April 07, 2009

MUSIC: American Idol 09: songs from birth years

It's an early 80s festival tonight (except for Allison, the baby of the group), as the wannabes offer songs from the year they were born. It is a painfully mediocre night of bizarre arrangements and uninteresting performances.

Danny, "Stand By Me" -- That slow opening verse is horrible, and completely disconnected from the up-tempo stuff that follows. And beyond the awful arrangement (which is most certainly not "the Mickey Gilley version," Gilley having been part of the early 80s "urban cowboy" movement), Danny's not in good voice tonight; he sounds pinched and strained. It's one of Danny's worst performances.

(And on that whole Mickey Gilley thing, I don't care if there was a cover version, this is not a song from 1980, and Danny ought not have been allowed to cheat the theme so blatantly.)

Kris, "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" -- Another very odd arrangement, all jazzy drums and brass that don't suit the song at all. Given that, I suppose there's nothing horribly wrong with the performance -- no glaring sour notes or anything -- but I didn't find it very interesting or effective.

Lil, "What's Love Got to Do With It" -- The verse and the bridge are quite nice, understated and relatively subtle. But then we plow into those choruses, and it's all Great Big Sledgehammer Notes (a couple of which are badly out of tune). Lil desperately needs to find a way to turn on the power without turning off the humanity.

Anoop, "True Colors" -- Finally, an arrangement that works reasonably well. But poor Anoop is so busy making soulful goo-goo eyes at us that he's forgetting to sing; his pitch is wobbly, his enunciation is sloppy, and oy, that awful falsetto note at the end! (What is it with the male contestants wanting to show off their weak falsetto registers this year?)

Scott, "The Search Is Over" -- It was bad enough when Scott was doing polite, tepid performances of polite, tepid music, but this? It's not as if Survivor is Led Zeppelin or anything, but the song does demand some edge; we just got more polite and tepid. And his pitch is terrible throughout; I winced when he went into the final chorus, where those high notes were disastrous. Please send him home, America.

Allison, "I Can't Make You Love Me" -- Talk about dumb luck, that the perfect Allison song just happens to come from her birth year. I'm particularly impressed by how smoothly she transitions from her lower register to her upper, and that she doesn't overuse the upper register; other singers we've heard would have insisted on belting an entire chorus.

Matt, "Part Time Lover" -- Well, that was a mess. The goopy slow intro, the odd little interjections of falsetto, the jazz riffs at the end, the unpleasantly nasal tone of Matt's voice throughout -- nothing about that worked. About all I can say for it is that it was minimally better than Scott.

Adam, "Mad World" -- He's gasping frantically for breath between phrases, and his strangled chipmunk upper register is painfully unattractive. And the attack on that final note is wildly out of tune, though he does eventually wrangle the note into place. Even without the technical problems, it's not a very memorable song or performance.

For the night: Allison, Lil, Kris, Anoop, Danny, Adam, Matt, Scott.

For the season: Allison, Kris, Anoop, Danny, Lil, Matt, Adam, Scott.

Deserving the trip home: Scott.

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