AI8: Final Two

Idol final 2 performance rounds are often anti-climactic, because after a season of finding out what the top 2 contestants are good at, your “reward” is that you get to hear them singing the reliably awful coronation song, unadventurous producers’ choices, and only one song which really reflects the sort of artist they would choose to be. Tonight was no different, and although I want to write this because I think Kris was thrown under the bus again, it was generally just a dull night.

First round: Mad World (Adam), Ain’t No Sunshine (Kris)

I never understood why people went mad for Mad World the first time (and I utterly adore the Gary Jules version), but I guess it was still a better strategic choice for Adam than his actual best performance of the season (Tracks Of My Tears), given that his second song was going to be Motown as well. Since I was underwhelmed by it the first time and he didn’t change anything from that, I don’t have much to say. As usual, I felt like I was watching a skilled stage professional playing the part of a singer in a musical and doing so impeccably, but just not a musician intimately connected to the music he was creating.

Despite the simplicity of Kris’s setup – just him and a piano – I thought he brought an intensity and emotion to his performance that raised the bar from his first time, and which all of Adam’s dramatic platform entrance, dry ice and Hot Topic trench coat didn’t match. Perhaps this came naturally from having done his own arrangement, as opposed to capitalizing on someone else’s clever cover.

Vocally I think both of them sounded terrific for the songs they were singing, but I’m also gonna give it to Kris here because his song was more demanding than Mad World, and he pulled it off while playing the piano at the same time.

Second round: A Change Is Going To Come (Adam), What’s Going On (Kris)

I called this round for Adam before I even saw them perform, because Adam’s song has a million times more Moment potential than the mid-tempo snooze that is What’s Going On. Apart from the obvious Obama associations, this song is so awesome it even gave Syesha a moment! Seriously, if anyone reading this thinks they can make What’s Going On riveting in comparison, please record yourself and upload it to Youtube, because I’ve looked and found no evidence that this is humanly possible.

Adam’s performance was, well, true to himself. I adored it until he busted out the Sad Elvis face and the unnecessary glory notes and channelling Von Smith, and then I got bored and zoned out. But at least the first half of the performance was really well done, and he seemed to connect more genuinely with the song than he did with Mad World.

Kris actually made quite an admirable attempt to make What’s Boring On his own. He sang it well, and I think he deserves way more credit than he’s gotten so far for being a sufficiently accomplished musician to accompany himself on two different instruments in one show (an Idol first, I think). But although he’s managed to make me enjoy other songs I hate this season (She Works Hard For The Money, Heartless), he didn’t reinvent What’s Going On enough to make me like it.

Third round: Hot Fucking Mess (Adam, Kris)

Let’s not belabour this: FAIL for Adam, EPIC FAIL for Kris, and above all, SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIFUCKING FAIL for Kara. However, I commend Adam for committing to the musical universe that is I Believe This Is My Moment Like This Now Inside Your Heaven Where My Destiny Makes You Proud marginally better than Kris, and for saying “Thanks for giving me that song, it was beautiful” to Kara with a straight face. Now, let us never speak of this again.

Conclusion: Adam edged Kris out tonight, partly due to his own abilities and partly because Kris was out of luck with a shitty second song and a coronation song which totally didn’t suit his vocal range. 

I’m still hoping Kris can pull off an upset since they’re neck and neck based on the Dialidol numbers, which looks surprisingly close for an Idol finale and again speaks volumes about the fanbase Kris has managed to amass despite being continually underpimped relative to Adam and Danny. But if he can’t, c’est la vie. I’m just grateful to him for giving me the first finale I gave a shit about since Fantasia’s.

Kris Allen FTW!

(I wrote this straight after the Top 3 performance show last night but wasn’t able to post it till today because my blog host wasn’t co-operating. And as it turned out from today’s results show, my assumption turned out wrong – YAY! I think it’s the first time ever that someone has made the final 2 with zero coverage before the performance rounds and Kris should be damn proud.)

