THERE’S A LOT OF GIRLS WHO SING AND SOME OF THEM ARE GOOD AND SOME OF THEM ARE NOT BUT IT’S ALWAYS KINDA COOL THAT MOMENT WHEN THEY FIRST STEP TO THE MIKE: Welcome to Year of the Chick Singers on American Idol -- for whatever reason, there's a sharp divide in the twelve between Traditional Idol Divas and a group of guitar-playing, quirky singers of a sort not as often seen on the show, but wholly appropriate in an Idol era in which artistry and interpretation has become increasingly important. But can they sing?
Kim: I felt like a whole flock of quirky girls sat at home watching AI last year saying to themselves, hey, what’s up with this flappy Megan Joy chick? I can do that too, only marginally less weird. No one was really painfully horrific, but very few of them made an impact on me one way or the other. (Oh, and this is the first season of Idol in which I am joining the show in the semi-finals. I have watched zero minutes of the show prior to tonight.)
Adam: Less weird? You want to revisit that statement after Lilly and Bowersox? I basically didn't watch until Hollywood Week, but tonight's padded six-singers-per-hour show gave plenty of background, I thought. What I liked about tonight structurally was the experimentation with rotating the order of judges' comments. We'll see what dynamics work.
Kim: Lilly is obviously one of the Megan Joy acolytes. Didi too. I still don’t like the four judge format, and the rotation made me dizzy. You know what struck me: the show is in its ninth season. These kids have totally grown up on American Idol. The 17 year olds probably don’t remember life before Kelly Clarkson. Hand me my Metamucil and a walker, Adam, and let’s get started.
Adam: Well, Paige Miles started us off with a song that was All Wrong Now. Back in the early days of Idol, performances like that constituted rock and roll. Now? Shouty and unmemorable, though in the context of what followed, not so bad that she needs to go home.
Kim:Yeah. The voice was big, the runs were big, but I didn’t care much, Ashley Rodriguez was worse – all breathy in the verses and nothing in the chorus. She looked much better, though, then she did in her clip package. How’s that for damning with faint praise?
Adam: She wasn't completely on the beat, and it was just a'ight. (The really weird part, though, was Kara's calling Leona Lewis the Mariah Carey of our generation. When Lewis writes a Christmas song that'll be around in a hundred years or comes anywhere close to Mariah's eighteen number one singles, we can revisit.) But at least Ashley picked a song she could sing. Janell didn't. The key to Heart’s “What About Love” is flipping the switch when the chorus comes and belting. She didn’t. It’s a song that requires a big voice, and given the example of Carrie Underwood and Allison Iraheta on “Alone,” this mess didn't cut it. You can't leave that large of a gap between what we expect and what she delivered. Bad, bad choice.
Kim: I was intrigued by the little clip of Janell doing her take on the 2010 coffeehouse thing, so was most surprised when it turned out to be this Disney World version of “What About Love.” Didn’t work one bit. This was the point at which I wondered whether missing all the auditions and Hollywood stuff was a really bad idea. But then we got Lilly Scott, crushing a Beatles Song I’d never heard of about dear Henry fixing the hole in the bucket, and I realized that no, it wasn’t me – it was them. Four singers in, and I finally think someone is worth listening to.
Adam: Indeed -- and in the run of three Beatles songs in a row (seriously: never heard of? It's on Sgt. Pepper), Lilly's was by far the most interesting, and I always did wonder what would happen if someone with Mary Lou Lord's voice auditioned for Idol. Lookit: I'm not entirely sure what the point of that interpretation was, but I want to see more of what comes from the artist who chose to do that.
Kim: Yep, I’m not a Beatles person. I actually liked all three Beatles renditions, including Haeley Vaughn’s. That may have just been because I was expecting any redo of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to suck, but I enjoyed it. Katelyn Epperly was an interesting performance: I liked the singing but found her persona to be so very, very annoying that it detracted from the quite good “Oh Darling.” Blonde curly people shouldn’t do black feathers in their hair. I agree with Kara – the feathers plus the lipstick plus the dress was too trollopy.
