Tuesday, May 12, 2009

American Idol Recap

This week, we learned some extremely disappointing news. Simon Cowell confessed to Oprah Winfrey during the airing of her Monday show that this was indeed his last scheduled season as a judge on the Fox hit TV show, American Idol. However, after much prodding from Winfrey, he agreed to "leave the door open."

I would be extremely disappointed if Cowell were not on the show voicing his expert opinions each week. He is by far one of the most interesting judges, making articulate and fascinating comparisons of singing performances to horror movies, animal sounds, and every day living. (Paul Abdul is a close second with her colorful wit and interesting insights). To be honest, I could do without either Kara DioGuardi or Randy Jackson. Sometimes it seems they duplicate each other. Maybe one of them should go, instead.

But, back to tonight's competition...

Each performer was given two opportunities to sing. The first song was picked by a judge. The second was picked by the contestant.

01 — Danny Gokey — Dance Little Sister 5 Stars

I was making dinner, so I didn't get to actually SEE Danny dance. Dioguardi and Cowell both said it was awkward. However, Abdul, who chose the song for him (originally performed by Terence Trent D'Arby), said she thought he did an excellent job with his choreography.

I could hear Gokey singing while I worked in the kitchen, and his vocal performance was so incredibly controlled and flawless, but super high energy, that I ran out to write down 5 stars for him. When I buy the CD, I want it to sound good. I could care less what the performers look like. If they do dance funny, that just makes the concert more interesting.

02 — Kris Allen — Too Late to Apologize — 3 stars

Jackson and Dioguardi chose this dark and moody Timbaland song for Kris Allen, one of my favorite songs of this century. Allen sat at the piano, his voice a bit shaky as he sang the slow beginning of the song. However, once he got into the more intense portions, it was great. I have to guess that the emotional quavering of his voice which has seemed to develop during the competition will soon be his trademark.

The only thing odd about this song was that this was the first time I've ever heard a judge judge a judge (what a tongue twister!). Dioguardi said she didn't like Allen's arrangement and choice of instrument, and Cowell slapped back at her that she was responsible for helping Allen put the song together. So much drama! What will we do without you, Cowell?

03 — Adam Lambert — One — 4 stars

Adam Lambert's voice was purely melodic as he launched into the emotional beginning of his rendition of One, by U2. However, the song was a bit rocky as he picked up the tempo and transitioned into his powerhouse vocals. Once Lambert belted out the lyrics, the performance was emotionally stirring.

04 — Danny Gokey — You Are So Beautiful — 5 stars

Billy Preston would have been proud to hear Danny Gokey's interesting minor key arrangement of "You Are So Beautiful," which added an unusual atmosphere to the song. Gokey has the ability to sing well at any tempo or intensity. The raspy tone of his voice melds with his perfect pitch. The overall result was romantic and powerful. Abdul said it best, "You left all of us breathless."

05 — Kris Allen — Heartless — 5 stars

Kris Allen chose to sing Kanye West's Heartless. As he pounded out the song on accoustic guitar, I was reminded of solo performances I've seen by Richard Thompson. Allen carried the song alone without additional accompaniment, the interesting nuances and tonal characters of his voice creating a moving rendition. I think he may go down in history as one of the most successful Idol finalists, after the show is over, once he has a chance to do what he wants to do. 

06 — Adam Lambert — Crying — 4 stars

For Adam Lambert's personal pick, he chose Crying by Aerosmith. During the quiet beginning of the song, his voice was so clear and melodic, that the tone was intensely beautiful. Once again, the transition in intensity from ballad to rock was a bit unbearable. (I assume it's due to lack of time to prepare). However, once he began to scream (and he can scream in tune and it even sounds good!), Lambert was able to rope in the crowd.

My biggest criticism: the background vocals were far, far too loud. This is a strategy used by many performers to help them compensate for their inability to always reach the high notes. However, Lambert doesn't need "bulking up." Since this was his arrangement, I have to call him on it.

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