Thursday, March 25, 2010

American Idol Season 9 - Top 11: March 23, 2010

Top 11 - Billboard Hot 100 #1 Hits Week - March 23, 2010

At least this year, they narrowed down the theme from everyone's favorite, the disastrous "Top Downloads". Still, sometimes having themes this broad (how many #1 hits have there been in Billboard's history?) can prove dangerous. And tonight, it did.

Lee Dewyze - "The Letter" (originally by the Box Tops) B+

I LOVE this song. I must say Lee's version was not the best I've heard of it, but I give him props for choosing a great song and doing something solid with it. Which is more than I can say for some of these other contestants. However, for a truly fantastic version of "The Letter", you HAVE to check out the Michael Johns/Carly Smithson duet which they performed live in Season 8 at some results show or other. It blows the mind. The second half of Lee's performance definitely shone brighter than the first.

Paige Miles - "Against All Odds" (originally by Phil Collins) C+

I really don't think this was as bad as everyone made it out to be. She sounds a bit breathy, but it works with the vulnerability of the song. I could have done without some of the runs however. The opposite of Lee, the first half of the song was much better for Paige. Overall, the performance was a bit sleepy, but it wasn't a disaster, in my opinion.

Tim Urban - "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (originally by Queen) B+

OK, so here is a song I am not at all a fan of. I love most songs by Queen, but this song always gets to me. The judges may have criticized both Tim's vocals and his stage movements, but I loved all of it as usual. Maybe it was the comparison Kara made to Zac Efron that got me. I give Tim extra points for that awesome stage slide. I can't wait for him to pick a better song than this though.

Aaron Kelly - "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" (originally by Aerosmith) A

Interesting fact - this is Aerosmith's first and only #1 song. I won a trivia contest based on that question when I was 13. But anyway. Aaron's version was beautiful, with just the right amount of country added into the vocal. This is MORE than worth a download, especially considering that he was sick for this performance. The song came off very effortless, although the backup singers were very annoying. Aaron has come a LONG WAY in terms of stage presence, in fact I think he has made the most improvements in this area of all the contestants.

Crystal Bowersox - "Me and Bobby McGee" (originally by Janis Joplin) A-

A very smooth and incredible rendition of a very iconic song. Unless you can put your own spin on it or sing just as well, this is a difficult song to sing live. I liked how she sang the song in a way I can only describe as "pretty". It was nice to see from her, as Crystal usually puts a more gritty tone into things. I also liked the arrangement; it meshed well with Crystal's vocal. She made the song her own, but stayed true to the original.

Michael Lynche - "When A Man Loves A Woman" (originally by Percy Sledge) A-

A beautiful performance. I was shocked that Kara wasn't just as touched by this performance as she was by the lyrically similar "A Woman's Work" in the semi-final round. This version is worth a download, although Big Mike may have tried to tackle a few too many vocal runs, when the song didn't need quite as many. He definitely connected with the song and it showed. I loved that last note.

Andrew Garcia - "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (originally by Marvin Gaye) C

This song is a true soul classic and a song that I grew up on. And I don't think Andrew truly did it justice. The first time I watched his performance on TV, I thought it was fairly solid and that it was his best performance in a while. But when I listen back to the audio alone, I cringe. I don't like the way he pronounces the words in this song and his vocals don't really seem to match the music of the song.

Katie Stevens - "Big Girls Don't Cry" (originally by Fergie) B+

It seemed Katie, who has been criticized for seeming robot-like, had a lot of fun with the song. She showed a lot of ease as she performed and shockingly, made me like this horrible song which usually makes me switch the radio station. Who knew this song featured a line about UNO cards? Maybe if I had known that a little earlier, I would have liked the Fergie version better. Katie's voice sounded clear and pure.

Casey James - "The Power of Love" (originally by Huey Lewis & the News) A-

Simon criticized Casey for sounding like an 80's cover band, which is probably exactly why I liked this fun performance. Casey always seems at ease, unlike some other contestants. If Casey was the lead singer in an 80's cover band, I think I would be first in line outside the bar. Maybe Casey can parlay this to become the successor for Constantine when he eventually leaves Rock of Ages on Broadway. You heard it here first!

Didi Benami - "You're No Good" (originally by Linda Rondstat) C+

I was not very impressed with Didi's performance. I am not sure which I liked less - the song or her vocals. Some combination of both I suppose. I didn't agree with the judges that Didi was trying to play a role, she looked more beautiful than she has ever looked, and seemed to be having a good time. But in the end, this was a forgettable performance. Even Didi herself may want to forget this one.

Sibohan Magnus - "Superstition" (originally bye Stevie Wonder) B-

I am a fan of Sibohan's, I must say. Her version of "House of The Rising Sun" was transcendent and even won over my mom, who has claimed that song as her favorite probably since it was released. Yet, I couldn't get excited over "Superstition". The glory note/scream/patented Siobhan move was a bit out of place in this song, which is more of a midtempo in comparison to "Paint It Black" or "Think". Sibohan may have the best voice of them all (see her "House of the Rising Sun" or "Wicked Game" performances) but she needs to use when to use that scream effectively and when not to.

