Top 11 Performance

The Spoilers were at least partly accurate this week.  Bucky did not sing Elvis.  But, Taylor did sing Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, Elliott sang “Teach me Tonight” and the last minute Spoiler from Ace (earlier one was a dud) “In the Still of the Night” by the Five Satins was right on the money.  Thanks for all your help guys.  And, the Idol Forum kids had an additional spoiler–Chris Daughtry singing “I Walk the Line”, by Johnny Cash (weeeell, by the band Live actually…) posted there early Tuesday morning.  Good work kids!

By the way, I really dig Ryan’s look this year.  The suits are stylin’.

The Top 11 Performance – Recap

Barry Works with the Kids!  And now they’re all Fanilows!  Ok, not really.

A picture named Top11Mandisaa.jpegMandisa – “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” by Dinah Washington – Mandisa stumbled a bit last week, but she was back on tonight.  Looking gorgeous in a black dress and period bouffant, her performance evoked some of the great blues singers of the era, like Dinah and Etta James.  She was way hot.  And like Simon said…sexy.  On the Howard Stern show last week, Simon said that Mandisa had “0 chance to win.”  That’s probably true, but she has to end up in the Top 5.  She’s one of the most versatile and consistent performers out of all the contestants.  Positive critiques from all the judges.  Too bad it’s not the year of the female diva–she would have killed Season 3.

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Bucky Covington – “Oh Boy” by Buddy Holly – Great song choice for Bucky! His hair looked great tonight.   Bucky still seems a little stiff and awkward on the big stage, but that hand to hand mic move is way cool.  Bucky’s raspy, gritty vocals aren’t powerful, but they are interesting and bring something unique to the Idol stage.  Alt-country/rocker types like Bucky will never succeed on this show, because quiet, subtle strength does not cut it here.  It just gets swallowed up by the stage and the lights and the loud band.  It’s unfortunate, but the producers seem to be gunning for Bucky.  During the judges critiques, Randy and Paula were fine, but then Simon lit into him,  “A pointless karaoke performance.” Ouch. And then, just to make sure we the viewers got the point that Bucky does indeed suck–he was practically re-critiqued all over again during his post-performance chat with Ryan–where Simon got to add that his performance was “below average”.  Not fair.  Hopefully, his fans rally this week to push him into the Top 10.  He belongs on the tour.

A picture named Top11Paris.jpegParis Bennett – “Fever”, by Peggy Lee – Paris sang a song that’s way too worldly for a seventeen year old, but killed, regardless.  Another good week for Paris.  She really made this tune original.  While Peggy Lee’s version was sultry and sexy,  a really good arrangement here allowed Paris to start off slowly and then belt it out at the end.  She sounded fabulous.  I thought she looked great too–pretty yellow dress, period hair, and Billie Holiday-like yellow flower in her hair.  The judges loved her. If Paris can continue to choose great songs, she is going to go deep in this competition.  In her post-performance chat with Ryan, she was more subdued than usual.  A good thing, actually–her mannerisms and antics off stage were distracting and beginning to upstage her performances. 

Oh!  Hey look, it’s Constantine Maroulis flashing rawkhands at the camera!  And what’s with the glasses, dude?  Hee. OMG, he’s with Ryan freaking Cabrera!  What’s up with that?

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Chris Daughtry – “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash –  The controversy tonight, of course, is that Chris’s performance was played by the producers as if he’s doing the very first rock version of “I Walk the Line” ever!  And oh-my-god-he-made-it-his-own!  But no one mentioned that Chris’s very favorite rock band, Live, recorded a cover of this song.  For a compare and contrast, I listened to Live’s version tonight.  Live’s arrangement isn’t identical, but is very similar to Chris’s.  But the melody line Chris sings is almost identical to that of Live lead singer, Ed Kowalczyk’s.  So, when Simon says that Chris took a great song and made it his own version, and that Chris is the first artist they’ve ever had on the show who’s refused to compromise (sorry, he compromised the minute he walked out on that idol stage, Simon)–you all know it’s a great big fat bag of disingenuous pimp meant to propel Chris one giant step further to winning the whole shebang.  Chris’s vocals?  As all the judges agreed, not his best.  The last little dig Simon made at Bucky–holding up Chris as a beacon of originality compared to him–was pretty funny considering the fact that Chris’s version wasn’t original at all.  Bucky’s version of “Oh Boy” was at least truly his own.

A picture named Top11Katharine.jpegKatharine McPhee – “Come Rain or Come Shine” by many great singers – Another classy, beautiful, sultry performance by Katharine.  Great dress–the stylists were in top form tonight.  She hit a few strident notes on top–she can sound shrill in her upper register–mama take note.  But,  still a controlled, nicely done performance.  Katharine is at her best when she’s singing in an old-school, cabaret style (and I don’t use that word pejoratively the way Simon does).  She’s had two very good, but similar sounding performances in a row, and if she continues to play it safe, she runs the risk of becoming dull.  But the real problem, is that Katharine does not sing in a very commerical style–it’s hard to imagine her as a pop singer.  I can imagine her going straight to musical theater after Idol, or to a very successful career singing in night clubs.  For that reason, I don’t see her finishing in the Top 5, despite the fact that tonight,  Simon called her a star. 

