**GASP** The songs of Michael Jackson! I'm so happy I could tinkle. . . . And maybe I just did a little bit. The excitement must have overwhelmed Paula, because she obviously just woke up from a good hour or so of passing out on her face (while some kind of pigeon appears to have passed out on her neck). Is something wrong with my TV, or is her face fuchsia? And . . . Ryan just descended the stairs through some kind of downhill skiing gate, and we're off!
Just a quick note (or two): I'm not being sarcastic, at all, when I say I love Michael Jackson. Know this now. His songs don't exactly scream, "Cover me!" because he's one of those singers you don't want to be compared to . . . but everybody's on more or less an even playing field in that regard.
I also just have to disagree with all the judges and Ryan—the show just got a heck of a lot easier. Even with the announcement that the bottom two vote getters will be jettisoned this week, it's still better than the 75% cuts they had been subject to. No one has to be the best, they just have to avoid sucking the worst. Now let's get to the songs:
Lil Rounds "The Way You Make Me Feel," is a wonderful song, even if it features a blatant ripoff of Transformer sound effects. But it's also one of those songs that's a little more fun to dance to than to sing along with, but Lil did okay. There seems to be an unwritten agreement that whoever starts off the show has to do an upbeat song, and Lil complied nicely. Her vocals were solid, but . . . eh, it kinda fell flat for me. Still, you gotta love Lil, even if she is dressed like a mall chick.
Scott MacIntyre Maybe Simon didn't know the song, but I wore out my copy of the Dangerous CD, particularly this track, "Keep the Faith." Oh, man, I love this song. And I liked what Scott did with it. It still seems like he's a bit nervous, and maybe, underneath the nerves, not the best singer. Still, I loved the song. I like him. I'm not too worried about his chances at this point, but I don't think he'll break through the top 5. Outer fringes of elimination danger
Danny Gokey It takes some serious chutzpah to stand in front of a national audience and sing, "P.Y.T." Danny Gokey has chutzpah coming out of his pores (and I think that's what he uses in his hair, too). The dude SANG that song. The dancing was funny. But man . . . I loved everything about the vocals. The King of Pop catalog is tough enough, and Danny chose one of the most demanding songs in there. Very, very solid. Oh, and the "Na Na Na Na's" with Paula and Kara were pure genius. He's a keeper.
Michael Sarver Michael decided to go all Free Willy on us and sing, "You Are Not Alone." He sang great, but here's the thing non-Jacko fans might not have picked up on: he butchered the words. But he never really let on that he was making up new ones, which is . . . awesome. It's also sacrilege, but as he wasn't singing in the Chapel of MJ, it's forgivable sacrilege. I liked him quite a bit. I think elimination passes him by for now, but he should go over the lyrics one more time before tomorrow's show, just in case.
Jasmine Murray Jasmine wasn't satisfied with being compared just to Michael Jackson, so she decided to double her displeasure by getting grouped with Mariah Carey as well—although she did avoid the dreaded Trey Lorenz standard by skipping the bridge altogether (and yes, I did know the dude's name without the help of Wikipedia; I double-majored in Michael and Mariah studies—deal with it). Jasmine did not compare favorably. She did look smoking, though. The sound side of things, less than hot. (Aside: I think it's absolutely hilarious that Simon said she sounded like a little girl trying to be a grown up when she was performing a song made famous by a 10 year old.) Inner circle of elimination targets
Kris Allen You know what "Do You Remember?" really needs? An acoustic guitar. Thank you, Kris, for playing an instrument that, while Paula described with X-rated affection, could not be audibly detected by anyone, anywhere, by any means. The singing was fine, but the song was just weird. He will, apparently, continue to advance because he resembles a post-pubescent David Archuleta. Congrats. But from the looks of it, his wife won't be dialing or texting his number. She was clearly not wild about him becoming America's newest brand of eye candy. His mother, on the other hand, was quite giddy to hear Paula describe him as "sexy," while Simon attempted to unravel what I can only assume is the pull-string that makes Paula talk. One of the weirdest rounds of critiques I've ever seen.
