RESULTS NIGHT -- Tim Urban can have the cover of Tiger Beat. Aaron Kelly probably has his sights set on country music after saying goodbye to American Idol. In Sinatra week, Aaron sang "Fly Me To The Moon" and audiences sent him on permanent vacation from the show. He was in the bottom two with Michael Lynche and received the lowest amount of votes. Kelly will be on the Idol tour, finish high school (maybe) and then weigh the offers to become the next Bryan White.
The show began with another dreaded group lip sync sing-along with the contestants keeping the mikes laughably high so they'd block their mouths and make the lip-syncing less obvious. Interestingly, the numbers they soloed on probably would have been better choices all around than the songs they sang on performance night. I did chuckle over Aaron singing the line "When I was 17" from "It Was A Very Good Year" (and the album, September Of My Years, one of Sinatra's great autumnal albums. It sounds melodramatic at first, especially if you're young. But as the years pass, it becomes deeply moving. As a total Sinatra geek, I play it every year when September rolls around. No wonder I'm single....)
Lee was asked what it was like to get complimented by the judges and rambled on for about ten minutes. Dude, you need to rehearse your comments just like you rehearse your performance. Trust us, you don't want to wing it.
Then Lady Gaga did her thing: a wonderfully evocative, theatrical live performance of "Alejandro" (complete with bare-chested male dancers, fog, and a crazily eccentric costume) with the song almost an afterthought. Sometimes, she seems like Madonna without the catchy tunes. Harry Connick Jr. did a draggy "And I Love Her," from his latest album, a wan attempt to capture the lightning in a bottle that Barry Manilow caught with his collection of pop classics. I appreciated Connick's attempt to take a light breezy song, slow it down and give it some intensity. But for the most part it didn't work.
Then the kids did a medley of Connick Jr. songs, starting of course with his best original, by far, "We Are In Love." More lip syncing and then we found out Connick is doing a stand on Broadway in July.
Michael Lynche and Aaron Kelly were in the bottom two and Aaron was sent home, head held high. Nashville awaits Aaron; just give it a few weeks to dry out!
By the way, apparently there are people in this world who do NOT own Frank Sinatra's entire catalog. If you're intrigued and want to know where to begin:
For ring-a-ding classics, jump on any of these upbeat gems: Songs For Swingin' Lovers, Come Fly With Me, Come Dance With Me or Sinatra At The Sands (and for heaven's sake, skip the monologues).
For quieter, darker masterpieces, dive into In The Wee Small Hours (my favorite, at the moment), Only The Lonely and the new reissue of his bossa nova gems The Complete Sinatra-Jobim ( written up nicely by fellow HuffPoster Tony Sachs).
This very selective list is what is known as scratching the surface. Then you've got the Christmas music, the pillowy perfection of the Columbia years, virtually everything from Capitol and on and on and on.
PERFORMANCE REVIEW -- Idol celebrated Frank Sinatra by swinging the standards. Harry Connick Jr. was the mentor and rivals Adam Lambert as the best of the season. He sat in with the band, did the arrangements, and put the singers at their ease while offering good advice. Heck, if he was more on top of pop music as opposed to just jazz, he could be another great choice to replace Simon. (Ellen was also very funny this week without letting it get in the way or feel like filler; she's come into her own the last two weeks and while not a stellar analyst is a welcome, cheerleading presence.)
I wish they'd done standards week around the Top 10 or 9 because it's such a crap shoot of a night and singing with strings and/or a big band is very very hard. At this stage, the singers should get to dig into the genres they can nail.
The short video explaining Sinatra to the audience was godawful, by the way. Most of the clips showed Sinatra in his much later years and it was a mishmash of random images and goofy asides; none of it gave a sense of the impact he had on popular music. Sinatra just invented the teen idol, the album, the concept album, the great American songbook, singers as actors, second acts, third acts, and he rivals Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Bing Crosby in his influence on how singers sing. But I digress.
AARON KELLY -- Sang "Fly Me To The Moon." Tony Bennett often does an acappella version in his act but it's still Sinatra and Basie's swinging spin on this song that is definitive. Aaron stepped away from his country comfort zone but wasn't able to locate any swing in his voice. He also seemed to do everything BUT follow the melody when you need to let people know what it is you're singing before they can appreciate any deviations. Plus, his voice never relaxed in the moment. The judges were overly polite, even the negative comments of Kara and Simon. On the plus side, Aaron has never looked cuter with his swept back hair and vest and tie. Since he's the only contestant anyone under 20 can get really enthused about (the rest are waaay too adult), that might just save him.
CASEY JAMES -- Sang "Blue Skies," which of course Sinatra covered but still seems like Ella Fitzgerald's song to me, especially the version where she starts off slow and wistful, then swings the hell out of it. No one can do effervescence like Ella. Harry came over and joked "don't screw it up" with Casey right before he performed, which was fun. But his bluesy spin was awkward. Casey looked like he was afraid to move and had TONS of vibrato, which Kara also pointed out. Very stiff. Like Aaron, it was very forgettable and that's almost worse than being bad.
CRYSTAL BOWERSOX -- Sang "Summer Wind," a Sinatra tune I have never really enjoyed, though I was amused by the duet he did with Julio Iglesias since it made them sound like they were singing this love song to each other. She wore a big dress but the casual hair made it seem not too stuffy. I yearned to love it but it was just pretty good. She had some interesting phrasing at the beginning, built to a big climax and then had a nice quiet end. Not her sweet spot but far better than the first two.
MICHAEL LYNCHE -- Sang "The Way You Look Tonight," while looking like he was in a costume for a road show of Guys & Dolls. Like the others, he sounded lost on the slow parts, which is where you can really see how tricky it is to sing with an orchestra. He had a good finale with a big Idol-pleasing last note, but it all felt a bit anonymous. The judges, perhaps looking to pretend the ultimate winner is not inevitable, praised him.
LEE DEWYZE -- Sang "That's Life," a song that absolutely demands swagger. It seemed a disastrous choice to me and not the right song for Lee at all. Why highlight your weakness? And I had to laugh when he sang "riding high in April, shot down in May." As with everyone, Connick gave him good pointers, but Lee's idea of swagger seemed to mainly include gesturing with his hands a lot. At the end, the song seemed to stop, and then start up again and crawl to the finale. Still, it wasn't bad and after the judges praised him I listened again without the visuals and it seemed stronger to me. At this stage, he seems likely to be joining Crystal in the finale.
So, in a week I found underwhelming, who will be the bottom three? I'd say Aaron, Casey and Michael with Aaron and Casey in the bottom two and Casey going home. What did you think of the singers and their song choices? And I have a final question for Harry Connick Jr. My favorite albums of his are the piano-based, casually wonderful collections of standards recorded when he was 20, 25 and 30, all of which were named after those ages. So where the heck is 35 and 40?
Thanks for reading. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his weekly music radio show at Popsurfing and enjoy the weekly pop culture podcast he co-hosts at Showbiz Sandbox. Both available for free on iTunes. Link to him on Netflix and gain access to thousands of ratings and reviews.
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