I never, never thought I’d be saying this but after tonight’s Top 3 episode of American Idol, I think I might actually want Kris Allen to win. I’m assuming he’ll go home tomorrow, but I’m still putting this out there tonight.

This isn’t how I started the season. I started off duly impressed by Adam after Satisfaction, and completely dismissed Kris after his forgettable Man In The Mirror. But even though Adam always sings his songs impeccably (on vocal ability alone it’s clear no one else there measures up to him), as an interpreter of songs he has not impressed me since Black or White and Tracks Of My Tears. Most of the time, even when I think he’s done well I still strongly prefer the original (Dilana’s version of Ring Of Fire, Gary Jules’ version of Mad World and Muse’s version of Feeling Good just to name a few). This week, I thought he massacred One and once again, sang Cryin’ very well but somehow still ended up making me long to hear Steven Tyler.

As for Kris, he’s gone from a total unknown in the audition rounds to being in the top 3 with two contestants who were continuously pimped right from the start and I don’t think he got there just by being cute. I think he’s there because he’s pulled off quite a number of smart, nuanced interpretations – Remember The Time (to be fair, part of that surprise was because my expectations of him were so low at the time, but I went back to watch the performance and still loved it), Ain’t No Sunshine and She Works Hard For The Money are all really enjoyable performances that don’t make me long to hear the originals. I think this is how he surreptitiously won me over without me realizing it until tonight.

Tonight, he got the booby prize judge pick by Kara and Randy (I mean seriously, how pathetic is it that Simon and Paula get their own picks and Kara and Randy have to share?) and the shitty second spot, neither getting to open the show nor close it. This would be as good a time as any to decide that he can’t overcome The Chosen Ones’ juggernaut by now and just resign himself to a dignified exit.

Instead, he threw himself into it fearlessly. Apologize is a rather difficult song to sing and contrary to what some judges said I don’t think it’s comfortably within Kris’s range at all, but he didn’t shrink from it and pulled it off pretty successfully. First round to Kris. Heartless was, quite simply, a master stroke. It was unexpected, current, brave, well sung and absolutely the perfect time to have a Moment. Best TV of the night, and second round to Kris.

(Note: You’ll notice I’m talking like Danny doesn’t exist. I’ve basically given up trying to figure out why he’s so popular, and because I’ve already steeled myself to see him in the finale, I’m mentally prepared for Adam and Kris to fight for the remaining place.)

Look, I know all the cool kids like Adam, and I like Adam too. He was off his game tonight, but he’s done other good performances which should of course count for something. But on a night where Adam got Simon’s song pick (Simon has picked for the winner more than half the time and almost always makes the best song choices), got to close the show, and is of course a seasoned pro who has already been massively pimped the entire season, Kris stepped up unintimidated and delivered what I thought were the best two performances of the night. I admire that. I will smile and nod if Adam wins, for sure. But tonight’s epiphany was that I will pump my fist in the fucking air if Kris’s impossible dream comes true.

AI8: Michael Jackson Week

(I was going to post this right after the Michael Jackson week performances on American Idol, but then I got unexpectedly hijacked by a Simon Cowell obsession. Yes, I know. But look! He likes puppies! Anyway, since it was halfway written already, I thought I might as well just finish it up and slap it on here even though it’s unbelievably late. Country week tonight, yee-hah!)

Speaking as a total Michael Jackson lunatic familiar with pretty much every lyric, note and dance move the man has ever committed to public record, this was an interesting week for me on American Idol. Before the show, I tried making a list of what I’d have picked for each contestant and why, and found it fairly challenging. So many fantastic MJ songs are about delivering a complete performance rather than hanging everything on the sort of glory notes that get you praise on American Idol, and of course if you pick a song which is forever linked with an iconic performance, it has to be for the sort of contestant who can pull off a very different take. David Cook did a good job with Billie Jean last season, but I still credit Chris Cornell more for the success of that performance than David himself.

