(Since we’ve reached our final four, I’m rambling on for longer than usual in the intro. Live-blogging and spoilers are below the fold–I won’t be offended if you scroll on down.)
There was a lot of grumbling from fans when the finals of the eighth season of American Idol began, some of it with good reason. The Powers That Be seemed to be manipulating the show to an extent never before seen, at least on camera. Worthy singers were dumped in Hollywood for no apparent reason (Jamar Rogers), mediocre singers were advanced to the top thirteen based on physical appearance (Megan Joy) or life story (Scott MacIntyre) more than anything else, and one of the most interesting contestants was not allowed out of the judge-picked wild card round (Tatiana del Toro).
But, once given a chance, America did a good job separating the wheat from the chaff. The not-quite-ready Jasmine Murray was dumped right away. Overly-pimped looker Alexis Grace soon followed. Disappointing bust Lil Rounds, an early favorite, finally went. And with the elimination of Matt Giraud last Wednesday, the last of the dead weight has been eliminated and we have a final four worthy of what has amazingly turned into one of the most compelling seasons of Idol yet.
Danny Gokey was a front runner from the very beginning, with the producers giving him maximum pimpage. Entering the contest in the shadow of his young wife’s tragic death created an immediate rooting interest. But fairly or not, it also created a backlash as some viewers came to believe that the tragedy was being cynically exploited to sell Danny to the masses. Sappy song choices, an over-reliance on big finishes, and apparently disrespecting Smokey Robinson also helped to burn much of the good will that Danny started with at the beginning of the competition.
However, much of his sizable fan base stuck with him, moved by his life story and his big voice. Danny is now a polarizing figure, loved and loathed by many with few in the middle.
Similarly polarizing is Adam Lambert, metal shrieker, tender crooner, flamboyant showman, and force of nature. After a couple of performances designed to kick viewers in the balls, he shocked millions by singing an anguished version of “Tracks of my Tears.” From there he fell into a rut of alternating uptempo songs with ballads, and although he delivered one of the greatest performances in Idol history with his cover of the Gary Jules version of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World,” the act got a little stale and last week Adam found himself not just in the bottom three, but in the bottom two. Another reinvention is in order. Can he do it?
Kris Allen started the competition with the massive disadvantage of never being pimped in the slightest. He snuck into the top thirteen with a mediocre performance of “Man in the Mirror,” to my disappointment. How wrong I was.
A stunning rendition of “Ain’t No Sunshine” put Kris on the map, and consistent performances have kept him there. Picked early to be cannon-fodder, week-by-week, song-by-song, Kris Allen has earned respect and a growing fan base. The defeat of Matt Giraud last week will mean a substantial boost in the size of that fan base, and, with his richly deserved slot in the final four, the young man from Arkansas is well-positioned for one more upset.
I need to get personal with my analysis of Allison Iraheta, because I have no idea what the larger audience makes of her. Allison is my favorite Idol contestant ever. Not the best singer ever, although she is very good, and not the person I believe should win this year. But she’s my favorite. Her quirkiness and her seeming inability to be anyone but herself has utterly charmed me, making the occasional poor song choice and more-than-occasional fashion disaster somehow endearing. I think it’s terrific that a sixteen (just now seventeen) year old would rather be Pat Benatar or Joan Jett than Miley Cyrus. My head is with Adam, but my heart is with Allison.
I don’t think she can win, but there are big things ahead for her regardless. Don’t let the world or the evil record people change you, Allison! I am certain I speak for many others when I say I love you as you are.
This is a great set of contestants. Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Which brings us to where we are. The Final Four. The NFC and AFC championship games. The League Championship Series. The atmosphere is tense, the excitement level is high, and I can’t wait.
Let the games…begin!
Live blogging and spoilers below the fold once the show starts at 7:00 Central. Our weekly best/worst polls after the show is over.
Lots of drama in the Idol world this week, all of it bad. David Cook’s brother died from brain cancer a couple of days ago, and the stage manager fell from a staircase and had to be taken to the hospital. Condolences to David and the Cook family, best wishes for a speedy recovery for Debbie the Stage Manager, and prayers for all affected parties.
