I’ve never really understood the fascination “American Idol” producers and judges have with the need for each performance to sound “current.” Yes, a number of the former contestants have went on to have very successful singing careers after their time on the show ended. But on a competition where the music is heavy on Motown, soft pop and classic rock, it’s difficult to see how any singer can truly sound “current.”
That’s especially a problem on a week when the theme is the music of Frank Sinatra and the mentor is Harry Connick Jr. Now I enjoy ol’ Blue Eyes as much as the next person, but like Elvis, Sinatra’s music was frequently as well known for his vocal stylings as for the quality of the tunes. Much of his music is more than 60 years old, so going into Tuesday’s live show, it was tough for me to see how any of the final five contestants could keep from sounding like a bad Vegas lounge act.
They did receive some serious help from Harry Connick Jr., who took his mentoring duties seriously. He didn’t just give the five advice, he brought along members of his band and even wrote each performer’s musical arrangements.
In the end, I’m not sure anyone could have saved the night, although there were a couple of decent performances. Crystal Bowersox continues to show a remarkable amount of talent, as she unveiled a subdued and sexy take on “Summer Wind.” Like last week’s version of “No One Needs To Know,” the judges didn’t really get it, but I like the way she refuses to accept the “you need to sound like you can be on the radio” meme the judges constantly return to during their criticisms.
Everyone else sounded pretty much the way you would expect. Mike Lynche continued his quest to make every performance sound like a Luther Vandross outtake, Aaron Kelly sang like he was auditioning for a spot on a boy band, Lee Dewyze brought his awkward persona to “That’s Life” and poor Casey James sang like someone was pointing a gun at him from behind the curtain.
And that’s my real problem with a lot of the performances this year. Most of them seemed as spontaneous as a Chinese government street rally. Rather than watching Casey James try and sing big band, I would have much rather listened to him experiment a bit. Speed up “My Way” and sing along to a throbbing beat like the one on Blondie’s “Denis.” The judges may have hated it, but as least he might have survived another week.
I love “American Idol,” but this is one season where I’m pretty happy to say it will all be over soon.