Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The show where The Big Unit loves Whitney Houston

Okay, not technically. But when the governor of Tennessee read a fax from Randy Jackson, he mistakenly said it was from Randy Johnson, and that amused me to no end. I can just imagine the ornery, 6' 10", rodent-looking white dude pitcher sitting on the judges panel every week. He was famously surly with the NY media during his time with the Yankees, so it's entirely possible that he would have used his prodigious wingspan to backhand Paula into last November the next time she wandered off onto one of her "puppies and unicorns and rainbows" tangents. Plus, hearing The Big Unit throw down some "yo, dawg, check it out" would be the height of absurdity.

Okay, on with the show. Where was Clive Davis? Instead of the legendary record exec, we get choices from the "producers." Not that I'm complaining, as Clive's choices are often less than awe inspiring, and I think this time around, they made sound decisions. But first up, we have Judges choice.

Round 1: Judges
Jordin starts us off with Simon's pick, "Wishing on a Star" from Rose Royce. I'm not that familiar with this song, though I do have an unnatural love for her song "Car Wash." And after her performance and later ones, Jordin shows some uncharacteristic "petulance" with the judges, and I wonder if that will hurt her? As for the song, she performs it well, though she does have a tendency to get a wee bit "breathy." I agree with Simon (of course) that the arrangement is too jazzy and not R&B enough. But a very good start to the evening.

Paula picks The Police classic "Roxanne" for Blake. Paula is often very astute in her choices and is here again. This is great for Blake on so many levels. First, everyone knows this song, and saves Blake from venturing into the "I'm so hip and I love obscure songs the audience never listens to" territory. It's also difficult to "twist up" or "beatbox" this song, which at this point, I think Blake needs. Finally, it gives him a chance to sing and showcase his voice without any tics or tricks. Blake delivers a wonderful performance.

Randy chooses Whitney Houston's "I Believe in You and Me" for Melinda, in the aforementioned fax. Even in a fax, Randy has to lay down some "check it out" and shamelessly plug his work with the Bobby Brown's ex-wife. Not a fan of these soaring, insipid, sound alike ballads, but except for a mildly flat falsetto note, Melinda delivers perfectly.

This "round" is close. Jordin has been my favorite for most of the show thus far, I enjoy Blake's performance the most, and Melinda performs a more difficult choice with the greatest degree of proficiency. Close to a tie, with perhaps a slight edge to Mindy Doo.

Round 2: Producers
While Clive Davis is kept alive in a secret underground bunker full of copper tubes, bunsen burners, erlenmeyer flasks of brightly colored liquids and various ascots, the "producers" choose for the Idols.

Jordin gets Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money." (note: before she performed, she was asked about her "favorite song." She said it was Hanson's "Mmm-Bop." Don't know if I'd told that, as the saying goes. Of course, when I was stuck on a plane for 6 hours last Friday, the only viable entertainment choices were a repeat of 30 Rock, which was excellent but only shown once, and the various music channels. The only one worth listening to was an 80s channel, which suited me fine. However, that Hanson song was among the selections and I heard it probably 15 times. Strangely, I began to appreciate the pure pop confection of that little ditty. Or maybe it was the abundance of mini-bottles of Crown). Once again, Jordin delivers a solid version of this tune, but I'm wondering if something is "off" with her tonight. (Could it be having a 17 year old sing about being a hooker? Of course, I know someone who would have fit that song just fine, but she's too old for the competition in terms of both age and "mileage.") It also makes me realize just how spectacular Donna Summer, long one of my favorites, is. Jordin hits all the notes and is fine.

Blake gets Maroon 5's "This Love." This is so much better than "She Will be Loved" as a choice, and Maroon 5 fits his voice wonderfully. He even adds a bit of the dreaded beatboxing in the middle, but it's small, and I don't mind. Really pleasing pop performance.

Then the producers reach into the heavens and give Melinda a gift: Ike and Tina Turner's awesome "Nutbush City Limits." When I hear the announcement of the song choice, my notes read "OMFG!!! Nutbush!!!" Yeah, I'm excited about this. Needless to say, Melinda rocks this bitch out. A great choice, a great performance and I really like the sassy, scowling and prowling Melinda.

Round 2 is another installment of upping the ante, but Melinda delivers the goods and takes this one. On the cards thus far, I have Melinda ahead, with Blake a c-hair ahead of Jordin.

Round 3: Performers' Choice
I don't recall previous Idols going back to the well for a song they've already done here. I thought that was reserved for next week. But Jordin chooses the song that made her a front runner, "I Who Have Nothing." If possible, she does an even better job here than she did previously. I get chillbumps hearing this song, and she knocks it out of the park. A real showstopping moment, flawlessly delivered.

When I hear Blake's choice, Robin Thicke's "When I Get You Alone," my heart sinks. It's obscure, not widely known, and Thicke certainly didn't do himself any favors with a lackluster performance on the show a couple of weeks ago. Did Blake learn nothing about picking out of the mainstream tunes last week? Then the music kicks in, and it's obviously a sample of the disco favorite "Fifth of Beethoven." Uh-oh, I might like this. And even though I don't know the song, Blake puts down a fantastic performance. It's almost kinda awesome. Wow. Surprising.

Melinda does "I'm a Woman." This is also a reach-back to a previous tune, although I didn't realize that until later, since I only start watching at the Top 12. She has sass, attitude and gives some props to the background singers, a nice nod to her career up to this point. She stumbles over some of the early riffing, but still imbues it with big notes and fun.

Round 3 is interesting. How much will Jordin and Melinda be penalized for grabbing previous songs and not taking on something new? How much will Blake be penalized for choosing something the vast majority of viewers haven't heard, despite the awesome Walter Murphy backing? I score this one for Blake solidly with Jordin close behind and Melinda 3rd.

That makes the overall night very, very interesting. Based on tonight alone, cumulatively over the hours I would score it 1. Blake, 2. Melinda, 3. Jordin, with not much separating them. And I know this season has gotten a lot of criticism, but personally, I think the top three is the best ever. Think about it. S1 had that whore Nikki McKibbin. S2 was close to this one, with Kimberly Locke as the 3rd runner up. S3 had Jasmine Trias 3rd, not too mention Diana Degarmo as 2nd runner up (the worst season, I think). s4 was great with Carrie and Bo, but had Vonzell in 3rd. Last year was solid, with Elliot Yamin in the 3rd spot, but Chris Daughtry should have at least been there, if not won the damned thing. All 9 performances Tuesday were very, very good, with a few that were transcendent.

TNRLM's Rankings
Okay, I'm going to do something a bit different here.

  • As I said before, if it's solely based on Tuesday performances, I would put Blake and Melinda into the finals, with Jordin going home.
  • If I had to rank them according to who has the greatest "technical proficiency," I would put them 1. Melinda, 2. Jordin and 3. Blake.
  • If I had to rank them according to who might sell the most records, I would put them 1. Jordin, Blake, 3. Melinda.
  • If I had to rank them according to what I think their individual fan bases are, I would say 1. Blake, 2. Jordin, 3. Melinda.

Wow. Hard to choose here, and tonight will be interesting no matter which way it goes.

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