Thursday, May 26, 2011

American Idol Season 10 - Top 2: May 24, 2011

Top 2 - May 24, 2011

So here it is, the culmination of 100,000 auditions, the devastating cuts of some astoundingly talented people, 400 proclamations of "IN IT TO WIN IT" by Randy Jackson, and almost a billion text messaging votes by people who have AT&T. The Scotty & Lauren finale.

Contestants picked their favorite performance of the season to sing first, the contestants' idols picked their second songs, and the third song was their potential first single.

1. Scotty McCreery - "Gone" A

This was definitely my favorite Scotty performance of the season; it's the kind of song that sticks in your head long after you hear it. I have never heard the original version by Montgomery Gentry so I have a feeling Scotty's voice will be the one I always associate with this song. I enjoyed "Gone" more the first time around but still a worthy performance tonight. A perfect song choice for Scotty to remind the viewers that he has been solid, if not fascinating, all season.

2. Lauren Alaina - "Flat On The Floor" B+

I loved the entrance, with Lauren slowly rising on the platform and descending down the magestic stair case. Definitely not the song choice I would have picked for Lauren's "best of the season". I am sure no one remembers them now but her "Turn On The Radio" and "I'm The Only One" were vastly superior, and for sure her best performances of the year! For all the drama surrounding Lauren having lost her voice, there were only two parts of the song where it sounded like she was struggling.

3. Scotty McCreery - "Check Yes Or No" B

A perfect cheeseball song choice for Scotty, yet it disappointed when compared to the similar lyrical content of "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not" from last week. This is the kind of song I can picture Scotty having on his record. Who knows, maybe he'll do a cover of it? More hamming it up courtesy of Scotty's eyebrows - what, it wouldn't be a finale without them!!! While this was a decent performance, I can't lie, it sort of bored me. I didn't like the arrangement of the song either.

4. Lauren Alaina - "Maybe It Was Memphis" A

Carrie Underwood chose an amazing song for Lauren - one that I didn't know at all but fell in love with instantly. Lauren did some interesting things with her voice throughout this one - drawing it back to whisper and pushing it forward on the line "sitting there looking at you". I felt some of the emotion we have been lacking from her all season in this performance. I am not sure what I felt about the bedazzled (TM) tutu dress with coffee colored cowboy boots, however.

5. Scotty McCreery - "I Love You This Big" B-

I truthfully just do not like this song - the melody, the lyrical content, the supposedly swooping chorus. I am positive Scotty could have done better with another song that so clearly wasn't trying to pander to the "I'm just a small time country boy with not much experience" narrative Nigel & Friends have set up the whole season. Scotty's voice also didn't seem to reach the heights intended on the "big" choruses. Big, get it? HA. No. I also love the "BIG" hand gestures Scotty employed on this song. Excellent.

6. Lauren Alaina - "Like My Mother Does" A

Fascinatingly, Ryan Seacrest failed to mention that this song is off Season 7 Contestant Kristy Lee Cook's first album. Wouldn't that have been an interesting fact for those of us who have followed Idol for many years? OF COURSE. Ugh. Anyway, back to Lauren's performance. Lauren, again, infused this song with a lot of raw emotion that was beautiful (as Steven might say, and probably did say after this performance). I thought Lauren might have a chance of winning it all with this song.

Overall, Lauren was better in her performances, but didn't we all know she stood no chance against "Scotty The Body"?

It's been a great season everyone! Now counting down the days to Season 11.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

American Idol Season 10 - Top 3: May 18, 2011

Top 3 - May 18, 2011

1. Scotty McCreery - "Amazed" B

Scotty's version of one of my favorite country songs was good to be sure, but nothing amazing or spectacular. I was happy to see he dialed it back on the cheesy faces and eyebrow lifting; he actually looked very sincere and it was a lot easier to watch. I have a feeling if Simon was still here, he would have many critiques for Scotty that would involve the words "karaoke", "lounge singer", "cruise ship performer", "theme park singer", the list goes on. This did come off a bit karaoke to me, but the kind of karaoke you would be happy to hear after a night of people assaulting your ear drums with off-key versions of "Like A Virgin".

