Top 9 Performance

Thanks again everyone, for your help with the Song Spoilers.  No duds this week either! YAY.

The Top 9 Performance – Recap  video caps later, YA’LL

Country Night –  YEE HAW

Has my world gone absolutely crazy?  I think it has.  Tonight, Ace Young had one of the best performances of the night.  Taylor Hicks had one of the worst.  And Bucky got the Pimp spot!

Kenny Rogers helped the kids work on their tunes.

A picture named Top9Taylora1.jpegTaylor Hicks – “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver – Wow.  What was going on with Taylor this week? I have no idea why he picked this song, ’cause he didn’t seem to enjoy singing it.  Even Kenny Rogers sounded dubious about Taylor’s prospects here.  First, this jaunty John Denver tune isn’t exactly “Idol” material.  The song would really need a special vocal twist in order to make it interesting in 90 seconds.  A good performance of this song would exude joy, but Taylor was flat–he seemed bored and distracted as he sang.  He sped through it like he couldn’t wait for it to be over.  I knew the judges were going to nail him when he finished, and they did.  Simon said, “I thought it was safe, boring, lazy.  It sounded like you’d chosen that song 10 seconds ago…it didn’t do anything for you, really.”  I agree with Simon.  Taylor had a bad week.

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Mandisa – “Any Man Of Mine” by Shania Twain –  So much of this tune kept Mandisa in her weak,  lower register.  Wow, this was dull.  Kenny said she had “spirit”, but it sure wasn’t on display here.  This performance was slowed up and halting–it just klunked along.  The last bit, after the key change, improved a bit.  But, similar to Taylor, Mandisa brought no energy or joy to this song.  It just plodded along until it finally ended.  Randy liked the last four bars.  Simon like the silence at the end.  This lackluster performance could land Mandisa in the bottom 3 tomorrow. Oh, and I ain’t no size 2, so I know from where I speak–Mandisa honey, dress to flatter the figure, OK?  Thank yeww. 

A picture named Top9Elliotta.jpegElliott Yamin – “If Tomorrow Never Comes” by Garth Brooks –  Awww, ya know at the beginning of the song, when Elliot let go of his death-grip on the microphone to tug his ear?  That was for his girlfriend.  Sweet.  The bit of shake in Elliott’s vocal, the two-fisted death grip on his mic, and the look in his eyes belied a nervous Elliott.  Nevertheless, Elliott has a warm beautiful voice, and his performance was just lovely in spots.  But, if he could have just relaxed, and allowed his honey voice to wrap around that beautiful melody, he would have killed.  Still, a very good song choice for Elliott.  Holy cow, did anybody understand what Paula was babbling on about to Elliott?  Something about “careless reckless abandon.”  What?  Somebody–hide Pauler’s stash.  Lastly, I gotta say, the stylists are doing an awesome job.  Elliott is looking downright handsome these days.

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Paris Bennett – “How Do I Live” by Leann Rimes – Pre-song interview with Ryan was all about the many hairstyles of Miss P.  How fascinating.  Paris got off to a shaky start. At the beginning, she was a little flat and some of her lower notes got swallowed up.  But she hit her stride toward the end of the song, reaching the high notes beautifully.   Kenny said, “You really believe her when she sings this, ” and I have to agree.  Despite the imperfect vocal, her rendition was moving.  Randy and Paula were lukewarm, while Simon praised her–maybe a little too much.  He compared her to a young Dionne Warwick.  And yes!  I can hear the similarities in their vocal tones.

A picture named Top9Aceb.jpegAce Young – “I Wanna Cry” by Keith Urban –  Who would have imagined Ace pwning on Country night?  Ace, sitting on a stool, canned all the corny mannerisms and delivered a straightforward, intimate and heartfelt performance.  His vocals, rather than sounding breathy and weak were sweet and highlighted his earnest vulnerability.  Despite a few pitch problems here and there, his vocal was good and he acquitted himself nicely on the falsetto parts.  When Ace isn’t self conscious or trying too hard, there’s a real attractive sincerity that comes through his performances.  He’d be fine if he relaxed, and allowed himself to tap into that quality. This Ace, with all the pretension and awkwardness stripped away, is the guy who could advance deep into this competition.  Randy thought the performance was boring, but Paula and Simon liked it.

