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American Idol Season 4 (2005)

 

March 22 - Billboard #1 Songs

 

Let me begin my review by saying that prior to watching this week's episode, I went to a radio station focus group.  I had to listen to six hundred snippets of songs that might be played on that station and rate each one on a 1-6 scale (don't know it, hate it, think it's played too much, don't care, like it, it's a favorite).  We weren't told until the end of the session which radio station sponsored this focus group, but it became quite clear through the song choices that it was the soft rock/pop station that I only occasionally listen to.  I heard so many Gloria Estefan, Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, Elton John, and James Taylor songs that by the end of the survey I was ready to hang myself.  So when I got home to watch the A.I. episode I'd recorded, I was NOT in a good mood.  I was really, really hoping that someone would rock the house down.  I was thus a little harder on these contestants than I might normally be.  You are hereby warned.

Tonight the theme is Billboard #1 songs - or, rather, "Billboard #1 songs that we could get clearance for, which automatically disqualifies all the interesting choices."

Anthony Fedorov (sings George Michael's/Aretha Franklin's "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me"): He's fine.  The scar doesn't bother me this week.  He's not George Michael, though, and he doesn't quite have the extra zing I think he's capable of.  And why is he doing a song that Clay did during last summer's concert tour?  Please, please pick something that will differentiate yourself from Clay.  You've done it before.  I want to see you, not Clay 2.

Carrie Underwood (sings Heart's "Alone"): Astonishingly, Carrie performs this song quite well, although I'm still not seeing in her eyes that she really feels what she's singing.  I finally realized, though, that her problem is that she's not used to having a camera in her face, and she doesn't yet know how to work with it.  Her hair and clothes tonight put me in mind of Sandy in the last ten minutes of a high school Grease production, but whatever.  Simon predicts she will win this competition and outsell every other A.I. winner, and I think he's either on drugs or playing with people's minds.  She was good tonight, and lots of people like her, but she's not on par with any of the other winners.  At least, not yet.

Scott Savol (sings Phil Collins' "Against All Odds"): This song has been so overdone on A.I. that I wish it was retired, and when Scott comes out dressed like he just rolled out of bed and forgot to tuck in his shirt, I prepare for the worst.  After all, it's not his usual Motown choice.  Like Carrie, though, he surprises me with how good he sounds.  He's also singing as if the song really means something to him, which is unlike Carrie.  When he flings first his hat, then his sunglasses across the stage, I start to get a little creeped out.  Is he planning taking off anything else?  Scary.  It doesn't help that he gives Simon a snarky little face when Simon criticizes him or that Ryan says of his sunglasses, "I don't know how you can see out of them - they're so greasy."  Did not need to hear that, folks.  Despite the ick factor, though, I think he's definitely safe this week.

Bo Bice (sings Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle"): Due to my experience earlier that evening, I really wanted to hear Bo rock.  Instead, he turns in a subtle, tender performance.  The song definitely shows that Bo has versatility and that he should just go out right now and record a CD of his own, but I'm a little disappointed.  I'm also a little confused at the camera work during this song.  Why the heck are they focusing on the guitarist?  Who cares about the guitarist?  And why is Bo singing this song to him?

Nikko Smith (sings Sisqo's "Incomplete"): Nikko comes out dressed like...well, like a classy pimp.  Where's Mikalah?  Okay, okay, that was mean.  I'm sorry.  Anyway, I don't know this song, but Nikko seems to do okay on it.  At least for once I don't feel like he's channeling Stevie Wonder.  No, now he's channeling Scott - he tosses off his hat, and then he shrugs off his jacket.  What is this, Idol striptease night?  I'm not a big fan of his voice right now; it's a little too nasal for my taste.  The crowd loves him, though, so what do I know?  He's probably safe.

