American Idol: And Then There Were Eight

Idol producers opened up the floodgates last night, basically allowing the remaining nine contestants to sing almost anything they wanted. The theme of the night was Popular ITunes Downloads, which really covers a lot of material.

Some of the contestants took advantage of the large play list and chose a song that fits them well, while others took a more indulgent route and picked songs that they loved. As Randy aptly pointed out, just because you love the song doesn’t mean you have to, or should, sing it.

There were a few contestants who may have had their best night to date, and a couple of others who were on the other end of the spectrum.

What follows is my idea of how the contestants did, from best to worst. Since there was such disparity between Best, Good, and Worst, I’m going to break it down into those three categories.

1- Adam Lambert – Last week, I was going to pick Adam Lambert as best performance for his amazing take on The Miracles’ Tracks of My Tears, but he got beat out at the last moment by Allison Iraheta and her version of The Temptations’ Papa Was a Rolling Stone. This week, Adam’s restructuring of Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music earns him top spot on my list. He changed the tempo of the verses completely, and brought the whole song up to date. To use a favorite phrase of the judges, he made the song relevant again. However, I think Paula was just a bit caught up in the moment while comparing Adam to Mick Jagger and Stephen Tyler.

2- Kris Allen – Adam came very close to getting beat out again at the last minute, this time by Kris. OK, there’s something about being the last performer of the night. Allison last week, Kris this week… These people are definitely using that last spot to their advantage. Anyway, speaking of making old songs relevant, Kris did just that with Bill Withers’ classic, Ain’t No Sunshine. Sitting behind the keyboards for the first time, Kris used a nice mix of falsetto and pitch changes to update the song a bit. The violins helped a lot too. Without a doubt, his best performance to date, and it put him on track for a top 3 spot.

While Kara’s math has most definitely improved since last week, telling Kris she has three words for him, “That is artistry”, her memory may be a little flawed, or she was hungry. During her critique of Adam, she told him that it was like Studio 57 behind her while he was singing, she clearly meant Studio 54, or she was thinking of steak sauce (Heinz 57).

3- Danny Gokey – It’s already well established that I just don’t like country music, but, Danny did a very good job with Rascal Flatts’ What Hurts the Most. This is exactly the type of song he needs to be doing to stay near the top. Well, not exactly. I can do without the country songs, but the slow, soulful ballads are what I was referring to. Simon called it his best performance. I’m not sure I agree, but it was very good.

4- Allison Iraheta – When they first announced that Allison would be singing No Doubt’s Don’t Speak, I thought it would be a great week for her. That is a great song choice for her lower register. She did a good job with it, but I was a bit disappointed overall. Some of the lower notes seemed to be out of her range, and she struggled with a couple of the runs. All three judges tore up her outfit, which was on the strange side. It was the first time she used her guitar, and she only used it for about the first third of the song. Like Kris last week and the week before, I’m not sure I see the point when we can’t hear it anyway.

5- Scott MacIntyre – Before the break, Ryan announced that Scott would be tackling a Billy Joel song and I knew it had to be the ballad, Just the Way You Are. It really is a perfect song choice for him and he handled it well. He is most certainly in his happy place sitting behind the piano and singing standards from the Easy Listening catalogue. While there were better performances last night, it was easily his best so far.

6- Lil Rounds – I’m becoming increasingly disappointed in Miss Lil. She may have the best voice of any of the contestants, but her song choices remain questionable. She said in her promo before the song that she thought long and hard about choosing Celine Dion’s I Surrender. While it was better than last week’s choice of Martha and the Vandellas’ Heatwave, it still was not the right song for her. Simon told her exactly what she needed to hear, “”You’ve got to stop this, because you’re too good.”

7- Matt Giraud – While Matt is extremely talented, he has to stop trying to sound like the artist who’s song he’s doing and start sounding like himself. A few weeks ago, he sang Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, and sounded a little too much like them. After a very good week last week singing Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On, he’s right back to artist emulation sounding way too much like Fray, while singing their song, You Found Me. Last week, he found himself in the bottom three, quite undeservingly. This week, he’ll be back on the silver stools, and that’s where he should be. If he makes it through to next week, he needs to go back to the bluesy numbers that got him here in the first place, or he’ll find himself voted out in the not to distant future.

8- Anoop Desai – Anoop attempted to sing Usher’s Caught Up,and has a couple of nice moments, but doesn’t even come close to pulling it off. Again, poor song choice. After the judges tore him up for his choice and style, he shot back with the fact that he’s singing R&B, and he wants to be an R&B artist, leading Judge #5 (wife Lynn) to come up with a new phrase, “They just got Nooped”. If he manages to stay around, we may have to use that one again.

9- Megan Joy – By far, the worst performance of the night. I still like her and her odd voice, but it just didn’t work at all last night while she sang Laren Hill’s (and Bob Marley’s) Turn Your Lights Down Low. Not only was it the worst of the night, it was also Megan’s worst performance. There were times during the song where she reminded me of Stevie Nicks, and not in a good way. More in the way that Stevie occasionally bleats like a goat. Megan was doing some bleating in that song. I don’t think that her following, while strong, will be strong enough to push her through to next week. But, if they do, she better step up her game.

Megan Joy