Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Smell the Artistry

"American Idol"
Fox via DVR

This has been my least favorite season of "Idol" since I started watching, because I have no real rooting interest. Allison has become my favorite by default, but I hardly think I'll be downloading her album at some future point. It makes it more difficult to listen to the performances objectively, because all of the contestants are beginning to bore me. Everyone seems to have a fatal flaw that holds them back visibly each week -- Adam's theatricality, Lil's rhythmic inflexibility, Anoop's laziness, Matt Giraud's misguided equation of popularity with artistic merit. Allison is the lone exception. She took a bit of a beating for her weird outfit and hairstyle this week, but she was due to do something to mix it up and I kind of liked her 80's rocker look. She's not much of a guitar player, but she's the only contestant who's both following her instincts and making the right choices.

Anoop Deai Anoop was in key and dressed and moved around in the most stylish way he can. He's not convincing as a player, but he has enough confidence to fake it for an evening. The choice of an Usher song didn't give him a lot of chances to show off hig high range. A sort of chops-flexing peak is expected of "Idol" outings at this stage and Anoop lacks the proper sense of drama in his arrangements. His lackadaisical approach will catch up to him. 8

Megan Joy I don't know where the judges precisely turned on her, because by my estimation Megan's been doing the exact same performance since Day 1. I don't know how they can tell when she's better or worse that she always tends to warble around key on 50-60% of her notes. As far as picking a number to which her particular style is suited, I thought "Joy" did fine with "Turn Your Lights Down Low." She had less fortunate run-ins with more technical vocals in weeks past. The vague theme for this episode ("Top Downloads on iTunes") made for a disjointed episode. With all that leeway, Megan could have picked something much more likely to make her stand out, if she had such competitive spirit. I don't think she does. 6

Danny Gokey Danny's limited appeal becomes more obvious each time he delivers roughly the same performance again; although he went left-field and picked a modern country hit it still sounded like much the same mildly impassioned shout-a-thon as his "Hero" early on in the contest. Danny picked a better song this week to shout than last; he's more convincing when he plays the pity card than when he tries to party hard or boogie down. I'm not totally sure if this one translates as another tribute to his Dead Wife but it's worth noting that he fluffed the grace note badly and and one of these weeks he's going to shout his way out of relation to pitch on the bridge of some inspirational ballad and never get it back. 7

Allison Iraheta Not a fan of Allison's clunky guitar stabbing or No Doubt's serious side, but she really won me over with her belting in the second half of "Don't Speak." More of a rocker would have been nice. I think she got an unfair beating on the subject of her outfit. Since Allison isn't exactly a quote machine, it was a good time to do something radical with her dress to get noticed. I don't think it hurts her at all. 8

Scott MacIntyre Scott's run seems destined for a good-feelings end a week or two from now safely in place for the "Idol" tour and an album deal with a Christian label. He's over as a possible winner, though, and the judges are beginning to get their knives out for him for when there are no other weaker sheep left in the flock. They're getting less nice about Scott's obvious limitations as a singer, although his piano playing continues to impress. A Billy Joel number, "Just the Way You Are," was right up Scott's alley, although I don't think that Top 40 radio is on the brink of a resurgence in piano-man hits. Scott's voice is harsh and glitchy whenever he moves out of a narrow comfort band, and the ideas he's imperfectly executing remain essentially conservative. 6

Matt Giraud We don't like The Fray much here in the greater Denver area, where the band rose up to national prominence seemingly without playing anywhere or working with anyone else in the city. Matt Giraud is young enough and dumb enough to be moved by their bland ballad style, and vain enough to think he can inject soul into a lifeless song via whimpering. Matt desperately wants to appear current but he has no idea how to do it. If this is his reaction to the wake-up call of facing elimination, he's in deep trouble. 7

Lil Rounds Lil has been losing traction rapidly. For a while I thought she was holding herself back to really bring some reserves in when she needed them, but now I believe she's not the natural musician she once seemed. For "I Surrender," not at all an R&B tune, Lil was plagued by the same issues of pitch and meter that arise every time she moves away from Mary J. impersonation. She did quite a bit to win me over after a weak beginning with some power vocals at the climax, but I don't really see the marketability of this combo of singer and song. They could pick basically anything, and she went Celine Dion? Very odd. 8

Adam Lambert Adam, to his credit, has reacted in just the right way to the limitless praise his favorite status afforded him at times when he really didn't deserve it in the earlier rounds. He's taking bigger risks still and yet he's getting better, really displaying the power of his vocals in many different styles and showing a musical taste that's surprisingly eclectic, one that puts the older Matt Giraud to shame. No one could have predicted "Play That Funky Music" from Adam out of this theme, but he sold it, howling and wailing his way through the best time of the "Idol" slate. I'm not sure if it was his most modern or savvy choice, or if he'd put it on his debut album, but he's sure not sticking to script. 9

Kris Allen Kris plays the piano better than he plays the guitar -- didn't see that coming. It was an unsually interesting and alert performance from a fellow who could be accused of crusining on his looks. I don't know where Kris got the idea to do "Ain't No Sunshine" from, but showed a level of musical engagement we haven't seen out of Allen before. His vocals were correspondingly tighter, as well. A cliffhanger-like closer to this episode, as Kris has a bit of a new dimension as we begin to separate wheat and chaff. He's got new life. 8

It's going to leave Allison and Lil and a bunch of dudes, but I think Megan "Joy" gets the boot tonight. The judges all but rolled out the carpet for her walk out the door. I wonder if they'll even pretend to deliberate over whether to use their save on her weak behind?


  1. Well I'm glad they didn't pretend. She was a trainwreck last night.

  2. Well, all the obvious choices to go are gone now, which wouldn't seem to bode well for MacIntyre or Anoop next week.

    I actually really liked Scott's choice of song this week and enjoyed his performance the best. Adam was back to his over-the-top self and while he remains impressive, he still doesn't know how to consistently put it all together. Everyone else was pretty blah this week even though the theme should have opened the door for some great songs/performances.

  3. Oh, and how obvious was it that Allison wasn't really playing the guitar intro in "Don't Speak"?