Thursday, March 12, 2009

Black then White: The Songs of Michael Jackson

In honor of Michael Jackson night the screaming teenage girls in the pit surrounding the stage have been replaced with 8-year-old boys. Further, all the boys will all be given just a little bit of wine to ‘calm them down.’ That’s how things might play out if Michael was in charge of American Idol. Also Ryan would be replaced by a Bubbles the chimpanzee. How amazing would tonight be if all the Idols went out to Neverland Ranch and had a mentoring session with the King of Pop. I can hear him now, “where is David Archuleta.” After telling Stephen Fowler to never touch a Michael Jackson song, it’s almost surprising the show has an entire night devoted to the gloved one. America will recognize most of these songs and the contestant brave enough to take chances and alter the original song has a tremendous opportunity to emerge as a front-runner. David Cook’s ‘wow this guy might actually win this thing’ moment came when he performed the rock version of Billie Jean. Will anyone else be that brave? Maybe, but I think everyone knows that person will not be Jasmine. How much is Kris Allen kicking himself in the head for singing his Michael Jackson song to reach the Top 13? Since repeating songs is the new cool thing to do this season, maybe he should do the song again. I’m sure Simon would have some interesting comments for Kris if he did.

Ryan begins the show starting high above the stage next to the band. Hey a band, so that’s what one of those looks like. He says the Top 12 is now the Top 13 and it is their time to shine on the big stage. A booming voice appears from on high, perhaps it’s God, I’m sure he watches Idol right, and introduces the judges as they emerge from the moving doors on the stage. Seriously? Isn’t this a little bit over the top. Normally the judges are seated when the show begins and Ryan gives them a little shout out, but now they are suddenly the stars of the show. They used to be the guides helping the Idols on their journey, now they are making a journey of their own, to their chairs. The voice also introduces Ryan. Is that the first time in Idol history someone actually introduced Ryan? He is dressed in a full suit; his transformation into an adult is now complete. He walks over to Simon, shakes his hand, and says he knows Simon is loving that (the new ‘the judges are the best thing ever’ introduction). I guess that means Simon is behind the new over the top introductions. Ryan says Simon wanted to create a very interesting entrance. I wonder what other changes Simon wants this season. Ryan, with the help of Bruce, shows off the stage and the 500 fans in the audience. With all that screaming it feels like there are 5,000. Ryan asks the judges if they have any last minute advice. Randy says they have to bring it hard and have a great performance every time because any of the 13 can win this thing. Kara says she will be harder on the contestants because 1 or 2 or maybe even 3 of these kids could end up on the radio and it’s their job to make sure they are the best. Paula, the only judge to actually fill arenas with people there to see her, says the contestants cannot be afraid to use the stage. Don’t let the stage consume you. Simon, still smiling from the introductions, says besides singing well, the contestants also cannot forget the words, and have to prove they are not swallowed up by the stage. Paula correctly points out she just said the exact same thing. Ryan introduces the contestants with one coming from each staircase in alternating order. It looks like Alexis gets the not so coveted pimp spot this time. Since Idol is too cheap to buy the number ending in 13 from a phone sex company, Alexis will end up with a very random number at the end of the show. Simon says two people will be going home tomorrow night since they made it a Top 13. The Michael Jackson introduction is so sad; sad because one of the greatest entertainers of all time is now a joke. I’ll be shocked if he sings with a live microphone during his upcoming concerts England.

Lil Rounds – Way You Make Me Feel

The mother of three lives in Memphis. She loved growing up there because of all the great music and barbecue. A tornado destroyed the family home, but Lil and her husband worked through the ordeal. She says if you let go of your dreams, you let go of your life. She starts the song halfway up the staircase and makes her way to the stage. In the first 10 seconds she moves more in this song than she did the entire performance last week. Her outfit is distracting. On her left shoulder is this massive corsage looking thing. It’s like her left shoulder, and only her left shoulder is about to go to prom. She avoids any lesbian implications by changing the lyrics to say she is the one wearing high heels. She is singing very close to the original version until she reaches the chorus. She sounds good, but she does not sound original. She starts to add herself into the performance with a little riff. At the song’s halfway point she seems to find her confidence and take liberties with the song. Paula, now standing and dancing, seems to approve. Lil sounds really good now, much better than in the beginning. She hits a big falsetto note with the same power and clarity as her lower notes. She also finishes the song with a nice falsetto note. If only she sang as well as she is on the back half on the entire song. She has the unenviable tasks of opening the show, and while this isn’t the best ever, it’s somewhere between great and good. Randy says this is the way to kick off Season 8. He thinks she just put a whole new spin on the song and made it new again. He loves starting the show like this. Kara thinks everyone else is scared now because of Lil’s performance. She hopes we get to hear her on the radio because she is great. She calls her end falsetto note sick. Paula compliments Lil on her softness and light makeup. She compliments the glam squad. Paula thinks Lil’s falsetto is like angels singing. Simon thinks it was good, but considers her song choice lazy. He thinks the second half was better than the first and he hates what she is wearing. Simon says if he has 5 minutes with Lil he can sort her out. Ryan jokes they can have a special show on Thursday night called ‘Five Minutes with Lil’ and then cautions Lil to never accept fashion advice from a 55-year-old man. I think next week Lil should wear the patented Simon shirt. Lil has a strong fan base and will easily overcome going first. Having gone first first, means she probably won’t be in the spot of death again for a long time. This could prove helpful later in the season. Ryan is already warning people to be extra careful when calling tonight.

