The producers at Idol have really shaken it up this year: sure, we have new judges (who, it turns out, can all actually speak when asked) and a new finale-type stage (rather than the intimate studio that used to ease the early-rounders through). But we also have a lot of behind-the-scenes changes too: someone, somewhere is very scared that our precious time is going to be wasted watching some poor fool totally wipe out on live television, so to that end they have taken steps to prevent that from ever happening. First, selecting contestants who all seem to have had plenty of performing experience and who can all, at the very least, sing. Second, taping the “live” show on Tuesday but not playing it till Wednesday. Um…not live. Third, bringing in recording industry professionals (the entire producing team from Interscope records!) to “guide” the contestants through their song choices, arrangements, and vocals, one-on-one. Fourth, actually recording the song in a studio before ever delivering it on stage. Fifth, being supported on stage by a slew of back-up singers, gospel choirs and the like. I’m sure there’s more, but this is all I could keep up with on the first night.
The result is a very smooth show, devoid of any real excitement. The kids did exactly what you would expect of them, further cementing their niche before anyone has to get kicked to the curb (or at least, out of that sick mansion they are all holed up in).
The Inky Jukebox feels that in the spirit of fakery they, too, ought to play the new game: don’t take the theme too literally, y’all. You have to pick a song by your musical idol? Fuck that. Pick the best song to stay on the show and pretend it’s by your idol! No-one but your friends back home will know, and they are already voting for you! There was something about the song choices for this one that made me a little queasy: were they really given the chance to pick something wildly inappropriate, or were they offered a short list of songs the producers feel defines their niche market (while also providing the sales kickback bump to artists they have already demonstrated an affinity for by having had them as guest judges or coaches on the show)?
I don’t know about you, but I watch, partly, to see hopelessness swimming bravely against the tide; I want to be surprised by a crazy-ass song choice or delivery (right or wrong); I want not to know who is going home so certainly on Thursday night.
With that, here’s last night's breakdown:
Casey Abrams singing: Joe Cocker
In it to win it with his quirky awesomeness. Dude is both horrible to look at yet exciting to watch. Gave the most original and best vocal of the night.
James Durbin singing: Paul McCartney
Maybe I’m amazed! This song is hard to sing, but the lad did good. I was hoping (as was the nation) for him to break out the signature falsetto woo-woo at the end — and he delivered. Is he better than Adam Lambert? No. But thank God he’s there.
Jacob Lusk singing: R. Kelly
Sing it loud and proud! He gives it his all, but the arrangement sucks: it’s too slow. Jacob ends up shouting because he has to stick to 140 seconds. His stance could use some loosening up.
Lauren Alaina singing: Shania Twain
Girlfriend picked an easy target and wore a TV-unfriendly garment. The choice was uninspired and I don’t really believe Shania is her biggest idol for a minute: she was, like, three when Shania last had a song on the radio. Her idols, I am betting, are Jennifer Nettles, Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler, and Kelly Clarkson. Maybe some Reba. But all ladies she has heard most of her life. I hope she takes some chances with her delivery, because she could so easily end up being an empty replicant of herself, despite her talent. She needs younger hair and a better stylist, too.
Pia Toscano singing: Celine Dion
All By Myself!!! Shocker! (Also, not by Celine Dion!!!) Big song though, and entirely predictable for Ms. Pageant Queen. Good sparkly dress, but what’s with the tail? Her delivery was strangely passionless: she sang the words, but never felt them. Oh, and Purlese – girl likely had never heard of those Interscope execs before the show. It would be nice to hear someone do that song quietly for a change. That would be something to see.
Stefano Langone singing: Stevie Wonder
What is he wearing? Tip: don’t wear sneakers. What!!! Disco! This does NOT bode well for Mr. Italiano.
Scotty McCreery singing: Garth Brooks
Hey — Scotty can clean up good! This was a terrible, awful, bad song choice for Scotty, whom I truly believe really does idolize Garth. But this song is too dull to let his vocal skills show, and it is not in his range. If you’re going to pick a Garth song, pick something more fiery, Dude. Better yet, don’t pick a Garth song: do Tim McGraw or Trace Adkins. I’m hoping Scotty stays, but he has to get wise about the game.
Haley Reinhart singing: LeAnn Rimes
Nooooo. What a hot mess. The ballgown dress, the pinched-together eyes, the mass of curly hair; this girl ain’t got a snowball’s chance of being the next American Idol. I can tell she’s been singing this song since she was three, but all she’s been doing is trying to copy LeAnn, which she tried to do last night — badly. This sounded like a high school talent show performance, and she wouldn’t have won that.
Ashton Jones singing: Diana Ross
Given the chance to stay on the show, she blows it big time by picking a god-awful song she can’t begin to do justice to, and treating the stage as if she’s up for Miss Thing in the regional Miss Thing contest. The judges knew it too, but are pussies in the presence of Berry Gordy.
Paul McDonald singing: Ryan Adams
Nice jacket. Dude doesn’t stand a chance in holy hell. Looks like he’s been hitting the Charlie Sheen. His legs look like they will break, don’t they? And what’s with his teeth? I love that there is a more original performer on the show, but this is too way out there for America’s votes, and I think even he knows it.
Naima Adedapo singing: Rhianna
She ain’t no Rhianna. And she won’t be on the show long enough to spend any more time on.
Karen Rodriguez singing: Selena
Oh the joy. Picked a song so beyond her ability to deliver it hurt to watch. But hey, she wore a Selena-type pantsuit. Dull as shit and will be going home.
Thia Megia singing: Michael Jackson
Also, not Michael Jackson. “Smile” is an old song. She managed to kill it. Those tears we saw say it all.