon has to agree with Paula. He thought that wasn’t the best vocal but it was identified with him and a cool version. He says the guys completely won the night.

Final Thoughts

David still sounds doesn’t sound as good as they say I think he should sound. Carly is still not Mariah but better than they said. Syesha still sounds better than David and Carly. Brooke still sounds like the song is swallowing her alive. Kristy still sounds like a future country star. Hey if Bucky can do it…David Cook still sounds like the winner of American Idol Season 7. Jason still sounds like and indie star. Conspiracy theorists will no doubt notice Ryan is standing in front of David A. while finishing up the show. It’s almost like they are reminding people to vote early and often for the young one. Bottom 3. The two Davids are totally safe, along with Jason Castro. After last week, every Idol’s fan base will be voting non stop, so the person that goes home will be the person with the smallest fan base. I think that person is Syesha. At least Ramiele will be there to give her a big hug.

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