Tonight on American Idol the Top 9 contestants sang top iTunes downloads. I was pretty excited because it meant there would be a wider selection of music to choose from. The contestants have little reason to suck– in theory – because they're able to pick songs that truly suit their style, not to mention tunes they're very familiar with. At the same time, I was apprehensive for the show because a lot of times I find that when American Idol contestants have a really broad range to work with, they don't really do that well. Who knew song selection was that hard? I was anxious to see what was in store for this week.
So who was this week's mentor? There really wasn't one, but Ryan Seacrest prepared them by bringing him to his radio show. The man may be a total tool, but considering he's the host of American Top 40, he was an appropriate person to choose. Still I think it's better when there's a mentor who can advise the American Idol contestants on their performance.
Anoop Desnai opened the show with Caught Up. I was glad to see Anoop venture out and do something a little more edgier and livelier than he has been, but the judges weren't feelin it. "It actually gave me a headache," Simon told him. I didn't think it was that bad. Yes, Anoop is no Usher, but if he wants to be an R&B star, why not go for it? However, I am a bit concerned for him that he was the first to perform. To me, it always seems to be a risky position to be in when it's not an absolutely outstanding performance.
Megan Joy sang Turn Your Lights Down Low by Bob Marley and Lauren Hill. And guess what? She wasn't as bad as usual! But she still wasn't good. Does anyone notice her voice always sounds as if it's straining? And what was going on with the song choice? Keep your audience in mind, Megan; a lot of people do not know that song.
Danny Gokey went country with What Hurts the Most by Rascal Flatts. This seemed like a really good choice because it's been covered by several artists (originally recorded by Mark Willis) so it's a fairly recognizable song. Not only could he win over country fans, but also pop and dance listeners who like the Cascada version of the song. Dude, ladies love this guy...and this week, Simon did too! Danny did really well this week, but I don't think I was moved as much as the judges were. I was still waiting for a truly outstanding performance.
Upon hearing Allison Iraheta was up next I got really excited. But as soon as I heard she was singing No Doubt's Don't Speak, I immediately tensed up since No Doubt is my favorite band of all time. Allison came out with her guitar for the first time and a terrible hairdo. Mullets on women are never cool! Besides that, the performance was dull. Gwen Stefani puts a lot of emotion into that song, which is why it's a hit, and I just didn't feel it with Allison. Maybe a song by a younger artist would have suited her better.
I was really hoping Scott MacIntyre would finally pick something more hip to sing this week. But I had a feeling the performance would be anything but as soon as I heard he had selected Billy Joel's Just the Way You Are. (If it had to be the Piano Man, River of Dreams would have been a better choice.) After watching his performance, I was pretty convinced that Scott had never watched/listened to American Idol up until this point. The judges loved it, but I found it boring and thought it was self-induljent, as Simon so often likes to say. But kudos on the haircut...though the stylists could have used less hairspray on him.
Matt Giraud changed things up with You Found Me by The Fray. It was the first performance by Matt that I really loved. And up until this point, was certainly the best performance of the night. He didn't change it up from the original version, but I still enjoyed it. But the judges felt he was trying to be someone else. Simon told him "Do what you do best," encouraging him to go back to R&B. I found this to be incredibly interesting, and contradicting. How often do the judges tell contestants to try something new and take a risk? An artist doesn't need to limit themselves to only one genre. Just look at Lil Wayne who's putting out a rock album soon.
Lil Rounds came out with yet another new wig (that looked horrible on her), singing Celine Dion's I Surrender. I was extremely nervous for her as contestants are always taking a huge chance by taking on a song by a performer of this caliber. But she actually did a really good job with the vocals. The judges did suggest going a little younger, which I had to agree with. A Mary J. Blige song (Be Without You, anyone?) would have been a much better selection. Hmmm, did I just contradict myself after what I just said about Matt?
Next up was Adam Lambert with Play that Funky Music by Wild Cherry. I didn't care if he turned his performance into a somber or outrageous one. Either way, at this point I figured I would be entertained, even if I didn't like it. Adam has really cleaned up his look - he was looking cute again this week. And more importantly, he had fun and made the audience have fun. Paula went so far to compare him to Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler. I wouldn't go that far yet, but nice work. It wasn't as great as last week's but still worthwhile.
Kris Allen closed out the show with Ain't No Sunshine by Bill Withers. As he stated, he was trying to "make one of those moments". Good attitude to go into with the performance with, and hey, it worked! The song came across emotional and moving. I didn't care that he was still hiding behind an instrument (a keyboard) because it worked. Swoon, swoon, swoon. I can see Kris Allen becoming a pop artist, and not just based on looks. He made me completely forget about the first five Idol contestants during this show. Good thing I wrote down the names of the songs performed! Best performance of the night. But Kris Allen still needs to develop more of a swagger.
Overall, this episode of American Idol was OK, but really not outstanding. Even Kris Allen's great performance of Ain't No Sunshine wasn't as big as Adam Lambert's Tracks of My Tears from last week. But lucky for us, American Idol is now down to 1.5 hours, rather than the dragging 2 hours.
So who do I think will be in the bottom three tomorrow?
Anoop Desai - Sorry, but going first without an outstanding performance just seems to be a curse.
Megan Joy - No matter how much her fans – all 10 of them – like to text, she will eventually be pushed out.
Allison Iraheta - It was the first performance of hers that I thought was a little rough. And it will cost her.
Tune into American Idol tomorrow during elimination night because there's sure to be a very entertaining performance from Lady Gaga and a mediocre one from David Cook. Not to mention a new Coca-Cola commercial, which we all go gaga over.