Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NEXT WEEK ON AMERICAN IDOL -- SONGS THAT I LIKE TO SING WHILE DRIVING MY FORD FOCUS AND DRINKING AN ICE-COLD COCA COLA: I think I'm a little outside the mainstream on this point, but I like AI theme weeks. They force the contestants to channel their energies in a certain direction and find a way to shine under any set of circumstances. (See, e.g., David Cook.) Conversely, I hate pick-whatever-the-heck-you-want weeks, because most people interpret this instruction as "sing a song you like." And that's not, not, not the point of a theme like Top iTunes Downloads, as if a theme like Top iTunes Downloads has a point (but that's besides the point). When you have a broad, wide-open theme like this, all you're supposed to do is make us remember why we wanted you on the show in the first place.

So if you're Lil Rounds, and you've been getting your teeth kicked in by "Independence Day" on country week and the inexplicable total misfire of "Heat Wave" on Motown week, you should not have any trouble figuring out what to sing on Sing Whatever the Fuck You Want Week. You should remember that the last time we all really thought you were awesome was when you knocked the socks off of a Mary J. Blige song, and you should go find yourself a song that will make us remember how amazing you can be when you do your R&B thing. You know what you're not supposed to do under these circumstances? Go put on a powder blue evening gown and find one of those Celine Dion songs that every doomed female contestant on this show feels a need to sing. I mean, come on. This is not rocket science, people.


Ok, so looking at the show as a whole, to me it breaks down into two sections. First, the mostly boring opening act. And second, the Adam Lambert/Kris Allen show.

Most of the first seven perfomances were painful for some reason or another. Megan was a total ten-car pile-up. You all know I adore her, and there are at least a hundred songs I would love to hear her sing. But this was like number six hundred million billion and ten, and she did nothing with it.

And then there was Scott. First of all, who decided he should have tall hair? I'm all for giving the guy a makeover, but let's set the clippers a little shorter, ok? But setting aside the hair -- which I will forgive because it's not like he could look in the mirror and say "um, guys? I look like a garden hedge" -- "Just the Way You Are"? Seriously?? I'm a big defender of Billy Joel, but nothing says "I can offer no pretense that I am an artist to be taken seriously this century" like singing "Just the Way You Are" on American Idol.

Even the non-sucky people didn't do anything to help themselves.

Anoop? Stop sneering. You are a nice Indian kid from North Carolina with a nice voice. You are not Noop from da Hood. STOP SNEERING. He's got problems -- not this week necessarily, but when he tries to be what he wants to be, he comes off like a kid performing at his high school talent show. Awww, look at the cute Indian kid doing his gangsta riff!

Did someone teach Allison Iraheta how to play the guitar this week? Because compared to some people on the show who are actually musicians and play instruments, she looked kind of like me playing the French horn at my fifth grade band concert. And Randy had trouble articulating his problem with her get-up, but Kara nailed it: Allison has the rocker voice. She's the real deal. She doesn't need to get all dressed up to prove it to us. I kind of want to send her to ANTM for a while, so they can put her in a black tank top and jeans and pull her hair (oh, the hair was painful) back into a ponytail. Let the voice stand alone.

Poor Matt. I still don't care for him, but whatever insecurities from last week made him think it would be a good idea to plunk a keyboard into the middle of the audience and writhe all over it just didn't do him any favors. (The word "indulgent" gets thrown around a lot on this show, but it's warranted here.) I didn't hate the song, actually -- liked it better than a lot of his performances that the judges have gushed about -- but it wasn't anything particularly memorable.

And I don't have a lot to say about Danny. The song was fine, the performance was fine. The problem I have with Danny is that while I truly love -- not just like -- the tone and timbre of his gorgeous voice, he hasn't had a single performance yet that has knocked my socks off. And I don't even know what direction to suggest he move in to come up with such a performance. Actually, I think I just came up with one. Anyone remember Robert Downey Jr. (the real one) singing Joni Mitchell's "The River" on Ally McBeal (better audio here)? I want to hear Danny sing that.

But then Lil came and went and the pregame shenanigans ended, and the real show started.

I've been saying since the beginning that people weren't giving Kris enough credit. And while I don't think he's the #1 or even the #2 guy on the show this season, he's doing a whole lot better than a whole lot of guys who had a whole lot more airtime early on. I liked him with the piano, I liked what he did with the song, and I liked the fact that he correctly interpreted this week's theme as "pick something that we're going to remember that you sang."

Speaking of remembering what people sang? Yeah, it's time: Adam Lambert. If I were making a list of the top five songs I never expected to hear on AI, "Play That Funky Music" would surely have made the list. I mean, what the hell was the guy thinking? But I loved every moment of that performance, from the jivin' disco knees to the customary crazy high notes to those dips into the low range that I love and that I think he doesn't use often enough. (Incidentally, I think he doesn't use the low range all that often because it's got to be really hard to find a song written for someone with a range like his -- most people who can do the low stuff can't make it anywhere near his high end.) As with so many of his performances, there is no one else on any season of AI who can do what he does.

So, yeah. Can we have a theme again next week? Please?

edited to add:

Joanna Weiss and I see green in exactly the same way.
Dan Fienberg is in the same general Crayola box as well.
Whitney Pastorek's On the Scene dispatches are back on Popwatch and are as hilarious as ever.

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