American Idol Season 8- Top 5 Power Rankings

ai-top-5 This is jolting.  Last week there were 7 and now there are 5 on American Idol Season 8.  We say goodbye to Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai.  They were both favorites to make it to the finals, remember when we all thought it would be Danny Gokey, Lil Rounds and Anoopdawg in the Top 3.  What happened?  We found out the Anoopdawg, a wonderful singer, lacked star power.  Lil’s lack of music experience crippled her ability to choose and arrange songs.  I suspect a good team will make her a star.

Before we get started ranking the American Idol Season 8 Top 5, I watched “From Idol to Inspiration” on the Gospel Music Channel.  This documentary is advertised as a study into the impact of the Church has had on American Idol and the impact of American Idol on the Church. I am not sure it accomplishes that lofty goal but the segments with Phil Stacey, Mandisa, Melinda Doolittle and Chris Sligh are interesting and inspiring.   “From Idol to Inspiration” encores on GMC April 27, 30, May 2, 3; check www.gospelmusicchannel.com for show times.

The power rankings, from here forward, are fluid.  Many believe that this Top 5 is the most talented of the any American Idol group ever.  Any one of these American Idol music artists could sing their way into the finals. American Idol Season 8 now adds a level of intensity as the contestants now will be singing two songs each week.  This pressure of this additional preparation got to Jason Castro and Brooke White last year.

American Idol Season 8 Top 5 Power Rankings

  1. Kris Allen has put together the best body of work on American Idol Season 8.  Week after week Kris makes great song selections, finds the emotional core of those songs, arranges the songs to fit his style and delivers exceptional performances.  He has had more show topping performances than any other and has only had one stumble with “All She Wants to Do Is Dance”.He is building a credible covers EP.  Look at this collection of downloadable performances:

    “Ain’t No Sunshine” “Falling Slowly” “She Works Hard for The Money” “To Make You Feel My Love” “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” “Remember The Time” “Man In The Mirror”

    Kris Allen first caught my attention when he turned Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror” into a pleading prayer for self revelation. MTV, Entertainment Weekly and Buddytv have all jumped on the Kris Allen band wagon, suggesting that he could be the only person capable of disrupting Adam Lambert’s coronation. “With him [Kris Allen], it’s much more about the emotion of the song and trying to tell a story through the lyrics rather than hitting these giant notes and using vocal bombast,” said EW’s Michael Slezak.

    I assume Kris Allen will continue his consistent, thoughtful march through American Idol Season 8.  Regardless whether Kris Allen wins American Idol Season 8 or not he will be our top idol.

  2. Allison Iraheta has only had a few stumbles on American Idol Season 8 (“Don’t Stop” and “I Don’t Want to Miss A thing”) and each time she has come storming back.  Her interpretation of “Hot Stuff” as a rock song was brilliant.  Allison’s staging was captivating, her clothes were perfect for her performance and her singing was mind blowing.Allison Iraheta stage presence in much more mature than her 16 years.  Jordan Sparks and David Archuleta both sang beyond their years, but with Allison Iraheta you feel she is an old soul in a 16 year old body.  Both Jordan and David were mature singing old songs but struggled with contemporary material.  Allison feels like a mature performer with a modern sensibility.I am shocked she was in the Bottom 3.  That does not bode well for her, but she has made her mark on the American Idol fans and we will be listening to Allison Iraheta music for years to come.
  3. Danny Gokey once again showed off his unique, bluesy voice on American Idol Season 8 Disco night.  He blasted his performance of “September” with huge notes and a couple of good change of pace decisions.  However, his arrangement was mundane and, in a night when many of the Idols redefined their songs, Danny seemed to be consumed by “September”.From the beginning I felt that Danny Gokey had an advantage in American Idol Season 8 because his background would enable him to bring superior arrangements to his performances.  I am disappointed that he has shown the least arrangement creativity of  any of the remaining 5 American Idols.
  4. Matt Giraud made a strong comeback from the American Idol Season 8 ” judges save”.  His arrangement of “Stayin Alive” was fresh, modern and funky.  That was hard because “Stayin Alive” is an iconic song that I thought was dangerous, if not impossible to perform.  But he nailed it and was rewarded by escaping the Bottom 3 last week.Matt is the most inconsistent of the remaining American Idol Season 8 Top5.  I think it is because Matt Giraud seems himself as a rock pianist and vocalist when he is really a R&B performer.  His biggest failures have occurred when he has attempted Coldplay, The Fray and Bryan Adams.  Matt has triumphed with Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the Bee Gees. Matt Giraud’s vision of himself as a piano rocker may be why he was a dueling piano player before American Idol Season 8 and, if he does not embrace his R&B skills, it will cause the end of his American Idol journey.
  5. Adam Lambert simply does not live up to the hype for me. The bombastic singing, calculating performances and hair metal screaming make me wonder where he goes after American Idol Season 8.  There have been plenty of recording artists who have had success pandering to audiences, but they do not create artistic legacies.Last week’s performance of  “If I Can’t Have You” is a example.  Adam Lambert was delivering a quiet, heartfelt interpretation of that disco love song until he forced in a Poison-like power ballad scream.  That completely undercut the emotion of the song and made it feel calculated and staged.Adam Lambert has had a few brilliant performances on American Idol Season 8 (“Tracks of My Tears” and “Mad World”) but many of performances have been excruciating displays of bombast.  Many believe he will win, but Adam Lambert will not have a successful recording career. He will probably parlay his American Idol success into a Broadway career, which is the right place for him.