Due to the accident and the collapse of a tower on stage, there was no rehearsal this week, so we could be in for an extra-sloppy show.
And the duets rumor is true! Now this should be interesting. I don’t suppose my wish of Adam and Allison dueting on “Please Don’t Touch” by Motorhead and Girlschool will come true, though. Maybe they’ll do it on a future duets album.
I love how they keep showing Slash smoking. I thought that was banned from TV these days. Then again, it’s probably hard to find a shot of Slash without a cigarette in his mouth.
Adam Lambert is opening with “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. Yes! Shriek mania! This is going to be awesome.
Wow, he does a dead-on Robert Plant imitation, and it’s made hilarious by the fact that his clothing and make-up are about as gay as it gets. I don’t know what sort of music Adam hopes to make, but I hope he considers metal. He’s a natural, and this is bad ass.
Fantastic. If I wasn’t live-blogging, I’d rewind that and watch it again.
Randy encourages the metal angle. Finally you said something smart this season, Randy! Kara loves it too, and she looks disturbingly like Quentin Tarantino as she’s lovin’ it. Paula says perfect. Simon says it’s one of his favorite Adam performances and no one is going to be able to top it tonight. He’s probably right. Sweet.
Allison Iraheta loves her new hairdo, and I’m quite fond of it myself. She’s next with Janis Joplin’s “Crybaby,” one of the few Janis songs I’m not sick to death of.
She opens utterly confident, and it just gets better when she gets to the chorus. The full-bodied tone in her voice is awesome. Go Allison!
What a great one-two punch to open the show. That was terrific.
Randy doesn’t love the song choice. Screw you, Randy. Kara is much smarter in liking the pick, although she suggests “Piece of My Heart” instead. Everyone is sick of that song, Kara. Paula says something about her playing Janis in a biopic–Paula, Allison is much better looking. Simon liked it on the whole, but thought it was soundalike.
I’m with Simon on liking Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” as a song choice, but that performance was just fine.
Ryan busts Simon trying to sneak a smoke, and we’re off to the break.
Next is a dueting Kris Allen and Danny Gokey doing Styx’ “Renegade.” It’s easily the best Gokey vocal since he did Rascall Flatts several weeks ago. Kris’ voice is much less suited to the material, but he holds it together, and they sound great harmonizing on the chorus. I enjoyed that, and I hate Styx.
Randy loves the harmonies, and he’s right to. Very nice. Kara thought the verses were a little pitchy but loved the chorus. Paula is positive. Simon says Danny was better than Kris, and it pains me to say that he’s right.
Kris is right back on the hot seat, performing solo. He’s going to do “Come Together,” which, just like the last song, I’m not sure is suited to his voice. Guess we’ll find out.
And I’m afraid I’m right about that. It’s an enjoyable performance, but Kris just doesn’t quite have the power in his voice to put it over. Nothing to be embarrassed about, but he should have picked a different song.
Randy loved the guitar, not so wild about the vocal. Kara thought he was trying too hard. The audience is laughing at Paula trying to be coherent. Simon compares the performance to eating ice for lunch.
Danny Gokey has done a better job picking his song, taking on Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” He’ll have to sing the verses this time, though.
Unfortunately, this is like a parody of Aerosmith. He’s flat on the verse, and overly growly on the chorus. He can’t do the high notes at the end to save his life. He doesn’t remotely have the presence to look like a rock star on stage. Man, that was really bad.
Randy is nicer than he should be. Kara didn’t care for it, but likes that he took a risk. But what if it’s a stupid risk? Paula is positive while slamming him. Simon wasn’t a fan, but still thinks Danny is safe. I hope not, but Simon is probably right.
Allison and Adam will be singing together next. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that they aren’t going to do Motorhead. Which is a shame. Maybe someone should hire me to be an American Idol coach so I can make brilliant suggestions like this for a living.
Instead, they’re doing Foghat’s “Slow Ride.” While I love some good old-fashioned metal screeching, I think this is exactly what Simon means when he says “theme park.” (Do I have to take a shot if I say it myself? Well, if you insist.) The vocals were great, but the whole performance was kind of corny. Maybe it would help if I liked the song better.
The crowd loves it. The judges love it. Am I being too harsh here?
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