American Idol Season 8- Rat Pack Perforance Review

Using the Microsoft Word thesaurus I found 17 synonyms for the word brilliant and it’s synonyms. I may use them all in this post. I am an American Idol neophyte, but this was as spectacular an American Idol show as I have seen.

The five American Idol performers took 50 year old songs, performed them magnificently and made them current without destroying the melody of the songs. Danny Gokey and Matt Giraud delivered their best performance of American Idol Season 8. Kris Allen and Adam Lambert rivaled their best performances.  Allison Iraheta showed us unanticipated versatility in mastering a style that should cause her to stumble.

In addition to the stunning performances here are five  things about tonight’s American Idol Season 8 Rat Pack night excellent:

  • “Surprise mentor” Jamie Foxx was genius.  His musical advice was perfect.  His performance advice was insightful.  He was enthusiastic and encouraging.  I think he had a hand in inspiring these virtuoso performances.
  • The American Idol judges were engaging and  enthusiastic tonight.  It was almost as if Simon had watched the dress rehearsals.  His critiques of Kris Allen and Allison Iraheta seemed to anticipate what we were about to see.  I liked Kara’s effusive praise and I liked Simon and Randy’s contrasting reviews.
  • The decision for the American Idol performers to sing only one song enabled us to really listen to the performances. Ten songs would have been too rushed. They were able to sing more of each song.
  • I don’t care if these were songs from a different time.  These are extraordinary, timeless songs.
  • Loved, loved the suits.  The guys looked like men not little boys. I am sorry California (where office casual started) men look best in a coat, matching slacks, polished shoes and a tie.  Watch Mad Men and argue with me.

The American Idol Season 8 Rat Pack performance show was dazzling.

American Idol Season 8 Rat Performance Rankings

I don’t want to rate these Rat Pack performances.  They were all too good to put in order.  To prepare for this article I go back,  re-watch the performances and grade them A, B or C.  Everyone one of these were in the A category.  But the performance rankings would not be very much fun if I dd not rank, so here goes:

  1. Adam Lambert sang “Feeling Good” with such virtuosity that my jaw dropped when I saw it the first time.  His wide ranging but controlled vocal took this song through an octave busting roller coaster ride through the scales.  Yet, unlike most of his performances, he wasn’t showing off, he was singing this song like it maybe has never been sung before.  He had a few chances to throw down his best Vince Neil but he held back and the power of the song carried him to a higher plane.

    Adam’s stage performance said. “I don’t care if I win American Idol Season 8, I am a star”.  He was mesmerizing.  I think Jennifer Hudson is the only one to have matched Adam’s star power tonight. I don’t usually like Adam’s performance.  Tonight I was flabbergasted.

  2. Danny Gokey delivered his best performance of the American Idol Season 8 finals.  We have been asking him to breakout and with “Come Rain or Come Shine”  he did.  I thought the first part of the song, quiet and slow, got a little lost in the band.  After watching a second time, he was doing some interesting phrasing and runs during this part.  Then, wow happened. Danny grabbed the song by the throat and just went on a growling, belting romp through the final verses. 

    The way Danny ended this song was astonishing. This was the most praise Danny has received from the judges all year.  Tonight Danny Gokey announced his return with a swaggering roar.

  3. Matt Giraud proved tonight he is more than a R&B singer.  With his interpretation of “My Funny Valentine”  he showed us he has a career as a jazz musician.  Matt listened to Jamie Foxx’s advice to change the key of this performance.  The result was an gorgeous low register beginning that enable him to play with his phrasing and diction.  Where Danny and Adam’s performances were jaw dropping, Matt’s interpretation called you to lean forward and observe what he was doing.Matt’s performance tonight was mesmerizing.  I think it could be on the radio tomorrow and people would eat it up. 

    This was Matt Giraud’s best performance of American Idol Season 8.

  4. Kris Allen sang “The Way You Look Tonight”.  I hate to place him fourth out of five.  I will buy this song to add to my Kris Allen cover EP (see Top 5 Power Rankings).  Kris expertly controlled the pace of the song, sang beautifully, utilized unique phrasing and really told the story of the lyric.  It was truly a gorgeous performance.

    I did not like the arrangement.  He had the band pick up the song in the bridge by speeding up the tempo and volume.  I think he would have been better served by using his singing to change the harmonic dynamic while keeping the tension of the lyric.

  5. Allison Iraheta sang “Someone To Watch Over Me” with vulnerability and sensitivity.  Kara called it gut wrenching.  Allison’s vocals were stunning.  The contrast of her raspy voice with the deliberate phrasing caused me to believe we were watching a tough girl daring to be sensitive.  Stunning.

    I just don’t believe that Allison enjoyed the performance.  She seemed to be fighting her desire to let loose with her vocals.  While this struggle may fit the mood she was trying to create, this performance did not feel as triumphant as Adam’s, Danny’s or Matt’s.

