Wednesday, May 13, 2009

American Idol Season 8 - Top 3: May 12, 2009

Top 3 - Judges and Contestants Choice songs: May 12, 2009

Danny Gokey - "Dance Little Sister" (Paula's choice) C

This performance reminds me of karaoke, or a wedding singer. Or someone that I would be impressed with on a cruise ship. However, how many cruise ship singer/wedding singer soundtracks do YOU own (with the possible exception of The Wedding Singer soundtrack - because that is excellent)? He needed to clear his throat on this performance. His dancing was pretty bad and his vocals were tolerable. However, "tolerable" does not an American Idol make, let me tell you.

Kris Allen - "Apologize" (Randy & Kara's choice) A-

I was torn with what to give Kris on this song, an A- or a B+ so I copped out and gave him both. This slowed-down version of the song was beautiful and Kris's piano playing was very nice. The guitar in the background of the song sounded great too. Honestly the only week that Kris faltered was "All She Wants To Do Is Dance" and even that was a B performance.

Adam Lambert - "One" (Simon's choice) A-

I was very impressed that Simon got Bono's and the band's personal approval to use this song on the show. Adam did not disappoint; he made the song his own with different inflection and emphasis of the lyrics that might have been slightly absent from the original. I liked how he bookended the song with a slow start and end, but in the middle of the song, he made it a faster Broadway-rock hybrid.

Danny Gokey - "You Are So Beautiful" C+

This was okay, I suppose, but it was boring despite the new arrangement. I have a feeling this was a slightly-disguised ploy to play the emotional card yet again by Karoake Gokey. UGH. I only wish Danny would wipe that smug smirk off his face. You are not guaranteed anything Danny! My mom used to sing this song to me as a child and I must say I enjoy her version better than this. Maybe my mom can be the next American Idol.

Kris Allen - "Heartless" A

What a great version of this song! To take a rap song and make it into something aching and pretty is challenging and Kris was up to the challenge. I love how Kara couldn't refrain from including criticism in even a positive critique. Really Kara? I will download this song and listen to it over and over again. I give Kris credit for going out on a limb and making the song TRULY HIS OWN.

Adam Lambert - "Cryin'" A-

So maybe Adam didn't completely revolutionize this song by Aerosmith, but I loved it. Although since when is a song from 1993 a classic? Oh God. Does this mean I'm getting old? I remember 1993. I think I bought my first CD in 1993 (it was "The Sign" by Ace of Base in case you were wondering). Anyway - back to the performance. Adam's voice sounded great, but the backup singers were too loud and drowned out his voice. I loved his outfit and his attitude - again, he is an all-around performer. I am impressed with his on-stage confidence but seemingly sincere humility when listening to the judges. Danny could learn a thing or two from him!

Best of the night: Kris
Worst of the night: Danny

Monday, May 11, 2009

First time I heard the music, I knew it was my own

For fun, some top 5 lists:

Top 5 Metallica songs
Andrew got me thinking about this one.

5. To Live Is To Die
4. Turn The Page (cover)
3. Nothing Else Matters
2. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
1. The Unforgiven

Top 5 GNR songs
5. Knockin' On Heaven's Door
4. You're Crazy (1988 Acoustic Version from Lies)
3. November Rain
2. Rocket Queen
1. Paradise City

Top 5 Led Zeppelin songs
5. D'yer Maker
4. Over the Hills and Far Away
3. Stairway To Heaven
2. Thank You
1. All My Love

Top 5 Tesla songs

5. The Way It Is
4. Cry
3. What A Shame
2. Love Song
1. What You Give

Top 5 Skid Row songs

This one was absolutely impossible. I would have loved to include Youth Gone Wild, but I had to put on 18 And Life, because the summer of 2001, I would play this song over and over and over again on my Discman.