Scott – Keep The Faith

Ryan introduces Scott and sells Itunes from high above the stage. He likes being up with the band tonight. Scott says he is blind. What? OMG! Why didn’t someone let us know about his blindness earlier this season? He used to sneak out of his room at night and teach himself the piano. His sister is also visually impaired. His mother says visual impairments do not run in the family, which means Scott’s parents have probably spent countless hours wondering what if anything they did wrong. His mother also unintentionally makes a joke when she says wanted Scott to ‘see’ he could do anything. Scott cannot believe he gets this chance to sing to America and hopes he can come back for many more weeks. Interesting song choice; picking a less familiar song can be dangerous. He begins the song providing his own music on the piano. Already, in the first few seconds, he is clearly a better piano player than Brooke or David A. On the first few notes he sounds a little like a decent George Michael impersonator. Scott has a decent voice, but sometimes it’s like he is almost, but not quite nailing the song. He isn’t doing anything impressive on the piano and his playing fades away when the rest of the band enters. The song gets a little funkier once it gets going and it’s nice to hear Scott sing a somewhat up beat song. As always, his voice is just ok. He hits some nice notes and shows off his falsetto, but without the piano and the blindness I don’t know if this performance would keep a contestant from going home. I would like just him and the piano a few times so we can see how his voice sounds on a stripped down song. Lead by Scott’s family, the rest of the audience gives him a standing ovation as well. Kara asks Scott if he just learned the piano part this week and he says yes in only a coupe of days. She is so glad we finally get to see him with the piano. She likes his hopeful message he can deliver, but she loves he is still true to himself every week. Paula says seeing him with his piano is magical and calls his performance lovely. She introduces the woman that wrote this song who is sitting in the audience. Simon apologizes to that woman because he hated the song. He doesn’t think anyone knows the song. Scott says he picked the song so he could be artistic and Simon says being artistic is fine, just not on this show. The audience boos this comment. I think Simon was trying to give Scott good advice. This show is about doing songs people like and forcing those people to text and dial their phones, repeatedly voting for their favorite contestants. Being artistic is wonderful, but not if it costs you millions of votes and sends you home five weeks before you should depart. Simon thinks he is a good singer and likes him playing the piano, but he didn’t like the song. Paula, then gets really weird and scolds Simon for knocking the song after he told her it was the biggest selling record in Norway. What? Since when is Norway, assuming the record sold well there, the benchmark for success? Well, geez my album didn’t even chart in the United States, but I’m blowing up in Norway so I’m rich and famous now. Yeah, no one has ever had that thought. Randy liked the song, but felt the performance was just too safe, good, but safe. Simon adds it felt old fashioned and Randy finishes his comments by saying he wants more sparks next time. Paula tells Ryan that Simon gave her his scouts honor certification when he told her about record sales in Norway. Simon has a history of telling her stupid things hoping she will then repeat it on the air. Her massive amounts of pills and medications must disable her ability to learn from previous mistakes.

