“Songs from the Year You Were Born,” which is totally pointless from jump, because when you were first born, you weren’t appreciating music and feeling it have an effect on your life or your identity. This should be “Songs from the Year You Turned Thirteen.” Or sixteen. Some year when music probably actually meant something to you. Anyway. I say that every year, and they never change it, so I’m just following tradition here. There’s also something in the good news envelope, though: performance shows are finally down to an hour!
All right, so you know by now that last week we eliminated Megan Joy
Cawkrey. The “who cares” is so strong on this point that Ryan doesn’t even mention the tragedy of her departure. I don't even know why I'm mentioning it. Hmm.
We traditionally celebrate this theme with baby pictures, and this year we get to see the judges too. Up on the massive telescreen Ryan cues candid shots of a toddler Randy with adorable big button eyes, a baby Kara with a frowny-face, a shot of Paula during elementary school age, when that loopiness in her eyes was excusable because she was just discovering the big, wide world, and finally, a young Simon in a duck hunting cap and holding a toy gun. Simon laughs, and says, “That’s not me,” as if he’s embarrassed. I’m sure he’s calling his mother right now and complaining because she didn’t send in the shot of him in the bathtub. And then, thanks to Paula, we’re treated to a photo of bucktoothed baby Ryan. Paula asks if he was a fan of carrots as a child. Zing!
Ryan wants to keep it moving, so it’s singing time. We’re starting with the oldest contestant, namely Danny Gokey. Danny talks about being born in April in Milwaukee and his father telling him he was a musical genius when he was a baby. That’s why he’s a musical genius now. He’s doing a cheat and singing something that was only covered in 1980, some newfangled version of “Stand by Me.” Danny’s version opens as an inspirational film theme before turning into some weird sort of gospelly bossa nova. I don’t know if Paula should rumba to it, or raise her hands to receive the power. She chooses a combo of both. I also can’t believe I’m about to compare somebody unfavorably to Archie, but here we are. Archie’s performance of this from last season was spare, and lovely; Danny could’ve used some of his simplicity and sweetness here. By “some” I mean a truckload. His voice sounds okay though; he did some cool improvising over the break and restrained most of his hollery tendencies until the very end.
Randy liked the R&B chords in the beginning but thought the arrangement was stupid. Kara is wearing a very pretty navy blouse, but all she talks about is Danny taking things to three different levels and making the song his own. Paula thinks he set the bar impossibly high for the evening; she loved the arrangement and Danny’s performance. Simon whispers “I don’t understand you,” to Paula before pretty much agreeing with her wholesale. He’s such a tease.
Super beautiful Kris Allen is demoted to only beautiful as long as he insists on keeping that chin scruff. He’s out on the chatting stools with Ryan talking about “coming out of his shell” and out from under the producers’ thumbs. The kids had a day off this week, and Kris chose to hit the beach and have a cheesy tourist day. Apparently the Ferris wheel operator was excited to meet him only because of Kris having touched Adam Lambert before. In a couple weeks, I think Adam is going to have a full-fledged mythology. We’ll be poring over stories of how a dream-like vision of Adam Lambert’s eyes drove Cleopatra to invent liquid eyeliner, and how when he was born, the Hollywood sign rearranged itself to spell his name. But this is Kris’ segment, so let’s talk about Kris.
He was born in June (Gemini stand up!) in some other tiny Arkansas town, and his very congenial parents interview about how proud they are of him no matter what he does; to wit: they loved him even when his childhood dream was to be a cab driver. No offense to cab drivers intended. But y’all know that’s a cracked out dream. Anyway, Kris was born in 1985, a year also known as TEARS FOR FEARS, but he has chosen to sing “All She Wants to Do Is Dance.” Maybe he was in it for the political satire. I don’t know. At least he’s not singing “Heaven.” The guitar is back, and it’s still silent; Kris’ voice is pretty gorgeous in an arrangement that’s kind of Songs in the Key of Life, but it doesn’t add up all the way for me. If I listened to it again, I’d probably like it better, but I have a deadline to meet. Kara liked Kris’ entrée into up-tempo land, but thought it all sounded like a jazz-funk homework assignment for music theory class. Paula thinks he did a good job making a melodically boring song into something special. Simon says “indulgent” and “forgettable,” and a girl screams “You’re hot!” to Kris. Simon answers, “So am I, but that’s not the point.” Aha. Ryan says Simon’s critique was ‘indulgent and predictable.” Ouch, the egos are all over each other tonight. Is the never-ending season making them cranky too? No, probably not.
Artistry and Colors
Lil is up now. We’re three for three re: precious baby Idols, but her interview is all about her mother testifying before the court of public opinion that yes, she really named her child Lil, after a grandmother named Lily. Okay? Okay. Tonight Lil is singing “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” both a perfect and an absolutely ridiculous choice. Perfect because this song rules and Lil does a great job singing it; ridiculous because there’s no way to sing a Tina Turner song and come off as anything but somebody impersonating Tina Turner. You just can’t do it. Even The Great Melinda Doolittle, when she sang “Nutbush City Limits” in season 6, fell into the impersonator trap. So, it’s no surprise that even though this vocal is one of her best in weeks, that the judges all slam Lil for impersonating Tina Turner instead of showing artistry. They all say a variation on that too; it’s not just Kara. Lil looks crushed, but at least she sort of knows what they want from her now. Lil says she always listens to their advice and she’ll prove she’s an artist if she gets the chance. I think she means another chance, but whatever.
