Wednesday, May 03, 2006

American Idol - The Fab Five Face Off

Round 1 - Songs of Their Birth Years

Elliott Yamin - "On Broadway"

Coolia: I love this song, but Elliott didn't do anything special with it. It was an adequate version but unexciting. He's looking kind of rough again.
Barb: Sounds awful
Art Haarper: He's flat. I don't know what song the other 2 judges were listening to. I agree with Simon.
C. Crumpet Swank: I thought he did a fine job with this. He sounded quite good (if not spectacular) and he was clearly having a ball. He seemed totally at ease with this song. I think what the rendition needed was a bit more theatricality. George Benson sails through the song with such style and Elliott needed a bit more of that.
I don't think he does well in the lower register. Shaky. Not one of his best performances.
Nerdia: Loved it.
Terry: "On Broadway" was erratic within itself. Some parts were quite good and some were not so good. But, overall it sounded very Broadway and not pop (or even interesting).

Paris Bennett - "Kiss"

Coolia: Yes, Paris makes us all feel old by singing a song from 1988. At least none of the contestants did a Nirvana song. I was bored by her rendition. She's no Tom Jones. Her outfit and hairstyle recalled the slutty Sandy at the end of Grease. Better shape up, Paris!
Art Haarper: Not my kind of music.
C. Crumpet Swank: One of the weakest performances of the 12 we have seen from her thus far. "Princess P": 1.) added nothing to this song; 2.) didn't flatter her voice, and 3.) totally stripped the tune of its hyper-funky/sexy chewiness. What a disappointment.
Ummmmmm. Sorry, but I'm just not buying it. Her voice is great, I don't think that's an issue. I just think she needs to grow up a bit more.
Unless it’s Tom Jones singing Kiss, I just don’t wanna know.
First of all, could her head look any larger!? I thought that H.R. Puffinstuff was on stage! Beyond that the choice of Prince's "Kiss" was just terrible. And, she gave a lame karaoke-ish version of it too boot. Bad giant head! Bad!

Chris Daughtry - "Renegade”

Coolia: At first I thought this song had the potential for Chris to show a more upbeat, rocking style, but then he turned it into his typical dirge rock. He already did "Wanted Dead or Alive" but now delivers another song on the same theme. It was a solid performance but I don't see anything in him or his choice of material that will distinguish him from Godsmack, Nickelback, Shinedown, Three Doors Down, Creed, etc.
Barb: That was hot.
C. Crumpet Swank: Same ole, same ole. Twelve songs sung in exactly the same manner--always confident and impressive--but I am seriously wearying of the stylistic uniformity. Coolia, you said it--"typical dirge rock." It's weird how Chris is so affable when not singing. Why won't he show this quality in his performances ever? Even Eddie Vedder can be charming on occasion when he sings.
LOVED that he did Renegade! My older brothers used to play that song loud on their JVC stereo turntables.
Wow. He tore Styx a new one. This is the 3rd time now that he has taken an original and made it better than the original. He did miss that one high note with his voice momentarily giving out, but this version of "Renegade" was more compelling and earnest than the original. Damn impressive!

Katharine McPhee - "Against All Odds"

Coolia: Katharine's version gave me increased respect for Phil Collins, although I am not a Phil fan. She seemed nervous and out of sync. At one point, I thought she messed up the words, but the judges didn't point it out. I don't know why she picked this tired old chestnut. She did look great, though - killer dress. When I take a good look at you now, Katharine, I see an empty space.
C. Crumpet Swank: Why did this sound so awkward? It seemed clear afterwards that even she wasn't pleased with it. She said something about "getting ahead of the music," didn't she? Whatever happened, it was quite a messy affair.
Sucked. Again. A total disaster.
You know you’re in trouble when Phil Collins sings a song better than you. This was god-awful.
Uh, why did you choose to wear a potato sack with cinches? I was STUNNED when the judges complimented that horror of a dress. That looked like something straight from the "worst dressed" list. Blech! And, the song was terrible, too. And, I honestly was disappointed by that because prior to hearing her sing Phil Collins I would have thought she would have done wonderfully. But, alas, no.

