Posts Tagged ‘Danny Gokey’

Top 7 Results: Execution Delayed

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Normally Quentin Tarantino movies are distinguished by the high body count, so there’s a touch of irony that this week the Idol body count was zero. The judges turned out to be in a better mood than a decent chunk of America tends to be on Tax Day, and gave Matt Giraud a reprieve.

It’s an amusing idea that somehow Matt is on the same level as everyone else who got mentioned earlier on the season. He isn’t even close. He can have his moments – So Small was his best one – but of late he’s been tanking, to put it mildly. On that level, his elimination was not some great injustice that needed to be remedied.

I said at the start of the season that the Judges’ Save was largely intended for favorites who ended up in trouble, and I stand by that statement. What changed, however, was that the original planned recipients – Danny and Adam – turned out not to need them at all. Danny has been “singing to a level” in a sense – he does well enough to not become a target for elimination, if not much better.

As for Adam, he’s managed to avoid turning in another Ring of Fire that was just as likely to hurt as help him. That was the real danger for Adam, and even if he turned one in next week his fanbase is probably strong enough by now to insure that won’t be a problem either.

Realistically, then, the judges now had a veto they didn’t exactly plan on having at this stage. So why use it now? They essentially had to. Not using the veto would probably have caused another furor: if would have been derided as nothing more than a ratings stunt, it would be raising the tension for contestants unnecessarily, etc. Considering, too, that they had a perfect candidate for saving earlier in the season (Alexis Grace), not using it would probably have been another public relations gaffe Idol didn’t really need.

With that in mind, it didn’t really matter how well or how poorly the last placer did – so long as it wasn’t bad enough that the judges couldn’t possibly justify saving him/her. Matt wasn’t quite that bad, and he has been good before.

Realistically, the only thing that got saved was the judges’ – and producers’ – bacon. Matt’s still departing sooner rather than later – but it avoids a possible furor down the road. It was done strictly for dramatic – and PR – purposes. This wasn’t the grandiose idea that was proposed at the start of the season to save Those Who Left Too Soon.

The Road to the Finale: With only five weeks remaining in the Idol season, we’re all definitely entering the homestretch. Whether that’s good or bad, well… your mileage may definitely vary.

Let’s take a look at the seven remaining contestants and see what they all need to do to get to the finale. They’re ranked in order of likeliest to make it there:

1. Adam Lambert

I’d rather not say that Adam is sure to make it to the finale. After all, I said that of Melinda Doolittle two seasons ago – and look how that ended up.

Still, Adam is still the safest bet in this field to get that far. His main challenge is twofold: avoid turning in one (or more) Ring of Fire-like disasters, and guarding against a complacent fan base. A good analogy here is Chris Daughtry: everyone thought he was headed to the finale, but two so-so performances (at best) and a fanbase that became complacent (due to Katharine McPhee’s twin trainwrecks that same night) ended up sending him home at the final four.

Another similar situation is can be found in Season Six. In the final three, Melinda Doolittle did well with all three of her songs. Blake Lewis and Jordin Sparks turned in only one good performance each; the rest weren’t all that well received. Melinda’s fanbase – never the strongest to begin with – relaxed, Blake’s and Jordin’s voted like mad… and Melinda went out in third.

Still, overall, you have to like Adam’s chances of making it to the finale. In another season, things might have been different – but as it is, it looks good for him.

2. Kris Allen

Kris came into the competition with little in the way of hype, but he’s gradually emerged as a serious competitor. In fact, in our opinion, he’s stronger than the somewhat overrated Danny Gokey.

His biggest advantage over Gokey is actually pretty simple: he’s been singing better over the past few weeks. In addition, he’s established what kind of artist he is much more successfully than Danny has.

It doesn’t hurt, either, that in many ways he’s the exact opposite of Adam style-wise. Most of the time, Idol finalists tend to be have very different musical styles. Winning in Idol is all about building and keeping fanbases, and contestants sharing even parts of their fanbases are liable to go by the wayside until there’s no sharing.

