Tuesday, April 17, 2007

American Idol Top 7 - Country Night

Well, readers, it's definitely been a while since I last chimed in on my thoughts about American Idol and with this being country week it seemed like the perfect opportunity. As always, I am making a concerted effort to get this all written down before I hear the judges comments, to avoid tainting. So awaaaay we go:

1. Phil Stacey - "Where the Blacktop Ends" (Keith Urban)
Comments: Phil still has a real nice tone to his voice, but this is pretty boring. He's got no life to this performance at all and seems incapable of injecting emotion to his performances. Martina was right, this sounds way too practiced and deliberate. He needs to let loose a little bit. He left out the soulful lick that Martina liked so much! It was a decent performance, but it sure wasn't anything great. Randy comes in with crazy over-praise. "You seem to be best in country" <-- They are quite clearly trying to shoehorn somebody into releasing a country album post-Idol, given the success Idol has had in that genre. Really surprised by the judge's reaction to this.
Phil's Performance in 7 Words: Nice Tone, Stiff, Bland, Decent, Ultimately Forgettable

2. Jordin Sparks - "Broken Wing" (Martina McBride)
Comments: This is not one of my favorite Martina McBride songs, but it sure is a singer's song, and Jordin seems kinda countryish, so let's see how she does with it. Jordan hilariously dwarfs Martina McBride. The low register on this isn't really doing it for me that much. I'm starting to realize that Jordin really doesn't have the chops that some of the better singers do, no matter how much emotion she sings with and how awesome her personality is. That being said, she's injecting a really nice heartbreaking twang into the chorus here, though her voice is going a bit out of control. Really nice glory note at the end there, but this was another relatively weak performance from Jordin. By which I mean not as good as her best, but I liked it. She's good at injection emotion into songs and interpreting them. Crazy overpraise from all three judges again, I have no idea what's going on this week.
Jordin's Performance in 7 Words: Emotional, Weak Verse, Good, She's Been Better

3. Sanjaya Malakar - "Something to Talk About" (Bonnie Raitt)
Comments: Rockin' the Willie Nelson bandana. Back to the old Sanjaya of nice tone to his voice but really, really boring performance! His voice is way, way too weak for this song, and there's really no singing required for it. This is really bad, it reminds me of what everybody hates about Sanjaya in the first place, after a few straight weeks of taking 100% of the media heat after being better than Phil and Haley. He seemed to go off tune there and didn't have half enough attitude to pull it off. Judges all hated the performance correctly. Simon: "Utterly horrendous", absolutely correct. This was an extremely bad performance, from a vocal performance maybe Sanjaya's worst (and not even in an entertaining way!).
Sanjaya's Performance in 7 Words: Boring, Boring, Boring, Boring, Boring, Utterly Horrendous

4. LaKisha Jones - "Jesus Take the Wheel" (Carrie Underwood)
Comments: A bit dangerous, of course, doing a Carrie Underwood song, but I really love this song. I know it takes a lot of heat from the intelligentsia, and I think most "intelligent" music critics hate it but I think it's great. She's playing this pretty much straight and with nothing but pure class here. She's applying the amount of drama you need to sell this song. The only problem is, I'm not sure how much I like the soul licks she's injecting into the chorus here, and then she's glory noting it to all get out at the end here. She is singing a soul ballad atop country instrumentation here. It was rather screechy in the chorus, but at least she sold the emotion. Way better than "Conga" at least. Judges pan it probably excessively, but I kind of agree, the glory noting clashed completely with the country instruments. We all know I'm a Simon hata, but I agreed with Simon 100% here. He is so on the money here that I am shocked.
LaKisha's Performance in 7 Words: Screechy, Shouty, Incongruous, High Emotion, Below Par

5. Chris Richardson - "Mayberry" (Rascal Flatts)
Comments: Lots of people hate Chris' nasally and thin voice, but I think he ("Smooth" aside) is OK. He's picked a really good song here where nasally and thin are actually kind of a good thing for the song here. He's piercing up in those high notes and it's putting a bit of emotion here. I even really like the runs and soul licks he's put in here. 'Twas a bit boring and forgettable, but I actually one of Chris's best performances yet. Randy says he lacked emotion, which is true, but since he never shows any emotion during his singing at all I don't see why they chose this week to nail him for it. Simon criticizes him for being nasally, tinny, and nondescript, which he also always is. This was a really unfair judge's reaction here.
Chris' Performance in 7 Words: Somewhat Bland, Nasally, Nice Tone, Above Average

6. Melinda Doolittle - "Trouble Is a Woman" (Julie Reeves)
Comments: I don't even know what to say about Melinda Doolittle at this point, but I'll give it the ol college try. She's doing a really upbeat, and actually fairly trad country song here. Give credit where credit is due: This song is from 1999, and sounds like a contemporary song. Like always, she's got extremely proficient technical chops here and she's doing really interesting things with the phrasing. And she's doing it with a style of music and singing that I actually CARE about! Further credit: Unlike LaKisha, she's actually adapted her singing to match the song here, rather than trying to shoehorn her singing on top of a song where it doesn't fit. This was incredible. By a huge margin the best of the night, and possibly my favorite Melinda Doolittle performance. Judge's are giving it super praise and she really deserves it this week. Simon tells Melinda to drop the humility after directly feeding it for 10 weeks in a row. Screw you Simon.
Melinda's Performance in 7 Words: Proficient, Fun, Interesting, Best Of The Night

7. Blake Lewis - "When the Stars Go Blue" (Tim McGraw/Ryan Adams)
Comments: I've been looking forward to this, because I think Blake is actually his best when he is being forced to reign himself in, as he will this week. He's playing this completely straight so far, and oh my he has a pretty falsetto. Wow, I never noticed that before. When he's not jumping around the stage like an idiot and trying to comtemporize and old song and Blakify the vocals, he's got a really pretty voice. He still has trouble capturing the emotions of the songs, but this is really pretty, and the song has enough natural emotion in the lyrics and melody that it carry through and wash over the performance with no effort from Blake at all. This was a really smart song choice. I thought this was a good performance. I like country night here, this was one of Blake's better performances.
Blake's Performance in 7 Words: Inessential, Pretty, Good Song Choice, Above Average

1. Melinda
2. Blake
3. Chris
4. Jordin
5. Phil
6. LaKisha
7. Sanjaya

I predict that many will call this a weak episode, but this was my favorite non-Leslie Hunt (screw you America, I still haven't forgotten!) featuring episode of the season. Peace out folks!

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