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Best two nights of of American Idol, EVER.

American Idol played like a day on my mix radio station, with Gwen Stefani for a guest, which did in fact make my night.  No Doubt has a long list of hits that I enjoyed listening to on the radio, almost always loving them individually before I knew who they were by.  And while I never had any particular appreciation for their lead singer until she struck out on her own, recently I've come to realize I actually have a great deal of respect for her.  A hit band, a hit solo career, a clothing line - I like her because she's not managed.  She's very pretty, but she takes control of her life and creates her own image.  Basically, she's a non-screwed-up, rather less slutty version of Madonna.  Not to mention that she actually seems intelligent.  Her comments about the contestants' song choices and rehearsal performance were not only the most helpful and coherent of the season, they were for the most part worded intelligently.  Even my mom commented on how put together she seemed.

Before we get to the performances, I have a bone to pick with this "Idol Gives Back" campaign because I'm very tired of everyone applauding it and talking about how fantastic and charitable and amazing the show is for doing this.  First, Idol makes millions.  Possibly BILLIONS.  This is year 6, and they're just NOW deciding it would be fun to donate?  Second, you don't need to make a production out of it.  As I previously stated, what would impress me is if you just quietly wrote a check behind the scenes and announced it after the fact.  All this campaign does is draw attention to yourself.  "Look at me, I'm so generous!  Watch!"   That's a PR stunt, not generosity.  And third, every time Ryan talks about it, all I hear is how "a portion of the proceeds" will be donated and how "YOU" can help.  Nowhere do I actually hear that Idol will be giving back.  Idol's viewers and sponsors will be giving back.  WE will be encouraged to donate.  We will forward the money to Idol and then Idol will collect it and write the checks to take the credit.  Really, all they're doing is holding a fundraiser.  I wish they could just admit to that.  So that other people would mock them for holding a fundraiser instead of just being a benefactor, instead of being fooled by the sparkly illusion of selflessness.  Okay, onward to the fun.

1. Lakisha - Donna Summers, "Last Dance"
Still don't see what's so OMGSPESHUL about her voice, but since I like this song I enjoyed it.  Although I always thought it was "let's dance" and I was unaware that the song had any other lyrics (certainly not a slow beginning), as I have only heard it used as standard disco music for any scene set in the 70's that required dancing.  Anyway, once she got going, she sounded like the original, which made it rather entertaining to listen to, if not watch.  Because Lakisha always looks like she's ready to beat you up.  I wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley.  Or a crowded Wal-Mart sale.  And I thought the boots were a poor choice, actually.  They would have been okay if she'd had a slightly longer dress, but that brief gap of skin was just distracting, didn't look quite right. 

2. Chris S., a.k.a. Clown Boy - The Police, "Every Little Thing Does Is Magic"
I have a soft spot for The Police, because when I was little their music is some of the first stuff I can remember my mom listening to.  This song I definitely remember.  And Chris did horrible things to it.  Horrible!  He had one section of the chorus that sounded on; he got better towards the end, but it started out as "a train wreck" and he wasn't being nearly as energetic as this song requires, and even I could hear when he got off the beat.  Bad!  Bad! *beats him about the head and shoulders*  On the bright side, I laughed hysterically when the theme music tried to cut Simon off in the middle of his comments.  "Not the Oscars!" I didn't even think he went on that long, geeze.

3. Gina - The Pretenders, "Stand By You"
OI!  I ADORE THIS SONG.  I never knew who it was by, but when I first started listening to the mix station radio near the end of middle school, this is one of the first songs I grabbed on tape (yes. tape.  They were still around in 1999), and I still love it.  And while I wish Gina would stop weeping uncontrollably every time she feels some kind of emotion (in this case, overwhelmed at meeting Gwen Stefani), when it came time to sing, I was completely enthralled.  And I kind of impressed that despite being rock chick, she didn't take one of No Doubt's rock songs.  I'm sure she would have done well on them, but what she did was just so, so much better.  If everyone sang songs like this every week, I might actually LIKE this show.
Votes: She got 10 for a) kick-ass song and b) kick-ass performance and c) being a girl who is not Melinda or Lakisha

Ryan interjects here to say "We'll be right back with Sanjaya and Haley!" There is an immediate holler to open up the bottle of wine.  Also, as an aside, I am in love with the Visa commercial set to "Downtown" with the mousy-looking woman being whisked through a makeover with the help of her Visa card and Petula Clark until she resembles Charlotte from "Sex and the City."  I'm really in love with it.  Like, I'll watch it five times in a row.  It's better than the AI.

