First, a note: I try to be fairly relaxed about comments on the posts since you guys are entitled to your say but I have deleted a couple lately for being way too inappopriate -- not in the opinion but in the way it was expressed. And I will do so whenever I think a line has been crossed. So let's try to have a basically civil discussion, OK?
Last night, as I mentioned, I went to see "The Reader" (which struck me as the weakest of the five best-picture nominees, although the acting is good) so I got home when "Idol" had about half an hour to go. Saw enough to think that Randy is clearly The Most Superfluous Judge right now, that Danny Gokey was OK but obviously got higher praise from all the judges but Simon because he (a) closed the show and "Idol" always tries to end on a high and (b) it was evident from the highlights that much of what preceded him had not been all that good, and that the song choices were in many cases really uninspired. Paula may think a song is impressive if it has been done a zillion times on the show, but if the new performance doesn't stand out, then a redo does not really benefit the singer.
After the jump, I have contestant-by-contestant notes for the entire show from a speed view, mainly performances, as little judgery as possible, no Ryan chat, for your amusement or edification. And off we go:
Jackie Tohn, "A Little Less Conversation." Interesting approach, I suppose, but not all that convincing. She's gone soulful more than rock on the Elvis tune, and the soul mannerisms seem contrived. Also, she doesn't have the voice to make it work. (Memo to Jackie: Great soul singers also had melody. See Otis Redding, Al Green, Miss Aretha Franklin, et al.) C minus/D plus.
Ricky Braddy, "A Song for You." I love this damn song. I love Leon's version. I love Donny Hathaway's. There's a monster rendition by Aretha. Mr. Braddy, whom I don't remember seeing much at all during the earlier rounds, pulls at it like a big ole piece of adult-contemporary taffy, high note here, wistful look there, but he's out of his depth. C.
Alexis Grace, "I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You." More soul posturing, and her vocal for the first half is terrible. The backup vocalists are really saving her in key spots. Whenever she has a big solo stretch, you can hear how limited her range is. (Alexis, check my memo to Jackie, above, OK?) Not quite as awful as Jackie overall because Alexis has better stage presence. Yeah, that's it, stage presence. Sounds much better than she sells herself quite effectively as a naughty girl. But the vocal wasn't good. C minus.
Brent Keith, "Hick Town." Staking out the country territory for himself, not the worst idea considering how many people have gone R&B already, and country has been very hospital to "Idol" also-rans. Better vocal than either Alexis or Jackie, but as much as he's trying to be high-energy, the arrangement plods. C.
Stevie Wright, "You Belong With Me." Taylor Swift, eh? But gosh, terrible terrible start and it doesn't get any better. She is all wrong for this song, and besides a smile her stage presence is nonexistent. Now the vocal is getting worse. And as much trouble as I had with the previous performances, this may be the worst so far. D.
Anoop Desai, "Angel of Mine." My guy through the previous rounds, and he starts off solidly. But wobbly in places, especially as he tries to make it big, and he completely loses his grip on the notes near the finish. I'd keep him around just because I think he has potential, but this wasn't the performance I expected from him. C.
Casey Carlson, "Every Little Things She Does Is Magic." Not sure about the Ronettes hair. This is a tricky song, and while she nails the opening she falls apart quickly and drops back into a very narrow range, and can't even manage that. I keep grabbing the remote, wanting to skip to the end, and I don't think she has any sense of the song emotionally; there's more there than "fun." C minus/D plus.
Michael Sarver, "I Don't Want to Be." I like the guy's voice all right, but the arrangement seems to be killing him -- getting buried by guitar a lot. And I am tired of the song. But, I don't know, C plus?
Ann Marie Boskovich, "A Natural Woman." Second Aretha song of the night, and a warhorse in singing competitions. You've got to do something to make this stand out. She doesn't. Maybe the dress was squeezing the life out of her. Gets worse as she goes. C minus.
Beachwood's Stephen Fowler, "Rock With You." Thought it was a disaster when I heard it last night, and it's still a disaster this morning. Completely unsuited to this song. Even the backup singers sound off in places. Not the worst performance of the night, but it's close. D plus, and that's on the curve based on tonight's performances.
Tatiana del Toro, "Saving All My Love For You." Based on personality, I'd like to just give her an F and send her on her way. But she has a voice that's good in spots, and somewhat powerful. She also has no idea what to do with it at times. Still, in comparison of vocal skills, she's far from the worst tonight, especially among the women. Shrieks, though. And I hate her personality, and that stuff I heard last night about her wanting to market herself may have been honest but it was hardly endearing. C minus/C, and again that's on the curve.
Danny Gokey to close. "Hero." Please, please, please, any song but this. Anything. This is such blatant audience bait, and so overdone, that I can't stand to hear it another time. Not to mention that Paula's on her feet for most of the song. While his performance is competent enough to be the best of what's been a staggeringly bad night, it's still nothing extraordinary. B minus, and it might have been higher with a different song Not that there was anything tonight I would get from it.
So where are we? Nothing iTunes-worthy. Nothing, really, I'd want to hear again anywhere. As for picking, the rules say I have to pick one woman, one guy and one more of either gender, which really bites. But I take Danny as one guy and Anoop as the other, even though Sarver was better than Anoop; I'm giving my guy a pass based on my liking his previous work. (I know, we're not supposed to do that. And it happens all the time.) Among the women, my grades say Tatiana passes on, which kills me, but the women were mostly terrible; if I dropped Tatiana, I might take Alexis or Ann Marie, but I don't really care.
We'll see how the results show goes tonight.