Ready for a blast from the past? Hold on to your hats because we’re flying through a veritable time warp, going from Gwen Stefani to the music of Tony Bennett in a week’s time. Tony has been in the business for over 60 years. This octogenarian has street cred, though, as he has made 106 albums, has world-wide record sales totaling over 50 million, and is the owner of 15 Grammys. Not bad for an 80-year-old, who apparently has nothing better to do these days than hang out with some wannabe singers on a reality television show. You know. Some have their bingo, some have shuffleboard, some guest judge. Whatever.
As Time Goes By
Tony greets the nine Idol hopefuls with great enthusiasm and tells them they are a rare group, and they are all competent. Is that not the best compliment ever to be told you are “competent?” That’s like saying, “Hey, you do your job at the lowest acceptable level! Great work, team!” He tells them they will be singing the best songs that were ever written in American--songs that never go out of style. The whole idea is longevity. Longevity. Kind of like Tony Bennett.
Cuts Like a
Blake is the first to sing tonight, and as we watch his one-on-one session, Tony’s not too impressed that Blake is putting a beat to “Mack the Knife.” This is pre-rap, you know, and he wants a gangster feel to the song (as opposed to a gangsta feel, in which case it would become “Mack the 9”) and to not lose the impact of each line from singing it too fast. He just doesn’t think Blake gets the meaning of the song. It’s show time, and Blake’s been dumpster-diving for his wardrobe, dressed in blues and greys, and, of course, some hideous plaid pants. Blake sings with a smooth tone, but he ignores Tony’s suggestion and sings it fast. He also has some pitch problems and does this weird soft-shoe dancing during the song. All-in-all, it was about as exciting as oatmeal with no lumps, water-flavored jello, or a Tony Bennett album.
Randy thinks it was a good way to start the evening, but there were a few pitch problems. I laugh at Randy’s voice cracking like a pre-pubescent boy as he rags on someone for pitch problems. Paula thought he showed a lot of pizzazz, it was fun and cool, and that Blake’s a hip cat. Simon says it was a good choice of song and would give it a 7/10, while giving the band an 8/10. Blake is thrilled he got to go first, but he thought the lyrics were a problem.
Night of the Living Dead
Phil’s been looking forward to this week more than any other week because Tony Bennett is his hero! Phil starts signing “Night and Day” s-l-o-w-l-y, and Tony wants him to put a little beat behind it. He also wants us to believe Phil is “a real good singer,” one of the better singers he’s heard—not just today, but for a long time. Yikes. Is foreshadowing rearing its ugly head? Speaking of heads, Phil’s is taking on more and more of an alien shape. There is also a purple glow emanating from his shiny head, and it’s rather disconcerting. Nattily-attired in a black, wide pinstripe suit with an opened white shirt, Phil delivers his song in a “competent” manner. Vocally, the tone was warm and smooth, and, while not a complete dirge, it lacked energy.
Randy’s not thrilled, feeling although he sang the song well, it lacked passion or connection. Hang it up, Phil; it’s a total disconnect. Paula thinks he’s reminiscent of a young Frank Sinatra, and Simon immediately interjects with a “What!?” [pronounced “Wot!?”] of disbelief. She wants him to have more joy and do more than have his vocals swell in the chorus. Simon, still in a state of disbelief, asks Paula which Frank Sinatra she is referring to. He thinks the rendition had all the joy of somebody singing in a funeral parlor and feels it was completely and utterly gloomy, slightly dark, and had no life. Awesomely, after that comment, Phil tells us he was focusing on his wife while singing. That doesn’t even need any commentary!
I Left My Self-Esteem in San Francisco
We need life after that performance, so perky Melinda of Oz is up next. Tony thinks she has a big chance in the business, and she’s a real “good” singer. When Tony tells her she was the best singer all day, she clutches her chest and gets that “wide-eyed-golly-gee-whiz-aww-shucksters-who-me?” look. This girl either has some severe self-doubt issues, or she has a feigned sense of wonderment going on. Either way, the shtick is getting old. She is only the third singer Tony has heard, too, so make what you will of that.
Performing “I Got Rhythm,” with more youthful-appearing flat-ironed hair and wearing a shiny, silver Rorschach-splattered dress (okay, they’re flowers, but I have therapy on the brain), with an unfortunate-placed belt making a shelf for her breasts, Melinda starts off slowly, and quickly builds to an up-tempo crescendo. It’s a difficult song to sing, but she proves she’s got both rhythm and music, and who could ask
for anything more. The audience goes wild, as Melinda leans her wide-eyed head forward waiting to see if anyone likes her.