4. Sanjaya - No Doubt, "Bathwater."
"Oh dear GOD!" I shrieked when I caught sight of his...whatever the hell you call the row of plumes sticking up from his head.  EEK.  And I can't imagine why he actually chose a No Doubt song when he's been established as far from the best singer.  I mean, wouldn't you think it would be embarrassing beyond belief to butcher someone's song RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM?  Even Gwen looked like she had a false smile just pasted on her face, secretly gritting her teeth.  The thing is, I feel embarassed watching him on the stage because I know people are going to mock him - and besides which, HE always seems to be cringing, like a dog so used to being kicked that he expects abuse whenever he shows his face.   He'll shake it off when he's singing, like he's trying to believe that shoddy hype about "everyone will like you if you like yourself first," but as soon as the song ends, so does the facade.  So one of two things need to happen - the public needs to stop bashing him or they need to stop voting for him.

As for this week's performance...well, the song I have a difficult time believing was ever a hit single.  The music is nice, but "I still love to wash in your old bathwater"?  GROSS.  And Sanjaya forgot the words at one point.  I did not enjoy the performance.  I had no doubt he would receive plenty of votes just for that ridiculous hair, though I fail to see the logic.  Oh, and I have a solution to the fact that all the teeny-bopper girls are voting for him because he's (allegedly) cute: CAST MORE TEENAGERS ON THIS DAMN SHOW.  Stop extending your age limit.  Draw from a pool of the young and talented.  I am sure that if they had more options of people they could actually connect with, Sanjaya wouldn't be the top pick.   (Also, when he tried to win a cute sound bite with "[Simon], you're just jealous you couldn't pull [this hair] off"?  AWKWARD.)  Oh, and boooo on the "vote 4 my people" sign. 

5. Haley - Cyndi Lauper, "True Colors"
HOLY COW, I have never heard this song, but I want it right now.  This is beautiful.  Beautiful and clearly sung.  I thought she was fan-frickin'-tastic.  Simon said there are "thousands and thousands of girls across the country who can sing like that...there was nothing to remember, really."   To which I say, where the hell are they and why is this competition not made up of 12 girls like Haley?  Because frankly that would be way better than voices like Melinda and Lakisha, or the Chrisses.  I like this style of singing, see, and it doesn't have to be individually memorable when for two minutes of time, it makes me purr at the show instead of hissing at it. 

Votes: 7, for all the same reasons as Gina, but for having less personality (though I tossed in an extra 2 just to spite Simon).  She is kind of a little bit bland, not in the context of this boring pool of singers, but when taken objectively - I mean, I probably wouldn't buy her CD.  I miss Antonella.

6. Phil - The Police, "Every Breath You Take"
See previous note on how much I like The Police.  And then Phil shocked the hell out of me when he sang it well.  He also looked slightly less alien-like when he wore a nice woolen cap to cover the ugly dome (do that every week, please!).  But really...WOW.  I thoroughly enjoyed his performance.  The chorus was spectacular, and he always sounded like the original song. [As an aside, I'm playing the show back now in order to write about it coherently, and I had to watch him sing 3 times in a row.  That's how good it was.]
Votes: 2, as a small reward for being less creepy than usual.  I don't want to encourage him too much, in case he goes back to bad songs and baldness next week, but if he kept on this track?  I could see him sticking around. 

7. Melinda - Donna Summer(?), "Heaven Knows"
FAIL.  Thor's Hammer of FAIL.  Not even Clown Boy was so unenjoyable.  Not even Sanjaya was this unenjoyable!  She was a backup singer, yes? She should have stayed there.  She looks like a backup singer.  I dislike seeing her center-stage trying to be a star.  I still hear nothing special about her voice, though I grant you it's quite loud.  Her outfit was obnoxious.  And for this song, I have zero love.  Combine all these things, and you have the Thor's Hammer of Fail. 

8. Blake - The Cure, "Lovesong" (?)
My love for The Cure extends as far as "A Letter to Elise."  I love that song.  I have never heard anything else by them, and since they are a band, I probably won't love anything else, as the music of bands all kind of blurs together and sounds the same to me.   This song did nothing to change my opinion.  It was boring.  And oh, how I WANTED to praise Blake for stripping most of that nasty gel out of his hair...because wow, if he just dropped the gel entirely and grew his hair a little, he could be so handsome (he's just like Travis from So You Think You Can Dance).  BUT then I noticed he appears to be wearing an earring, possibly 2.  Why?  Why do guys pierce their ears?  Silver studs and small hoops are not attractive; ergo, no reason for the holes in your ears.  Girls wear pretty earrings, so it's okay for them; guys do not have that option, so they should just stay out of it entirely.
Votes: 1.  You are better than all the other guys in general, but I do not forgive consistently boring songs.

