Last night on American Idol, the finalists performed songs from movies (another fairly wide selection). Director Quentin Tarantino served as their mentor. Would he push them to greatness?
This time there were a few differences right off the top, such as Quentin Tarantino appearing in the cold open and announcing, "This is American Idol!" Then, in the studio, the illustrious return of Ricky Minor and the band, on stage, in suits!
Finally, host Ryan Seacrest announced that the judges would be going two at a time because of timing issues. (Last week's show ran over, which meant that anyone who was recording it on DVR missed the final performance, one of the night's best.)
Was that wrestling star and friend of Cyndi Lauper, "Captain" Lou Albano, in the audience?
Quentin, who's definitely started dying his hair (which is sad, because I like gray hair), would be watching from the audience. Oddly enough, Ryan told him, "Feel free to just chime in." Quentin promised he will. The producers, who had not given Quentin a mike, clearly had no intention of giving him that option.
First to take the stage was Allison Iraheta, who did the Aerosmith song "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" from Armageddon. Now, American Idol fans will remember David Cook's blazing performance of it last season. Quentin felt that when she first sang it, she wasn't at a performance level, so he told her to do it again. For the first time, Allison had no wardrobe issues: dressed in a black silk tunic with a red belt and red leggings. She seemed kind of bored at the beginning, and she murdered the melody on the chorus. The audience seemed to love it, but for the first time, I'm really worried for my girl.
Nice judge Paula Abdul said, "I've championed Adam since day one, but what I've noticed tonight is you possess the same special sauce as he does." Mmm. Special sauce. She called Allison authentic, saying, "I don't care if you're 16 or 60" (Allison does tend to look a little older than she is, though I doubt she's 60), adding that she's "one remarkable, talented, young lady."
Tough judge Simon Cowell clarified on Paula's behalf, saying, "I think it was barbecue sauce" she was referring to: "hot, spicy." He told her that she's the girls' only hope left in this competition. He praised her for getting stronger and more confident, acknowledging it's a really tough song to sing. He added that he hasn't heard a girl sing that song so well.
Anoop "Noop Dawg" Desai chose the Bryan Adams song "Everything I Do, I Do for You" from the movie Robin Hood. Quentin told him to rough it up a bit, to make it a bigger song. He even had him work on digging up the power for the big notes. Wearing a baseball jacket, plaid button-down and striped tie (trying to channel his geek side again?), Noop Dawg delivered one of his best vocals to date. Whereas I usually fault him for poor breath control and petering off at the end of phrases, he actually had some power on this one. Way to go, Quentin! Who would have thought the nonmusical mentor would be the one to help Anoop find his strength? My only criticism, Anoop did the cheesy pointing-at-the-camera move at the end. But we'll forgive him (and his sweaty upper lip), shall we?
Judge Randy Jackson said that when he heard Anoop was doing this song, he thought it would be really rough. "But the last couple of weeks, you've found your zone." He remarked that the performance was in tune and showed some emotion. He summed it up as "really good."
Fourth wheel Kara DioGuardi said that Anoop has definitely found his place: "pop songs and adding your soul to it." She thought it was probably one of his best vocals. He even made her feel connected to him while he was singing, which has become Kara's biggest catch phrase, now that she's dropped the much-reviled term, "package artist."
Next up was Adam Lambert singing Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" from Easy Rider. Quentin said that "this is a competition looking for rock stars" and "he's the real deal." He didn't have much in the way of criticism but said he'd enjoyed what he heard. Rocking a black leather jacket, gray jeans, and a silver chain necklace, with his hair back in scruffy rock mod, Adam sang the song with a rock edge but a little bit of a techno beat, including some synthesized flutes (love it!). He really rocked it out, and he was back to his Axl Rose rocker licks, which I know some people hate. You've got to admit, though, that unlike some people (*clears throat* Matt), he can sustain the high notes. He also danced with Ricky Minor and the background singers, much more naturally than Danny Gokey's choreographed moves a few weeks back.
Paula was on her feet cheering at the end of the performance. She gushed, "Adam, the reason that you're shaking up this whole competition is you dare to dance in the path of greatness. Fortune rewards the brave, and you're one of the bravest contestants I've witnessed, ever." Which means, I guess, that she liked it.
Simon joked, to Adam, "You've got to learn how to express yourself a bit more." Vocally, he found the performance incredible. The downside, he said, was that it was "like watching The Rocky Horror Musical in parts," to which Adam replied, "I love that." (Kudos to Adam for not correcting Simon on the title of the film.) Simon noted that there will be a huge portion of the audience that will love it; but another portion will despise it. He predicted this performance wouldn't be as popular as last week's.
Matt Giraud went with a Bryan Adams song, "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" from Don Juan DeMarco. A side note here: the funny thing about that movie is that it's deliberately cheesy, a very tongue-in-cheek romance. That said, the song might have been an odd choice, but I'm guessing Matt didn't know that. Quentin advised Matt not to lose the enunciation of the lyrics. Matt was dressed for the office job he might have if he's cut this week: button-down shirt, dark tie, and a vest (really, who wears a vest?). I found his vocals to be kind of breathy in the beginning, which didn't trouble me as much as the pitch problems in the chorus and the extremely pitchy riff at the end of the song.
