Tuesday, March 3, 2009

SWEATING TO THE OLDIES VOL. III, FEATURING "I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR LOVE": This was kind of an odd night on American Idol -- there were a number of performances that I thought were perfectly fine in the moment, but not so many singers who I care if I ever see again on the show.

First of all, the show is American Idol, not American Scallop Piano Player, and so no one should be putting Scott MacIntyre through to the finals just because they think he's awesome on the piano. Second, when it comes to Nathaniel Marshall, I'll take my convivially over-the-top performances of songs by pantheonic vocalists from Adam Lambert, thank you very much. Third, what is with all the teenage girls collapsing under the weight of their own nerves? Fourth, when in the history of American Idol have there ever been so many mommies on the show? Fifth, my favorite part of Jorge Núñez's performance was his comment that "when I get so emotional I can't think in English -- it comes in Spanish!" I thought his performance was quite good, although I don't remember much about it now except that I spent a lot of time during it thinking about how he had the most unusually shaped eyebrows I've ever seen.

Only two performances really made any lasting impact on me: Lil Rounds and Ju'Not Joyner. I haaaated Lil Rounds during Hollywood week -- Isaac totally nailed it with the Dora the Explorer crack earlier today -- but I thought she was fantastic tonight. As for Ju'Not, I don't usually go for the performances of the quiet slow songs on AI, mostly because contestants usually interpret "quiet and slow" as carrying with them a license to be boring (Anwar Robinson, I'm talking to you, buddy). But I thought his "Hey There Delilah" was incredibly moving and personal and intimate.

Somewhere in the middle for me were Von Smith and Kristen McNamara. Adam twittered earlier in the evening that McNamara's "Give Me One Reason" sounded like a Tom Jones arrangement of a Tracy Chapman song -- no disagreement from me there, but I do love the sound of her voice. And Von Smith seemed really to have taken all the prior criticism to heart, delivering a polished and professional and surprisingly not old-fashioned-sounding "You're All I Need to Get By."

But possibly my favorite 90 seconds of the evening was the time I spent giggling at Alex Wagner-Trugman's mouse-who-roared take on "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues." I literally held my breath waiting for him to growl out "rolling like thunder under the covers," and oh, he did not disappoint.

So . . . predictions are hard for me tonight. Obviously Lil. But does disability trump ESL? Do they both trump a more subtle, less bombastic performance from Ju'Not? Does cute blonde country girl wiggle in for the three-spot? And what does all of this mean for the people who keep hoping that Anoop will pick a less gludgey song in the wild card round?

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