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Taylor Hicks –  “Not Fade Away” by Buddy Holly.  Ahhh Taylor.  Thank heaven you’re here.  Every year I know I’ve found my favorite Idol contestant when I discover the one who’s talented, quirky, unpredictable and at least a little bit dorky.  This season it’s Taylor Hicks for me.  When I heard he was singing “Not Fade Away”,  I got kind of excited because I’m a big Buddy Holly fan, and this tune is one of my favorites.  However,  the song was probably a better idea in theory, than in reality.  The repetitive lyrics and melody, while hypnotic and seductive on record, are probably not the best for an Idol performance.  There is little opportunity to showcase vocals and if not sung exceedingly well can lose the audience pretty quickly.  Having said that, I think Taylor’s performance made the song.   The dancing, the riffing with the saxophone player, and playing to the audience made the performance really entertaining.  And I think Taylor’s vocals were very good within the confines of the limited melody.  Simon’s critique of his performance was just so wrong headed.  He said, “That was a mess…this isn’t a dancing competition”  Ugh.  Shut up, Simon.  When it comes to rock and blues music, Simon can be really, really dense. 

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Lisa Tucker –  “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” by Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers – Poor Lisa.  Really, you’d think this song–written from the point of view of a teenager, would be perfect for her.  But, the key was too low,  she had trouble staying on pitch, and was behind the beat throughout the song.  And I dunno, it’s like Lisa may have completely lost her confidence after last week’s visit to the bottom 3.  There just wasn’t much energy in her performance.  When Simon critiqued her–calling it “cutesy” and not a “wow performance, ” Lisa looked like she was going to cry.  She knows she’s on the bubble.  Really, she’s just too young.  She’s a beautiful girl, with a good voice.  She’s just not ready.  This really needs to be her week to go.

At this point, after Simon and Paula got into a little tiff during Taylor’s critique, Simon seemed to be in a foul mood and spent the rest of the show grumpy and scowling.  Poor Lisa bore the brunt of that.

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Kevin Covais – “When I Fall In Love” by many great singers – After Kevin’s hair-raising performance last week of “Part Time Lover”, I suggested that he should have chosen one of Stevie’s ballads, where he could have given a heartfelt rendition, like he did with “Vincent”.  Kevin chose a ballad this week and nailed it.  This was his best performance, ever.  In fact, it was awesome.  Yes,  I said AWESOME.  Barry did a great job coaching Kevin–the goatie vibrato and lisp were practically gone.  Kevin’s vocals were beautifully modulated and cut straight to the heart of the song.  He hit all the right emotional notes.  I’ll say it.  I was quite the puddle of goo at the end.  And I’m not a grandma,  Ok Simon?  Kevin has to sing this one if he makes the tour.  And based on tonight’s performance, he probably will.  Keep it up, Kevin…

Lookey!  It’s the Power of the Flower! Jasmine Trias, in the audience! must look away…teh flow3r is hyp-no-tizing me…

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Elliott Yamin – “Teach me Tonight” by Frank Sinatra..Al Jarreau – Whoo–Elliott’s looking fine!  Very 50’s be-bop tonight.  Elliott, whose experience goes no further than local karaoke bars back in his hometown in Virginia, has the potential to be a great Jazz/soul singer.  His video clip was interesting–watching him work with Barry it became clear that with some coaching, Elliott could really soar.  Last week, he sounded a bit flat, emotionally.  This week, with Barry’s encouragement and coaching he was able to bring it up a notch.  Last week was good, this week was even better.  Elliott has been on the bubble, but between tonight’s excellent performance and the judges positive critiques, I think he may have earned himself a spot in the Top 10.

Lindsey Cardinale in the audience! Really underrated singer from season 4.  Check out her MySpace, she’s put up some music–very much in the vein of Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson–her smokey vocals never sounded better.

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Kellie Pickler – “Walking after Midnight” by Patsy Kline – Barry has never heard of this song? Whaat? After I got over that shock, I noticed that Ms. Pickler was doing a pretty good job with this tune.  Okay, it has, like a five note range, but for Kellie, that’s a good thing.  She really is a “personality” rather than a singer.  After idol, maybe Simon can develop a reality show around her. You know–stick a camera in her face, while she does a bunch of dumb, boring stuff every week that’s supposed to be funny.   Simon has said that he really admires Jessica Simpson, and he thinks her “Is chicken of the sea tuna or chicken?” remark was brilliant.  I think Simon is looking for his very own Jessica Simpson to market to America.  Back to the singing.  Perfect song for Kellie.  Some of her phrasing was weird (sairching aftair midnight) and she could have injected a little more desperation into the performance, but it was a good mixture of vocals and personality.  When her mic went on the blink during her critique, I was like–good.  Then Ryan asks her, “Do you have anything to share with us?”, and she stares at him as if a computer chip in her head misfired.  She finally said,  “I  don’t know.”  translation:the producers didn’t script this part.  And that shirt was BRIGHT.  Yellow gets you noticed.

Paula kept calling Kellie a tigress…”you are a tigress tonight, a tigress…you are a tigress”  I think she took an extra dip into her “happy stash” tonight.

A picture named Top11Acea.jpegAce Young – “In the Still of the Night” by the Five Satins –  There is something about Ace that’s so very sweet and vulnerable, and he’s good-looking on top of it.  I really want to like his singing, I really do.  He’s so earnest and puppy-dog like when he’s in front of the judges waiting for his critiques. But, alas.  His singing–it’s just not good.  Tonight was a mess–the weak, breathy vocals that were often out of tune, the pointing, the mugging–and Barry asked Ace to finish with his falsetto?  Barry must hate America. That performance got the pimp spot, and kudos from the judges.  Ace was in the bottom 3 last week–and the producers aren’t ready to let him go–he’s just too purdy not to have on tour.  But, he was easily the worst of the night.

Who should go?  Lisa.  She’s too young.  Back to high school for you, girl–you have some maturing to do.