American Idol Season 9- A New Christian Artist To Watch

We are four auditions in to American Idol Season 9 and we are finding some contenders who are Christian music artists.  We cover the American Idol from a Christian perspective.  We highlight and follow Christian music artist performing on American Idol.  Check out our American Idol Season 8 archives where we were an early champion of Kris Allen and season long fans of Danny Gokey and Matt Giraud.

So far, the American Idol Season 9 auditions have been your usual string of greatness, intermingled with catastrophes.  However, some exciting Christian artists are starting to emerge.  Last week highlighted amazing soul artist Alex Nestor.  Today we will show you a Christian artist from the Atlanta auditions, Ben Honeycutt .  In order to find all of  the Christians competing on American Idol Season 9 we need your help.  Please help us find the believers who are competing in Hollywood and send us as much background as you can find on them.  Here are a few artists we are researching:

Aaron Kelly
Alexander “Alex” Lambert
Andrew Garcia
Ashley (Makailah) Rodriguez
Casey James
Christopher “Chris” Golightly
Crystal Bowersox
David Duke
Haeley Vaughn
Janell Wheeler
Jermaine Sellers
John Park
Katelyn Epperly
Katie Stevens
Lacey Brown
Michael Lynche
Michelle Delamor
Tyler Grady
Vered Didi Benami

Now to American Idol Season 9 Contender, Christian music artist Ben Honeycutt

Benjamin “Ben” Honeycutt, songwriter and former front man for the Christian metal group Candlefuse, is now the Ben Honeycutworship leader for The Church @ Catoosa in Ringold, Georgia.  He lives in Fort Ogelthorpe, GA with is wife Ashley. Candlefuse was an openly Christian band with a mission statement that started: “With purpose, poetry, and passion, we choose to follow Jesus Christ  and the ministry example He set…”. Candlefuse‘s two releases, Never Go Unheard Candlefuse - Never Go Unheard and Talking to The Wind Candlefuse - Talking to the Wind - EP, feature Ben Honeycutt on lead vocals.  On Never Go Unheard, Candlefuse covers the worship fave “Hungry”.  They take that atmospheric worship song and give it a strong metal twist, pretty cool.  Candlefuse broke up in November 2008 and Ben Honeycutt has been leading worship ever since. In his “golden ticket” interview Ben Honeycutt cites the break-up of Candlefuse as a driver for him to audition for American Idol Season 9.

Hear he is solo, singing “Pride (In The Name of Love)”

We did not see much of him in the Atlanta auditions but look out for Benjamin “Ben” Honeycutt in Hollywood.

American Idol Season 8- The Year In Review

It would be a short article if we did an American Idol Season 8 Top 2 Power Ranking, so I thought we could take a look back at the Season 8.  The top story of the year is the very visual presence of Christian music artists in American Idol Season 8, followed by the emergence of Christian music artist, star Kris Allen.  I will also share a couple of my favorite moments.  We will finish the article with the Top 15 Performances of American Idol Season 8.

Christian Music Artists on American Idol Season 8

Season 8 enjoyed the largest, most visible group of Christian music artists in the history of American Idol. There was much attention in the press about their participation in American Idol and Christian music artists experienced unprecedented success with two of the Top 3, three of the Top 5 and four of the Top 7.   See our mid-season update in American Idol Season 8- The Christians. Here are the Christian music artists, in order of finish, who competed on live television of American Idol Season 8:

  • Kris Allen (he is gonna win)
  • Danny Gokey (3rd)
  • Matt Giraud (5th)
  • Lil Rounds (6th)
  • Scott MacIntyre (8th)
  • Michael Sarver (10th)
  • Ricky Braddy (semi’s)
  • Felicia Barton (semi’s)
  • Mishavonna Henson (semi’s)
  • Kristen McNamara (semi’s)

American Idols Season 8- Favorite Moments

Norman Gentle

A two stories stood out for me this season. The first was the the surge of Norman Gentle (played by Nick Western) into the Top 36. He was an unlikely candidate to move this far, because his campy, over the top performances seemed to mock American Idoland few competitors achieve success with that strategy. However, Western was so unrelenting in his commitment to the Norman Gentle character that he could not be denied. Here is his audition

The best part was that he neverrelented. WithSimon trying to run him off the show, he continued into Hollywood Week with crazier performances and in his brief stint on live television he called Simon “sassy pants”. Classic.