One final word from my thesaurus research to describe American Idol Season 8 Rat Pack performances-  Wow!

Predictions

No one deserves to go home this week.  If the American Idol Season 8 performers are going to keep delivering like they have for the past few weeks, can we just extend the show through July?

If I must:

Bottom 3: Kris (because he went first), Matt (because he has been here before), Allison (because she has been here before)

Bottom 2: Matt and Allison

Going home: Matt (which is a crime since he just started gaining his momentum.  I just don’t think he can survive the Danny/Kris/Matt voting log jam)

Join us tomorrow night as we live blog the American Idol Season 8 Results show.

I will download everyone of these songs.  You should as well:

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American Idol Season 8- Top 5 Performances Live Blog

Welcome to Vegas!.  Light up enough cigarettes to smoke up the room and make some martinis because American Idol is presenting the songs of The Rat PackAmerican Idol Season 8 performers will be singing songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and Dean Martin.  This was a time of great exuberance and confidence in America.  See in my Rat Pack Songs Review that I think this could be a difficult night on American Idol because these songs really represent an innocence and bravado that was permanently broken in the 60′s and 70′s.  We just don’t see the world in the same way anymore.

If you read my Top 5 Power Rankings you know that I believe we are now down to the real American Idol contenders.  I have Kris Allen and Allison Iraheta on top but this is a difficult task for them tonight.  Danny Gokey, Matt Giraud and Adam Lambert seem to be better suited to Rat Pack songs, but this has been a surprising group.  What we do know is that this is probably the best assemblage of singing talent of any American Idol Top 5 and these are great big “singer’s songs”.

Last minute update!  American Idol announced that the performers would only sing one song each tonight and the rumor is that Jamie Foxx is the mentor.  Let’s see!

They are all in suits, except Allison, of course.  This is a stage of sharp dressed men.

Voting tip.  There will be two phone numbers for each contestant so it will be easier to get through tonight.  I love this music!

Jamie Foxx surprised the Idols.  They didn’t know he was going t be the mentor.  Who would have imagined?  Are there no singers releasing CDs this year?  He tells them these songs are not just songs they are a lifestyle.

Kris Allen is up first and he looks good in a suit.  Kris is singing “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank SinatraJamie Foxx told him that he wanted to do a record with him.  This is a slow ballad, boy he controls a song.  What a nice quiet opening half and then it picks up, he throws some falsetto in and then ends it slowly again.  He didn’t need the middle part but it was a very good performance.

Randy is looking for who is in it to win and Randy thinks it is his best performance of the season.  Kara says Kris has set the technical standard very high.  The judges love everything about this performance, except Simon of course.  He did not think it was incredible and said he did not think Kris could win.  I disagree.

Allison Iraheta is 17 as of yesterday.  She rehearsed, but her family threw her a surprise party.  She is singing “Someone to Watch Over Me” by George Gershwin (sung by Frank Sinatra).   This song is not suited to her husky voice.  This looks difficult for Allison.  She looks like she wants to belt but is holding back.  Very nice ending.  That was fine singing but uninspiring.

Randy can’t get the audience to shut-up.  He Loves it!  Kara  calls it a gut wrenching rendition and this performance should land her in the finals.  Paula likes her tenderness and innocence.  It seems Simon is trying to eliminate the ones he did not predict would win.  It is like Randy and Simon are watching a different show.  Kara calls him crazy.

Matt Giraud is singing the 1930′s showtune “My Funny Valentine”, a Rogers and Hammerstein song performed by everyone including Frank Sinatra.   Matt like hats.  he gets the award for wearing the most hats in American Idol Season 8.  Matt feels that this theme is in his wheel house.  He studied jazz in college.  I like Jamie Foxx as a mentor.  I thought Matt would play the piano but he is out on a tune.  This has some real jazz phrasing to it.  Very original.   The performance is a little jarring but very, very good. Nice job Matt.

Randy thinks he was a little pitchy in trying to sing one of the hardest songs of the night.  Kara thinks he was not emotinally connected.  Paula thinks it was impressive. Simon disagrees with Randy again.  He says it was the only authentic performance of the night and thinks it was brilliant.

Danny Gokey is up next and it was his birthday this week too.  He turned 28 on April 24th.  Danny is singing “Come Rain or Come Shine”, recorded by everyone who has ever sung a song, with a bluesy arrangement.  Jamie Foxx got so close that he knew Danny’s breath was fresh.   He starts slow and quiet and the orchestra seems to be overwhelming his singing.  He really kicks in  the ending with a growling, pleading throwdown.  The end rocked!

Randy thinks he could record an album of these songs.  Kara thinks he brought Rat Pack swagger and thinks the end was the most creative he has been all season.  Simon thinks he proved the point tonight, that Danny Gokey is here to win.  Simon says outstanding.