Adam: Yeah, someone turned the Frozen Donkey Wheel and sent Katelyn's hair back to 1984. Her performance felt old to me, and not in a good way. It was forgettable. Haeley, on the other hand, was weird and quirky and charming as hell, and I want to see her succeed on this show.
Kim: I’m glad you agree with me on Haeley – I was a little thrown by the harshness of the judges’ comments. I have very little to say about Lacey Brown or Michelle Delamor. Neither one did a thing for me – although I must note that I’m not sure I have ever liked a performance of an Alicia Keys song, whether by someone on AI or by Alicia Keys herself, so I’ll wait to see what Michelle brings next week.
Adam: And I'm a big fan of Keys; she's managing to record original, lasting pop standards while we're watching. I thought Michelle was competent in a wedding singer-y way, and at this point I'll take it. As for Lacey, what is a “lanside?” It’s a song that’s been covered so well by so many disparate artists (Smashing Pumpkins, Dixie Chicks), and this was just crap. What did she think she’d show off about herself by doing this? The only good thing about this performance is that it led Kara to invoke The Sundays, making this the first time I’ve thought about the band in about five years.
Which brings me to Didi, and I want to steal one of your idioms for this: There was personality! There were notes! Unforced and sweet. Just lovely.
Kim: That’s one of my idioms? I need to listen to myself more often. I liked her too, although it did feel a little like one of those songs you hear when you’ve been sitting in a Starbucks for a little bit too long. She’s got a lot of potential. But now I have a question. What of Siobhan Magnus the apprentice glassblower? (That entire concept feels like it was lifted straight out of a medievally influenced fantasy novel.) Much as I appreciate a nice looooooow low note on a girl, I found her “Wicked Game” positively dreary. Adam, what thinkest thou this night of the lass Siobhan Magnus the apprentice glassblower?
Adam: Yeah, the pride of Marston Mills (srsly, "Cape Cod" is not the name of a single town) let me down. "Wicked Game" is a fragile, delicate song ... and she interpreted it all wrong. Way too belty. Crystal Bowersox, however, won the night for me. There was nothing special about the performance, just a simple song done with enthusiasm and spirit, but I loved it. Loved the harmonica, loved the fact that she has no idea what she's in for, love the honesty that she's just trying to build a better life for her kid. If I'm calling for anyone tonight, it's her.
Kim: What’s not to love? Although she does have serious Brooke White backtalk potential: eventually, she’s going to go too far with the dialoguing with the judges, and it’s going to get annoying. “Oh yeah, David Bowie would be cool!” is sweet tonight, but it could easily escalate into the kind of shut your mouth already stuff that got Brooke into trouble. I was a little surprised that the harmonica interlude went on quite as long as it did. Give the girl some Bruuuuuuuce!
So then there’s Katie Stephens, about whom I have only one comment. That comment is this: It is way too soon to do an Adam Lambert song. I wonder whether it seemed like a much better idea in rehearsals, or whether the producers are simply trying to overcome the perception (or should we say the axiom) that there’s a pimp slot?
Adam: That song is cursed. It sent Lambert to the bottom two and eliminated two semifinalists in one week. You remember the dog walker, right? If I wanted a teenager aping a grownup song well, I’d have brought back Paris Bennett. This was a mistake.
So, overall: no outright disasters tonight, but that "Landslide" was close. I'm just prematurely excited by the mess we may have of a bunch of guitar-strumming hippie chicks being confronted with Disco or Motown weeks. Who are you calling for?
Kim: I feel a little handicapped here by lack of prior viewing. I’ll send home Ashley Rodriguez and . . . Lacey Brown? Katie Stephens? The flock of hippie chickens are fine. What about you?
Adam: There's no one who clearly gots-to-go. Janell and Lacey, I think, more on lack of judgment than lack of talent. Let's see what the men can bring tomorrow.