3. Danny Gokey

In the Idol dictionary, Danny’s picture would be beside the word “coasting”. He’s been living off the early show speculation that established him as a front-runner… even if his performances of late show that he may not completely deserve to be called one.

Consider this: since his version of Jesus, Take The Wheel Danny has stumbled through the competition at best. The only reason he hasn’t gone home in the month that has passed since then is there have been others who were even worse. Ouch.

In normal circumstances,  this would be a recipe for a quick exit. For all of Danny’s problems, though, he still has less than everyone else – which is why he’s still #3 in our list (and, in effect, our power rankings).

That said, his only real hope of getting to the finale is really hoping that Kris makes a mistake. To some degree, they share some of their fanbases – and it’s unlikely that Danny’s has gained any ground in the past month. Danny and Kris will ultimately have to square off for that fanbase, and despite the (over)praise the judges have given Danny, Kris is likely to come out on top.

On the other hand, if Danny were suddenly to get a lot better he could easily steal the thunder from Kris – and with the judges (and a lot of other writers) generally overrating Danny, he could catch up in a hurry. Is it likely? Probably not, but this is Idol-land, where strange and funny things happen.

The one wildcard here is that it’s possible that Danny may have a silent, but powerful fanbase. I’ve seen it claimed that Danny has a large Christian fan base, and because that’s a group that’s traditionally not well-represented in the Idolsphere it’s hard to be completely confident about how much it’s helping Danny. Ultimately, Idol is a singing competition, and I think that whatever his off-stage pluses, it’ll come down to the fact that Danny is not singing that well.

However, I could be wrong in that, and if Idol is becoming the latest battlefield in the Culture Wars with Adam and Danny as proxies in that, well… let’s just say that development could have long-standing effects on the show itself. Few of which I’d be convinced are good.

4. Allison Iraheta

There’s no doubt about Allison’s raw talent. You can make a decent argument, in fact, that she’s the best female rocker Idol‘s ever had. However, she has the same problem another vocally gifted rocker, Carly Smithson, had last year: she can’t get people to care very much.

Of late, she’s also been suffering from consistency issues as well: she’s been alternating well-received performances with not so good ones. Again, this is not a formula for building a fanbase.

Allison’s biggest problem, though, is she’s splitting fan bases: part of the rock vote is going to Adam. How much… it’s hard to say, but given Allison’s weak fanbase – she’s already been in the bottom group twice, any splitting is going to hurt her more than Adam.

On the flip side, though, even when Allison is “bad” she’s not really dreadful the way others can be when they have their off night. She’s a good enough singer to at least avoid sounding like an utter mess – which is better than some of the rest can claim.

5. Anoop Desai

Here’s a caveat to the rankings for Anoop on down. Realistically, none of the bottom three have a realistic chance of making it to the finale. It’s not impossible – stranger things have happened on the Idol stage – but I wouldn’t put any money on it, no matter what the odds are. There are really two near-independent competitions going on – one among the top four, and another for the bottom three.

Like Danny, Anoop has largely been living on pre-show hype. If anything, he’s been even more of a disappointment. His best performance came in the Top 11, and even that didn’t become a breakout moment, being buried by Matt Giraud’s So Small and Adam Lambert’s famous (or infamous) Ring of Fire.

His fanbase may have gotten him through the start, but its growing at about the same pace the US economy is right now – in short, not at all. Three straight trips to the bottom three? That doesn’t speak well of his fanbase. In another season, he’d be gone by now.

However, in all fairness, Anoop has been decent the past two weeks. That’s not saying much, but it’s out there. If Allison tanks badly enough, he could make it through to the final four, but probably not any longer. The flip side is also true, though: if Matt or Lil improve next week, with a double elimination Anoop is unlikely to survive.

6. Matt Giraud

Yes, you’ve got that right. The guy who would otherwise have gone home isn’t the cellar dweller in our rankings. Not that it matters much, since the bottom two are going home next week.

That may sound insane, but there’s method to this madness. It’s useful to remember why Lil managed to squeak ahead of Matt, in spite of being a worse singer overall in the finals. Her mini-tirade against the judges was the kind of thing that’s an adrenaline shot to a fanbase – but it’s not going to be repeated next week.

