Idol Top Three: Well, That Was Weird

13 May

I said, "Good night!"

We’ve now reached the point in the Idol season when the show becomes a bit less enjoyable for me, when all the “see you in the finals” predictions, the favoritism, the repetitious praise or criticism all come to a head, leaving the show so far up its own ass that it no longer feels like a competition at all. Everyone just seemed so tired last night… it’s too bad that they always blow the endgame like this.

And while there may or may not have been an air of desperation around Gokey’s dancing on his first tune (my verdict: quite desperate), there was most assuredly a deep stink of it around the show itself.  Here’s a program that used to be able to fit nine performances into an hour and that now, in what is clearly an effort to suck every last insanely jacked-up advertising dollar out of its sponsors, has become so bloated that it can’t even fit six songs without going over the hour.

What’s worse, the judging continues to be a big problem, as I mentioned two weeks ago.  Since then, it’s become clear that Kara DioGuardi needs to go – her comments on the performances were utterly divorced from reality, be they blind favoritism (Gokey, Lambert) or bizarre criticism of her own song choice (Kris).  And worse than that, she’s just not pleasant to watch – she seems to have ramped up the intensity of her spiel, and is coming off as so abrasive, phony, and, yes, desperate to prove her cred that it’s really tough to take her seriously as an adjudicator.

I think that perhaps it’s because she’s reading her own press.  Three or four weeks ago, I totally wouldn’t have said that Kara was that big a problem.  Sure, she didn’t say anything particularly worthwhile, but at the same time, she wasn’t as off-putting as she’s been. That all changed during and after rock week, the aftermath of which, despite it having been perhaps the most entertaining top 4 in the show’s history, was hard on everyone except Lambert.  And Kara came off as the lamest of all, with her “whoop whoop” hand motions, studded leather jacket, and money quotes about how “Cryin'” and “Crazy” are “Early Aerosmith” and how Adam Lambert should start a career in the “’70’s Rock, 80’s Glam Rock, Nine Inch Nails” genre. And just like they ate Danny Gokey alive for his angel-killing screeching on “Dream On,” the internet people devoured that shit, which couldn’t have been fun to read about.

(Speaking of internet people, I really have to recommend’s Idolatry videos. Thanks to Joe R. at Low Resolution for linking to them, and my sister for realizing how great they are – I wouldn’t normally find the time to watch something like this, but they’re pretty hilarious!  The level of Gokey-hate is really cathartic, and Kristin Baldwin, with or without her glasses, is a riot.  Who is this girl?)

In short: I think that everyone left on the show, contestants and judges alike, is far too self-aware, too “in their box,” and too content to stay there to make for very compelling performances.  And I thought that last night’s performances, with one exception, bore that out.  And bored me to tears.

Thoughts on the individual performances, after the break:

Danny Gokey – “Dance, Little Sister”/”You Are So Beautiful”

Danny Gokey Grabs His Crotch

Yikes - Somebody give this man a mic stand to occupy his left hand.

This first tune was kind of a lame song, though Danny sounded good.  But can anyone watch him perform and honestly think “Here’s someone people would pay money to go see.”  No.  I’m sorry, but no.  Also, the first time Idol gets a sax feature, and it’s something lame like this?  Aaah, man!  I’m not going to say anything about carting out such a sizable fellow to play the horn (though others on the internet have not been kind, bunch of dicks) – the dude sounded awesome and is probably friends with a bunch of people I know in LA.  But I will say that musically, did we really need to have the “Scat-Singing Trading” thing go down?  With Gokey?  Ugh. It was too bad, too – I always hate it when Simon criticizes the band like he did, but I agree – the whole sax thing was a weird choice. And Gokey’s self-satisfied laughing/clapping/squinting routine while the judges speak continues to bug. Hard.

The Cocker tune was better – though hasn’t this tune been done, like, seventeen times on Idol before?  Yes, I think it has.  Anyway… my main problem was with the arrangement.  At the start, with the guitarist and string quartet out onstage with him, I actually thought that Danny would stay with that instrumentation the whole way through, which would have been really nice!  But no, halfway in, the frickin’ drums come in with “cross-stick ballad groove #6” and suddenly we’re on the cliche bus to boringzzzzzzzzzz.

(Side note – the drummer on Idol this year is frakin’ beastly.  Is it the same guy from years past?  I almost though it might be Nate Morton from Rock Star, since the dude just hits the shit out of the more rocking tunes…  Whoever he is, his playing is usually my favorite part of each performance.)

Kris Allen – “Apologize”/”Heartless”

Kris Allen

Capo on first fret. He must like the key of Eb, too.

So, Kris managed to keep things interesting by doing what was unquestionably the worst performance of the night, and then turning around and doing the best (or, at least, the most interesting).  I don’t have much to say about “Apologize” – it was the only song that seemed to go on too long, and the strange single-note guitar line on the choruses fell pretty far short of “epic.”  It sounded like keyboard-guitar or something… I don’t know the original, so maybe I’m missing something.  I couldn’t believe that Kara had the brass balls to criticize the arrangement of this (totally boring) song that she chose, and to do it in such an assy way, too.  God.  It was nice to see Simon call her out on it, but the whole thing became more about the judges than it was about the performance, which actually happened several times over the course of the night, and sucks.

