I wasn’t going to do a recap of last night’s performance by the final two, but after reading Gordon’s live blog, I felt compelled to respond. My response? Gordon is smoking large amounts of delicious crack rock.
Last night’s episode was good in spots, but overall, it was fairly disappointing. I guess I will review each performance round by round.
In this round, the contestants get to pick their favorite performance from the season. I hate it when they do this. Shouldn’t we get a new performance here? As evidenced by Archuleta’s performance of “Imagine” during last year’s finale, something usually gets lost during a repeat performance of these songs. It could be that the initial surprise of any vocal tricks or arrangement adjustments has worn off, but these rarely seem to be able to compare to the first performance. Until now.
Adam Lambert: Adam wisely picks the Gary Jules version of “Mad World” for his favorite performance. This was the performance that had many people proclaiming Adam Lambert to be a genius the first time around. I actually did not like it as much as many other viewers did, preferring instead his earlier performance of Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of my Tears.” That said, I think Adam’s performance of “Mad World” last night was more restrained, more emotional, and more affecting than his original performance. I could have done without the fog machine and Hellraiser jacket, but Adam sang the song very well.
Kris Allen: For some reason, I was kind of expecting to hear Kris perform “Heartless” tonight, because in my opinion it has been his most relevant performance to date, showing his ability to take a current pop hit and successfully rework it to suit his style. However, I think Kris actually made the right choice in picking “Ain’t No Sunshine.” First, Kris just performed “Heartless” last week, so it wouldn’t have seemed as fresh. Second, “Ain’t No Sunshine” was the first performance from Kris that made people recognize him as a genuine contender for the top spot, and having a reminder of that moment was a good boost to Kris’s underdog status going into tonight. Finally, Kris actually outdid himself, turning in an even stronger performance than his first. Kris did a lot tonight to remind us why he’s there, and he also showed how much he has grown over the season by improving on one of his standout performances of the season.
WINNER: KRIS (barely!)
Ah, the dreaded producer’s pick, a job that used to fall to Clive Davis before his old, scaly ass got the boot from the show. Now the job has been given to producer Simon Fuller, and someone needs to take it away from him, pronto! Perhaps credit Obama for this, but for some reason we get a couple of late 60’s protest songs from two of the greatest male soul singers of their generation, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye. Why? Both songs are iconic, and neither belongs on a glorified pop karaoke contest like Idol. And here’s why.
Adam Lambert: Who in the hell could have possibly thought that Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gonna Come” was an appropriate choice for Adam? Seriously, Simon Fuller, what were you thinking? Was it some sort of sly reference to the plight of the gay population as they fight for marital rights, much like African Americans fought for voting rights in the 60’s? No matter the reasoning, it was stupid, and Adam did the best he could with it. Despite a few moments that sounded overly screechy and took away from the melody, there were some more restrained moments that actually showed a gospel side to Adam’s voice that had not been heard up to this point. It was an uneven performance, but I think the good just slightly outweighed the bad.
Kris Allen: Kris was saddled with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On,” and here’s one of the areas in which I think Gordon is smoking crack when he says that this song doesn’t have enough melody. What? Seriously? Kris takes the familiar acoustic route on this one, and I don’t think I would blame the song for this performance’s ultimate failure. No, I think Kris Allen is to blame. This is a powerful song, and Marvin Gaye was able to convey genuine pain, confusion, and sadness in his untouchable rendition of this song. When Kris Allen performs it, the song just sounds like a bouncy little pop tune with little emphasis on the weight of the lyrics or the message they contain. It was a coffee house performance, and I was not impressed.
And even more dreaded than the producer’s pick is the always cringe-inducing Idol song. There have been many bad songs in the past, such as Jordin and Blake’s “This Is My Now,” but that was absolutely topped last season with David Cook’s “Time Of My Life,” which actually contains lyrics about a “magic rainbow.” Not kidding. For the past couple of seasons, these songs were submitted to the Idol songwriting contest, which has apparently gone the way of the dodo. But not to worry, because Kara DioGuardi, the queen of insipid pop drivel, is on the show and has contributed a song for this year’s Idols to sing. It’s called “No Boundaries,” and it makes me want to strangle a puppy. This one even manages to be particularly insensitive to residents of our recently storm-plagued Gulf Coast, containing an inexplicable line about “Weather(ing) the hurricane.” Nice.
Adam and Kris: I will quickly review both singers together, because they were both saddled with this terrible pile of dreck. No singer could work with this song, and it was proven by both Adam and Kris. Adam missed several notes and seemed lost, while the song was in the wrong key for Kris’s voice. The music itself was much more suited for Kris’s singing style, but the key issues keep him from gaining a solid edge. Both singers went down in flames on this one, and I hope that Kara will not be back next season to contribute more awful crap like this, not to mention her worthless, rambling commentary delivered with her ridiculous finger-wagging and head-bobbing.
So that makes the final count 1-1-1, and we have a tie ball game! Who’s going to win? I can honestly say that I do not know, but I actually have a feeling in my gut that it will be Kris.
If you have ever watched “America’s Next Top Model,” they have a way of referring to models as either “commercial” or “editorial.” Commercial models are more conventionally pretty and better suited for mainstream ad work, whereas editorial models are more edgy and appropriate for high fashion and avant garde campaigns. Obviously, Kris would be the commercial model, and Adam is the editorial. Kris has so much more mainstream appeal than Adam, whether it be his boyish good looks, his shy southern charm, or his safe and inoffensive vocal delivery. Adam seems to be much more on the love-him-or-hate-him side of things. While both singers failed with Kara’s horrorshow song, Kris would have benefited immensely from a simple key change, while the song itself was just not suited to Adam’s style. This is the type of album that the winner will have to make, and Kris is much better equipped to handle this dreck than Adam. For that reason, I think Kris should win, lest Adam be drained of every single ounce of the flamboyant personality that made him such a hit this season.