I think the top nine on American Idol are having a collective identity crisis this year. Each week seems to be the same: The singers pick songs that will show a particular side of them to the judges, then the judges tell them they picked the wrong songs and they should be doing something more like _____. The next week, the singers do that, and the judges tell them it's wrong, too. It's got to be confusing, and I have to say, it's making for some awkward television.
This might have been most evident on Tuesday, when the singers sang any songs that were popular on iTunes. (I'm pretty sure "popular" was never really defined; I don't think it was this top 100.) They all tried to be modern, but most of them missed the particular kind of modern the judges hoped they'd be. A couple singers were exceptions, though. Tell me which singer you think is headed home, and to chat about the night, just
Anoop Desai — It's nice to see Anoop doing something high-energy again with "Caught Up." But I'm starting to understand why Anoop's good at a cappella: He doesn't seem to know quite how to sing with a backing track. Kara said it was like someone had dared him to sing Usher, Simon said it was an unoriginal mess, but Randy said the vocals were good.
Megan Joy — I disagree with the judges here. Bob Marley and Lauryn Hill's "Turn the Lights Down Low" is the kind of song I've been wanting to hear from Megan, and while I'll grant that it wasn't surprising, it did showcase her voice in a way we haven't heard recently. Also wise of her not to dance. But the judges said she picked the wrong song, was dull, and is in trouble.
Danny Gokey — "What Hurts the Most" was a good choice for him; he's good when he stands still and belts one out. I liked the verses better than the chorus, though, because at that point he seemed to pull back and stop selling the song as much. Still, I could hear it on the radio. Simon said he was miles ahead of the first two, and Paula said he thrives on this kind of song.
Allison Iraheta — First, whoever's doing her hair needs to take a step back. On a more relevant note, "Don't Speak" was definitely in her wheelhouse, but she didn't hit her groove until about 2/3 of the way through; the first verse, in particular, sounded awfully wobbly. The judges liked her rock vibe but not the "dressy-uppy" outfit and hairdo; Simon also said she shouted the song.
Scott MacIntyre — Singing the Piano Man was probably a good idea for Idol's own piano man, and "Just the Way You Are" is the kind of adult-contemporary fare Scott should be able to rock. It was probably his best performance on the big stage, but I thought he got wail-y on the high notes. Randy called it among the night's best, and Kara said it was emotional.
Matt Giraud — I was afraid this would be another Coldplay disaster, but "You Found Me" was a slightly better take on modern for him. Thing is, though, I still like him better when he's being jazzy. Could he just not have a great voice for pop-rock? He can't quite do gravelly, and the weird stage setup didn't help. Simon said he seemed uptight, and Paula missed the old Matt.
Lil Rounds — I thought Lil might be able to pull off Celine, but "I Surrender" taught me something interesting: I don't think she has as big a voice as we all thought she did. She had some great power notes in the back half of the song, but the first half was kind of thin. Kara wants more wow, Paula wants more joy, Simon wants more risk, and Randy wants more Mary J.
Adam Lambert — Sorry, not even Adam Lambert's power-voice can make "Play That Funky Music" anything more than above-average karaoke. But here's the thing: He's darn entertaining. He's the only singer who's really keeping me guessing this season; I'm always excited to see what he does next. Paula put him in the same league as Steven Tyler, and Kara likes his surprises.
Kris Allen — Kris wanted to make "Ain't No Sunshine" modern, and between his voice and the pretty awesome strings arrangement, I'd say he nailed it. I didn't even know he played piano, and yet his keyboard performance rocketed above both Scott and Matt in my book. Randy said he slayed it, Paula said it could be his first single, and Simon liked his confidence.
Best of the night: Kris, then Adam, and then . . . um, Danny, maybe?
In trouble: Megan, maybe Lil, maybe Allison, maybe Anoop. I think Scott probably did just enough to be safe this week, and Matt's fans should be out in droves.
Going home: Seems like it's gonna be Megan's turn.
Photos courtesy of Fox