The singers, the songs–
James, “Don’t Stop Believing”, Journey
JD has a bigger voice than even Steve Perry does so he deserves some props, but he didn’t challenge himself with this song. JD didn’t pull the emotion out of the song like Perry did, so to me the performance was pleasant, but somewhat empty and safe. JD didn’t hurt himself, but he didn’t help himself either.
Randy was Journey’s bass player, so he knows the song very well. The judges were nice, but I didn’t sense that they were blown away. Randy did note the degree of difficulty, but he might have overstated how much JD slayed the song.
Haley, “The Earth Song”, Michael Jackson
She took a chance, going with another song that was a stretch. Unlike last week (when she was terrific) she might have stretched too far. I didn’t like all the growling (she should have gone with more scratch), and she got tapped out and really screechy at the top end. This was Haley’s first bad performance in several weeks. She will need to blow it up with her second song. Is her voice giving out? She was really weak at the top compared to her recent performances. Maybe she doesn’t have it tonight?
Randy almost went Simon on her when she talked back, but truthfully I’m with Randy this time. Haley wasn’t good on that song.
Scotty, “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning”, Alan Jackson
Scotty really learns, and he really pays attention to the details. He sang the song very well, of course (no surprise), but what I noted more than anything else was how much more command of the song he has developed over the past few weeks. He was completely on top of the song, controlling the direction all the way to the end. He might have taken the song up in his range more than he needed to, trying to prove that he has that range, but that’s all about competition stuff. If he were just singing the song to us, he would have been brilliant. He left the eyebrow thing out, too, which was why I mentioned that he pays attention.
The judges all gushed, as they should have. Scotty is really earning it now.
By the way, as much as I love Alan Jackson as a songwriter I hated this song. I spent every waking moment after theTradeCenterbombings writing my own song about it, and I finished it four days later. My song wasn’t nice and sweet, and about being a victim. The title was “Any Last Words?”. I got it recorded, but by the time I could push it songs like this piece of weak shit had taken over the airwaves. I’m not bitter, but I’m not all that sweet about it. When exactly did Americans turn into such overprotective wimps? My single largest disappointment with my country in my lifetime is how our leaders reacted to 911. I was raised on the idea that we are the meanest, coldest nosed mongrels in the junkyard; but with a heart of gold. I can’t even go into it without spending 15 thousand words, if I have any hope of stating my position fairly and accurately. I thought that we were mean, but fair. As it turns out we are not mean or fair. Instead of being lions, we presented ourselves to the world as arrogant weasels. Instead of taking action against those who oppose us, we created what might as well be called the Gestapo (homeland security), taking action against ourselves. I sometimes wonder if the terrorists quit hammering us because they can’t stop laughing long enough to plan a campaign. We are as much of a punch line now asPolandwas when I was growing up. I am embarrassed as a former military man. We need to be better, don’t we?
Lauren, “Anyway”, Martina McBride
Lauren has a tone that can’t be taught and tonight she sounded terrific; but her breathing issues came back and she also shied away from some of the high notes in places where she needed to come out aggressively. She smiled and giggled in places that didn’t fit, and she seemed almost glad that the song was over. Give the kid a few years to learn how to sing and perform, and she will be a monster. Today, though, she is very talented but honestly no further along in her training than Thia is.
Round One Grades:
The second half is songs from Leiber and Stoller. My only hope was that someone would tackle “Love Potion # 9”. I love that song. I assumed that, since Casey is out, nobody would sing Yakety Yak.
The mentor for the L&S songs is Stefani Germanotta, who we all know (of course) as Lady Gaga. I like her, though her music and her performance style aren’t aimed at old farts like me. I still expect that, eventually, Lady Gaga will return to being Stefani Germanotta and get a good laugh at our expense for buying into such a cheesy and obviously fake persona. She just seems like she is perpetrating an obvious put-on, and the woman behind the persona seems so smart and aware of everything.
I happen to know a guy that just came home from running lights for Lady Gaga’s last tour. He was dubious about it before he left last winter, but he ended up really enjoying the tour. He stopped by the bar yesterday, and we talked about his next “adventure”. He was originally slated to join Brittany Spears, but her father (who runs her tour, her career, and her life) decided to hire only female techs to run sound and lights. ApparentlyBrittanycan’t be trusted around males, and he also told me that nobody in her entourage can drink or do any drugs (they all get tested daily). He ended up getting a gig with Prince, who is doing a series of sit-down gigs right now, starting inLos Angeles.