This is a very good Top 5.  The next four weeks should be exciting.  It seems that the three remaining Christian music artists, Kris Allen, Danny Gokey and Matt Giraud are in danger of being caught up in a voting block.  Adam and Allison are distinctively different than those three.  The downside of that is that Kris, Danny and Matt will be performing against each other over the next few weeks. We will have some shocking American Idol Season 8 Bottom 3′s and departures because of it. The positive will be that the one to survive that voting challenge will pick up the other’s votes and be all that much stronger.

Be sure to check out our song predictions tomorrow morning and then join our live blog tomorrow night at 8edt as the American Idol Season 8 performers take on “Songs of The Rat Pack”.

In the meantime, download some of American Idol’s Season 8 performances from iTunes.

Apple iTunes

American Idol Season 8-Disco Performance Review

Evidently pressure is a good thing.  Two people go home this week so everyone had to bring their “A” and they did.  I think this was the best night so far of American Idol Season 8.  The two people that go home tomorrow night did not lose, five music artists won on American Idol tonight.  We reaped the benefits.

Two things happened tonight.  Everyone but Lil Rounds and Danny Gokey delivered radical arrangements of these familiar disco songs.  Randy criticized just about everyone for changing the arrangements and shame on him.  The American Idol performers were daring tonight and it was fun.

The second thing that happened tonight- every American Idol performer sang tonight with a capital S-A-N-G.  If you can, go back and listen.  Not only was the singing virtually flawless, but it was dead-on interpretively and it was from the gut. The American Idol contestants brung it tonight.  After watching it again, this was the most consistently great night I have experienced with American Idol.

I hate to rank these performances because from one to the next there is very little difference.  Two stood out for me.  Kris Allen, for the third week of the past four he re-arranged a great song, one we would never expect him to do, and delivered a performance that could work on today’s charts.  Allison Iraheta, my goodness.  Not a great song for a 16 year old girl to sing, but I no longer believe she is 16.  I will rave in detail below, but I saw Kelly Clarkson on stage tonight in a bright red wig.

American Idol Season 8- Disco Performance Rankings

  1. Kris Allen flabbergasted us all tonight.  The judges were stammering that Kris was able to take the iconic Donna Summer song “She Works Hard For the Money” and turn it into a cool 21st century Spanish tinged jive number. Kris’s guitar created a rhythm of sound, the bongos and box punctuated the groove and the bass was spectacular. Kris’s vocals showed power, range and sensitivity.  Kris Allen is hitting his stride and everyone better prepare themselves for Kris Allen to win American Idol Season 8.
  2. Allison Iraheta truly wowed me tonight.  I have re-watched the performance three times now and I am amazed at her performance maturity.  She does not so much dance as she moves naturally with the lyrics of the song.  Her vocal choices were dead-on.  She looked great, her singing was fantastic and her stage presence was incredible.  Allison Iraheta has found herself as a performer on American Idol Season 8.  We will enjoy her for many years.
  3. Matt Giraud finally let loose and had fun.  This is the Matt we saw beat boxing and dancing in American Idol Season 8 Hollywood Week.  He could have crashed with “Stayin Alive” by the Bee Gees, but he made it work.  He funkified the arrangement, added some modern R&B riffs and he danced.  This is the first time we have seen Matt Giraud sing as if he were completely relaxed and I liked it.  He topped his results show performance last week and gave his best vocal of the year.
  4. Adam Lambert almost pulled off another moment.  He took the Bee Gees “If I Can’t Have You” and slowed it to an achingly slow ballad.  The emotional connection was there, the singing was fantastic, the choice to stand still in the middle of the stage was right; and then he just had to get flashy.  When he slipped in those high pitched screams it ruined the moment.  This went from a heartbreaking cry to a well crafted American Idol performance.
  5. Danny Gokey can really, really sing.  In this group of singers singing their best tonight, he really out sang everyone.  Did you hear him blast those opening notes of EWF’s “September”.  Wow.  The funky breakdown in the middle showed off his shuffle singing skills.  Danny Gokey just overwhelmed this song with his vocals.  My issue with Danny’s performance was the arrangement.  On a night when Kris, Allison, Matt and Adam took some cool arrangement risks, Danny played it safe.  We know Danny has the skills to bend these songs into something cool and if he doesn’t start using them now his American Idol journey will be over too soon.
  6. Lil Rounds delivered her best performance of American Idol’s Season 8, at least her best since the semi-finals.  I think the judges unfairly skewered her. Watching her sing Chaka Kahn’s “I’m Every Woman” her vocals were solid and exciting, she commanded the stage and she layed herself out.  She looked like a confident star tonight.  If Lil Rounds goes home tomorrow night she will have left us with a peek into her future after American Idol.
  7. Anoop Desai started right.  He opened Donna Summers‘ “Dim All the Lights” as a slow, mournful ballad.  It was working.  His vocals were beautiful and soaring.  Then the beat picked up and all his flaws came out.  The song overwhelmed him and he was lost on the stage.  His vocals continued to be spectacular but his performance was amateurish.  It will probably be his last night on American Idol.