Matt has turned in somewhat better performances than Lil, but barring a major breakout performance – think So Small-caliber – it’s unlikely to send him into the top 5.

7. Lil Rounds

Lil has been nothing short of a flop since the finals began. Ever since she tackled Independence Day (thus proving she can’t sing as well as Carrie Underwood or Martina McBride,) she’s been on a steady downhill path.

While her annoyance at the judges is pretty well justified – she has been getting bad advice – the simple fact of the matter is she’s sung poorly five times in a row. Ouch. Now, as I said in Danny’s case there were singers who were even worse each night, but short of a miraculous improvement Lil should go home next week. She almost certainly will – I can’t see her delivering a performance that’ll leapfrog two people with disco night.

Overall, it’s something of a very static power ranking. Save for Ring of Fire, Adam hasn’t done anything to endanger his standing as a front runner. Other early front runners like Danny and Lil have faltered (particularly the latter). The big gainer is Kris, who has made a significant challenge to enter the top tier of contenders, but even that has run into missteps (like last week’s All She Wants To Do Is Dance).

It’s not the most interesting – nor competitive – crop of contestants I’ve seen on this show. They leave me underwhelmed – which, come to think about it, sums up the entire season to date.

Top 7 Performance Night: And The Trainwreck Goes To…

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

One thing we’ve learned this season is to keep expectations… low. It’s more than halfway through the season, and I haven’t really been blown away by any of the performances to date. Right now, I (and, I’d guess, more than a few of you) have a tough time caring.

Adam Lambert might as well have chosen his theme song with Born To Be Wild. Translation: it was more than a bit indulgent. It was decently done, but it didn’t have the polish Mad World have. It was, if anything, his worst performance since Ring of Fire. It reminded me of a not-as-good version of Play That Funky Music – same frenetic pace, same kind of a crowd-pleasing, same vocals that were just okay. Not his best, but not his worst by a decent distance either.

Shockingly, though, Adam didn’t have the strongest Your Mileage May Vary factor last night. It was the likable – and, in the past, uncontroversial Kris Allen. Falling Slowly was not the vocal masterpiece of the night, but it didn’t have to be. Kris’s strength has never been his vocals, but his ability to connect emotionally with his songs. He did well in that category last night, but… I think he gave up too much of the vocals last night. Objectively, the vocals were fair to middling. If the vocals had been just that much better, he would have owned the night. (Not that it would have taken much.) As it is, though, he did well for the night – but he missed out on a golden opportunity.

Anoop Desai singing another power ballad is not the most original thing in the world, but at least he’s reasonably competent at it. As it tends to be, the vocals are always pretty decent… if somewhat paint-by-numbers. To his credit, the emotion was there in spots, but not consistently there. He was fine in the “glory” spots, but there was room for improvement in between. Guess which one has more time.

After those three, it goes downhill. Everyone else was, at the very least, flawed – to downright bad. Allison Iraheta’s song choice was, to be honest, a little predictable. Rock song, check. Needs a big voice, check. From a movie, check. Good choice? Uh, no. David Cook tried this last year, and even he couldn’t make a really good performance out of it. (To be fair, that wasn’t because he chose the song – it was assigned to him.) It’s a big song, and it was too big for Allison. It just didn’t work. The vocals weren’t bad, but it’d be a stretch to call it good either. So-so at best. Note to future Idol would-be rockers: avoid I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing. This is not something you want to sing on the stage.

Give Danny Gokey an A for effort on Endless Love. The vocals, though, not so much. The song, as Danny did it, needs subtlety, finesse, and Danny had… none of it. He took a bulldozer to the song. Danny worked hard this week, but maybe he should have stopped to consider if his goal was the right one. It wasn’t, not by a long shot.

Matt Giraud made a decent effort to win the Golden Trainwreck of the night. The vocals were not impressive – it was kind of dull and boring all night long. More than that, though, if you’re going to pick a song like Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman, you need to connect with the emotions of the song. Matt didn’t come close to that at all.