Danny - PYT

Growing up Danny did not have much materially, but he had music in his family. His father used to pull the guitar out they would sing about anything, even school. Danny, who appeared almost cocky when he talked to the judges in Hollywood, now is very humble and shocked he made it this far in Idol. Amazingly, there is no mention of Danny’s deceased wife or his friend Jamar. I like the way Danny is changing the song’s beginning. He has a nice slow introduction with minimal music in the background so we can clearly hear his voice. Then the song picks up into is normal rhythm. He is moving around the stage more than normal, but he looks a little bit like Taylor Hicks if Taylor had been taser by a police officer before he danced. He is having a lot of fun with the song and his voice sounds good. I think Taylor Hicks is a pretty good comparison for Danny. His voice and Danny’s are both similar. They each have the whisky tenor soulful white boy vibe. Danny moves down to in front of the judges’ table. They have changed the set this year so the contestants can more easily reach the table. On the back up singer parts he extends the microphone to the judges as if they were the back up singers. All the judges but Simon participate. It is refreshing to see Danny sing an upbeat song using his full voice. Sometimes he sings a little too reserved, but not tonight. This is by far the most enjoyable performance I’ve seen from him on Idol. Danny is making Scott and Lil look like chumps. Paula says the true mark of an artist is when you can hear some body even with your eyes closed and you can tell who they are and he has that gift. She predicts he is on his way to the finals. Simon laughs at Paula and mocking says we are only three contestants in and Danny has already won. He thinks the vocals were brilliant and calls him one heck of a singer. He calls him a white guy with soul, but thinks the dancing was hideous. Danny is going to talk about Simon’s comment. This could be dangerous – anytime you talk back to the judges you run the risk of looking like a flippant jerk. Danny explains he loves to dance and he loves to sing, but when he puts them together it is really difficult. He jokes he asked the producers if they could get him a dance instructor. Good job Danny. You explained your horrible dancing and earned a few extra votes with your personality. Randy is looking for a different side to the performers every week and seeing Danny do an up tempo number he now knows he can anything. He even liked Danny’s dancing. Kara says Danny has joy when he steps on the stage and is all about the music. She wants him to thank his parents for making him sing his homework. Danny tells Ryan he was raised on church music and loves it, but he doesn’t have experience dancing and singing. Ladies and gentlemen Danny’s first ‘I’m a Christian and love Jesus vote for me’ moment. I was wondering how long it would take him to get that out there and no better way than mentioning your love of church music to Ryan.

Michael – You Are Not Alone

Congrats Michael, you get to follow Danny! Michael returns to his old job wearing his fancy shoes. Apparently he is a ‘roughneck.’ I cannot fathom how Idol failed to share this fact with us earlier in the season. So far in the first four people, they have highlighted Lil’s three children and her tornado destroyed home, Scott’s blindness, and now Michael’s profession. The omission of Danny losing his wife is even more obvious now. They must follow the message boards and online chatter and realized more than a few people were getting sick of hearing his back-story. Michael returns home with his family waiting on his front porch. For television purposes they have Michael walking up the street so his little girl can come running up to him outside his house. But why is he walking around the corner? Did the Idol limo run out of gas? Did he walk home from the airport? I bet he was already home for several hours when they decided to film this ‘come home’ moment. Reality TV – its sooooo realistic. Michael’s mom says he had a trough life growing up without a father, but used that struggle to become an amazing father. He starts the sappy song seated on the steps of the stage. He is doing an almost country version. I wonder if this is his version or if he copied it form a country artist that remade the Michael Jackson song. He actually sounds really good. Significantly better than I thought Michael could sing. Still not molten lava hot, but better than I thought him capable. He is hitting all the right notes and adding a lot of himself to this preventing it form being karaoke. This is an extremely cheesy song, but it doesn’t feel like it on this performance. Simon says Michael is not the best singer in the competition, but he makes up for it with passion, heart, and gave it 110 percent. He just wished the judges knew what he did for a living. Simon is probably the one that asked the producers to highlight Michael’s roughnecking ways, and then turns around and makes fun of them over hyping his profession – I love this show. Randy is happy for Michael because he returned to his R&B swagger tonight. He calls him one of the best of the night so far. Kara thinks Michael showed he really can sing. His first song was a crowd pleaser, but this one really showed he can hit those notes. She says what’s great about him is he is serious and brings his game every time he sings. Doesn’t that imply that someone isn’t taking this competition seriously? Is Kara inferring we have another Jason Castro this season? Paula says Michael has so many things going for him, his likeability, his talent, and he picked a song that was instinctually perfect for him. By picking a calm song he gave himself room to color it up. Michael says he likes being on the stage more than being on an oilrig in his not quite cute enough blue suit.

