Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Top 11 Recap (From the Doc)

Let's just start by saying I'm not anti-country per se, just picky about country music. For example, I'm not a fan of Randy Travis, either as a musician or an Idol mentor. In past seasons the good mentors can take a performer who doesn't fit perfectly into his or her genre's little box and appreciate, as Paula would say, the authentic authenticity of the authentic you. In other words, whether the style is from the Middle East or Eastern Tennessee, nail polish or not, let's celebrate true artists. Heaven knows the pop world has adapted enough country songs to validate the musicality of the Grand Ole Opry. Randy Travis seemed to miss the boat on that whole crossover phenomenon that's expanded the career of many a country star. Rant. Off. (How's all of that for judging an artist's entire body of work based on a dozen or so sound bites during a hyped up Idol show?)

So I was pleasantly surprised (what's with all the Paula references this week?!) with the evening and saw fewer disappointments than I'm accustomed to on country weeks. Even Simon seemed to enjoy himself on more than one occasion, but not many more! What's with all the contestants talking to the judges so much this year. And "having fun" is a given for me. Singing well is the bigger task and the one that will get more of my votes. Randy Jackson has become really stale for me for a long time because he just seems to parrot Simon a lot, and he's so focused on getting his "dudes" and "dawgs" out there he doesn't say any thing intelligible, but tonight I liked him. He finally showed why they keep him around. He actually seems the most in tune with current music and how different artists can blend styles to suit their own strengths. Without saying much more about it, let's get to it.

Michael Sarver: And there it is. It's Josh Gracin all over again. Am I pop? Am I country? I'm "just having fun up here." Talk back. Don't listen. Criticize Simon. Wave to the crowd. Michael is a good singer, just in way over his head here. Next.

Allison Iraheta: I didn't really like the song this week. It was a bit too straight-up country for my liking, especially since she didn't really rock it out. Her performance was solid enough to stick around, but not my favorite. When they rolled the phone numbers at the end, Allison was one of the contestants that made me say, "Oh yeah. She sang tonight."

Kris Allen: I like this guy. He is very understated fashion-wise, which is a plus. He seems very comfortable up on stage and his voice is great. I think Simon was spot-on with his praise tonight, too. Kris is shaping up to be one of the four or five legitimate contenders.

Lil Rounds: She's so Season 1 or 2 for me. She has that power voice and can sing, but the music industry just isn't celebrating that kind of voice any more. Whitney, Mariah, Christina. They've had their places, but the artists of today are more artistic and less "wow!" And she did herself no favors by trying to prove she can sing other things. She can't, so stick to what you know and do it well.

Adam Lambert: If I thought Randy T. knew many songs outside of the Grand Ole Opry I'd figure he'd be humming "Dude Looks Like a Lady" to himself when he met Adam because he sure seemed to have something he wasn't saying about his experience with Adam. I am most disappointed in the judges after Adam's performance. If we want to discuss indulgence, we need to take a closer look at all of Simon's wedding singer analogies. Adam's performance was the #1 most original song this week. Randy J. hit it on the head for once--Adam sounded like an alternative rock band interpreting a country hit. I thought Kara's inability to say anything worthwhile on this one was shocking, and Simon hates country music so much I thought he would have had a bit more positive to say about this one. And anyone that can substitute the sitar for the slide guitar on country week deserves mad props.

Scott McIntyre: I can see what Paula was trying to get at here, but I think she's way off. I've long said Scott reminds me of Billy Joel in that they are both serviceable, but not fantastic singers who have a gift for using the piano to enhance their performances. Take away the piano and Billy Joel is just some guy in a bar looking for spare change. "Sing us a song, you're the man" just doesn't work. The audience sure seems connected to him each week so something's working. David Archuleta sure seemed to sing different versions of the same song each week last year and made it to the finals, so Scott may do just fine.

Alexis Grace: It was a good replication of the original for me, too. It was solid, but nothing great. I don't really have much more to say on this one.

Danny Gokey: Randy J. had the best comments on this one, too. Danny needs to support his lower register more to stay in tune so we can fully appreciate how great he is when he goes up to his higher register. Danny seemed to connect to this song and did really well with it. He would have made a greater splash if he'd parachuted from the top of the set, though.

Anoop Desai: What a great song choice and arrangement. You could really hear his own voice coming through. I like what Simon said about his attitude. There's no sense in talking back and complaining about songs and judges' opinions. Just take the criticism, use what you can, and come back stronger. I'm glad to see him redeem himself.

Megan Joy Corkrey: I'm still not convinced I like her much. She seems nice enough, and I'm sure she's a lovely person, but I can't get on board with her singing style. From her strange pronunciation (I've lived in Utah and Megan's singing accent isn't from there) to her awkward torso twist I just don't get it. She did pick the right style in which to sing this incredibly overdone song, though. I don't know.

Matt Giraud: If I had to vote for only one performance tonight it would be Matt's. I loved it. He's a great pianist who knows exactly how to use it in his presentation. His work on the ivories wasn't overdone, but was perfectly appropriate. He sounded way more confident this week and I'm glad to hear Simon give him his due. I did find it interesting that Paula didn't tell him to lose the piano at some point. When you give a great performance all that peripheral stuff doesn't matter.