5. Quicksand Jesus
4. Monkey Business
3. 18 And Life
2. In A Darkened Room
1. I Remember You

Top 5 Poison songs

5. Talk Dirty To Me
4. Ride The Wind
3. Flesh and Blood (Sacrifice)
2. Lay Your Body Down
1. Life Goes On

Top 5 Aerosmith songs

5. What It Takes
4. The Other Side
3. I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing
2. Crazy
1. Love in an Elevator

Top 5 Motley Crue Songs

5. Nona
4. All In The Name Of...
3. Home Sweet Home
2. Girls Girls Girls
1. Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Songs

Getting away from the best (and cheesiest) show of my spring season - I thought I'd return a little bit to what I do best which is making long lists of my favorite songs.

What I love about Springsteen is that his songs tell a story. First and foremost, that has to be my favorite thing about his music. In a world of "oh baby baby" choruses and inane rap songs about money, cars and hoes, Springsteen's music draws you in and doesn't let you go.

My favorite Springsteen album is "The River", his double album from 1980, which I have always thought speaks volumes about my personality. The album juxtaposes very upbeat songs with very sad songs, for a really fleshed-out total experience.

From Wikipedia: Originally, the album was going to be a single set entitled The Ties That Bind and released in late 1979, but Springsteen decided it was "too pop" and added darker material after he'd written "The River". Indeed, The River became noted for its mix of the frivolous next to the solemn. This was intentional, and in contrast to Darkness, for as Springsteen said during an interview, "Rock and roll has always been this joy, this certain happiness that is in its way the most beautiful thing in life. But rock is also about hardness and coldness and being alone ... I finally got to the place where I realized life had paradoxes, a lot of them, and you've got to live with them."

But anyway - this post is not about "The River", it's about my Top 10 Springsteen songs.

1. "The River" (1980)

One of the very rare songs that makes me cry each and every time I hear it. The song is a beautiful and desperately sad story of two young people who fall in love. They are just teenagers when she gets pregnant accidentally and out of a sense of duty, he marries her. But they never feel the same passion again they did on those nights by the river.

2. "The Price You Pay" (1980)

Now they'd come so far and they'd waited so long
Just to end up caught in a dream where everything goes wrong
Where the dark of night holds back the light of day
And you've gotta stand and fight for the price you pay

The last line of the entire song is delivered with such force and emotion that on its merit alone I would include this song in my Top 10. Springsteen's voice is incredible here.

This song is about taking responsibility for your actions - as Steven Tyler once sang "Everybody's got their dues in life to pay" - where each day is a fight and you fight because you don't know how not to.

I can't embed this one unfortunately - this is an alternate take of the song with additional verse and alternate intro.

3. "I'm On Fire" (1984)

This song may be less than 3 minutes, but it manages to convey the utter desperation in the lyric and manages to give me chills. This song brings to mind rainy nights and smoky, empty bars, while a jukebox plays forlornly in the background. It captures the sadness of sitting up all night with a bottle. The backbeat is hurried and rushed, while the guitar is slow and soft. It's an interesting juxtaposition.

My favorite lyric in the song: "It's like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley through the middle of my soul."

4. "Born To Run" (1975)

The obvious choice but this song is a rock 'n roll classic for a reason. One of Springsteen's most prevalent themes is escaping this godforsaken town and getting out on the open road, and this song captures that perfectly. If you've never heard this song, you need help and I am not going to embed it here. Go turn off Z100 and put on your local classic rock station. Immediately.

5. "Cover Me" (1984)

The live version of this song on the Live 1975-1985 box set is INCREDIBLE. Another reason why I love Springsteen is because he injects such passion into his live performances and rarely disappoints. While the upbeat music behind this song belies the actual frustration of the lyric, the live version gets much closer to matching the lyric to the performance.

6. "Pink Cadillac" (1983)

A fun and upbeat song that is a great sing-along. Any song with the lyric "But my love is bigger than a Honda / It's bigger than a Subaru" deserves to be on a top 10 list any day of the week.

7. "The Fuse" (2002)

A slow-burning sexy song from Springsteen off The Rising album. It calls to mind hot sultry summer days and for some reason, ice melting. Maybe because it's just that hot.

