Eggads! It is Motown theme week in the land of Idol and I shutter with the thought of what the next two hours of torture will bring me. Be more positive you say? Yes, we could have what they like to call breakout “moments” on the show. As I sit and ponder what Scotty, Haley and Thia might do with Motown gems, nothing positive comes to mind. Onward with the performances!
Screech – We bring the performance review to a halt as the camera focuses on J-Lo. Um, I know we are critiquing the contestants, yet…ah honey…come on now with the sea foam green eye shadow, bright pink baby-doll cheeks and sequined shiny top—paired with a short pleated poof skirt. You are trying bit too hard.
Casey – Speaking of people that try too hard. He rips his way through I Heard It Through the Grapevine. It isn’t awful, but I’m tiring of his voice. Instead of following the producers begging him to tone it back, it is still screechy in parts where he pushes too hard. Like that first line. Yikes.
Before the commercial break, Ryan tells us that Thia is going to be bringing the heat. NO. Please no. Not Heat Wave. Oh Thia, Heat Wave can be a kiss of death. I remember the fantastic Kimberly Locke sang it early on during Season Two and I believe found herself in the bottom three. The up-tempo sound is what lures the contestants. The danger is that the song does nothing to highlight a singer’s voice. It is cute and quirky and karaoke. Folks, this is not going to be good.
Thia – It is Heat Wave. She, the robot, was programmed last week to sing something peppy. The robot translated this into “anything peppy” and, with no thought, jumped at this song. Thia sounds like she is chewing up some words. It is either a case of funky diction or—gasp—the robot doesn’t know all the lyrics and is attempting to disguise that fact. It also feels like she has no clue what she is singing. All the judges tell her they like that she picked something faster, but that she still needs to dig deeper. Yeah, for some emotion. After this mess, I prefer to hear a group of wild cats give their rendition. At least they would be more animated.
Jacob – He is bringing us You’re All I Need to Get By. Goosebumps and a big old smile! It feels like time stopped as we became lost in the skill that is Mr. Lusk. When he is on, he is on! Thank goodness someone listened to their producers. He dials this down and doesn’t come out of the first notes screaming. It is a calm performance that builds up to him showing off a bit on how he can carve, twist and sprinkle magic onto the notes, but nothing over the top until he belts that one quick high note at the end. PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT. We are just three in and I don’t think anyone left can touch that in terms of performance quality and emotional connection. I didn’t want his performance to end.
Could someone turn down the mics of the background singers? Geez.
Lauren – Here is another contestant not feeling jack. She is coming across to me as trying to appear cute and young, but that behind that 16 year old smirk is a killer diva. Something feels fake. She sings the Supreme’s Keep Me Hanging On and it is pure singing by the numbers. Her voice is fine and she’s hitting the notes, but it feels not connected to the lyrics and the giggle at the end is evidence of that. Still she’ll be fine for now over a few others who are far weaker.
Ryan announces to us that after the break, Stefano is going to be bringing some ‘80s Lionel Ritchie. To me, ‘80s Lionel is always a bad thing. It means we are getting Dancing on the Ceiling or Hello. DotC is where Lionel’s R&B soul and funk evaporated and Hello is the number one song that will be playing in Hell.
Stefano – Told you. Hello it is. This is death to my ears. I do not like this song on him. It sounds like weird, choppy singing by syllables. It is also overdone like a wedding singer at the end of the night. Oh Stefano, I’m a fan and you can sing, but I think you may be in trouble.
Haley – She of the permanent bottom three is singing You Really Got a Hold on Me. This is going to be brutal. Why did they put her in that outfit? Short-shorts and sky high heels don’t fit the song, and she looks like a hooker on the stroll who felt like stopping on the corner to belt out some Motown. As we move to the end of the piece, and she’s doing the bend over and contort thing, I’m not even sure what she’s screaming. The judges are all on crack for praising that.
Scotty – Well bless his heart he tried. His showmanship is the only thing that made me smile. He sings a country version of For Once in My Life and twirks at it like a kid poking a stick in a hole hoping for something cool to come out. If he’s going to basically paste his style onto every song regardless of the theme, then I’m going to become enraged as the weeks go by. I didn’t like this arrangement. It killed the spirit and beauty of how it was written and performed for Motown.
Pia – Hey, didn’t they tell you to pep it up last week? Well, you didn’t listen. Pia sings All in Love is Fair and yes, it is once again a ballad. I don’t agree with J-Lo and her checklist. This to me has no feeling. Pia is thinking the notes in her head and technically hitting them. Her voice is amazing, yet I don’t believe what she’s singing. Bring back Jacob and let him give this song a whirl. I have more goosebumps just thinking about his version.
Paul – Oh look, he has his guitar. At least that will stop the spastic dancing. Oh goodie, he’s about to butcher Tracks of My Tears. I’m already crying over here. Is this even singing? He has a raspy, smoked-out voice. Steven compares him to Dylan. Yep, Steven, like Dylan this one can’t sing. My thoughts take me back to Season Eight and the beauty of Adam Lambert cooing his way through a stripped down version of this song. Ahhh…
Naima – Her pre-bit shows us that she’ll be singing Dancing in the Streets. It also shows us that African dancing will be occurring. This can go either way. Not bad. She takes the time to sing the song for the majority of the performance and we get to hear the solid tone of her voice. At the end, the drummers ramp it up and we get some unnecessary dance moves that make her look more like a contestant exploring a “So You Think You Can Dance” audition versus Idol. It is ok and far better than the last two weeks.
James – Shout out to Stevie Wonder since a number of his songs were selected tonight. James goes for Living for the City. Whenever I think of this song, I feel the beauty and gritty power of it is the soul vibe. I’m reminded of the voice that Stevie gave to it and the great version Queen Latifah, Troop and the O’Jays performed for the movie “New Jack City.” James kills that happy feeling for me here with his overdone screaming. Oh James, so quickly you resort back to your bag of tricks and turn me off. I want to like James and I want to be able to see what he can do. Like Scotty and Pia, I don’t want him giving me the same performance over and over again each week. Switch it up. Tone it down.
From hearing the judges lavish so much praise all night, this is a hard call on the bottom three, if the voting public is following their advice alone. Going based on only tonight’s performances, I put Haley, Paul and Stefano in the bottom. Considering fan bases, I think Paul has one, so he probably won’t land there. Insert Thia or Lauren (if the public has really turned on her as some have rumored).
Flickr image by Dig Downtown Detroit