Jasmine – I’ll Be There

Ryan does a sit down with Jasmine and asks her what the glam squad means. She explains they take the contestants out shopping with a stylist and do their hair and make up and everything. She is the baby of her family and has a lot of sisters. Her sisters are her biggest fans and miss her so much. Jasmine’s mom is with her because she is a minor. I wonder if her mom is a little crazy like David A.’s father. I’m sure Idol loves dealing with stage parents. Risky song choice for Jasmine; not only will the judges compare her to Michael Jackson, but also to Mariah who did a remake of this song. She has a little pitch problem on the first verse. She sounds a little better when the song gets bigger, but she is still having minor pitch issues. She isn’t missing any notes super bad, but there is something missing from her performance. Oh yeah, it’s called originality. She isn’t doing anything to declare this song a ‘Jasmine Original.’ The biggest alteration to the original song is at the very end when she hits a very nice falsetto note. So she does have a little creativity hidden somewhere deep inside. She needs to demonstrate more of her personality and her unique style (if she has one) when she sings or she will not last very long. Randy says he had the pleasure of recording this song with Mariah and he feels like she mixed the two versions together effectively. He was impressed and thinks she did a not that bad job, in fact, she was pretty good. Kara is also surprised. She is always on the edge when Jasmine sings wondering if she can do it, and then she did. She suggests Jasmine should have been a half key down, but thinks she sold the performance. Paula says for Jasmine’s age, she had tremendous composure on the stage. She thinks the moments before the chorus were rough and Jasmine was under the notes, but she also had some great moments. Paula tells her way to go. Simon calls it a good attempt and liked the ending. He felt the performance was a little bit robotic. He thinks she needs to lighten up and act her act instead of being the little girl trying to act like a grown up. As they head to break Kris and Allison are arm wrestling at the make up chair. Allison wins. Although they are only kidding around, I think Allison could probably take Kris in a real arm wrestling competition.

Kris – Remember the Time

Ryan is again up top with the band, this time reminding us we can get all these songs on Itunes. Kris is from a small town and his family has a lot of music ability. His dad plays guitar and says Kris picked up the torch. Kris’s biggest struggle is being away from his newlywed wife. Even though they apart a lot now, they are closer than ever. He hopes the separation will be worth it and eventually pay off in the long run. Kris is this season’s cute guy, so I have no idea why he let them show his attractive wife on camera. Doesn’t he realize the teenage girls are voting for him because in their minds they are going to marry him someday? Will they still text their little fingers off for Kris now they know he is LIKE OMG MARRIED? Kris is filled with confidence now that he has his guitar again. He looks like a lost little puppy when he performed last time, but now he is moving around like he is a much shorter (and less talented) John Mayer. He is putting a little inflection on the word ‘remember.’ This is a Kris original; it is totally different from the original. Otherwise I might expect a half naked Magic Johnson to come walking on stage. Kris goes a little off pitch on his first sustained big note. His voice just isn’t quite big enough to pull off the vocals he attempts during the song. This version is by far the most original sounding song tonight, and he deserves a lot of credit for his arrangement, but his vocals are not on the level of some of the other contestants. His voice is pleasant and he usually hits the right notes, which means he can hide his vocal limitations if he picks songs that stay in his safe zone. I wonder how much the new stage area in between the real stage and the judges’ table cost. It contains a massive jumbotron that can play videos. Kara starts things off by saying the girls love Kris. She is happy to see him with his guitar because it shows off a whole other side to him as a performer. Even though she says there were a few missed notes she doesn’t care because she had so much fun watching him perform. Kara says Kris spent a lot of time helping the other contestants with their songs; this proves he is a good guy. Does it really Kara? Maybe Kris played the role of Iago and suggested horrible song choices. Like hey Jasmine you can sing it better than Mariah Carey, why don’t you do this song. Or hey Scott you should do a song NO ONE has ever heard before – that would be awesome dude. I’d like to know who Kris helped and what songs they considered before he gave them advice. Paula, as Simon plays with her dress, says Kris was the one helping all the other contestants because he knows Michael Jackson’s catalog better than anyone. She thinks he is engaging with his guitar and even adorable sexy. Paula says she loves Kris in a way she could never love a certain someone from across the pond. I didn’t know anyone still called the Atlantic Ocean the pond. Simon isn’t sure this song is suited for guitar. He thinks because of this it felt a little clumsy. But, the vocals were ok and he is very likeable. He says Kris brought out the wife too early. He says Kris should have kept the wife hidden for a couple of weeks and the camera shows ‘the wife.’ She is PISSED. If looks could kill Simon would be in the hospital. She probably doesn’t understand Simon is talking about Kris hurting her vote totals and takes this comment personally. Randy loves the wife and the guitar. He thinks the song was kinda cool and interesting – very ]Jason Mrazy’. Ryan establishes that Simon is single and should not be giving out relationship advice to anyone.