But then I watched the show and definitely got a couple of surprises. (Note: I didn’t do Youtube links to the performances because new American Idol vids on Youtube appear and disappear all the time, but just do a search and you should be able to find at least a few uploads that haven’t been deleted yet.)

Lil Rounds
I’d pick: Keep The Faith. Nothing has set her apart so far from the many shouty divas who initially impress but aren’t ultimately unique enough to stay. This song suits said shouty divaness, but also has plenty of room for showcasing subtlety, growly gospel riffs and all-round flava.
She picked: The Way You Make Me Feel. I didn’t like it at all, and don’t feel she brought anything new to it. I think the slower tempo lost her the exuberance of Michael’s version and didn’t gain her any sexiness or soulfulness in return.

Scott McIntyre
I’d pick: Stranger In Moscow. Scott’s not my kind of artist, but I think he would do an earnest, clear-voiced performance of this song which would appeal to his core fanbase. Variety no, sticking to your strengths yes.
He picked: Keep The Faith. Strangely, despite Scott’s utter lack of above-mentioned gospel flava I think the performance worked out well for him. Most people don’t know the song so they won’t be making the same comparisons as I am to Michael’s version, and at least it was something a little different from his adult contemporary balladeer zone.

Danny Gokey
I’d pick: Man, I don’t know. I definitely don’t want any more Heroesque “lies in YOUUUUU” pointy gestures but I’m not sure he’s capable of dialling down the schmaltz. I wish Matt Giraud hadn’t already sung Who’s Loving You in the wild card round, because I think Danny could have done it better. (Not that any version will ever top baby Michael’s.)
He picked: P.Y.T. Not bad! A brave non-obvious choice and he threw himself into it with some abandon, which I liked, spazzy dancing included. Above all, kudos for not exploiting his (yes, admittedly sad) backstory by picking Gone Too Soon, because that would really really turn me off.

Michael Sarver
I’d pick: I don’t think this guy’s good at upbeat stuff, and am pretty amazed he got through the first week with that awful I Don’t Wanna Be karaoke. I think Human Nature is the sort of oh-he’s-such-a-SNAG-despite-being-a-roughneck ballad that would work for him.
He picked: You Are Not Alone. He did well to pick an arrangement that made the song less deathly dull than it is, but then he spiralled into off-pitch belting. Again, enthusiastic karaoke by a nice guy, but that’s just not good enough.

Jasmine Murray
I’d pick: Black Or White. She needs to not do another treacly ballad, and this would be suitably upbeat. I still wouldn’t like it much, I reckon, but I’ll never like her much anyway.
She picked: I’ll Be There. Boring and flat, not just in pitch but in the tone of her voice and her rendition of the song. I don’t agree that she combined bits of the Michael and Mariah versions, I think she tried the straightforwardness of the Michael version without possessing the purity of his voice that made it special.

Kris Allen
I’d pick: Remember The Time, because he needs to do something less Mickey Mouse Club than his previous Man In The Mirror, which I hated. Remember The Time is groovy and playful without requiring too much smoulder for his boy band face to handle.
He picked: Remember The Time. I’m really surprised at how much I liked this! The guitar may not have added much musically, but it did give the song a slightly different flavour from the original, and brought out an ebullient, charming performance from Kris which really should seal his popularity with the tweens. Hell, I felt the “adorable-sexy” too!

Allison Iraheta
I’d pick: Give In To Me. I see her giving the verses the soulful, slightly melancholic feel she did with Alone (my favourite performance of the opening rounds), and then kicking into rock chick overdrive with the chorus.
She picked: Give In To Me. Didn’t like it! It felt like the whole song was in rock chick overdrive right from the start with no build-up, and with that awful outfit (she’s not fat but I’d still go easy on the leather shorts) it felt overdone, like she was in a bad soap opera’s depiction of a rock concert. Also, while I forgave her tendency to sing slightly flat on the high notes with Alone because the rest of that performance was so kick-ass, I’m going to stop forgiving her from now on.