The Golden Trainwreck, however, goes to Lil Rounds. For a singer whose supposed specialty is in the power runs, glory notes, etcetera that Idol loves to drop on its R&B contestants, she was surprisingly mediocre. It was unbelievably dull. By itself, though, that would not have enough to get her the Golden Trainwreck – but teeing off on Simon did. “Putting her own bit in it”? So is her specialty putting people to sleep? Foot, meet mouth. That was not her finest moment on the stage.

Overall, though, the results were pretty dismal. After this week, there are only five weeks left. Yet the overall caliber of the performances was something I’d expect in February or March, when the season was starting – not in mid-April, when the season is getting “down to the wire”.

Not thinking things through: Lately it seems to be Amateur Night is reigning over at 19E – and rarely was this more obvious than last night.

Everyone knew that adding Kara to the judging panel would cause timing issues. Either more time would have to be spent on the judges, or Paula, Randy, and Simon would all have to learn to talk less – an unlikely proposition. Either way, the show’s producers and director would have to compensate.

However, it took widespread outrage after Adam Lambert’s Mad World was cut off after Idol ran long last week before the Idol PTB decided to act. And their response? Why, let’s make our judges do even less work! Did anyone really like the alternating-judges act? As it is, it sounds like a last-minute kludge that was cooked up at the last minute. Any one who’s watched the show closely at all knew what would happen, but apparently the Well-Paid Professionals at 19E didn’t figured that out. American Idol is in the best of hands.

Of course, the biggest Amateurism of the night was picking Quentin Tarantino to mentor. I don’t doubt that he’s a colorful guy, and he understands the dramatic impact of music, but… he knows absolutely nothing about producing music. That, fundamentally, is the role of the mentor. It’s no coincidence that the better mentors tend to be those that are involved in music production (Barry Manilow, David Foster) or those who have been in the industry long enough to learn at least some material by osmosis.

Quentin Tarantino was neither. For all his enthusiasm, it was clear that there wasn’t much “operational”, detailed advise he could offer. He’s a movie director, not a music producer. Step aside, Gwen Stefani – there is a new “champion” for the worst Idol mentor ever. This was something that many, many people could have guessed – but, apparently, 19E missed the boat on this again. Is anyone with a brain cell running things over there?

A wide-open field: With so many bad performances, it’s hard to really call anyone perfectly safe. Adam is almost certainly safe, but Danny was so disappointing him showing up in the bottom three would not be a shock.

The likeliest boot candidates here are Matt Giraud and Lil Rounds. For both of them, it comes down to fanbase strength. They were both sufficiently bad that casual voters aren’t going to give either of them any meaningful boost in the votes. It ultimately comes down whose fans hit the phones harder last night.

Lil’s tirade against the judges will certainly hurt her in the long term (if she lasts that long), but this week it probably spurred on her (limited) fan base to vote like mad. Given how week Matt was, the needed boost to escape survival isn’t that large. That could very well have put Lil over the edge to survive.

So…

The Idol Guy pick: Matt Giraud to go home.

Top 8 Performance Night: Things Could Only Get Better, Right?

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

After last week’s disaster/fiasco/catastrophe, things could only go up. Way up. Year You Were Born, however, wasn’t quite a masterpiece of a night. It had its high – and low – points, but a smooth ride? Nope. Not even close. Still, in Idol-land, all we fans can ask for is a semi-decent night. Last night was that, but not much more.

Best of the night, by a pretty far margin, was Adam Lambert. The ridiculous lighting for Mad World aside, everything came together for Adam tonight: his vocals were up to the job, he was able to connect with the song’s emotions, and he didn’t let the theatrics get in the way of the music. Easily Adam’s best performance of the season, and possibly the most well-rounded one of the season to date.

Second-best, by a pretty decent margin herself, was Allison Iraheta. Her vocals are always going to be on; she made a pretty good song choice as well. It was an emotionally loaded song that she pulled off with the requisite amounts of believability; this was perfectly, and completely, believable. Well done.