Then, he got up and does “Heartless” all by himself with a guitar, and sounded great!  For some reason, the moments immediately before the song, when Kris talked for a second to Ryan, clearly nervous, in-ear hanging over his shoulder, then took off to the stage while Ryan talked about iTunes or whatever… maybe it’s because I’ve just started performing again myself, but for a second I could really put myself in his shoes… how totally batshit it would be, walking away from Ryan, towards the mic, the guy hands you your guitar, you push in your in-ear, go to the mic, Ryan is talking about something, the stage lights aren’t on yet, that one person in the audience is fixing her hair… you’re thinking through the opening chord, the opening words…  WOW.  Madness. I really admire what these contestants go through each week, the kind of pressure they’re under, and the exhilaration of performing so… large.

Anyway, great version of the song, sung well, with a good energy and vibe.  This is exactly where Kris fits, as an artist, and while it doesn’t do much for me, personally, it certainly works.  The whole funky white boy Jason Mraz/Jack Johnson/70,000 other KFOG artists Who Seem To Play at The Independent All The Time thing is just kind of a non-starter… I think it’s that the writing is too self-aware, or doesn’t get beyond the basics, or something.  Whatever, it was a good performance, and while not great, was better than anything else last night.

Adam Lambert – “One”/”Cryin’.”


Song-murdering vocal choices in 3... 2... 1 and 1/2...

Oh, Adam.  I really enjoy you as a performer, and think that you’re a head and shoulders above any contestant in Idol history, and yadda yadda… but that was pretty shitty, dude.  Way to take one of the best U2 songs of all time and just crap all over it.  I don’t know what the deal was here, but there were so many problems…  For starters, it felt like it was about 55 seconds long or something… it was just, like: slow beginning juuuust long enough for you to think it was going to be a great performance, and then just crazy riffing and screaming all over the effing place, and… fin.  What makes this song work, like so many U2 songs, is the slow build, and the fact that the chorus has one note, repeating over and over as the chords swell and build.  Get it?  One love.  One life. One note.  Yes, I think you get it.

…Okay, fine, I’ll see it through.  “Adam, that was really, really indulgent.  This song is called ‘One,’ it is not called “Seventy-Eight Billion.'”


“Cryin'” suffered a similar fate – the song felt really short, shorter even than “One,” and though it wasn’t as wretched, most likely due to the fact that “Cryin'” is not as simple or emotional a song as “One,” it was still kind of a hot mess of overly-indulgent vocal acrobatics.  However, Adam gets huge points with me for basically giving Gokey the finger by choosing Aerosmith the week after Danny’s whole “Scream On” debacle.  Don’t tell me that shit wasn’t on purpose – HA.  Claws out!

I’m not as coherent as I’d like to be this morning, but hopefully I’ve managed to convey my disappointment with last night’s show.  I sat down expecting serious awesomeness, but instead, all I got was the feeling that everyone was tired and over it.  The outcome of next week’s finale feels pointless, and show seems out of gas, sputtering its last while guzzling down every last advertising dollar it can fit in its swollen, undulating gut.

Yeesh.  I think I’m ready for “So You Think You Can Dance” to start up.


7 Responses to “Idol Top Three: Well, That Was Weird”

  1. thesoniashow May 13, 2009 at 9:20 am #

    OK, so, I’m starting to think the judges really are out to get Kris in their quest for the Adam vs. Danny finale they have been touting since the show began in January. I don’t know how else to explain why Kara and Randy would pick a piano-heavy song like “Apologize,” and then complain when Kris sits behind the piano and sings it. And then they complain about his range! Seriously? You don’t have to do the vocal Olympics thing to be a good, talented singer. Don’t you agree?

    (Side note: Everyone keeps saying that Kara is going to replace Paula next season. I think she’s in training to replace Randy. She defers to him on everything, and offers to same nonsensical critiques as Randy. She’s Randy-lite.)

    Unlike you, my friend, I’m a lame 30-something nerdy white chick, so I love Jason Mraz/John Mayer/KFOG artists. I have no doubt that if Kris put out an album filled with performances like last night’s “Heartless” I would run out and buy it.

    Simon called Danny’s “You’re So Beautiful” a “vocal master class.” A master class in boring people to death? Danny is so lite rock, less talk. He’s KOIT-FM easy listening. Sure, he can sing, but I would never buy his album. He kinda reminds me of Taylor Hicks, but he’s not nearly as fun. And that song Paula picked for him, “Dance Little Sister” by Terence Trent D’arby … I actually really love that song, but I HATED what Danny did to it. He sucked the funk right out of it! He’s a funk-sucker!

    As for Adam, I still believe Adam will win the whole thing, but I wasn’t blown away last night. I thought the arrangement of “One” was a big ol’ mess. And, to be quite honest, “Cryin'” wasn’t much better. Adam has been stellar in previous weeks. This week, he was just meh. BUT, I do think Adam has an amazing voice, and I could imagine buying his records.