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Kellie Pickler  – “Fancy”  by Reba McEntire (written by Bobbi Gentry) – I had actually gotten to a point with Kellie where her presence didn’t completely irritate me.  It wasn’t that she was so obviously fake that irked me, but that the judges were initially glossing over terrible vocal performances and pimping her on this fake “personality”.  The past couple of weeks saw the judges picking apart her vocals, finally.  Funny thing,  the performances they were picking apart were actually better than her early outings, when all the judges had to say were “Kellie, yer just so gosh durn likable!”  I actually started feeling a little sorry for her.  But I’m right back to being irked.  Thanks to her pre-song interview with Ryan–a lame,  scripted attempt to spin the bad press Kellie has been getting lately.  “Ahhhh spend threeee hunnard dolllars fer mahhhh haairrr cuts but ahhhhh donno whaat Cah-lah-mah-ri is!”  Sorry,  still not buying it! Kellie’s vocals were ok on this tune–all about a mother who turns her 18 year old daughter out for tricks–charming!  Kellie’s phrasing can be really strange, with a tendancy to swallow her words. She really doesn’t have much vocal power where it counts.  And as she performs, she lurches awkwardly around the stage.  For Kellie, little country novelty songs like “Fancy” and last week’s “Suds in a Bucket” are best–because she really is all about the “personality.” This week, she’s back in the judge’s good graces–all three praised her performance.

Whoopie and Chris Rock in the audience???

A picture named Top9Chrisa.jpegChris Daughtry – “Making Memories of Us” written by Rodney Crowell, performed by Keith Urban – Chris finally changed it up this week with a slow ballad.  This dude can sing.  Really.  He should show off that softer side more often.  This was a really simple, subtle, effective performance.  No belting, no vocal tricks–just a straight up, emotional rendition of a sweet romantic song.  I think Chris has great stage presence–he looks comfortable up there and easily commands the stage.  And this performance proved he’s versatile and not a one trick pony. Simon thought it was boring.  I thought it was one of the night’s best. 

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Katharine McPhee – “Bringing Out the Elvis” by Faith Hill –  Katharine really knows how to work that stage and the camera.  And tonight,  her vocals were good.  But the entire effect left me cold.  I don’t think this was a really good song choice for her.  But maybe not a good choice for anybody–“Elvis” isn’t  a great song.  There was a lot of strutting around the stage, punctuated by Katharine belting out that chorus, “bringing out the Elvis in me.”  But I couldn’t really hear the verse.  I kept wondering who or what was turning Katharine into Elvis and why?  Nice save, though.  When Simon started out his critique negatively by saying he didn’t like the song,  Katharine shot back, “You just don’t like Country music, Simon.”  That shut him up quick. 

A picture named Top9Buckya.jpegBucky Covington – “Best I Ever Had” by Gary Allan – Bucky ends the show with a ballad.  His weakness, at least on the show, are vocals that are sometimes hard to hear above the band.  He doesn’t have a powerful voice, and his raspiness really wears thin when he tries to push it.  I don’t think Bucky has ever given a bad performance, but he has yet to deliver a really great performance.  This is Bucky’s first shot at a ballad, and it’s pretty enough, but as Simon would say, it lacks that “wow” factor.  But I suspect, once off the show and in a recording studio, or in a more intimate performance setting, Bucky could turn in that “wow” performance. The judges critiques were generally positive.  If Bucky goes out tomorrow, it will be on a high note.

Interestingly, the two country performers weren’t the best.  And the blues guy from Alabama really wasn’t so hot.  Tonight’s best performances came from the Rocker and the Boybander–Chris and Ace.  Following were Elliott, Paris and Bucky.  The rest were meh.  Didn’t turn out at all like I expected.

Bottom three?  It’s getting harder to predict now.  Candidates:  Mandisa, Bucky, Elliott.  Maybe Ace again.  Paris could make a shocking appearance.  We’ll see.