Michael Sarver’s Back-story

There were some very compelling back-stories on American Idol Season 8, but Michael Sarver’s transcended all. We heard about his dream to sing his way out of one of the most dangerous jobs in America, oilfield widcatter. What most of America did not see was the impact he was having on his hometown of Jasper, Texas. For 10 years Jasper had been the national symbol for bigotry and racial hatred because of the horrible murder of James Byrd Jr. Michael Sarver’s success on American Idol Season 8created a rallying point for the citizens of Jasper, Tx and Michael took on that responsibility and is using his new fame to try to bring healing. See our article American Idol Season 8- Michael Sarver.. Here is a funny clip of one of Michael’s post Idol promotional activities. He is in a TV studio in a mall in Beaumont, Texas, there is a crowed watching them.

Top 15 Performance of American Idol Season 8

I guess if you receive virtually no coverage during the auditions or Hollywood Week you really need to bring it when you get your chance. Kris Allen and Allison Iraheta did just that during American Idol Season 8. Kris Allen snuck into the Top 12 with the 3rd place spot in Round 2 of the Top 36.   Kris proceeded to deliver 4 of the Top 6 performances of the Season 8.  Each performance was fearless, with unfathomable arrangements, cool soulful vocals and a compelling ,if understated, stage presence. Allison Iraheta, on the other hand, used a huge, mature, powerful, bluesy voice to establish herself from the start then continually surprise everyone with her roof raising vocals and creative arrangements. Danny Gokey is well represented with four songs in Top 15.  The two performances that should be in the American Idol Season 8 Top 15 , but aren’t, are Adam Lambert’s “Tracks of My Tears” and Danny Gokey’s “Stand By Me”.

  • Kris Allen-”Heartless” (May 12-Top 3)
  • Kris Allen- “Ain’t No Sunshine” (March 31-Top 9, iTune Top 100)
  • Danny Gokey- “You Are So Beautiful” (May 12- Top3)
  • Adam Lambert-”Mad World” (April 7- Top 8, Year of Birth Songs)
  • Kris Allen- “She Works Hard For The Money” (April 21- Top 7 II- Disco Songs)
  • Kris Allen-”Falling Slowly” (April 14-Top 7- Movie Songs)
  • Allison Iraheta- “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” (March 24-Top 10, Songs of Motown)
  • Danny Gokey-”Come Rain or Shine” (April 28- Top 5, Rat Pack Songs)
  • Allison Iraheta- “Hot Stuff “(April 21-Top 7 II- Disco Night)
  • Danny Gokey-”Hero” (February 17th-Top 36 Round 1)
  • Adam Lambert- “Feeling Good” (April 28-Top 5, Rat Pack Songs)
  • Allison Iraheta-”Alone” (February 25th-Top 36 Round 2)
  • Danny Gokey- “Stand By Me” (April 7-Top 8, Year of Birth Songs)
  • Matt Giraud-”Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” (April 15-Top 7 Save, Movie Songs)
  • Lil Rounds- “The Way You Make Me Feel” (March 10-Top 13, Michael Jackson Songs)
  • Download these songs or make you own best of American Idol Season 8 mix from iTunes

    Apple iTunes

    American Idol Season 8- Rock Performances Review

    What happened tonight?  Debbie Williams, the American Idol stage  manager was injured and taken to the hospital when those retractable stairs retracted while she was on them.  Early reports are that her injuries were minor.  Then the stage started falling and one of the giant American Idol orbs and columns partially collapsed.  Dress rehearsal was cancelled.  MJ’s blog crashed and the MTV live blog stopped at 8:38 edt (I later read the rest of it).  I am grateful that no one was hurt tonight.

    I am at a loss for words to describe how much I hated American Idol tonight.  I hated the duets.  I think Slash was a waste.  I thought the judging tonight was meaningless jabber.  The song choices, for the most part. were terrible.  I thought the American Idol rock song performances were vapid.  The arrangements were cookie cutter.  I was so disgusted with American Idol tonight that I went to my office, made a mix of my American Idol Rock Song predictions and played them at a disturbing volume.  That would have made for a fascinating show.

