Thursday, March 26, 2009

Welcome to the Motown Sock-Hop! AI top 10

Simon looks happier this week. Maybe it's because it's Motown instead of Country... or he's laughing at Paula's koosh skirt. Me, I'm wary. I'm armed with the collected Greatest Hits of Smokey, Marvin, the Supremes, Stevie, the Temps, and the Tops. Simon, heh, says, "I'm not looking forward to this, exactly." Cautious optimism, that's us. We're like this.

The Idols got to tour Hitsville, where Smokey Robinson and Gordy Berry personally implore them not to slaughter any of their classics. It's an amazing tour - or at least we get to see the most amazing three minutes of it. Smokey says, "Pretty much every Motown song you've heard was recorded in this studio." Allison - "Papa Was a Rolling Stone?" Smokey - "Right in this room."

Well, they certainly have an embarrassment of riches to choose from tonight, so no more "I lost the coin flip" complaints.

Matt's first. "I never imagined I'd play piano for Smokey Robinson," he says. Yeah, my brain would break if I had to do that. He's going after Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On." He starts alone on the piano and then they pick up the tempo and he jumps up to get rockin'. Started very well but it somehow goes a bit sideways with the full accompaniment. Can't quite put my finger on why. Still good, but there are some off notes. (Nor am I a fan of the shirt/tie/v-neck sweater combo.) Randy likes it, Kara says he's solid and coming out of his shell, Paula likes how he doesn't try to overdo the riffing (quite right), but "you're respectful." It's comfy like old blue jeans, she says. Simon - "You are now one of the front runners in this competition." (But he said the middle was a bit corny. It wasn't just me.) I give Matt three out of Four Tops.

The full performances on iTunes this week will be backed by the original Motown instrumental tracks. In other words - KARAOKE. You're kidding. That is slops.

Next, it's Freddie Prinze III Hal Sparks - er, Kris with a K. He's doing "How Sweet it Is to Be Loved By You." The rehearsal snippet is really great. The performance proper channels a lot of the James Taylor cover, from the tempo to the backup singer's Carly Simon harmony. He sounds excellent, though; a little less on the showmanship but better on the vocal than Matt.

K - not Marvin, not JT.
NF - well, more JT than Marvin. But I agree with her a little on the phrasing. (Alas, I forgot to write down what she actually said about the phrasing, only that I agreed with it. Sowry!)
P - great job, good high-A note at the end, or whatever it was. (HAHAHAHAHA)
S - you're competing well, but you need more self-belief, even how you're standing now. You could be at a bus stop. To be a star you need to be conceited. ("Like Simon!" someone chirps.)

I missed Randy's comment, but I don't care right now. Late, tired, DVR is grouchy. No rewind. 3½ tops.

Scott is "going to the baby grand." Is that like Warner Wolf going to the videotape? First, he has to flee the Coke Toadstools. He's just gotta be me, he says. He's going to take risks without losing the piano. He sings "You Can't Hurry Love." Simon normally hates when the singer grabs a song first done by the opposite sex, but Phil Collins covered this effectively. Rehearsal is way slow. Performance starts the same way, on the chorus, and then sets off. He's arranged it... well... was that arrangement or did he just boof the lyric? He smushed half of verse one with half of verse two. It was probably on purpose, but odd. I like the backup singers out there at the piano. Better in the second half than the first.

P - very enjoyable, like what's in my slurppy cup.*
S - thinks it's the wrong song, the piano sounded "honky-tonk." He's heard it "a million billion times." (Sagan Strikes!) "You're better than that," he says wearily. R agrees, K thinks he messed with the melody and didn't execute. I say 2½ tops.

*I mistyped "slurpy" but then decided the extra 'p' was perfect in context.

Scott says he wants to do a piano/voice piece, no other accompaniment. He also had a different song choice but went back to this. It was "Reach Out and Touch." Simon, immediately - "Much better. Should have done that." Paula, frustrated, says Simon is acting like a six-year old and dives under the table for... uhm... Simon is horrified at this turn of events, and Ryan is like "Uh, we can't show this." She comes back up with coloring books and crayons for Simon. (Maybe he can find a crayon the color of poor Scott's pants.) And when we come back - Megan sings Stevie Wonder. Oh $?#&*^(!^%%e#.

When we return, Paula reveals (ewewew- oh wait, just verbally) that she has an arsenal of kid toys in her Koosh Dress. Kara - "Oh, God." Agreed. I just want her to pass the slurppy cup before we deal with this impending Epic Fail. Smokey has heard Megan's rehearsal, and kindly calls her "original." She's singing "For Once in My Life." Oh, merciful heavens. It knew it wasn't illness, she's doing all the same weird overpronouncing and hitting notes in the key of Q. It's like a dentist's drill boring into my skull. Ugly. Painful. And for crying out tears - how can she look and dress like a normal, pretty woman during the rehearsals and then come out on stage looking like that? The whole outfit is tragic - ugly dress, some wooden toy blocks on a necklace (maybe from Paula's stash), a flower in her hair like Lola from the Copacabana. It's like a thrift store exploded and she simply wore what landed on her. And the singing is WORSE. Simon looks like he wants to flee the premises.

R - train wreck, horrible.
K - should have sung "My Guy." This song dominated you.
P - she looks stunning. [To put it kindly.] But she agrees. Says it was confusing; thought she sang it in too low a key, and then it was in too high a key.
S - whomever is advising you, I would fire. You are in serious trouble.

I told you she should have been sent away. Zero tops. Negative tops, even. DO NOT WANT.

Anoop is next, singing (sigh) "Ooh Baby Baby." Smokey - "Can't wait to hear it!" I love it, he's like a kid at Christmas. One of my songs? Wow, awesome! Ladybug - "Smokey hasn't given a single piece of advice yet, and we're on the fifth person. It's all 'I wouldn't change a thing!'" HAHAHAHAHAHA!

