April 11, 2012

TV: American Idol 2012: 2010s songs

Songs from the current decade tonight, and since I'm wildly out of touch with current music, it's going to be an evening of songs I don't know. (It also turns into an evening of Idol saluting its own, with songs from Kellie Pickler and Kelly Clarkson, and a brief appearance from Fantasia.) That unfamiliarity can have its advantages, of course, in that the singers get to be heard entirely on their own merits without being compared to anyone else. Let's see if they can live up to that challenge, shall we?

The rundown:

Skylar, "Didn't You Know How Much I Loved You"-- The song has a range that is just barely too wide for Skylar; she's slightly straining for both the lowest notes in the verse and the highest notes in the chorus. But aside from that small problem, the song is precisely her style, and it's a solid performance with no glaring errors, and the lyrics are almost all comprehensible.

Colton, "Love the Way You Lie" -- Very nice. A bit mush-mouthed in spots, but the emotional connection to the material is solid, and he's using his falsetto more tastefully than usual.

(An interesting psychological note: When Rihanna sings this song, it seems to me unmistakably about a physically abusive relationship; when a guy sings it, that barely comes to mind, and it seems to be just another song about a difficult emotional relationship. Is that strictly a gender thing, I wonder, or is it because we already knew about Rihanna's abuse at the hands of Chris Brown when this song was released?)

Jessica, "Stuttering" -- The performance is what I'm beginning to think is all we can expect from Jessica -- technically impeccable, but rather chilly and emotionless. The runs and frills are well executed, and every note is precisely in place, but there's not much personality to go with them.

Joshua, "Runaway Baby" -- I'd like a bit more menace and sexuality in the performance, but he certainly knows how to work a stage, and he's the best showman in the bunch. There's a lot of lyrics to be quickly gotten through here, and he's articulating them (mostly) cleanly while doing a lot of energetic running about the stage. Very entertaining.

Hollie, "Perfect" -- Jimmy and Akon are right, I think, that Hollie hasn't yet made that jump from talented amateur to pro. It shows in little things like the way she'll pull the microphone away from her mouth before the notes are finished, or her continuing struggles with pitch. On the plus side, the first half of the song was a bit more subtle than usual, and was less off-key than she usually is in that register. Those big notes at the end were marvelous, and with two or three more years of experience, the rest of her voice may eventually catch up to them.

Phillip, "Give a Little More" -- There's something weirdly insincere about this perfomance. Part of it is that broad smile, which creeps in on the most inappropriate lyrics; part of it is the growl, which feels more like a cheesy affectation tonight than it has in the past. His voice disappears almost entirely on a couple of attempted falsetto notes. He's not going anywhere, because he's pretty, but he's starting to feel like a one-trick pony to me.

Elise, "You and I" -- The song suits her voice really well, and she even almost manages to make that repetitive chorus ("you and I, you and I, you and I...") interesting. It's a very good performance, and one of the few tonight in which some personality shines through; she's sly and sexy and utterly charming.

For the night: Elise, Joshua, Colton, Jessica, Skylar, Hollie, Phillip. Nothing really brilliant tonight, but nothing that was completely ghastly, either; it was a night than ranged from OK to very good.

For the season: Joshua, Skylar, Jessica, Colton, Hollie, Elise, Phillip. In my book, Joshua's a good step ahead of the pack, mostly because he's been the most consistent, without a really bad week yet. The rest of the group is fairly tightly bunched.

Let's send home: In a perfect world, Phillip. Realistically, I think it's likely to be Hollie.

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