April 10, 2013

TV: American Idol 2013: Bacharach & David / Songs We Wish We'd Written

Five women and Lazaro head into the first two-songs-apiece week, and we're getting two separate themes.

Round one will be songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The show hasn't had a Bacharach night since Season 1, and that was devoted to all of Bacharach's work, not just the "and David" part. His songs have popped up on other nights, and because they are generally harder than they look, performances tend to be either thrilling or disastrous.

Round two will be songs the contestants wish they'd written, which is a broad enough theme that there will be no excuse for poor performances. That does not mean there won't be any, of course. (Hi, Lazaro!)

The rundown:

Angie, "Anyone Who Had a Heart" -- Very pretty strings of notes, and she handles the tricky rhythms and melodic leaps well. I would have liked more emotion, or some variety in dynamics, to make it more than just a series of pretty notes. There was a bland sameness throughout.

Amber, "I Say a Little Prayer" -- A few sour notes scattered throughout, and she gets lost in her own melisma as she comes back into the final chorus. And like Angie -- I suspect this will be a theme in this round -- she's put in the time to get the rhythms and (mostly) the notes right, but at the expense of thought about what the song means.

Lazaro, "Close to You" -- He did his best. It really wasn't very good.

Kree, "What the World Needs Now Is Love" -- The first performance to depart significantly from the familiar arrangement, which in itself is ballsy, since the arrangements are such a key part of how we think of those songs. Like the other women, Kree's a touch too smooth and bland, but she's putting more personality into it than they were, and the unaccompanied intro is lovely.

Janelle, "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" -- Barely serviceable karaoke. Pitch problems throughout, and the highest notes (the second "HERE TO RE-mind you") were woefully under.

Candice, "Don't Make Me Over" -- The first performance tonight that makes me believe she knew the song before the week began. What amazes me about Candice is that for all her power and force, it feels so easy; her mechanics and technique are impeccable

For Round One: Candice, Kree, Angie, Amber, Janelle, Lazaro.

Angie, "Love Came Down" -- Meh. Perfectly pleasant, and being at the piano helps her, but this is more interesting as vote-getting strategy than as a performance. Do one obscure song by a Christian music act, and it's an interesting choice; do a second one, as Angie's doing here, and it's a carefully considered tactic.

Amber, "Love on Top" -- Some of those very high "ooh-ooh" notes are impressive, but on the whole, this style doesn't suit her, and she doesn't look comfortable with all the dancing about. Nothing horribly wrong with it, but it's not very interesting.

Lazaro, "Angels" -- He did his best. It wasn't very good.

Kree, "Help Me Make It Through the Night"-- Lovely. There are a few moments where it feels like she's deliberately overdoing the twang and the country break to remind us that she's a country gal, but on the whole it's a simple and understated performance.

Janelle, "The Dance" -- That last long note wobbles rather precariously, and she's singing the song as if it actually were an Important Philosophical Statement, instead of a tolerably well-written Sunday homily. But it's certainly an improvement over her first round.

Candice, "Lovesong" -- Stunning. Flawless.

For Round Two: Candice, Kree, Angie, Janelle, Amber, Lazaro.

For the night: Candice, Kree, Angie, Amber, Janelle, Lazaro.

For the season: Candice, Kree, Angie, Janelle, Amber, Lazaro.

Nothing terribly surprising tonight. Candice is clearly at the front of the pack; only Kree can come close to her. It's a tight three-way race among the other women for third. And Lazaro's presence has long since passed from amusing to embarrassing.

Let's send home: Even by the low standards that Lazaro has set for himself, his performances tonight were weak; the first one was among the worst performances Idol has ever seen. If anyone other than Lazaro is sent home this week, it will be a travesty, and a crippling blow to whatever credibility the show has left. If that happens, I think it will be Janelle who is voted off, and I don't think the judges will save her.

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