Thursday, March 26, 2009

"American Idol": Motown Week

First, I gotta say: I loves me some Smokey Robinson. Sure, he wasn't the most hands-on mentor I've ever seen (Randy Travis was probably more effective last week), but he was delightfully warm and encouraging to all the contestants, and extremely un-divalike for a legend. He just seems like a cool, down-to-earth guy who hasn't let his legacy go to his head. (Not sure I can say the same for Berry Gordy...but eh, he's entitled to a little self-importance.)

The clip of the Idols visiting Hitsville made me oddly sad...I think it's hard not to look at Detroit and think of the contrast between its rich cultural history and its rapid decay in the last couple of decades. One can't help wishing something could revive it and make it a thriving, happenin' place again, yet there seems to be a fatally pervasive sense - outside Detroit, if not within it - that its best days are in the past. Still, there's no doubt it's left its mark, even if the city itself is becoming a ghost of its former self.

I've never yet seen Motown Week on Idol, so the theme had some freshness for me that it may not have had for anyone who's been watching since Season 1. My overall impression? Well, there was ADAM...and then there was everyone else. From top to bottom:

In his own class

ADAM took on Smokey's own "Tracks of My Tears," and delivered it so beautifully he drew a standing O from Smokey himself. (And from Kara, but who cares about Kara.) I'd have given him one, too. He sang almost the whole thing in falsetto, and while it wasn't a perfect vocal, it was still gorgeous. More importantly, he poured such emotional intensity into the song that you could see he'd totally given himself over to it. I have to agree with Simon - this was the best performance of the night. Didn't care so much for the slicked-back lounge lizard look, though.

Also liked

My boyz, aka KRIS and ANOOP: These two are my pets. They share certain similarities - sweet, pleasant voices, bright puppy-dog eyes and engaging personalities - and they both did well tonight, Kris with Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is" and Anoop with Smokey and the Miracles' "Ooh Baby Baby." Now here's the thing - I think Kris is hitting his stride, while Anoop's still finding his. Kris already looks very comfortable on stage, esp. with his guitar, and I love that relaxed, modest vibe of his that Simon suggests he needs to change. Simon's got a point - Kris probably needs to show a little more edge in order to have a real shot at making the top tier. But I'm not sure that's who he is, and I like him as he is. Anoop, meanwhile, doesn't look quite as at ease on stage as Kris, but I also sense he has more room to grow and improve. That is, if America keeps him in long enough and he learns quickly enough. He's got a lovely voice and very expressive phrasing; he just needs to watch for the occasional bum notes and integrate his musicianship into his stagemanship.

ALLISON IRAHETA ("Papa Was a Rolling Stone"): She really is precocious, and in my opinion the best of the girls who are left (uh yeah, all three of them). She's got a voice of steel (in a good way), and she finally got a song that worked for it. But please, judges, can we stop with the "omg she's only SIXTEEN!" already? Kara was especially over the top with her praise. I have to say that while Kara does make comments I sometimes agree with, I'm starting to find her tone and delivery a mite irritating. It's all so very Dramatic with a capital "D." However, at least she's not busting out crayons and coloring books and drawing mustaches on her fellow judges. Are Simon and Paula hitting the same bottle during commercial breaks?

MATT GIRAUD ("Let's Get It On"): I think Matt may be shaping up to be the show's come-from-behind contestant, not unlike David Cook from last year...except that he's nothing like David Cook. Don't get me wrong, I think Matty is talented, and his rendition of "Let's Get It On" was vocally solid, even though his stage presence still needs work when he's not behind a piano. I just happen to like Anoop and Kris better. At least for now.

Meh

DANNY GOKEY ("Get Ready" - The Temptations): The song suits his voice. But he was just so goofy on stage it was really distracting. Note to Danny: you do not have rhythm. You dance like a white boy, which is not something you want to play up during Motown Week.

LIL ROUNDS ("Heatwave" - Martha & the Vandellas): I feel like I say the same thing about Lil every week. She's a good singer. But we've seen so many singers in her mold on "Idol," and she's not as good as the best of them. She didn't do anything with this song - it was the opposite of "fresh" (sorry, Paula). And I don't think she's one of the best singers in the competition (sorry, Simon). The wardrobe, makeup and hair people did a great job making her look like Diana Ross, though.

SCOTT MCINTYRE ("Can't Hurry Love" - The Supremes): PPPink pants! Oh, my eyes! Scott's got a sweet, pleasant voice, too, but it's weaker than the other guys', and this arrangement was awful - cheesy, loungey and old-fashioned. The funny thing is I can see Scott's general musical style appealing to a certain segment of the record-buying population. But he's not going to win, or even come close to winning, if this is his idea of making a song his own.

Bleah

MICHAEL SARVER ("Ain't Too Proud to Beg" - The Temptations): Multiple rank notes, esp. at the end, and what's with the stupid grin? The song's about begging your woman to take you back, fool. Not bad for karaoke, but bad for anything else.

MEGAN JOY ("For Once in My Life" - Stevie Wonder): Oh, Megan. I think I'm going to have to quit you and your kooky charm. That was terrible. So out of tune, so shouty, no phrasing to speak of...By far the worst performance of the night. Someone spare Stevie from ever having to hear that, even if he is guest performing at the results show tomorrow.

Elimination predictions

Bottom 3: Megan, Michael, and Scott
Leaving this week: Either Megan or Michael