March 25, 2008

MUSIC: American Idol 08: songs from birth years

...or in other words, it's 80s night again! Well, OK, Michael takes us back to the 70s and David A bumps us into 1990, but it's mostly a trip back to the 80s. It's a night of extremes, with a few very good performances and a few absolute disasters.

The rundown:

Ramiele, "Alone" -- There are pitch problems throughout; she suffers from the standard female Idol problem of inaudible low notes; and she's oversinging the chorus painfully. Yes, she's got a wide dynamic range, but she's not a rocker, and this song does not suit Ramiele at all.

Jason, "Fragile" -- Jason is determined, it seems, to see how far one can go in this competition purely on being pleasant. He's falling into something of a musical rut, consistently choosing mellow songs that don't make any great musical demands ("Hallelujah" being the only real exception to date). Tonight, he's so breathy that it's nearly impossible to understand the words; since the song is Sting at his most pretentious, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Syesha, "If I Were Your Woman" -- Technically superb. The opening is calm and powerful without being pushy; even the big notes are large without feeling forced (as opposed by Ramiele earlier in the evening). There's still something missing in terms of personality, and I wonder if Syesha is this year's LaKisha -- marvelous voice and the charm of a robot.

Chikezie, "If Only for One Night" -- He's not a natural balladeer, and he looks nervous throughout; in his final closeup, he looks flat-out terrified. He's also lost all of the personality and spark that he's had in the last two weeks.

Brooke, "Every Breath You Take" -- If Jason is determined to find the limits of "pleasant," Brooke will tell us how far one can go on sincerity. After the false start (which Brooke gets away with in a way other contestants might not, precisely because it plays into her earnest image), she delivers a perfectly competent performance that never really comes to life.

Michael, "We Will Rock You / We Are the Champions" -- This is the first time I've had a sense of who Michael is as a musician; it's the most authentic performance he's given. Aside from a few flubs on the high notes of "Champions," it's his best performance yet. And I still don't care, because he still projects absolutely no personality, charm, warmth, or energy.

Carly, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" -- Maybe just a touch shouty at the very peak of the song, but on the whole, a terrific performance, nicely controlled throughout.

David A, "You're the Voice" -- Again with the inspirational uplift from David, who is quickly becoming the most disappointing contestant of the season. It's a perfectly adequate performance, but the song is a bore, and David's not an interesting enough singer to overcome the limitations of the song.

Kristy, "God Bless the USA" -- I didn't think it was possible any more to sing this song without irony, but by god, Kristy does it. The judges are right that it's her best performance thus far, but I am flabbergasted by the song choice; with an entire year's worth of music to choose from, Kristy chooses this treacly bit of jingoism?

David C, "Billie Jean" -- He knows his style and his range better than anyone else in the competition, and he's becoming a serious contender for the title. The performance is excellent, and the money note at the end is particularly impressive.

For the night: David C, Syesha, Carly, Kristy, Brooke, Michael, David A, Jason, Chikezie, Ramiele.

For the season: Carly, Brooke, David C, Jason, Syesha, David A, Chikezie, Kristy, Michael, Ramiele.

Deserving to go home: Ramiele. No one else is even close.

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