2. Lauren Alaina - "Wild One" B

Lauren struggled with breath issues and didn't complete a lot of her phrases, letting them sort of dissolve abruptly into nothingness. It was a cute and appropriate song choice that seemed to fit with the kind of songs Lauren will likely go on to record for 19 Entertainment and Simon Fuller. I am interested to hear the Studio version of this song which I have a feeling will be far superior to the live version.

3. Haley Reinhart - "What Is And What Should Never Be" A+
This was nothing short of astounding. I loved her interactions with her father who played lead guitar on the performance - he was awesome too! Clearly where the girl gets her talent and love for music from. I loved the melodic choices she made with the song. This song was absolutely electrifying. She recovered quickly and professionally from her fall which would likely startle many less intense performers into messing up the rest of the song. I did not like Haley early on in the season - her performances of "Blue" and "I'm Your Baby Tonight" were messy. However, since then I have consistently liked her more and more as she is the only contestant (with the obvious exception of James) who really is unpredictable. I am excited to watch Haley each time she sings because she brings something new and different.

4. Scotty McCreery - "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not" A-

Scotty's best performance of the night -and in a long time. A perfect song choice for him by Jimmy Iovine. His voice sounded like this song was written for him. I liked that he played his guitar, although he seemed to be holding it a bit awkwardly. The kind of performance I could listen to over and over again. He did get a bit cheesy with the eyebrows at the end - I could tell he had been holding it into for too long and those eyebrows just needed to escape. Or something.

5. Lauren Alaina - "If I Die Young" A-

Another good song choice by Jimmy Iovine. Jimmy has been hot and cold all season - giving amazingly perfect advice to giving the worst advice I've ever heard in life. Lauren's best performance of the night. I liked that it was more of an understated performance and she wasn't drowned out by the backup singers until the end of the song - where she missed a line or two. A great performance by Lauren but not the Idol Moment I think the producers were dreaming of.

6. Haley Reinhart - "Rhiannon" A

A gorgeously heartbreaking performance. I liked the beginning of the song the best, when the focus was just on Haley's voice and the piano. She got drowned out a bit by the insistent drum beat in the background as the second verse started. The wind machine and fog drifting across the stage added to the ethereal quality of Haley's performance. I was more than impressed. She seemed natural and beautiful, flawless and even Randy couldn't critique this one.

7. Scotty McCreery - "She Believes In Me" B+

The judges were right when they said this was the first song Scotty had tackled on the Idol Stage that really had a big, soaring chorus in the tradition of Lite FM. I liked the string section behind Scotty - for some reason, for one of the first times this season, it felt like the CLASSIC American Idol of maybe circa Season 4? Call me a nostalgic sap, but I love anything that feels like a throwback.

8. Lauren Alaina - "I Hope You Dance" B-

Anyone that knows me halfway decently knows I absolutely HATE this song. While I suppose Lauren's rendition was competent, I could not get over my disdain (to put it mildly) of this song for the entirety of her performance. I also realized how difficult of a song this song is to sing from listening to her, when compared to the original. Then again, I turn off this song as soon as it comes on the radio most times, so what do I know? I did like the part when she sang "one door closes" and pushed her voice a bit farther than we've seen.

9. Haley Reinhart - "You Oughta Know" B+

Very interesting, and odd song choice from the judges. The beginning of the music sounded exactly like "Gives You Hell" by All American Rejects....just a thought. Haley messed up the words a little bit going into the first chorus. Haley really owned the stage in a way not many contestants have this season (again, besides James. Can you tell that I miss James?). I LOVED LOVED LOVED when she got in the judges' faces during the "scratch my nails down someone else's back" part. You go girl.