Allison – Give In To Me

Her parents are Salvadorian and work very hard. When Allison was 5 she started singing in a huge Latin shopping center back home. There are a whopping 10 people in the center listening to her sing. Seeing how American Idol went to all the trouble to send a camera crew there, you’d think someone could have gone out into the street and brought in some more people so Allison’ didn’t look so pathetic. Maybe they wanted to illustrate just how little experience she has performing in front of crowds bigger than a dozen people. Hey at least if this Idol thing doesn’t work out she has a place to perform. I wonder if Justin Guarini is watching at home right now thinking, hey I need to get a gig at that place, it would be awesome if 11 people watching me sing. When she was 9 she knew she wanted to audition for American Idol. Thanks to her two awesome parents her dream came true. Like Scott, she is singing another not well-known Jackson song. She has a new hairstyle. She looks a little like a red headed Kelly Clarkson tonight. She sounds really good and as she moves around the stage she looks so mature. You would never know this girl wasn’t 25 if you accidentally channel surfed into Idol. Jasmine is only a year older, yet performs like she is 10 years younger. I am not crazy about the song selection, but she owns the song. I think she can do even more with her voice then she is tonight. She avoids any major pitch problem; she is pretty close to perfect. Paula verifies that Allison is only 16. Her age boggles Paula’s mind. She thinks she looks like a rock star on stage and compliments her hair. She wants Allison to stay authentic to herself. Simon says it was a good performance and is glad we know who Allison is an artist, but he wants her to lighten up a bit. She says she is not dark and isn’t cutting herself and then realizes uh-oh joking about teenage girls cutting themselves because it’s the only way they can feel alive is not really a funny topic and quickly shuts-up. Allison might be the most likely to say something that gets Idol fined this season. For a 16 year old Simon is impressed by her voice and her confidence. Randy, like always, says if you got it you got it and you are born with it; he thinks she can sing anything and is one to watch in this whole thing. Kara wants her to continue as the rock girl and hit more of those ridiculous high notes. Allison should continue to grow as a performer and could be something very special by season’s end.

Anoop – Beat It

Hopefully Anoop’s heart is no longer racing from the trauma last week. If they keep messing with his mind he is going to go morph from a sweet college boy into a chain smoking alcoholic. Anoop is still dressed a little goofy, even after the glam squad did their thing. Anoop tells Ryan he never imagined the judges making a Top 13. He wants to bring energy to his song and maybe add a few dance moves. Anoop grew up in Chapel Hill as an only child. His parents tried to teach him about Indian culture. If they have a Ballywood themed night Anoop is going to dominate. His parents came to America because they wanted a better life for this child. Anoop wants to be an artist that has credibility, recognition, and most importantly great music. Uh oh. He is singing a song that should never be performed by anyone not named Michael Jackson. This has train wreck possibilities. Maybe he is smart and altered the song, made it slower, anything to avoid comparisons to Michael singing the song. Nope, it starts off just like the original. He has a weird looking Matrix styled green background on the screen behind him. This song is just not right for his voice. He looks silly as he moves around the stage and leans over touching the hands of his adoring public. He has this silly “I’m a nice guy trying to look mean and tough’ look on his face. He looks like a nerd when the nerd finally stands up to the bully and acts all manly, until he gets punched in the face. Right now I’m thinking about someone punching Anoop in the face, which says something about the quality of his performance. His only originality to the song is to hold out one note extra long and almost go off pitch on that note. He adds a little more originality near the very end but it’s not enough too late. His hit just about every note, but this song is not a song suited for a singing competition; it has a small range and without a dancing gang and a knife fight doesn’t work too well. Simon apparently forces Paula to go out of turn and evaluate Anoop first. She says picking a song is a gift to show the world what you have, and she thinks this song is untouchable and anything else sounds karaoke. Simon says wow twice. It’s as if he can’t believe Paula actually said something negative. Simon goes a little further and says it was horrible. There was no aggression and the performance was lightweight and stupid. Like someone trying to be like Michael Jackson and failing. Randy thinks it was the wrong song choice. He thinks Anoop has a bigger voice than he showed in this song. Anoop says if he is around next week he will show off his skills. Kara says Anoop didn’t display any of his singing ability. He didn’t go up into his higher notes or add any riffs. For the first time Kara felt disconnected to Anoop as a performer, which is weird since that’s his strength as a performer. Anoop says he is looking forward to coming back and making amends. Ryan asks Simon if he regrets making this a Top 13 after that performance. Simon says yes. Geez, nobody does cold like the British. We are assuming that Anoop was the final person in the Top 13. The judges never officially said that was their decision. Isn’t it just as likely Matt was the last person the judges let into this round? Anoop says he was trying to show energy and replicate what the judges liked about him before. Ryan is giving Anoop a lot of time to explain his song choice. I guess that’s what happens when a crowd favorite sucks; Ryan spends an inordinate amount of time rehabilitation the contestant.

