Idol Worship: Best To Worst Of Rat Pack Night
We have to hand it to the final five — each contestant pulled out all the stops for Rat Pack week, knowing full well that, at this point in the competition, it’s anyone’s game. Well, probably not Matt Giraud’s, but it sure was a valiant run. All in all, the standards theme was well suited for the season 8 bunch and may end up providing some of the show’s brightest moments. Do slashies (singer-slash-actors or vice-versa) make the best mentors? It sure looked that way judging from Jaime Foxx’s results. And remember Jennifer Lopez? She rocked her Idol gig, too. (Next week's mentor is apparently Slash, sure to be another memorable guide.) Indeed, it was an exciting night, topped off by mister showman himself, Adam Lambert. Read on for our best to (marginally) worst Rat Pack rankings…
1. Adam Lambert – “Feeling Good”
Yet again, the Glambert regalia was out in full force — white lights, sharp suit, the distance hiss of shazaaam! — and Adam, looking like he’d nary lifted a finger of effort, drove it all home. His Rat Pack pick: the 1965 standard “Feeling Good,” which has been sung by everyone from Bobby Darin to Michael Bublé. But Adam, being well-versed in alterna-rock covers, lifted Muse’s version, sending the judges into an utter tizzy. Paula even went so far as to declare him American Idol’s Michael Phelps. So we ask this: how’s anyone supposed to have a chance here? Do we really need to go through the motions of this pointless exercise for another three weeks? There’s no doubt Adam has the showmanship and talent, but his consistent awesomeness also underscores the fun of the competition. Still, we can’t wait to see what he does with next week’s rock-n-roll theme.
2. Kris Allen – “The Way You Look Tonight”
Jaime Foxx’s preface turned out to be spot-on: Kris’ performance was subtle, controlled, confident, and, most importantly, on the level of a true professional. Maybe you didn’t notice, because his take on “The Way You Look Tonight” sounded so much like something you’d hear in the background, say coming out of your grandpa’s living room hi-fi, but in watching back for a second time, there’s no doubt he blew away the TV audience. Kris is fluid and soft-spoken — basically the polar opposite of Adam, which should make for an entertaining face-off if it comes down to the two of them. What Kris lacks in spice, he makes up for in earnestness, but you know what they say… nice guys finish last.
3. Allison Iraheta – “Someone To Watch Over Me”
Admittedly, we were worried for birthday girl Allison on Rat Pack night. After all, there’s nothing more masculine than the image of Frank, Dean and Sammy snapping their fingers and winking at long-lashed birds in the front row. But as usual, Allison grabbed this challenge by the balls and proved she’s got what it takes to be in this competition. Her killer rendition of “Someone To Watch Over Me” came from the gut, and how Simon is still not convinced of her “belief” baffles us. This girl was obviously put on this earth to be a singer. To become the American Idol, however, may not be in the cards. But for now, she’s safe for another week.
4. Matt Giraud – “My Funny Valentine”
Leave it to Matt to take on “My Funny Valentine,” one of the most complicated and ambitious numbers in the Idol songbook. Melinda Doolittle knocked it out of the park back in season six, but our fedora-wearing debonair monsieur Giraud stumbled in more than one spot. Still, let’s give the man an A+ for effort, seconded by Simon who praised Matt’s performance for being far more “believable” than his competitors'. He’s fallen, gotten back up, and fallen again, but that’s what we love about Matt Giraud — he’s resilient. He’s also likely going to be eliminated this week. Bravo and bye-bye, old buddy.
5. Danny Gokey- “Come Rain Or Come Shine”
At the risk of pissing off the millions of Danny devotees out there (twenty of whom might be reading this blog), we’re putting him at the bottom of our list this week. Maybe it’s because we happened to watch Coming to America the other night and Danny’s performance somehow reminded us of that scene in the church fundraiser where Eddie Murphy (as slick singer Randy Watson, backed by his band, Sexual Chocolate) desecrates “The Greatest Love Of All,” or perhaps it was the screechy vocals that felt like overkill, but “Come Rain Or Come Shine” didn’t sit well with us. Maybe he would’ve gone over better in the pimp spot, which, surprisingly, Danny has never been given. Not to worry, he’s not going home this week, but we’re not impressed. Crucify us if you must.
