It started with 4 young men from Liverpool…
Ok, here’s the deal. My love for pop music begins and ends with the Beatles. That’s pretty much it. Y’all can’t imagine how excited I was when I heard that the British Invasion would be an American Idol theme night. First, there is the potential to hear some really cool songs not previously sung (over and over again) on Idol. Of course, there is also the potential for it all to be a giant trainwreck as well. Nevertheless, me=totally psyched.
The show starts with a montage of some of the greatest bands of all time–The Beatles, The Stones, The Who and the Kinks. Don’t forget the incredible female singers–Dusty Springfield and Shirley Bassey. And then, naturally, clips of this week’s mentors, the ever-youthful, Peter Noone and spitfire, Lulu–who both give the kids useful advice and solid direction
Tonight’s performances and song choices are a vast improvement over last week. Of course the pool of songs itself is deeper and better. And, dare I say it–Melinda and LaKisha are not the stars of the show tonight.
Easily, this was the best performance show of the season so far.
Peter Noone. like a proud papa, is in the audience tonight.
Haley Scarnato – …Tell Him by Billie Davis – Haley says her goal this week is to be more aggressive and “not so sweet.” She’s still the head majorette performing sweetly and blandly at the school assembly, but now with a dash of sex that should keep her from fading into oblivion. Haley and her gravity-defying breasts bounce out onto stage in a pair of short-shorts, a backless satin shirt, and high-heels. She’s all wriggles and shimmies with a cute-n-perky vocal. The naughty girl next door routine is a smart move and will probably secure her a spot on the tour. I think Simon summed it up well, “You naughty little thing…I think people are going to be talking about a lot more than your singing tonight.”
Back from the break. Ryan introduces us to a little girl from the audience…
Chris Richardson – …Dont Let The Sun Catch You Crying by Gerry and the Pacemakers – Chris says that his goal for the week is to “finally nail a song.” An excellent goal for one entered into a singing competition. Peter has been watching the show, and he admits, in so many words, that he has not been impressed with Chris’s vocals. Peter tells Chris to watch the vibrato and stick with the melody. Chris follows Peter’s advice–he tones down the vibrato and cans the messy vocal runs to deliver his best vocal performance so far in the competition. Although his voice is still nasally and thin, he makes the most of what he’s got without the distractions. He proves he can sit still and sing a song. At the beginning of the competition, he was a mass of cliched boy-band affectations. For this performance, he’s pared that all away–he’s even stopped with the crazy hip-hop hands. Simon is impressed for the first time. I think we’ll be seeing Chris on tour.
After the break, Stephanie answers a fan question. She says the hardest part about getting ready for the show each week is picking a song.
Stephanie Edwards – …You Dont Have To Say You Love Me by Dusty Springfield. When Nadia Turner performed this great Dusty Springfield classic back in Season 4, she brought a drama and presence that is sorely lacking in Stephanie’s version tonight. Her vocals are squeaky and sharp and she seems uncomfortable and unsure as she navigates her way through the song. To pull out an AI cliche, this song was way too big for her light, Beyonce-like, vocals. Stephanie just doesn’t have the chops to pull off a big, dramatic song. Speaking of song choice–not a good one for Stephanie. Simon calls it “cabaret”. Ouch. She could be in danger this week.
Blake Lewis – …Time Of The Season by the Zombies – When I heard Blake was singing this song, I immediately heard him beat-boxing the intro–although a sixties-themed week would have been a perfect opportunity to move away from the beatboxing– which Blake seems to rely on week after week. Nevertheless, Blake’s taste is, as always, impeccable. I loved the arrangement, and the beatboxing worked. I’m not sure why he didn’t switch into falsetto rather than sticking to his chest voice for some of the higher notes–he was definitely pitchy in spots. What I find amusing, is the judges praising him this week for updating an old song, while last week they seemed so offended when he did the same to a Supremes tune. To quote Randy, I think Blake brought a “cool vibe” to an old song. As always, he is a breath of fresh air. I have no doubt Blake will go deep into this competition. Simon said it was the strongest performance so far. Loved the plaid pants.
OMG. Ryan is singing. Stop that.
Lakisha Jones – …Diamonds are Forever, Shirley Bassey (from the Bond movie). LaKisha admits to knowing nothing about the British Invasion. She picks a song from a 1971 Bond movie, that, if you ask me, does not fit any definition of “British Invasion” that I know. Actually, even the million dollars worth of diamonds Lakisha wears tonight cannot help this terrible song. In the film clip, Lulu practically begs LaKisha to pick instead, the vastly superior “You’re My World” by Cilla Black. Lulu has a great ear. She imagines the song as a perfect vehicle for LaKisha’s soulful voice. But alas, while LaKisha has great pipes, unlike Lulu, she has no imagination. LaKisha passes on the opportunity to change it up a bit, and instead, we get a lackluster performance. The judges were underwhelmed. Simon says, “I didn’t get it.” I’m afraid at this point, she’s going to lose some momentum. Fun fact: Film producer Henry Saltzman told Shirley Bassey to “imagine she was singing about a penis.”
Phil Stacey – …Tobacco Road by The Nashville Teens – Peter encourages Phil–he tells him he’s got the perfect voice for the song and that he’s never heard it “sung as good as that.” Phil does a double take. So do I, because while Phil attempts to show off his range through a series of vocal gymnastics, in the end he lacks the requisite edge needed to pull off blues-tinged rock successfully. Phil works the stage hard, picking up the microphone, playing to the audience. But it really is to no avail. Simon says “I don’t hear any grit in your voice, ” and, “I think you need grit in your voice to be able to pull a song like that off.” Simon then says ominously, “That wasn’t believable…you may have a problem tomorrow.” Random question: WTF is that smudgy stuff on Phil’s shirt?
