April 27, 2011

MUSIC: American Idol 2011: Carole King

There's been surprisingly little of Carole King on American Idol, and most of the songs we're hearing tonight are making their Idol debut. And we're padding to 90 minutes by adding duets, a rather blunt admission that Fox has nothing else worth putting on the air.

The rundown:

Jacob, "Oh No Not My Baby" -- After a few weeks of relative restraint, Jacob's cutting loose tonight, with elaborate riffs and a very impressive Big Long Note. But it's all icing and no cake; I'm left awed by the technique but wondering "what was the song about again?" (And that outfit makes him look like the ringmaster at a really cheap circus.)

Lauren, "Where You Lead" -- Dunno if it was meeting Miley Cyrus or the shock of Kenny's smart question ("Have you ever gone for the note and not hit it?"), but something's given Lauren a massive confidence boost tonight. She looks more comfortable than she ever has, and sounds terrific. The arrangement is smartly updated, and the song suits her well. Very fine indeed.

Casey/Haley, "I Feel the Earth Move" -- Who would have expected that Haley would come off better in this pairing? Casey's harmony lines are out of tune, and when he's got the lead, he's shouting so much that he sounds like a parody version of himself. On the other hand, the song fits Haley's voice quite nicely, and though it's taken her most of the season to do it, she finallly seems to be figuring out who she really is as a singer.

Scotty, "You've Got a Friend" -- The arrangement is a disaster; the song needs a bit more rhythmic kick to propel it, and Scotty's drowning in that syrupy sea of strings. Pick up the tempo a bit and replace the easy-listening strings with some fiddles and a steel guitar, and this might work, but as it is, it's a ghastly mess.

James, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" -- One very badly placed breath ("...or just a mo (gasp) ment's pleasure..."), but otherwise, this is really lovely. The opening verse sung a cappella is excellent.

Lauren/Scotty, "Up on the Roof" -- The arrangement is clearly in her key, not his, and he's having to strain particularly hard on his harmony lines. They're both a bit on the bland side here, which is a step up from his solo number and a step down from hers.

Casey, "Hi-De-Ho" -- It's beginning to be a guessing game as to which Casey is going to show up each week. On a good night, we get the tasteful, bluesy Casey; on a bad night -- like this one -- we get the gratingly mannered Casey. As he did in his duet, he sounds like his own evil twin.

Haley, "Beautiful" -- She's better than she was a month ago, but the improvement isn't big enough or fast enough to put her back into the race. This performance is OK, I suppose -- better in the rocking chorus than in the flowing verses -- but not terribly interesting or memorable.

Jacob/James, "I'm Into Something Good" -- Individually, they sound fine; but when they sing together, neither is making any effort to blend with the other, and their wildly different tones grate against each other very badly.

It's been a very uneven night, with terrific highs and horrid lows, but nothing that shook up the standings too badly.

For the night: Lauren, James, Jacob, Haley, Casey, Scotty.

For the season: Lauren, Jacob, James, Casey, Haley, Scotty.

Let's send home: Scotty's finally worn out his welcome, I'm afraid. I would not be surprised, though (or too disappointed), to see Haley get the boot.

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