Well, I've got to give credit to American Idol. This week, the producers managed to get the show in mostly on time with all the judges speaking. This shouldn't be tough for America's most-watched show in its eighth year on the air, but hey, my standards have been lowered.
Speaking of low standards: I wasn't expecting much from Idol's disco night, and it didn't really blow me out of the water. But I was impressed by the way a couple of contestants managed to take a potentially disastrous theme and create something pretty decent out of it. Tell me which two contestants you think are going home, and to see my take, just
Lil Rounds — A few weeks ago I probably would have been happy to hear she was doing "I'm Every Woman," but Lil's gotten so timid, and she didn't attack the song or do anything particularly unique with it. She hit some great notes, but it was a performance better suited for an above-average bar band than an Idol champ. Kara said Lil still hadn't shown herself as an artist, and Simon said it would be her final performance on this stage.
Kris Allen — If Kris's explanation of why he picked "She Works Hard for the Money" wasn't enough to endear me to him ("It has a story to tell. About a woman"), his acoustic guitar/bongos/washboard version of the song certainly was. Is Kris the dark horse at this point? He's sort of David Cook crossed with Jason Castro, and it's working for him. The judges praised his originality and risk-taking, and Randy said Kris proved he's ready for the big time.
Danny Gokey — "September" actually seemed like a pretty safe pick for Danny, and he did a solid job with it, which feels like my standard feedback about Danny at this point. The arrangement was pretty cool, and the song seemed comfortable for him, which may be exactly the problem — his story aside, Danny's becoming bland. The judges' comments were complimentary but not overwhelming, with Kara worrying that voters could forget him.
Allison Iraheta — Nobody's ever going to complain that Allison doesn't know who she is as an artist. I'm beginning to believe she can bend any song to her will, and her goth/metal "Hot Stuff" was another example of that. So it was a little "I'm 17 and singing in my bedroom mirror." So what? She is! Randy and Kara didn't like the arrangement but said she's a great singer, while Simon said that all told, it was a brilliant performance.
Adam Lambert — So Adam seems to have continued his strategy of fast song one week, slow song the next. However, I don't think "If I Can't Have You" was exactly another "Mad World." In addition to basically being the Broadway version of that song — nothing wrong with that, just sayin' — it also had some notes that just seemed wobbly and off, maybe for the first time of his Idol experience. But Kara was inspired by his emotion, and Simon said the vocals were immaculate.
Matt Giraud — I imagine it's tremendously difficult to make "Staying Alive" not sound like karaoke, and Matt gave it a valiant shot, with some changes to the melody and a few breaks into falsetto. It also gave him a chance to break out his fedora, skinny tie, and amusing dance moves. Randy didn't like the performance but said Matt can definitely sing, Paula thought it was enough to keep him in the competition, but Simon said it wasn't original or well-sung.
Anoop Desai — "Dim All the Lights" turned out to be a smart song for Anoop: It gave him a chance to do both the ballad-style singing the judges like so much from him and the faster-paced stuff that he seems to enjoy more. With the exception of the last note, this might have been the best he's sounded in the competition. Kara thought it sounded modern enough to be on the radio, Paula was glad to see him smile, but Simon disagreed with everyone and called it mediocre at best.
Best of the night: I have to give it to Kris and Allison for forcing disco songs into their own styles. And of course there's always Adam.
In trouble: Lil for sure, probably Matt, and maybe Anoop or Allison — just because they've been in the bottom before, and whatever fans Lil and Matt have will certainly come out in droves.
Going home: Lil will take one of the spots. Matt could be in the other, but I'm worried it's Anoop.
Photos courtesy of Fox