Anoop Desai
I’d pick: The Way You Make Me Feel. Suits his stage presence and energy, and I’m guessing it’s within his vocal range.
He picked: Beat It. So awful that even Paula couldn’t manage to say anything good. If you do this song you have to change it up, but he sang it straight and sang it badly. I’m rather depressed about this, because I liked him a lot before the live rounds.

Jorge Nunez
I’d pick: He could do the Spanish version of I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, maybe, but I’d pick Whatever Happens. It’s not very well known, but I think it suits his singing style.
He picked: Never Can Say Goodbye. I really don’t think this was anywhere as bad as the judges did. The arrangement and performance was corny, but that’s kinda what Jorge is, and I thought his vocals were far better than Michael Sarver’s.

Adam Lambert
I’d pick: Dirty Diana. He could either camp it up or strip it down, and either way I think he’d bring the drama.
He picked: Black Or White. I’ve never wanted to like Adam. I hate his hair, his fashion sense, and despised his Believe cover in Hollywood week. But somehow he managed to embrace the shitness of Black Or White and totally, electrifyingly transcend it! Like him or not, I think people will have to start admitting that they’re curious every week to see what he’ll come up with next.

Megan Corkrey
I’d pick: Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’? Some of the quirky vocal tics in the verses might suit her, but the minus is we’d get more of her hideous dancing.
She picked: Rockin’ Robin. Not as disastrous as I expected – there was one line where she did a pretty nice yodelly sort of inflection – but ROCKIN’ FUCKIN’ ROBIN, ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?! I want the awesome Megan that auditioned sounding like Billie Holiday back please, not this nightmarish shittypop equivalent of Kimya Dawson.

Matt Giraud
I’d pick: She’s Out Of My Life. I know he should probably do something more upbeat than another ballad, but it would help me figure out if overdoing the riffing is just something he did with Who’s Loving You, or something he does all the time.
He picked: Human Nature. It wasn’t perfectly sung but somehow I really loved the relaxed, carefree way he did this. He’s no Elliott but because I adore the song, am a total sucker for piano guys, and love the tenderness and delicacy of how he sang the “does he do me that way” lyric, this was my favourite performance of the night and I may be starting to find him a little dreamy.

Alexis Grace
I’d pick: Come Together. (Not a MJ song per se but still fair game since he recorded and released a cover version.) I’m personally not sold on her new pocket sexpot persona but the aggression and attitude of this song suit what she’s been trying to project.
She picked: Dirty Diana. The first verse was very promising, but it got a little repetitive after that. The song can handle a lot of oversinging, but Adam did a better job of oversinging while keeping things interesting than she did.

American Anticlimax

I wrote a rant last night about how abysmal the American Idol finale was and then fell asleep without saving it. Sorry, I know most people are too cool to love American Idol – once I get this out of my system I promise I’ll get back to writing about indie music.


  • You Give Love A Bad Name: Ballsy the first time, blah the second time. Vocals were terrible and he was clearly out of breath.
  • She Will Be Loved: Case study in the blandness that is Blake. The same dumb preppy clothes he wears every week, the same dead eyes, emotionless face and flat reedy voice. Also an awful song choice strategy-wise – if your third song’s already a treacly ballad, why do the same with the second?
  • This Is My Now: Look, I know you think you’re soooo much better than this song and you want everyone to know it too but honey, even unicellular organisms are better than this crappy song. Suck it up, lose your “I listen to underground hip-hop” pretensions and sing the hell out of it. You’re not an artist, you’re a layer in the American Idol cheesecake.


  • Fighter: Picking a song by an artist who can outsing and outperform you any day of the week isn’t the best way to show you’re a “fighter”. It’s more like you’re pogoing through the jungles of Vietnam and Christina Aguilera’s the Vietcong.
  • Broken Wings: I’ve never seen a performance of this on American Idol that wasn’t pageanty slop, and this was no different.
  • This Is My Now: At least she did her fake, shrieky best on it and on that laughably pathetic basis alone, she deserves to win American Idol.

