Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Top 4 - Inspirational Songs and Leiber & Stoller (and Gaga)

We are getting down to the wire, beloved readers! This week marks our final four, and I thought it would be home visit week, but I jumped the gun. Guess that's next week.  But first, there must be judges! And singing! The judges walk out and Steven Tyler appears to be wearing a raccoon tail in his hair.  The contestants come out, and one of the girls has a long train--oh, lord, it's Lauren, wearing the classic Trailer Park Ball Gown--miniskirt in the front, chapel-length train in the back.  Klass-ay, Lauren.  She must have slept with Angry Stylist's boyfriend.

Once again the contestants will be singing multiple songs.  In round one, "Songs that Inspire Them."  Ugh, that is an impulse that does no one any good.  Round two, "Songs from the Oeuvre of Leiber & Stoller."  Way to keep it fresh, show--when you need to post a black & white picture of your theme artist, you're reaching too far back.  And of course, the natural musical mentor for Leiber & Stoller week? Lady Gaga.  I love her, but that's insane.  Why didn't they just do a Gaga week?

James Durbin is first, and he's singing "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey.  I'd say this was a perfect choice for him, except it's been "Glee"'d to death by now.  As it turns out, he's sharp through about half the song, and suffers by comparison to Steve Perry, who creates a much fuller sound than thin-voiced James.  But of course, Steven Tyler still loves him.  J.Lo praises his upper register, which I think is a mistake tonight, as it was pinched and shrill. Randy Jackson of course has to remind people that he was in Journey (yeah, for two years, in the 80s), but he loved it too.  As we learned last week, the ability to hit notes accurately is not required in an Idol.  Oh, I rarely harp on the boys' sartorial choices, but you should all know he's wearing a Journey concert tee under a black tailcoat.

Non-Idol interlude! Today I learned what a damselfly penis looks like. Also, a bird flea penis. This was for work. I can't un-see those images, people.  Only overlay them with images of Steven Tyler's Bella Abzug wardrobe. Not exactly a win-win situation, there.

The judges dutifully hawk Steven's book for a bit, and then it's on to Haley's inspirational song: "The Earth Song" by Michael Jackson.  I'm unfamiliar with this one, but Haley is in the sparkly lame version of a hippie tunic over tight sparkly black leggings, and she's in a red spotlight.  (The rest of the stage is blue. Don't know what the decision was here.)  Haley's voice sounds raspy and hoarse, and I think she blew her pipes out last week.  She still ramps up into her screamy screeching, but this was a travesty.  Bad song choice, dumb performance, and she's killing her instrument.  Girlfriend needs to get booted so she can get some training and a better contract.

OMG, J.Lo is actually giving decent feedback! Unfortunately, her feedback is basically, "Dumbass, why'd you pick that song? James came out here and did Journey, a karaoke favorite. And you choice some turgid save-the-whales song that no one can sing? Step up and compete already!"  The audience kind of boos halfheartedly, but they don't care either.  Randy's next, and he agrees with J.Lo before saying, "These are the things I didn't like about what you did." Uh-oh, there's a list? Poor Haley. He says the song didn't suit her, and she was screaming unpleasantly at the end. Randy says it was at the top of her range, and she pipes up to say it's not, and Randy fires back, "Well, you were screaming." Damn! She's fighting back, Steven pipes in to disagree, Randy tries to reiterate and Haley CUTS HIM OFF and says, "I heard it!"  Hee! That was the most interesting she's been all season. Though kind of bitchy. She's in trouble. Steven comes back and says, "Ignore them, it was beautiful!" OK, this is too long and boring, and Ryan accidentally riles them up again.  Shut up, all of you!

Next Ryan introduces "Scotty the Body," which feels kind of molesty.  Oh, god. Can you guess what he's singing? Toby Keith would have been a good guess, but you're wrong. "God Bless the USA?" Nope, but close: "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?" by Alan Jackson. Oh, goody, a 9/11 song.  Just what Idol needs.

Mid-Idol interlude! I just had to stop and clip Wally's claws. Never say I don't live a full life.

OK, back to Scotty and his pandering. He's playing guitar, sitting on a stool, accompanied by a fiddle player who gets no stool of her own. She has to sit on the end of the stage. This whole song is all "Aw, shucks, I'm a simple country boy." Let's just say there's a lyric in there that goes "I love Jesus, and I talk to God." Yeah, Scotty, we got it.  Performance-wise, he was fine, but I think he was actually overpowered by his backup singers in places. I can't imagine the judges will agree.

Randy starts a little low-key, but says it's a great song and a perfect choice for the current mood of the country.  Thinks it was right in Scotty's wheelhouse and says he's "ready for superstardom." Anyone want to guess what Steven says? Yes, it was "beautiful." Thanks, Steven. J.Lo is already giving him bedroom eyes and says, "I'm just...I'm in love witchu."  Yes, yes, Scotty hung the moon. Let's move on.

