Notes from the latest performance show -- songs that are popular downloads on iTunes -- after the jump.
Usual blah-blah to open. Ryan asks Randy how the top 9 is shaping up. He says "last week they brought it." Uh-huh. Ryan asks Kara to define "artistry," thus giving her a chance to use the word very early in the show. Paula reminds me of Milton Berle a little. More chatter. The contestants walk in en masse, so no indication of the order of performance. Theme: any song that is a popular download on iTunes. Hype for Ryan's "American Top 40" radio show. At least he acknowledges Casey Kasem.
'Noop leads off. Usher's "Caught Up." Lots of style and presentation but his voice is shout-y. C minus. Randy says he picked up his swagger and it was "cool" vocally but maybe not the best song. Kara says he played it safe and wonders if "frat guys" urged him to do Usher. Paula likes that he went back to the playful side and "your vocals sounded really good" but he needs more stage presence. Paula backwards. Simon thought "it was a complete and utter mess" and he came across as "a wannabe." Ryan gives 'Noop a chance to reply and he pushes from a simple "I disagree" into some audience-irritating arrogance.
Megan doing Bob Marley. Please, no. "Turn Your Lights Down Low," which she also credits to Lauryn Hill. Oh, hideous vocal immediately. Recovers from horrible to merely bad. Awful stage presence. Still, D minus. Makes me long for the stylings of Jason Castro. Kara says she really likes her "but I think you're in trouble." Says she should have done Adele. That her voice was "getting irritating." Paula says she should have sat on a stool in a spotlight, singing "a sensitive, vulnerable ballad." "So she needs a chair?" Simon says. Adding that the song was boring, indulgent and monotonous -- and "it just wasn't you." Well, yeah it was. Randy says it was like watching paint dry and took forever. He recommends she do Amy Winehouse. At Ryan's urging, she also gets snotty and says the audience was feeling it and her fans were. Ooh, too cocky contestants in a row!
Gokey. "What Hurts the Most," Rascal Flatts. Back in big-ballad, inspirational-sound territory. OK but he's not getting to me the way he has in the past. Best so far but the bar is pretty low. B. Paula says "this is where you thrive." Simon calls it his best performance, and "it was like two snails competing with a racehorse" on tonight's show so far. Randy peeks at is "Idol" judging phrasebook and says "tonight's show starts right here." Kara had goosebumps.
Allison. No Doubt's "Don't Speak." Accompanying herself on guitar. Is her hair getting pinker every week? Stops playing when she gets to the chorus. I've seen this performance from her before, and am waiting for a moment like Adam Lambert had last week. This is -- dare I say it -- karaoke. C plus. Randy says she's got the voice but she was a little ahead of the beat but wonders "what are you wearing. ... I did not get the ensemble." Kara says the outfit was "a little distracting" and "you just are ... a great singer" but not her best performance. Paula praises her "vocal prowess" and "you are skating by and going right to the finish line." Does that mean she's dropping her Adam/Danny prediction? Simon also addresses the outfit and "you actually shouted the song."
Scott. Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are." Says he's stripping it down to him and the piano. The crowd -- very rambunctious in boos (at judges) and cheers tonight -- shrieks as he's beginning. Another demonstration of the limitations of his range. Also painfully slow. The Van Cliburn hair is sort of interesting. The performance isn't. C minus. Kara thinks he chose the song well and it was "a moving performance." And she loves the new look. Paula says of all the contestants she is most proud of him -- because he makes her forget his "challenge" which of course she is making sure no one in the audience can forget. Simon calls it "your best performance by a country mile." Simon bickers with Paula over the piano issue. Randy shouts "one of the best of the night!"
Matt Giraud. The Fray's "You Found Me." At a keyboard surrounded by the trained seals. Good opening, loses a bit at the beginning of the chorus, then picks it up again. This is the best I remember him being. Not rousing, but good in the context of the night. B. Paula thought he avoided the things she loves most about him and it was too "sound alike." Simon says he should be happy that "we don't like you this week" -- since he was praised last week and ended up bottom three. Randy says "wrong song for you." This is a classic case of a singer who can't win; if he stays in the pigeonhole, he'll be called safe, and if he goes somewhere different, he'll be attacked for that. Kara has issues but says he should stay around for a week,
Lil. Celine's "I Surrender," which she makes clear is a sop to the judges after last week's comments. They want a big diva song, she delivers it. Icky tune, but a real vocal. B plus for the vocal, but I would never buy that record. Randy says it would not have been his choice for her but "you sang it really really well." Kara also likes the vocal and "we got a glimpse of what we saw in the beginning." Paula says "I don't want to see an adult-contemporary" Lil Rounds. Simon thought it was like "a wedding performance." Calls it "old fashioned." Again, a case where a contestant can't win. Ryan tries to get a comment out of one of Lil's kids, baits them about Randy being mean. Lil wipes away tears, I hope because she hates them using her kids as props.
Adam. Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music." Got the Elvis hair. Not funky vocal. Lots of that shrieking that I hate from him. He is talented but I could go the rest of my life and never hear this again. C. Paula, who has been dancing throughout his performance, compares him to Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler. Simon says it was "very brave ... original." Randy says he's "definitely in the star zone." Adam praises the band and the arrangement. Kara says "it was like Studio 57 in here."
Kris to close. Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine." Accompanying self on electric piano. Big night for keyboards -- and in this case makes the comparison to Matt more specific. Paula on her feet, Kara rises, too. But a case of taking a great song and making it mediocre. Just consider his "I know's." C, and show-closers aren't supposed to be C's. Randy says "you are so in the zone." Kara says "three words ... that is artistry!" Paula said it could be the first cut from his album and his best performance to date. Simon praises his confidence and Kris's "best performance so far."
But overall, a really a blah night. Megan was a standout by being so awful. Is it at all possible that the tattooed-Barbie sway-song bit has finally worn out with even her fans?