Taylor Hicks - "Play That Funky Music"

Coolia: I thoroughly enjoyed this performance. Finally, something lively to keep us awake! I like it when Taylor picks songs that he can move to, and I liked his disco outfit. Sure, his dance moves and falling on the floor are hokey, but they make me laugh. And not because I'm laughing at him, but because I'm having fun watching him have fun.
Barb: He's on tonight. That was a good song choice. One of his best, even better than Chris.
C. Crumpet Swank: Great! Fun, energetic, vocally accomplished. Full of life, exuberance, chutzpah. Go Taylor! Terrible shirt, however.
Woo hoo! Fun, fun, fun. Thought he did very well.
This was standard Taylor fare, such as Chris’ second song was standard Chris fare. Not great, but good.
Heeeee's baaaaaaack! Now that's the funky music singing white boy we all know and love. Not the best vocals by any stretch, in fact, fairly average, but the fun and energy and genuine enthusiasm and sheer entertainment cannot be denied. Overall, I dug it.

Round 2 - Today's Hits from Billboard Charts

Elliott Yamin - "Home"

Coolia: I was thinking what Simon voiced - not a smart choice of lyrics, singing about wanting to go home. I think Elliott may have bought his plane ticket home with this performance. Again, it was merely adequate. Dullsville.
Barb: I think he's going home. He'll get his wish. He acts as stupid as he looks (referencing his early exit toward Ryan).
C. Crumpet Swank: I thought this was boring; I wasn't familiar with the song and it hasn't stuck with me overnight by virtue of the composition or performance. Will the lyrical content curse him?
Linda: This song is a
better fit. I thought he was on target and it was a much better performance.
I dutifully closed my eyes and loved both of his performances this week. Love the George Benson song and liked the contrast with the Michael Buble song.
This was much better and was tender, sweet, sensitive and melodic but ultimately boring and therefore very likely prophetic ("send me home"...). Neither song had an ounce of "wow" in them.

Bennett - "Be Without You"

Coolia: I love this song and love Mary J. Paris had guts to take on Ms. Blige and I have to say she acquitted herself well. At her tender age, she can't quite muster the longing and emotion that Mary J. brings to the song, but she can handle the vocal acrobatics quite well. I thought it was a brave, creative, and confident performance.
Barb: She gets a reprieve - one more week.
C. Crumpet Swank: One of my two favorite performances of the night overall. I felt she let go and ran with the song. Lots of oomph and feeling. Solid. But what the hell was going on with that outfit? It was horrific. She deserves to go home just on the basis of that. On what planet is an ill-fitting army fatigue blouse, a Harley belt buckle, and ass-expanding pantaloons (in a nice shiny silver synthetic) de rigeur? She looked like an idiot. Awful, awful, awful. Can you imagine what get-up she's going to wear on the cover of her debut album? They're going to have to wrap it in a plain brown wrapper. Calling Mr. Blackwell.
Yeah, I don't think so. What's up with the magic genie camo outfit? Not working for me. Maybe next year.
Ugh. Bad outfit, bad renditions, bad choices. I just don’t get Paris. Mary J. Blige has a texture to her voice this one just doesn’t have.
Her second song was better but I wasn't sure if that was Paris on stage or some mutant half Army (top) half space ranger (bottom). I'm sure she was trying to be "hip" but she looked ridiculous. As for the song, as always good power but just another near identical copy of the original with no originality thrown in...and also as always an over-emphasis on enunciation that just screams of lack of true connection with the song, the audience and...based on her giant headed half-army half-space-ranger self-inflicted look...reality.

Chris Daughtry - "I Dare You"

Coolia: Another generic nu-metal dirge from Chris, and this time his voice wouldn't let him shout it out quite the way he wanted too. He sure seems a lot happier in the interview footage than he does on stage. His home life didn't look too dysfunctional. Enough pain, enough angst, enough already! Please sing "Rock Around the Clock" or "You Shook Me All Night Long" - something happy. Please!
Barb: I wasn't overly impressed.
C. Crumpet Swank: I didn't mind the strain in his voice. But again, like Coolia points out, more of the same. At least it was a catchy song. [By the way, "You Shook Me All Night Long" is a great suggestion, Coolia! If Celine Dion can sing this with conviction (which she can--remember her duet with Anastacia?), I'd love to see what Chris would do with it.]
Both songs good. First one was stronger - I wasn't sure he'd make it through the second. Hands down, the best of the night. You guys are going to think I'm nuts, but at the beginning of "I Dare You" I thought he was channeling Neil Diamond. Write this down - he's going to win.
It was okay…getting tired of the four basic idol back-drops, like fire.
His second song wasn't nearly as good as his voice was so obviously giving out, but still, even with that he gave a pretty darn good performance. Overall, taking into consideration both performances of all singers I think Chris bested them all by far.

