Tuesday (April 14) is "American Idol's" second shot at delivering an hour-long episode. Last week's first attempt didn't work out so well, unless you happened to be praying for strong (and fake) ratings for the return of "Fringe."
The theme on Tuesday is Songs of the Cinema, with "American Idol" favorite Quentin Tarantino actually in the audience sitting behind Simon, checking up on how well the singers responded to his coaching.
The gimmick is that the judges are only going to talk two-at-a-time tonight. Really? With seven singers performing over the course of an hour, they can't fit in comments from four judges? They've done 10 singers and three judges in an hour before. Why not do two judges and Tarantino if you have to doctor with the formula? Heck, why not to Simon and one additional judge on each performance? Who knew that Nigel Lythgoe was the the producer who held the secret to making the show run on time and that in his absence all would be chaos?
Full recap after the break...
Singer: ALLISON IRAHETA
Song: "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"
My Take: Well, somebody had to sing this favorite old "Idol" chestnut. I'd have bet on Danny Gokey, but maybe Allison just got first dibs? She's accompanied by a strings-enhanced arrangement, mumbling and stumbling for the first verse, not exactly missing notes but not really steering the melody either. As per usual, she finds herself at the chorus, which has been retailored to be nearly unrecognizable. The advantage of the new arrangement is that even though Allison is giving almost the exact sort of assuredly bellowing performance she's been doing for two months, it feels like a fresh song, rather than just an Aerosmith knock-off. It's not my favorite of Allison's performances and I don't know that this is the song I'd have recommended given the breadth and depth of the theme, but this may be the most I've liked this song on "Idol."
Mean Joe Green, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Simon Say: Paula gets to kick things off, announcing that Allison possesses the same "special sauce" that Adam does. Simon suggests that Paula is referring to BBQ sauce. Nobody laughs, but there's some enthusiasm when Simon proclaims, "I think, Allison, that you are the girls' only hope left in the competition." His point is that Allison has decided that she can win this thing.
Singer: ANOOP DESAI
Song: "Everything I Do, I Do It For You"
My Take: QT wants Anoop to kill the vocals. The first note sounds like it's going to be a straight-forward Bryan Adams impression, but the song has been very slightly rearranged, some of the notes slightly elongated. It's the second straight utterly banal song salvaged by smart and small tweaks and by a very good solid vocal performance from Anoop. He's not overflowing with energy and intensity and I don't know that he brought the roughness QT wanted, but he sounds strong.
Mean Joe Green, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Simon Say: Randy was worried about the song choice, but he thinks that Anoop is "rockin' the house, right about now." He congratulates Anoop. Kara tells Anoop that it was one of his best vocals and that he's found his place and that the changes in the melody were right. Simon gives a raised eyebrow as if he'd beg to differ. No time! Well, there's no time for judging, but plenty of time for Ryan to tease Anoop about his lack-of-girlfriend.
Singer: ADAM LAMBERT
Song: "Born to Be Wild"
My Take: Like Quentin Tarantino, we appreciate that we never know what exactly Adam's going to do. He says it's an electronica-influenced version of this track from "Easy Rider." After going quite and understated last week, he's bouncing around the stage, running from side to side. Because of his musical theater background, he's actually capable of moving and singing at the same time and he interacts with the band on both side. It's another Axl Rose performance, all wailing high notes and shrieks of passion, making me wondering a bit why he didn't whip out "Live and Let Die" (or "U Could B Mine" from "T2") but he's stupendous, leaving everybody before in his dust. This is a performance that will translate on the tour this summer.
Mean Joe Green, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Simon Say: Paula says Adam "dares to dance in the path of greatness" and that "fortune rewards the brave." Simon is confused. Simon calls it "vocally incredible," though he compares it to watching the "Rocky Horror Musical," which doesn't bother Adam at all. He says, though, that last week was a more original and current performance.
Singer: MATT GIRAUD
Song: "To Really Love a Woman"
My Take: Sigh. Well over 100 years of movies and we're stuck with two Bryan Adams songs? It's here that we recall that Matt was a dueling piano player in his past life. This is just a hotel bar performance. Nothing less, nothing more. Quentin Tarantino asked Matt to pay attention to the lyrics. He didn't. I've never noticed that Matt makes Allison seem capable of enunciation. Again, it's another decently arranged song, a variation on the original. Of course, Matt trusts the stability of arrangements like J. Edgar Hoover used to trust Democrats. After starting pretty straight, he goes off on his own, with the growls and falsettos and affectations, leaving the melody far behind. And, as always, when he just sings the song, he doesn't sound bad at all. But how can nobody be coaching him at all? How can he not be getting the advice that he's hurting himself with the nonsense?