Allison Iraheta Allison brought B+ vocals with A+ poise to her rendition of "Give into Me," an unfortunate song choice not only for its too-dark-for-AI menace but also for the disturbing unspoken suspicion shared by all of Americans on some level: there's just the slightest possibility that song was written for Macaulay Culkin. Forgive me, Michael, but somebody had to say it. I actually really liked the performance, but I wonder if the darkness will fail to register with AI voters. After David Cook's win last year, I'm gonna say, nah. She's safe. She can see elimination nation from her house.
Anoop Desai Michael Jackson was already a superstar before Thriller. "Beat It," was Michael's official notice to the world, saying, "It doesn't matter how ridiculous my lyrics are. I can make them awesome. I'm that good. Suck it." In fact, "Suck It," was the original title, but Quincy Jones put his foot down and made him tone down the machismo. All of that serves as my way of graciously glossing over the suckiness of Anoop's performance. There is just no way he should have been legally allowed to perform that song. The boot of elimination is planted firmly on his neck.
Jorge Núñez "Never Can Say Goodbye." I feel for Jorge, I really do. No one has a better excuse to be unfamiliar with Jacko's songs than Jorge. But I thought the judges were a little too harsh on him. I actually thought he did fairly well. The only problem was, even in MJ's Jackson 5 version, the entire song is redeemed on the basis of a single, mind-blowing note that very few people in the history of R&B could have delivered as powerfully and masterfully as the young Michael did so long ago. It is that note and that note alone that holds the difference between okay and awesome. Jorge never had a prayer. Jorge can smell elimination singeing his tail feathers, but I'm not sure his goose is cooked quite yet.
Megan Corkrey Last week Simon called Megan current and quirky. She decided to avenge that critique by singing "Rockin' Robin." She added a new dimension of mobility to her previously static gyrations of awkwardness. She flapped. She pointed. She actually sang pretty well, but the whole thing was just so . . . eerily cutesy. Her street cred sank below even the sewers, but her chances of winning Disney Idol have skyrocketed. But if I may do a Paula, she looks prettier every week. Elimination is taking a shot at Megan. If his aim's any good, she's gone. But I think he's just a bit distracted by her legs.
Adam Lambert Paula got Word of the Day toilet paper for Christmas. And Adam rocked the bejeezus out of "Black or White" (I've always wanted to say that.) Fancy that. A guy with a showcase voice picks a showcase song to . . . well, you know, showcase his pipes. He did roam around in Cheeseville quite a bit, though. He can easily get away with that during MJ week, but he better watch it if they explore the songs of James Taylor down the road. Still . . . wow.
Matt Giraud I haven't heard him sing but a few notes as I type, but this was the perfect song choice. Love. It. Now that I hear him sing, aw, man . . . is it even worth describing? Go buy it off iTunes. It's an awful lot of falsetto, but still, the dude rocked and rolled all over that sucker. The judges are hurrying now . . . thank goodness.
Alexis Grace Did you ever have that dream where you show up to work or school or church with no pants on? On a completely unrelated note, Alexis sang, "Dirty Diana" . . . in front of her daughter, which took some of the teary-eyed aw-shucks sympathy away from her intro. That said, I like her—I just wish she hadn't taken the judges' early advice to dirty-up her image so stinking seriously. She definitely can sing, but she overdrew from her vocal chords and had nothing left for her final boo-yah note. If for no other reason than the weird phone number problem and the fact that she and the last few contestants won't have their replays show up on DVRs, she's a distant threat to get overlooked.
Ryan and Simon ended the show with a tease about a new wrinkle in the rules involving the role of the judges. I wonder if they'll have veto power. Very interesting and just a little troubling, because this was a great show (MJ bias noted) and the judges seem to have their clear favorites in mind. Still . . . this was one of the most impressive rounds of performances this early in a season. I'm pretty excited to see and hear what unfolds.