Now we’ve come to the point in the competition where things get a lot more interesting. I always find my attention fading during the semi-final rounds, where I don’t want to get attached to anyone, lest they don’t make it through to the next round.
But now, at last, are the finals. Instead of the usual 12, we have 13. Lucky Thirteen – they get to endure Simon’s sneers, Paula’s pathos, Randy’s raves and Kara’s kudos. This week’s theme: songs from the Michael Jackson catalog.
So how did the Season 8 contestants do? Here’s how I saw it, with some selected comments from the judges. My picks for elimination follow. Remember, not just one, but two contestants will get the boot tomorrow, March 11.
Lil Rounds, a mother of three with great pipes, led it off with “The Way You Make Me Feel,” a big hit for Jackson. She looked great and sounded great, with a great bluesy take on the song that really made it her own. She glammed it up in a pink ruffled top, white pants and stilettos. A great sustained final note. Randy told her, “You just put a new spin on it, a bluesy kind of vibe.” Simon thought it was a lazy song choice, and hated what she was wearing. Host Ryan Seacrest told her, “Don’t listen to a 55-year-old man’s advice.”
Scott MacIntyre, who has been almost completely blind since birth, sang a lesser-known song, “Keep the Faith.” He kind of had the Art Garfunkle vibe going on, with the halo of blond hair and his ease at the piano. He gave this song kind of a blue-eyed soul, 1980s kind of sound which I found a bit dated. Simon agreed with me, and in fact, he hated the song. “It’s fine being artistic, but not on this show,” Simon said, a statement which I found to be a hoot. “It felt all very safe for me,” said Randy.
Danny Gokey always looks spookily like Robert Downey Jr. to me. He sang “PYT (Pretty Young Thing),” a big Jackson hit. He started off soft and slow with it and I thought, “Hmmm, this might be interesting.” Then he launched into a very typical take on the song. I thought it was an awful song choice – he’s got quite a good voice and this kind of disco-type song doesn’t leave a lot of room for fun vocals. Strangely, the judges praised him to the heavens for his singing. “I think you are on your way to the finals,” said Paula, and Simon chimed in, “I thought the vocals were brilliant … However, the dancing was hideous,” which it definitely was.
Michael Sarver, the oil field worker, gave a very nice contemporary R&B vibe to a song called “You Are Not Alone,” another one I was not familiar with. He’s a nice-looking fella and somehow looked more put together than the other guys in a black shirt and jeans. I thought this sounded like something you’d hear on the radio, very smooth and polished. The judges seemed to like it. “You’re not the best singer in this competition, but you made up for it with passion, heart, and you gave it 110 percent,” Simon told him. “The song was instinctually perfect for you. You sounded really lovely tonight,” said Paula.
Jasmine Murray picked the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There.” She is a very cute girl, and looked good in a dress with a bold geometic print. She had a few pitch problems, but did well with it, and she has a gorgeous smile that lights up the stage. Some very nice notes at the end. “You did a pretty good job on it,” said Randy. “Great stage presence,” said Kara. Paula noted the pitch problems. “Nice control at the end,” said Simon. But, he said, “Lighten up a little bit. It’s like a little girl trying to be a grownup.”
Kris Allen, who grew up playing music with his family, sang “Remember the Time,” which I thought was rather forgettable. He played the guitar, which didn’t really go with this song. But he’s a cute guy, very personable and one of the younger men in the competition. He’s got a decent enough voice. Looks-wise, he’d be quite marketable. Paula agrees with me, calling him “adorable sexy.” The other judges seemed a bit lukewarm but vaguely positive on him. “Very Jason Mraz-y” is how Randy described him.
Allison Iraheta, the one with pink hair, rocked her song, “Give It To Me.” She is taking on the tough chick persona in the competition, complete with black nail polish, leather jacket and dangling chains. But it’s a great look and she has a fabulous voice and excellent stage presence. Everyone keeps saying they can’t believe she’s only 16, and I agree. She’s decades ahead in star power. “At least we know who you are,” Simon said. “That kind of confidence, that voice – very good.” “You can sing anything. You’re the one to watch in this whole thing,” added Randy.
Anoop Desai , already christened “Anoop Dawg,” attempted “Beat It.” It was an unfortunate choice, since it’s one of those iconic songs that is difficult to perform to anyone’s satisfaction. Although I thought he did decently with it, the judges didn’t like it one bit. He worked the crowd well, but his outfit was horrible – slacks, tennis shoes, sort of a lumpy brown jacket over a white shirt and tie. “This song is untouchable. Sounds karaoke to me,” Paula told him, while the ever-tactful Simon said, “I thought it was horrible. Lightweight and a bit stupid.” “Wrong choice,” added Randy.
Jorge Nuñez, the surprise pick from Puerto Rico, chose the big Jackson 5 hit, “Never Can Say Goodbye.” He did well enough, but it was not terribly unique or interesting. The best-dressed of all the guys in a nice gray blazer and slacks, he is a good-looking guy. But there is a bit of an accent, and while it doesn’t bother me, my guess is it will put off some voters. He got less applause than any of the other contestants, and the judges were also not encouraging. “A little bit old-fashioned for you,” said Randy. “I would have chosen something else for you.” As usual, Simon didn’t pussyfoot around. “Corny, and you’re out of your depth. The arrangement was awful,” he said.
Megan Joy Corkrey, the blonde tattooed girl, had the weirdest song of the night – the Jackson 5’s novelty hit “Rockin’ Robin.” As she was singing it, I was thinking, “Oh man, this is bad.” Although she has good stage personality and a nice voice, this was way too cutesy and young for her, and the song also didn’t match her sexy little red dress. Kara and Paula seemed to like the song, and her, but the guys hated it. “What a stupid song choice. The dancing was verging on ridiculous. The whole performance was clumsy and awkward,” said Simon. “(The song) didn’t allow you to really be Megan,” said Randy.
Adam Lambert, he of the eyeliner and artistically clipped black hair, has a better time with the MJ song “Black or White.” I actually liked him much better on this one than I did when he sang Elvis. He knows how to play to the camera as well as the studio audience. He is trying to cultivate the rocker persona but sometimes comes off as being a bit stagy. However, he can really sing. “You have the whole package,” said Paula. Surprisingly, Simon liked it. “That was to me in a totally different league of everything we’ve seen and heard tonight,” he said. Said Randy, “You could make a record right now … baby, you’ve got it.”
Matt Giraud had a rather jazzy vibe, playing the piano as he sang “Human Nature.” Although he had a few pitch problems, he is very appealing on stage, and handed in a really good performance. Randy compared him to Justin Timberlake, while Paula said, “I’m blown away.” However, to Simon it was simply a “meat-and-potatoes, good solid performance.”
Alexis Grace is another single mom looking to become a star. I think she stands a good chance. She has been one of my favorites for a couple of weeks, and I think she is dynamite, sort of a modern-day Dusty Springfield. Petite and almost fragile-looking, she has carved out a sexy, bluesy stage persona which is quite effective. She sang an old Michael Jackson song, “Dirty Diana,” wearing a black mini-dress, black tights and lots of silver chain necklaces. “You’re a naughty girl and I liked it,” Kara said, while Randy liked her attitude. Simon wasn’t as encouraging: “It wasn’t as good
as you thought it was.”
So who’s going home on Wednesday? My thought is that it will be Jorge and Megan, but hey, we’ll just have to tune in and see.