American Idol: Five Down, Seven to Go

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The Idol contestants move into week six with “songs from the movies.” This theme had the potential to bring some real cheese to the table, but thanks to a couple of talented artists in this group, we were spared yet another awful rendition of some of the worn out songs performed on American Idol. We were not, however, spared of all cheese.

Starting out the night was Paul with “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Paul is not only a challenged singer, but his “dancing” drives me crazy. He needs to stop. Jerking around on the stage like he’s having some kind of fit, Paul comes across as a complete joke. The judges say he is “crazy with abandon,” and I will agree with that, though they likely don’t mean the same thing I’m thinking. Paul can pretty much do nothing at this point to change my opinion of him.

Calming things down following Paul’s spastic performance, Lauren chose “The Climb.” Jimmy is correct—Lauren sang the song better than Miley. No surprise there, really; Miley’s not that great of a singer. Lauren has great control for her age, and it says a lot when an amateur sings a song better than the “professional.” Lauren displays so much composure and control on that stage, and pardon the cliché, but she is cute as a button. Lauren has the whole package.

Proving that singing alone does not the whole package make, Stefano chose “End of the Road.” The title of that song may end up being apropos for Stefano, as this could well be the end of the road for him. There’s just something about Stefano’s vocals I don’t like. Not sure what it is, but I liken it to nails on a chalkboard. He doesn’t come across as sincere in his performances but, rather, as manufactured. Personally, I’m just so tired of his power notes and upper range, which comes across as “raspy,” but not in a good way. I simply cannot hear what the judges are hearing when it comes to Stefano.

One that I do hear is Scotty McCreery, who chose “I Cross My Heart.” Just about any country tune is going to put Scotty in his comfort zone, but that’s not a bad thing. Let’s face it: Many Americans love a good country singer, and if you really listen to Scotty, he has a really nice range. Even when he’s singing in his “chest voice,” the baritone periodically slips in at appropriate times, making it come across as completely natural. He really is a star who needs very little work post-Idol. I love his crooked smile; his “imperfections” make him that much more likable. Another contestant who continues to grow on me is Casey.

Casey wanted to sing “Nature Boy,” but Jimmy Iovine objected, suggesting instead Phil Collins. I cringed until Casey stood his ground. Sorry, Jimmy, but you were so wrong. I loved this vibe for Casey, and I love that he knows who he is musically. Scatting? Seriously? Look, Casey is likely not major label material, but man, is he awesome. Randy is correct that we do need artists in the business. If you ask me, the lack of real artists is what’s wrong with the industry today. So much of music and the performers are manufactured; Casey is the real deal. I didn’t “get” Casey at first (shame on me), but I do now. I appreciate his value and what he brings to the table.

Bringing very little to the table, Haley chose “Call Me,” something she could, once again, growl and scream on. Her first note was woefully off-key, and the rest just wasn’t good. At one point, she was YELLING (in Internet speak) her lyrics. I agreed with Randy’s assessment, but again, we’re talking about a girl who has absolutely no musical identity. Her comments post-judgment confirmed that. She referred to “Call Me” as a “feel  good” song. Really? Really? Haley, why do you think the song was included in “American Gigolo?” I guess it depends on what makes one “feel good,” no?

Though he doesn’t seem confused about his musical identity, Jacob had a bit of trouble settling on a song and eventually went with “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” I am so not surprised that Jacob did a good job with this song. It’s right up his alley. Another contestant who will likely never fit in the “pop music” category, this young man can sang. Yes, I said “sang.” When you have chops like Jacob, you go beyond just singing. He has a natural ability to take his vocals from soft to strong at all the appropriate times, making his performances extremely heartfelt. Even if you’re bored with the ballads (like my sister is), you’ve got to admit that this is one vocally gifted young man. He is what you would call a natural singer.

Another “natural” at what he does, James chose “Heavy Metal” from the movie of the same name. I’m frankly amazed that the judges don’t know metal from rock. I’ve never seen the movie, but it must be about cars or something, certainly not about metal music. What James did last night was not metal, contrary to the judges’ classification. It was hard rock, and the song is in James’ comfort zone as well. He does that genre well. Metal is a genre unto itself, marked by rhythmless, loud music and indiscernible lyrics. I didn’t hear that during James’ performance, did you?

The judges’ inability to tell rock from metal aside, they did a good job of choosing contestants this year. One of the things I like most about some of these competitors is that they are true artists. They know who they are musically, and they want to stay in that zone. Though some may qualify that as “safe,” it’s actually a testament to the contestants’ knowledge. Honestly, I would rather see them do what they do well than to try to be something they’re not and come across badly. Of course, the judges and producers push Haley to be what they want because they, like me, know that she has no real identity. That’s why she’s not coming across well. Consequently, I put Haley in my bottom three this week. Between Haley and Paul, I’m not sure who I would like to see leave first, but as long as they go back to back, I’ll be happy. The other two in my bottom three this week are Paul and Stefano. Any of these three can go, and I won’t be mad. The real artists in this group are separating themselves from the rest; I hope the people who vote saw that last night.

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