    Now that my temper tantrum is over, time for a little empathy.  Missing the dress rehearsal obviously bothered the performers.  We don’t know how much of the dress rehearsal was completed before the accidents but some of the American Idol performers looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable.  Also, someone they know was injured and taken to the hospital before their eyes.  Allison was timid in her performance and then argumentative during her judging.  That is just the opposite of her usual demeanor.  Kris Allen seemed mad the whole night.  Danny Gokey was irritated during the judges comments.  I must believe that they were shaken and concerned about their friend and maybe a little nervous about the set. Too bad we can’t give the American Idol performers a pass tonight.

    American Idol Season 8 Rock Song Performance Ratings
    I am ignoring the duets tonight. They were meaningless filler. Really, what did you learn about Christina music performers Danny Gokey or Kris Allen from “Renegade”? What did “Slow Ride” tell you about Adam Lambert or Allison Iraheta, other than 17 year old girls singing inappropriate lyrics at 9 edt on national television is apparently something to be applauded? The only time rockers did these stupid duets was on stupid 70′s variety shows.  “The Weight” is cycling through my song preview mix for the second time.  I am feeling better. Remember last week when I said all of the performers earned an “A” in my Rat Pack performance review, well everyone gets no more than a “C” tonight so I am ranking on a curve.

    1. Danny Gokey, yep, that mess Danny Gokey threw out there tonight was my favorite Americna Idol rock  performance.  Why?  The opening to “Dream On” looked to be a struggle for him, his breathing seemed off and he fought to find a groove.  Toward the middle he cut loose with his voice and then he built the song until–The Scream.  So far, everyone hates it.  I liked it.  I don’t know how many notes he stumbled through on that final scream but we could probably score a few scrabble points with those letters.  But I don’t care, it is was guttural, primal, cathartic and insane.
    2. Allison Iraheta picked the right song but she held back.  “Cry Baby” is an angry, hurting rant at a former boyfriend.  Allison need to wring the emotion out of the song but, instead she sang the set-ups and transitions while avoiding the meat of the song.  I had high hopes but Allison played this American Idol performance uncharacteristically safe.
    3. Adam Lambert took the show by storm by cranking through Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”.  I am sorry, from the first moment all I could hear was Robert Plant screaming through he phone to Jimmy Page, “NEVER AGAIN WILL WE ALLOW THAT BLOODY, LAME SHOW TO GUT ONE OF OUR SONGS”.  I played the original for my wife and then replayed Adam’s American Idol version and she nailed it.  “He doesn’t believe in the emotion of the song.”  This was another in a long line of big, loud, brassy empty American Idol performances by Adam Lambert.  I don’t know what everyone is buying but I am not interested.
    4. Kris Allen seemed off tonight.  From the opening verse of his duet with Danny to his placid walk through of “Come Together”, Kris seemed angry and uninterested.  “Come Together” was a terrible song choice.  For the second week in a row, Kris Allen has kept his magical arranging skills under wraps.  There is just very little you can do with this song.  We have seen many others fail (isn’t this song the last one Carly Smithson did last year) with “Come Together”.  Kris sang well but you did not get the feeling he really cared that much.

    Just in case you did not notice, I was disappointed by American Idol tonight.

    Predictions
    Given all of the accidents and distractions tonight and given that Slash was such a terrible mentor, I think we should skip elimination this week and eliminate two next week. American Idol producers, don’t you agree? Just in case 19 Entertainment does not clip this blog for the producers, here are my predictions:

    Bottom two Allison Iraheta Kris Allen

    Going home Allison Iraheta

    On Thursday morning the studio performances will be available for iTunes and we will be able to see how much of tonight’s show was attributable to the dress rehearsal accidents and how much was Slash’s fault.  In the meantime download some of the great performances dating all the way back to Felicia Barton and Mishavonna Henson from the Top 36.

    Apple iTunes

    American Idol Season 8- Top 4 Power Rankings

    large_adam-lambert-matt-giraud-american-idolJaws dropped (did you see Allison Iraheta’s and Danny Gokey’s reactions?) and the Internet buzzed with shock, joy and outrage when Adam Lambert landed in the American Idol Season 8 Top 5 bottom 2.  How could the contestant that the judges treat as a superstar not sail to the finales?  Don’t all the other performers quake in his presence as they just wait to be eliminated on his march to the American Idol title?  How could this be?  See my quick thoughts in What Just Happened? Whether you love Adam Lambert so much that you are offended that he must be judged every week or you are like me and just dd not buy his act, you must admit that last week results show was a shock.