Idol Worship: Best To Worst Of Disco Night
All things considered, the dreaded disco night wasn't as painful as we anticipated. For one thing, it went by pretty quickly and, with the exception of Lil Rounds' opening number, didn't really have any major stumbles. Furthermore, it showed more guts from this group of hopefuls than we've seen in some time — Adam Lambert's twist on the Saturday Night Fever classic was ambitious beyond compare, while Kris Allen's take on Donna Summer worked surprisingly well. But with two contestants' futures on the line, it's anyone's game for the rest of season 8. Sure, Danny Gokey and Allison Iraheta pulled off competent performances, but will good enough win American Idol? We think not. As for the rest, they rated pretty low on our excitement scale. Read on for this week's best to worst rankings...
1. Kris Allen - "She Works Hard For The Money"
Not to get all nit-picky, but "She Works Hard For The Money" came out in 1983, which, as we see it, is at least a couple years past the end of the disco era. Nevertheless, Donna Summer is the OG disco queen, and Kris Allen is quickly becoming Idol's king of rearrangements. This acoustic guitar-driven re-tune with its Latin-flavored vibe may have catapulted Kris to the final three. It was creative, well-executed, and undoubtedly smart on a night that was sure to be challenging for him. Of all the songs performed on Tuesday, it's the one we could most see radio stations playing — and that's saying a lot in today's tight-fisted climate.
2. Adam Lambert - "If I Can't Have You"
At this point, we know to expect the unexpected from Adam Lambert, and to that end, he didn't disappoint on disco night. In fact, Adam outdid himself yet again, taking this classic from Saturday Night Fever, to which John Travolta boogied his ass around a dingy Brooklyn dance studio, and slowing it down to a ballad. Our only problem with his reinterpretation was that we completely lost the song in the second half. And beyond being unrecognizable, the howling at the end was a bit unnecessary and over-the-top. Or, as Simon likes to say in that oh-so-sexy British accent, overindulgent. Also, with all the inexplicable Susan Boyle chatter this past week, we couldn't help but notice a Les Mis-iness to his performance. But hey, what do we know?
3. Danny Gokey - "September"
We have to hand it to Danny this week: of all the contestants, he looked like he was actually having fun, rather than trying too hard. In fact, his performance of the Earth, Wind and Fire staple looked and sounded effortless. Still, we got that cruise line sensation which never sits well with our already queasy stomach. Danny needs to keep turning it up, while toning down the cheese factor.
4. Allison Iraheta - "Hot Stuff"
First off, Allison should get some sort of prize for navigating those slippery stage stairs wearing six-inch stripper heels. Talk about hot stuff! Now only if her performance matched the fierceness of her outfit. To us, it felt more like hot air with the occasional grunt. Like we say every week, the girl can sing, but is she Idol material? We're still not convinced.
5. Matt Giraud - "Staying Alive"
There was a time when we wanted Matt Giraud to whip out the falsetto at every opportunity, if only to show the rest of the Top 12 what a guy who's comfortable with his upper register should sound like. But now, we just want to say, "Stop it!" Because every time Matt goes high, we feel like curling up in a fetal position under our desk. But someone had to do the Bee Gees, and other than a couple of missed notes, it was a totally solid performance and one that should squeak him through to next week. At the same time, it was far from memorable. Sniff.
6. Anoop Desai - "Dim All The Lights"
Anoop Desai had the best slot of the night and, for most of his performance, delivered a strong, controlled and even tone on his Donna Summer pick (the third and last of the evening). But just as Adam had done, somewhere along the way, he lost the song. Unlike Adam, however, Anoop failed to deliver a grand finale, instead he hit a bum note. There's no doubt it'll be Matt and Anoop neck and neck for this elimination, but we're giving Matt an ever-so-slight advantage based purely on looks. Yeah, we know. We're so vain.
7. Lil Rounds - "I'm Every Woman"
The two words that best describe Lil's disco diva number? Wedding singer. The only thing missing was Lil dragging a grandma from the audience to the dance floor. And it's not like Chaka Khan was a bad choice. It could have had the let's-get-the-party-started effect she'd hoped for had it been sung well and not all over the place. It pains us to say this, because it wasn't all that long ago when we were convinced she was one of the best season 8 had to offer, but we're coming to the bottom of a downward spiral and it's time for us to part ways with Lil. Get ready for another long-winded, tearful goodbye on Wednesday night.