Verdict: Blake threw in the towel, Jordin wins by default, and Michelle wishes she’d stayed in the karaoke pub drinking instead of coming home to watch this dreck.

Oh and let’s not forget the final insult to injury for us poor viewers: a performance from Penishead Daughtry, still proving with his eyeliner and his posing that he’s only about as edgy as the average ten year old girl.

Best part of the night? Finding out that Paula broke her nose because she tripped over her dog. I believe the “tripped” part, less so the “dog” part. Unless “dog” is slang in LA for “sack of crack”.

Sexiest American Idol Weeks Evar

I really intended to start writing an All Tomorrow’s Parties blog entry tonight, but then I watched my tape of Bon Jovi week on American Idol (I missed it two weeks ago because we were travelling) and there was no place left for experimental/alternative/indie music in my heart.

Because seriously, folks, in 6 seasons of American Idol weekly themes, this was my week. Bon Jovi may be namby-pamby pretty-boy hair-rock has-beens but I embrace all of that and feel no shame for loving them as much as I do. I know every song the contestants sang backwards and forwards (Chris R, how dare you forget the line “I’ve seen a million faces and I’ve ROCKED THEM ALL!”) and the only reason I haven’t made all my karaoke companions sick of Bon Jovi already is that they’re just too damn tough to sing. (Metallica is way easier.)

Phil: Never cared much about him before but he did a great job with Blaze of Glory. For me, it was his best performance of the season and Simon was too harsh. Bye, Phil. I used to sing this song into my comb in front of the mirror too, but you sang it much better.

Jordin: Total trainwreck but at least she did really go for it during the performance, and she immediately acknowledged it was terrible once it was done. It did require just that little more suck to elevate it to sucktasticness (see: Kevin Covais’s Crocodile Rock) though.

LaKisha: It took me a while to get to her actual performance because I rewatched the bit where Jon Bon Jovi explains to her how This Ain’t A Love Song is the biggest love song there is about a million times. (See between 1.07-1.37 for the sweetness.) And then she nailed it and Simon kissed her. I was really sad when LaKisha went home last week, but now I’ve seen this? No bitch who gets lucky with Jon Bon Jovi and Simon Cowell on the same night deserves my sympathy.

Blake: Anyone who’s seen enough beatboxing will know that any decent beatboxer could have arranged the song like that and any good beatboxer could have done something even better, but to do that on American freaking Idol on a night where 2 out of 6 are going to be eliminated took mighty massive balls. Of course, he probably also did it because he knew his singing alone wouldn’t be strong enough to carry off a Bon Jovi song, but nonetheless I certainly can’t accuse him of playing it safe with his solution.

Chris R: I don’t think it is a good idea to demonstrate rock cred by singing like an actual goat, but perhaps Satan might beg to differ. I wouldn’t have let this guy through his first audition and I’m glad he’s finally gone.

Melinda: Okay, I’m officially in love with Melinda again. She was beginning to worry me by being too predictably good every week – always good but good in the same way – but this time she put loads of energy into working the stage and the guitarist, the vocals were smokin’ and her “Rock on!” attempts were adorable. More Jon loveliness at the start too. I wanted to coat them both in sugar and eat them all up.

And this week, Elliott will be on the results show! This time last year I thought I might never hear him sing again so YAY ELLIOTT! I assume he’ll be doing his new single rather than rehash anything he sang previously on the show, so I felt there was no harm revisiting some of those old performances tonight for old time’s sake, except for the harm involved in it now being 2.11 AM.

His Name Is Elliott Yamin

He wasn’t my favourite from the start, but how could he have been?

Until the top 24, the only real exposure he got was as a reluctant accessory to one of the Brittenum twins’ many debacles. Katherine got attention for having a mother who was a voice teacher. Ayla got attention for having a father who was a senator. Paris got attention for having a grandmother who was a famous singer (but, to be fair, also for the most spinetinglingly awesome audition I’ve ever seen on the show). Kellie got attention for having a father in jail and, later on, for defying every stereotype anyone had ever had about dumb rednecks by being even dumber than imaginable. But Elliott Yamin, diabetic and 90% deaf in one ear, apparently still wasn’t interesting enough to the American Idol producers to warrant any real exposure – at least, not until the Top 3 results show, when it was already too late.

