"A WORKING MUSICIAN'S REVIEW" - AMERICAN IDOL TOP 11 (3/23)
For the newbies,I'm Darci Monet and I make music and teach people to sing for a living. I have two albums out, I perform all over L.A., I've sung backup for some super cool people, I've won a few awards for songwriting and some of my students are making great careers for themselves. Also, I am making my very first music video, which I am describing as a "video love letter to the world"! My production team and I would love for you to keep up with our progress on our Facebook page.
I've been watching American Idol since season one and kvetching about it since season two. I do "drive-by reviews"...one watch, first impression critiques (cuz you don't get do-overs in concert). Thank you for reading, and please feel free to pipe in with your opinions, even if they disagree with mine -- just keep it on a grown up level. Thank you!
I've been in a bit of a bubble today taking care of my twin pseudo-nieces, so before I get started I'd just like to give a shout out to Elizabeth Taylor, who I just found out passed today. Even though she swiped Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds a hundred years ago and she's had 37 husbands, you still have to give it up that she a) had as much acting talent as she had beauty and b) she was the first celebrity to talk about and insist something be done about the AIDS epidemic back when NO ONE would talk about it. People with HIV are living long, healthy lives in no small part due to her moxie and tireless efforts over the years. Go rest high on that mountain, Miz Taylor...your work on earth is done. ♥
And now to the frivolity. Motown week. This one's always a crap shoot, eh? I have high hopes for this year's crew though, most of whose voices actually possess some soulfulness. I do hope I'm not wrong. About the soulfulness as well as my grammar...cuz that previous sentence didn't feel right. But I'm too tired to fix it if it isn't.
JLo...no on that blue eyeshadow. Normally I think your makeup is stunning, but it's not working with the outfit tonight. On a less snarky note, every single one of the contestants looks SHARP tonight. Seriously, excellent work by the stylists this season.
Casey is gonna kick off the show with Marvin Gaye's classic "I Heard It Through The Grapevine." Weeellll, another great song choice from him, fit him well. His voice is sounding tired though and no wonder since he grits and growls his way through everything. I always enjoy him though, even though I can't really say this was my absolute favorite of his performances. He always seems to be having such a great time and a couple cracks and glitches on high screamy notes doesn't take that away. Aw look at all his grungy friends in the audience! Sweet.
Oh man. If Thia sings "Heat Wave" I'm not sure if I will even be able to sit through it. I can't stand this song and someone sings it EVERY freakin' season. Oh dear God, she is. Aaaaaannnnnnnnnddddddd flat as usual on the first chorus. She got better as she went along, though. I really like the timbre of her voice. I really, really do. And she's just lovely to look at all the time. But I wasn't thrilled with this performance cuz it felt like it usually does with the teenagers...really practiced and lacking authenticity. I do however think this girl's got a great future ahead of her. In ten years - watch out. Glad the judges encouraged her to keep digging in.
Jacob is gonna sing "You're All I Need" written by the great Ashford & Simpson (which has also been sung ad nauseum on this show, the best by Kelly herself). I ain't worried about this one. And I didn't have to. That was SANGIN'. He gave it just enough. Just enough to honor the song, to get the audience having fun (including Kirsten Dunst, apparently), and to get Steven Tyler up out his damn chair-uh and up on the stage-uh! Smokin'. I would like to download this recording. And I actually watched it twice. I NEVER do that. Ha! I love his Mama dancin' in the Spirit in the aisles! Okay and everyone gets to come up and hug Jacob...I hope he's not a germaphobe...
Here comes Lauren with "You Keep Me Hangin' On." *sigh* Ummm...why is the chick from Rock Mafia (or whatever they're called) right in the sound booth with her? Ugh. That would last all of a half a second with me. Get out mah space, sister. I got WORK ta do! Anyway...I don't really know how this will go. I guess we're about to find out. I have never liked the Supremes but I liked Kim Wilde's version in the 80's, so hopefully there will be a cool arrangement happening (so far the producers haven't overdone it tonight - I am REALLY appreciative). I'm loving it. She sounds great, she looks AMAZING, something all came together tonight...first time I really saw a star emerge. She could have had a little more fun with her vocals toward the end, I thought she kept it super safe, but hey...she had heels and that hemline to think about not tripping over and a pro has to know how to pick her battles. Great job. I'm kinda surprised. Didn't think I'd dig this song on her.
By the way...I need to find me a "producing partner." I should be part of a "Rock Mafia"...or something. Now accepting applications.
