Country nights on Idol can be… uneven nights. More than other genres, this theme gives singers who don’t usually go here trouble. With a Top 11 lacking the Designated Country Representative… that was a formula for train wrecks aplenty.
As a Carrie Underwood fan, I was even less pleased than usual. Based on the leaked song list that came out a week or so ago from Vote For The Worst, I knew there was a good chance someone would pick her material. As anyone with a sense of Idol history knows, Idol contestants picking the original songs of past contestants is usually terrible. And there are few things I like less than having a song I like utterly and completely butchered on the Idol stage.
Someone who definitely exceeded expectations was Matt Giraud. Yes, one of the best of the night was someone who had me worried all night how badly he’d butcher the song. Miracles do happen, even in Idol-land.
However, that was because Giraud was very smart in going about it. With a very recent song like So Small, you’re sure to be compared to the original. (That’s true for all songs, but less so for older ones than new ones.) And trying to outsing Carrie Underwood is, well, a difficult task at the best of times – and, for Giraud, might as well be impossible.
Of course, if Giraud couldn’t “sing” small, it wouldn’t have mattered, but as it turns out: he can. Some control problems towards the end, when he couldn’t resist the urge to turn up the power – but he was able to convey emotion in a way he hasn’t been able to all season long. Not bad at all.
If there was a “theme” of sorts to the show, it’s something I’ve touched upon in previous seasons, but it always worth repeating. It can be summed up this way: don’t work the themes; make the themes work for you. By far, the best people on this night were able to do just that.
Same idea, even better results: Kris Allen. It was, by far, the most heartfelt performance of the night, easily. Since his fanbase is probably disproportionately female, that’s a definite plus. Allen’s vocals loses out in the power battle, definitely, but his control is second to none in this field. Pleasant to listen to, heartfelt, great vocals – what more can you ask? Best of the night in our book. Giraud has a little more natural charisma, but Allen felt more honest.
Best of those who stayed true to the “expected” country theme would be Allison Iraheta. The country/rock crossover is surprisingly common, and Iraheta handled it with ease. While I didn’t like her last week, and I found Alone over-rated, this was not. This was excellent; Iraheta has a great mix of vocals, performing ability, and likability that should see her well. Well done.
Anoop Desai finally lived up to expectations. Like Allen and Giraud, he slowed down the song and rearranged it to suit his tendencies. Now, he wasn’t as polished as Giraud or as heartfelt as Allen, but still: pretty good from Desai, and without a doubt the best from him all season long.
A secondary theme was producers’ favorites doing okay, but not great. Perhaps they relaxed a little? Both Danny Gokey and Lil Rounds turned in performances that had similar high points and low points: technically competent, but brought nothing to the table that could be described as exciting. Independence Day struck me as something of a lazy choice; for once the judges were pretty spot-on with their points on Rounds. Besides, trying to outsing both Underwood and Martina McBride? That’s crazy talk.
Of course, at least Rounds tried to put an R&B spin on Independence Day. Gokey… I still have no idea what kind of singer he is. He does a decent enough job every week, but that’s it. He can sing most stuff decently, but I haven’t really seen anything he’s good at. Add to that so-so vocals – Jesus, Take The Wheel is as tough a test of pure vocal ability as you’ll find. Gokey was not up to the task; he was borderline overwhelmed by the song. Mediocre at best.
Another one who was so-so at best: Alexis Grace. I don’t know if she sounded like Dolly, but what I do know is that she didn’t sound particularly unique or exciting. It was okay technically, but it was just that. Like Rounds, she was okay, but not exciting. Ridiculously safe number.
Scott Macintyre has all the feel of someone in a rut. He’s turned in three very similar, so-so vocal performances. As I said last week: when he’s in his range, he’s okay – but out of it, he’s not so great. This’ll be a shocker: I think Paula was absolutely right with the piano. Stylistically, Scott needs to change it up badly. Hat pick losses or not (another Unintentionally Revealing Moment), Macintyre has not really impressed to date. He’s just… okay. And okay is not good enough to survive for long.
Michael Sarver managed to pull off Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til The Some Comes Up), and that’s no small feat. However… it’s one of those songs that works a lot better for a live audience than on TV. That was not what Sarver needed; he needed a song that could convince people that yes, he could, indeed, sing. He’s a likable enough fellow, but not in the same league vocally as most of the top 11.
Megan Joy lost her surname but didn’t gain any new fans with Walking After Midnight. It wasn’t as bad as last week, but not particularly good either. Not much to say about it, really. Very low energy performance, yes, but I won’t hold that against her since she’s pretty sick. Vocals were… better than Rockin’ Robin. That’s about as far as I’d go.
And last, and also the worst of the night… Adam Lambert. Whatever that arrangement of Ring of Fire was… all copies of it should be stuffed into a rocket and shot right at the sun. It was that bad. The glory notes made us cringe; the only thing that I thought was “burning” were TV viewers absolutely horrified at what he did. The word “disrespectful” has been thrown around the Idolsphere, and I have to agree: if I didn’t know better I would say this was a deliberate eff-you to Nashville, country music, and the South in general.
