AMERICAN IDOL Recap: David Cook Mentors Top-8 to Fresh Takes on 80's Hits (Updated with Pictures)
Just as it did last week, tonight's American Idol featured the Top-8 finalists. After an ill-advised use of the sole judge's save, Sam Woolf remained in the competition long enough to be mentored by former IDOL champ David Cook for this week's 80's theme. With the obvious negligence of "full-time" mentor Randy Jackson, it is staggering to see how much progress can be made with a mentor who is actively engaged in helping the finalists become better singers, performers, and artists.
As I mentioned in my preview, this season has benefitted greatly from new EP Per Blankens' open-ended themes. Gone are the days of such overused 80's songs as "Alone" (done here by Carrie Underwood), "Against All Odds" (done here by Katherine McPhee), and "Man in the Mirror" (done here by Kris Allen). Instead, this week we were treated to three solo songs that had never before been performed on the IDOL stage, and only a handful that had ever been done memorably. Unfortunately, we also got four 80's duets that were predominately disastrous.
After a truly awful 8-bit ColecoVision opening, the contestants and judges made their way to the stage. In celebration of this week's theme, Keith Urban rocked a faux-wrestler's mullet that earned him the nickname "Billy Ray Urban" from Ryan.
Like with most weeks this season, the performances varied, but whether it was the songs, or David Cook's presence, there was a certain freshness to the show tonight that made me excited to see what the rest of the season brings. With that said, on to the performances:
"I Love Rock N' Roll" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Three-Word Review: Gritty and Dangerous.
Well, there is no doubt that Jena is one heck of a rocker and one of the most adventurous risk-takers in the competition this year. I agreed with the judges that the key was probably a little bit low, and while that inhibited her vocals early on, it gave this well-known song a grittiness and danger that I've never heard before. This wasn't Jena's best performance, but she is still solidly in front of this competition.
"Keep Your Hands to Yourself" by Georgia Satellites
Three-Word Review: What? No Falsetto?
If you are going to do a karaoke version of a classic song, like Dexter seemingly does every week, you can't do so while leaving out the coolest part. While Dexter sounded good (as he always does), he didn't hit those iconic falsetto notes heading into the chorus, so for me, this was a bit of a letdown. Also, despite constantly hearing it from the judges, mentor David Cook, and, unnamed online critics, Dexter still avoided the use of consonants at all costs. While his popularity will probably carry him through this week, I have to think that his refusal to take direction from judges and mentors alike will catch up with him eventually.
Duet #1: Alex Preston and Sam Woolf
"The Girl Is Mine" by Michael Jackson
Six-Word Review: Just Like Jamming in the Hotel.
"Through the Fire" by Chaka Khan
Three-Word Review: Belty but Sharp.
In the preview for this week's show, I said that I was a little apprehensive about this song choice. Malaya has gotten into the habit of picking mid-tempo power ballads that let her show off her ridiculous belt, which has allowed her to climb to the top of the second-tier of IDOL competitors. That being said, I'm worried that having been in the Bottom-Three last week, and having the save exhausted prematurely, the repetitive song choice and occasional sharp notes tonight might hurt a contestant that I have become a big fan of.
"Call Me" by Blondie
Three-Word Review: Uncomfortable Awkward Strutting
Unfortunately, I knew exactly what this performance was going to be at the top of the song when I saw Jessica's awkward strut while trying to keep time with the music. She doesn't have a bad voice, especially when she lets loose and hits the power notes, however, whatever talent she has was again undermined by her unwillingness, or inability, to make any logical connection with the lyrics and music she sings. If I closed my eyes and just listened, I would have enjoyed it much more (which might bode well for any future album sales), but her untimely grins and robotic gestures just makes me feel a little uncomfortable when I watch her.