Take a relatively unexciting group of American Idol singers and follow Latin Night with County Night. Wow, the producers are just asking for viewers to lose interest, aren't they? OK, to be fair, while I'm not much of a fan of Country Night because I'm not a big fan of that genre of music and because the show it produces usually ends up somwhere between mediocre and lackluster (which was the case again tonight), I don't have any problem with Country Night being a yearly regular. While it may not play to many of the contestants' strengths, it is a very important genre of music and there have been a a number of Idols who have gone on to make solidly successful (and in the case of Carrie Underwood, hugely successful) country albums. Contrast this to Latin Night, which covers a genre of music that isn't particularly influential (really, does anyone watch the Latin Grammys?) and in which no past Idol contestant has ever recorded an album (not to mention apparently only includes Gloria Estefan and Carlos Santana, according to last week's song choices.)
Defending Country Night still doesn't mean I necessarily enjoyed it, of course. Martina McBride was a solid but unexciting guest coach, and I'm not sure, once again, the pecking order of the singers changed much tonight. And since there seems to be no other American Idol issues of interest this year outside of the Sanjaya phenomenon, I guess I should get right to the rundown.
Phil Stacey ("Where the Blacktop Ends")--Phil always seems to be better at the end of songs than at the beginning, and Martina McBride noticed it too in her comments. Maybe Phil should do something like the Smothers Brothers used to do. For those who don't remember them, part of their act was getting into arguments in the middle of playing a song and never finishing it. So one night I saw them on some talk show come out and sing for about 30 seconds. They explained that everyone always complained that they never finished a song, so that's what they had just done. Maybe Phil should just come out and sing the last 30 seconds of his song and he would kill. Because even though the judges loved him tonight, I thought the "soulful" parts near the end, as Martina described them, were better than the first part of the tune. It still was probably one of Phil's better performances, but I won't be watching it back on Youtube or anything. Oh, and Phil (and this goes for the other singers, too), if you want to walk into the audience, fine--although it annoys me. But really, you have 90 seconds or so to impress America and you want to spend a portion of it concentrating on shaking hands with people in the audience instead of on your vocals? Sing, don't socialize.
Jordin Sparks ("Broken Wing")--A couple people have asked me over the past week who I thought was going to win Idol this year, and I told them Jordin--she's young, pretty, vibrant and has a really good voice.With Simon's comments tonight that "for the first time," he can see her as the American Idol, I guess that prediction is looking even better. I liked how, as Paula said, Jordin took her time before getting to the big notes tonight, just singing the song. Now if we could just get Randy to stop mentioning that she's 17....Quick Moment in Idol History: And if my memory serves me, I believe Diana DeGarmo sang this song in season three and held the last note for about 30 seconds. That led to Paula proclaiming it a historic night or something like that. Personally, I found a note held that long to be creepy and weird. I'm glad Jordin only held her last note for about 10 secons.
Sanjaya Malakar ("Let's Give Them Something To Talk About")--I think I'm falling under Sanjaya's spell. After this performance ended, I said to myself, "Well, that wasn't that bad. He did seem to project a little more. At least he walked around the stage a little. And his 'big finish' where he actually tried to sing a little was OK." Maybe that shmatte on his head hypnotized me. Even with that positive spin, though, he still was the seventh out of seven by far.
But I do want to say this about Simon's comment that Sanjaya's performance was "as bad as anything we see at the beginning of American Idol." First of all, that's just patently untrue. But if Simon really believes that, then how did Sanjaya make the final 24? Were his performances in the Hollywood round (of which we saw virtually nothing) so much better than anything he has done since? This guy was chosen one of the 12 best guys and you're telling me he can't sing? So what were you listening to when you chose him? Simon, Paula and Randy--if Sanjaya does somehow win this thing (which I still think is extremely unlikely), you have a lot to answer for.
LaKisha Jones ("Jesus Take the Wheel")--For the second time we have an Idol contestant singing a hit song from a previous Idol winner (Lisa Tucker did a Kelly Clarkson song last year), and for the second time the singer was roundly criticized. I didn't think LaKisha quite deserved the lashing she got from the judges tonight--they said she shouted the song, but the chorus of this song is kind of shouty. But as Simon said, LaKisha hasn't really wowed anyone for a while now, and she didn't stand out tonight either. But I did think she looked really good tonight, for what it's worth.
Chris Richardson ("Mayberry")--Throughout this song, all I could think was that Chris' performance was nice and pleasant, but far from the caliber of what an "American Idol" should be giving us. As Simon said, it was fairly unexciting and nondescript. As for Chris telling Simon that "nasally" is a singing style...I suppose it could be. But I've been wracking my brain trying to think of a successful one and haven't come up with a name yet. Would you call the guy from the Violent Femmes singing "Blister in the Sun" nasally? No, that's probably better described as sneering or something. Well, maybe they can have a "Nasally" theme night next year....After the nasally comment, Chris then gave a shoutout to Virginia Tech, which, since Chris is from Chesapeake, Va., I'm sure was heartfelt. Coming so quickly on the heels of his bizarre "nasally" comments, it seemed Simon thought it was a cynical ploy for sympathy and cocked his eyebrow and rolled his eyes in a scoffing manner, for those who may not have caught the brief camera shot of Cowell's reaction. Someone must have told Simon about this, because that's the best explanation for his out of place, tacked-on expression of sympathy for the Va. Tech tragedy after Blake's performance. Personally, Simon, I don't care if you express sympathy for the Va. Tech tragedy or not--I've always liked your honest reactions, even if they might not be popular and make you look cruel--but there's no need to be so transparent about it.
Melinda Doolittle ("Trouble Is a Woman")--So here's a surprise. I expected that Melinda would pick an old country song, something by Patsy Cline or the Carter sisters or something, and she goes and picks a new song. Or at least she says it's a new song and we have to take her word for it, because even Martina McBride hasn't heard of it. Hmmm.... Anyway, this song, while new, was right in Melinda's wheelhouse--a sassy number with too much speak-singing and not enough real singing (or real melody, for that matter). It didn't wow me, but it was good--and she looked younger than usual too.
Blake Lewis ("When the Stars Go Blue")--Blake said this was a song by Tim McGraw, but I had no idea this was a country song until he said that. He rccorded it last year, but the Coors and Bono did a duet of this song a couple years prior to that and no one would call either of them country. According to a quick Google search, the song was originally written by Ryan Adams, one of those artists who crosses lots of genres, so I suppose it's kosher. Of course, when Blake sang it, it had barely any country tinge to it at all--once again, it became a "Blake Song" and sounded like everything else Blake sings. That's not necessarily a bad thing--I like Blake's sound and thought he sounded very good on this. But I'd still like to see him stretch a little and do something different. Eventually, like Chris Daughtry, the sameness of many of his performances can catch up to him.
Bottom three? Phil will definitely be there. I think Chris Richardson deserves to be there. And while LaKisha could end up there, I think her fans will rally after the harsh critique and Sanjaya will end up there--quieting the Sanjaya is going to win talk for at least a week. And I think Phil, because he went first and everyone forgot about him by the end of the show, combined with the fact that he's been in the bottom three for most of the finals, will combine to make him the next bootee.
Labels: American Idol