Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"American Idol" Top 8: Songs from the Year You Were Born

Ok, I've held off saying this until now, but I can't keep it back any longer: Season 8, I'm just not that into you.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, and it's probably due to a number of factors. The main one, in my opinion, isn't the talent - it's the judges. They have too much power, and they've been exercising it far too arbitrarily. Too often (certainly more often than any year I can remember), their comments - whether good or bad - seem way out of proportion to the relative merits of the performances. The result is an extremely staged feel, as if nothing the contestants actually *do* on stage matters nearly as much as what the judges and/or producers have designated as their scripted roles for the night. To be sure, there's always some of this deck-stacking on "Idol," but this year it's eclipsed everything else.

It doesn't help that the contestants this year have been mostly hitting it down the middle - there haven't been that many train wrecks, but there also haven't been many spontaneous "wow" moments. This week was no exception. The theme was "songs from the year you were born," aka the week calculated to make all thirtysomethings & up feel older than dirt. My quick thoughts on the performances - overall, I wasn't enthusiastic enough about any of them to have much to say:

DANNY (1980, "Stand By Me" - not the original version): It was ok. Liked it better once the tempo picked up. Overpraised as usual.

KRIS (1985, Don Henley, "All She Wants to Do is Dance"): I liked it. I thought the judges undersold it as much as they overpraised Danny's performance. Not one of his more memorable efforts, but still very easy on the ears - and eyes. Mosh pit looked like it was going to eat him alive.

LIL (1984, Tina Turner, "What's Love Got to Do With It"): Meh. Out of tune half the time, and obviously came nowhere near the original. At least the judges recognized this for once - the second part, anyway. I still don't see how she's a "brilliant vocalist." She's not.

ANOOP (1986, Cyndi Lauper, "True Colors"): Cutest baby ever. He shares a birthday with David Cook!! No wonder I like him. :-) Love the song, didn't love the arrangement, but the vocal was solid. And his phrasing really is lovely. That said, the judges were unusually kind to him; I'm starting to wonder if they've decided they can only be nice to either Kris *or* Anoop on a given night. I'm surprised none of them commented on that hideous sweater he was wearing.

SCOTT (1985, "The Search is Over"): Sappy, sappy, sappy, which is par for the course for Scott, and vocally unremarkable - he strained for the high notes (and Paula actually called him on it!). As a singer he's out of his depth here, and yet he's so personable I think he may be around for another week or two.

ALLISON (1992(!!!), Bonnie Raitt, "I Can't Make You Love Me"): Very nice, though at one point her diction made it sound like "I Can't Pake You Love Me." This kid, and NOT Lil Rounds, has some of the best pipes in the competition. As for her likability, I don't know what Simon and Randy are talking about - I think she's adorable. Though the fact that she's been in the bottom 3 a couple of times suggests they're not completely off base.

MATT (1985, Stevie Wonder, "Part Time Lover"): Ugh, that damn hat is back. On the plus side, he showed more ease on the stage than I've seen before from him, and he did sing well. Yet again, though, I just don't care all that much for the tone of his voice - it's kind of bleaty. And the judges were too lavish in their praise, as if to make up for being too hard on him last week.

ADAM (1982, "Mad World"): Adam liked to dress up as a kid - "sports, not so much." Heh, why does that not surprise me. Is it just me, or do they seem to close the show every week with Adam? But seriously...there's a reason for that. Adam is a pro in a sea of amateurs, and IMO this competition is his to lose. I really prefer it when he dials back, like he did tonight, though it wasn't quite as sublime as "Tracks of My Tears."

Elimination predictions: I have no idea. If it were up to me, I'd boot either Lil or Scott - but I don't think they're going anywhere. I'm worried about both Kris and Anoop - I suspect they may be sharing/splitting voters with each other, and perhaps also with Matt. Well, the good news is only one of them can go. The bad news is I don't believe the judges care enough about Kris or Anoop to "save" either of them if they end up being the lowest vote-getters. (Now if it were Danny Gokey, OTOH...)


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