Best of the night: Aaron
Worst of the night: Andrew

Thursday, March 18, 2010

American Idol Season 9 - Top 12: March 16, 2010

Top 12 - Rolling Stones Week - March 16, 2010

Yes, it is back, my weekly recap of American Idol. I missed writing it. For some reason I want to start this entry the way Randy Jackson would, "yo yo dawg, look, season nine, alright, it's going to be HOT". But I won't.

Anyway, it was Rolling Stones week, which is sort of an interesting choice for a show like American Idol. Since the Stones are definitively one of the greatest RNR bands of all time, I was intrigued to see what the contestants could do with their catalog.

Michael Lynche - "Miss You" B+

A good solid performance from Big Mike, who continues to ham it up like he's on a cruise ship. And somehow it is incredibly entertaining. It was sort of a jazzy arrangement, which suited Mike's powerful voice. I hear this kind of song from Mike and it takes me back about 45 years to the Motown sound - awesome. He has a nice falsetto and the song was in his range. I liked this performance even better the second time I heard it.

Didi Benami - "Play With Fire" A-

A very subversive and eerie, to use Kara's word, performance by Didi that really resonated with me. An interesting song choice as it is not one of their immediately recognizable songs. She put a good emotion into the song and infused it with something darker. The slowed-down arrangement added to the overall haunting tone of the song. Didi won me over with this performance.

Casey James - "It's All Over Now" B

As Randy would say, I liked it, I didn't love it. Certainly a good performance with a few moments but not something I would take the time necessarily to download. Although since it is Casey, and he is probably one of my favorites in this competition, I probably would. I like the bluesy rock vibe he has throughout this performance and the way he takes the song in a ever-so-slightly different direction than the original.

Lacey Brown - "Ruby Tuesday" D+

Oh no. My least favorite performance of the night, although not the worst I've ever heard. I never could bring myself to be a huge fan of Lacey. I thought she should have gone home the last semi-final week - Katelyn, Lily, and Alex all deserved to stay longer than her. (I think everyone's already forgotten about Todrick. Whoops.) Lacey's unusual voice and tone did not suit this song.

Andrew Garcia - "Gimmie Shelter" C-

I think I am supposed to like Andrew Garcia. But I don't, not really. He is no Matt Giraud. *sigh* But anyway, back to this performance, it was a bit of a mess. The judges have been beating a dead horse with their constant badgering to make a connection to the song. But the lack of connection to this very powerful song was impossible to deny. He could have been singing "Genie In A Bottle" for all I cared. Wait, that was last week.

Katie Stevens - "Wild Horses" A-

One of Katie's best performances, and certainly an improvement from "Breakaway" or "Put Your Records On". I could imagine hearing her cover of this song on the radio. Yet a part of me still wonders what a singer like Carly Smithson could have done with this song. Katie's version was pretty, especially the very last part of the song, and worth a download. High praise to be sure!

Tim Urban - "Under My Thumb" B-

I am not sure what to make of this performance. I like everything about Tim, to that aw-shucks crooked smile of perfect teeth, the shaggy hair, and oh wait, the voice. I know the reggae arrangement did NOT work for this song, and neither did the heinous back up vocals. Tim's voice was solid, and I voted for him the majority of the night, but mainly to see what he would do next week, rather than on the merits of this performance.

Sibohan Magnus - "Paint It Black" A-
Each week, in same way or other, I am impressed by Siobhan. And this week was no exception. This performance also prompted one of the season's best quotes from Ellen: "You rise above like Snooki’s poof." Sibohan has the talent to put a great amount of emotion and inflection to each song, more than any other Season 9 contestant to be sure. Her voice has a lot of texture to it, this pure and dark angst, and I honestly believe anything that she sings.

Lee Dewyze - "Beast Of Burden" B

Don't get me wrong, I like Lee. But come on, am I the only one who thinks he is a poor man's David Cook? I have to say I preferred Lee's version of "Fireflies" that managed to positively transform one of the most hideous songs that has ever made my ears bleed. This was pretty good as performances go, but a little bit forgettable. There is going to be a breakout, standout moment for Lee, and it is going to happen soon.

Paige Miles - "Honky Tonk Woman" B+

For someone who was incredibly sick, this was a great performance. The only thing that threw me off was the gender-switching lyrics. Oh yeah, and the references to cocaine use! COME ON, was I the only one who noticed this? Yes? OK. Anyway, Paige did a great job with this song. Do I think she's the next American Idol? No. But I still enjoy some of her performances, especially the stellar energetic cover of Kelly Clarkson's "Walk Away".

Aaron Kelly - "Angie" A-

Oh Aaron, you are so cute. I have to say it was hilarious to find out his mom's name is Kelly Kelly. Why did none of the blog recaps mention this? Such an obvious joke! Aaron put a bit of country stylings in this song, which makes me realize it would actually be incredible as a country song! For that reason alone, I am bumping up Aaron's grade. Worth downloading. But babe, the Ellen hair has got to go.

Crystal Bowersox - "You Can't Always Get What You Want" B+

A great, soulful way to close off the show. Crystal is so effortless I don't think viewers even realize how talented she is. Her voice sounds very Tracy Chapman, very Melissa Etheridge, with a hint of Duffy in this song. An interesting mix to be sure. I was impressed, but not falling off my chair.

Best of the night: Didi
Worst of the night: Lacey