Wednesday, March 18, 2009

THIS... is American Idol - the good eleven

OK, dramatic lighting, tense music, really bad wardrobe choices - Adam looks like he fled a Flock of Seagulls tribute band. Simon, on the other hand, looks dressed-down and uh-tuhly bored. Maybe because it's Country Week. Simon loves him his Country Week. They should throw him a bone and sing a country song by a non-country act, something like Squeeze's "Labelled With Love" or "Diggin'" by the Seatbelts.

Oh, it's restricted to Grand Ole Opry House Members. They play an audio bed of THE MAN, Johnny Cash. That may be the highlight of the night, unless this week's svengali, Randy Travis, can share some of his magic twang. "Well, I can tell you 'bout training horses," he tells Mike Sarver. Too late, Kristy Lee was on last season. Well, if Randy can't help, maybe St. Patrick will intercede for the poor audience on his big day. And there's always snark to look forward to! (SarahK's snark is here, if you're so inclined, and you should be, dawg.)

Mike "Ricky Bobby" Sarver, Texas native, is singing something with a whole lotta words. "Don't lose the words, your chances of jumpin' back in aren't great," RT tells him. He doesn't lose the words, but I rather wish he had, just for kicks. The vocals aren't bad but this song has the range of a nose tackle, and he's not enough of a showman to bridge the gap. He looks like what he is - a genuine country boy enjoying a fun song, and while that's good, it isn't bringing me in.

Randy gets booed for pointing out all of that. Kara misses the big notes from Ricky Bobby, but he's glad he remembered the words. Paula disagrees with me and compliments him on the harmonica player - which is kind of like complimenting your computer screen for this post. Simon couldn't understand the words at all. RB - "The country folks did." S - "It may as well have been Norwegian." Says he didn't come across as a star, but as a likeable clumsy guy who enjoys country music. RB - "If we were perfect, we wouldn't need this show!" S - "Good point." Then he gives him a 1.2 out of 10 (ooof); I'd say it was a 4, which is still not great.

Allison's turn. "Don't do too much, just sing with the pipes you got," RT tells her. She rocks out to "Blame it on Your Heart." Much better than Ricky Bobby. Lively, connected to the audience. Kara, trying to replace the "phone book" cliché, says that she could sing the alphabet. I think that she could sing the periodic table. I think they should think of other things to sing that aren't singable in order to compliment singers. (My brain hurts now.) Paula, still in Reverse World, says that she'd like to see Allison stretch and be more vulnerable. Simon thought she may have struggled a touch with the lyrics (Allison: "No."), but "rock-solid" vocally. Randy calls it "dope." Simon calls it "precocious." It's supercaligroovingsingingexpidoprecocious.

Kris Allen - "Make You Feel My Love" - sitting and singing w/o his guitar. (I know, I typed that whole 80-letter word and then dropped an abbreviation for without. And then typed three lines about the whole situation. It's really late, and I'm punchy.) RT says that Kris is a strong balladeer who makes the song his. True that. He doesn't sound country on this at all. It's a great vocal. P says "vulnerable" as a compliment. "Vulnerable" is her Secret Word of the Week. Take a slug of Guinness every time she says it and you can be as loopy as her by the end of the night. S - "terrific." Agreed. "Great choice of song, completely in control." Randy calls him "tender dawg," and that is kind of offputting, you know? Kara makes it four thumbs up.

Lil Rounds has only heard country music on movie soundtracks. Someone buy that girl Ray Charles' "New Sounds in Country and Western," stat. She sings "Independence Day" and wants to "honor the country" [the genre, not the United States] by keeping the R & B back a bit. RT tells her to slow down and she'll be fine.

The pedal steel is a nice touch, but the verses are middling. Chorus is bigger and better, shows off her power. Her outfit looks a little like she's stuck in a dinner napkin at a nice restaurant. R - agrees with me. Boooooo! "Just keeping it real." Lil wanted to show more than R & B, defends her song choice. K - agrees, but props for standing her artistic ground. P loves all things, from vocals to outfit. (Erin go whaaa?) Should have cut one verse to get to the big stuff sooner. S - "Oh, of course." Heheheheh. He calls her "Little" instead of "Lil," gets corrected seventeen times or so, and says she sang like someone requested a song at a wedding, and she sang like a duty, not because she wanted to. "There are a million billion songs," he says. See, Carl Sagan was right.

It's Lord Emo's turn. Yikes, he's got cleavage, which he's trying to hide with a Chevron gas station logo. He is performing a Zepellin-inflected "Ring of Fire." RT is completely flummoxed: "I don't see too many guys with black nail polish." Ladybug and I are howling. We remember Trace Adkins last year in the Celebrity Apprentice finale: "I had t'go buy black nail polish. Not fer mah wife - fer some DUDE." We're cracking each other up by saying "wheat-grass juice" is a heavy country accent.

The song is very odd - but hear me out - I think it worked. Johnny Cash, remember, sang with U2 on Zooropa, and that worked. I think he'd get behind this performance. The vocal was wonderful, especially the wailing high notes, which are darn hard to pull off. I didn't care for the weird gyrating or camera-mugging, however. K - "Adam does country!" Uhm - which country? This wasn't even from our planet. P - "True to yourself as an artist." She steals my Zep reference. Grrrrr. I should Twitter this. S - "Don't go to Nashville. They're all probably throwing their television sets out the window. I thought it was absolute indulgent rubbish." Heheheheh. R - "Nine Inch Nails does country, it was HOT!" Ladybug likes the NIN reference. RT is aghast in the audience, but still gentlemanly. It's a remarkable expression.

