Well, its back after nearly a year away. My first American Idol report of the season. As always, these observations are made as I watch the show live. I try to type my impressions and give my grade before I hear the judges. My first thought is that I've grown to respect the job that Ryan Seacrest does. Its not easy being poised on live TV. Ryan reminds me of a young Pat Sajak, and that's quite a compliment in my book.
Michael Sarver - Ain't Going Down by Garth Brooks
We can barely hear him sing. His vocals are lost in the arrangement and the harmonica is actually the focal point of the song. The song itself isn't a "singer's song". It doesn't have any big notes or chances for the vocalist to really belt. So bad choice of song for this type for a singing competition and Michael's vocal was ordinary at best. Grade: D+
Allison Iraheta - Blame It on Your Heart by Patty Loveless
Based on last week, I like Allison and can hardly believe she's 16.
Her vocals aren't perfect but she's doing great as a "performer". She just looks at home on the stage. I'm glad to see someone pick a country rocker song. As a country fan, I fear that people pigeon-hole the "sound" and style. And I'm glad to see someone rock. Like I said, her vocals aren't text book but for her style, attitude trumps text books. And she's got attitude. Grade: B-
Kris Allen - To Make You Feel My Love by Garth Brooks
Confession: Although I like country music, I don't know any Garth Brooks. This one is a ballad and Kris is displaying a very solid voice. He's doing a good job of singing with emotion and he has not hit any bad note. He finishes with a falsetto which you all know I like. Grade: B.
I'm trying to start the year as a tough grader. I don't want to give a top grade too soon just to see someone else top it.
Kris got good reviews from the judges but Cara's comment that "I couldn't even tell it was opry" really bugs me. There is so much more to country music than big hair and twang, and if people would just keep an open mind, they would hear that at its core, its just music.
Lil Rounds - Independence Day by Martina McBride
I've liked Lil thus far this season. There's no reason for her to be apprehensive about singing this style song. Its not so much country as it is a pop ballad and I think she does a good job of it. She does a nice job of the big notes of the chorus. Randy is being tough on her, but I think the fact that they have so little time this week works against her. She can do better, but overall not bad. Grade: B-
Adam Lambert - Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash
Umm, I'm not a fan of changing the arrangement of a great song like Ring of FIre. It stands on its own and is kind of insulting to change it too much. That being said, I like Adam's vocals very much. He's singing the hell out of it. Very nice singing and very good performing. Still don't like the arrangement. Adam's good. He should be around for awhile. Grade B+.
I am tired of the "its so tough because its country music week" lament. There are tons of songs to choose from that will meet all of their styles and I also become annoyed by the contestants lack of musical knowledge. They, of all people should be more open minded.
Scott McIntire - Wild Angels by Martina McBride
I'm not a Scott fan thus far. He wasn't among the very worst last week but was in the bottom third as far as I'm concerned. I'm not familiar with this song. His voice is ok, but I don't think its outstanding. He sounds a little thin on the big notes. But you know what, the last 45 seconds of the song sounded quite polished. I've got to be careful not to be biased since I'm inclined to dislike him. Grade: B-
I'm a big fraud. I make it seem like I'm this huge and knowledgeable country music fan, and I have barely heard any of the songs selected. Just like pop and rock, I'm better with the older stuff.
Alexis Grace - Jolene by Dolly Parton
Good song selection I think. Vocals are ok. The bigger, louder notes are better than the quiet parts. Nice atmospheric vibe. I think its pretty good but see room for improvement. Grade: C+
A word on the commercials: a talking baby telling an old golfer "look at the rule book, shankapotomous" is hilarious.
Danny Gokey - Jesus Take the Wheel
Come on, can't you pick something a little older and less obvious. I like Carrie Underwood, but show some respect to the elders. Does your music knowledge only go back 3 years? He's good on the quiet part though. He's poised and a very solid performer. He sounds excellent on this one. I would say best so far tonight. B+ (A-?)
Cara's wrong about the front half of the performance being weak. He did a good job on the quiet early parts. Scary, but I'm agreeing with Paula.
I hate the white coat Danny's wearing. I was typing that last comment when Simon commented on the wardrobe.
Anoop Desai - You Were Always On My Mind by Willie Nelson
He's probably doing a wise thing doing a ballad in a respectful manner. He sounds good. He's not going "over the top" and is doing a nice job of crooning. Much better than last week. Grade: B
Meghan Joy - Walking After Midnight by Patsy Cline
Kelly Pickler sang this a couple of years ago, but lets see. Not many people know how good Patsy Cline was.
I'm not a fan of the "flirty" style of her performance. Very Betty Boop. UGGH. This is bad. She's doing some sort of Bette Midler style vocal that is a terrible mismatch to the song. Bad, bad, bad. Grade: D-
Matt Giraud - So Small by Carrie Underwood
Same criticism as Danny's song selection. Doesn't your musical knowledge go beyond previous years' episodes of Idol?
Nice suit, but a real man keeps his top button buttoned when he's wearing a tie. I think the vocal is only ok. The piano kind of disguises the weakness of the vocals. Well, I guess it wasn't so bad, but not as good as the judges think. Grade: B-
Who should go home: Michael
Who will go home: Michael