Either that, or Lambert has no idea of the idea of “limits”. There are things you do not do to great, classic, songs, and that was one of them. The Lambert act was bound to wear thin eventually, and this will only accelerate the process. It was more than a train wreck; it was a joke. A joke that I have not seen since the days of Sanjaya Malakar, and about as entertaining. Which it wasn’t.
Overall, it was a very surprising show – in a good way. Only one truly awful disaster. Four pretty impressive performances… so far, I will give this season credit, the finalists have been doing better than I expected. Ryan Seacrest was right: the coronation plans of the Idol PTB hit a road bump this week. It remains to be seen if this was a one-week special, or a more consistent trend.
Quick Picks: Normally, I’d like to keep the performance night article about the Tuesday night show, but there were a few things I came across that really deserve a quick mention. Consider this a quick pick segment, as some radio hosts like to do.
Item #1: An online gambling site has stopped taking odds on Idol after the new Judges’ Save rule. Why? They’re afraid of, in effect, insider trading. Now, I talked about this in my Twitter feed, but it’s worth saying before a wider audience: if a casino is worried about an event being dirty, that’s saying something. Congratulations, Fox and 19E. You’re now running a competition so manipulated, even the gambling houses won’t accept it as clean.
Item #2: Lots of people don’t like the Judges’ Save – including, notably, who it was supposed to save, Michael Johns! Phil Stacey was straightforward about it, saying:
Basically what they are saying is don’t vote Adam Lambert or Danny Gokey out cause if you do they will get saved. Paula wants to see them in the finale. So they will save them.
Couldn’t be better said. Oh, and the list of detractors includes a certain German dictator. Yes, we had to come up with our own Hitler Downfall video. Watch and rate, folks – that’s all I can ask.
Item #3: Reports have it that an Idol staffer is mouthing off that the final four will be: Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey, Lil Rounds, and Alexis Grace. It’s a list that the savvy should recognize, as they have been the most hyped four, and that’s probably who the producers would dearly like to be the final four. However… Adam Lambert is like Chris Daughtry? Really? If he is who he says he is., he must be blind, deaf, idiotic, or all three. I cannot imagine someone more different from Lambert than Daughtry. Consider this rumor absolute rubbish.
Item #4: Thanks to Connie from Idolstages.com for pointing this out. The registration and log-in link in the posts is broken; and I offer apologies to anyone who’s tried to comment but couldn’t. Until my webmaster fixes things, please use the link in the sidebar to your right, which does work. It’s under the Meta heading, right over our Creative Commons logo.
Idol Guy picks: The proper explanation of what Idolmetrics is all about (from my point of view) is still in progress, but part of the explanation is you have to treat each Idolmetric factor as a warning sign – you can’t go off on a conclusion because of just one factor.
However, there are an awful lot of warning signs that make us wonder if Alexis Grace is going home. First of all, DialIdol has her dead last. True, margin of error also puts Allison Iraheta and Megan Joy in danger as well, but by all rights Grace should not be fighting off elimination beside Joy (and neither should Iraheta). Still, you take the data objectively: they say that Grace is in danger. Strike one.
Strike two comes from song age. Last week, when discussing Jorge Nunez’s boot, I warned that Grace’s numbers for song age average and median were both exceptionally high. Grace did herself no favors this week: she had the third oldest song for the week; she was only behind Joy, Adam Lambert, and Anoop Desai. Joy and Lambert have their quirkiness to make up for picking old songs. Desai was pretty good last night. Grace was neither. Overall, her median song age is 35 and the average is 32.67: both well within the Danger Zone, and second in both counts only to Lambert.
Strike three: Grace’s actual performance. The most dangerous performance is a so-so one; it won’t get people excited to vote for you because you were good, nor will it get your fanbase in a “Save Him/Her!” mood. Yet that was exactly the kind of performance we got from Grace.
If there was ever a boot that Idolmetrics was calling, this was it. On merits alone, it should either be Joy or Michael Sarver… but there are too many warning signs that lead us to believe.
Would Grace be saved by the judges? It’s hard to say. It’s a little early to use it, which counts against it. Ultimately, it may all depend on how in favor Lambert now is with the judges and producers. He may may have hurt himself badly this week, even if we won’t know it right away.
I’ll discuss that in detail tomorrow, but here’s what it comes down to. If the judges think that Lambert’s long-term stay is in danger of Ring of Fire and they still want him to go far – final four or further far – they will be even more reluctant to use it on anyone but Lambert. On the other hand, if the perception is that Lambert is now damaged goods and TPTB would be happy to have him finish in a solid mid-card spot (top six, approximately), they might use it this week on Grace if necessary.
One more thing. This is exactly what they claimed as the rationale of the veto will be. Given the chilly reception it’s receive so far, if they didn’t use it in a situation that fits their claimed “problem” to a tee, it could be another self-inflicted wound for the franchise, which does not need any more of those.
This is definitely a contrarian pick, but it’s not an insane one.
The Idol Guy pick: Alexis Grace last; saved by judges.