Ryan says, “After the break, the true colors of Anoop.” Does this mean what I think it means? I don’t know yet, because first we have to talk about basketball somehow, and then hear Anoop apologize for being a bit of a brat last week after he got panned. Okay, that’s done. Now his button-like parents return to say some more about how much they love him, and Anoop talks about how his parents never stopped taking pictures of their only baby, so now he hates taking pictures to this day.
And finally. Anoop meets Cindy Lauper for some reason. He mumbles his way through the verse and then his voice sounds very clear and ringing on the chorus, as it should. He turns it into a bit of a groove at the end, which is fun. Randy thinks Anoop gave a very controlled vocal; Paula loved the song choice and says he showed his true colors to America. Simon calls him a yo-yo, and then pronounces it a very good outing for him. Not fantastic though. Simon further says that it’s silly to apologize for reacting to what the judges say, because “We can be horrible to you, and you can be horrible back.” “Kumbaya, kumbaya,” Ryan says cheekily.
A Scott Interlude
Scott belongs in a Hallmark movie about carving life out on the prairie or something. That’s how pure his soul is. When he was a tiny baby, he wanted to be a train conductor; it obviously didn’t work out but he still plays with his toy trains anyway. I hope they’re Lionel, because Scott deserves the best. Also, he used to play spooky Halloween music which spooked his mother. Tonight he’s out on stage sans piano, avec electric guitar. What? I know. He looks completely lost on what to do with his limbs, and then he sings this song I don’t know called “The Search Is Over,” that has something to do with love being right before his eyes. Aw, more lady-baiting. Well, if nothing else comes from this show besides a nationwide tour and hundreds of thousands of dollars, I hope he finds a girl.
I don’t critique Scott’s vocals anymore; there’s absolutely no point because I just don’t get his singing. But the judges still judge. Kara was thrown by hearing a power ballad from him and thought his singing was way off pitch at some points, better at others. Paula gives him seal claps for going without the keys and also expresses wonder about the electric guitar. Scott says it’s evidence of “his punk side coming out.” She also dings him for being exceptionally screechy on some of the high notes, and then says, “Bravo” anyway. Simon thinks Scott should go back to his piano. I concur.
Teen Spirit and Smooth Jazz
“Our only 90s baby,” is Ryan’s way of introducing Allison, because he realizes just how old this night makes all of us feel, every single time. In her interview clip, Allison’s mother is really cute sharing how Allison was a chatterbox as a baby, so much so that they actually asked a doctor what was wrong with her. Ha. Turns out all that talking was a sign that Allison was going to be a singing star. And so here she is tonight singing “I Can’t Make You Love Me” for us. She scrapes the bottom of her range with this one, and it shows, and she’s pushing some of her onsets much too hard, but by the time she gets to the power notes of the chorus, she’s smooth sailing. Paula says “it’s undeniably Allison,” and appreciated the tenderness she showed in the beginning before rocking out the chorus. Simon says the song was good, but that Allison isn’t likable. He wants her to work on being more chatty and personable again so little girls will want to buy pillowcases with her face on them. Randy makes an oblique comparison to Kelly Clarkson, as if they have to pay her $50 whenever they say her name.
Matt Giraud’s the third guy tonight taking us back to 1985. He was a total choirboy as a kid, as well as a theater geek; cue footage of Matt in a play dressed in a toga and laurels which is supposed to be the garb of an angel, somehow, delivering corny lines in front of a packed sanctuary. I’m exceedingly glad no such videos exist of my own childhood performances, because this is a terror to behold. My cheeks are warm for Matt just vicariously.
Tonight he’s singing “Part Time Lover,” also without his trusty piano. What is he thinking? This song forever belongs to Kevin Covais! Matt tries his best to upstage the Ladies Man of season 5 with his jazz club rendition. I’m finding myself liking it; this is the first performance of Matt’s that has felt effortless and sincere – he actually has a real groove going on, and not a manufactured one. Kudos, even if the vibrato does show up a few awkward times. Ryan must have cautioned the judges to speed-critique, but still no less than eight “yo’s” are sufficient to contain all of Randy’s approval. Kara quickly says “Incredible on every level,” Paula gives him a standing o, and Simon says it was a million times better than last week. Matt only has time to smile in shock.
Okay, and I understand why they’re speeding now. I promise I set my DVR for my customary Idol padding, but still my recording cuts off right in the middle of Adam’s introduction. My bad. Or, no. The show’s bad. I couldn’t even find a clip through … ahem… alternative means, so unfortunately Adam’s performance will have to remain as mysterious as the man himself, until tonight’s sure to be lengthy rehash of it during the results show. That’s all I’ve got for you, but don’t forget to come back and read MsFroggy’s sure to be excellent recap of this week’s results.
Okay. Next week I’ll try to give it a ten minute cushion, but if it messes up my Road Rules Challenge recording, Ryan will pay.