I only mention it because he also took special care to separate Lady Gaga’s persona from someone like Brittany, or a Rhianna. He left her tour having complete respect for Lady Gaga’s talent as well as her professionalism. He was even wearing a Lady Gaga tour T-shirt. If you knew this guy, you would know that this means a lot. He is a “too cool” kind of guy, who always wears stuff from the cool cats; his favorite gig ever was with Delbert McLinton. He wouldn’t wear a Lady Gaga T-shirt unless he respected her.
The singers, the songs-
Haley, “I who have Nothing”
Is it just me, or does Haley sound sort of like Joan Rivers? Can we talk? PuhLeeze… Grow up….
Haley sang the crap out of the song, but two things: 1: This song has been done before on Idol, and better; and 2: She moosed out the last note and her breath wasn’t the dramatic pause that she was going for. I don’t think that her singing will hurt her, but the song was too draggy and cabaret to give her the moment that she needed. Haley is in trouble, especially since the judges ain’t ever going to say anything bad about Lauren. I hope I’m wrong, but I have a bad feeling.
The judges laid it on thick, mostly to build drama, but let’s be real. Haley wasn’t amazing tonight.
Scotty, “Young Blood”
Man, you have GOT to be kidding me. Scotty McCreery with this song, and he only went low once? I felt cheated. He sang well, though, and I enjoyed it. Scotty seems to bring out something new every week (this week it was the Buck Owens rubbery, slangy speaking/singing thing), and every week he gets a little bit more comfortable in his skin. His upper range is exponentially stronger than it was when he first came toHollywood, and last I checked he was still in High School. Give this kid a few years and he has a chance to be one of those guys that not only sell records, but win all the awards for being such a good singer and such a creative force. I can’t overstate just how impressed I am with his growth as a performer on the show. Oh, and he can sing a little too.
Randy called Scotty’s two performances both sides of a Scotty concert. He did this last week, too. Scotty is really coming into his own. I am excited for Scotty like I was when Ken Griffey Junior joined the Mariners back in 1989, when he was still a teenager (and playing with his father, for chrissakes). The line that I remember Bill James saying about Junior fits Scotty: “He has set no reasonable limits for himself. He can become anything.” Scotty ain’t gonna sing opera at the Met, but in his field he has a chance to be something very special.
Two things again: 1: When it went up-tempo she lost the terrific early momentum that she built up, and the middle of the song was mostly a waste of time; and 2: She chickened out again on one of her glory notes, going to a weak falsetto instead of blowing that note out. Other than that, this was the most dynamically effective Lauren that we’ve heard in months. Lady Gaga had a very positive effect on her, and for the first time since her audition Lauren went after the song instead of singing scared (other than that one note). She scratched, and she blew notes out. She looked confident, and she showed a glimpse of what she is going to be able to do when she grows into her considerable talent. Had she stayed on the stage instead of going into the crowd and losing her momentum (and hit that one note), I would have called this a moment. She was that good on the rest of the song.
James, “Love Potion Number Nine” (Yes!!!!!!)
First off, I love this song and JD didn’t do it at all like I am used to hearing it. He didn’t catch the ridiculousness of it, or the sheer banality of a song about some chemist that finds an elixir that makes him irresistible to the opposite sex. He gave only a cursory glance to what is a terrific melody, and turned it into something completely different.
And he slayed it. I was teetering at the end, waiting for him to finish out the crowd dominating end game, almost ready to hate it. He hit that last note perfectly; with some growl, some rasp, and perfectly expressed joy. Vocally it was more in JD’s range of show-offness than his earlier song, but what made it a moment for me was his stage command. He owned the song, he owned the stage, and he owned the crowd. He’s been trying to do this for weeks and mostly coming up a little short. Tonight, he nailed it.
Safe to in danger:
Haley is going home tomorrow night unless something really weird happens. She has had a long and amazing journey to get this far, but she chose her song poorly twice tonight and didn’t sing as well as she has sung the last few weeks. Scotty and JD had terrific nights, so they are cruising. Lauren….
Lauren wasn’t great on her first song, but she was as good as she’s been in months on her last one. I wondered how she would come back from her embarrassing reaction to rejection last week. She came back tough and strong, didn’t she? She wasn’t perfect tonight, not by miles and miles, but she came back with a passion that was missing for several weeks. To me, Lauren stepped up and made herself heard. Haley could have blown her out of the game with some good decisions, but she didn’t. She chose the wrong songs.