Saturday, April 30, 2011

Top 6 - Songs of Carole King

Hello, Idol fans! I'm sorry I was so late this week...was out Weds and Thursday nights, and have only just been able to sit down and watch the show.  But I appreciated all the "where's the blog?" queries--it's nice to hear you're out there reading :).

So, this week's theme is "the music of Carole King."  Now, I think she's great (and not just because she guest starred on Gilmore Girls), but are the producers truly concerned about making these kids seem fresh and current?  It's not that the music's not wonderful, but even in the intro video about how great she is, they show a roster of album covers to indicate who she's written for, and the most recent one there is Celine Dion.  Explain again why you dragged Gwen Stefani onto the show and only let her dress the girls that week?  Ah, well, I certainly don't begrudge King the royalties.  And the songs are cool--maybe one of these kids will manage to pull a David Cook/Adam Lambert and do something fresh with it.  Then again, maybe not.

So, who will be the first contestant to stare blankly at Jimmy while he talks about these songs?  It's Jacob, who meets Jimmy and special guest Babyface as the mentor.  Perhaps is off harvesting new periods.  (Incidentally, Babyface longer babyfaced.)  Jacob is a little rattled by his bottom three finish of last week, but he jumps into rehearsing "Oh No, Not My Baby," which he'll be singing as a duet with a woman who isn't introduced. Jacob is having trouble getting the timing right...perhaps it's because of the terrible mom jeans he's wearing.

I hope he's not affected by his fashion choices, because I think Angry Stylist was smoking a little something before she dressed him this week.  Jacob is wearing a royal blue jacket with a windowpane check in white, with a canary yellow shirt, blue vest, and a bowtie.  He's dressed like a Mormon missionary crossed with Andre 3000.  Jimmy told him that his job was to "soar and riff and just let it go"--i.e., Jimmy has given up on preaching restraint because the judges keep encouraging Jacob in the other direction.  This at least has some bounce and energy to it and doesn't feel too serious, even though I think his last glory note fell off the key a bit.  The crowd goes completely nuts, though.  Steven starts, saying, "We all know you can sing. It's about time you shook your tail feathers." J.Lo praises him for choosing a tough song, and even though he wasn't perfect, he finally brought up the performance level.  (It only took a piano, a band, and three backup singers.)  Randy also says he was good, but ends with a rather limp, "Hopefully America will give you some votes and you'll stick around."  Um, yay?

Next up is Lauren, doing "Where You Lead" (aka the Gilmore Girls theme song!) Heh--in rehearsal Babyface tells her she needs to push harder, and she says that although the judges keep urging her to reach for the high notes, she's worried about missing them.  Babyface asks, "Have you ever gone for them and not hit 'em?"  Lauren, nonplussed, thinks for a minute and says, "No." Babyface stifles a grin and says simply, "Duh."  Jimmy laughs for all of us.  I like Lauren's voice a lot, but this sheepish "I dunno, aw shucks" thing can go any time.  So, performance?  But wait! Before we end rehearsal, in walks a surprise for Lauren...Miley Cyrus!  (Guess she didn't watch last week when Jimmy told Lauren she was a way better singer than Miley.)  Miley was very gracious and complimentary, and Lauren seemed smitten.  She then gets a little bitter as she says that people will always say mean things, so you just have to do what you do.  Fair enough.  (And then she gets a little dig in at Jimmy, who was e-mailed by many angry Miley fans last week. Heh.)

She starts out, and it's definitely in her wheelhouse, but she seems more relaxed, weaving in and out of the backup dancers and the musicians, and pulling a guy out of the audience to sit on the stage.  Hasn't quite gotten it down, though, as she walks away as soon as he sits down!  Oh, good, she comes back to flirt with him for the last verse--he looks at once embarrassed and amused.  And a little too old for her?  Take your hand away, Audience Dude. OK, that was very cute, although I didn't really notice if she did a bunch of high notes.  J.Lo loved it! She feels that Lauren finally did push it, even to the point of her voice cracking, and she approves.  Randy loves her extra swagger--oh, wait, I have to interrupt to talk about Randy's outfit, which I've just seen.  I can conclude only that Angry Stylist a) is also upset with Randy or b) thinks all black people should dress alike, because Randy is in a varsity letter cardigan over a shirt and primary color-striped tie.  If someone gives him a plaid jacket, he and Jacob could start a barbershop duo.  OK, anyway, he doesn't love the song (called it safe and boring--Carole King somewhere cashes a royalty check and says "Fuck you, Randy") but he loved what Lauren did with it.  Steven also loves the crack in her voice and says that's what lets her shine...Lauren is about to cry.  Hee...Ryan pulls Audience Guy up and asks how old he is: 19.  Sends him back home posthaste after recalling for us all that Lauren's only 16.  Ha! I knew he was too old for her.

