The American Idol Top 9 hit the stage for “Top Downloads Week” Tuesday night. Going in, most had no idea what such an ambiguous theme might mean, but it was clarified quickly. “Top Downloads” would be a song taken from the downloads charts from iTunes, the music service for the bestselling Apple iPods. After a videotape of a brief trip into Ryan Seacrest’s studio in Los Angeles, where the American Idol host counts down the “American Top 40” every week, the Top 9 finalists hit the stage.
Anoop Desai started things off with his version of Usher’s “Caught Up.” It sounded a bit off-time at first but got better as the “Noop Dog” went along. Not bad; but nothing memorable, and certainly nowhere near as good as his vocal performance during Motown Week. American Idol judge Randy Jackson was “torn,” liked the vocals, but not the song choice. Kara DioGuradi said he sounded “safe,” or like a bunch of frat boys had dared him to sing Usher. Paula Abdul said he needed to take chances with the band. Simon Cowell anchored the panel with heavy sinkers, telling Anoop Desai that the performance was a “complete and utter mess,” that he “came over as a wannabe,” and that it “literally gave me a headache.”
Megan Joy Corkrey did Bob Marley/Lauren Hill’s “Turn The Lights Down Low.” And true to form, she completely butchered it. A simple song, but one not to be fooled with if you don’t have the vocal talent for it. Megan Corkrey continues to prove that she’s the one that should be kicked off the show. Somehow, for whatever reason, she manages to remain. (And I still believe that when she get the boot, the American Idol judges will use their one and only Save) The judges weren’t thrilled with her performance, either. Kara said, ” I really like you but I think you’re in trouble.” Paula told Megan to “dig deep.” Simon told her it was “boring,” “indulgent,” “monotonous,” and it “wasn’t you.” (This writer begs to differ.) Randy said it was “like watching paint dry.” All the judges thought she definitely picked the wrong song. But it is more that the American Idol judges picked the wrong person in the Wild Card Round. Megan Joy Corkrey has demonstrably screeched, flat-noted, and woodenly enunciated her way through some great songs in the past few weeks, and not one of them sounded worthy of a top finalist in a national singing competition.
Thank heavens Danny Gokey was next. He sang Rascal Flatts’ “What Hurts The Most.” He put his heart into it and you could tell. Danny Gokey is a sentimental favorite on the show and it just might get him the win. Simon Cowell told him that it was his “best performance” and that the show was “three in and the best of the competition” so far. Randy agreed, saying, “Tonight’s competition begins here.” Kara said, You moved everyone in this room emotionally.” And since many in the room (and around the nation) knew Danny Gokey’s story, of how his wife died just four weeks before he auditioned for the show and how his grandfather passed away over the weekend, it is doubtful there were many eyes that weren’t misty by the end of Danny Gokey’s stirring performance.
Then it was Allison Iraheta’s turn. She performed “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt. She did a passably good job, adding her gravelly vocal twist to the song. It wasn’t memorable but what she was wearing certainly was. With a red dress over black pants and white-strapped shoes, she looked like a little girl gone wild in a thrift store. Randy Jackson complimented her singing and then incredulously asked, “What are you wearing? I don’t get it.” But when he asked the audience, they cheered. Kara said, “The rock in you comes out of you no matter what you’re wearing.” She added, “You don’t have to try; you just are.” Paula Abdul said she had “vocal prowess” and was “skating by and right to the finish line.” Simon said, “Can’t ignore the outfit,” that it was “something out of the Adam’s family.” He added that “we lost your identity” and she “shouted the song,” to which Randy said, “I don’t agree with that.”
Then Scott MacIntyre returned to form with “Just The Way You Are” by Billy Joel. It was a solid performance, something you know that Scott MacIntyre will be giving for years to come. He’s a professional, but his style, although definitely marketable to the contemporary Christian, adult contemporary genres, is not long for Season 8’s competition. It was good enough to get past Megan Corkrey’s dissonant atrocity. Kara said that his music was “coming from an honest place.” Paula liked the way he performed the song without an orchestra, then said she liked the way he made people forget about his “challenge.” (She disclaimed thinking about his challenge, “forgetting” he had a challenge, but repeatedly said that he was challenged. Sometimes, Paula simply should listen to Simon whispering for her to stop talking.) Simon Cowell said it was “your best performance by a country mile.” Then he and Paula argued over whether she had told Scott to not use his piano. Randy Jackson jumped in, saying that MacIntyre’s performance was “one of the best of the night.”
