Wednesday, April 22, 2009

That's not quite how I remember the 70s - Disco Night, Idol Top 7 (again)

Hey, we’re back with 7 contestants, just like last week! Only this time, the gimmicky “judges’ save” is gone, and two of these folks are packing their bags tomorrow. I don’t mind the concept of the “save,” and it mixes up the formula a bit. It was also a bit like showing a gun in the first act, in that if they have this save, and didn’t use it at some point, all the critics would jump all over the show for a failed “innovation.” So they had to use it, and it was either last week, with a fairly likable and competent performer, or let it stretch to this week, when they would have to use it or lose it (and who knows who the designated castoff would be?). They might regret it if one of their favorites is in danger this week. Anyway, if that means I get to hear 7 disco songs this week instead of 6, then hell yes, I’m all for it, because I LOVE DISCO. There, I said it. I’ve never pretended to be a tragic music hipster, who looks down his nose at any music that was ever popular. I grew up in this era, and both my parents adored the genre and played it all the time. So I’m really looking forward tonight. And as a bonus, I’m sure we won’t get stuck with 7 Bryan Adams songs, or the continuing onslaught of treacly, sappy ballads that this crowd seems to gravitate toward. How the hell can you be boring and downtempo on fucking disco night? Let’s get funky, babies.

Lil bats leadoff with “I’m Every Woman.” (And who started the stylistic convention where you quote AND capitalize every word in a TV episode or song? Annoying when you’ve been drinking). On the surface, this would seem to be a good song choice for her, but through the first half of the song, all I can hear is the band and the backup singers. The ongoing debate between Lil and the judges had been for her to do some R&B “diva” songs, and this certainly qualifies (Chaka KHAN!), but that was just a lackluster performance of a good tune. She seemed more concerned with the “come ons!” to the audience and the big notes, and never quite grasped the melody or pitch. I’m sure she’ll argue about it with our cast of four (thank Zeus it’s not the 2+2 travesty of last week), but it’s an argument she won’t win. And Ryan gives her the chance to! Unbelievable, and she’s wrong-headedly defiant to the end. Mercifully for her, and us, this should be her last week. 4

Anyone else think that Angels & Demons looks interesting? I read the Dan Brown books, and while they weren’t Faulkner, they were page turning airplane pulp reading. I thought the first book (that this movie is based upon) was the better of the two. And Tom Hanks went to Great Clips.

Here we have Kris, who will be doing “She Works Hard for the Money.” Which I always remember Donna Summer performing with a guitar. Kris thinks it has a “good message,” about a hard working woman. So are we talking about a waitress, or a hooker here? They both, I guess, serve up a slice of pie. I can’t wait to hear his earnest, coffeehouse version of “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.” He does a really different, and interesting, arrangement that has bongos and a Caribbean flavor to it. Very smooth and heartfelt. It doesn’t satisfy my jones for 100% pure uncut disco, but all in all, a unique take on the song, a good vocal and a good performance. 8

Gokey will be performing “September.” Did his wife die in September, or did Earth, Wind and Fire not do a song about a dead spouse? He was in fine vocal form on this one, even if the band/backup overwhelmed him at times, and he toned down the Taylor Hicks spasmodic seizure dancing. He was on pitch and energetic, and I liked that one. 7

Allison is dipping into the Donna Summer well again, turning “Hot Stuff” into a slow building rocker. Not your traditional take on the tune, but it showcases what the little powerhouse can bring. Great vocal on the song, full of smoky timbre and attitude, and right in her wheelhouse. It felt like a slightly more upbeat “Black Velvet.” Very nice. 8

The unquestioned frontrunner, Adam, is up next with “If I Can’t Have You,” another of my favorite disco tracks from back in the day. He keeps with the theme of the night, turning our mirror ball, bell bottomed favorites into something entirely different, this time, a plaintive torch song. He gets the hurt, sensitive yearning part of the song, and also picks up and wails on it. It’s a sincere, brilliant performance. The judges fall all over themselves (as they should), and Adam even manages to win further brownie points for humility by giving a shout out to the arranger. Just fantastic. 9

Matt, freshly saved from last week, will be giving us “Staying Alive.” He tosses the classic disco arrangement with his usual Timberfake sauce, and hits a few falsetto notes and gives some desperate energy to it. Is it great? Uh, no. Is it passable? It’s decent. (If you want a fun and different take on the song, check out the Ntrance version). Will it be enough for him to stay? I think it will mainly depend on how Anoop performs, because Lil is going home with somebody. 5

Anoop will close us out in the pimp spot, with yet another Donna Summer tune, this time “Dim All The Lights.” (That would be 43% Summer content, for those of you counting at home. Donna Summer is the new/old Bryan Adams!). I will give him credit for yet another original arrangement that sounds like an odd fusion of Cyndi Lauper and Paul Young. He hits most of the notes well, particularly in the more ballady section of the song, but it’s a bit underwhelming, and his final note is horribly off. Ouch. 5

TNRLM Top 3: Adam, Kris, Allison

TNRLM Bottom 3: Lil, Matt, Anoop

Has anyone checked out DialIdol this morning? What the fuckity fuck? While it’s not clear cut that Kris and Allison are definitively in the bottom two and going home, if that turns out to be the result, America should storm the judges’ table with torches and pitchforks for wasting a “save” on Matt last week, when two of the better contestants could wind up axed.

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