Katharine McPhee - "Big Black Horse and the Cherry Tree"

Coolia: This was my favorite Katharine performance yet. Finally, I saw a glimpse of style and personality from her. She looked much more relaxed and like she was having fun onstage. I liked the use of the musicians with their funky instruments and her alternative "on her knees" pose - although I wished she'd get up at some point. It was a quirky song choice, but I thought it worked.
Barb: She's getting more personality.
C. Crumpet Swank: This really worked on so many levels. A song which is immediately catchy. The nifty accompaniment. The casual, barefoot, on-the-knees choreography. And an impressive, soulful delivery. Could Katharine actually be capable of emotionally connecting with a song? This performance seems to suggest that it's in the realm of possibility.
Linda: Second song was much better, but just not a strong night for her. I'm not a
fan of hers anyway. Don't understand the hoopla. Love the box drums, though.
This performance was fun and showed more personality than we normally see from Katharine…but I didn’t feel it was good enough to redeem her this week.
I'm not exactly sure what the floor thing was all about but boy oh boy did it
work for me. She writhes good! And, she gave a MUCH better vocal performance. This second song may have saved her from the bottom group and even being cast off Idol Island.

Taylor Hicks "Something"

Coolia: I have to start off by admonishing Taylor for "cheating" by picking this song. I know it was technically fair for him to do it since it's on the charts, but it wasn't what the producers had in mind when they picked the theme. They wanted him to do something current. So I have to chastise him since I criticized Chris for turning RB and Country Weeks into Metal Weeks. But this is where the chastising stops and the effusive praise begins. I love this song so much that I have the Beatles', Shirley Bassey's, and Frank Sinatra's versions on my ipod. And now I look forward to having Taylor's version join the collection. Taylor is the only singer on this show who can actually make me feel what he's singing. He actually listens to the lyrics and interprets them. He feels it. And the boy can sing. His delivery was measured, gentle at times, and powerful as he built to a crescendo. And contrary to C. Crumpet Swank's comments last week, my admiration for Taylor isn't based on a crush but on his talent and unique style. I don't even think he's sexy. He's certainly not a Constantine. I think he looks like George Clooney's twin who was slightly off and maybe kept in the attic, but then I don't really think Clooney is hot either. Still, would I push Taylor out of my bed if I found him there? Probably not. At least not if he was singing "Something."
Terry: I didn't think it was a bad performance but it was so in no way near the original by the Beattles (specifically, George Harrison) that it fell completely flat for me. And, I agree with Coolia that Frank Sinatra did a brilliant cover (Frank often said that he thought "Something" was the best love song ever written). So, when compared to those 2, it just left me wanting. Now, couple that all with the fact that this song is one of my all time favorite love songs (akin to contestants choosing "Unchained Melody," Simon's favorite song) and, quite frankly, Taylor in no way did it justice.
Linda: Yeah, baby. He's right on. I'll tell you, at first I was not a Taylor fan. But I've been won over.
He really botched “Something.”
C. Crumpet Swank: I'm neutral about the Beatles so this song was no sacred cow for me, like it was for Terry. Nevertheless, Taylor's rendition failed to impress me. I can't remember anything about it--good or bad--the morning after, so I can't say that I found it remotely compelling. I loved that Simon referred to Taylor as barmy. What a hoot! I will again insist that Taylor is much, much better with the up-tempo songs. In slower material his (in)ability to sustain notes to the degree that any of the remaining contestants can is perhaps his only weakness at this point in the competition. It is no minor thing, but he has so many other good qualities as a singer that it may not matter in the long run. Definite points off for the biggest cheat of the season in terms of fulfilling an evening's "theme" requirements. What they should have done was insist that each person sing a current song that was in the Top Ten of a Billboard chart for the first time. Resorting to the catalogue chart was a major cop-out on Taylor's part--a more grievous offense than the Daughtry/Live "Walk the Line" scandal, in my opinion.


Coolia: Bottom 2 - Elliott, Paris, with Paris leaving
Barb: Bottom 2 – Elliott, Paris, with
Paris leaving
C. Crumpet Swank: Bottom 2 – Elliott, Paris, with Paris
Linda: Bottom 2 – Elliott, Katharine, with Elliott leaving
Nerdia: Bottom 2 – Paris, Katharine, with
Paris leaving
Terry: Bottom 2 - Elliott, Paris, with Elliott leaving

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