March 04, 2011

MUSIC: American Idol 2011: wild card night

Well, had I known there would actually be a wild card competition with singing and everything, I'd have watched the show last night.

But before we get to that, let's look at how the voting went. Surprisingly well, as it happens. All seven of the singers who I thought were most deserving got through -- in order of performance, that would be James, Scotty, Jacob, Casey, Karen, Thia, and Pia -- and the three other singers who were voted in (Paul, Haley, and Lauren A) -- at least came from the better end of the mediocrity pool instead of the genuinely awful end.

And that left 14 singers, from whom the judges chose six to compete for the wild card spots. I don't think I've ever before watched a set of performances when I already know who was going to survive and who wasn't, but let's see if we can be relatively objective as we watch the wannabes sing for their lives, shall we?

The rundown:

Ashthon, "And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going" -- She's got volume, but there's not a lot of substance to her voice. This song requires a monstrously large personality -- she has to be able to stop that man from leaving through sheer willpwer -- and Ashthon doesn't have the volcanic force that's called for. Also, she needs to become more aware of where the camera is, because with that head of hair, we lose her face the second she turns away from it.

Stefano, "I Need You Now" -- When he can belt, he's very good, with a penetrating quality that reminds me a bit of Neil Sedaka. But when he gets quiet, his technique is crap; he's closing off his windpipe, forcing the notes out, which is why he can't sustain a quiet phrase for more than two or three notes.

Kendra, "Georgia On My Mind" -- She seems determined to use every tool in her box here. The attempt at sultry low notes, the belted high notes, the bluesy growl, the melismatic runs -- and it's just too much. She's throwing everything at the song except good taste. It's all frosting and no cake. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you are required to.

Jovany, "Angel" -- Very nice, perfectly fine performance, and utterly unmemorable. Nothing distinctive, nothing special, nothing interesting about it all.

Naima, "For All We Know" -- Well, it was certainly better than her "Summertime," but there's still something of the cheesy lounge act about her. And the way in which she approaches the song -- braying those big notes as if she's fighting to be heard above a dozen firetrucks -- is at odds with the romantic, slightly mournful nature of the lyrics.

Robbie, "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" -- Interesting. He's got a nice voice, but there's something weird going on emotionally that I can't quite pin down. Maybe he's overdoing it a bit? There's something insincere about it, almost as if he's making fun of the song. Still, in a rather weak bunch, this was one of the better sung efforts.

And the judges decide to take Ashthon, Stefano, and Naima. I'd have taken Robbie over Naima, but it's not as if there were any really great choices available in this bunch.

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