I'm going to forgo the best and worst of the night this time since we're down to only 3 contestants. But clearly, in my opinion, the best of the night was HALEY.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

American Idol Season 10 - Top 4: May 11, 2011

American Idol - Top 4 - Inspirational Songs / Leiber & Stoller Songbook - May 11, 2011

If this wasn't one of the most convoluted theme nights in American Idol history, I am not sure what is.

1. James Durbin - "Don't Stop Believin'" A-/B+

I absolutely loved the blue starry staging of this. This performance proved that James could have a great future starring in Rock Of Ages on Broadway - and trust me, that is a complete compliment coming from me! I loved that he actually wore a Journey shirt on stage. Heavy metal jewelry! Fire! Starry eyes! This had it all.

2. Haley Reinhart - "Earth Song" B-

Probably my least favorite performance of hers in a long long time. I felt the song was a difficult one to translate to the Idol stage. I do commend Haley for sticking to her guns and standing by her song choice - after all it wasn't songs that inspired Randy Jackson, it was supposed to be about songs that have inspired the contestants to become singers. However, it is almost certain that if Jacob or Lauren had given the same performance the judges would have fallen all over themselves praising their artistry and that they were "IN IT TO WIN IT". UGH.

3. Scotty McCreery - "Where Were You When The World Stop Turning" B

It is 100% certain that Scotty will be in the finale after his performance of this song. Scotty knows how to cater to his audience in a way that seems authentic and natural. Yet, there was nothing about this performance that really stood out to me besides the lyrical content of the song (which really has nothing to do with Scotty, as he didn't write it). A solid if not particularly memorable performance.

4. Lauren Alaina - "Anyway" B+

Lauren hit one note that reminded me of Carrie Underwood, which impressed me. I am trying to figure out whether it was her tone or phrasing, because it is clear Lauren doesn't have the kind of range Carrie does. I love how she ended the song on a soft note instead of trying to belt it out, but I am so sick of her ending every performance with a giggle and a "Thank you". I think it was cute the first time, back when she sang "Turn On The Radio" (one of her best performances), but after 6 or 8 or 10 weeks, it's grown old.

5. Haley Reinhart - "I Who Have Nothing" A

Haley came back on the stage with a fire in her eyes and a tear in her voice. This was a true Idol Moment in a season very sadly lacking in Idol Moments...come on, we had to put up with Season 9 having hardly any moments, and now we have the judges clearly gunning to get Haley voted off? She is consistently the contestant who gives "Moments" on this stage, except for maybe James. Lauren has never delivered a true Idol Moment and Scotty had his moment (I think) with "You've Got A Friend" but that was more his moment than a true overall moment.

6. Scotty McCreery - "Young Blood" D+

This was so hokey and over the top, I really did not like anything about it. From the strange cadence to the song to the cheesy facial expressions. An awful song choice. I did like the dramatic ending to the song, but honestly when the ending is the best part, that's not saying much. It came off very dated, and I honestly have no clue what the song is supposed to be about.

7. Lauren Alaina - "Trouble" B

My favorite thing about this performance was Lauren's sparkly shoulder pad enhanced jacket from the Rhythm Nation Janet Jackson collection. The first half of the performance was much better than when she started into the fast chorus part of the song, which got boring and I kept thinking how Little Lauren was so afraid to sing the line "I'm evil" in the song. Towards the end of the song, her voice seemed to give out a bit and she didn't go for any sort of "big note".

8. James Durbin - "Love Potion #9" A+

Amazing. This reminded me of everything I love about hard rock and metal music, in the great tradition of rock bands that cover unexpected songs. (See: Twisted Sister - "The Leader Of The Pack, Ugly Kid Joe - "Cats In The Cradle", Faster Pussycat - "You're So Vain", etc.) After watching this performance, I realized just how much James has been MY contestant all season and how he does things that are consistently different and exciting. (Does that even make sense? "Consistently different"?) I LOVED LOVED LOVED how he drew out the ending, in the way that only a real rock 'n roll singer can do. I could listen to this OVER and OVER and OVER again.