It is really tough to think anyone will be going home from American Idol tomorrow night but two must go.  Anyone who goes tomorrow night can leave on a highnote.  Here are my predictions:

Bottom 3: Anoop Desai, Lil Rounds, Danny Gokey

Bottom 2: Anoop Desai, Lil Rounds

Everyone will be outraged that Danny  is in bottom 3, but Matt Giraud will have enough rally votes to keep him safe this week.

This week is going to cost me some money. There are several download worthy songs. Check them out at iTunes.

Apple iTunes

American Idol Season 8- Disco Performances

Polyester rules!  Lace up your boogie shoes and jump on the groove train as American Idol Season 8 goes Disco.  Usually this is a disaster and, with no mentor, it is quite possible that our American Idol groove trains derails.   On the other hand, there are a few really cool disco songs that some Idols could latch onto and blow us all away (see our Disco Songs Preivew).

We are covering the Christian music artists competing on American Idol Season 8.  After a dramatic save of Matt Giraud last week, I have 3 of the 4 remaining Christians music artists at the top of my Top 7 Power RankingsKris Allen, Danny Gokey and Matt Giraud are 1, 2, 3 with Lil Rounds in 6th place desperately needing a breakout performance tonight.

american-idol-save

Before I forget, don’t forget to check out “Idol to Inspiration” on Thursday night on GMC.  Check out the full details of this documentary of the Church’s influence on American Idol (see Idol to Inspiration).

Remember, two American Idol performers go home this week so tonight’s performances are vital.  Last week’s bottom 3 were Anoop Desai, Lil Rounds and Matt Giraud, but anyone could be at risk tonight.

American Idol starts now.  They review that great moment from last week’s save.  It was cool.  This is American Idol!

We are jumping in right off the bat.  Lil Rounds starts off singing Chaka Kahn’s “I’m Every Woman”.  She is working it out.  At least it looks like she had fun.  I wasn’t ready for that.

Randy thinks it sounded too wild?  Kara hated it.  The judges are just sending her home.  Simon says there was no originality and predicts she will go home.  She disagrees with the judges for another week.  Did you hear Lil’s family yelling at the judges?

Kris Allen is up second singing “She Works Hard for The Money” by Donna Summer.  His guitar, bongos and box, very interesting.  Kris is working it out again.  This could be a Top 20 hit today.  Kris Allen rules again.  This guy is a great musician.  Killer.

Kara loves the risk and she is right, it worked.  Paula is talking about shopping.  Simon thinks it was original and fantastic.  Randy is loving it.  Kris Allen is ready for the big time.  Amazing.  Kris Allen is going to win American Idol.

Danny Gokey is doing Earth Wind & Fire’s “September”.  It is a cool bouncy song.  He is blasting the lyrics and has a nice throw down bridge in the middle.  Great singing but a safe song choice.

Randy loved the arrangement.  The judges were worried about Danny tonight but they think he nailed it.  The judges are amazed at his singing ability. Simon didn’t see any star power.

Allison Iraheta is singing Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff”.  Did she cut her hair?  “Hot Stuff “as a rock song, brilliant.  She is beginning to even look like a superstar.  Wow, she completely just owned Donna Summer’s signature song.  Wow

Randy hates the arrangement and still thinks she blew it out.  Kara calls the vocal a 9/10.  Simon thinks it was brilliant.  I agree.

