Wednesday, April 4, 2012

American Idol Season 11 • Top 8 Perform

This evening, the Top 8 of American Idol Season 11 will take the stage and be performing music of the 1980s. Now, I love the era, for I was living in New York City, having a great time. Deep down, though, I know they will not be singing the music of my 80s, and will have to see how many songs that were remade in the 80s will pop up.

Back row: Phillip, Colton, DeAndre, and Elise. Front: Skylar, Joshua, Hollie, and Jessica.

The Top 8 under the tutelage of Gwen Stefani and Tony Canali of No Doubt fame. While the band released their first album in 1992, and did not find popularity until 1995, the first met in 1986, and played together afterwards, and signed to Interscope Records in 1991. Their ska sound was overlooked in the early 90s when grunge ruled the day. Stefani stuck to her guns, using Debbie Harry as a role model and ignoring the grunge scene.

Gwen Stefani & Tony Kanal
Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal.

The show opens with a prolonged goodbye to Heejun, to the strains of Mister Mister's Broken Wings. The segments gets all dramatique, with the kids preparing for the show. After mocking Randy, Crusty brings out the top 8! They will be not only doing solos, they will also being paired up with guy/girls duets. The first up tonight is DeAndre who will be singing I Like It by DeBarge.

Jimmy is worried about nerves getting the better of DeAndre, and pull him into the bottom 3, the last words DeAndre hears before singing. During the opening of the song, he walks through the audience, and loses it a little bit, but he picks it up and does a great job. I think that was his best performance to date. The judges loved it, and think he was great. Now I scared, I agreed with the panel. Next up we have Elise, who is missing her band. She will be singing I Want To Know What Love Is, by Foreigner. Gwen loves Elise, and thinks she is her favorite on the show. Mine too! She does a nice job, on a tough song. The judges turn on her, saying they love her voice, but didn't like the song choice. Randy thought she was off-pitch throughout, which I didn't hear at all. After a commercial break, we have Colton and Skylar who will be singing Islands in the Stream, originally sung by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. This will be interesting, for I don't hear their voices together at all. The first thing I notice is the blond has grown in Colton's hair. Well, this is odd. Colton's voice is not great on the song, but seems to cancel out her on the first half. Once Skylar has a solo, she picks up. And he starts to sounds like an annoying backup singer. The song brought out the nasal whine in his voice. Soon it is Phillip's turn to present his song to Gwen, Tony and Jimmy I. He is singing That’s All by Genesis. He is joined on stage by his brother-in-law to play with you. He is rough in rehearsal, and they let him go. In the performances, I think he is off-pitch, and struggling. The song loses tempo and flow. Of course, the judges love him, although I did hear Jennifer mention he was a bit lost at the beginning, I just didn't think he ever foudn his way. After a break, Hollie and DeAndre will take their time in the duet spotlight, singing 
I’m So Excited by The Pointer Sisters. I have to say, I don't see these two together at all, but not sure who could sing with DeAndre.

Well, they take to the stage, and I am shocked they sound good together. The power of Hollie's voice anchored DeAndre, and DeAndre gave Hollie wings to fly on the song. I loved it. After another break, it is time for Joshua to sing If You Don’t Know Me By Now by Simply Red
. In truth, Joshua takes it back to the the Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes version from 1972. I think he he doing a restrained version, but at the end does just want Gwen mentioned, overdoing the vocal gymnastics. For me, it was a shame, for it left a bad taste in my ears. Of course, the judges loved it. Jennifer's effusive discussion about how she was thinking the beginning was nice, but she just kept thinking he was going to let loose, well, that is my issue with Joshua. He takes you out of the song, and into his technique. And then Jessica takes the rehearsal hall to sing How Will I Know by Whitney Houston
. Gwen loves her voice, and only mentions to try some different movement. She does a fine job with it, and sound wonderful. However, it was just a touch short of outstanding. But, oh, it was good. After the break, we will have Elise and Phillip to tackle the amazing Stop Dragging My Heart Around, made iconic by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty

Before they come on stage, Crusty wonders through the audience, saying hello to Naima, Tommy Hilfiger, and Nigel. Really, Nigel needed screen time? So, Elise and Phillip are singing the song, and I am liking what Elise is bringing to the table, and at times Phillip too, surprisingly. But again, he wanders off pitch, and tries to find it. Hollie turns up to sing Flashdance…What a Feeling, the great theme song by Irene Cara
. Jimmy I suggests she needs to bring the feeling this week, not just the technique. There was a slight delay while they fix a power issue, and Crusty kills time. Soon they are ready to go. The songs stars a bit gloomy and bogged down. But soon she kicks into it, and soars on the song. However, Steven complains she was pitchy throughout, which I thought was not true. A bit at the beginning, maybe. Jennifer then has a diatribe about letting go, and Randy says Steven was wrong, it was only off in a few places. I fear this review spells a bottom 3 for Hollie. After a commercial break, it is time for the last duet to perform. Jessica and Joshua are going to sing I Knew You Were Waiting For Me by the great Aretha Franklin and George Michael.

Now, I thought this was going to be good, and it fell short for me. Aretha and George were so free and organic with one another. Joshua's style flooded Jessica, and got her a bit lost. Her style made him seem a bit frantic. I found it more of a collision than a collaboration. Of course, the judges loved it, and Jennifer even mentions these two for the finale. Really? After another very long break, Colton will be singing Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time. The song is a great one, written by Lauper and Rob Hyman of The Hooters. In fact, the Hooters had a great version of the song, too. Gwen and Tony like what he is doing, and offer a few tips. For the performance, he picks up the tempo, and I don't like it. It takes away the emotional weight of the song. It also makes a great song sound like every other performance he has made this season. Disappointing. Of course, the judges loved it, and Randy actually called out for him, Phillip and Joshua this evening, and I roll my eyes. The last performance of the evening will be Skylar, singing Wind Beneath My Wings, made popular by Bette Midler
. However, it was a Country song first, made by Gary Morris in 1983. My God, that man has a magical voice. In a side note, I own CDs by Gary Morris, and his son, Matt Morris, the only father/son thing in my collection.

I am worried for Skylar, for she has never shown the emotional level of this song before, and I fear it could explode on her. She has her own take on it, neither bold like Bette, nor delicate like Gary. I liked it, way more than I thought possible. That was a great close to the show. I have nothing but support for Skylar this week.

Time for the recap, and for me to come up with the bottom three. I am at a loss. I fear Elise could dip there, and hope that Phillip does, too. I think DeAndre, Jessica, and Skylar should be safe, but you never know. The judges certainly did Hollie no favors, either. I could see Joshua sliding in there, too. Crusty asks the judges who should be getting votes tonight, and Randy, Jennifer and Steven said nothing.

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