Last night on American Idol, the top seven finalists got another chance to impress the viewers, this time with disco tunes.
What happened to all the mentors this week? I thought there were going to be all sorts of disco greats giving them advice. I guess the producers decided to axe the video segments in favor of letting all four judges speak. If I'm not mistaken, though, they were sitting in the audience (the camera panned over a bunch of celebrity types in the beginning), but I didn't recognize any of them without introductions.
Also, was that Tori Spelling in the audience? She's really going everywhere to promote her new book, Mommywood.
First up was Lil Rounds, as usual picking the most overdone song available, this time Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman." (See Season 2's Trenyce and Season 5's Mandisa, both of whom did a better job). She started with an uneven first note. This week, she chose a long, feathered wig, trying to channel Gloria Gaynor. She wore another epic fail outfit: black V-neck, big silver earrings, and too-tight black pants (or was it a one-piece, as another viewer suggests? Either way, fail). Her version of the song was danceable, but she had trouble staying on the melody, especially as she walked out into the audience. She may be every woman, but she's no diva.
Judge Randy Jackson said it "sounded wild to me" and didn't show what you she can do (maybe this IS what she can do). He added that it didn't show vocal control. Fourth wheel Kara DioGuardi said, "All of American has been waiting for you to sing Chaka Khan or an artist like that, but I'm not sure, honey, it was worth the wait." Ooh, snap. She added another zinger: "You've been every woman on that stage, every other woman but yourself." This, of course, a reference to the fact that Lil has changed her style (both vocally and sartorially) every week. Nice judge Paula Abdul pointed out that yesterday, Lil had no voice and was on complete vocal rest. She said, "Although you were hot, I don't think you hit quite the boiling point." By this point, Lil looked like she was going to cry. Tough judge Simon Cowell pointed out, "You look so sad," to which Lil said that she actually had fun tonight. Simon countered, "I'm glad you had fun, because I think this is going to be the last week we're ever going to see you." He said there was no originality and it was very copycat.
Host Ryan Seacrest gave Lil a chance to respond. She said, "I absolutely don't believe I was karaoke tonight at all." Someone in the audience called out something I couldn't quite hear, but it sounded like, "Then don't sing it like that."
Up next was Kris Allen, who chose the Donna Summer tune "She Works Hard for the Money" Why? Because it's a story, he said (although he couldn't articulate what the story was). That's OK, though, because it was kind of endearing when he lost control of his words. He wore a simple white T-shirt, with a couple necklaces, and gray jeans, which went well with his stripped-down, acoustic version of the song. A few musicians joined him on-stage with bongo drums, a guitar, and percussion, as he played guitar. I found this fresh take on the song to be super cool. He demonstrated a nice upper range, and I thought this version was very hip. I could hear this being used in a movie soundtrack. The slowed-down ending was also a nice touch.
Kara insisted on going first, apparently assuming they were going back to the rotating system they used earlier in the season. She noted Kris took a real risk with that arrangement, and "it paid off big time." She said it sounds like it could go on his record. Paula said there was a a classy Santana feel to this arrangement. Then, in reference to the fact that he chose a song made famous by a woman, he said, "A lot of women shop in the men's department, but there aren't many men that are willing to shop in the women's... [Y]ou shopped and found a perfect fit." She said the performance showed his originality. Simon got into a squabbling match with Paula over her extended metaphor, claiming, "I actually need a translator on this show." He said this was the complete polar opposite to the first performance: original, well-thought out, not karaoke. "Whether you buy women's underwear or not, I don't care," he said, calling it a fantastic performance. Randy advised him to ignore Simon and Paula ("Those guys are in grade school"). He praised him, saying, "You are ready for the big time, dawg." He called the performance amazing.
As they went to commercial break, Ryan announced Danny and Allison were up next. We saw them standing together, with Allison wearing Danny's glasses. Cute. Danny Gokey had back-up singers on-stage with him as he did "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire, wearing a simple black shirt, black jacket, and jeans, and sporting stubble. A very George Michael look. He gave a very easy performance, and even though some of the song was out of his range, he kept finding ways to showcase his vocals. He actually has a good voice for this type of song.
Randy said he was worried about the song choice, because it's a great song but doesn't have a great melodic range. He said, "You turned this into something that really worked for you tonight. Good job." Kara was also kind of worried for Danny on disco night, saying that asking him to do disco was "like asking Simon to wear a plaid shirt." She called him an incredible vocalist and praised his pitch. Paula gushed over his "agility" and "brilliance." She said he has one of the sexiest voices and that women of all ages will agree. Simon agreed with his fellow judges (well, probably except for Paula's "sexy" comment), saying he couldn't fault the vocals. As a performance, though, he said he "didn't get any star power from that." Danny's face immediately fell. Simon said he found the performance "a bit awkward and clumsy." Paula interjected, "We'll still see you in the finals."
