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

Christian Artists to Know: Abandon

Abandon
Genre: Rock
Sub-genres: Alternative, Contemporary Christian, British Invasion
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Label: Forefront Records
Website: http://www.abandonrock.com
Christian label: yes
Category: The Message whats this?

“We want our music to be an encouragement to everyone and our songs to minister to people’s hearts.”

Abandon is a Christian alternative rock band formed from a San Antonio-based church worship group.  The group’s name was inspired by the Bible verse of Joshua 22:3, which reads “God has directed us not to abandon any brothers”.  With that, you shouldn’t be surprised by the openly spiritual lyrics that point the listener to Christ and who we are because of Him.  You might be surprised by the relevance and honesty of their lyrics that feature recurring themes of the dangers of dealing in this world and the hope of losing yourself in Christ.

The music is soaring rock & roll with layers of guitars and vocals and a driving rhythm section.  The band is solid but vocalist Josh Engler is a superb vocalist who sets Abandon apart from their contemporaries.  Though they point to The Beatles and U2 as influences, their big, melodic, hard driving rock reminds me of a guitar oriented Coldplay.  In a good way.

Abandon‘s music makes for a great live show and they are known for their showmanship

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQBn0BgPGUQ

The band was discovered by EMI/CMG Director of A &R Chris York, who signed Abandon to Forefront Records. He found them while eating in a restaurant last spring. His attention was drawn from a nice dinner over to the club next door where five young men were pounding out their U2-meets-The Killers tune about a force that rules the human race . . . the hand of “Providence”.

“It’s definitely the strangest way I’ve discovered a new band,” he admits. “I could hear these guys playing on the other side of the wall, and it sounded really, really good.” Critics agree. Abandon‘s recent EP was called “the next big thing . . . a stellar introduction to the group” (The Christian Manifesto) and built up buzz about how “the future looks bright for Abandon” (JesusFreakHideout.com). It also earned the band ranking among the “Best New Artists of 2008,” according to ChristianityToday.com.

The band’s first full-length studio album, titled Abandon is scheduled to be released on April 21, 2009.

This is a strong rock band with an intense live show, creative harmonics and a great lead singer.  Abandon uses their music not only to be an encouragement to believers, but to minister to the hearts of non-believers.  Abandon has “next big thing” written all over them.  We all need to get in on the ground floor.

Check out Abandon’s music on Abandon

Christian Artists To Know: Fiction Family

Fiction Family
Genre: Rock
Sub-genres: Folk-rock, British Invasion, Adult Contemporary, Americana
Location: Cardiff By The Sea, California
Label: ATO Records
Website: http://www.fictionfamily.com/
Christian label: no
Category: The Light whats this?

Switchfoot, the alternative rockers from San Diego, California are maybe the most successful Christian music acts to cross over from the Contemporary Christian Music scene to the mainstream alternative rock scene.  Switchfoot’s major label debut The Beautiful Letdown went double platinum, selling 2.6M copies.  They released two more highly acclaimed cd’s with Columbia Records and then announced in 2007 that they were severing their ties with Columbia to “go indie.”

The Grammy award winning Nickel Creek is the first bluegrass band to achieve broad mainstream pop success, when both “This Side”" and “Why I Should Die” reached the Top 20 on The Billboard 200.  Time magazine named Nickel Creek one of “The Five Music Innovators of the New Millennium”

Why do we care?

Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek decided to start writing and playing together a few years ago at a show featuring Wilco, R.E.M. Nickel Creek and Switchfoot.   Over the next three years they wrote and recorded their self-titled debut Fiction Family, which was released on January 20, 2009.

Strong melodies, multi-instrumentation and plaintive vocals create distinctive a Pop, Americana sound with stong undertones of the best British pop.  As Foreman describes it, “[Fiction Family has] a lot of Jayhawks mixed into it. There’s definitely a little Beatles influence”.  The duo modernizes the sound with liberal use of sound and musical effects.  The debut has a creative freedom to it that results in a loose, joyful sound (read Bored at the Grammys), that makes listening to Fiction Family very much like listening to the Beatle’s Revolver or Rubber Soul.

“The songs themselves would sort of dictate where things would go,” says Watkins. “No one was saying it needs to be this way or that way. It was just about what was fun and what was good for the song. It’s definitely the purest way of making music that I’ve come across.”

According to Fiction Family’s website:

“Simply put, this kind of record could not have existed ten, five, even three years ago. It’s the reassuring sound of two professional musicians tapping into the creativity that flows when limits and expectations-the old engines of a record business we’re in the midst of reinventing-are removed from the artistic process. Talk about a silver lining.”

Watkins and Foreman, fellow San Diegans who have known each other since high school, are vocalists and multi-instrumentalists.  They often took turns singing lead vocals and they both play several instruments on each song, including guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, baritone ukulele, piano, organ, mandolin, steel guitar, 12-string guitar. Fiddle player Sara Watkins is featured on a few songs as well.

Here is Fiction Family performing “Mostly Prove Me Wrong”:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTxpMtfGD6U

I was very excited by the prospect of member’s of two of the most successful Christian music acts of the last 10 years collaborating on a project.  The result exceeded my expectations.  The joy of free creation is palpable in the music and the song’s melodies soar on the layers of instruments. Fiction Family’s debut feels more like an experimental side project than an ongoing collaboration.  Let’s hope they continue to make this wonderful music.

You can find Fiction Family’s music digitally on Fiction Family

You can also buy their CDs on Amazon: Fiction Family(2009)