Boquinha said...

Holy cow, you'd think we wrote our reviews together! We soooooooooo see eye to eye on these things. Excellent point about substituting the sitar for the slide guitar. We picked the same one to go home, too. Lucky us, we get to hear a million lyrics again tomorrow.

emily said...

I like Randy Travis's music but don't know much about him. Too bad he wasn't a good guest-judge-guy.

Jimmy said...

Hey Mark--Don't know you guys and I've commented on a few of Stacy's blogs, so I thought I'd introduce myself and comment on one of yours. I love that you guys are living your dream. I wish I had the guts to do that. Really do admire you guys.

As for Idol. I always end up thinking they are all good and by the end of the season I can't tell what's a good performance and what isn't. That tells you something about my musical abilities.

And this is controverial and maybe I'm making this up, but it seems to me like usually the first ones to go are the minorities. Like a so-so black guy and a so so white guy--the black guy will go out before the white guy. There's enough seasons of Idol now to make a research paper out of it. I guess Sanjaya would be the outlier.

Dr. Mark said...

Jimmy, thanks for the comment and introduction. This season is even more problematic in that there are a lot of great contestants, more so than in past years. Eventually it's going to come down to personal style preference. At least that's my opinion on the whole thing.

Your theory on racially motivated voting is an interesting one. You'd have to assume the same group of people is responsible for most of the voting each year, and that their voting styles are probably similar from one year to the next. If there is any personal bias against certain ethnic groups it would likely carry from year to year.

And Sanjaya . . . he had some sort of hypnotic effect on the pre-teen crowd. Maybe his book will explain how he did it. Yes, that's right. He has a book out now.

Boquinha said...

WHAT?!? He has a book?!?!

Dr. Mark said...

Yes, he has a book:

I always thought memoirs were something people with a bit more of life's experiences wrote, you know, years later.

Jimmy said...

Well, and I certainly am not the most objective person to be making that observation about race. UNM's PoliSci dept. is a bastion of left-leaning thinkers, and my area of concentration was immigration policy. So I'm humble enough to admit that I may just have a few biases of my own and I should have kept my mouth shut.

Whatever Sanjaya had, I wish I had it. I'd like to think my wife and I are happily married with 5 kids, but I still get jealous every time she reminds me that Justin Guarini should have been the original Idol simply because he was so handsome.

Boquinha said...

Justin Guarini? Really? Yeah, I'm not sure I see it with him. Not for me anyway.

And check it out! We learn a little more about the mysterious Jimmy! PoliSci, eh? Mark and I both started out as Political Science majors with our sights set on law school. Boy, did we switch big time. Has Emily ever sent you a link to our business website?

emily said...

Dude, I'm late on this one, but no way is voting on here racially motivated. I guess I don't watch anymore, but what about when that dude won over Clay Aiken, and Clay was TOTALLY the better singer? What was his name...he was that big guy...can't remember. But he was black. And Fantasia? Cannot STAND her voice (sorry Stacy) but she won.

Jimmy said...

I haven't got a link to your business, but would love to. I asked Emily to forward my email address to you guys. I hope you'll email me sometime.

Emily--There's lots of studies that suggest that racially motivated voting occurs--maybe on a subconscious level. It's hard to get accurate data because even anonymously, people are afraid to admit it due to the politically incorrect nature of the issue. Certainly in areas known for being more racially divided (the South), there's strong evidence to suggest that race is a a factor voters take into consideration. I would imagine that it might hold true for American Idol as well as political elections.

Jimmy said...

Ruben Studdard was the dude that beat Clay Aiken. He was in Albuquerque a month ago in a travelling production of Ain't Misbehavin' and got rave reviews.

I'm with Stacy--what do you have against Fantasia? That year Fantasia was definitely the stronger singer of the two finalists. She has Mary J. Blige potential.

Truth is I have never bought a cd of any American Idol contestant because I want more from my Idols. If all I cared about was having a good voice than I'd settle for country music. I want full out star-quality, triple-threat singing, acting, dancing, guitar shredding talent from my Idols. (Or maybe I'm just trapped in the 80s--you decide.)

Boquinha said...

I loved Clay and felt he'd done a better job at the finale, but as for longevity, I think Ruben has him beat. Ruben is effortless. (He'll be on tonight, btw). Oh and LOVE Fantasia. She is my all-time favorite Idol winner (until David Cook and hopefully Adam Lambert this year). Fantasia has MAD MAD MAD passion.

But wait, we're talking about racial stuff. I got excited. :P Just saw an article on the sobering statistics on racial inequality here.

Sadly, racism is alive and well. Oh the stories I could tell about things I've heard around even around here. Yikes.

Jimmy, got your email address (thanks to you and Emily!) and will email you soon. I'm sitting down between clients today trying to get caught up online with emails. :)

Oh, but of all the Idols, Elliott reigns supreme for me. :)