    The thing is, I think America got it right.  I pretty much think the voters only made three mistakes throughout American Idol Season 8.  First Alexis Grace should have made it ti the Top 10.  Second, Anoop Desai finished well ahead of his talent.  Third, Matt Giraud should not have needed the judges “save”.

    What about the Top 5?  Matt Giruad and Adam Lambert have been the most inconsistent performers of American Idol Season 8.  They have both been brilliant and they have both been horrendous.  My disappointment is that I think we may have seen the best of Adam Lambert whil Matt Giraud was on an upswing since he was “saved”.  However, I think Matt Giraud was hurt by his similarities with Kris Allen and Danny Gokey.  Goodbye Matt, I wish you had found your groove a little sooner but I will be buying you CDs soon.

    American Idol Season 8 Top 4 Power Rankings

    If you read my Rat Pack Performance Review you will see that I loved the show last week.  This group of American Idol performers continue to blow me away every week.  They took 50 year old songs performed them beautifully and with a great amount of artistry.  Remember that these are my assessment of these American Idol performers and not a prediction of how they will finish.  Here are my rankings as we rocket to the finale

    1. Kris Allen continues top my the One21music power rankings.  His performance of  “The Way You Look Kris AllenTonight” was technically brilliant.  The phrasing, the pacing, the pitch, the vocal dynamics were all fantastic.  That may have been the best he has sung throughout American Idol Season 8. Even though he is an exceptional singer, Kris is the weakest singer of the Top 4.  Kris’s advantage lays in his ability to select, arrange and interpret songs.  I have heard many commentators over the past few weeks rave that Kris is more about embodying a song and telling a story rather than engaging in vocal gymnastics.  I don’t know if he will, but Kris Allen deserves to win American Idol Season 8.
    2. Danny Gokey moves up to second (3rd in Top 5 Power Rankings) based solely on the last 20 seconds Danny Gokeyof his performance of “Come Rain of Come Shine”.  It felt like a heavyweight boxer who landed a knockout punch at the end of a round.  The entire American Idol audience looked up and said “what was that?”  I don’t know what he did but the end of that song showed us why Danny Gokey has been an American Idol Season 8 front runner since the first time we saw him in the auditions.  His vocals were rough with funky phrasing and emotional pacing.  It was the  passionate, pleading performance that have all been waiting for from Danny Gokey.   He has been a front runner since his audition aired in January.  If Danny Gokey can capture that magic and gives us more of that over the next three weeks, he will crush the American Idol Season 8 competition.
    3. Allison Iraheta has one of those once in a generation voices.  She is an Etta James, Janis Joplin, Ann Allison IrahetaWilson type of singer who opens her throat and causes every head in the arena to turn her way.  Her voice is big and rough and full and soulful.  I don’t want to here about her age, she is an old soul when she gets a mike in her hand.  Go back and watch the videos of her performances.  She prowls the stage like a lioness looking over her brood.  I think she has the best stage presence of any of the American Idol Season 8 Top 13.  I didn’t know what the American Idol judges were doing when they put this 16 year old girl with crazy red hair in the American Idol Season 8 Top 36.  We can’t say she matured into the competition this year, she arrived ready to win American Idol Season 8. We will be talking about Allison Iraheta for 50 years (well I won’t, but some of you will).
    4. Adam Lambert is the least of this group and that is nothing to be ashamed of. ai8_top5_lambert2 He is a brilliant singer beyond description.  He commands a huge stage.  He feels like a natural up there.  He has been the most polarizing American Idol performer I have exprienced.  His performances have presented him as an extreme rocker and many people do not like that mushc edge.  The thing is, Adam Lambert is not what he seems.  His future is not leading some striking new rock band.  He will not create some breakthrough in popular music.  He will not even rise to the top of today’s metal, experimental or electronic rock scenes.  I will be shocked to see Adam Lambert on the bill for Coachella, Lollapalozaa or ACL.  He cam to American Idol Season 8 fighting for his place in the Southern California theater scene.  I do think Adam Lambert will have a brilliant career on Broadway for as long as he wants.