Eeeeeee! So You Think You Can Dance is almost back! Premieres on May 26. I'm a happy camper, even if they broke Alex Wong.

Non-Idol interlude! So, how did we all like the Royal Wedding? Did we watch? Gordon was up, so woke me at 6 in time to see Kate walk down the aisle.  She looked lovely (and how great were the trees in Westminster Abbey? They should leave them there.) and composed, but I was a little sad that her sister didn't get to stand up there with her.  At least she was able to hang disco balls in Buckingham Palace for the reception!  (Somewhere, Queen Elizabeth is shaking her head and muttering, "Commoners.") And then she and Will didn't hold hands while they were listening to the archbishop speak.  But hey, maybe it's protocol.  At work we were discussing the fact that Will climbed into the horse-drawn carriage first, which seemed rude--but it occurred to us that as the Prince, he always goes first.  Guess Kate better get used to it.  And of course the real star of the wedding has turned out to be the surly 3-year-old flower girl, who had had quite enough of things by the time they kissed on the balcony.  Guess toddlers care little for pomp and circumstance.

OK, back to the show.  Oh, Crystal Bowersox will be on tomorrow night!  I still think she should have won her season--I bought her album, Farmer's Daughter.  It's pretty good! Anyway, we're also doing duets this evening, apparently, and it's time for our first one, sung by Haley and Casey.  They'll be doing "I Feel the Earth Move," and then there's a lot of giddy misspeaking that should confirm their couplehood.  We don't get a rehearsal video for this; instead the banging piano starts right up and out struts Haley, who has definitely paid off Angry Stylist this week.  She's in a cute sparkly one-shoulder LBD and the usual killer heels, and her hair is down and wavy.  She sounds pretty good, but when Casey joins in it sounds AWFUL.  Either the mixing is off, someone's off key, or they can't hear each other.  It's a mess.

Casey sounds good on his own verse, and Haley happily marches around the stage urging the audience to clap along.  They come together for another chorus...nope, still sounds bad.  Fortunately, the rest of the "duet" is mostly alternating sections, so we don't have to listen to the Clash of the Titans any more.  But will the judges call them on it? Or is it just me? Steven starts, and god bless him, he says, "Hey, Weird Beard! How much in love with Haley are you?  It showed, man, it showed. I don't wanna speak for everybody so I will." He then says there was nothing about the performance he didn't like, so I guess it's I who is tone deaf.  And...that's it?  Oh, they seem to be doing only one judge's feedback per duet.  (So this is all just filler, huh?)

Non-Idol interlude!  My house, as usual, is a mess...but more than that, I have both a half-eaten package of Peeps AND a Christmas wreath still in my kitchen.  Maybe I should leave them both there until Hallowe'en and go for the trifecta with a jack o'lantern.

Time for Scotty to perform.  (Man, they've kind of buried him this week...think they're trying to handicap him a little bit?)  He's mindful of the fact that last week the judges told him he was coasting, and this week he's singing "You've Got a Friend."  In rehearsal, Jimmy is trying desperately to teach him something about dynamics and phrasing, by adjusting the opening verse.  I suspect Scotty's thinking, "Whatever, y'all, I just sing." (Or saaang, as the accent may be.)  Will he get it before performance.

Huh, he seems to--starts in his upper register, lightly, with only a guitarist and a fog machine to accompany him.  (Everyone sings better with a fog machine.)  Then the lights come up, and he has a whole string section, plus some backup singers!  He's actually doing a lovely job, I must admit.  Instead of his low low usual, he's staying up, it's light, and it feels kind of James Taylor-y--basically, it's still country, but could almost be folk pop or lite FM rock (which is actually a pretty big stretch for him).  OK, despite the fact that he still holds the microphone weird, and makes creepy bedroom eyes at the camera, that was very well done, and a real departure for Scotty.  Think he just sewed this whole thing up.  The crowd is losing their minds.

Randy starts and says it was "really cool that you turned the other cheek" and praises his "buttery tenor." Loves his range, and in fact is moved to offer actual, helpful criticism! (Don't fall off the high notes.)  Steven also liked it, and acknowledged that because he was at the top of his register, he wasn't holding the notes as long, but that was fine.  J.Lo says, "When we hear you sing a song like that, that's why we couldn't let you get away with last week."  OK, yes, J.Lo, you're so visionary.  Too bad it took you six weeks to tell him.  But of course she loves him too.  Hey, can't blame them this week.

