The Top Twelve Boys: February 24, 2010
In the hands of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, the acoustic guitar is a soulful instrument that personifies passion. That's not the case for several contestants here. Most aren’t very good at it, so I’m guessing they use it as a security blanket.
1. Aaron Kelly. Rascal Flatts Here Comes Goodbye is not a good composition. I didn’t like the performance much either. After Martina McBride, Gary LeVox has the best pipes in country music; a beautiful tenor with exquisite tone and texture. Aaron is not there yet. His sixteen year old pipes are not strong enough to support a Rascal Flatts power ballad but you gotta give him props. Unlike others, he threw caution to the wind, pick a romantic and ranging power ballad and refused to back down. Even at the limit of his upper register, he persevered. So while I didn’t like the song, didn’t like the performance, and think he’s vocally under-developed and unpolished, I still ranked him first. Why? He is the only male contestant to disappear inside a lyric. Second, you couldn’t build a better model for the American Idol demographic. He’s got the teen/tween vote locked up; he’s every mother’s son; he’s polite, speaks well; is courteous, humble, respectful, non-threatening, and sensitive. And, he sings well. There are contestants who do it better (e.g., Siobhan Magnus can caress a lyric better than any of her competitors), but unless there are skeletons we’ve yet to see, or, the judges decide otherwise, this is your next American Idol.
2. Lee Dewyze. This kid is an enigma. His voice is complex, textured, and layered, with a strong post-grunge influence. But AI is a visual interactive experience that requires you not only have a good voice but know how to use it. The latter is his Achille's heel. He doesn’t have a clue how to best utilize this wonderful instrument. Worse, he either has no soul or is unable to project it; he’s not musical and is a boring performer. I hate to admit this, since I’m not a Kara fan, but she’s right. This is not a good song for Lee. You can’t muscle a delicate and spiritual love song like Chasing Cars (the phrase is metaphorical; he’s actually chasing the girl he loves). Don’t know how they do it but once ultra-sensitive lead singers like Chris Martin (Coldplay) and Chris Lightbody (Snow Patrol) fingerprint a song, it’s immune to adaptation.
3. Alex Lambert. There’s not much to pick from here so I’m going with the voice I’d like to hear on radio. Alex is blessed with a million dollar instrument. Unfortunately, he’s in the same predicament as Lee; he doesn’t have a clue what to do with it. This was an awful and amateurish interpretation of James Morrison’s brilliant Wonderful World. Alex is a project, (no understanding of music) but if mentored by an astute and savvy A&R team like 19 Entertainment could blossom into something really special.
4. Casey James. I don’t know how I feel about this kid. In a different situation, I would predict good things for him. But I’m on the fence right now. Sure, he’s pretty, but longevity on AI requires a combination of attributes. The trouble with pretty is this: while it can take you deep into the competition, it can't win you the competition. The pretty face also needs to be a good singer (e.g., Kris Allen) and more important, a good person (e.g., Kris Allen). It was obvious from the start that Kris was 1) a good singer, and, 2) a righteous dude (real and authentic). Casey may yet prove to be one or both of these but right now, he’s neither. I got nothing from this performance, and, perhaps I wasn't supposed to.
5. Todrick Hall. The judges panned this performance but I won’t. No, it was not a good vocal outing but it was unique; a bold and clever adaptation of Kelly Clarkson’s Since You Been Gone. I can’t believe the judges didn’t get it; this was a classic and obvious Mary J. Blige arrangement (R&B 101). Unfortunately, Todrick just didn’t have the pipes or musical acumen to pull it off.
6. Andrew Garcia. Fall Out Boy’s music is a difficult listen with a full band; and Andrew’s acoustic version only made it worse. Horrible song choice. He has nothing in common with Fall Out Boy, and if he does; if that's who he really is; he won’t last very long.
7. Michael Lynche. The irony! Why would a huge bulking dude who could play full back for several NFL teams pick a song by Maroon 5? Didn’t get it. This was an awkward and boring performance. This is only the first week but I think Michael and Andrew are already over-exposed.
8. Jermaine Sellers. I didn’t think it was possible to over-sing a soft slow ballad like Get Here. I was wrong. Too much artistic liberty; too many vocal calisthenics. A very difficult listen. Worse, he’s one of the most unlikable contestants I’ve ever seen on American Idol.
9. Joe Munoz. Seems like a good guy but way out of his depth on American Idol. I like Joe but not this tepid performance.
10. Tim Urban. Another good kid out of his depth on American Idol. He is not a good singer. There’s no other way to put it.
11. Tyler Grady. At the start, I kept screaming for Ricky Minor and the Band to get it right. In the end it didn’t matter. A reincarnate Jimi Hendrix couldn’t save this performance. I like Tyler but his was an awful cover of a Guess Who classic. If retro, he would have fared better with Ian Curtis’ (Joy Division) up tempo Transmission or Mick Jagger’s (Rolling Stones) rollicking Satisfaction. If he takes the judges advice and picks something contemporary next week, he should change it up and go full blast; e.g., something wild and crazy; e.g., Scissors Sisters’ I Don’t Feel Like Dancing, Buckcherry’s Ridin, or Cold War Kids Hang Me Out To Dry. I picked these songs because the lead singers are just as eclectic, built like Tyler, and dance like Tyler.
12. John Parks. Another bad cover of a beautiful and timeless classic. I'm diehard. I like this show, so I'll watch come what may. I wouldn't be surprised if AI lost the ratings battle again. This was not a good night for American Idol. Not much fun and very little entertainment.