Adam Lambert with the biggest hair of the year.  He is singing “If I Can’t Have You” by the Bee Gees.  He continues his pattern of ballad then a shouter.  He had me until he started the screaming.  It was pretty good, the judges will pass out.  Is dad about to go surfing?

Yep, Randy starts the fawning.  Hot, brilliant, Paula is crying. Simon loves the originality and thinks the vocals were immaculate.

It looks like Matt Giraud is swinging for the fences with The Bee Gee’s “Staying Alive”.  This will even put him back in the game or he will go out in flames.  This is an updated, funkier version.  Matt can dance so losing the piano was a good choice.  Very good performance.  He missed a few notes but that was fun.

Randy did not like song or arrangement but loved the singing.  Kara liked that he brought the groove back and liked his dancing.  Simon didn’t like it.  I disagree with Simon that there was no originality.

Anoop Desai closes the night singing another ballad, but I don’t know what it is.  “Dim All The Lights” by Donna Summer?  He started great as a ballad but then the beat picked up and he gets lost in the song.  Great singing but so what.

Randy loves the singing.  I didn’t listen to the ladies.  Simon thinks it was mediocre.  I agree.

Overall, a great American Idol night.  The worst performances were as good as last week’s best, except “Falling Slowly”.  I will be back overnight to review the performances.  Check out the site when you get up in the morning.

American Idol Season 8- Disco Songs Preview

Can they do it?  American Idol Season 8 takes a turn to the darkside this week, yes we go disco.  The American Idol performers are being asked to go to those eight years when songs were dominated by beats, falsettos and vapid lyrics.  There are exceptions and the American Idol Season 8 performers who find those songs will triumph.  We have suggestions. Let’s just hope we do not have a repeat of last weeks timid movie song snorefest.

One21music is covering the Christian music performers competing on American Idol Season 8.  We started with six of the Top 13 and we have four of the Top 7 still remaining.  See our Top 7 Power Rankings II which shows Kris Allen, Danny Gokey and Matt Giraud topping our rankings.  Lil Rounds, our fourth Christian music performer is struggling but has mad potential.

Disco, what can we say.  From about 1972 to 1980 this producer dominated style of smooth dance music dominated the airwaves.  It was everywhere.  Disco was so dominate a genre that even rock icons Rod Stewart and The Rolling Stones leapt into that pool of polyester and platform shoes.  Like any genre of music, there was some greatness to come out of the scene (Bee Gee’s “Staying Alive”, Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” and Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” among others) but the bulk of the music does not lend itself to a singing show like American Idol.

Matt Giraud and Adam Lambert, with their crazy falsettos and strong rhythm sensibilities, should thrive.  Kris Allen, Danny Gokey and Lil Rounds can soar if they are careful to not overstep their strengths in service of these cool beats.  Allsion Iraheta will struggle to bend the few songs that fit her rock and roll voice.  Anoop Desai has been doing ballads for three weeks and he needs to continue this week.

Song Predictions

  • Kris Allen has the opportunity to secure his spot in the American Idol Season 8 Top 3, if he was able to find this song.  In 1977, dance club diva Grace Jones covered Edith Paif’s “La Vin E Rose”.  It is perfect for Kris Allen.  “La Vin E Rose” is a beautiful love song (…when you kiss me, heaven sighs and though I close my eyes I see la vin e rose..) and Jone’s arrangement is based on acoustic guitars with Spanish rhythms, right in the Kris Allen wheelhouse.  If he found it and performs it, every female in America will fall in love with him, us music snobs will respect his musical acumen and he will jet to the finals.  Props to my wife for finding this.I suspect he did not make the connection with this song and I predict he will sing “More Than A Woman” from Saturday Night Fever.
  • Danny Gokey could bring the entire country, except the cynics, to their knees tonight on American Idol disco night.  Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “The Love I Lost”, if performed as a quiet ballad, could singlehandedly cause an increase in the sell of facial tissue in America.  Just read these lyrics and disagree that maybe even Simon might be moved:I can remember planning
    Building my whole world around you
    And I can remember hoping
    That you and I could make it on through
    But something went wrong
    We loved each other
    We just couldn’t get along
    Take a good look at me
    I’m in misery, can’t you see The love I lost (the love, the love I lost)
    Was a sweet love (it was a sweet love)
    The love I lost (the love, the love I lost)
    Was complete love (it was complete love)
    The love I lost (the love I lost)
    I will never (never) no no never
    (Never) love again ooh

    I can’t remember nothing, no no
    But the good times we used to share
    I’m so sad and lonely
    Without you my life is so dead
    I’m sorry to say
    You go your way and I’ll go my way
    It hurts deep inside
    The day we said goodbye, but…

    Yesterday I compared Danny’s voice to Rod Stewart’s, but when you listen to Teddy Pendergrass sing “The Love I Lost”  you can hear Danny Gokey.