Non-Idol interlude! Everyone, I'm beginning to fear that Wally has a substance abuse problem.  We buy him these corrugated cardboard scratch pads, which he loves (and is why my living room is covered in shreds of cardboard all the time).  They're also infused with catnip, and Wally has taken to just lying on them and...licking the cardboard.  It's sad, really.  I feel like I'm watching Trainspotting. And I'm his pusher! I'm so ashamed.

Next up, James is singing. Before his rehearsal vid even airs, I've found tonight's reason to hate him.  He is wearing a dangly silver feather earring in one ear.  I'm sorry, even if he's one of the better singers, he makes me want to punch him because he's such a cliche.  How is he going to make "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" into a rockstravaganza?  Actually, he promises not to use any gimmicks this week--Babyface says that James' stripped-down version blew him away.  (You know, I'd rather hear him do a sped-up punk version--I think that would be fun. But James didn't ask me, inexplicably.)  That feather earring is still there--does he wear that all the time and I've just now noticed it?  Must have been distracted by the butt scarves.

OK, performance time:  He begins with a single guitar chord, and then sings the opening bars slowly and a capella, holding the notes until they cry "uncle." When the band comes in for the second verse, we cut to J.Lo, who is shimmying in her seat like a proud mama.  I will grudgingly admit that James sounds good, and the absence of ridiculous pyrotechnics is a relief.  I could stand for his phrasing to be a little more elegant, and the pacing wobbled between "deliberate" and "leaden" in spots, but overall, it was a good song! He definitely held his own against Scotty.  Haley & Casey are going to have some doing to top these two.

Steven loved the beginning, didn't love the middle but it grew on him.  And then, we get a glimpse into Steven's past: "That song was the first song I ever made out with a girl to.  It was in a bowling alley and no, Randy, I didn't strike out."  Can you imagine Steven Tyler bowling?  I would pay cash money to see that.  I imagine his bowling ball with six-foot streamers coming off it.  J.Lo calls it "magical" and predicts that he will be the star of the night.  Oh, Scotty, how soon they forget!  Randy says that James "turned the other cheek" tonight (second time he's used that phrase, and in neither case has he used it correctly) by proving that he's not just a rocker, he's a singer.  The audience explodes and Ryan starts saying to James, "Go give him a hug, go give him a hug."  James tries to comply, but undoes all his rock cred by being unable to unplug from his amp, so that Randy has to get up and come hug him, and then for some reason James feels like he has to plug BACK in (creating feedback while Ryan's throwing to commercial) so that he can hit his rock star pose again.  Someone's not quite a superstar yet, is what we're saying.

Non-Idol interlude! Today Gordon and I went into Manhattan to meet two of his old college friends, Dean and Caroline, and their kids.  Because there were small children in tow, we didn't do anything fancy for lunch, just went to Uno's.  (I remember going to Boston w/my high school buddy Cheryl and eating there--so exotic, the Chicago pizza!--and ordering virgin strawberry daiquiris. Oh how we lived on the edge!)  Uno's have expanded beyond their traditional deep-dish offerings, and offer among a myriad of choices, a thin-crust mushroom, garlic and cheddar pizza that was delicious!  I would recommend it highly if you find yourself in a chain dining situation.  (Idolblog: servicey!)

Lauren and Scotty are our next duet partners, and while I'm sure it will be good, I wish they wouldn't keep putting them together.  It's boring and obvious!  I'd like to hear Lauren sing with James on something rock--why doesn't anyone on the show seem to remember that she was the Aerosmith girl in auditions?  (She was, wasn't she? Am I wrong?)  Anyway, Lauren and Scotty will be singing "Up on the Roof," and I don't feel like recapping all their video nonsense.  It's like watching a brother and sister rag on each other at the dinner table.  Let's wait for the stage...

And here we are!  Both are seated on the IdolSteps (TM), and Lauren starts us off, laying the country twang on thick.  For the record, she has declined to hold her mike like a flute, a la Scotty.  The two of them sound very nice together, as they always do, but the country swing isn't exactly setting the stage on fire.  As they go on, Lauren seems to have taken heart from her earlier song, and is belting out the high notes, to the point where she's kind of drowning out Scotty. But they both did well. Ha! J.Lo says the same thing! I am so good at this!

Non-Idol interlude! This ad for the movie "Hoodwinked Too" makes me sad.  You know how some movies just feel like merchandise instead of stories?  It's left me unable to comment further. Just heave a sigh here and be done with it.

When we come back, Ryan confuses me by saying, "I was just gonna say hi to Carole King, who's over here." They cut to a woman who is lovely, but distinctly NOT Carole King.  Ah, turns out Ryan meant "Carole King's daughter, Sherry." Guess Carole didn't want to come. Just as well.

