With the catalog of Billy Joel week hitting American Idol’s Top 10, we must resist the temptation to use “car wreck” metaphors to describe bad performances (see DeAndre, below). Tackling Billy Joel is no small undertaking; as someone who performed “New York State of Mind” way back in the day, he’s got complex melodies and iconic phrasing. Still, his songs offer great material for everyone - and it showed in many cases. Here is my take (in order of appearance):
DeAndre Brackensick - “Only the Good Die Young” Is MilliVanilli trending yet? (Answer: yes.) The judges are smoking the funny stuff on this one - DeAndre was terrible. DeAndre danced like Debbie Gibson and sang about as well, too. Seems like a sweet kid, but not in the top tier. Will be in the bottom three tomorrow night. Grade: D+
Erica Van Pelt - “New York State of Mind” F*cking HOT. Dig the new look, too. We’ll wait and see how the rest of the folks did, but one of the best of the night. Randy’s note about going for runs is right, too, in that she’s got terrific phrasing and is perhaps pulling some punches for later. JLo’s note about her being more expressive was great as well. This is a tough song to cover and she did it up nice. Grade: A-
Joshua Ledet - “She’s Got a Way” As Randy said, “never feel defeated” when you have talent like this. Really strange arrangement actually; I’ve been a fan of Joshua since the beginning, but I feel like this was an opportunity for subtlety that he didn’t take. I’m a huge gospel fan, too, but I really connected with what JLo said about the lyric - we as singers are obliged to tell the story, not just sing the song well. Decent job. He should get through to next week. Grade: B
Skylar Laine - “Shameless” Forget the song: I’d still like to know who the twink was in the trucker cap at the open. But I digress… Terrible style change fashion-wise - totally out of touch with her country roots. The song felt screechy to me and not all that interesting, and was flat at the front end. It leant itself to the country vibe, given the other covers of the song in that vein, but not delivered all that well. Grade: C+
Elise Testone - “Vienna” Bluesy, stellar, yummy. Talk about being rewarded for sticking to your guns… These mentors, largely, don’t know what the shit they’re talking about. Let’s not forget that they *almost steered her away from this song, and I still think - after a standing ovation from the judges - she may not garner boffo votes because of it. Still, one of the best of the nights and mad props for making an unfamiliar song personal and emotional. “I’m so happy for you! I just want to shake you and squeeze you.” Another nod to VAS from JLo. We appreciate your support of BentBlog and The Daily Slap. Best arrangement of the season thus far, too. Well done. Grade: A
Phil Phillips - “Movin’ Out” Everyone is staying true to themselves tonight - and it’s one of the takeaways from the evening. Excellent job on this joint. Phil rebuked the mentors and did a great job putting his spin on the song - and stayed on his mark style-wise. I might break from the pack a bit and say that he changed it up a bit too much for me. The song has so much groove in it already… some of it wasn’t needed. He can keep on being gray - it looks great on him. Grade: A-
Hollie Cavanaugh - “Honesty” Whoever dressed Hollie last week should be pounding the pavement for a new job this week. Regardless, she’s a bit of a frump so packaging that great voice seems like a challenge. Much better this week though, which gave her a leg up on a terrible arrangement. The performance did not survive that arrangement though, and it was hard to tell if it was her phrasing or what - but it wasn’t her best job. Grade: D+
Heejun Han - “My Life” Whoever is advising this kid, if anyone, should be on the street with last week’s dresser for Hollie. Bad Karaoke. Sharp, flat, bad diction, terrible arrangement. Entertaining doesn’t walk the dog in a singing competition - the judges were too kind. In danger of going home tomorrow. Grade: F
Jessica Sanchez - “Everybody Has a Dream” Once again, stellar. What can you say about a 16-year-old who sings like an established diva? “It takes consistency to win. You have a moment every time you step on that stage.” Randy was right, the mentors and the stylists did a great job all the way around. Fantastic. I’d only caution here that she’s so young, so unseasoned, that it might eventually catch up to her in terms of telling stories week after week. Again, I’m speechless with this budding talent. Stop the presses and give her a contract, now. Grade: A
Colton Dixon - “Piano Man” This song is ready to made as a cover for the radio. Period. Handsome and confident, he sang the song right in his wheelhouse. My only quibble here is that he squeezed his vocals a few too many times; where that technique should be the “color” of a performance, he went to it too many times. Still, Randy was right, the arrangement was simple and clean. “God use me” was tacky for those atheists among us; he apparently ignored producers’ plea to tone it down. Still, he’ll sail through. Grade: B+
Top performances: Phil, Jessica, Elise and EVP.
Predicted bottom three: DeAndre, Hollie and Skylar.
Other notes: JLo fashions were spot-on tonight. Grade: A. Plain, uncomplicated and beautiful. The mentors should, in large part, take a step back because they are really screwing up the contestants. Stop stepping in front of the performers and leading them down wrong paths.
See you tomorrow for results! This post also appears on BentBlog.com - make sure to check it out. - WP
Update: Well… I got one of three correct. And I meant to change my bottom-three prediction to Heejun, but I got distracted. Erica Van Pelt is the one who ended up excused from the competish - the wrong choice in my view. She’s a talented singer who didn’t have time to find herself. But like in all past years, one can never predict what America will do. Apparently EVP rejected JLo’s “unbalanced” comments in post-judging interviews. She’ll go on the summer tour, though.