Anoop Desai is reminding us a lot of Phil Stacey from Season Six: when he’s good, he’s very good – but he is just as capable of dropping a clunker. Fortunately for us, he was in the former mode this week. It was a solid, well-sung performance. It didn’t quite have the special “X-factor” that elevated both Allison and Adam, but it was well-executed and pretty good to listen to.

Matt Giraud and Danny Gokey faced a similar problem: they were both saddled with difficult, complex, bordering on the nonsensical arrangements that did them no favors. This was the Idol equivalent of walking into a gunfight with a spork. On pure vocals, Matt was probably a little better, but he also had, by far, the worse arrangement. More often than not, despite his okay signing, he had me scratching my head thinking, “what was that?”. There’s a lot of your-mileage-may-vary for these two – as it is, both can only be put in the “okay” category, and some might say I’m being a bit generous.

From there, though, it gets a little ugly. Kris Allen had the momentum coming into this week… but lost an awful lot of it this week. Memo to all future Idol contestants – this idea of starting in a mini-stage in the mosh pit is dumb beyond words. It didn’t work for Matt last week, and it didn’t work this week for Kris either. It was competently executed, but there was a vague paint-by-numbers feeling to it. There was no excitement, no passion, no emotion. Musical wallpaper is how I’d describe it.

Lil Rounds… oh boy. What in the world was that? Has Lil made one good song choice since the finals? Again: she couldn’t sing as well, or as artfully, as the original (Tina Turner). It was just an utterly dull, meandering performance that was, well, nothing. Easily her worst performance to date.

And then we get to Scott Macintyre. It’s never a good idea to sing a song that has any connotations of ending, finishing, etcetera, on Idol. It’s tempting the Idol gods, to be honest. And boy, did they come down hard on Scott. The electric guitar was just… out of place. And then we get to the vocals… no. Just no. He did his best, I’m sure, but this was a clear disaster.

Tempting the Idol gods: The “obvious” pick to get eliminated is Scott. He’s been steadily slipping throughout the finals, showed up in the bottom three two weeks ago, and turned in a complete and utter trainwreck Tuesday night to boot.

However… there’s a distinct possibility that the Mighty Mouse effect could be in play here. The only real solid fanbases right now that are strong enough that I won’t call vulnerable is Adam’s and maybe Danny’s. They’re not going to end up in the bottom three. The rest of the field is weak enough that they can be beaten by Idol voting patterns, regardless of how good or bad they are.

While it may be possible, I don’t think it’s probable here. If Scott had showed any signs of becoming more competitive, I’d be more open to the possibility of one – but right now, I think Scott’s fanbase is so weak that frantic power-voting or not, he’s going home.

Just like last week, the more interesting story is in who ends up beside Scott. The obvious suspect here might well be Lil, who has been just that bit better than Scott so far – but not by much. However, if DialIdol is to be believed, Anoop and Kris might find themselves in danger there – both, in fact, are lower than Scott in their ratings. DI isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of Idol predictions.

Kris might not be strong enough to escape the bottom three, but one so-so performance is probably not going to send him home. Meanwhile, Anoop was actually pretty good last night, so him going out right now seems unlikely too. Given the wide margin-of-error this week, I’m not as convinced of DI’s utility this week.

So, ultimately, the pick is:

Scott Macintyre to go home.

Top 9 Performance Night: April Snooze Day

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Due to the wonders of timezones and the International Date Line, this week’s episode of American Idol came to us on April Fool’s Day. Unfortunately, this week’s singing felt like a prank that had gone awry.

The only one who really shined was Kris Allen. He may not have had a lot of hype coming into this week, but Ain’t No Sunshine fixed that perfectly. His singing was spot-on; he connected with the audience and the song’s emotions. Kris isn’t a vocal powerhouse, but he definitely made the best of what he does have. This week and last were both very, very good for Kris – he is rapidly becoming the person to watch out for in this field.

Adam was, well, Adam. He does what he does very, very well. (And kudos to him for singling out Rickey Minor for praise.) Over the top, as usual, but subtlety is not usually part of the Adam Lambert performance. Overall, it was pretty entertaining, and better than most this week, but – Mick Jagger? Steven Tyler? Really? That’s a stretch, to put it mildly. Somewhere between okay and good, but not worthy of the comparisons and praise it’s getting from Paula and Kara.