Mean Joe Green, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Simon Say: It was interesting for Randy, that it started well, but got pitchy when he reached the bridge. He tells him to tone down the nonsense. Thank you, Randy. Wow. Randy's making sense. Kara says almost nothing. What what the heck are those faces Simon's making on the side? Does he not know where the camera is? Sepinwall tells me he's mimicking Kara. I'm not exactly convinced.
Singer: DANNY GOKEY
Song: "Endless Love"
My Take: Which is more distracting -- The harp player to Danny's right, or Danny's lack of glasses? It's a different sort of song for Danny, because it mostly begins in his lower register, something we haven't heard much of this season. It's not where his voice is best, but it's good to know he can do it. I like Danny without his glasses. He'd rocked the geek thing for as long as he could, but he's much immediately package-able tonight. He also looks five years younger. It's the night's most straight-forward arrangement yet and Danny is respectable and earnest, giving a look to the sky at the end. After making his late wife the centerpiece of his story in the audition rounds, Danny hasn't played on any personal tragedies (including, reportedly, the death of his grandfather) in weeks, so if he wants to do it here, with just a look, he's entitled.
Mean Joe Green, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Simon Say: Paula wasn't sure the key should have been lowered, but that he pulled it in from midway. She's got her words very carefully prepared tonight. Simon calls Danny a brilliant singer, but he didn't like the harp or the arrangement. Simon admits he was bored, but congratulates Danny for singing a song that was emotional for him.
Singer: KRIS ALLEN
Song: "Falling Slowly"
My Take: Wow. A new song. From a new movie. That's never been performed on "American Idol" before. This could either be a great moment for Kris, or it could be a disaster. Not enough time has passed for this to be a song that you can really reinterpret. It's a singer-songwriter song and just doing justice to Glen Hansard is enough. This song is all about vocal tone and Kris doesn't quite have the right tone. There are notes that sound shrill and sharp. It's a muted arrangement, but I might have gone further. I'd have gone one guitar and one backup singer and Kris. Since I'm not a teenage girl, I can't say for sure if Kris' side-of-mouth singing and closed eyes came across as passionate and dreamy or muppet-y and silly. I'd vote for the latter. Kris Allen fans may vote for the former. It's a beautiful song, and Kris doesn't ruin it -- Much appreciated! -- but it's possible that this is a song where if it isn't Hansard and Marketa Irglova, it just can't be right. So Kris and some anonymous never-seen background singer? Not the same thing.
Mean Joe Green, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Simon Say: It never caught on for Randy, who says it was "pitchy from note one." Kara, though, loved it, calling it one of his best moments. Ryan cuts her off. Geez, guys. Seven singers. Only 14 comments. And you still can't fit it into an hour without running long? If FOX doesn't insist on a production change for next season, the network is making a mistake. It's one thing for FOX to want "Idol" to boost "Fringe," but these shows are just running long because nobody has the timing down.
Singer: LIL ROUNDS
Song: "The Rose"
My Take: You thought Lil was going to do Whitney Houston this week, didn't you? Admit it. Instead, she goes with a little Bette Midler. It starts off down-the-middle, with Lil searching for some of the notes. In the middle, Lil pushes the song into gospel territory, but even still she doesn't seem confident with the melody. There's a lot of warbling.
Mean Joe Green, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Simon Say: Paula loves the song, goes into a prepared speech that says nothing, as Simon rolls his eyes. Simon tells her the song was too soft for her, even if she had some nice moments. "You are not the artist I believe we met seven or eight weeks ago," Simon says. After five or six weeks of promising to do whatever the judges wanted, Lil tears into Simon, insisting she sang the song she wanted to sing and did it the way she wanted. I prefer Lil with a backbone, but is this too little, too late? And speaking of too late, we're four minutes over.
TONIGHT'S BEST: I'm just going to stick with Adam Lambert for a while, I think. He's on his own tier. Anoop was fine. Danny was fine. Allison was good.
TONIGHT'S WORST: Surprisingly, nobody was brutal tonight. Matt and Lil, however, were not very good and Kris had some bumpiness.
IN DANGER: Matt's probably due for a return to the Bottom Three. Lil is probably heading back to the Bottom Three. And I'm thinking that Kris will pay the price for picking one of the lesser known songs. Then again, for teenage girls, is "Falling Slowly" really less-well-known than "The Rose"? Obviously not. I'm thinking it's Lil's turn to go home, but who knows? Maybe her defiance with Simon will play well?
Agree? Disagree? Who's going home tomorrow?