Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"American Idol" 04/03/07 -- Final 9 Perform Classics

How is this night different from all other nights?

Well, the pundits are all wondering about the Passover Effect, and what impact thousands of prematurely truncated Seders will have on the voting results following Tuesday (April 3) night's Tony Bennett-mentored Classics Night on American Idol.

The performances:

Singer: Blake Lewis
Song: "Mack the Knife"
My Take (The Wise Son): Tony Bennett's advice to Blake probably could have been taken more to heart: Pay attention to the lyrics, man. Blake is occasionally sharp, but the problem with the performance isn't his smooth vocals, it's how little engagement he has with the lyrics. He's just twirling around (mimicking Mack going 'round the corner, I suppose), making wavy gestures with his hands as he swoons his way to a song about murder, rape and violence. The opening verse of the song, of course, discusses the teeth of a shark, which must be the reason why Blake keeps opening his mouth extra wide, devouring the camera like chum.
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say: Randy thinks it was a perfect song for his cool jazz vibe. Paula says he's a hep-cat and that he personified pizzazz. Simon gives Blake 7-out-of-10, but gives the band an eight.

Singer: Phil Stacey
Song: "Night and Day"
My Take (The Wise Son): You have to massage every word, every note to make this song work and Phil's vocal tone is superb. But somebody failed to take Bennett's advice and add a little beat to the song, a little pep. Phil's interpretation is disconcerting in its intensity and gravity. With Phil's perfectly backlit ears, half-closed eyes and polished head, the lyrics become more of a threat then I'd prefer them to.
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say: Randy tells Phil that he didn't feel the passion (this after raving about raving about Blake's bubblegum spin on a serial killer). Paula compares Phil to a young Frank Sinatra. Simon is incredulous and asks which Frank Sinatra she's referring to. "I think it had all the joy of somebody singing in a funeral parlor," Simon says.

Singer: Melinda Doolittle
Song: "I've Got Rhythm"
My Take (The Wise Son): Since this week's theme is pretty much served up on a silver platter for Melinda, I'll skip quickly to my salute to the Idol stylist for several steps in the right direction. I liked the side-bangs and it turns out that a bit of a low neckline is a good thing. As for the performance? As Melinda's song asks, who could ask for anything more? Just compare her to how vocally safe Blake and Phil were and it's embarrassing. She could have torn both of their songs to bits (in a good way), but if they even looked at her sheet music, they'd go whimper in the corner.
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say: Randy appreciates that Melinda gives America a vocal lesson every week. Paula calls it a masterclass. Then she rambles about things Melinda has in addition to rhythm. Simon thought the first half of the song was cabaret, but that the second half was great. He worries that they may not ever be able to criticize her.

Singer: Chris Richardson
Song: "Don't Get Around Much Anymore"
My Take (The Wise Son): Oye. Don't go rehearsing with Tony Bennett if you haven't don't your homework, Chris. He's got the lyrics down tonight, at least. I like his semi-twangy interpretation of the song and I get the sense that he's getting into the spirit of the evening's storytelling. His phrasing is precise and considered and his stage-craft is tailored to the song itself.
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say: Randy says he blew it out, with a vengeance. Paula praises Chris for not compromising his artistic integrity. Simon found it believable and that he made it kind of hip.

Singer: Jordin Sparks
Song: "On a Clear Day"
My Take (The Wise Son): Jordin's not quite in time with the band at the beginning, but she finds her way to catch up. It's a fairly straight-forward showcase, another female performance that puts the men to shame with its range and vocal purity. Chris was good, but between Chris' consistent nasal rasp (sometimes effective, other times not) and Jordin's ability to adapt to every song and genre? It's no contest.
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say: Randy calls her da bomb and blurts, "I'm like what?!?! She's hot, America!" With Simon giggling to the side, Paula calls Jordin a magnet of joy. Simon liked the way she sounded, but cautions that she didn't make it young and current.

But what did I think of the lovely Haley Scarnato and the hilarious Sanjaya Malakar? Check out my full recap over at Zap2it.


  1. Dan: Like you, my thoughts drifted to Kat McPhee during "Ain't Misbehavin'." She wouldn't have needed all that leg-kicking, eye-batting business, because she would've understood that the song is not about flirting (just like the lyrics say), not about turning on a room full of men, but about turning on one man: you. (Or, in my case, me.)

    To be fair to Blake, it was Bobby Darin who bubblegummed the serial-killer song in the first place, and Blake was just following the road already travelled. Blame Darin for draining the song of its malice.

    If you want to hear it with its true malicious intent, click here to listen to the Berlin 1930 original.

    A direct translation of the German lyrics defies all hep-cat posturing. To wit:

    And the child-bride in her nightie
    Whose assailant's still at large
    Violated in her slumbers --
    Mackie, how much did you charge?

  2. Exactly on the Bobby Darin front! I actually blamed Bobby Darin in one draft of my recap, a draft that got devoured by either typepad or the wi-fi signal that I was stealing from a neighbor and that vanished at an inopportune posting moment (Getting tonight's recap up was hell). The idea that the genius behind "Splish Splash" is responsible for what most people consider to be the definitive version of one of the sickest songs imaginable never fails to amuse me on a very small level.

    But I may just be getting tired of Blake as well... I can't tell which. If 311 has done a version of Mack the Knife, Blake would gladly have done that instead... Let's all be thankful that the soft-ska version doesn't exist.


  3. 1.) Glad I'm not the only one stealing a neighbor's wi-fi.

    2.) Maybe Phil Stacey should've done "Mack the Knife." In the same tone and tempo he used tonight. Would've been creepyy as hell.

  4. Anonymous10:55 AM

    let's face it, you'd be happy if scarnato performed in a towel. actually, that might be ideal, for her strategy. i didn't like that dress. i mean, she looked fine in it (tho' simon got it right with "pageanty"), but it was a very off-the-rack 40- y.o. MILF taking a long-weekend in reno-type dress. not age-appropriate.

    i caught the last two performances in the lead up to HOUSE last night. that lakisha girl is pretty good, eh?