Danny Gokey’s version of What Hurts the Most. It’s a pretty emotional song, and Danny was able to express that pretty well. That said, the vocals were not that good. The power was not there; he was straining in far too many parts. It was a great effort, but the singing was just not good enough for this to get ranked any higher.

Scott Macintyre made a good song choice in Billy Joel’s Just The Way You Are. Of course, it would have sounded better if Scott hadn’t given the AC treatment to just about all of his performances to date. He was able to connect with the song and gave a decent version of it – however, there’s a catch. It didn’t do much to hide his basic flaws of limited range and power – he did what he could, but he’s just not as good.

Allison Iraheta made the classic mistake of picking a song she liked as opposed to something that suited her. Don’t Speak isn’t a song which, in our opinion, doesn’t translate well live. Note to future Idol contestants: avoid this song. Please. Allison’s vocals were okay, not great, but there was only so much she could do with this song. While the judges spent too much time talking about her wardrobe, I have to agree it was a bit much. Decent vocals with, well, clashing visuals all put her right in the Mediocre Middle.

Doing Celine Dion on the Idol stage is… ambitious, to say the least. Unfortunately, it was yet another case of being too ambitious for Lil Rounds. The glory notes did show off Lil’s power, but the rest of it was bordering on the terrible. Lil is definitely not playing to her strengths. It doesn’t help that she loves to pick songs by very good singers, but she’s not quite in the same league vocally. She’s not in danger right now, but if she keeps up at this level she’ll be gone sooner rather than later.

I know the song is called You Found Me, but I didn’t realize that much of the song had just as lyrics. I’m not familiar enough with the original to compare, but what I do know is that there was nothing compelling about Matt Giraud’s performance. Wooden, middling vocals, no connection to the audience… he’s taken whatever gains he had from So Small and utterly thrown it away. And starting in the mosh pit, but with a keyboard? What was that?

Anoop Desai has a good enough voice to avoid major trainwrecks – in won’t have people at home cringing in horror at how bad the singing is. However, that’s no assurance of the overall performance making sense. Anoop just hasn’t figured out how to do a “fast” song yet – when he does, he crashes and burns. Badly. This was at about the same level as Beat It a few weeks ago – if anything, it was even worse. Ouch.

Worst of the night was Megan Joy. She pulled the “song I really love” line again… with predictably bad results. At this stage, I don’t know if there’s really anything she can do decently – she’s not that good a singer, and even if she was she’s too quirky to pick songs for easily. Whatever the case, she was definitely the worst of the night.

Overall, it was easily the worst night of the finals. Only one really good, high-quality performance from Kris; a couple of okay-to-good ones from Adam and Danny; a lot of so-so songs, and Anoop and Megan occupying the cellar with strange song choices. Setting aside Kris’s great performance, I couldn’t help but thinking something along the lines of, “that was it?” There was an awful lot of musical wallpaper that could put listeners to sleep if they were tired after a long day.

They never make it easy, do they: With relatively few good performances this week, the number of people I’d call truly safe would fall essentially into two categories: those with large, pre-existing fanbases and those who were at the very top of their game. This week, the total membership of the truly safe group is three: Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey, and Kris Allen. Anyone else could visit the bottom 3 and I’d find it completely plauisble.

That said, our pick to go home is Megan. Her uniqueness and quirks may have won her fans right at the start, but the four performances since the finals have been the Idol version of Chinese water torture for a fanbase. You can’t perform that poorly for a month and not lose fans – or, at least, lose ground to other fanbases.

The real shocker could be who’s standing beside her. Matt Giraud already made his bottom three appearance last week, so he could be the beneficiary of a bounce this week – his bad performance notwithstanding. Don’t be surprised to see Anoop or Scott take their spot beside Megan – they’re both a little vulnerable right now, and Anoop has not been in the bottom group before. A shock boot is probably not in the cards, but a warning shot probably is.

The Idol Guy pick: Megan Joy to go home.