9. Jordin - No Doubt, "Hey Baby"
WIN!  WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN!  SO many kinds of win I cannot possibly catalogue them all, but I'm sure gonna try.  Maybe Jordin alone IS reason enough to watch this show. 

First of all, this is my favorite No Doubt song of all time.  But what Jordin did with it?  She made it ten times better.  I had the song stuck in my head so I popped over to radioblogclub.com to add the track to my playlist, but suddenly Gwen sounded whiny and almost scratchy-voiced in comparison to Jordin's full sound.  (only temporarily; it sounds fine now) Jordin did musical runs, lots of fun gestures and facial expressions to connect with the song, and somehow made the fairly uninteresting chorus sound musical and different every time.  Whatever crap the judges said about Melinda being a real performer and making the song her own more accurately applied to Jordin, I think.  Jordin didn't act like a hopeful singer participating in a competition.  With her additional vocals, pointing to the backup singers, and occasional twist on the melody, she acted like a singer giving a full-out concert performance.  This was her own rendition of the song as much as if she were releasing a CD with a remade track on it (the ending was GREAT) - where the hell did Simon get "copycattish" from?!  I even liked her outfit; looked like she belonged to the kind of inner-city school where I imagine this song taking place.

In short, I ADORED THIS PERFORMANCE.  Watched it a good 10 times in a row (yes, I have time to spare like that).  I might even have to pay that selfish Idol monster 99 cents to download this performance and keep it forever.  (serously, FOX, what is wrong with offering free next-day streaming of the performances, like all the other networks do with their good shows?)
Votes: 10, because I really couldn't choose between her and Gina.  I wanted to give her 11 or 12, but Gina's song ranks higher on my list of favorites.  Had to be a tie.

10. Chris Richardson - No Doubt, "Don't Speak"
And, way to end the night with a letdown.   Yawn.  For the first time, I saw how he might remind people of Justin Timberlake.  Of course, that's not a compliment, as Justin is either full-on trash or an exceptionally dull R&B artist.  Guess which one Chris was tonight?  I'm just going to pretend this one didn't happen.  Which is too bad, because "Don't Speak" is third on my list of fave No Doubt songs (after Hella Good), and it would have seemed a little wrong if nobody had picked this one.


Results
Ryan has done a lot of stupid things on this show in the name of gimmicks...but coming out wearing a model of Sanjaya's hairstyle last night was not one of the stupid ones.  BWAHAH!  PRICELESS!  Icons need to be made of that.  Right now.  They could have all kinds of amusing text to accompany Ryan's expression from underneath that Trojan-helment style hair.  And I loved everybody's reaction to it...especially Sanjaya's.  I think it's the first time I've wanted to call the kid "cute" since the first week of the top 24.  Simon's look was pretty good too.  And Randy's.

Ford Music Video "I Fought The Law": Still the best thing about results shows.  Vastly entertaining.  Watched it five times.  Jordin's adorable as the Western sheriff, and Chris not only makes a perfect outlaw cowboy, it's the first time he's ever looked anything close to cute.  Sanjaya looks kind of cute in his Old West gear too.

Performance: Gwen Stefani, "The Sweet Escape."  I don't know that I love this song all that much...the "woo-hoo, yee-hoo" bit is fun to sing, but the song itself is a little boring.  I really like the music video, but not the song all by itself.   However, a live performance is almost as goodas the video.  Apparently she's been labeled a racist for her Asian girl entourage, which is news to me, but I think the dancers are quite cute and sweet.  Much better than the creepy looking misfits who made up the rest of No Doubt. 

Results: When Sanjaya didn't get into the bottom 3, I was pretty sure that Chris S. was going home, and he hadn't even gotten pulled into the center of the stage yet.  I was a little shocked when Phil landed in the bottom three this week; guess I shouldn't have been since he's not very attractive, but...YOU'RE the ones who bitch about it being a singing competition, so come on. He had a good night.  Better than Chris R.

And in the end, Clown Boy went home, and I was delighted.  DELIGHTED I TELL YOU!

One more thing - you know how they play a song over the video montage when someone is sent home?  In this case, Chris Daughtry's single. I wish they wouldn't do this.  Why must they take a popular song and play it week after week, every time someone is eliminated?  It makes me angry, because it ruins the song. "Bad Day" was good until Idol killed it with overplay.  And now they're doing the same thing to "Home" with a 1-2 punch of not only the send-home song, but the incessant commercials for "American Idol online," and it makes me angry because I think I might actually really LOVE the song if I had a chance to hear it in full...but when I just get that same snippet over and over, I get sick of it. 

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