My boy Stefano is up next. He's tackling Lionel Richie's "Hello" (I forget he was on Motown). This is one of my all time fave songs and Ron Fair gave him some great advice. Caress it. Hmmmmm. Did NOT like how this was chopped up at all and I didn't really love how he approached it. I LOVE ME some Stefano and what he sang he nailed, but he had some weird diction and improv choices that just didn't work for me. It could be that I'm so very used to the original, but usually I can get out of that box pretty easily. Not sure why I didn't like it...perhaps it just felt too big. It's not a big song and I don't think it should be made into one just because the person singing it has a big voice. I think I'd have preferred it if he approached it more carefully and stayed tender with it. I completely agree with Jennifer's comment, "I don't want the intensity to come from you wanting to do well, I want the intensity to come from because your heart is breaking [sic]." I understood her, even if it wasn't a perfectly constructed sentence. And sooooo right. I always tell my students, "Make me care." That was my issue...I didn't care. I still ♥ him, though.
I guess the judges listened to everyone complaining about how easy they've been on the contestants. They've been much more constructively critical this week and never once with an ounce of cruelty. Now that's what I'm talkin' about.
I'm looking forward to what Haley's gonna sing, cuz I really like her voice and I think it will be well-suited to this style. Better bring it, girl! "You Really Got A Hold On Me" by Smokey Robinson. And that girl THREW IT DOWN. A little shaky start, but she caught up with herself eventually. I get annoyed by her constant hunching (plus it does nothing for breath control) and I don't really see star quality going on but I still really like her voice and what she can do with it, so I'm always rooting for her at least a little bit. Great song choice for her and I thought she sang the hell out of it. This is where I think she lives. Very blues-based r&b as opposed to super current nu skool stuff. More Adele than Alicia Keys.
Oh my Lord, I can't believe there's another entire hour left.
Here comes Scotty. Motown week. Hmmmmmm. Hahahahaha...ok, I cannot help but be charmed by him every week! At first I was like, "Huh. Just don't know if I like this so country-fried. I think it's gonna get boring really fast." But then he went up into his higher register and TOLD US ABOUT IT...and I believed him. And then he got cheeky. And that was adorable. Maybe not his best of all his performances, but he certainly didn't crash and burn like other country wannabes have done during Motown week in the past. Not by a long shot. Well done. BUT - quit holding the mic like that. It's just...well...just stop it. Trust me.
I really really really don't want Pia to do a ballad (no, last week didn't count as an "uptempo"). Dang it...she is. *sigh* I do LOVE this song though, so I might let her slide. Jeepers...seriously, this girl has such chops, it's just stupid. But I wasn't with her...cuz she didn't take me with her. She too was closing her eyes too much and shutting us out. The expression on her face was too contented. These lyrics speaknothing of contentment. You've gotta tap in, paisano. All the vocal calisthenics in the world won't cover the lack of connection and at the end of the day, the singer is there to serve the song. BE THE VESSEL.
Ok, shut up a minute, JLo. Stop talking all over Randy! Jeeeeeez. (Notice she doesn't DARE do it to Steven...?)
Paul gets to use his gee-tar tonight, yay! Aw he's gonna do "Tracks Of My Tears," such a great old Smokey song. Looking forward to the arrangement, I always thought this tune would be fantastic with the tempo pulled back. Too bad we can't hear him over Hugh Hefner's Girls Next Door belting in the background. Now...honestly I could barely hear if he did well or not. I was aggro that he smiled all the way through (as sparkly as that smile is), because it was INAPPROPRIATE to do so considering the subject matter (hello, pet peeve). I think I'd probably dig the recording, though. I really don't have anything more to say.
I have a feeling Naima's singing "Dancing In The Street." And can I call 'em or what? Snoooooooooze. The good news is that she has such an authentic stage presence and connection to what she sings, so I might not hate it. And yeah, I kinda liked it. It fit her voice nicely. I still think everyone else sings circles around her, but she's so unique and fabulous on stage...vocals can be improved. I don't really know why Jennifer got goosebumps, though...I don't know if it was quite all that...but I enjoyed her.
Last song of the night comes from James. Good. Good. Really cool arrangement. Some off-pitch notes but...he's getting so comfy in his own skin on the stage. He's such a great throwback to those good old fashioned rock singers...like Steven Tyler, Robert Plant, et al...and dear GAWD we need one of those right now. While I don't know if it was his best vocal ever, his ease on stage has "supahstar" screaming all over it.
So it's like this...I actually like them all and I don't really think anyone did badly enough to warrant going home. Ten seasons and that's NEVER happened. My least fave performance personally were probably Thia and Paul, but I still didn't hate them at all. My best guess to end up going home is Haley simply cuz she's already been in the bottom three, though her performance certainly wouldn't deserve it. It's gonna sting every week now, pretty much. Good show tonight.
AND JHUD'S COMING BACK TO IDOL TOMORROW NIGHT! YYYYEEEEEEEEESSSSSSS!!!! SAAAAAAAANG, SISTER!