    It will be exciting to watch the voting dynamics play out next week.  Let’s assume everyone is brilliant, because they must be.  If anyone slips in a performance they will probably go home.   Allison Iraheta is at most risk this week.  Adam Lambert’s fans will rally behind their man and he will have bit of a recovery.  Kris Allen and Danny Gokey get the most bump from Matt Giraud’s departure.  He shares their faith, Danny is the singer most like Matt and Kris shares with Matt the skill to create interesting arrangements.  So, Allison Iraheta will lose some votes from Adam Lambert fans who said they split their votes with Allison last week and I don’t see where her new votes come from.

    It is all too exciting.  Join us on Tuesday night as we live blog American Idol Season 8 Rock Night with Slash.  Plus, check out our Rock songs suggestions on Tuesday morning.

    In the meantime go to iTunes and download a mix  of your favorite American Idol Season 8 performances.

    Apple iTunes

    American Idol Season 8- What Just Hapened?

    The American Idol world is all abuzz after presumed winner Adam Lambert was in the Bottom 2 before Matt Giraud was eliminated from the American Idol Season 8 Top 5 (see Results Live Blog).  Some have called Adam Lambert the most unique, most talented and simply the best American Idol performer of all time.  How could he be in the Bottom 2 of Season 8′s Top 5?

    It was not American Idol manipulating the results for dramatic impact you cynics and conspiracy theorists.  American Idol has built up a relationship with its audience based on America’s contribution to selecting the next American Idol.  To risk the American Idol franchise for dramatic effect is like slapping a bull on the butt in a muddy pen.  We are from Texas, think about it.

    So what did happen.  I think it is a combination of several factors:

    1. Rumors of Adam Lambert’s life have turned-off American Idol viewers.  Shame on us.  We have made presumptions about who this young man is without really knowing him.  Just like Danny Gokey, everything that the fans do not like about him has been said by others.  Let’s judge this young man only on what we know about him.
    2. Maybe American Idol voters just don’t really like rock music that much.  I know that David Cook won last year but his form of rock music was much softer than Adam Lambert’s aggressive style.
    3. There has been much commentary on American Idol blog sites that Adam Lambert fans split some of their votes for Allison Iraheta.
    4. Maybe American Idol fans just do not like Adam Lambert’s hair metal vocals, contrived performances and edgy arrangements.

    So what does this mean?

    1. I bet Danny Gokey is redoubling his efforts this week.  Danny seemed to turn a corner in last week’s performance ( see my Top 5 Performance Review).  He is the only American Idol Season 8 Top 4 performer to not be in the Bottom 2.  The presumed winner just stumbled through no fault of his own.  Danny Gokey and Kris Allen should expect to receive a bump in votes as fellow Christian music performer Matt Giraud was eliminated.
    2. Adam Lambert should receive a bounce if his fans truly did split votes.  He needs to be careful this week though.  The pressure of him being in the Bottom 2 and the temptation of Rock week could cause him to be even more aggressive with his song choices and performances when he really needs to appeal to a broader audience.
    3. It seems counter intuitive to think Allison Iraheta could be in trouble during Rock week.  However, everyone expected her to be in last week’s Bottom 2 not the Top 2.  If her bump came from a combination of Lil Rounds voters throwing their votes to her and Adam Lambert fans splitting votes for her, she could lose enough votes to be in the bottom 3.

    So this week should be crazy exciting.  American Idol Season 8 has the most talent and is turning out to be the most dramatic American Idol I have seen.  Join us Tuesday night at 8 edt as we live blog the Rock performances.  On Monday I will come back with my Power Rankings and Tuesday morning I will drop some interesting song suggestions on you.

    You can download all of the American Idol Season 8 performances from iTunes.  This is the best season ever, you gotta have some of this in your iPod.

    Apple iTunes

    By the way, I have not forgotten about Kris Allen. He just seems to stay out of these controversies and deliver one great performance after another.

    American Idol Season 8- Top 5 Results Live Blog

    Tonight will be a sad night.  Nobody deserves to go home.  The American Idol Season 8 Rat Pack show was phenomenal (see our Rat Pack Performance Review.)  The performances were great, the judges were great, Jamie Foxx was great, the fashions were great.  Everything worked.

    Former American Idol winner Taylor Hicks will be performing his new single and this week’s most excellent mentor Jamie Foxx will perform with Natalie Cole.

