Wednesday, March 29, 2006

American Idol: Obscure songs of the 21st century.

Classic Paula.As much as I was relieved to see that last night's American Idol was only an hour long, I knew that something had to give, and it wasn't going to be the number of commercials. Moving from a two hour format with 11 singers to a one hour format with 10 singers means one thing and one thing only - shorter song arrangements. The combination of these shorter song arrangements (basically verse-chorus-bridge-outro) and some very odd, safe song selections led to an underwhelming night of singing. Part of me was left wondering, why the hell don't the producers of American Idol help these singers out with their song selection? To just say "pick a song from the 21st century" is likely too much leeway. After a couple of weeks of being forced out of their comfort zones (Stevie Wonder and Songs of the 50's) each and every one of these singers picked songs that they were very familiar and comfortable with, regardless of if they would be songs that would showcase their talent or be something that the audience would connect with. It seems to me that most of these singers have not yet figured out the importance of picking songs that the masses are familiar with. We are not connected to these singers yet, so if they want our votes, they need to sing songs that we know and love and sing them well. I would have limited their selections to Billboard #1's of the 21st century. I'm just sayin' is all.

Here we go:

Lisa Tucker: Because of You
When I heard she was singing a Kelly Clarkson song that is still getting radio play I thought "uh oh that's going nowhere good". And I was right. For her to do this song, she needed to bring something special to it, she needed to sing it better than Kelly and that just wasn't going to happen. Her over belting forced her to sing slightly under pitch for the entire song and my throat ached just listening to her. Simon was dead on with his comment that "the song was too big for your voice". Much to big. Lisa, I hope you have your bags packed.

Kellie Pickler: Suds In the Bucket
I'm guessing that country music fans know this song? I'm not familiar with it, so I didn't feel the connection I did with last week's Patsy Cline cover. The song was cute and she sang it well (except that last note on "Loooooooooooooove" - that was pretty rank). I never understand why singers let a good song end on a bad note - pull it together and leave your audience wanting more! The song was not vocally challenging and didn't really show off her voice (we all know she can sing country). I would have liked to see her sing something a bit tougher like a Faith Hill or Shania Twain ballad. Then we would have been able to compare her to something we are familiar with, and figure out where she stacks up against the greats.

Ace Young: Drops of Jupiter
I had to laugh when Ace said he wanted to do something that rocks...if you're Coldplay. Again, not a challenging song, but I actually disagreed with the judges. I thought this was one of his better performances of the last three weeks. This genre suited his voice much better and I found him a lot more tolerable to listen to this week. Best part was Paula offering to inspect his scar a little closer - I guess she didn't learn her lesson from last season's scandal?

Taylor Hicks: Trouble
With six years of songs to choose from, this is the song he selects? I mean, I know Footloose was off the table, but this really was an odd pick. I suppose I should be happy that he stood still and didn't torture us with his horrible dancing. The song didn't go anywhere, it was a bad arrangement and the short song format didn't help matters. Hey Taylor - Jay Leno called and he wants his hair and chin back. 29 my ass.

Mandisa: Praise You
The key was too low for the first verse, though she got it sorted out when she vaulted into her upper register. We all know Mandisa has a great gospel voice and she reinforced it with her performance. If I were her, I would have done a song by Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, or Mary J. Blige. To sing something obscure like this didn't help her connect with anyone who doesn't already listen to a lot of gospel music (and those folks are already voting for her anyway). In addition, this song was never able to settle in with the short arrangement. It sounded like one verse plus a bunch of vocal improvisation - not something my ear was able to nail down and relate to.

Chris Daughtry: What If
Okay, so I absolutely loathe Creed. With every cell of my being... so it is hard for me to judge this song. He certainly rocked, but as Scott pointed out (Scott got stuck watching the show with me because dinner was ready just as American Idol came on - hah!) he seemed pretty stiff. When he got into the repetitive "What if, what if, what if" part of the song it sounded like he was a pregnant lady straining to have a bowel movement (too much information you say?). Again, not vocally challenging and definitely playing it safe. It will take more to win this than contest than performances like this.

Katharine McPhee: The Voice Within
Similar to Lisa's performance, if you are going to tackle a song by an artist with the talent of Christina Aguilera, you better be able to knock it out of the park. She started her performance in her upper register which sounded weak because it is actually a part of the song where Christina Aguilera is belting. It only succeeded in highlighting that she isn't in the same league as our favourite Lady Marmalade. If anything, this song gave me a lot more respect for the strength of Christina Aguilera's live performances. Katharine sang this at about 65% of the original - and again, the short arrangement killed her.

Bucky Covington: Real Good Man
This may shock you, but this was one of my favourite performances of the night. As much as I don't like Bucky's voice, this was the perfect song for him. It was mainstream enough that even I was familiar with it and it didn't tax him vocally or highlight his weaknesses. Since Bucky isn't a singer with a lot of vocal prowess, this is a good thing. He seemed relaxed and comfortable and that helped me sit back and enjoy his performance for what it was.

Paris Bennett: Work It Out
Paris is awesome. She is probably a better singer than Beyonce (live anyway) and she has great stage presence. She was the only singer all night who came out and nailed her song right from the start, straight through to the end. She might want to work on those dance moves, she and Beyonce should take some classes together (as Beyonce could also use some help in that arena). I think Paris's challenge in this competition will be singing with more emotional maturity (she's great when she is singing hip/upbeat songs, but I have yet to hear her dig deep and sing beyond her 17 years).

Elliot Yamin: I Don't Want to Be
I have a hate on for this guy. Plus he forgot some of the words right off the top. Boo. Yet again, he wasn't singing in the pocket. It's all well and good to switch up the rhythm of a song if you can stay in the groove and if it actually improves upon the original, but all he ended up doing was singing slightly behind (two-shoes-in-a-dryer syndrome). He seemed almost out of breath as well. Perhaps those bad hip hop dance moves (bouncing on the spot) wore him out. I got tired just having to watch and listen to him.

Worst Performances: Lisa, Katharine, Taylor
Best Performances: Paris, Mandisa, Bucky


  1. Anonymous3:39 p.m.

    I'll say it again: I'm sorta glad I don't actually watch this show. :) Your reviews keep me more entertained anyway.

    Am I the only person who would prefer to see "American Songwriter?" I'd love to pitch that show. You have to write a hit, for a certain type of diva / singer / star. You have ten weeks of shows and you're rated by folks from major labels and radio markets. They critique just the song, not any production or recording. Song has to work both acoustically and with full arrangement.

    I think THAT would be much more interesting. It's hard to write good songs. It's easy to critique those who sing the good ones.

    I think it sucks that there's no real knock-out "This singer is amazing!" result in any of your reviews cuz at the end of the day: one of them is getting a record contract. Sucks. :)

    Good work, Kat!


  2. Glad you like my reviews AD :-)

    Looks like Lisa got the boot...about time.