Thursday, March 11, 2010

Safe Songs Make Singers Look Good; Risky songs expose pretenders.

There were a couple of pitch problems but I don't think that matters right now. I think that people like you. I know that a lot of people are talking to me about...they have crushes on you. So, you're adorable and I thought it was great.--Judge Ellen Degeneres on American Idol

You could almost hear the judges telling Adam Lambert to stop with the gimmickry and really sing, so that they could actually have a chance to accurately judge him. Some of the singers took chances this week and it paid off, and for others they will suffer for their risks. Some continued to try to play it safe, which might also prove to do them in.

  • Todrick Hall took a chance, and despite what the judges say, I think in the end it probably sealed his fate. He exposed his scattered disconnnecteness with the music he performs.
  • Andrew Garcia chose a song that should have given him a chance to demonstrate some vocal range, but he masked the difficult areas with a bit of vocal fakery.
  • Lee Dewyze took a bit of a chance by trying to spice up a slightly castrated song as song by the original artist and did a pretty good job of pulling it off.
  • Alex Lambert once again sang a song that allows him to use the things he does OK, while never showing anything standoutish.
  • Casey James, the man with the backwards name, sang to perfection with for what for hims was a really safe song, but showed little identity.
  • Michael Lynch sang the way he knows how to sing. Nothing new.
  • Tim Urban sang a song that is not as challenging vocally, but sang it very well and had a lot of individual identity.
  • Aaron Kelly took a real chance with his song choice and demonstrated some real talent.

Lee definitely had some pitch control issues. He did choose a song that he can sing pretty well, based on the notes that he can sing strongly. I liked the edgier tone of the song versus the original. Kara made the most relevant comment, talking about the production value of the original song. I think sometimes he mumbled the lyrics little bit when he sang.

The performance made me think of the fifth or sixth song on CD you buy. Beyond the hits,

You're becoming a mushy banana.--ED

I have to say, that on the surface that I am not a big fan. Last week I felt I wanted to mute the TV when he was singing. He sort of sounds like an old lady that has been smoking for 40 years who is trying to channel Ed Sullivan through his nose. The AI judges raved about him so I gave him another listen. I just see him as a gimmicky singer, and for me the gimmick is not that attractive.

I have to say that the song he sang is a great song for people who have no range. However, he sand it really well. It is sort of like a world class gymnast who is performing the compulsory routing in the early rounds. He makes you want to feel there is something else there because he does the safe stuff so well.

He had good clean vocals throughout, with the exception of when he was going for a little reverb thing with the soft vocal part of the song. It came across a little bit like a nervous boy whose voice was changing. His style reminded me of the guy who sang that Anti-Vietnam song that escapes my memory now. I really like what he did. He showed great range, and has some really great vocal changes.

I think Garcia's problem is that of disappearing vocals. I think sometimes he is not sure how to sing a certain part of the song and so the not sort of disappears into nothing. I think he sings a few notes well but when he has to go outside of his register he has issues. Some vocals disappear. In this song when he should have been going higher for variation, he simply went into to the scratchy broken in voice singer mode, to mask what seems like the inability to sing strong clear vocals. Last weeks song had far more disappearing lyrics than this own however. I'm not sure weather it is him or the song or what.

I'm trying to figure out why the judges are so hard on Casey James. I think it is because he sounds like a lot of people. My guess is that he has a long history doing cover band stuff and he is really used to trying to sound a little bit like other people. He does have great control over his instrument, there is no question. When he does a reverb, it sounds right. When he goes high, it sounds right. When he goes low, it sounds right. Kara talked about wanting to see that spark. I would say that he needs to sound unique. Maybe this is what Simon is talking about when he describes a performance as unmemorable.

Simon finally called himself and the other judges on a mistake they've been making with Kelly and with the other 16-year-old in the competition. These two have made it to where they are because they have matured voices. Quite frankly they don't sound 16. Asking them to sound young or immature when that is not their voice.

On this ballad that Kelly sang, he really struggled. I think he relies too much on the reverb. He certainly did better as the song went on, when he could really take his voice out for solid couple of laps around the track. He does seem like he's trying a little hard at times and for this I agree with Simon. In the end, I think there is not enough seasoning there yet. He is probably on the outside of the upper tier, at best.

Hall is not my kind of singer, so it is hard to judge. I can say that the reason Queen's "Somebody to Love" is so successful is because of the vocal styling of Freddy Mercury. He didn't just sing the parts well, but despite the great variations in the different parts of the song, you never felt like it as a different part. There was a distinct sound that carried through all the parts of the song.

So, Hall, sand some parts well. He has some great range. The song sort of felt like an Olympic biathlon. The parts were all there, but there was nothing connecting them. Hall has talent, but he just doesn't know what he is doing overall. He is unquestionable second tier at this point. Simon called him a Broadway singer, rather than a recording artist. I think this the most accurate thing said by any of the judges. Maybe it will help him get a job when this is all done.

You hear the judges saying over and over again that an artist doesn't know them self, or they haven't found themselves. Lynch is probably one of the stronger candidates based on this test. Beyond that I don't think his vocals really stand out that much. He is really talented. He does a lot of things really well. I wonder if someone got him into a studio, if that would really punch up his sound. But right now I don't know that is vocals are that strong. He sounds like a lot of singers sometimes, not overly memorable.

So, let me rank these guys in order. I could stand to see some shuffling in the top three when all the performances to date are considered.

First Tier
1. Tim Urban
2. Michael Lynche
3. Lee Dewyze
4. Aaron Kelly

Second Tier
5. Casey James
6. Andrew Lambert
8. Todrick Hall (Tie)
8. Andrew Garcia (Tie)

Crystal Ball Speculation:
Who has the most room for improvement here? I would say that Casey James, if he can find some individuality in his style has the greatest chance to leap into the top tier.

Who seems to have petered out?
I am afraid that Lee Dewyze might not have too much more to offer.

Who is the most polished?
It is easy to say the Michael Lynche is the most polished of the eight finalists.

Who has the greatest chance to disappoint in the end?
I think that Michael Lynche is the most polished, but I don't see that much long-term potential with him, no real imagination in his singing. I think he could make it to the final, and ultimately disappoint.

Staying Below the Radar
Andrew Garcia gets the staying below the radar award. He has been doing just enough to stay in the competition but I think his number will be up soon.

Sesame Street One of these three (eight) doesn't belong.
I think Todrick Hall is the one of the eight that least belongs. He is still singing like he is in the trials.

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