Randy said the performance started out cool, but "when you hit the bridge, you had a rough patch." He cautioned that "when you take a song like this that's got a simple, beautiful melody, can't do all of that stuff with it, because you're going to fall down somewhere." He said it wasn't one of his best performances.
Kara harped again on what she sees as his struggle between doing a rock song or a soul song. She said he's constantly going back and forth. This time, she says that he tried to make this a soul song but took away some of the core melody.
And then, in the most shocking performance of the night, Danny Gokey sang WITHOUT HIS GLASSES. Sorry. It's just that Danny revealed to Ryan that he's bored and, frankly, that makes me think why should we care either? Anyway, he sang "Endless Love" by Lionel Ritchie from the movie Endless Love. Quentin advised him to put his hands in his pocket and not use gestures, to allow the emotion to come out of the eyes. Typical of Danny, he chose to ignore that advice. He started out sitting on a stool with a harp, and initially was just singing, but as soon as he hit a funky note, the arms came out and he was in full Danny mode. He was having a bad night, sartorially, with a pale blue jacket, white T-shirt, and bed head (and not in a cool sense). Most of the song was pretty good in terms of tone, but he irritated me with his enunciation quirks, such as singing, "Jou're every step I take."
Paula said that from the opening of the performance, she wasn't sure that the key should have been lowered. But midway through, she said "the magic was in the timber of your voice," and that he pulled it together from midway to the end.
Simon said he couldn't fault the way Danny sang the song, but he was disappointed with the arrangement: namely the harp. He pointed out that last year, when David did a Lionel Ritchie song, he did it his own original version (he's talking about David Cook's performance of "Hello," which I actually didn't like at the time but which has grown on me). That said, he noted that "this song means a lot to you personally" and for some reason, congratulated him for that.
Kris Allen went with a lesser-known song, "Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova from the movie Once. Quentin asked him to consider using an instrument but said it would be good either way. Wearing a gray summer-weight jacket with a white patterned T-shirt and jeans, Kris opted against the guitar. I wasn't sure I knew this song, but his voice sounded nice. I don't know if there's much more I can say about it. Halfway through, it sounded almost like he was falling asleep. I think Baby Face might be in trouble.
Randy said it never quite caught on for him and "was pitchy from note one." (What? Randy has actually heard this song before?) Here's the original song, since I just had to find it and compare. I think it really needs the harmony. I wonder why he didn't have any background singers. Incidentally, as soon as I heard it I remembered it having won an Oscar for Best Original Song this year. So yes, Kris's version of it was lacking.
Kara said it's difficult to pick an obscure song that not everybody knows but added that "It was one of your best moments." Which probably means that she doesn't usually pay attention to Kris.
And in the pimp spot, we bring you... Vonzell Solomon! No, I mean, Ruth Pointer! No? Just Lil Rounds again? Damn. Wearing a long straight wig, she proved how much she needs to go home. And I knew that as soon as I heard the song choice, Bette Midler's "The Rose" from The Rose! Someone sang an insipid version of this song in every single school talent show back in the day. Can this girl really be 23? Maybe she got stuck in a time warp in 1990 and came forward to our time, to compete in this singing competition. Wearing tight black pants and a black vest with some animal print details, she looked like a character from In Living Color. The opening of the song was so hackneyed that I had virtually tuned out by the time she hit the chewy center, a gospel-flavored tweak of the song that I think she thought was more impressive than it was. I might have been more impressed if she'd picked a melody and stayed on it. Ouch.
Paula, who has this thing about being mean, chose to praise the SONG when she couldn't praise the singer, saying, "You could not have sung a more beautiful lyric... Sometimes the road is really long, but it's a road that's worthwhile taking, especially when you've made it this far, Lil." Simon, like most of America, just rolled his eyes.
Simon said that once again, Lil was getting this completely wrong. He said, "The song was too soft for you, too middle of the road." While she had some nice moments, he said "there's no excuses any more." He added, "You're not the artist I believe we met seven or eight weeks ago." At which point, Lil decided to hammer the nail in her coffin, by talking back. "I put my own bit to it." Simon listened and then said, "But it was a Bette Midler song." Exactly! Bing! Done. End of discussion. Shut.... up!
I'm sorry, but the attitude of some of the contestants this season is really beginning to get on my nerves. I realize that my reviews are beginning to sound more and more like that celebrity blogger character Angie Tempura from Saturday Night Live, and I apologize. It's just... bitch, please!
Anyway, kudos this week to Adam Lambert and I can't believe I'm saying this Anoop Desai. And well, that's about it.
So, who's going to be in the bottom three? I think it will probably be Lil, Matt and (sad face) Allison, with either Lil or Matt going home. However and I'd hate to be right about this Allison has been in the bottom three two times previously, and her luck might have run out, unless the audience heard in her performance what the judges did. However, she probably has one of the best chances of benefiting from the judges' save, so we'll see.
All video clips come from mjsbigblog.
The best way to raise my ire on a viewer vote-in show is to demonstrate a bad attitude.