    (Another side note: What was up with Ryan saying to Adam, “You’ve covered Queen and Cher” …? Why not just say, “So, you’re totally gay, right, Adam? What big ol’ gay song are you singing this week?”)

    I think an Adam vs. Kris finale would be more entertaining, but an Adam vs. Danny finale is likely. It’s too close to call, but if forced, I would predict that Danny is going home, just because he won’t have the teeny-bopper vote that Kris has.

  2. David May 13, 2009 at 9:40 am #

    Gokey was a dokey. ‘Dance, Little Cheese ball’ was so full of cheese, syrup, happy pills. I could feel the lobotomy coming, but thankfully the song ended. And he gets praise…

    ‘Heartless’ by John Mayer guy was by far the best performance of the night. It was a little too ‘Alice’ for me, but it still managed to stand out. Yes, I can only wear Dockers when listening to that rendition, but at least I didn’t want to vomit.

    Adam only demonstrated how Bono can own a song and give it an insane range that is still honest and still close to the chest. That cabaret performance of ‘One’ probably made U2 regret that they gave Simon permission for him to sing that song. He did a similarly shitty rendition of ‘Crazy’ but still the judges were practically feeling each other up after that performance.

    You’re welcome!

  3. Katherine May 13, 2009 at 10:14 am #

    In case you’re wondering who the heck I am, Sonia sent me here. (Thanks Sonia!)

    I absolutely adore Adam and he’s been my favorite in this competition ever since “Ring of Fire,” but even I have to admit he was a bit of a disappointment last night. I agree that “One” didn’t build the way it should have, and this really took away from the performance. “Crazy” was good, but I just don’t like Aerosmith and thought it was a bit of a lame pick. I feel Adam might be losing his edge a bit because he “really.wants.this.”

    I loathe Gokey, but his version of “You Are So Beautiful” was good. I hate admitting it, but there it is.

    The winner of the night was definitely Kris with his surprisingly creative take on Kanye’s “Heartless.” I’m not into that John Mayer/Jason Mraz stuff either, but he did a great job here.

    I think I’m the only person who doesn’t mind Kara, despite her unforgivable errors (still laughing over “Crazy” and “Crying” being “early Aerosmith.”) I don’t think she was wrong to criticize Kris’s uninspired version of “Apologize,” although it is difficult to live up to the original, which is truly beautiful. Simon seemed to be implying that if you pick a song for a contestant, you are required to love what they did with it. What? That doesn’t make sense to me.

  4. thesoniashow May 13, 2009 at 10:50 am #

    I think Simon was telling her that if she wanted him to play it on the guitar she should have said that. I can see why Kris didn’t play “Apologize” on the guitar, though. He would have had two back-to-back songs on the guitar and that wouldn’t really demonstrate any kind of range. I like that he did one song on the piano and one on the guitar.

    • Kirk May 13, 2009 at 11:17 am #

      Hi Catherine! Thanks for writing – I agree that it’s not really fair to expect the judges to not only pick the tune, but also to arrange it, but for whatever reason, Kara’s criticism of Kris’s song just felt unfair. Ignorant as I am of the original performance, I thought it was just a flat, boring song to begin with, and that she should have kept her critique to his vocals. Which actually weren’t really that great, either…

      David: HA. You should replace Kara next week. I thought the same thing after “One.” Whereas last week, with the Zep song, I could see Page and Plant being glad they gave the rights to that song, this week, I could see Bono and company sincerely regretting allowing their work on the show. I certainly wouldn’t want to watch some dude caterwaul all over my most heartfelt song. Or, since it’s U2, one could make the argument that it’s more “heartfelt,” but whatever, you know what I’m saying. Though Bono might be too busy writing lame op-eds for the New York Times to notice.

      Also, Dockers = hee.

      Sonia: yeah, I’m not sure WHAT they’re going to do about the judging thing. It’s like they just need to get rid of all of them and start fresh. The combination of out-of-control egos, content-free criticisms, and lame “feuding” just makes them more of a distraction than they’re worth. This may have been the best crop of contestants in a while, but if the show can’t repair its inner workings, they’re going to continue to lose viewers.

      Also, jeez, is that “vocal masterclass” meme played. A real vocal masterclass would have a lot more discussion of “strengthening the mixed-voice,” a lot more pimping of his vocal method book, and at least four mentions of Shure(TM) brand microphones.

      • Kirk May 13, 2009 at 8:20 pm #

        I saw that interview too (or one like it), was it in USA today?

        I thought it was interesting that he also talked about ending “Cryin” by singing “Cryyyinnn!” and was like, “is that too broadway?”

        And then he totally did it anyway.

        Also, sorry I called you “Catherine” with a C. I give you permission to call me “Kurt” one time whenever you feel like it.

  5. Katherine May 13, 2009 at 2:19 pm #

    I read an interview with the three finalists today where Adam admitted that he’s not a huge U2 fan, which kind of explains why he didn’t seem to connect with the song.

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