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May 11, 2011: The Top Four
1. Scott McCreery. This was probably Scott’s weakest outing of the season, as he was noticeably out-sung tonight by all three contenders, and even though I think he deserves a #4 ranking, I simply can’t bring myself to do it because I know he’s a superstar. He is so doggone right for music; the perfect commercial prototype, so it’s hard to critique him. Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning is a simple song but very powerful and emotional. On its own, it touches hearts. If you don’t mess it up, the reception will always be positive. The reward here is in the choosing. He loves baseball (so do I) so lets use a baseball analogy. This song, much like Kristy Lee Cook’s God Bless the USA, is a hanging curve ball right over the plate; one that should rightly always clear the wall in center field, but that didn’t happen here. He made good contact but didn’t get all of it; e.g., this performance needed more heart and passion than it received. The second performance was a wasted opportunity and a waste of talent; didn’t understand the song choice at all. Finally, I wonder if Lady Gaga watched Scott closely this season. He’s a kid, yes, used to girls, not women, but is certainly not shy. Dude has been sexing the camera and spitting game since the competition started. His time with Lady Gaga was a mine field loaded with season-ending faux pas. But by saying nothing, he avoided them all. That’s the stuff you want in an American Idol. Good job Scott. Your parents taught you well.
2. Haley Reinhart. This too was a difficult call. I Who Have Nothing is an insanely difficult challenge, so the fact that she picked it at all gets high praise from me. For the most part, she got it right, thanks to some excellent advice from Lady Gaga; e.g. to channel Edith Piaf, to make it a smoky torch ballad, the Hymne a L’amour it was always meant to be. This, more than anything, is what made it work so beautifully; the element that elevated this performance above the Jordin Sparks effort of season six. Still, the performance was in many ways like Scott’s; very good but capable of so much more. These melancholy lyrics also deserved, I think, more passion than they received; needed her to disappear inside and project their meaning; needed her to play a part. I attribute all the missing pieces to youth, but don’t tell Randy, his motto is youth is never an excuse. I disagree. I was baffled by the first performance. Not so much because she picked it; Earth Song and Dirty Diana are my favorite MJ compositions, but with respect to Haley, who seemed fully aware of the meaning, this performance simply didn’t work. The first half was lackadaisical and the second was poorly sung. This wasn’t the typical Haley growl we’re used to; this was more the Casey Abram’s guttural scream, atonal and noticeably flat. While I agree with Randy (second half was not a good vocal) and Jenny (wrong song), Haley is entitled to her opinion. As a contestant, she deserves to be treated with respect, so I don't know why the judges chose to argue with her. It’s okay for Jenny to do that, but Randy should know better. To a musician, it’s an artistic debate, but the viewing public will see only a grown man badgering an innocent young teenage girl. That you cannot do. Did he learn nothing from Kanye West?
3. Lauren Alaina. This is probably the only contestant to string together two good performances. Martina McBride’s Anyway is a song I and others have been begging her to sing for months, but until tonight never picked. Finally, she went after a country power ballad and crafted it beautifully; easily her best work yet on the Idol stage. Lauren says her strategy is to pick songs people her age relate to; fun songs that are not boring, but that strategy doesn’t work on Idol. Blake Lewis, who finished second in season six, nearly pulled the upset with his uniquely clever electro funk, but every AI winner got there with the power ballad, even Taylor Hicks; that’s how it done. If she wants to win, Lauren will need more Martina McBride, Sugarland, Alison Krauss, Faith Hill, etc. While I enjoyed Evil, it won’t help her cause any; won’t inspire viewers to vote, so I don’t understand what led her to this song. Lauren? Evil? Didn’t believe it; not a single word, and I doubt many of you did either.
4. James Durbin. His Don’t Stop Believing was the best technical performance of the evening; pitch perfect. I’m not sure I could separate his from the original; both he and Steve Perry are blessed with wonderful tenor. I don’t have a problem with Love Potion no. 9, but got nothing from it so don’t understand why he picked it. But I’ve become disappointed with James. The James Durbin I thought I knew, the rocker I met in the early rounds, has morphed into something I barely recognize these days. Lauren started out country and is still country. Scott started out country and is still country. Haley started out R&B soul and is now even more firmly entrenched there. Jacob Lusk, a supremely gifted young gospel R&B singer, never wavered from that, even when advised to do so. Casey Abrams and Paul McDonald left Idol with their music visions intact. They are home now but I still respect what they did; the choices they made. They remained true to self; "dismissed that which insults the soul" (Walt Whitman). My impression now is that James will do whatever he needs to; be whoever he needs to, to win Idol. And even though I could never do it, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; it's a small price to pay to realize a life long dream. So my disappointment is personal. I think it was Lord Byron who said, “The heart will break, but broken live on”. I’ll get over it. James is, in my opinion, the best singer here, and if he wins will be a fine ambassador for American Idol. But he’s been here three months and I still don't know who he is as an artist. Jimmy says he knows. Jimmy’s credentials are rock solid. He is easily the best thing to happen to Idol this season. If he believes rock is the wrong path for James, I trust his judgment as a producer, but I don’t have to like it. The end result is yet another fine rocker encouraged to leave rock for a more profitable career in pop. At some point, even pop music juggernauts like Simon Cowell and Jimmy Iovine must wonder “what price glory?”
Last edited by liedenfrost; 05-12-2011 at 05:16 AM.
I am pleasantly surprised to see people like myself still in Haley's corner even after tonight's show.
"Treat others the way you want to be treated."
Even Adam Twittered this morning that Haley is the only one left that isn't stale and unoriginal.
Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted - John Lennon
I do give Lauren some credit for toning down the no ones's-ever-said-no-to-me brattiness over the weeks. But I enjoy seeing Haley perform so very much more. I voted for her a bunch last night.
I have never gotten the Lauren love.....when the four were on the stage with Ryan at the end, I saw three young fresh kids and one older, overly dressed, overly made up middle aged woman. Who puts her together? She just looks old and when she tries to talk, she sounds so childish.....a terrible combination
"To err is human, to arr is a pirate"
She can be either jaw-dropping or "What was that?"
Jennifer's argument was basically that Haley needs to pick songs that the viewers will recognize and relate to, and the two that Jennifer zinged her on Jennifer did not feel were those kinds of songs. They also did not showcase Haley's voice and talents like House of the Rising Sun and I Who Had Nothing.
Randy is saying she simply didn't sing those two songs well enough or correctly.
I think I am objective enough to see both sides of this because Haley does have to be very careful about her choice of songs. Just because something appeals to her is not enough to pick it RIGHT NOW in this stage of the game. It has to showcase her voice and her dramatic presentation.
Haley has exceptional stage presentation. When she is on target, she is amazing! When she is just singing any old song, her voice is nice, but not that particularly fantastic.
Lauren, on the other hand, has a pretty voice and face, but she does not have the sparkle and the WHAM! Shabam! that Haley can pack on certain songs.
Dear paranoid people who check behind their shower curtains for murderers, if you do find one, what's your plan?
Great review, Liedenfrost!!!
You nailed it and evaluated all of them so well! I totally agree with your review, every bit of it.
Thank you for posting!
James and Haley continue to be my favorites, don't know how I will pick one or the other.
If song selection were not crucial, the producers would have added an original song component long ago. If the audience has to pay too much attention to the lyrics and the melodies, the emotional and artistic aspects of the song falls on deaf ears and minds.