Idol Worship: Adrianne Curry's Adam Lambert Obsession
Add reality star Adrianne Curry (America's Next Top Model, The Surreal Life, My Fair Brady) to the ever-growing legion of Adam Lambert devotees. "Adam is my gay goth Elvis," she tells Billboard.com. "He's Axl Rose, David Bowie and Robert Plant rolled into one, Trent Reznor-style — yum! I f---ing LOVE Adam Lambert."
Curry's borderline obsession with Lambert has been a regular topic of intense discussion on her Nowlive.com call-in show, and during Friday's program, she confessed he's also been a slight source of tension between her and husband Christopher Knight. "I think Gokey is Chris' favorite," said Curry. "And I think Chris kind of hates Adam a little because his friends' wives will text me the whole time, and say, 'He's so hot,' 'No, you can't have him, he's mine!'"
But beyond her schoolgirl crush, Curry's most impressed with Lambert's stage presence. "He's a f---ing rock star," she said. "He can get the audience going like they're watching AC/DC or something. He's rolling around with his guyliner, sexy hair and leather jacket and I just want to eat that leather! Adam just knows how to entertain, and, I'm sorry, but when he does that whole slow-hip-gyrating thing... Oh. My. God."
American Idol is still a relatively new pastime for Curry, which might explain her teeny-bopper-like enthusiasm. She started tuning in last season in time to see David Cook win. "I was never interested before because I only really like good music," Curry cracked. "But when David Cook won, I said, 'Did they just pick a soft rocker?' And then this year, I watched the auditions and called out Adam immediately... Whether he wins or not, he's going to have a huge career." — Shirley Halperin
Idol Worship: Eliott Yamin Q&A
It wasn’t all that long ago that Paula Abdul’s heart belonged to Elliott Yamin. You could say the season 5 American Idol finalist, who made it to the Top 3 but eventually lost to Taylor Hicks, was her 2006 Danny Gokey — undiscovered, raw and soulful, with limitless potential and the vocal chops to make it in the music business. And one year out of Idol, it looked like Elliott had accomplished that goal and more, scoring a hit single (2007’s “Wait For You”), touring the world and selling upwards of 500,000 copies of his self-titled debut album. Now he’s back with his follow-up, Fight For Love (due out May 5) — another collection of undeniable pop-R&B produced and co-written by some of music’s biggest hit-makers (among them: Harvey Mason, Jr. and the Midi Mafia production team) — only this time, his promotional push hasn’t been nearly as peachy. Blame the economy, says Elliott, which has hit the radio business especially hard. But like any good Idol contestant, he’s not about to give up. After all, he’s come so far. We spoke to Elliott last week and let him vent a little. OK, a lot. Read on for our extended Q&A…
Your debut was a huge and somewhat unexpected success, so going into a second album, was it a case of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”
Elliott Yamin: I think we played it pretty safe on the first record. For this album, I wanted it to lean more towards pop-R&B and soul, and all the guys I worked with already had that in their repertoire. These are guys who are used to being on rhythm radio and having their songs on Chris Brown albums, so I wanted to make something that sounded contemporary, but was still me. I also wanted to write more this time around — to show that I’ve grown as a songwriter and an artist. I’m still not one of those guys who can sit down and write stuff on his own; I have to be around other people who I can bounce ideas off of, but I’m becoming a great co-writer.
Did you have a hand in all of the songs on Fight For Love?
EY: There are two songs that I wasn’t involved in writing. One is the single, “Fight For Love,” which I heard was originally offered to Leona Lewis. I don’t know what happened, but she didn’t get it and I did, so I put my foot all up in it and the rest of history. It’s a great song, and there’s so much junk and shit trash on the radio now. The landscape of radio has totally changed for the worse since my first promotional tour.
You saw that first-hand?
EY: Yeah. I’ve been out for five weeks going door-to-door at radio, something very few artists do anymore in the pop world, but it’s so much tougher this time around. Everybody’s walking around like their days are numbered and a lot of the programmers that showed me early love the first time around aren’t even there anymore because they got laid off. People don’t have interns anymore; when we hit the stations for these ass-crack-of-dawn radio shows, you have to wait for [the jocks] to take their commercial break so they can come let you in. Everybody’s understaffed and there’s less airtime to play with.