Commercial interlude! I am a sucker for Google ads, and this "It Gets Better" one for Chrome is no exception. (Except that I keep expecting to see Noah! How could they pass that up?)  Also, it makes me want an iPad, even though I do no multimedia work at all.  I'm a bourgeois sheep.

We're back! And look, Casey and Paul are in the audience! Hi, guys! You don't gotta go home, but you can't stay here.  Anyway, it's Lauren's turn.  She's singing something by Martina McBride, but I can't hear the name of the song, no matter how many times I boop-boop.  Hopefully it'll become clear.  It's about a tornado, I think, which is why Lauren picked it.  (Is that what happened to her skirt?)  Oh, it's called "Do It Anyway."  McBride is actually a good choice for Lauren, but I don't think she has the emotional depth or acting chops to carry off her stuff.  Basically, she comes out, stands still in front of the mike (because she'd flash the audience if she actually moved her legs), and runs through the chorus twice to show off her high notes.  This was as pandering in its own way as Scotty's performance.  Really, these kids are never well-served by being left to their own devices.

Steven jumps in first and says, "You did it again, you broke my heart." And he praises her for being "right on pitch." Oh, we care about that now?  He also loves her shoe buckles and her trashy dress.  J.Lo also thinks it was very good, and applauds her for finally taking their notes about opening up.  Randy announces that Lauren is, once again, IITWI.  (Look it up. Last week's blog.)  I do think she blew Haley out of the water in this round.  Then there's an awkward bit where Ryan asks for predictions and Randy says, "I think it's a tie between Lauren, Scotty and James." Haley gives him the best "fuck you" smile you'll ever see. I don't blame her.

Blog audience (bloggience?) participation time! Gordon and I are apparently the only household left in the U.S. that doesn't have Netflix (we had a year of it, but didn't renew because we couldn't keep up with the DVDs).  But recently, we've both been thinking we might want it again, and now you can stream it through the Wii.  But my wireless can be slow and spotty, and I'm worried that it would take hours to download a movie...anyone have experience with Netflix streaming and can reassure me on this point? Or tell me what needs to change for me to get faster internet? Is it a router issue (ours is a fairly cheap one)? Idol Gives Back, y'all, and now you can too.

Gaga intro! I wonder if she'll show us her "Judas" video. We're seeing a lot of "Bad Romance" right now, which is my favorite of her songs.  I don't care how crazy she gets, I love her.  Don't talk to me about how "Born This Way" is a Madonna rip-off, I don't care! Bring on the bubble dress!

Haley goes first in this new round, singing "I Who Have Nothing." In rehearsal, she feels a connection with Gaga and--OMG, Haley has to wait because I need at least a paragraph to tell you about Gaga's outfit.  OK, black spandex (pleather?) bodysuit, no visible pants, crazy tall Vivienne Westwood-y shoes. A silver neckpiece that fits like a turtleneck and has to be at least a foot and a half wide.  The wig is a platinum blond layered bob, but with black bangs and a black middle layer. She looks like an ermine cape. Finally, she tops it off with commedia dell'arte makeup--huge fake lashes and black eyeliner that's more on her cheekbones than her lids, a red red lip, and a black "beauty spot" the size of a quarter. And her weird cheek "implants" that she's wearing these days. I can't make this up, people!  And rather than being in Jimmy's grubby studio space, today we're in an all-white room with a big window.

OK, what were we doing? Oh, yeah, Haley. Gaga calls her "perfect" and "amazing," but unsurprisingly, finds her a bit bland.  She goes, "How do you feel about going a little bit psycho?" Haley just looks scared. But then Gaga gives her some actual specifics! (She must not know those are frowned upon on this show.) OK, time for the performance.  (Haley is also suffering from Shrinking Skirt disease, incidentally. At least she doesn't have a train.)  She sounds like a Bond theme, like a Shirley Bassey wannabe.  She's using Gaga's trick for drama (a dramatic intake of breath), but she uses it twice in the same spot, and I think it loses power.  At least she hits all the notes! And it's a better song for her.  Judges are on their feet, and J.Lo says, "This is why we can't take it easy on you, look what you're capable of!" Randy says, "Everybody needs a moment," and this was her moment...which puts her [say it with me] IITWI.  Steven, was it beautiful?  Why yes, it was!

I cannot WAIT to see Scotty face off with Gaga.  And here he is!  He'll be singing "Young Blood" by the Coasters. Gaga loves his humor, and she actually gives him microphone technique! But then she makes a metaphor that the mike is his girlfriend and if he doesn't stick his tongue down her throat she'll leave him.  Um, Gaga, I think Scotty's a little more PG than that.  And sure enough, in a talking head, Gaga says, "Apparently he's...a little more conservative than I had imagined." And Scotty tells us he had to kiss his cross after meeting with Gaga.

