From what I can remember, contestants on American Idol never performed songs by Paula Abdul while she was a judge. (If they did, the performances weren’t memorable enough to catch my attention.) And even on The X Factor, Paula’s no longer a judge and now just this week we’ve got a finalist taking on one of her hits.
So this week’s music battle will pit American Idol against The X Factor to see which cover of Paula Abdul‘s “Straight Up” is the best. I love this song, and whenever I hear it on the radio, I absolutely have to listen to it. And whenever a contestant on a singing competition show sings it, I pay attention, and not just because it’s Paula and we’ve gotten to know her really well from Idol, but also because of a certain rendition from season 9 — so that’s where we’ll start off this battle.
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During season 9’s Hollywood Week, the first year without Paula, eventual finalist Andrew Garcia came out and absolutely blew everyone away with his stripped-down, acoustic arrangement of “Straight Up.” He was the one to look out for after that. Unfortunately, he never quite lived up to it again and ended up in ninth place.
Season 9 was one of the weaker years in terms of talent, and it’s very telling that what many consider to be the best performance of the season didn’t happen during the live shows when something like this would normally occur, but rather it took place all the way back during Hollywood Week.
The performance started off slow and soft and drew you in, and even when the song picked up and his voice got louder, it’s still very smooth and intimate and, for me, a moment of brilliance. I loved it so much I included it on my list from earlier this year of the best performances ever on American Idol.
It became obvious that if anybody ever attempted to take on “Straight Up” after that, it would pale in comparison to Andrew’s rendition. And then along came Candice Glover, who ended up winning season 12.
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She performed “Straight Up” during the Top 5 and I was very wary when they said what song she was going to be singing. I appreciated that she also changed up the arrangement, because if she had stuck with the original it might not have suited her as well. On the flip side, in that moment of watching this performance, I wasn’t used to her doing this kind of style, so there was a part of me on the fence not knowing if I fully liked it or not. But whenever I re-watched the video back afterwards, it grew on me more and more and I love her take on the song now, enough to buy the studio recording.
And finally, we end up at the reason for the “Straight Up” battle this week.
Josh Levi took on the Paula Abdul hit during Wednesday’s Top 12 episode of The X Factor. And I have to say, it was better than I thought it would be coming from Josh. And especially as a performance, I loved his dancing skills, and the dancers on stage with him actually fit in with the whole vibe (unlike when the dancers became annoying and unnecessary during most of the other performances that night).
As far as any downsides, there were a few flat notes, and because Andrew and Candice killed it, Josh’s version doesn’t quite match up to theirs.
If we’re going to narrow down the list to see who comes out on top, we’ve got to eliminate Josh. Because both Andrew and Candice provided strong vocals, I almost want to make it a tie, but when it comes down to it, I have to give it to Andrew because his was the first of the bunch, setting such a high standard and giving us the best performance of season 9.
Do you have a favorite rendition of Paula Abdul‘s “Straight Up”? Who sang it better? Vote in the poll below and let us know in the comments.
The X Factor airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8pm on FOX, and American Idol returns January 15, 2014.
(Images courtesy of FOX)