Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"American Idol": Top 3 Show Their True Colors

Could it be? Could it be that the final outcome of "Idol" this year is not written? Or are the powers that be merely toying with us and reeling us in by dangling the hope that there might be a legitimate challenge to the Adam Lambert-Danny Gokey showdown?

Well, if so, they succeeded. Tonight wasn't the best top 3 night evah, but it was much more evenly matched (and judged - relatively speaking) than I was expecting it to be. And as a result, I still have hope that an Adam-Danny finale (1) is not inevitable, and, at the same time (2) would not be completely unbearable. That said, based both on tonight's performances and on the season as a whole, I'm rooting for an Adam-Kris finale...and my favorite is still Kris.

Kris really is the dark horse, and other than being delectably cute (a factor I certainly don't underestimate) he's in many ways the anti-Idol: quiet, unassuming, subtle rather than showy, and married. He's all about the music, and not at all about the surrounding fluff and BS. Nevertheless, the fact that he made it to top 3 proves that you don't have to have a big voice or big personality to go far on "Idol" as long as you're likable and, more importantly, can make a song resonate with viewers. It's a path that was already partially paved by previous contestants like last year's Brooke White and Jason Castro, except Kris has been a stronger performer and musician than both of them (at least on the Idol stage) and has additionally demonstrated a David Cook-like skill for arranging songs and making them fit him. He probably won't win, but he deserves a place in that finale.

Ok, off soapbox and back to the actual recap.

In years past, the top three have traditionally sung three songs apiece: one chosen by the producers, one by the judges, and one by the contestant. This year, for no reason I can perceive other than the fact that there are now four judges who don't know when to shut up and that the producers felt the need to insert a segment on Idol Gives Back that felt totally out of place (why not put it on the results show?), the program was shortened to two songs each - judges' choice and contestant's choice. Way to go, show. Oh, and judges: GROW UP. We want to see and hear the Idols sing, not you all bickering and hitting and pawing each other and acting like a bunch of kindergartners. What a waste of everyone's time. You know things are at a pretty pass when Randy seems like the only mature adult at that table.

As usual, the judges threw roses and kisses at Adam and all but declared him the winner, or at least a lock for the final two. As between Danny and Kris, however, they were a bit less biased than their usual wont. Just a bit. I choose to believe it's because even they couldn't deny the awesomeness of Mr. Allen.


DANNY opened the joint with "Dance Little Sister" by Terence Trent D'Arby. Paula picked it for him. He didn't know it. Neither did I, so I'm willing to cut him slack. It was ok - certainly better than the earsplitting disaster that was last week's "Dream On." The song was better suited to his voice, and he did bring the energy. But it wasn't otherwise very memorable, other than for the terrible dancing, which I have to give (grudging) props to Kara for pointing out. And he gave too much talkback in response to criticism. There's a lot of pretty virulent antipathy on the Internet towards Danny (whom I've seen unkindly dubbed Hokey Gokey, Jokey Gokey, and Dokey Gokey), which I don't share; I just think he's socially awkward and musically nowhere near the level of either of his two remaining competitors - or, for that matter, several of the contestants he's beaten to this point.

KRIS followed with One Republic's "Apologize," chosen by Randy and Kara. I've never liked this song, but I thought he sang it well and with feeling. Frankly, I think Kris is underrated as a vocalist. Sure, he doesn't have huge pipes or a crazy range, but his tone is very pure and pleasant. Unlike Paula, I didn't hear a loud bum note, though his falsetto was a little weak. And while I get what Kara was saying about rearranging the song (a point Simon seemed to be willfully misunderstanding), I think doing this one straight, and on the piano, more effectively set off what he did with his second song.

ADAM got U2's "One," courtesy of Simon, and boy did Simon look smug about that. Truthfully? "One" isn't my favorite U2 song, yet even so, I didn't love this arrangement. It combined, not very comfortably, Adam's two modes - stripped down ballad and rock wail - the first of which I love, the second I only like in the proper context. And I didn't think this was the proper context for the latter; it felt shoehorned in, and I agreed with Randy (something I've been doing a lot of this season, surprisingly) that it ended up losing the melodic line. Opening was gorgeous, though.


