March 13, 2007

MUSIC: American Idol (Diana Ross songs)

And what did we learn from Diana Ross night, boys and girls? We learned that too much tinkering with the classics is a bad thing, that the women really are that much better than the men this season, and that it is very important to pronunciate one's words correctly.

The rundown:

Brandon, "You Can't Hurry Love" -- I don't demand that performances match the originals note for note, but I do think that this song calls for a rhythmic crispness that's utterly lacking from Brandon's rendition. He's ahead of the beat, he's behind the beat, he's three counties away from the beat, and none of it works. The little "ain't I sexy" hip sway doesn't help, and he blows the lyrics in a big way. There's no personality, no soul.

Melinda, "Home" -- this really isn't a very interesting song, is it? And it's Melinda's least memorable performance of the season, which is to say that it's merely very, very good instead of being superb; there is such richness in her voice that she could make "Vogue" seem like part of the Great American Songbook.

Chris S., "Endless Love" -- No. I'm sorry, no. Paula calls it when she tells Chris he's trying too hard to be hip. He's taken what should be a sweet, gentle, romantic song and given it so harsh and pounding an arrangement that the song is utterly destroyed. There's nothing horribly wrong with the singing as such, but it can't overcome that ghastly arrangement.

Gina, "Love Child" -- The song works better with her slight rock edge than I'd expected, and the performance isn't bad (though Diana is correct that she needs to "pronunciate" more clearly). There are some sweet falsetto notes at the end, too.

Sanjaya, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" -- He looks alternately bored and pained, which is precisely the effect he's having on me. In the original version of this song, you can practically hear the exclamation points at the end of every phrase; not only is Sanjaya not singing the exclamation points, he's singing the whole damn thing in lower case. I can whisper louder than Sanjaya is singing.

Haley, "Missing You" -- Simon is inexplicably not appalled by this bit of bad cabaret singing, with its overly melodramatic crescendos and decrescendos, bobbled words, and vaguely accurate pitch. Ouch.

Phil, "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" -- In his pre-song tape, Phil says he wants to take the stage with more confidence, and he does start off better than usual, though there are still a few pitch problems. As always, when he gets to the chorus where he can sing full blast, he sounds much better.

LaKisha, "God Bless the Child" -- This is the first time I've really gotten LaKisha, and felt any genuine emotion behind her singing. It's her best performance yet, and Randy is correct to note that it's restrained and not overblown.

Blake, "You Keep Me Hangin' On" -- The dancing is awful, and Blake occasionally forgets that he needs to sing into the microphone. Voice and raw talent get him through it reasonably well, but it's on the dull side, with no pop or excitement.

Stephanie, "Love Hangover" -- I've been saying for a while now that Stephanie needed to do something sexy, and now I see why she hasn't; she can't. There's no abandon, no sense of loss of control, and this song needs that. She's perfectly polite, restrained, and controlled throughout, which makes the performance a boring one.

Chris R., "The Boss" -- More bad enunciation, and even when he is on pitch, his voice is so nasal that he seems to be flat. In the final chorus, he's cracking in and out of falsetto, making such ugly noises that I'm not sure he's in control of his voice at all.

Jordin, "If We Hold On Together" -- A few of the low notes disappear, and there's one very awkward leap from high head voice into her lower register, but on the whole, this is quite a lovely performance, certainly her best of the season.

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

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

Should go home: Sanjaya. Probably will go home: Brandon.

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