It was Motown night on “American Idol,” with Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy in attendance and, as Marvin Gaye wrote, “Let’s Get It On!” Matt Giraud, the piano-playing bluesy dude did a good job with that song, but the best performer of the night was Adam Lambert.
I have been saying that Adam is in a league by himself for some time now, but he really showed it tonight. This night, he even went sort of pit-boss macho, with his black hair greased back, no nail polish, very little (if any) eye liner, a Vegas-y silver suit and black shirt, and an interpretation of “Tracks of My Tears” that almost brought Smokey Robinson (in the audience) to tears…in a good way. Adam sat on a stool and sang with acoustic guitar backing, and he hit those high notes like a pro, which he is. That last great note on “I need” earned Adam a standing “O.” Kara declared his performance “Awesome!” Other comments included, “I love the clean look tonight. You are exciting!” “You, tonight, really have emerged as a star. Congratulations!” When one of the judges said it was “One of the best performances of the night” (Kara, I believe) Simon corrected her, saying, “It was THE best performance of the night.” Randy declared Adam’s version to be “unbelievably hot. It’s the bomb tonight.” For me, just as our presidential election came down to whether America was ready to elect an African-American president (we were) the question is whether America is ready to elect an openly gay (or bi-sexual) “American Idol.” (I am. How about the rest of the country?)
So, who is in trouble this week and likely to be sent packing on Thursday, March 26?
In no particular order, the weakest performers of the night (for me, and, also, for most of the judges) were Michael Sarver, the oilrig guy, who sang “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” Michael seems like a very nice fellow. Michael is at home with C&W tunes. When one of the judges (Simon) says to you, “You are taking part in this competition. You have no chance of winning it. In the real world, you don’t have a chance,” well, not good news. Megan Corkrey, who has been struggling since the Wild Card days, also had another “off” night. I liked her performance of “For Once In My Life” much more than the judges did. Again, “that song was a train wreck for me.” (Randy). “An atrocious song, horrible performance. You could be in serious trouble after that performance.” (Simon) On the plus side, he said, “You look good,” but followed that up with “It was horrible.” [Yikes!]
The second-best received performer of the night (after Matt Giraud) was probably Milwaukee’s pride, church choral director Danny Gokey who did an up-tempo number (“You’re All Right”). Most of the judges were kind to Danny, but Simon said, “We know you’re a good singer, but that was clumsy and amateurish.” Kara tempered her criticism with, “Not great, but I’m still a huge Danny fan.” Randy thought it was “Not your best.”
I found the singing to be fine, but Danny does not have “the moves” that, earlier in the evening, Simon referenced when he said, to Kris Allen after Kris had sung “How Sweet It is” (another Marvin Gaye song), “You’ve got to start to believe in yourself. You’ve got to be conceited. Self-belief. You’ve got to make an impact.” It is this “make an impact” self-conceit that Adam Lambert mastered years ago. He’s good, and he knows it. He has “stage presence.” Danny, vocally, was fine. His moves around the stage somewhat awkwardly, however, and has even referenced his need for training in the choreography area. Adam Lambert has been appearing on Broadway in “Wicked,” among other vehicles, for at least 5 years. Do I need to belabor the point that, in a “who can command the stage better” competition and more than hold his own vocally, Adam Lambert wins, hands down. However, that “recent widower/choir director” back-story will come into play with American for Danny. I just hope that justice is done and talent is rewarded when this whole thing winds down. It seems like it should come down to Adam and Danny, but there’s still time for Matt, Lil and Allison to change that prediction.
How about the other contestants this night?
Allison Iraheta ended the night on a positive note with “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, with Randy declaring her version to be “blazing hot.” Kara was perhaps the most over-the-top, declaring, “You sing like you’ve been singing for 400 years! You can’t teach that.” Simon felt that her song was “Really one of your best performances that you’ve ever done,” but kept things real (as Randy would say) by reminding Allison that she “had a terrible week last week.”
Kris Allen sang “How Sweet It Is” and earned the comments from Simon about “starting to believe in ” himself. Scott MacIntyre, the blind contestant, probably remained safe, singing “You Can’t Hurry Love.” At first, Scott began singing with a slow dirge-like arrangement, and I was fearful. (Simon’s comment: “It wasn’t a great version.”) Simon also felt it was “completely the wrong song for you” and dubbed it “cheap,” but the boos from the crowd indicate Scott will probably stick around for a while. Kara felt he had “taken liberties with the melody” and suggested that “Reach Out and Touch” would have been a better song choice. [I’m looking forward to whatever week the judges PICK for the contestants, as they seem to spend all their time criticizing the song choices the contestants, themselves, have made.]
Anoop Desai sang “Oooh, Baby, Baby” and was told, “You’ve had 2 good weeks in a row now,” but I agreed with Simon, who said, “You looked half asleep.” (I was half asleep before Anoop was finished with his song.) Lil Rounds was told that her version of “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas did not give her “a moment” (i.e., no heat) (Simon). All judges seemed to feel that her version was “rushed” and one judge (Kara) even dared suggest that Lil was “screaming at certain points.” Simon did say, in a kinder, gentler way, “You are one of the best singers we have in this competition,” so there should be hope for Lil for staying in, unless audiences regard her the same way they regarded the always reliable, always good Melinda Dolittle. It seemed that Melinda, just like Rodney Dangerfield could have pronounced, “I don’t get no respect” and Lil may fall into that category. She seems older, more mature. She is the mother of three. Rather than working for her, is this working against her? (Lil certainly has the vocal chops.)
To me, the crowd “favorites” based on factors other than talent (who are not necessarily my favorites) seem to be the blind guy (Scott MacIntyre), the church choral director with the widower back story (Danny Gokey), the cute guy(s) (Kris Allen, and…as things progress. more-and-more Matt Giraud, as well the likeable Indian kid, AnoopDesai) and, of course, the oil rig dude, Michael Sarver (see review above). The audience voted Allison Iraheta in the bottom 3 recently, even though the 16-year-old has one of the strongest voices in the competition. It’s that intangible “likeability” factor, which Allison may not have, and it is undeniably true that Allison’s interviews have been lackluster.
I totally agree with Simon’s assessment that Michael Sarver has no chance, and, quite frankly, I think it was only because Simon liked her that Megan Corkrey got this far. She has not proven herself to be ‘a contender” for the Finals of the competition, which, right now, looks like it will be an all-male replay of the Clay Aiken/Ruben Stoddard year.
For me, I’ll be chanting “A-dam! A-dam! A-dam!” I’m anxious hear him sing each week, knowing that it will be spot-on, interesting, true talent on display, and (sometimes) controversial.