But the performance is silly fun, and Scotty's playing to the cameras in a big way.  He only kind of gets what Gaga was saying about the mike, but he does bust out that low low range so he can do the bass part.  Makes me realize he's been laying off that part of his register lately.  I'm sorry, this song is dull.  (Sorry, Coasters! Sorry, Leiber & Stoller!) Scotty played it well, and sang it fine, but it's a throwaway tune, not a moment. Randy loved the light choice of song. Steven busts out his first really quotable line of the night: "You made Gaga's yaya go lala." And then compares him to Pat Boone. Who knew Steven Tyler was even aware of Pat Boone? (And clearly, Scotty doesn't know who the heck that is.) J.Lo feels he's coasting a bit, but in a good playful way.  She requests a different side of him next week.

Non-idol interlude! Tomorrow night I'm having going-away drinks with an S&S colleague who's moving on. I'm happy for her because she's going on to new opportunities, but I'm sorry for me! We hit it off right away, and she's one of those friends you just click with instantly.  I feel lucky to still be making intense friendships over a dozen years into my NYC life...sometimes it seems like you don't meet anyone new after 25 or so, but this one'll stick. :)

Lauren is taking on Elvis Presley's "Trouble," but she has trouble (heh) with the lyric that says "I'm evil." Jimmy, covering a bit of exasperation, tells her she's portraying a character, not herself, and Gaga refreshingly says, "Listen, you're not a kid, you're 16." Lauren's still balking, and Jimmy talks over a tete-a-tete between Lauren and Gaga. In the end, she's coaxed into singing the lyric, although she still looks sheepish, but Gaga cheers her heartily. I, unlike Gaga, will keep rolling my eyes at the notion that singing the word "evil" was enough to "pull Lauren out of her comfort zone."

Frankly, if her clothes don't do it, I don't see why a lyric would.  She's in a skintight bronze sequined minidress over black leggings, and a bronze and gold bolero jacket over the top.  Very cruise ship.  She does the requisite lap around the judges' stand, but I can't say that I really believed her performance, although the pitch was fine.  The judges seem vaguely happy, but not particularly moved. Steven says, "I don't know if I believe it or not believe it," but he still "just loves her." J.Lo loved her sassy entrance from the Idol tunnel.  Randy liked her working it, and liked that she moved past the pop country standbys...and they all praise Gaga's advice.  I don't think Lauren will make final two, but she'll have a lucrative career on the state fair/GOP convention circuit.

Oh, dear. The news squib they show during the commercial is: "The filthiest spot on the bus or train...and the one place you should never touch." (The third rail?)  I can't imagine anything good coming of watching that piece.

We're back to James, who will be singing "Love Potion No. 9." I like this song, but it sounds like James is slowing it way down, which annoys me.  OK, James annoys me regardless, so who knows, maybe it'll be good. He even wears his buttscarves to rehearsal, FYI.  Gaga tries to give James advice about moving his body, and Jimmy pipes in as our Greek chorus: "James took a slightly casual approach to this, and Gaga was not having it." Heh. I think Jimmy should come recap with me--I bet he'd be fun if he didn't have to play nice for the cameras. Gaga gets up and grabs James' hips to try to loosen him up a little, which neither of them seems to really enjoy.  Let's get on with it.

Guess he decided against the slow version, because he's in his usual rock voice, and this time he even gets a little mini-stage to stand on, in case we weren't clear about the anointed one.  I will say that he's moving around just like Gaga asked, and his pitch is better this time around.  I think his phrasing could be better, but overall, it sounded very Guns & Roses.  (Why hasn't he done any G&R? He already sounds like Axl Rose.) J.Lo is straining to make herself heard over the cheers of the crowd, but says, "You know what that showed me? That you can sing anything." Well, yeah, and he can make anything sound the same. If you like that sort of thing. Gordon is grinding coffee in the other room and it might as well be James screeching.  Randy says, "You are now what I love about sports." Bwah? Turns out he means "peaking at the right time." Um, great. Steven declares it "a beautiful thing." Guess he spent all his new words on the Scotty line.

And it's time to vote! Wow, that show flew by, I'll give them that much.  I think Haley's getting the boot next week, and then Lauren, leaving us with a Scotty/James finale.  I can't even figure out who I'd root for in that situation--it's Smug and Smugger.  I'm glad you'll be with me to face that Sophie's choice! Until next week, my friends...

1 comment:

Sherri Browning Erwin said...

I think you're right about Haley but I suddenly love her for throwing some attitude around. Scotty and James finale? Probably. Though Lauren might sneak in there. Haley and Scotty are the real talent left of the bunch, though. Golly gee, shucks-- with a wink and a crooked smile.