DANNY chose Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful." Textbook Danny - gravelly crooning followed by a buildup to a loud, gutbusting climax - but he did it well this time. Very solid and heartfelt. Not much nuance. I'm getting tired of hearing Randy say "you can really sing!" and Simon saying that this is a singing competition. If it were really a singing competition, why isn't Allison still in the mix?

KRIS did a Krisification of Kanye West's "Heartless," and it was brilliant - exactly what he needed to do to stay alive in this competition. I'm not familiar with the Fray cover of the song so I don't want to give him too much credit for originality, but I'm still extremely impressed that he managed to make a frickin' Kanye West rap melodic and make it sound like, well, Kris. My one quibble was that he seemed to be smiling too much for a song that purports to be about (I think) a guy getting his heart broken by some cold beeyotch. But it was fresh and engaging, and miracle of miracles, the judges actually gave him credit! Is it paranoid to suspect a hidden agenda? Ah, never mind - I'll take it.

ADAM closed out the night (doesn't he always?) with "Crying," perhaps to school Danny on how Aerosmith SHOULD be done? He seems like too nice a guy for such a deliberate poke in the eye, but that's essentially what this performance was. Adam may be the only contestant in the history of "Idol" who really can do Steven Tyler justice. The rock wail, here, was well placed. And yet...and yet...once again, the performance left me admiring but cold. When he's in rock-god mode, Adam fails to touch me the way that someone like Kris does. And was it me, or was Simon essentially begging viewers to vote for him? That, combined with comments by the other judges and Ryan to the effect about the closeness of the race makes me wonder if this thing might not be in the bag for Adam after all. Or maybe the producers are just trying to drum up suspense so that we'll continue to tune in.

ELIMINATION PREDICTION: Before tonight, I'd have said Kris, unreservedly (and sadly), and I still think his fanbase might be outmuscled by the Danny and Adam contingents. But now I'm not so sure. Damn you show, for making me care, despite all your machinations, manipulations, and sheer ineptitude this season!

Just when I think I'm out...they pull me back in. Oh well, only one more week of this circus. With any luck, Kris will still be in it. And if not - he's still the winner in my eyes.


Blogger jchensor said...

Well lookie what we have here?

I really honestly think that there are two types of fans who watch American Idol. Those who love the performances and the image and presentation of the contestant (the fanboys and fangirls, to say it less kindly) and the musicians who watch it because they love music and they love what the singer does with the songs (the snobs, to say it less kindly... ^_^).

I hate to put it this way, but I think the snobs are all voting for Kris. And the fanboys/girls have split their vote between Adam and Danny. So I think Kris got a big boost from that. They made NO point to indicate that the people who were safe were presented in a random order this time (unlike last week, where they made a big deal out of it), so I actually do believe that Kris got the most votes last week. The same people who got Cook to win over Archuleta, I think, are poised to allow Kris win over Adam again this year. I would not be shocked if Kris won this year. I still believe Adam will win in, but I would be less shocked, now, if Kris pulled an upset.

Oh, and I don't care who was right or who was wrong, but I was glad to see Simon call out Kara on something... anything. lol! She bothers me so much and to see her get all riled up when Simon attacked her, I can't say it didn't make me happy in some weird sadistic way.

7:17 PM  
Blogger lylee said...

Agree with you, and in addition I think to the extent any of Danny's voters choose to vote at all next week, I think they're more likely to vote for Kris than for Adam. So that, too, could swing the balance in Kris's favor. Of course, there may be many Kris supporters who are happy enough he's in the finale and won't feel the need to vote again, whereas Adam fans will probably vote like gangbusters. So it should be an interesting matchup!

My only hope is that both of them really bring it next week. Beyond that, I can be happy with either of them winning. Unfortunately I just realized I'm not going to be here to watch it because I'll be in England!

12:18 AM  

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