After the break, more fan mail. A viewer wants to know what song describes Jordin best. She says, “I’m So Excited” by the Pointer Sisters. It’s her catch phrase.
Jordin Sparks – …I Who Have Nothing by Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones – Lulu primal screams with Jordin to her get in the proper emotional space to sing this big, big song. Jordin, unlike many of the teens who have competed in this competition, is able to sing a grown up song in a believable way. Jordin does a remarkable job here. She’s got the big voice and the emotional range to carry off this song. Not only can I imagine Jordin singing on the Broadway stage, but I think she may have some acting talent as well. A movie role for Jordin after her Idol stint? Simon said he “felt like jumping off a bridge, but you sang it beautifully, ” which is a really weird and backhanded way to serve up a compliment.
Ryan chats with Peter Noone in the audience. Gotta love Peter. His advice to the boys is to remember that Idol is not a singing competition, but a voting competition. A quick shot of Simon shows him frowning. Peter tells it like it is. Yay.
Sanjaya Malakar – …You Really Got Me by the Kinks – Sanjaya has two song picks for this week. One is Peter Noone’s Hermit’s tune “Something Good.” The other is the Kinks’, “You Really Got Me.” Peter says, “He does look more like one of the Herman’s Hermits than the Kinks, doesn’t he?” Despite this, Sanjaya throws caution to the wind and decides to “go for it.” He settles on the Kinks classic. Holy crap. A trainwreck in the making. I am giddy with anticipation. Believe it or not, Sanjaya pulls it off, albeit in a Tiger Beat-does-the-Kinks sort of way. He growls and works the stage as the camera keeps cutting to the little girl we were introduced to in the audience earlier. The performance is a campy slice of ‘tween fever–a total riot. The girl, who seems to be straight out of central casting, is crying on cue as Sanjaya struts his non-threatening-in-an-asexual-way-that-doesn’t-frighten-the little girls stuff. I cannot believe my eyes. Suddenly, I have the desire to join the worsters and vote my fingers bloody for him. Sanjaya pulls out an audacious performance that will certainly secure his place on the tour. All Simon can manage to say is, “That little girl’s face says it all.” Rumor has it that Dean the hairstylist tried to fix Sanjaya’s hair into a mohawk, but wasn’t successful. That would have been a sight to behold. Something tells me Sanjaya may be in on the joke.
Fan question for Gina: Do you think being on American Idol has made you stronger? Blah blah yeah…pressure…mean bloggers… Oops, sorry Gina….
Gina Glocksen – …Paint it Black by the Rolling Stones – Gina is sporting a cute 60’s inspired inverted bob. Lulu’s advice to Gina is to sing the song a half step higher. Even with the pink hair, punk outfits and studded tongue, Gina really is more Celine Dion underneath it all than Janis or Chrissie. She does not quite pull off the rocker thing. She tries, but something is missing. Maybe if she went more Pat Benatar–more pop than rock she would succeed. She does a couple of weird things with the melody of the song tonight that makes the tune sound off. Simon thinks it’s a mess, “there were moments of complete torture…style over substance.” Gina looks close to tears as Simon critiques her. It’s obvious she’s trying to give them what she thinks they want. Perhaps, that’s the problem.
Chris Sligh – …She Not There by the Zombies – Chris loves the British Invasion. He choses the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” ’cause it’s one of his favorite songs. Ahhh, more excellent taste. Peter advises Chris to read and understand the lyrics first. Chris starts the song in the audience and it’s a little distracting. He might have served the spirit of the song better by just standing still and singing it, concentrating on allowing his vocals to evoke the story. But the vocals are good, very good as always. Chris has got a great range and a beautiful, sweet and powerful upper register. This is an excellent song choice for him. The glasses are back. Chris says “Hi!” to Dave. That would be Dave from Vote For The Worst most likely–the worsters have been goading Chris all week for a shout out. I thought the little “Fro Patrol!” call that came afterward was tongue-in-cheek, and I laughed. Unfortunately, he may have pissed off an entire fanbase with the utterance of those two words. Nothing turns off an extremely devoted fan base of an ex-Idol faster than appearing to swipe from their favorites’ playbook. I’d back off that one, Chris.
Melinda Doolittle – …As Long as He Needs Me from the musical …Oliver! – uhhh, this isn’t exactly “British Invasion” either. And Melinda inexplicably says the song is out of her comfort zone, although she’s made Broadway tunes and standards a staple of her repertoir. Lulu, sensing the presense of a pro, doesn’t have much advice to give her. Melinda delivers her typical stellar performance. However, like LaKisha, British Invasion week gave Melinda the opportunity to perform something a little adventerous, but she did not take it. The judges love her, as always. Simon says, “are you really as nice as you seem?” Yes, yes, Melinda is as humble as they come, we get that. And, “You made the second part of the song sensational with an impeccable vocal.” With that huge compliment from Simon, Melinda continues her march deep into this competition.
My spidey sense tells me that Stephanie may be in danger tonight…
PS: Have I mentioned that unlike nearly everyone else on the planet, I am enjoying Season 6 immensely? I know that’s contrary to the conventional wisdom so far, but I think this year’s talent pool is deeper than peeps give it credit. And, there have already been some great performances and results night surprises. I expect more in the weeks ahead.
But maybe, I’m just a ho for this show….