I feel like we’ve been here before. Well, we kinda were. Last week, American Idol used the first Judges’ Save ever and extended the life of one Matt Giraud. So, this week, we have all seven contestants again.
I expected last night’s Disco Theme to be a Donna Summer / Bee Gees extravaganza, and I was half right. Of the seven remaining contestants, three of them gave their best shot at a Donna Summer tune. A couple were very good, one was OK at best. We also heard a Bee Gees track, an Earth, Wind and Fire hit, and a Yvonne Ellman classic, completely redone. Overall, I thought the whole night went pretty well, at least it was much better than last weeks’ mediocre performances by almost everyone.
Here is how I saw last night’s performances, ranked best to worst:
1. Kris Allen – Kris took Donna Summer’s classic hit She Works Hard For Her Money, and changed the entire arrangement. He sang it with acoustic guitar in hand, accompanied by congo drums and a couple of other instruments. Kris took a big chance, going “unplugged” like that, but it definitely paid off. Impressive creativity. One could easily hear Jack Johnson or Jason Mraz singing this song like this.
2. Adam Lambert – First, I have to say that it was very difficult deciding numbers 1 and 2 this week. I’m very tempted to call Adam’s performance 1A instead of 2. Like Kris, Adam took his song choice, Yvonne Ellman’s If I Can’t Have You, and completely redefined it. He slowed down the tempo and you could almost feel his pain and sorrow while he sang. You have to love the combination of power and control that Adam displays week after week. Very Freddie Mercury-like in that respect. Plus, he made Paula cry, yet again.
3. Allison Iraheta – Allison took the disco standard Hot Stuff, by Donna Summer and gave it the rock edge treatment, which is quickly becoming her trademark. It really is a credit to her that she can take almost any song and rough it up, while still allowing the original intent of the song to remain intact. She has great originality, all the more impressive because of her age.
4. Danny Gokey – Danny’s performance of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s September started off pretty good, but faded fast. He spent the last half of the song doing more yelling than singing, and he seemed to get lost in the transitions. Paula once again told him that she’d see him in the finals. I don’t think she’s been paying attention, because Danny has been outperformed nearly every week by Kris, Adam, and Allison. He’s not showing nearly the amount of originality that those three are, and he never gets called on it. A side note: As I’ve read in more than one article today, Season four’s Anwar Robinson, who actually had a great voice, was kicked off about this same time after a not too-great performance of September. I hope this isn’t a bad sign for Danny. While he hasn’t been the best the past few weeks, he certainly hasn’t been the worst, either.
5. Matt Giraud – Matt sang the song that defined the Disco Era, the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive. He mostly stayed true to the song, but managed to add a little funk to it. Overall, it was OK, but like Danny, he veered off the road a bit toward the end. After last week’s last minute save, I think he really needed to hit one out of the park to stay alive (pardon the pun), and I don’t think he did it. And is it even possible for him to look more like Justin Timberlake?
6. Anoop Desai – Anoop started Donna Summer’s Dim All the Lights very slowly. He had a great transition to a faster tempo. While his voice wasn’t bad at all, the arrangement just didn’t work for him. He seemed to be all over the place, especially as the tempo picked up pace. He wasn’t at his best, but I have to disagree with Simon’s assessment that this was his worst performance by a mile. Still, gonna be a tough call to see who goes home, him or Matt.
7. Lil Rounds – This is an easy choice for worst of the night. I was very, very disappointed that Lil didn’t try to tackle Donna Summer’s Bad Girls or Last Dance. With her very powerful voice, she could have rocked with either of them. Instead she chose Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman, and while her voice was great, she offered no originality whatsoever, something the judges have been hammering her for for weeks. Compare that to Kris’s ability to completely re-do songs and still have them sound great. This is something that the judges have been trying to get Lil Rounds to do all season. She clearly just doesn’t get it.