Top Idol Performances: #65-61

Hey, I’m kind of almost to a point where people might start remembering the performances. Or at least start remembering the performers. There’s a  time and place for big glory notes and power ballads on American Idol. Apparently, that time and place is right now and in this blog. For a few overwrought, indulgent glory notes by your typical belters, read on.

65. Diana DeGarmo – “Don’t Cry Out Loud” (Melissa Manchester) (Season 3, Top 3 Clive’s Pick)

Though I’ve recently softened my stance, in 2004 I pretty much led the crusade against robotic pageant bots on American Idol and my number one enemy was the originator of overly-mannered teen belters, Diana DeGarmo. (The most ridiculous part of all this is that Diana DeGarmo is actually two years older than me. What can I say? I wasn’t a fan.) All that said, I still loved her soaring big ballad to end all big ballads Clive Davis picked cover on top 3 night. I think in the spectrum of big Idol belters, Diana DeGarmo often gets forgotten in favor of more relevant (Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson), more recent (LaKisha Jones and Pia Toscano), heck or even just plain overshadowed (Jennifer Hudson and Latoya London). But “Don’t Cry Out Loud” is one of the strongest displays of sheer power and deft ballad navigation the show has ever seen. It’s just one long glory note after glory note and works perfectly for what it intends to be.

64. Trenyce – “Let’s Stay Together” (Al Green) (Season 2, Wildcard)

Trenyce failed to advance to the finals on her first shot, which in retrospect is understandable. I mean, she was  placed in the ultra-stacked group 1 with now-Idol legends Charles Grigsby and Julia DeMato. Honestly, I was going to go on about how great Trenyce’s energy was and how awesome she ended up being as a wildcard pick, but I just rewatched the video and am instead going to spend my time urging everyone to watch the critique instead. It’s sorta hilarious.  Randy’s generally awkward presence was much more tolerable when he was just the bumbling doofus in the corner and not the veteran of the show.

63. Kelly Clarkson – “Respect” (Aretha Franklin) (Season 1, Semifinals Group 2)

All the way back in Season One, Kelly Clarkson proved that lack of screentime and pimping can be overcome. After being invisible in the audition phases of the show, she made a splash with, well, this. If you watched Season One (and still remember any of it), you’re well aware of the fact that there was not a whole lot of actual singing talent present that season. Most of the semifinalists (heck, finalists even) were tone-deaf pretty people. (But man, there was a lot of pretty.) So Kelly’s big voiced (with all the subtlety of a bulldozer) take on Aretha was a needed reprieve from the smatterings of sometimes sharp, sometimes flat, sometimes both offerings her competitors were throwing up. Really, what the performance did was prove just how well she could sing and how much better she was than everyone else. Y’know, the stuff legends (or successful recording artists) are made of.

62. Vonzell Solomon – “I Have Nothing” (Whitney Houston) (Season 4, Top 10 1990s)

Baby V was vocally uneven the entire season and had a knack for picking the most predictable and/or overdone song possible. So it was no surprise that she cherry-picked the, at the time, twice-done “I Have Nothing” despite having a decade of music to choose from, but it was a surprise that she sang it so damn well. My head knows it’s a little more than slightly inappropriate for the song, but she was so much fun to watch perform. She’s just such a natural performer and her brand of attitude-lite coupled with her strong vocal chops made for a legitimately entertaining Whitney Houston ballad. So perhaps it missed on the deathly-somber and desperate cues, but I really couldn’t help but enjoy it entirely. (Oh yeah, she looked fantastic too. That totally did not affect my perception of it, though.)

61. David Archuleta – “Imagine” (John Lennon) (Season 7, Top 20 Guys)

First of all, I need to congratulate the producers on the most dramatic and well-crafted staging and camera work the small stage has ever received. Everything is so well done for a change. Imagine if all Idol performances had this sort of production value. (More flaming pianos, though!) Archie was at his best when he was singing softer, message-driven ballads. Nowhere is this more evident than in his trademark performance of “Imagine” during the semifinals. It was quiet, intimate and surprisingly emotive for a seventeen year old kid (dawg). The real value of the performance, though, was that it invoked one of my favorite Paulaisms: “I want to squish you. I want to squeeze your head off and dangle you from my rearview mirror.” Awww, how cute.

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