You’re fighting for the love!
EY: I am! [Laughs] With all these new artists coming out with music at the same time, it kind of ruins your chances because they’re all fighting for space that’s much more scarce. Most stations have their syndicated morning shows and in the afternoons, the Clear Channel stations play Ryan Seacrest, so that gives you half-a-day less of time to hear your song played, unless you’re Britney Spears. It’s just tough times. When you step outside your bubble and get out there on the road, you see how the economy is really affecting your business, career and livelihood. But getting to do all this, even though it’s harder, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still have that huge Idol audience, everywhere I go, people recognize me, and I’m continuing to learn so much about this business and about myself. I’m very blessed to be in this position.
Perhaps the most personal track on the album is the closer, “Someday.” How difficult was it to work on a song about your late and beloved mother?
EY: It was kind of tough to talk about how I felt, because [her death] was fresh in my mind and I was still mourning. But I sort of threw all of my emotions out there and with that, just started writing how I was feeling at the time, which anyone who’s lost somebody can relate to. Every time I play it for someone, there’s not a dry eye in the house. I’m really proud of it.
Let’s talk season 8 a bit. Early in the Top 36, we asked Paula who’s her new Elliott Yamin and she answered Danny Gokey. What do you make of that?
EY: Danny is the one I can empathize with the most. In a way, I think what people really liked about me was that I sing from the heart, and every time you hear an artist where you can feel the pain in their voice, those are the ones who grab you. That’s definitely Danny. He’s my guy. I’ve been all over the country and he’s undoubtedly a favorite. Everybody loves him, he’s captivated a huge part of the audience and hopefully he capitalizes on that the way I did. No matter where he stands in the competition, he’ll get his career rolling.
Are you saying Danny won’t win over Adam Lambert?
EY: Adam’s got amazing vocal range, and not to take anything way from him, but here’s my thing: the epitome of an American Idol is someone who comes from a background of no experience but happens to have a natural gift or talent. Like for me, what the show did was help change the molding — I evolved every week and got better. But somebody like Adam, who’s really experienced and has a theatrical background, he’s just killing the competition. There should always be room to grow on the show, but it doesn’t seem like he’s growing because he’s that good. There’s nobody who can really touch him. After the show, he’ll be just fine as a recording artist, but we’ll see what happens…
Got any advice for Adam?
EY: I actually met him at [LA club] the Hotel Café a few months ago. This guy comes up to me and says, “Hey, my name is Adam. I wanted to tell you that I’m a big fan and I was voting for you…” Then he starts looking around to see if anyone else was paying attention to us, and leans in and whispers, “I made it to Hollywood. I’m in the top 36” or whatever. So we talked and he asked me a bunch of questions about what to expect. He’s a really sweet dude, I had a blast talking to him and was looking forward to checking him out. Then to see him on the show… he’s amazing, what can I say?
What do you make of the lip-synched group numbers this year?
EY: It’s so whack, I hate it! A couple weeks ago, I noticed it and was, like, what are they doing? Our season would never have lip-synched. Obviously the background vocals we’d record during the week, but they’re lip-synching the lead parts, which is horrible. I can’t stand it.
Any plans to appear on the show?
EY: We’ve been talking and I think it’s just a matter of trying to fit me in their schedule. But look, it may not happen, who knows? I have to keep that streak alive though, because I’ve been on the past two seasons in a row and they’ve both been at crucial times in my career. Last time, I got the call three days before I was supposed to be on and I had to cancel a show at The Loft in Atlanta because it was either be there or be on Idol. I still have to make up that show, too. But yeah, we’re on standby and ready to go whenever we get the call, so I hope it works out.
With so many former Idol contestants and winners taking the Broadway route, is musical theater something you ever considered?
