Wednesday, May 18, 2005

American Idol, Season 4: The Showstoppers



I fired up the Yahoo Music Engine while I was working this morning and gave this compilation a listen.

Some impressions:

One of my problems with Carrie…her wooden stage presence…was eliminated while listening to (instead of watching her perform) Martina McBride's “Independence Day”. She has a fine, strong voice and she knows how to stay in tune. One of my other problems with Carrie…her lack of a unique musical identity…wasn’t completely eliminated (on this track she sounds more than little like Trisha Yearwood) but, that said, I can see her…with the right songs and the right producer…turning out a fine country-pop CD.

Bo…the one I would vote for to win if I cared enough about this season to actually vote…should have picked a better song but his take on “I Don’t Want to Be” is cool. He has a great pop voice (reminds me of David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat, and Tears) and if he wins I think he could make a very interesting pop-rock record. We shall see.

And Vonzell…bless her heart…is here, as on the show, revealed as a promising amateur in need of more seasoning before she can step up to the next level. Anthony is also very earnest…”Every Time You Go Away” is competent but not much more than that…but not really ready for the big time yet (but he’s young and he has time to grow.)

Anwar's voice still leaves me cold for reasons I can't put my finger on (his version of “A House is not a Home” is a very pale shadow of the original…and of Luther Vandross' take...and of Tamyra Gray’s sublime version from the first American Idol CD.)

Nadia, on the other hand, shines on Dusty Springfield’s immortal “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” (especially when her performance is separated from the unfortunate facial expressions she makes when she’s singing)…I’m probably not going to buy this album but I'm definitely going to download this track.

Part of the problem with these AI compilations is that so many of the songs are so familiar that it takes a remarkable performance to make them stand on their own. Why, for example, would I want to listen to Nikko doing his half-baked Stevie Wonder impression on “Part-Time Lover” when I can listen to the original anytime I want? The same holds true for Jessica’s carbon copy version of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Lindsey’s overcooked “Knock on Wood”.

The “smoldering idol”/”rocker” Constantine slips into a jazzy arrangement of “My Funny Valentine”. As a certain annoying judge might say, it doesn’t fit, dude. (He should have gone with the Partridge Family song instead. Seriously...it was fun and unexpected when he did that on the show.)

Scott isn’t as bad as some of his detractors have made out…but, that said, his “Against All Odds” won’t make anyone forget Phil Collins anytime soon (take that any way you wish :-)

And Mikalah…she’s got…um…a lot of personality. And thank goodness for that because here she is “showcased” on the most soulless version of “God Bless the Child” I’ve ever heard (Billie Holiday wouldn’t be amused.)

(To be fair, Mikalah...like a lot of these folks...showed a lot of potential in the early rounds of this season...for some reason she...and some of the others as well...went off the rails as the competition progressed. It's hard to "audition" in front of 30 million people without letting stress and nerves get to you, I guess.)

The group song…”When You Tell Me That You Love Me”…is sweet enough I suppose. These “showstoppers” are a mostly tepid mixed bag…which, when I think about it, makes it a fitting souvenir of this decidedly tepid mixed bag of an American Idol season.

1 comment:

melodyann said...

Hi, I'm here from Michele's place. Thanks for the review of the Idol compilation. While I disagree with your opinion of Carrie, I mostly agree with the rest of it. I actually thought there was an incredible pool of talent when the season began, it seemed as if some of them got much worse instead of better as the season progressed.