Casey's in the penultimate spot this week, singing "Hi de Ho" (sp? got me).  It's totally bluesy, and Casey jams with Babyface and Don Was in rehearsal.  I think Casey's never going to be a pop star, but I bet he winds up becoming a producer.  I think he'd be good at that! Or maybe he'll just be a jazz musician.  He starts out his performance seated at a white piano, and I have to say he looks pretty dapper!  Angry Stylist clearly worked out all her frustrations on Randy and Jacob, because Casey's in a black, nicely fitted suit, and a black fedora.  (Which is kind of douchey in and of itself, but A.S. dressed all the backup musicians the same way, so it looks OK.) He gets up from the piano, which is actually being played by someone else (who knew they had DHs in piano?), and saunters over to the harmonica player...who may be a little person?  I think he is.  Oh, wait, he's just sitting on a box.  Never mind.  There's a female trumpeter with some serious guns on her, and an assortment of backup singers coming out of the dark.  To be honest, Casey sounds like his usual growly self, but the only interesting thing here is that he appears to be performing with the cast of Carnivale.  Kids aren't going to go for this stuff.

Randy thinks the song was written for Casey, and that he loves how New Orleans bluesy the performance was.  (Because that's totally Top 40.)  Steven says Casey's found his niche and thinks it was " the best motherf---LOVIN' show I've seen."  J.Lo agrees that he was in his element, but would like to see him loosen up physically a bit.  Whatever. I hope they let him keep the suit.

Non-Idol interlude! Popcorn! (That's it. I made popcorn. I sprinkled it with Onion & Herb Mrs. Dash, because I'm edgy like that.  Just how I roll.)

So, Haley gets the pimp spot this week, but will it help her enough?  In her pre-performance video, she's doing herself no favors by wearing a truly atrocious headband that has...beads? Knitted flowers? Mysterious fungi? all over it.  She looks like she's had a head injury.  Haley, Angry Stylist did right by you this week... maybe you should start checking with her before you dress yourself.  She'll be singing "Beautiful," which I don't think I know.  Jimmy and Babyface get after her about her phrasing, and particularly want her to emphasize the word "get" in one line.  It's not a bad lesson, as it gives her singing more emotion in that spot.  Could Jimmy know what he's talking about, even if his name has no periods?

We cut to what should be the start of Haley's performance, but instead Ryan tells us there's a technical issue.  Haley is fussing with her mike pack and saying that "her ears weren't working," but it's OK now.  While they sort that out, I'll tell you that Haley should have stuck with her duet dress.  This one is a sort of blush-beige-nude color, with spangles all over it, and it has those loose sleeves with slashed-open seams that feel so 70s.  She's also in the shortest skirt imaginable.  It is honestly approaching "Did she forget her pants?" territory.

I don't really like this song--it feels more dated than most of the others tonight, although I could imagine it being a Christina Aguilera song on the chorus.  She's also not as strong at working the stage or the crowd as she could be.  OK, I'm bored.  This song is going on forever, she sounds fine, but the same.  How was this considered the best of the night?  Or was it just Haley's turn to go last?  It was fine, but no great shakes.  Steven, however, says "He just saw God." Eek, and then he quotes Marianne Williams! Steven's been doing some reading.  J.Lo agrees, "Beautiful. You have one of the best voices in this competition." Of course, if Pia taught us anything, it's that this doesn't matter when you're boring.  Randy tries to edge it up with a little criticism, saying he didn't love the beginning, but J.Lo jumps in to scoff, "Whatever." The whole thing sort of devolves, and to top it off, as Ryan reads off her numbers, Haley does the traditional "hold up your fingers" move, but it's totally obscured by her chyron banner.  Hope most of her voters aren't illiterate.

And we're done! Wha? We're not done? No, we have one more duet, with James and Jacob. (Why? Can't we just stop, show?)  They're singing "I'm Into Something Good."  People, I remain unconvinced that Jacob is excited about meeting a girl in his neighborhood.  Not that there's anything wrong with that. Let's just say that, when the boys come downstage to serenade J.Lo, I don't think Marc Anthony is getting jealous.  The song ends, and somewhere Simon lifts his head from doodling "Mr. X Factor" in his notebook to drawl, "Cruise ship."  Steven burbles something kind of incoherent, which is appropriate given the fact that the duet was less than harmonious in style, but no one cares because it doesn't matter.  (Why did Steven do it? Randy didn't critique a duet, did he?) Can we go now?

Yes! We can! It seems silly to predict a bottom three when I already know the loser, but I'll say that Casey is joined by Jacob and Haley.  If so, then they'll send Jacob back to the seats first so that the lovers can suffer together as long as possible.  Guess I have to fire up the Tivo and see if I'm right!  Thanks everyone for reading...see you Wednesday (for real this time).

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