Grab your buttered popcorn, American Idol
fans, because this week the Top 11 take on songs from the cinema. So
far the live shows have been a bit of a dud thanks to bad song choices
and near-constant sharpness. Songs from movies is a wide-open category
that will hopefully bring out some greatness, provided no one takes on
Diane Warren (I'm looking at you, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing").
THIS...is American Idol!
After an Idol's 11 parody open, Harry Connick, Jr. claims that he invented the phrase "You have to be in it to win it." Oh, Harry, there's nothing he can do that I won't love. The pre-song videos this week feature all of the contestants doing impressions of each other.
Sam Woolf: "Come Together" by The Beatles (from Across the Universe)
I give this kid major points for not playing the guitar and doing an up-tempo song. It's unlike anything he's done before, moving around and loosening up. But he's still a little stilted with some of his phrasing. He's like a toddler, learning to walk and come out of his shell. Jennifer Lopez wishes he did more with it. Or, really, anything with it. It was another perfectly adequate performance from him, but since he's cute, he doesn't really need to try for a few more weeks.
Jessica Meuse: "The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel (from The Graduate)
This is a very stripped down, intimate performance. I like it a bit, but I still find her voice a little annoying when she gets loud. She gets kind of shouty and Keith Urban points out that maybe she's used to small clubs and bars where she needs to be right on the mic and sing loud to be heard, but this is a different kind of venue and she needs to adjust. Harry calls out the band for being off. Jessica seems like a more interesting person than her performances suggest.
C.J. Harris: "Cant You See" by The Marshall Tucker Band (from Blow)
This is his best of the live shows because he starts to add more of that gritty soulful tone that made me fall in love with him at the end of Hollywood Week. I liked it, but I think the judges go a little nuts saying how amazing it was and J. Lo calling him a "frontrunner." He's not a frontrunner and I'm not sure I know who he is or what kind of artist he'd be. It's Happy Country with Soul, and those three don't really work together.
Dexter Roberts: "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd (from Forrest Gump)
I'd like to point out that this song actually works for any of the three themes this season: This Is Me, Home and Songs from the Movies. The generic nature of the song says everything you need to know. He sings it, but it's totally karaoke and he does absolutely nothing to it. Yeah, it's a fun, crowd-pleasing song, but it's utterly useless, vocally, and there are literally millions of dudes who could do it just as good as he did. Harry depresses me by saying that Dexter is going to be hard to beat because he picks well-known songs that people like.
Ben Briley: "Bennie and the Jets" by Elton John (from 27 Dresses)
It's interesting that Idol put all of the southern, country dudes in a row (C.J., Dexter, Ben). I hope/pray that results in one of them going home. Hilariously, Ben admits he's never seen whatever movie this song is from. I have no idea why this country boy is dressed nicely, sitting at a piano and playing Elton John. It's all just...bad. Really bad. Did he lose a bet? Is he trying to get eliminated this week so he doesn't have to go on the Idol Tour this summer? The judges were as confused as the rest of us. Harry and Ryan almost save the night when Harry is prodded to play the piano and Ryan lays on it with his feet in the air.
Halfway Results: Once again, Ryan shows us the dumb, Dumb, DUMB Facebook results. C.J. is in the lead with both men and women. Jessica and Dexter follow them, with Sam in fourth and Ben in last from both male and female viewers. Whatever, they need to stop this nonsense.
Majesty Rose: "Let It Go" by Adele Dazeem (from Frozen)
I love Majesty and I love this song, but I'm not wild about this performance. She doesn't have that Idina Menzel range that can go absolutely anywhere, so the big notes and transitions aren't as smooth. Harry thinks she's spreading herself too thin, stylistically, and he's losing sight of who she is as an artist. Everyone loves this song, but the judges dance around their words. I think they're avoiding harsh criticism because they know she's probably going to be in the finale and maybe even win, but there were plenty of weak spots in this performance, vocally.
Caleb Johnson: "Skyfall" by Adele (from Skyfall)
Thank you, Caleb, for doing something different. This is what I've wanted, for him to show a little range by rocking out with something unusual. This is certainly that, and the gritty parts of his voice come out in the big notes. It's just cool as hell and the judges love it. Calling it the best of the night is a dramatic understatement.
M.K. Nobilette: "To Make You Feel My Love" by Garth Brooks (from Hope Floats)
Picking a song from a movie Harry was in? I like M.K.'s style. I also love that she finally got the message and went back to quiet, emotional, simple songs that highlight her raw, beautiful tone and ability to connect with the lyrics. Harry warns her against melismas in her runs. Even though I don't know what he's saying, I like Professor Connick.
Alex Preston: "Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Mareka Irglova (from Once)
As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the most beautiful, perfect songs written in the last 50 years. Unfortunately, that means it is physically impossible to be better than the original. He adds a few flourishes to make it unique, and they're fine. But it's hard for me to hear this song and not wish I was listening to the version from the movie. But I can't find anything wrong with it.
Jena Irene: "Decode" by Paramore (from Twilight)
Sitting at the piano, this is a perfect song for her. It's the kind of dark, slightly edgy rock that suits her voice. She really goes for it and hits the piano as hard as Harry wished Ben did. For the first time tonight (and maybe all season) I forgot I was watching a competition and just thought I was watching a professional singer perform. I lost myself in her awesomeness.
Malaya Watson: "I Am Changing" by Jennifer Hudson (from Dreamgirls)
I don't know why she insists on these big songs. I like her personality and her voice has moments of greatness, but there's something immature and underdeveloped about it too. I just don't completely believe what she's doing and I don't buy her as this kind of "bringing down the house" belting diva. It feels like she doesn't have complete control over her voice.
Second Half Results: For the real-time Facebook votes from the last six, Caleb wins among men and women while Majesty and Malaya are at the bottom for both. Jena was second for the male voters, but M.K. was second for female voters.
That does it for tonight. I'm not sure about the results since the girls who've been in the bottom before performed at the end and all did relatively good (M.K. Jena and Malaya). Caleb rocked, girls love Sam and Alex did a nice job. I assume Majesty has a ton of support, so that leaves the three Alabamans (C.J., Jessica, Dexter) and Ben. I think we'll finally be losing a country dude, and it'll probably be Ben since all of his country fans won't want to vote for his Elton John nonsense. However, I can imagine a crazy scenario where Majesty is at the bottom and the Save gets used on her. She wasn't all that great, Malaya probably scored a lot of the diva votes and I think, as much as people love Frozen, that song is a bit overexposed.
And remember: tomorrow the live results shows move to 9pm, so if you tune into FOX at 8pm, you're gonna see Gordon Ramsay screaming at people.
(Image courtesy of FOX)