May 04, 2011

MUSIC: American Idol 2011: Now & Then

Y'know, I'm almost getting nostalgic for the tightly constrained, potentially embarassing themes. C'mon, admit it, you're kinda wanting to see Scotty tackle disco, or Jacob squirm his way through George Jones night. But all we get tonight is "now & then," a round of contemporary songs and a round of oldies. Sigh...

Ah, well, the rundown:

James, "Closer to the Edge" -- The song is right in his strike zone, which makes it odd that it's one of his worse performances. He's got the mike so close at the beginning that the words are distorted to the point that they're incomprehensible, and his pitch is off throughout, especially on the big dramatic long notes.

Jacob, "No Air" -- The song is a lot of choppy phrases that don't show off Jacob's style very well, and instead of the dramatic build that he's good at, he seems to be always either screaming or whispering at us. Not terribly effective, and not a good song choice.

Lauren, "Flat on the Floor" -- The song's a bore, the lyrics are being completely lost on the lower-pitched notes, and the big pageant hair's a disaster. She's still gaining in confidence with every performance, though, and this is the type of material she should be doing.

Scotty, "Gone" -- It's not great, but it's pretty good; it's certainly the most interesting thing he's done in the last month or so. And on what is turning out to be a disappointing night so far, that might be enough to save him for another week.

Haley, "You and I" -- It's sung pretty well, actually, though the vibrato at the beginning is a bit too wide and wobbly for my taste. But we're back to Haley trying to act sexy, and there's something about Haley in sexy mode that I find really creepy and offputting. She somehow manages to bypass sexy and go straight to sleazy. 

For Round 1: Scotty, Haley, James, Jacob, Lauren.

On to the oldies:

James, "Without You" -- That was as emotionally connected a performance as we've seen this season, and somewhat unexpectedly, the quiet verse was better than the big loud belty chorus, which got a little shrieky in spots. Overall, though, very nice indeed.

Jacob, "Love Hurts" -- I wouldn't have thought of turning this into a gospel-flavored shouter, but when you get hold of a good song, you can do pretty much anything to it and it'll still work. And that worked really well. The harp at the beginning was a bit on the twee side, perhaps, but the performance was terrific.

Lauren, "Unchained Melody" -- It's a tale of two registers. The higher notes sound OK, and the lower notes are breathy and out of tune. She also runs into trouble because it's a song that doesn't condense well, so the transitions feel awkward and the ending can't build the way it needs to.

Scotty, "Always on My Mind" -- The calm simplicity of it works very well, but he's so laidback that he's not putting quite enough energy into his voice to get it up to pitch on some of those long notes. A missed opportunity.

Haley, "The House of the Rising Sun" -- Excellent, and we've finally found the right context for all of Haley's growling and wailing. The last few lines are a little harsh and screamy, but that's a minor flaw at the end of the night's best performance.

For Round 2: Haley, James, Jacob, Lauren, Scotty.

And so, it's a round of weak performances of new songs and mostly strong performances of oldies. Haley and James help themselves the most, and Lauren has a weak night.

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

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

Let's send home: It really should be Scotty, but I think it's likely to be Lauren.

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