Side note: Paula is sharing Simon's drugs. She's standing up and dancing every time someone comes out into the audience, totally distracting me when I should be watching the performer.  She's also all over Simon, kissing him repeatedly when he agrees with her.  Really, really gross.  I'd almost rather be slimed by Constantine than watch Paula's antics tonight.  Ugh.

Vonzell Solomon (sings The Emotion's "Best of My Love"): Finally, Vonzell shows that she's a contender.  She looks good, she really enjoys herself with this song, and she manages to bounce around in the audience without being cutesy.  This is not my favorite song, but she made me enjoy it. Thank you.

Constantine Maroulis (sings The Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You"): I don't know what to say.  He sings a rock arrangement of the song, and he sings it well, but it's just so odd to hear the song performed this way that I can't decide whether I like it or not.  It's like when I was a little girl and a couple of my friends ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches.  A combination like that in a sandwich was very odd to me - peanut butter and jelly went together with bread, not peanut butter and bananas - but it wasn't odd enough for me to be grossed out, you know?  I just...I don't know.  I don't know.  My head's already waiting to explode, so I don't want think too much about Constantine right now.  Next.

Nadia Turner (sings Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time"): She comes out wearing a mohawk of all things, which would be okay if she'd chosen some other song (say, Billy Idol's "Mony, Mony," although I suppose that would be weird for a female to sing).  "Time After Time," though, was an incredibly poor song choice.  It stays in too low and too limited of a range for too long, and then Nadia tries to turn it into a rock song during the chorus.  With Constantine, I couldn't decide whether or not I liked the arrangement he sang.  With Nadia, I know - I hate it.  Absolutely hate it.  This is supposed to be a tender ballad, not a frantic rock piece.  Nadia's been one of the stronger contenders to date, but when she chooses a bad song (see: "My Love"), it's really bad.  It scares me, too, because she's given the worst performance of the night so far, and I think she should stay around much longer than most of the other contestants.

Mikalah Gordon (sings Taylor Dayne's "Love Will Lead You Back"): Before the show, I predicted that Mikalah would sing either Barbra Streisand or Taylor Dayne.  I'm not really glad that I was right.  I am glad, however, that Nadia is now safe, because Mikalah has officially usurped the "Worst Performance of the Evening" title.  The song is too low and sounds way too forced.  Mikalah doesn't seem comfortable with it at all.  I know I'm not.  It's clear from her face that she knows she screwed it up and that her days on the show are numbered, although she gamely tries to sass back to Simon after his comments.  I feel a little sorry for her, but she's out of her league here.  She'll go home unless her fans really rally around her.

Anwar Robinson (sings Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody"): He tries an upbeat number this week, but it's the wrong one, and it doesn't work very well.  He looks almost as uncomfortable as Mikalah did, and his eyes are as vacant as Carrie's when he stares at the camera.  Instead of taking half the song to get into the performance, it takes him two-thirds of the song.  That really annoys me.  Please, Anwar, I know you can do better.  Pick a good song and give a complete, start-to-finish performance.  Just once.

Jessica Sierra (sings Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart"): Paula's kisses have totally messed with Simon's head, because Simon tells Jessica that she could give Carrie a run for her money.  I just don't see it.  I mean, she did a decent job, but her voice was nowhere near as good as Carrie's tonight.  Overall she sounded about as interesting to me as Lindsey did last week - and notice that Lindsey is no longer on the show.  I'm sorry, but this is the performance that I would be most likely to forget this week.  I would much rather that Vonzell have ended the episode - it would have left a much better impression with me.

My favorites this week were Vonzell, Bo, and Carrie, with Scott a very strong fourth.  At the bottom of the pile for me were Mikalah (worst of the evening), Nadia (bad song choice), and Anwar (ditto).  Now I will retire to blessed silence.  Hopefully the song selection - and my mood - will be better next week.

Eliminated on March 23 Results Show:  Mikalah Gordon

Review 2005 by Patricia Lowhorn.  For comments, e-mail tricia@lowhorn.org.

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