8. "Atlantic City" (1982)

One of Springsteen's most haunting and sparse songs, this song is also a historical lesson about the struggles in Atlantic City. This was one of the first Springsteen songs that ever caught my attention, back when I was 14 and bought Bruce Springsteen's Greatest Hits (1995 version) at Circuit City - probably because the song title referenced New Jersey.

This song cuts you at your core. The acoustic nature of the song is in stark contrast to so many of Springsteen's other songs - it stands out and stays with you long after the record is over.

9. "Further On (Up The Road)" (2002)

Maybe it's a bit of an unorthodox choice to pick a recent album track from The Rising, but this song stays in my head.

10. "Fade Away" (1980)

I was going to include "All That Heaven Will Allow" from the Tunnel of Love album but I went with this song instead - mainly because it is more powerful and I've loved it far longer.

"Fade Away" is the story of a man whose love is slowly slipping away from him - their relationship hasn't been the way it used to be for a while and they can only reminisce on the great memories of the past rather than continuing to make new ones. Again - another passionate and aching song that I have always loved.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

American Idol Season 8 - Top 4: May 5, 2009

Top 4 - Rock Week - May 5, 2009

Can I just say that this is my ideal American Idol episode? Slash has always been one of my favorite musicians, and Guns N Roses one of my favorite bands. I love the concept of putting them in the club and having them rehearse with a band.

Since I am watching the episode online instead of live on TV, I'll be able to comment before hearing the judges' opinions. I have to admit that sometimes I will be swayed by their comments.

Adam Lambert - "Whole Lotta Love" A+

My first and only A+ of the season goes to Adam with this performance. I am absolutely blown away. He killed it. From the first word to the last note, this is incredible. The band was on fire, the guitar solo was hot, the lights just added to the whole performance. He is an electrifying performer and someone I would easily go to see in concert. I have never ever seen an American Idol performance like this one. Adam is a true rock star - he has the look as evidenced by his sexy hair and leather jacket last night, the charm, and the voice most importantly.

Allison Iraheta - "Cry Baby" A-

Wow, Allison's voice never sounded so good. Her voice sounds bluesy, soulful and full - she isn't straining or trying too hard. Her performance is passionate and inspired. She really owned the stage in a way she never had before. This is the kind of song she should be singing - a perfect song choice. There is no way Allison should go home after this kind of performance. After hearing the judges comments, they do not know what they're talking about - the song choice was incredible.

Kris & Danny duet - "Renegade" C+

What an odd concept to have these duets! I am not sure if I was really feelin this, dawg. Kris sounded good although his voice did crack a bit on one note. However, Danny sounded - AGAIN - like he has to clear his throat. The band sounded amazing though - they deserve credit where credit is due. Simon, how much are they paying you to praise Danny unconditionally? And Danny, could you sound ANY MORE arrogant?

Kris Allen - "Come Together" B+

A very solid performance by Kris, but I have to say I prefer Carly Smithson's version in Season 7. She put a grit and vocal quality into it that Kris didn't quite have, although his version was definitely enjoyable and well-done. I think Simon's comment about it being like "eating ice for lunch" was hilarious but not dead-on. The judges definitely threw Kris under the bus tonight. OH NO.

Danny Gokey - "Dream On" D

This was hideous. I shudder to think what Steven Tyler would say if he heard this performance. Danny's attempt at the scream at the end was painful and he was straining to CLEAR HIS THROAT. Get the man some Ricola! Everything about this performance was painful, from Danny's weird purple shirt-black vest outfit to the trying-too-hard spiked hair to his lack of stage prescence. DANNY IS NOT THE AMERICAN IDOL. Sorry Danny, I used to like you. I really did.

Allison & Adam duet - "Slow Ride" A-
This was an exciting and electrifying duet - Allison and Adam had great chemistry on stage with each other, unlike Kris and Danny who seemed to have some kind of tension. This is what a duet is supposed to be like, as Kara said - when the two people are pushing each other to be even better.

Best of the night: Adam (by a mile)
Worst of the night: Danny (by a mile)