Adam Lambert sings last again?  How can that be?  He is singing “Feeling Good” written by Anthony Newley with a rock edge of course.  Dang!  That was pretty brilliant.  That blew me away. Incredible.

Randy felt it was too dramatic.  What?  Kara calls him shocking, in a good way.  Simon said that Randy calling him theatrical is criticizing a cow for mooing.  Simon sings Adam’s praises.

American Idol Season 8′s Top 5 are the best we have ever seen.  This was a great show.  Every performance was great.

I will be back later tonight to review the performances but I think I will need to pull my dictionary out to find more superlatives.

Pre-order these performances on iTunes, I think you will be happy.

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American Idol Season 8- Rat Pack Preview

The judges say “you could sing the phone book” all the time so I guess they are trying to prove a point this week.  The American Idol Season 8 theme for the Top 5 is “songs made famous by The Rat Pack”.  What’s next “songs of 19th century composers?”.  Don’t get me wrong, these are great songs that are built for singers.  They are just the furthest thing from contemporary you can pick.

rat-packThe songs of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. represent the most optimistic, self confident music in American music history.  The Rat Pack singers gained popularity in the 40′s and 50′s.  This was the height of America’s power and respect in the world.  The USA had just led the world to victory over the great evil of Germany and Japan in a two front war.  The economy was booming as America rebuilt the world.  That great generation (watch the series “Band of Brothers” sometime) had just faced evil, encountered death and suffered loss.  This was a time for joy, love and forgetting.

Contrast that with the past 50 years.  The 60′s marked a worldwide break with the modern philosophy triumphing the dominance of man on the world.  Postmodernism with its rejection of  the bland conformity and self assuredness of the mid 21st century pushed this music to a mafia controlled Vegas and to hotel lounges everywhere.  We examined some of the truths we held confidently until 1965 and found that segregation, our treatment of women and the destruction of earth caused by the industrial revolution was wrong.  Intellectual conflict, cultural criticism and generational warfare replaced our post war celebration.

Rat Pack songs perfectly capture the post war enthusiasm that just does not exist these days.  These songs of wonderment, love found and loves lost do not reflect the angst of today’s music.  I love these songs, but I think the Adam Lambert, Allison Iraheta, Danny Gokey, Kris Allen and Matt Giraud will really struggle to find their emotional center in these American classics.

I know American Idol contestants have done well with jazz standards from the same era, but jazz was the anti-establishment music of post war America.  Jazz, from the 1900′s through the 70′s was closer to modern music than jazz is today.  These songs were the popular songs that captured the mood and psyche of the era. The American Idol Season 8 performers are as talented as any we have seen (see Top 5 power rankings).  They will sing these songs beautifully, but a big part of their appeal is the acumen for arrangements and interpretation that they have displayed  throughout Season 8.  That will be difficult tonight.  I don’t want to hear the judges utter the phrases “karaoke” or “old fashioned”, but I know they will.

American Idol will call on the Top 5 to perform two songs each tonight.  After scouring my collection and tooling around iTunes, I cannot find 10 songs I can say the American Idol Season 8 performers should perform.  Interestingly, I was able to find the most songs for Danny Gokey.  I worry about Kris Allen tonight.  If he pulls this off, I will be amazed. Here are five I would like to hear:

  • Adam Lambert- Frank Sinatra’s “I’m Gonna Live Until I Die” Sarah Vaughan - The Benny Carter Sessions - I'm Gonna Live Until I Die
    He can sing loud, dance big and belt some crazy screams.
  • Allison Iraheta- Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” Frank Sinatra - Nothing But the Best (The Frank Sinatra Collection) [Remastered] {Deluxe Edition} - That's Life
    She can turn this into a slow, burning blues number and bring the house down.  If you don’t believe me ask James Brown and Aretha Franklin, just check this out:
  • Danny Gokey- Frank Sinatra’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” Frank Sinatra - The Capitol Years - I'll Be Seeing You
    The voice, the story and Danny’s interpretation skills could bring America to its knees with the sad, plaintive song about a love lost that will never be forgotten.
  • Kris Allen- Sammy Davis Jr’s “As Long As She Needs Me” Sammy Davis, Jr. - That's All!
    Pull out your guitar, sit on a stool ans sing the song of love and devotion.  Girls all over America will swoon.
  • Matt Giraud- Frank Sinatra’s “Send In The Clowns” Frank Sinatra - Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back
    Everyone has done this song but only Sarah Vaughn’s jazz arrangement has toyed with Stephen Sondheim’s beautiful melody.  Matt sit down, show off your piano skills , add an R&B flair to your piano playing, but sing this song straight and show American Idol fans what a great singer you are.

I had much trepidation about disco night and even more about tonight.  However, The American Idol Season 8 performers showed us their talent last week and maybe they will come  through again tonight.

In the meantime, make yourself an American Idol Season 8 mixtape by downloading your favorite songs from iTunes

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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.

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