Matt Giraud contributed “You Found Me” by The Fray. It was a bit stilted, it seemed, although not done poorly. He seemed to lose the soulfulness that has characterized his performances in the past several weeks. It was a nice touch that the American Idol producers allowed audience members to surround him and his keyboard while he performed. Paula was blunt, saying it “wasn’t a great performance.” Simon agreed. “I didn’t get it at all.” He added that it was “uptight,” “not a good commercial song,” and was “just uncomfortable.” Randy Jackson said it was the “wrong song choice” and that Matt needed to “let all that flavor out.” Kara said, “You’ve got to commit” but that he did not “deserve to go home.”
After last week’s severely disappointing version of “Heatwave” for Motown Week, many were anxious to see what Lil Rounds would do to try and bounce back, because there is no way this girl is going home anytime soon. She chose Celine Dion’s “I Surrender.” It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t an attention-grabber, either. But the performance did not hurt her. Randy Jackson said that he would have not chosen that particular song, but that she had “sang it really, really well.” Kara said that it was a “glimpse of what we saw in the beginning” and that the viewers “need to see more of that.” Paula said that she didn’t “want to see an adult contemporary Lil Rounds.” Simon said that it was “similar to a wedding performance,” that it was too “old fashion.” He flat-out told her to “Stop this; you’re too good.”
Best aside of the night came when Ryan Seacrest, just after Lil Rounds performance review by the judges, asked Lil Rounds’ two little girls if they had something to say about Randy being mean to mommy (although Randy may have been the nicest of them all). The first little girl clammed up. He then asked the littlest one if she wanted to hit Randy and she said, “Yes.” So Ryan carried her from her seat in the audience toward Randy, who says, “But I love mommy.” The little girl just threw her arms around the big guy’s neck and held on tight. Lil Rounds’ eyes were streaming when Ryan read off the phone number for viewers.
There comes a point in every show when you sometimes wonder if the entire show is going to be just a run of mediocre performances. Sometimes that feeling is dispelled fairly quickly. But on Tuesday evening’s American Idol, only one performance had stood out: Danny Gokey’s. A few had been fairly good: Allison’s, Scott’s, and Lil’s. Anoop and Matt had been passable. And Megan Corkrey had been her usual vocally hideous self. There were only two left to save the show from mediocrity.
Many have come to look forward to Adam Lambert’s weekly performances. A consummate singer, his style is dramatic and surprisingly infectious. And he has a vocal range and control that is unbelievable. But when he announced in the intro that he was performing “Play That Funky Music (White Boy),” the old Wild Cherry funk standard, there had to have been a few doubts. This writer admits to having doubts. But, then, once AdamLambert began to sing, they quickly went away. He not only nailed the performance, but he looked the part, strutting on stage. And at the end, when he reared back and screamed, he simply iced the vocal cake – with a wild cherry on top. Paula was up on her feet. Everybody in the audience was up on their feet. Paula Abdul gushed, “True genius does not meet expectations; true genius shatters expectations.” Then she compared him to Mick Jagger. (When Paula goes overboard, it is never by half-measures.) Simon said it was a “very brave” performance, “original,” and Adam looked like he “had a good time.” Randy admitted that he thought before he saw it that the performance “could be a little corny,” but that Adam had “worked it out” and got “in the zone.” Kara Dioguardi added to the lovefest, stating that she could not “wait to get to the show to see what you’re going to do next.”
Kris Allen ended the show. After Adam Lambert’s rousing performance, you might have felt a bit sorry for Kris. That is, you might have up until he began doing his version of the Bill Withers classic “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Kris sat behind the keyboards and crooned perhaps the best version of the song since the original. And his version was original as well. Accompanied by strings about halfway through, the song was simply done to perfection. Randy Jackson was effusive, telling Kris Allen he was “slayin’ ’em, dude.” He added, “One of the best performances.” Kara said only three words: “That is artistry.” (Three more words: She is correct.) Paula Abdul said that Kris was “pacing this competition” and playing to his strengths, that it was his “best performance to date.” She added that it “should be your first single.” Simon said he liked Kris “behind the keyboards” and that it was his “best performance so far.”
So they saved the best two for last, ending the show on a high note.
Going into the results show, your best three performers were Danny Gokey, Adam Lambert, and Kris Allen. The solid performers were Lil Rounds, Allison Iraheta, Scott MacIntyre. The bottom three: Megan Corkrey, Anoop Desai, and Matt Giraud.
As long as Vote For The Worst doesn’t skew the numbers too much, Megan Corkrey should be going home this week. Her performance was immeasurably worse than anyone else’s.
“American Idol,” Fox Television