Next, the moving doors opened to reveal Allison Iraheta sitting on lit red stairs, wearing black rubber leggings, a black and silver top, and a white leather shrug, her hair curled. It wasn't the best look for her, since it accentuated some bulges in her midsection. The shrug was cool, though the stiletto boots made it a little difficult for her to move around. But her rendition of Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" made me forget all about her fashion misstep and that overused fire background. She reminded me of Pat Benetar as she did a rocking version of the song that still had some danceable qualities. Her last note was great. Yet another Allison song I'm going to be buying at iTunes.
Randy said that he didn't love the arrangement, finding it a little overindulgent. Still, he called her one of the best singers in this competition. Kara agreed about the arrangement, saying that making it slower hurt the performance. She agreed that Allison is one of the best singers, giving her a 9 or 10 on vocals. Paula engaged in a little word salad: "The word 'compromise' does not even belong in your musical vocabulary, and because of that the edginess you brought I don't mind the arrangement at all, because it does not veer away from your authenticity." Simon said it didn't have anything to do with the tempo of the song, because Allison would always have come into this week being an underdog. He summarized: "Taking everything into account, that was a brilliant performance."
Adam Lambert chose not to go glam for disco night (disappointing many fans, I'm sure, but also meaning that he didn't alienate any voters not already on the Glambert band wagon). He wore a black suit with a white shirt and tie that had a few subtle design tweaks to look more contemporary. He sang "If I Can't Have You" by Yvonne Elliman, as a ballad. The opening was very controlled, leading into a much bigger chorus. A reaction shot showed Paula with tears in her eyes. His performance was very emotional. He really seemed to believe what he was singing, and his last note was beautiful.
Randy praised him for showing range. He gave him his seal of approval: "You have it majorly going on. He is the hot one tonight, America." Kara called him brilliant and the performance memorable. She added that he looked like "the guy from Saturday Night Live [read: John Travolta] meets Clark Kent." Paula noted she'd had a visceral response to his performance: "I felt your pain, your vulnerability. It's like you tore your heart out and left it on the stage." Eww. She added, "You're awesome. You will be in the finals." Simon said that he'd thought that Adam would do Donna Summer, so he loved that he did something unexpected and was original. He added that the vocals were immaculate.
Before Ryan announced the number, Adam gave a shout-out to Michael Orlans (ph), who helped him come up with that arrangement. "He is a genius," Adam said. Ryan remarked, about Paula's reaction, "You're melting her into a pool of Abdul."
Then came Matt Giraud, choosing a remarkably appropriate song, given last week's save: "Staying Alive" by the Bee Gees. He also had background singers, though unlike Danny, he worked the stage more, dancing around. He wore a white button-down, jeans, a black tie, brown leather jacket, and a black hat. The performance wasn't bad except for that damn falsetto. I thought he was trying to do a cool version of the song, but it wasn't really working.
Randy didn't love the song choice and didn't love the arrangement, adding, "You can really sing." He said this is "one of the most talented groups of seven we've ever had." Kara praised him for bringing disco back, saying she likes to see Matt move. The vocals, she said, were "pretty good." Paula said, "You pick songs like I bowl. Sometimes you throw gutter balls; sometimes you throw strikes. This one was a strike." She predicted that "after this performance, you're staying." Simon didn't like the performance, saying it came over as a bit desperate and that he didn't think the vocals were great. He also said it lacked originality. "Not such a huge fan of that, I'm afraid," he summarized.
Finally, Anoop "Noop Dawg" Desai wore a pink sweater, blue button-down, pink-and-blue tie, and a gray suit (with stubble along with pink and ties, the new Idol trend!) to perform "Dim All the Lights" by Donna Summer. His performance started out slow and then picked up, which was sort of predictable. On the chorus, he was not quite on the melody.
Randy said that "sometimes we forget this is a singing competition. You can sing." Kara thought it was a great song choice and liked the ballad feel. She said it sounded like it could be on the radio (maybe an easy-listening station?) She called the last two weeks his best performances. Paula liked the preppy look and praised his growth (no, she didn't mean the stubble). She said, "Real men know how to wear pink," and Anoop agreed. She praised his "beautiful vocals at start of song" and advised him to smile more: "You've got beautiful teeth." Simon disagreed with his fellow judges, saying the performance was "mediocre at best." He called it "a horrible version of that song" and said it was "your worst performance by a mile." And he's not easily given to superlatives.
Kudos to Kris, Allison and Adam, with a nod to Danny.
The bottom three will definitely include Lil and Anoop. Because of last week, Matt's fans might rally, putting Allison in danger (or perhaps, in a real shocker, Danny). But it will probably be Lil going home this week, who I suspect is going to regret mouthing off to the judges.
ETA: The divine supremegoddess1 reminds me that two people are going home, so I'm siding with her prediction of Lil and Anoop dancing away this week.
All video clips come from mjsbigblog.
Disco night doesn't have to be cheesy.