Scott McIntyre - "Wild Angels." RT - "I didn't tell him this, but I thought, 'not good,'" when he heard the song choice. This show cracks me up. He also tells Scott to pick up the pace a bit. His lowest notes are barely in reach, but going up on the chorus helps him. Tough to judge, following Adam LeBon like that. I'm going to say not that good, maybe a 5 or 6. P - "Solid, impressive." She's in Cloud Cuckoo Land tonight. She then adds that the piano is a bit of a crutch, it hides him from the audience. Scott - "Could we move it closer?" Hahahaha! S - "That's stupid." P - "That's disrespectful!" S - "You're disrespectful. He's comfortable back there. Elton John stays back there. Should he come out from behind the piano?" He says Scott just needs to choose better songs. "THAT'S disrespectful!" someone tells Simon, but at this point even pause and play was too confusing. He says that to nearly everyone. So do all the judges. Help, I am confoozled. They end by making jokes about Billy Joel/Bruce Hornsby/Ray Charles Week so Scott can sing without the piano.

Alexis to the rescue! She loves country music, and will sing "Jolene." RT approves. (Alexis does look rather like a pixyish, punkish Dolly.) It's a good arrangement but she is behind the music, trying to catch up. Vocals are somewhat off. I do like her emotional connection to the song. K thought it was flat; R thought it was pitchy. P liked it better than they did, because happy slurpy sippy cup. S - "it was a little sound-alike." Alexis - whut? S - "meaning, it sounded too much like who you were singing; forgettable." Sad but true. She should skate on the strength of previous weeks, but this was a misstep. So much for my rescue.

Now it's Super Saiyen Gokay, singing "Jesus Take the Wheel." [Aside - the song kind of annoys me just a bit. Jesus is NOT your chaffeur, He isn't going to just steer your car when you completely bail out on driving.] RT made him nervous and he flubbed the words in rehearsal... repeatedly. Poor guy. You just want to hug the big ol' goof (if you're the Ladybug). RT - "I hope he's close to 100% on the night." Close? "But he has a soulfulness most of us wish we had." RT = true gentleman. But yeah, will Jesus take the mic if Gokay forgets the words tonight?

Gokay's shaky early - he has the words but not the notes. Hits the chorus and the stage lights up, turning him into a blinding pillar of music. Do not look directly into the performance! It's Touched by a Saiyen. It was a terrific finish after a bleh opening. K agrees with me. P disagrees. (Shocka!) "He set the stage early, Carrie would buy the record." Geez, he could set the stage on key, couldn't he? S agreed with P on the vocal: "It's like light and shade, he can't scream from first to last." But he hates the jacket. "You look like you're on a polar expedition. It's 80° in Lows Anjuhless."

It's our first time watching the show on widescreen (we're not home). Ladybug notices that the bottom bar with the call-in number isn't a rectangle, as we've always believed, but has tapered ends. What else aren't you telling us, American Idol?

Oh, goody - Anoop + country. Impending fail.

We swap out for a moment to see Marty Brodeur clinch his record 552nd regular-season win. He makes a big stop with about four seconds left and beats Chicago 3-2. (And we picked Scott Scissons in 1990. I will now dunk my head in a bucket of bleach and ammonia.)

Anoop and RT are both North Cackalackians... same state, different worlds. RT liked his rehearsal. He's singing "Always on My Mind," another song I'm not down with. Gee, thanks, you thought of me, but not enough to honor our love and lifetime commitment. Yeah, romance!

But then the darndest thing happens and the whole show drops into Paula's mirror universe - the vocals are really good. He's doing very well. Plagues, forty days of darkness, dogs and cats living together... P - "Anoop is back!" (Uh, he was NEVER THERE.) S - "From zero to hero." (Oooh, good idea, they should have a Schoolhouse Rock Week!*) "One of my favorites of the night. You took a well-deserved kicking, didn't whine, came back strong, good job." R - "The arrangement was dope!" (Rugglesqwertyvussencrispenrangementdoprecocious!)

Megan's turn. She looks 40,000 times better at the rehearsal. She's singing Patsy Cline's "I Go Walking After Midnight." OK - first off, lose the dress in the nearest landfill. It's unflattering, ugly, scary. Sadly, it doesn't distract from the dreadful, over-pronounced vocals. This was strange and horrible. Those twin hammocks... egad, what a train wreck.

R - liked it. (What?) Mentions that she was sick during the week.
K - liked it AND the outfit. (WHAT??) Mentions that she had the flu. (It must be catching.)
P - liked it AND Megan was in the hospital and back this week. (Is this a Python sketch? What the blazes is happening?)
S - You should have the flue every night, better than last week. (I dunno, I think that cawing would have improved the vocals.) Surprised he didn't up the ante on the sickness and said she walked to the hospital and back, through the snow, uphill both ways.

Matt is singing more Carrie. Paula is smelling Simon's forearm. This whole night is officially spacebug insane. Matt is playing the piano and singing a song I don't recognize. It's a very good arrangement (just lose the strings), great vocal (last note was a bit off). K - amazing; P - "authentuh, authnopoly, authentic, authenticity... you're piercing hearts." S - "You don't get enough credit for your vocals. You outsang Danny tonight. You're like Michael Bublé." (I hope I got the accent right.) R - fave of the night.

My bottom three are Ricky Bobby, Lil Rounds, and HOPEFULLY Megan. The judges were way too kind to her just 'cause she was unwell. Heck, this morning the radio played her version, and then Patsy Cline's original back-to-back... the difference was unmistakeable. "Iya gow waw-KIN.... ayufter mid-nighTTTT!" Errrrrrrrrgh.

* for funsies, how would you assign the songs for a Schoolhouse Rock Week to our eleven contestants? You can leave off the one you think is going home, if you like. (I'm not picking a song for Megan.) Also - extra snark at the Snark Raving Mad, yo.

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