    Another choice for Danny is to connect with lyrics that speak to our faith by performing Stephanie Mills‘ “Never Knew Love Like This Before”

  • Matt Giraud must be giddy.  Is there a American Idol theme better suited to Matt’s singing, dancing and arranging skills?  I think he swings for the fences this week and performs one of two disco/funk classics.  In 1977 Marvin Gaye jumped into disco scene with his ode to losing your inhibitions on the dance floor “Got to Give It Up”.  Just check out this video and tell me Matt Giraud could not tear this song up in 2 minutes:

Matt Giraud could also latch onto Michael Jackson’s 1980 break out solo record “Off The Wall”, another ode to letting yourself go to enjoy the dancing and the nightlife.  Both songs are perfect for Matt’s style and skills but, since we have done so much Michael Jackson this year, the Marvin Gaye song would be more of a breakout.

  • Allison Iraheta was a struggle for two reasons.  First, disco does not really lend itself to a big voiced blues singer (ask Etta James and Martha Reeves).  Second, most of the disco songs are really not appropriate for a 16 year old girl.  I found two and I love them both.In 1975 Nat King Cole’s daughter, Natalie Cole, burst on the scene with the exuberant shouty romp to love “This Will Be”.   Yes, it is the eHarmony jingle so there is a chance she will find it. The song is fun, it is loud and it has some room for Allison to show off her pipes.  Check out a young Natalie Cole coming into herself as a performer

    The other song is a classic, one of the top song’s of the 70′s, “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge.  It would be good for her voice but it is too predictable for American Idol Season 8 disco night.

  • Adam Lambert should sing Tina Turner’s ode to her hometown “Nutbush City Limits”.  It sports a quick rock beat for his dancing and lyrics perfect for his high pitched screams.  Like Tina Turner, this song would give Adam a chance to strut and scream to his full self.However, if Adam Lambert is very cocky about his American Idol standing he can take on the pinnacle of disco music, the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive”.  The falsetto singing and driving beat captures the pace of New York in the mid 70′s and the spirit of disco like no other song.  Just for fun, here is the full song, set to the full opening of Saturday Night Fever:

  • Lil Rounds is on the ropes.  She has avoided elimination over the past three weeks but her performances have not been good.  She can blow away the competition with disco if she does two things.  Pick the right song and slow the beat back to a modern R&B hip/hop pace.The best song for Lil Rounds is Donna Summer’s (not “Last Dance”) “I Love You”. Simple, beautiful lyrics of love sung by a women whom Lil sounds a lot a like.  She needs to slow the beat down from 110 bpm to about 80 bpm so that she can groove like Mary J Blige.  That is what we all want isn’t it?

    If Lil Rounds wants to work off some of her anger at the American Idol judges, she can make the same beat changes and sing Gloria Gaynor’s “Never Can Say Goodbye”.  With lyrics like “everytime when I think I have had enough and head straight for the door I feel a strange vibration..” and “I never want to let you go..” singing this song would maybe relieve a little of the tension that has built up around Lil Rounds.

  • Anoop Desai faces a difficult task on American Idol this week.  For several weeks he has been gaining momentum singing ballad’s, but that momentum will lose steam if he doesn’t start showing some versatility.  Problem is, disco week is a big trap for Anoop.  Everytime he has tried to break out his dancing shoes on American Idol Season 8, he has stumbled badly.The best song for Anoop to sing on American Idol disco night is “How Deep Is Your Love” from Saturday Night Fever.  He can sing it and he can pour his personality into it.  Problem is that it is another ballad and I think he will sucked into his dancing shoes.   Look for him to break out “Brick House” from the Commodores.  I think he will be in trouble again this week.

So there are the songs the American Idol contestants should perform.  Not one of them called me asking for advice.  I think Matt Giraud needs a killer performance this week to stay on the show.  I think he is splitting votes with Danny Gokey and Kris Allen and he will lose that race.  For some reason, Anoop has his own voting block separate from those three.  Matt needs to blow Anoop away on Tuesday night.  With two going, I will be surprised to see Lil Rounds make it past Wednesday, but the performances could change everything.

Check in with us tonight as we live blog American Idol Season 8 Disco Night.  In the meantime  download studio recordings and live performances of all of the Top 36 here at iTunes.

Apple iTunes