Jorge – Never Can Say Goodbye

Ryan is sitting between his mother and her mother. Apparently his grandmother wants to hook up with Randy Jackson. Jorge was raised in Puerto Rico. Wait a minute, Jorge is from Puerto Rico? Yet another thing the Idol producers should have made sure we knew already. All this time I thought he was from Kansas. When his family gets together they are large in number, loud, and love to dance. His family lost his grandfather and since then have fallen apart a little. He believes his Idol journey is helping his family reconnect. Did you hear that America? If you send Jorge home you are DESTROYING his family. Jorge is singing relatively accent free. He has a few pitch problems when he goes into the higher notes. This is a pretty unoriginal and boring performance. He sounds better when the song moves a little faster, but this is just the wrong song. When a contestant hits most of the notes and yet it’s still a borderline crappy performance, you know they picked the wrong song. He better start crying immediately when the judges talk, because sympathy votes might be the only thing that saves him this time. Randy has mad love for Jorge, but this isn’t the song he would pick for him because it sounded so old fashioned. He likes his upper range but would have picked something that challenged him a little more. Kara’s problem is his lack of an emotional connection; she wanted more emotion. Paula doesn’t feel he was himself on this song and asks him why he picked this song. Jorge, forced to think in Spanish and translate into English is having a little trouble explaining his selection. I think he is saying he didn’t know what song to pick since these songs aren’t his style and he knew he couldn’t sing something like the song Bad, so he ended up with this one. As soon as he says, “I was not going to sing Bad,” Simon says he sort of did. Sometimes it feels like Simon is using canned material when he insults contestants, but then, like now, he is extemporaneous very funny and we remember how quickly his mind works. Paula wants America to remember that Jorge is a brilliant vocalist that picked the wrong song. Simon says it was corny and Jorge was out of his depth. He hated the arrangement and couldn’t wait for the song to end. I’m not saying Jorge is short, but if the contestants go to Disneyland he won’t be able to get on any ride other than the teacups. I’m never quite sure how to react to the judges criticizing the arrangement. This competition is about singing, not arranging. I suppose the judges should give bonus points to the original contestants capable of reworking a song, but if the contestant is just a singer and not a musician they probably don’t have that gift. Yet, they can still make the song their own with their vocals even if the backing music is similar to the original.

Megan – Rockin Robin

She gets a sit down interview with Ryan and he calls her their resident font analyst. Huh? Ryan if you are going to use an inside joke at least explain it so we can laugh too. Her friends and family forced her into this competition. Other than being in the school choir she doesn’t have any on stage experience. Her brother, 21 today, is in the audience wearing a backwards baseball cap – way to dress up for the occasion big guy. She always imagined herself being a singer when she was growing up. She tried out for musicals and solos in choir and never made anything, so she focused her dream on a family. Megan got a divorce but found meaning in life again through her son. She misses him so much, every day, every second. She is singing one of the goofiest songs possible tonight, but what else would you expect from the always quirky Megan. She starts the song swinging her hips like she usually does and then she takes the microphone off the stand and starts moving around the stage. I think this is the first time we have seen Megan move all season. Her massive tattoo covers her entire arm and clashes with her cute red dress. I’d love to hear the explanation why she decided to go all Sistine Chapel ceiling on her arm. She is hitting the right notes and adding a little bit of herself on the transition into the chorus. She closes the song with a big power note and then does something that makes Megan unique. She imitates the sound of a bird, not the tweet tweet sound the rocking robin might make, instead, she sounds like an angry crow. As always Megan is not the best singer but it’s hard not to smile when you see her perform. In some ways she is this seasons Jason Castro, except her had better hair. Kara says Megan has a way of putting her signature on everything she touches. She says it’s so Megan and Randy, making a play on the hit TV kids show ‘That’s So Raven,’ says, “That’s So Megan.” No it wasn’t the most overwhelming vocal performance, but Kara thinks she injected her personality into the song. Next time she wants to see more range, especially Megan’s falsetto. Paula loves the quirky and unique tone to her voice, but she felt disconnected form Megan until the end of the song. She wants America to know Megan’s vocals in addition to her beauty. Simon calls her song choice stupid and thinks the vocals weren’t very good. He found her dancing borderline ridiculous and the whole performance clumsy and awkward. He thinks if this was the first time people saw her no one could imagine her as the next American Idol. Randy doesn’t think the song choice allowed her to be Megan. Simon turns around and asks Gordon Ramsey what he thought and he apparently enjoyed Megan because Simon says he doesn’t know what he is talking about; if only Gordon had a microphone and we could hear what he is saying.