    We are covering the Christian music performers on American Idol Season 8.   Of the 10 Christian music artists who made it into the Top 36, six made it to the finals, all six made it the American Idol 2009 Tour and three are in the Top 5.  Danny Gokey, Kris Allen and Matt Giraud have shown themselves to be exceptional musicians and performers and all of them will have long careers in the music industry.  They have thrilled us week after week and it has been a joy to follow their journeys.

    The results are up in the air.  As I said nobody deserves to leave after their performances over the last two weeks.  Matt Giraud, Kris Allen, Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta and Adam Lambert showed us crazy good singing skills and unrivaled artistry over the past few weeks.  But somebody must go.  Based on the support she has received over the past few weeks you would expect Allison Iraheta to be in trouble, but I think she bounces from last week’s bottom 2 finish and picks up some of Lil Round’s votes.  I think Danny Gokey, Kris Allen and Matt Giraud have deeply overlapping fan bases.  That could put them on the hot seats tonight.  Don’t be surprised to see two of those guys in the bottom 2.   Dialidol has the  voting too close to call across the board.  As I said, nobody deserves to go home tonight.

    But let’s stop fretting and get to it.

    Saw the end of Lie To Me.   Somebody committed a crime, everybody lied about, these liar detection consultants figured it out, crime committing dude goes to jail.  I just saved you a mind numbing hour.

    Here we go!  The judges are looking for a winner and Jamie Foxx is looking for an artist.  Can everybody stay?

    Over 47 million votes last night.  Don’t you know we are in a recession?  These votes cost money!

    Simon agrees with me.  Everyone was good and last night was one of the best in American Idol history.

    Another lame Ford video wastes my bailout dollars.  The group song is a medley of Rat Pack songs.  “I Don’t Mean A Thing” is one of the songs. ” I Got Rhythm” is another one of the songs. It was okay.

    Okay we are back to couches.  Danny Gokey and Allison Iraheta had birthdays this week and we get video of the American Idols making cakes.  Insanity ensues as a food fight breaks out in the $100 million dollar mansion.  Danny gets the bill for $6,000 for cleaning up that mess.  I will take that gig.

    Matt is up first and they move him to the right side of the stage.  Danny is called on next and they move him to the left side.  Allison is moved to the left side with Danny.  Hmm.  Kris is moved next to Matt.  I guess Adam will define the safe group and he stands with Danny and Allsion, but is moved over with Kris and Matt to form the bottom 3.  Shocks all over the world!  What is going on??

    It looks like Allison has taken some of Lil’s votes.  I bet Matt goes home tonight.

    I just rewound the dvr to watch the Adam moment again.  Did you see the look on Allison’s and Danny’s faces?  It looks like Adams coronation parade has hit a pothole.

    Natalie Cole is singing a new song that sounds much like a Rat Pack song.  I am not a big fan of the adult contemporary Natalie Cole.

    It is Taylor Hicks time!  I kind of like this song.  I am not sure I like his grinning, head nodding performance style but I like his singing.  He pulls a harmonica out and blows.  I like this.  Can I join the Soul Patrol?

    Ryan sends Kris to the Top 4.  ADAM LAMBERT IS IN THE BOTTOM TWO!!!  I wish I had time to jump on some of the other live blogs.  They must be going bananas.

    Jamie Foxx is up singing “Blame It”.  Let’s see Danny Gokey get in his face.  He is using that stupid autotuner.  He doesn’t need this stupid toy. I hate this.  I am not listening anymore.  Fingers in my ears, I am typing with my elbows.

    Did Ryan say that this is  the number 1 song in America? yuk  Jamie Foxx said this was the most talented collection of singers he has seen in 10 years.  He is right.  It does not matter what happens tonight these guys are going to have great careers.

    My heart is racing.  What is going to happen?  So here we go Adam or Matt?  Ryan is talking smack to Simon about being wrong in his judgment last night.  Adam is safe, Matt is going home.  What a shame.

    Matt has had a roller coaster ride but he is a going to have a great career.  Good luck Matt Giraud we look forward to buying your records.  Keep your faith at the forefront of your music.

    Buy all of Matt’s performances and last night’s great songs at iTunes:

    Apple iTunes

    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:

    Apple iTunes

    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.

    Apple iTunes

    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

    Apple iTunes

    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