And putting yourself into their shallow little heads, it was totally understandable. He’s got bad teeth, no titties, and is a nice, genuine guy, and of course none of that makes for good TV. Despite his lack of traditional good looks, he’s neither repulsively obese enough (Ruben Studdard) nor nerdy enough (Clay Aiken/Kevin Covais) to gain instant underdog sympathy – in fact, Taylor benefited much more from this right from the start, due to the grey hair and initial dismissal by Simon. Also, no all-consuming narcissism (Brenna). Also, no indication of serial killer tendencies (Scott Savol). What’s a nice guy with none of these trainwreck qualities got to do to get some attention?

Elliott’s answer to the question: Sing really really well all the time, including pulling off multiple fiendishly difficult songs with jaw-dropping ease. Sing songs you love, even if they’re not famous crowd-pleasers and the producers advise you against singing them. And do it all with warmth in your eyes, graciousness and humility, and a vocal tone that made me and many other women want to charge on stage and ravish him.

Well, his strategy obviously didn’t succeed in getting enough of America’s attention, but he certainly got mine.

I was bug-eyed, speechless and embarrassingly in the mood for love after Moody’s Mood For Love. Ready to enrol in teacher training college after Teach Me Tonight. Longing to go clubbing with him and dance like goofs after I Don’t Wanna Be. Wondering what it must be like for his girlfriend to watch her man, all dressed up and looking soooo hot, singing A Song For You to millions, and know she can get a private performance any time she wants. Exquisitely troubled after Trouble. And after I Believe It To My Soul? To put it very simply, a believer – that whether Elliott gets a record deal or not, sells millions of albums or not, he will be fine.

It takes a remarkable ability to keep things in perspective to pick a risky song like that, unfamiliar to many (myself included), knowing full well that it could seal your fate unfavourably in the competition but go for broke anyway because you love it and you know you’ll rock it. It was a great last song to be remembered by.

Please don’t disappear into obscurity, Elliott. I can’t bear the thought of never hearing you sing again. :(

When Exams Attack

Studying will really really begin tomorrow. For real. Really.

Unfortunately, going by previously established patterns, dear Reader, this probably means you’re in for a rather slow 3 weeks. No more of my rapier wit and irresistable personality! No more visceral vignettes of my swinging rock and roll life! Indeed, my friends, you will have to get by with my usual exam output of unrestrained music geekery, pointless links collected during hours on end of study avoidance surfing, and most certainly nothing even remotely intellectual.

So, pretty much the same as what you’ve always got here, just with even less of a life than before. Sigh. Here’s a little taster:

Music Geekery
Newly arrived from Django, yay!

  • Bubba Sparxxx: Deliverance
  • Dirty Three: Whatever You Love You Are
  • Aereogramme: A Story In White
  • Lewis Parker: Masquerades And Silhouettes
  • Bedhead: What Fun Life Was
  • The Walkmen: Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone

Pointless Links
In honour of For Alec, who had his first actual bout in a boxing ring a few days ago and wisely decided not to tell me about it until after the fact: Mike Tyson Quotes.

Here’s one I’d like to highlight for you, you big dolt no one in particular, because of course I’m totally cool about the fact that my favourite nose in the world could quite possibly have been broken before I got the chance to see it again – “I try to catch him right on the tip of the nose, because I try to push the bone into the brain.”

Nothing Remotely Intellectual
I certainly never kept my Will Young mania a secret on this site during the original Pop Idol, and I see no reason to be shy about my commitment to its American franchise. This Ryan Seacrest fellow is a poor substitute for Ant and Dec, and I like Pete Waterman so much more than the painfully inarticulate Randy Jackson, but at least sexy Simon is still around, and getting sexier by the episode. Oh, and GO FANTASIA!