Adam – Black or White

He has struggled to make it in Hollywood for years. He moved there right after high school and realized how difficult it is making it in the business. He thinks his failures have thickened his skin. His mom says it’s not about success, and his dad reminds her success if good too. Ryan is now seated on the stage introducing Adam. I wonder if they plan out ahead of the show where he will be for every introduction or if he just makes it up as her goes. Can Adam make it through this song without grabbing his crotch or breaking a windshield? He starts without a microphone stand and sings his way to the front of the stage. He has such a clear voice you can hear every word clearly and he seems to particularly emphasis the word equality. Perhaps a not so subtle reminder to some people that being gay or straight doesn’t matter. Maybe he could change the lyrics from Black or White to Gay or Straight. I guess that would be a little too obvious. This is the most original vocal performance of the night, and the best. He has so much passion and intensity when he performs he breaths life into the music. Sure there are probably some prissy and boring people sitting at home watching right now frightened by the screaming man with the emo hairstyle. For those people, I suggest you put your Lawrence Welk best of DVD in and watch that instead. Adam has complete control of the stage and when the song gets intense the lights darken and Adam approaches the judges’ table with his head down in an almost menacing method. Anoop should take notes on how to appear ‘mean’ while he sings. When the song returns to the normal happy vibe he goes back to his playful personality. A lesser contestant (anyone other than Danny) could have sang this song totally karaoke, but not Adam, this is an original performance. The audience gives him the loudest ovation of the night and Paula tells him to take it all in. She says never in the history of Idol have they ever seen someone so comfortable and seasoned on the stage. She thinks he has an innate ability to know who he is an artist. He marries fashion with music and has the whole package. She predicts with all her heart we will see her run all the way to the end into the finals. Adam is crying a little. Simon says the performance was in a totally different league than anything else they saw tonight. Now Adam is really getting emotional. Simone says the only way to make Michael Jackson work is to be over the top and yet comfortable and Adam accomplished that difficult feat. Randy says since day one Adam has been the most current and right now contestant. He thinks he could make a hit record right because he has it. Kara says he hit notes she didn’t’ know existed and she hopes Michael Jackson is watching this tonight. Adam apparently never imagined Michael might be watching right now and the mere suggestion he might be gives Adam the OMG face. Ryan walks on stage and says, “Well that worked.” He asks Adam how he makes it look so seamless and Adam says it took a lot of rehearsal to make it all work. Paula cannot understand how no one snatched up Adam as a recording artist already and Simon reminds her there are still about 10 weeks left in the show. Matt is up next and as they go to commercial he is pretending to apply make up to the make up artist. It would have been a lot funnier if Scott did that joke instead.

Matt – Human Nature

Ryan introduces Matt from the pit of screaming fans. The pit is filled with teenage girls and one random guy that might be playing for the other team. Matt grew up in Michigan and was very energetic and close with his family. He played shirtless ping-pong with his dad growing up. Remembering those days makes his father cry; his dad must have lost a lot of ping-pong games. Matt is on the piano and his playing, for tonight at least, sounds a little better than Scott’s. Finally in front of his piano his movements look more natural. He is not doing karaoke and sounds very good. He is a Justin Timberlake feel about him on this song. His voice is pleasant if not spectacular, but when he jumps into his falsetto he has some major pitch issues. During an extended run of falsetto notes near the end he is going horribly flat. When he finishes the song I think he knows he almost got it perfect, until he reached the falsetto notes. He looks a little disappointed when he gets up from the piano bench. Unfortunately, he has to follow Adam; if he went after right after Anoop he’d be looking like a young Billy Joel. Randy says it was a good performance despite a couple pitch problems. He thinks he has the Robin Thicke Justin Timberlake vibe. Kara says he is talented and hopes she gets to see him for many weeks. The judges are flying through their comments; the show must be in danger or running way over. God forbid the local Fox affiliates lose 2 minutes of the 10 o’clock news – the world could end! Paula calls talented, sexy, amazing, authentic and says she is blown away. Simon calls him very good even after following Adam. He says it was a meat and potatoes performance. Ryan doesn’t have time to converse with Matt so he quickly gives out his number and reminds everyone to be careful when dialing for Alexis.