EY: Absolutely! I was offered the leading role on Rent twice. The first time, I was on tour and they wanted me for at least 16 weeks – something I just couldn’t do. And the second time, I was out of the country. The timing was off, but I’ve always wanted to do a musical and I will one of these days. People always rag on Taylor [Hicks] and how he’s doing Grease on Broadway now. I hear that shit all the time on the radio. But here’s the bottom line: everybody’s working. That’s a great tribute to my particular season — they’re all doing something in this business, which isn’t easy. This is the toughest industry to be in, hands down. And whether you like these characters or not, none of them are back to where they were before the show. There’s something to be said for that in this day and age. — Shirley Halperin
Idol Worship: Best To Worst Of 'At The Movies' Night
Since when does “Idol At The Movies” week mean we’re all in for an hour-long snooze fest? Where’s the showmanship? Some sense of cultural legacy beyond Armageddon and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves? And what’s up with the Bryan Adams fixation? Fortunately, there were a couple of bright moments, particularly Kris Allen’s take on the Oscar-winning song from Once, and, of course, Lambert. But other that those two now obvious frontrunners, the rest of the Season 8 kids are starting to bore us silly. Read on for our best to worst rankings of movie week…
1. Kris Allen – “Falling Slowly”
Quentin Tarantino said it best and we couldn’t agree more: Kris Allen truly “got” the point of this week’s theme, choosing a song from a film that actually meant something to him (the brilliant Once), as opposed to the most obvious former hit that’s tangentially tied to a forgettable flick. Moreover, he picked a very challenging tune, with hard-to-hit lows, subtle key shifts and falsettos. Its ending may have been a bit abrupt in how it just petered out, but every moment leading up to it was spot-on. Bravo!
2. Adam Lambert – “Born To Be Wild”
Commanding the Idol stage and looking like Elvis crica his 1968 comeback special, there’s no doubt Adam’s Grease Lighting version of "Born to Be Wild" was in a league all its own. Put him next to the other contestants and it’s like an elephant in a room full of mice. Only problem is finding a good balance between the freak and the fantastic — and perhaps showing a bit of shriek restraint. Still, he’s not going home. Not this week. Not next week. Not anytime this season.
3. Danny Gokey – “Endless Love”
Just based on song choice alone, it’s fair to say Danny Gokey won America’s heart before letting out his very first note. “Endless Love,” after all, is just about the biggest tearjerker in movie history and made all the more poignant considering Danny’s tragic back-story. And while his at times shaky performance was by no means stellar, it had the sort of raw emotion that you just can’t deny. Another week down and the finish line is in sight for Danny… Time to put the glasses back on.
4. Anoop Desai – “(Everything I do) I Do It For You”
While this song from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was a good choice for the Grannies, it bored us to tears. In fact, we’re convinced Anoop’s parents forbade anything other than easy listening music in his youth. Poor thing. All that aside, Anoop managed a competent performance, with few stumbles and just as little charisma. But balladeering, he’ll soon learn, doesn’t win this competition. It’s time to take things up a notch.
5. Alison Iraheta – “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”
Maybe Allison didn’t want to miss a thing, but sadly, she did miss a few key notes. But of course, we have to cut her some slack for being the last girl standing at this juncture, and the first contestant up on Tuesday night. And while the word “screechy” was never mentioned — in fact, Simon applauded her vocal performance — we couldn’t help notice that she’d lost her footing during the latter half of the song. The lower, quieter portions she nailed with ease. As for the clothes? Allison still looks like she’s getting dressed in the dark with her eyes closed, but at least she’s having fun with it.
6. Matt Giraud - "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?"
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Matt is still struggling to figure out what he’s all about — outside of a nice guy Justin Timberlake clone. There’s no denying that he has a great voice, and his piano playing is lovely, but song choice has been his biggest misstep throughout the competition and this week was no different. We’re waiting for him to knock it out of the park, but so far, he's just been squeaking by (literally, as his Tuesday night performance proved) and there’s only so much time. Will Matt get another reprieve this week or has he hit the end of the road? We’ll find out soon enough.
7. Lil Rounds – “The Rose”
In concept, Lil’s gospel take on the Bette Midler classic was a novel idea, and might have reinstated her contender status if she could pull it off, but that’s not what ended up happening. Instead, Lil got so lost in the twists and turns of her heavily ornamented version that she’s undoubtedly in danger this week. With messy pacing that felt more like an exercise of vocal runs than a song performance, we couldn’t wait for it to be over. Of course, our DVR cursed us once again and we didn’t get to hear Lil shoot back at Simon for calling her on this major stumble. But generally, Idol audiences resent the talk-back, and even view it as egotistical, so we’re thinking it’s Lil’s turn to say her last Idol words. Sniff.