Best of the night: James
Worst of the night: Scotty

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

American Idol Season 10 - Top 5: May 4, 2011

Top 5 - Now & Then - May 4, 2011

1. James Durbin - "Closer To The Edge" (by 30 Seconds to Mars) B-

I found that James's studio version of this song was far superior to the live performance he gave on Idol. I did not at all like the song live, as James's cadence at the end of each line seemed to veer into a shouty territory that did not flatter his voice.
I could not stand the backup singers shouting "NO NO NO" at random intervals in the song also. I so badly wanted to like this performance more than I actually did. Check out the Studio version though - it's pretty good! I do have to give James credit for picking a current song that may foreshadow the direction he will eventually take in his career.

2. Jacob Lusk - "No Air" (by Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown) D+

Jacob is now blaming this awful performance on Jimmy Iovine. While Jimmy is to blame for a myraid of things on Idol this season, I do not know how this disaster could be his fault. Due to the duet nature of the song, the backup singers had to take a leading role in the music and Jacob was reduced to yelling random things like "without me!" and "can't breathe, no air!" God help us. I have heard worse songs on the Idol stage this year, and I guess that's the best compliment I can give.

3. Lauren Alaina - "Flat On The Floor" (by Carrie Underwood) B+

It was nice to see Lauren do an uptempo song with an attitude - trying to break out of the storyline the show has set for her perhaps? This is the kind of song I could picture her doing in her post-Idol career. At least hopefully - maybe she'll get buried beneath the strain of a multitude of forgettable midtempos (kind of like her Idol run). I'd love to see Lauren have a true Idol moment this year.

4. Scotty McCreery - "Gone" (by Montgomery Gentry) A-

Randy finally had it right when he said that it felt like we were at a Scotty concert this week! Another "I rocked so hard my hair clip fell out" moment. A truly enjoyable performance and the best at this point in the night. I liked how he actually seemed to embody the lyrics in his style of singing. This song has a very fast succession of lyrics and Scotty handled them admirably.

5. Haley Reinhart - "You And I" (by Lady Gaga) A

Truly transcendent performance by Haley. I absolutely adored it. I was stunned when the judges gave her bad feedback and criticized her song choice (mainly because it was an "unreleased" song that many people did not know). I never heard the song "Gone" before but I truly enjoyed Scotty's performance! UGH. This was the absolute perfect song choice for Haley, who gave it a whiskey-soaked barroom flavor that truly fit the song lyrics. I could not have loved it more.

6. James Durbin - "Without You" (by Badfinger) A-

Yes, there were a few pitch problems here and there, but on a show where the judges always stress connecting emotionally to the lyrics, James excelled far and above his younger peers on this show. He could have hit some of the notes better, and it might have been amazing to see a completely acoustic version of the song, but all in all, the kind of performance that makes an Idol moment.

7. Jacob Lusk - "Love Hurts" (by Nazareth) C-

You know what else hurts besides love? My poor ears after listening to this song. There was one note that sort of sounded like "bleeeeuuuuuughaaah" which is not the kind of thing anyone should be singing on American Idol. EVER. I absolutely love this song and when I heard Jacob would be singing it, I think my stomach sank a little bit.

8. Lauren Alaina - "Unchained Melody" (by the Righteous Brothers) A-
A beautiful, lilting take on the song, but I think it really hurt Lauren when she failed to hit the "big glory note" of the song.

9. Scotty McCreery - "Always On My Mind" (by Willie Nelson) B+
This reminded me of Scotty's best performance on the Idol stage this year ("You've Got A Friend" from Carole King Week). Clearly a song that meant a lot to him and he delivered it in a way that was authentic and understated (unlike many of his previous performances).

10. Haley Reinhart - "House of the Rising Sun" (by the Animals) A+
The true kind of Idol Moment (TM) that can not be denied, even by Nigel Lythgoe's pre-determined script for the show and the judges clearly being told to take swipes at Haley whenever they can.

Best of the night: Haley
Worst of the night: Jacob