Alexis – Dirty Diana

She grew up in Memphis surrounded by the blues. Her father has been a musician since before Alexis was born and says Alexis was influenced by music at a very young age. Alexis loves her daughter and knows she can accomplish her dreams of becoming a singer. Alexis is wearing very short shorts tonight trying to spike up her sex appeal. She starts the song reserved and almost quiet until she hits the chorus. Then she opens up into her big voice and almost screams the words. She is making the song original, but she is putting so much into the vocals her voice cracks a little; she is over singing. Every time she goes for a big note she squats down a little. Once or twice a song this move is ok, but she keeps doing it and it’s getting a little distracting. By the time she reaches the big power note at the end it’s short and anticlimactic. I think she ran out of energy or breath. This is not nearly as good as her previous performance, but even though her vocals are not up to her standards, she is a totally different person tonight on stage. She has confidence, a new style, and no longer looks like a shy little girl. If she can calm herself down and sing under control she can stay around longer than the other girls. Kara says Alexis is back and the judges are so happy to have her back. She says she was a naughty girl and she liked it. Paula wants her to watch the over singing. Simon says it was a little over the top and probably not as good as she thought it was. Randy thought it was good, but not great and loved her attitude. Maybe the judges should always be this rushed. The quickly sum up what they want to say and don’t waste time arguing with and undressing each other. If the judges always moved this fast maybe the contestants could sing an entire song instead of a shortened two minute version. Ryan warns people to dial carefully on this new number and explains they had to find an available number. They ended up with 36 because that’s how many people they had in the previous round. Did the phone sex people actually buy up every phone number up to 35? I guess if they were in a real pinch they could just give out Ryan’s cell phone number and he could keep a running tally all night of how many calls he received. Ryan says tomorrow night will feature a surprise move that could change the competition. Simon says it will give the judges more power and Ryan says it almost changes the entire theme of the show. This is the year of the judges having more power so why not give them even more. Heck just get rid of the fans voting at home and have Simon send someone packing each week.

Final Thoughts

Lil’s left shoulder still looks like it’s going to prom. Scott still picked the wrong song. Danny is still having a lot of fun. Michael is still not alone. Jasmine is still there but not might be tomorrow. Kris is still cool with his guitar. Allison is still incredibly mature on stage for her age. Anoop is still beating it. Jorge is in way over his head. Megan is still a quirky bird. Adam is still the best. Matt is still cool on the piano. Alexis is still not as dirty as Diana. The Idols are lined up on stage behind Ryan as he signs off. They are not in the order of performance, so maybe people are standing next to their closest friends or maybe the producers lined them up this way. Few things on Idol seem to happen without a purpose. After the first night of the Top 13 it looks like an impending battle between Danny and Adam; they outclassed everyone. Michael surprised me by singing pretty well, but I think his limit is maybe top 6. Kris and Matt are both cute and sang well enough to be safe. Megan was her quirky loveable self and should be safe. Alexis had some issues with her over singing, but she will be safe as well. Lil Rounds and Scott had the unenviable task of beginning the show, but they did well enough to survive. Allison is becoming more and more like Kelly Clarkson when she does the rock songs and if she stays around for awhile could be a serious threat to the Danny-Adam showdown. Anoop needs to figure this show out before his luck runs out. We’ve seen him perform three times and two of those times he picked the wrong song. The only time he picked the right song he sang one he had already performed. He needs to quickly show he can do more than just sing ‘My Prerogative.’ He has a big fan base so despite his mediocre performance, he should be safe. The only two obvious choices to depart this week are Jasmine and Jorge. Jasmine had her second chance and again let the judges down. In a few years she might stand a chance, but this competition is just too big for her limited skills. Jorge earned his spot in the Top 13 on his personality and his tears. He is a feel good story but he didn’t make anyone feel good when he sang tonight. Unless Puerto Rico votes en mass for Jorge like Hawaii did for Jasmine a few seasons ago, he has almost no chance of avoiding elimination. If America does the right thing, Jorge and Jasmine will be leaving the show tomorrow night. I hope the new power the judges granted themselves does not subvert the will of America, at least not yet.


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