March 20, 2007

MUSIC: American Idol (British Invasion)

It's British Invasion week, and with help from Lulu and Peter Noone, the final eleven provide an entertaining evening, with some good performances from unexpected people.

The rundown:

Haley, "Tell Him" -- Lulu gives Haley good advice, telling her that the song needs to be crisper and more staccato, but Haley makes only a half-hearted attempt to follow through on that. Still, it's a fun performance, nicely playful, and Haley's voice sounds much better than usual.

(A quibble, though, about this song being included on British Invasion night. There may have been a British version, but the version that everyone knows and was actually a hit was by The Exciters, a girl group from Queens.)

Chris R., "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" -- he's not working as hard as usual, and it helps his pitch immensely. He's not overdoing the frills, and there's none of his usual frantic edge. I still don't much like his voice, which is nasal and whiny, but this is his best performance yet.

Stephanie, "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" -- the song doesn't condense well; it needs more time to make the dramatic build that Stephanie is forced to cram into 90 seconds. The judges are right that her performance is a bit too polite, but she does have a nice vulnerable quality on the opening verse.

Blake, "Time of the Season" -- oy, enough with the beatboxing, already! I would have liked a bit more energy from Blake; it's an oddly laidback and lethargic performance, and he's straining a bit for the high notes. The song doesn't quite suit him.

LaKisha, "Diamonds Are Forever" -- very odd song choice. The notes are there and all, but what's utterly lacking is the naughtiness the song needs, the "yes, I'm a materialistic bitch and what are you gonna do about it?" attitude. She's not having any fun with the song.

Phil, "Tobacco Road" -- the song certainly suits his style, and he's having lots of fun, which is a nice change. But he's shouting more than singing, and I can't understand a word he's saying.

Jordin, "I Who Have Nothing" -- an impeccably controlled, very smartly calibrated performance. She gets every ounce of passion out of the song, and makes it a thrilling bit of melodrama.

Sanjaya, "You Really Got Me" -- well, that was unexpected. On the plus side, he's singing with more power than we've ever heard from him, and the nature of the song is such that he can almost get away with going off-pitch at the end of every phrase. But it just doesn't work, in a weirdly creepy way; Sanjaya trying to be a rocker is like Strawberry Shortcake doing porn.

Gina, "Paint It Black" -- her pitch is off throughout, and it's boring. Whenever Idol contestants try to sing Stones songs, it reminds us that most Stones songs were dull as dishwater, and that what we remember with such fondness is Jagger's personality and performances.

Chris S., "She's Not There" -- not much to be said really. This is also dull, but at least it's competently sung.

Melinda, "As Long As He Needs Me" -- the opening is a bit too rhythmically free for my taste, so much so that it feels as if she doesn't know where the beat is. From the bridge onward, it's a much better performance. An odd song choice, though, and her weakest performance to date.

For the night: Jordin, Melinda, Blake, Stephanie, Chris R., LaKisha, Chris S., Phil, Haley, Gina, Sanjaya.

For the season: Melinda, Jordin, LaKisha, Stephanie, Blake, Chris S., Gina, Chris R., Phil, Haley, Sanjaya.

Should go home: Sanjaya. Will go home: either Phil or Haley.

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