Randy loves it and thinks she comes out every week and gives a lesson in singing. Interpreting the lyrics and singing with feeling, this is how you do it, according to the Dawg. Paula one-ups Randy by saying it’s like a master-class for everyone else, was flawless, and it also has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Wow, such acumen from Paula! Simon, however, isn’t as exuberant, and takes Paula to task about every song having a beginning, middle, and an end. He didn’t like the beginning of the song because he thought it was cabaret, but the last half was great with personality and fun. Simon also doesn’t think they’ll ever be able to criticize her, and that’s a problem. Seacrest asks why it’s a problem, and Simon responds with, “Because we like being mean to people occasionally.”
I Get Around
Chris R. is asked by a fan, “What do consider most when you’re considering a song?” He replies that first and foremost it’s something you’re comfortable with, then, see if it’s something the audience will like, and, finally, something the judges will like.
You know, I don’t want to take a lot of time to mention this, but I hate these fan questions. There will never be an interesting one, ever, because all they will ever use on the air are the safest, blandest questions ever strung together in a barely competent manner. This is interrogative oatmeal with no lumps. Census-flavored jello. A Tony Bennett album.
Chris is singing “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” and Tony is not a happy camper that Chris keeps looking down at the lyrics. Never mind it’s a new song to Chris and he hasn’t memorized it yet. Tony chastises him to memorize the lyrics and thinks he’ll have fun with it after that. Chris appears silhouetted, then, the lights come on. In what appears to be a Goodwill hunting, he has on ratty jeans with a hole in the leg, dangling suspenders, a vest, short sleeved shirt with too-tight sleeves (hey, dude has some biceps working there), and sneakers. Perched atop his head is his grandfather’s tourist hat. Although I’ve never been a fan of his music, he is singing energetically, with a swagger, and more importantly, without the nasal whine. Am I detecting a country twang, though? I think this is his best performance to date and he worked it.
Randy lauds him for coming out with a vengeance and giving one of his best performances of the season. (You heard it from me first!) He also thinks it was hawt, cool, young, hip, and he interjected an old standard with his own style. Paula wipes the drool off her mouth, telling him he kept his true, artistic integrity with the song because he didn’t compromise. She also like the eye contact he had with her and thinks it was his best performance. Simon comments on the look of fear Chris had after looking at Paula. He, too, thought it was very good and believable and thinks he is probably one of the strongest of the night.
Jordin is so excited to be singing “On a Clear Day” because it’s a really cute song. What?! Tony thinks Jordin is terrific and sang in tune, which is a rarity these days, according to him. He likes her improvisation, thinking she uses it intelligently where it’s called for and not outlandishly. Lakisha, are you listening? Wearing an oversized, untucked white shirt, black slacks, and a tragically-shrunken black vest that amounts to a wide belt across her back, she delivers a vocally pure tone, although a bit breathy at times, and connects with the audience. She seems to be having such joy in what she is doing.
Randy thinks she was the bomb, brought the heat, and all other things related to fire. He loves her control and the fact she is this good at 17. Randy’s voice cracks again and causes some horrid feedback. Dawg, watch that pitch! Paula feels she is a magnet of joy, hip and cool, and she’s frickin’ proud of her, and she doesn’t know what to say. Oh, and Jordin’s sailing. Paula’s rambling again, and Simon is having a hard time not busting a gut. Simon thought she sang it very well, but didn’t do what Chris did because it was old-fashioned; she didn’t make it younger or current. Randy and Paula start interrupting, not happy with Simon’s comments, and Simon shuts them down by calling them Squiddly and Diddly.
Without a Smile
It’s Gina time, and she’s singing “Smile.” Tony says the song gives you hope at your darkest moment and thinks Gina sang it beautifully. Tony tears up and tells us when he sings it, he thinks of 9/11 and the soldiers in Iraq. Gee, thanks, T--I’m not smiling anymore. Gina, dressed in a black, sleeveless number with top and bottom slits, lots of snaps, laced-up front, and leather-laced boots, sings a very pretty, understated, and emotional rendition of the song. I think this one of her best performances, too.
Randy thinks the rocker-girl had a very nice, controlled performance and actually kind of likes it. Paula gushes it was flawless, understated, beautiful, and sentimental. Curmudgeon Simon, who obviously does not like Gina, says he can’t rave about the vocal because two girls came on before her and out-sang her. Gina tells Simon that is why it’s a competition and you have so many different types of vocal. Paula jumps in to say you aim for your own personal best. Simon, in his closed off, crossed-arm posturing is having no part of it.
