Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You can't always get what you want (in this year's top 12)

Hey, the "American Idol" finals are back - and this blog sort of is, though in a slightly less rambling (er, less comprehensive), more condensed form than in years past, due primarily to time and other constraints. I'm writing for fun, not on a strict schedule, with the hope of posting occasional thoughts on the Season That Is, bringing back a little of the digital-watercooler spirit and, of course, talking about The Most Important Show In The Known World, the ratings behemoth, the unslayable-but-likely-on-its-last-legs beast. So if you're reading, thanks, and welcome, too! Without further ado:

The Top 12 tackled the Rolling Stones tonight, and while not the total disaster it perhaps could have been - I'd say I liked about 25 percent of the performances, maybe? and several others were at least acceptable - this year's group kicked things off by sidling up to a low bar, rather than by taking flying leaps forward. Crystal and Siobhan were, unsurprisingly, the class of the evening, while "Big Mike" slathered a bunch of cheese all over "Miss You" (dude, tone down the on-stage gesticulating, which I guess you're confusing with "performing") (and, while I'm at it, why am I falling prey to calling him that nickname? Except he is big! And it rolls off the tongue so much easier than "Michael Lynche"! So, whatever...). And this also happened:
  • "Wild Horses," please feel free to drag Katie Stevens away. And also - bonus geography lesson, Katie! - Connecticut is already on the map, has been for about 400 years and definitely did not need your pageant-bot vocals to get there. (Of course, in her defense, the judges put her through to the semifinals presumably knowing she was a 16-year-old with a decent voice, but limited life experience and musical savvy - as they do with at least one person just about every year - and then griped about how she can't connect with songs. In season nine, how is this a surprise? For every David Archuleta, Allison Iraheta or Jordin Sparks, meet Jasmine Murray and Lisa Tucker!)
  • Unspoken, but possibly implied, after Seacrest way-too-cheerily said, "Coming up next, Tim Urban fans, you get your fix!": "Everyone else, you can now take your extended bathroom break."
  • Hey, speaking of "Tim Urban" and "fix," I'm pretty sure that flat-out turning off the TV was about the only thing that could have fixed the aural atrocity that guy unleashed tonight - because, seriously, "Under My Thumb" is not a happy, semi-calypso-reggaefied sub-Jason Mraz acoustic ditty. It. Just. Isn't. This was song sacrilege on the scale of Kristy Lee Cook's country-fried-on-meth "take" on the Beatles' "Eight Days A Week" during season seven. (Or, per Simon: "I think it was a crazy decision.")
  • Back in the land of musical merit, Siobhan totally employed the Adam Lambert Memorial Glowing Red Stairs of drama 'n' doom, convincingly brought a sense of both, then did the man himself proud with a massive scream on "Paint It Black." Yes.
  • The judges may have weeks of conflicting "advice" to their credit thus far this season, but Simon sure provided sage words for Lee, who has a strong, gritty voice but didn't go nearly far enough to infuse "Beast of Burden" with the longing, desperation and edge it needs. In fact, nearly all of the contestants failed to bring that feeling to songs that innately possess it, with Didi's "Play With Fire" a notable exception. I was expecting it from Crystal - and while I enjoyed her "You Can't Always Get What You Want," I suspect she could have brought more depth and intensity to harder-driving tracks like "Gimme Shelter," which was instead mostly wasted on Andrew, alas.
  • Who knew Paige was from Florida? In fact, who knew much of anything about Paige? And Ellen, Paige - with either forgettable or memorably bad moments on her resume thus far - has "star quality"? Who knew that, either, especially after her fairly unconvincing*, gender-switched**, first-person version of "Honky Tonk Woman"? Granted, there was the whole laryngitis factor in play, and she seems pleasant, but...
  • Um, did I see that right, or is Aaron's mom named "Kelly Kelly"? Really???
  • Wouldn't it have been hilarious if, in response to Kara's pleas for a more age-appropriate song choice, Aaron would've picked, oh, I don't know, "Satisfaction"? Hey, he's a teenage guy!
  • However, no one selected that Stones standard - because, let's face it, it has already been done.

*As in, she didn't quite seem to understand lines like, "He blew my nose and then he blew my mind."
**Yes, true, Tina Turner did this before. Paige, alas, is no Tina Turner.