We're off. Holy cow, you know, Anoop is actuall reaching these notes. He took the song down to a great key for him, and he is getting on top of all the high tenor stuff. He saved himself last week and he's making it pay off. He even hit that last high falsetto note. Holy cow. This was not teh suq. In fact it was pretty good.

K - only a very few off notes, you have a skill set, push it more, be creative in the melodies.
P - wow it's tough to sing in front of a legend like this.
S - they do it every week.
P - you're not a legend!
NF - he means the mentors, Einstein.

There's more advice I miss because the Official Puppy decides to audition. There was something about needing to be a recording star at the end, not just a competent performer of musicals. 3 tops.

It's Ricky Bobby Time. Mike Sarver is taking "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" to church; he means he's going to sing it off the cuff. Testify! Smokey actually has something to say about that: "You have a big voice - pound it more. Don't be sweet. This is your last chance with your woman." (Mike should just sing one of his songs. It works.) This is kind of eh. In trying to rough up his voice he's losing his way completely. Odd notes, odd phrasing. Not my style. He doesn't have the voice or the range for a song like this.

P - this was kind of Vegas, sorry. (Boos!) This is hard! You need to drive that song. (She's stealing advice from Kara!) The A-notes were all wrong. (HA - this week's Secret Word is "A-notes." Take a shot!)
S - you can't win with a vocal like that. I couldn't wait for it to end. Forget that rubbish about dominating the songs, just pick something that works for you and sing.
R -not the right song. You're not really an R & B guy. Tried to do too much with it.
K - we need artistry; what can you bring of yourself to the song?

Ricky Bobby isn't tore up about it - "I can turn arown and sang," he says. It's his thing, do what he wanna do. (And hey, no Isely Brothers yet?)

NF - I'm giving him one top, is that all right?
LB - It's OK, I didn't care for it.

Lil is gonna rock out Martha and the Vandella's "Heat Wave." Smokey drops the phone book line on us, and then he and Lil bond over the Detroit experience. Lil just wants to make Martha and Diana and Aretha proud, and even though Aretha's with Atlantic Records I'm sure she appreciates it.

I like the old-school flair of the dress and hairstyle. The actual singing is poor, however. Pitch problems all over, even to my less-than-apt ears. Good energy but the vocal is a great disappointment. Good song choice executed very poorly. She was way better in the rehearsal.

R - should have done a slower song.
K - you should have nailed this song this week. We need more from you. You even screamed a little and you have a powerful voice, you don't need to, you should just sing.
P - disagrees with Randy and Kara, because she's listening to the original on an iPod concealed in her koosh dress.
S - a nice authentic homage - but bad song choice. He suggests "Heard it Through the Grapevine." (I suggest "Nowhere to Run" if she wanted to stick to Martha and the Vandellas.) "You could have had a moment there tonight and you didn't get there. Lest we forget, you're one of the finest singers in this competition."
P - "You could run for President!"
NF - She's not 35 yet. Even Taylor Hicks can't run for President. It's the opposite of the age rules for your program, actually, the program you've been on for more than seven years, in the country you've lived in for six times that long. Two tops for Lil.

Adam's up next, looking like a young Elvis right down to the shiny suit. First, though, the Moheghan Sun hotel and casino would like to rummage through my childhood memories and smash whatever it finds - thanks for Meganizing Toto's "Hold the Line," guys, I'm going right to Foxwoods and you can take a great big flying jump.

OK, at this point, I actually lost my notes, due to circumstances - no, due to my doofusness. Luckily I don't need notes to remember how completely brilliant Adam was. He geeked out in front of Smokey and then sang "Tracks of My Tears." Far and away the best of the night - it's like he was from another planet. Standing O, including from Smokey and Gordy. I'm actually buying the live version on iTunes, and I never do stuff like that. Six Tops and a Temptation. It's not even close.

In a perfectly just world, Megan would be following since she's a dead girl singing anyway. Unfortunately it falls to Super Saiyen Gokay to follow that landmark performance. He's singing "Get Ready, Here I Come," and while it's not bad, of course it suffers a bit in the comparison. Smokey gave him a bit of actual advice in the rehearsal - "You're pausing where the backup singers take over. You should sing those parts too. 'It's all right... It's outta sight.'" Danny agrees with Smokey, and then ignores him during the performance. If I find my notes I'll share the judges' remarks, which at this point had to be compressed. Simon said amateurish, I think. It was nothing to rush out and buy, to be sure. Three tops - I'm trying not to mark the guy down because of Adam's performance.

Allison closes the show - she flubs the lyric in the rehearsal and Smokey warns her to mind the words on the night. She's choosing "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," which is rather a bad idea. The song is seven minutes long, and even if you cut the intro there's a lot you lose. She has to smoosh verses together. She flubs the lyric again ("Talkin' 'bout savin' souls, all the time leachin'... Dealing in dirt, and stealing in the name of the Lord.") She concentrated too much on the line leading into it and lost her place. Her voice is still as good as ever but this went off the rail a bit on her. Heh, Simon graffiti'd a moustache on Paula in crayon! 2½ tops for the song, four tops for Simon.

Bottom three -
1. Megan, Megan, and Megan some more.
2. Mike Sarver is also on the block. I'm torn on the other choice. Allison was already in the bottom three (not quite deserved) so closing the show like this may be big trouble, but Scott and Lil could fill this spot. Heck, I'll choose...
3. Lil.

Na na, hey hey, goodbye - oh, how Megan does deserve it, but she is so clearly horrible that she isn't splitting the odious VFTW block. Probably Mike instead, but if I'm wrong, how right it would be.

(You are directed to high-quality snark here. Click it! Go!)

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