American Idol: And Then There Were Two

This season has given us what may well be the best Top 10 in the show’s history. Certainly it gave us the best Top 5, and there go, the best Top 3, who we saw last night. Last night marked the 300th American Idol episode.

I had hoped that combined with the fact that it was the Top Three show, it would be a great one. Sadly, I was left feeling somewhat disappointed. Yeah, there were some decent performances, and even a couple of very good ones, but overall, I think the show fell flat and didn’t come close to meeting expectations.

Part of the problem with last night’s show was that they cut the performances from the usual three per contestant down to two. They kept the judge’s choice and the contestant’s choice, but they did away with producer’s choice. Now, considering some of the questionable choices in the past by producers (David Archuletta singing Longer by Dan Fogelberg), it might have been a good thing. But, they used the extra time to display more antics by the increasingly infantile panel of judges.

Which leads me right into the other problem with last night’s show: The judges are getting more annoying and distracting every week. What was once cute is now ridiculous. This reached its pinnacle last night with Kara actually putting her hands over Simon’s mouth at one point while he was trying to talk. I thought the worst we would have seen was Paula giving Simon a coloring book and crayons, then watching them color while the contestant was singing (unbelievably rude, by the way). But last night’s bickering between Kara and Simon seemed worse for some reason.

OK, enough bitching (maybe). What follows is how I saw the performances last night, from best to worst:

1 – Kris Allen – Not only was this the best performance of the night, it was also the most surprising. When Kris first took the stage and we heard that he was going to sing Heartless, by Kanye West, I had a moment of, “this could really go either way”. Fortunately, it went the right way. Kris went acoustic instead of electronic, and slowed it down, similar to what he did with Donna Summers’ She Works Hard For Her Money during Disco Week. It paid off for him then, and it paid off for him again last night.

2 – Adam Lambert – As soon as he said that he was singing Cryin’ by Aerosmith, two thoughts came to mind: Will Kara be happy that someone is singing “early” Aerosmith, as opposed to Danny Gokey singing Dream On last week. And, this ought to be great. Well, it wasn’t great, but it sure was good. I wouldn’t even say that it was close to Adam’s best performance. There were times in the song that he sounded a bit screechy, and the band was awful. Overall, good enough for my number two spot for the night.

3 – Danny Gokey – Interestingly, I thought that all three contestants did their best when they sang songs that they chose. In Danny’s case, his version of Joe Cocker’s You Are So Beautiful was poignant and touching, and very good. His voice has just the right amount of coarseness to pull of a Joe Cocker song. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the changing of the melody a bit. It sounded slightly off.

4 – Kris Allen – I always like when a contestant sits behind a piano, and last night was no exception. Kara and Randy conspired to pick One Republic’s Apologize. Kris sang a nearly flawless, but a bit boring, version of it. Both Randy and Kara then slammed him for not changing up the arrangement as they hoped he would have. I think they forget sometimes that this competition is about singing, not how well a contestant can change up a song to “make it their own”. Simon rightfully pinged on both of them for being critical of the way Kris sang a song that they chose for him.

5 – Adam Lambert – You know it had to happen eventually. He can’t be great all the time. Most of the time really is good enough for most. Adam’s song, One by U2 was selected for him by Simon, who let us all know his all mighty power when he told us that he had to personally call Bono to have the song released. This may have been one of Adam’s worst performances in a very long time. He started off great, but quickly changed the tempo and the arrangement. Parts of it worked, some of it not so well. Usually, when Adam hits the long, high notes, it sounds very natural and he still manages to stay true to the song. This time it sounded more like screeching and very forced. He may have been far better off just staying true to the original, which is awesome in its own right.

6 – Danny Gokey – I’m really not crazy about the song that Paula chose for Danny, Terence Trent D’Arby’s Dance Little Sister. That being said, Danny did a great job with it, singing it with just the right combination of power and soul that it needed to work. He reminded be quite a bit of Billy Ocean, for some reason. I don’t know why, Ocean’s voice is much clearer and better. It could have just been the song and the way he sang it. Anyway, right in the middle of the song was a strange saxophone solo that we could have done without.

– No decision has been harder this season, but I think over the past several weeks he has been outperformed consistently by both Kris and Adam.