I've spent a little time on other things, steeling myself for tonight and also getting far enough into the show to skip the boilerplate on playback. So here we go ...
Matt Giraud leads off. Smokey says Matt more than did justice to "Let's Get It On" in practice. Actual performance: At the piano. And he's lost me on the first few lines, sounding like a barroom singer. Stands and walks around, and he's still not close to touching what is fundamentally untouchable. Downright terrible on "THERRRE's nothing wrong with me ... " D and no honest judge can believe otherwise. So, of course, Randy is dazzled and "you challenging ... for the top spot." Kara says a lot of girls are going "yeah." Paula liked the "sexy cool vibe" and thinks his riffs are "tasteful." Simon thought the song choice was "brilliant" and "it was a cool performance."
Kris Allen. "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You." Smokey digs him. I am already wishing the show would be over. Performance: Mellow Mraz-y start, leading into another bland vocal. Only professional obligation is keeping me from fast-forwarding through the song, or falling asleep. A very bored C. Kara says he didn't do James Taylor, he didn't do Marvin Gaye, he did Kris. She seems to think this is a good thing. Paula says he picked a great song and she is really proud of him. Simon says he's having a good competition. Randy says he's very consistent and has hit his zone and "it's all good."
Scott MacIntyre. "You Can't Hurry Love." Smokey is sure he will knock 'em dead. At the piano. Slow opening, making this the third performance to start one way and then up the tempo. The slow part was icky-sweet but it was at least more melodic than the fast section, where he's off a lot and has three backup singers at the piano to try to cover some of his flaws. Unsuccessfully. C minus. Paula praises. Simon does not. Bashes everything, including song choice. Randy kind of agrees, calls it "a very hotel kind of performance." Kara gives more positive but mixed notice.
Megan Joy. "For Once in My Life." Sounds bad in practice with Smokey. Performance: Big brass section. Makin' it Sinatra. Hideous start. She does not have the voice to match her ambition. I really want to fast-forward -- oh, oww, oww, I really didn't need to hear those notes -- but I am fighting it. If Giraud's a D, this is an F. Randy says he has mad love for MJ but "dude, that song was a train wreck for me, man." Kara says it was all over the place, bad notes and other problems. Paula starts with noting MJ's "stunning beauty" but dislikes the performance. Simon calls it horrible.
'Noop. "Ooh Baby Baby." One of my favorite Smokey songs. And I can't say he gets off to a great start. That "What A Price to Pay" is one of the great Smokey riffs and 'Noop can't quite nail it. But nice to see 'Noop doing the smooth-love thing. Oops, strained there. Best perf so far but still only about a C plus. Kara notes how hard it is to sing, and praises it overall and "you can sing. You have a skill set." Simon liked the vocal and that 'Noop is "up there" in the competition, but wants more presentation. Randy liked it but is demanding "party on" next week.
Michael "Is He Still Here?" Sarver. Was sick last week. "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." OK start, then it gets dull, and he doesn't have the range for this. Gets out of synch a smidge with the band at one point. In fact, he's off-pace a lot. This is not a good night so far. C minus/D plus. Paula says it was "a tough performance ... a little Las Vegas lounge-y." Simon says "I couldn't wait for it to end." Randy says "the song was just a little too big for you." Kara uses artistry for about the millionth time this season, and wants to know who he is as an artist. Ruh-roh: Sarver implies being top 10 is good enough for him, not a good thing to say when you're looking for votes.
I have caught up with my DVR. No fast-forwarding. Dang. Of course, the other night I kept punching the fast-forward button on the remote because I had forgotten I was watching something in real time. Spoiled by technology.
Lil Rounds. "Heat Wave." Bad start. She shouts and has lots of presence but she's not Martha Reeves. Those Motown women knew where the melody was, and Lil seems to have lost it. C minus. Randy says she has "mad crazy vocals" but the front of the song was "a little bit tortured." Kara says she was "the diva" everyone wanted to hear tonight but she didn't pick the right song, and there was "screaming at center parts." Paula disagrees and thinks "you owned that song" and was "fresh." Simon calls it "an authentic tribute to the sound of Motown" but she shouldn't have chosen the song. Lil ends up promising slowed-down vocals if she comes back.
Fox 8, which seems to have an "Idol"-connected news story to promote in every break, hypes one on "man makeup" because Adam Lambert wears it ...
Adam Lambert. "Tracks of My Tears." Could I just say again how much I love Smokey songs, and how difficult it is to listen to anyone else try to match them? Smokey approves of AL's interpretation. Dressed in what's supposed to be vintage Motown threads, but which on him look more like Zac Efron in "Hairspray." Wobbly vocal at the start, and the falsetto's out of his reach in spots. But works OK later. I am not a fan of this guy, and this feels like some hair band going "MTV Unplugged," but I can live with it. And it's the best so far. B minus. Kara calls it one of the best performances of the night and uses "artistry" again. Paula says he is completely in his own league and loves "the clean look." Simon says it is THE best performance of the night. Randy says he can pull it down and straighten it up and "unbelievably hot." And I might actually spring for this on iTunes, just so I can hear it without the "Idol" trappings to tell how well it holds up. Although, since they're supposedly using original Motown instrumental tracks, not sure how that will work.
Danny Gokey. "Get Ready." This is going to be tough because I am still thinking about Lambert's performance, and thinking I should up him to a solid B. Danny sings reasonably well but ... this is one of those cases where a few thousand bar bands could do it just as well. He's better vocally than most folks tonight but that's not enough to sell me. C plus. Paula loved it -- having to rush because they're running long. Simon thought it "clumsy and amateurish." Randy says "you remind me of the great Levi Stubbs" (Four Tops) but it wasn't his best performance. Kara says "good, not great." I'm thinking of many years ago when I saw Southside Johnny with Gary US Bonds opening. Gary, on a Springsteen-boosted comeback, was great. Southside then came out and worked like crazy, though not always skillfully; a buddy of mine told me later that Johnny was desperate because he saw what Gary had done. Kind of tonight. I think Danny was pressing because he knew he had to make an impression after Adam.
Allison Iraheta. "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." Oh, dear. But whe she sings, she's showing how good her voice is again, and that she can get bluesy/soulful, but this is such a great instrumental/ensemble song, it loses something this way. Still, B minus and probably second best of the night. Kara and Paula are on their feet and cheering. Randy calls her "one of the dopest" singers this season and "blazing hot." Kara says America has to vote for her and "that [voice] is from God." Paula calls her "awesome." Simon also pleased.
Best of the night: Adam by a mile. Worst: Megan. And mostly not a great night.