I'm Just A Lucky So And So
Two legends collide? This is how Ryan introduces Sanjaya’s meeting of Tony Bennett. Please. A legend? A legend in his own and Fox’s mind, maybe. You know what? I can’t stand this self-aggrandizing promotion of American Idol, and this particular “singer,” so all I’m saying is that Tony likes him, finds him interesting, and thinks he sings very well. Okay, Tony, senility has set in, and it’s time to go back to the home. Sanjaya’s goal for this week is to make America see he actually can sing. Dressed in white pants, white jacket, black unbuttoned shirt, white shoes with a black stripe across the top, and straight, slicked-back hair, Sanjaya sings “Cheek to Cheek.” He delivers a breathy, toothy, lack of pacing performance that includes hitting on and dancing with Paula. Not bad for a junior high talent show. Not bad at all. Oh, Sanjaya? You forgot to brush those Oreos crumbs off your upper lip before coming onstage. Attention to detail, people.
Randy says he can’t even comment on the vocals now, but what he likes is that he has turned into a great entertainer. Yes, Randy, if you mean the same type of entertainment you get from walking on shards of glass or poking bamboo under your fingernails. Paula now gets why people love him. Never mind the vocals are off, he is charming, according to her. Simon, beyond exasperation, tries another tactic and tells Sanjaya he is “incredible.” Sanjaya yells back to Simon, “Welcome to the Universe of Sanjaya.” Obviously off his meds, Sanjaya interrupts Ryan during the “call this number” spiel and shouts out, “Lucky number seven!” Get the fork, please.
Ain’t Misbehavin’, but Almost!
On to Haley, and a viewer question asks if she’s more nervous singing before the crowd or waiting to hear the judge’s comments after she’s done singing. She gets the jitters before she performs, but waiting to hear what Simon says is always insane because she doesn’t know what type of mood he’s going to be in and what he’s going to say. She thinks getting any compliment or good vibe from him means the world. Judging by what she is wearing—a sleeveless, slit to the waist, green shiny dress, with overflowing cleavage, and lots of leg, I’d say she is probably going for a particular vibe tonight. Simon, however, looks quite put off by her comments.
Haley’s going to sing “Ain’t Misbehavin’” because she thinks it will be a fun song. Tony doesn’t feel she understood that the context of the song was being in love with one guy, as she does a flirtatious rendition during practice and destroyed the meaning of the song. During her performance she goes into the audience flirting, shimmying, and doing facial and vocal gymnastics. It seemed she was singing two or three different songs, and she was close to bumping and grinding. Included in her “cutesy” movements was a pageant arm thrust at the end of the song.
Randy thought it would fit in her wheel-house of songs, but doesn’t comment on her singing—instead asking Paula what she thought. Paula says, “Did I mention green is a good color for you?” Randy then says he wants to know what Simon thinks of the performance. Simon rails at both of them—calling them rude, saying they should comment on what they thought of the performance. Paula asserts that Haley wants to know what he thinks. He responds with, “I think you have great legs.” Haley seems quite flummoxed. Simon adds it’s a good style of music for her, but it was pageantry. As if on-cue, Haley flashes a pageant smile.
Lakisha closes out the show with “Stormy Weather.” Tony thinks she’s very good, but he doesn’t like her “tag” (run) at the end of the song. He wants her to hold out that last note straight and sing it as written. Lakisha performs wearing a brocade tent with a large band across separating her waist from her chest. She looks younger and sultry with flat-ironed hair, which must have been the hair special of the day. She starts off with a few pitch problems, but she’s fierce tonight with her posturing and wide leg stances. She’s got an annoying hiking-up-her-dress thing going as she moves, though. Overall, it’s a typical Lakisha performance, meaning she has a big sound and sounds like a gospel choir singer. Going against Tony’s advice, she puts in the run at the end of the song. This is twice she has disregarded a pro’s advice. OBVIOUSLY, she knows best—or does she?
Randy loves the performance and says it was the perfect song for her despite pitch problems in the front, blah, blah, blah, it was the bomb. So much time has been spent on All Things Sanjaya tonight, they are running out of time, so Paula comments that it’s the most gorgeous Lakisha has ever looked, she sounds beautiful, and it proves we all love Tony Bennett. Yes, those statements all compute, Paula. Simon thinks Lakisha is back on form, and it was a sassy, great performance.
Whew! Looks like we made it. Finally. Who will be voted off tomorrow? More importantly, will it have anything to do with how well he/she sings? I say probably not!
Tune in next week for MotherSister’s regularly-scheduled recap. In the meantime, please be nice to the substitute