March 16, 2010

MUSIC: American Idol 2010: Rolling Stones night

Every now and then, an Idol wannabe will trot out "Satisfaction," and what we are reminded of each time is that the Stones' songs really aren't all that interesting; what we remember is Jagger's performance, his remarkable charisma, and the skillful production. So, faced with a fairly mediocre songbook, the boys and girls give us an astoundingly mediocre evening. There's not a single exciting or memorable performance to be found, just a vast wasteland of mediocrity. I suspect that each performance will have some who love it and some who hate it.

The rundown:

Michael, "Miss You" -- The arrangement's got a nice swing, and Michael is one of the few in this bunch with any stage presence. His voice sounds terrific, but it's still difficult to understand anything he says, which loses serious points in my book.

Didi, "Play With Fire" -- There's no menace, no sense of danger in this performance. The phrase "playing with fire" needs to be more ominous each time we hear it, needs to evoke images of arson and destruction; all Didi gives us is a sputtering match.

Casey, "It's All Over Now" -- The song is so clearly right in the middle of his comfort zone that he ought to be able to knock our socks off with it, and all we get is very nice karaoke. It's fun, and there's nothing wrong with it, but I'll forget it before the next commercial break is over.

Lacey, "Ruby Tuesday" -- Her vowels are ugly, her tendency to scoop into and out of notes helps to cover up the fact that most of those notes are out of tune, and she has the stage presence of a paper clip. Aside from that, it wasn't bad.

Andrew, "Gimme Shelter" -- If nothing else, it's a nice change from his slowed-down dance song shtick. It's a reasonably good performance, with hints of excitement and passion, but they never quite coalesce into more than tantalizing glimpses of what he might be capable of.

Katie, "Wild Horses" -- A few sour notes here and there, and not much emotional force in the performance, but it's the first time I've understood how she managed to get this far. She's got a lovely, powerful voice, but I don't think she's got the maturity or experience to last much longer.

Tim, "Under My Thumb" -- No, no, no. In one of the most spectacular cases of missing the point in Idol history, Tim turns what should be a song of anger, revenge, and cruel domination into a Jimmy Buffett-meets-Jason Mraz stroll down a sunny beach. That was not pretty.

Siobhan, "Paint It Black" -- By far her worst performance yet. Pitch problems throughout, and she almost never sustains the pitch on the word "black," which just droops off at the end of every phrase. The shrieking at the end is just ugly. (And the judges are on crack.)

Lee, "Beast of Burden" -- Very pleasant, and the musical reinterpretation works reasonably well in this case. His voice gets a bit raspy when he pushes the volume, which isn't something I particularly like, but that's a question of personal preference, not of talent or skill.

Paige, "Honky Tonk Woman" -- She's a strong presence on stage, it's fun to watch her, and there's a lovely husky tone to her voice. But there's something missing that I can't quite put my finger on, some sort of wall that makes it very difficult to feel any connection.

Aaron, "Angie" -- The song sounds faintly silly coming from a boyish 16-year-old, but is there a Stones song that wouldn't? There's nothing terribly wrong with the singing -- pitch is fine and all that -- but it's not a very interesting performance.

Crystal, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" -- OK, we get it. She's the laid-back folkie/bluesy chick with a guitar. And she's quite good at it, but it's starting to get a bit monotonous. Still, this was the best performance of the night, and isn't that a sad commentary on what Idol is serving up this season?

For the night: Crystal, Lee, Andrew, Michael, Paige, Katie, Casey, Aaron, Didi, Siobhan, Lacey, Tim.

For the season: Crystal, Casey, Michael, Andrew, Siobhan, Paige, Didi, Aaron, Katie, Lee, Tim, Lacey.

Let's send home: Lacey. By a long shot, Lacey.

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