May 01, 2007

MUSIC: American Idol (rock / Jon Bon Jovi)

I had not been looking forward to Rock Night. None of our remaining singers are really rockers, and the Bon Jovi songbook did not strike me as a particularly strong source of material. But it turned out to be a fascinating night, with some remarkably good performances; even the clunkers bombed in more interesting ways than usual.

The rundown:

Phil, "Blaze of Glory" -- He looks much more relaxed than usual, and as a result, less creepy. His pitch is solid, his voice is strong; it's the best we've ever heard from him. And it still won't be enough to land him in the top half; it probably won't even be enough to keep him from going home.

Jordin, "Livin' on a Prayer" -- The rock-chick outfit doesn't work; she can't hit the low notes in the verse (even with Jon helping her to re-write the melody); and no matter how hard she tries to belt the chorus, the band is drowning her out. A complete disaster.

LaKisha, "This Ain't a Love Song" -- There are some pitch problems with the low notes at the very beginning, though she's got a lovely tone down there. It's a very smart song choice, and LaKisha delivers more emotion and passion than usual. It's the first time in weeks that she's been more than just a big voice; there might actually be a person in there after all.

Blake, "You Give Love a Bad Name" -- Simon said this would be a love-it-or-hate-it performance, and I'm sort of on both sides of the fence. I don't ever need to hear another bit of beatboxing as long as I live, and the style of what Blake is doing bores me. But if I separate from that, and judge the performance on its own terms, it's remarkably good. There's a surprising amount of power in his singing voice, he's almost completely gotten rid of his usual "aren't I sensitive" breathiness, and I give him major points for the sheer audacity of it. (And I love him as a brunette.)

Chris, "Wanted Dead or Alive" -- Well, he's less nasal and whiny than usual, but only because he's screaming from start to finish. It's harsh, it's ugly, and it doesn't get any better. It's never pretty or pleasant to listen to.

Melinda, "Have a Nice Day" -- I was worried about Melinda on Rock Night. Silly me. From the second we see her standing with the guitarist at the opening of the song, she looks the part, and when the first note comes out of her mouth, it's clear that Rock Night isn't going to cause her any more trouble than any other night. The attitude is perfect, right down to the sneering lip at the end of the song. And as always, she sounds terrific. I am in awe.

For the night: Melinda, Blake, LaKisha, Phil, Jordin, Chris.

For the season: Melinda, Jordin, LaKisha, Blake, Chris, Phil.

Should go home: Chris and Phil.

Will go home: Chris and Phil. Jordin did well enough last week to survive tonight's disaster; Blake did well enough tonight to survive last week's mediocre performance. Melinda and LaKisha were good to excellent both weeks; Chris and Phil were in the back of the pack both weeks.

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