They Actually Set Fire To The Rain

The American Idol live rounds are here, everybody!! After what seems like forever, we’re finally at the good part of the show. They have a new, gigantic ridiculously distracting stage that looks like it was modeled directly from X-Factor. I was legitimately excited for this, even though I am not particularly interested in any of the contestants yet. Something about this show just keeps me coming back. It’s laced with crack. Or something equally addicting. Like Nutella.

Anyway, with the live shows comes live judging. In my naivete, I had hoped that the judges would be back this year with a strong fist and critical eye, after lobbing softballs all last year. I don’t know why I hoped this. I clearly don’t learn very quickly. The judges were every bit as unhelpful and pandering this year as they were all last season. Everyone was a beautiful, unique sparkling star that is already a superstar and has a voice sent from the heavens. It was a little nauseating hearing them attempt to one-up themselves in the excessive praise competition. I know J-Lo can be helpful and give pointed critiques. Her face during horrific performances tells me she can. I don’t know why she never actually does it. (Randy and Steven are lost causes, I’m certainly not holding out for a miracle on those fronts.)

On to the boys!

Reed Grimm – “Moves Like Jagger” (Maroon 5)
Everything about Reed Grimm makes my skin crawl: his “dancing”, his practiced stage quirks, his scatting, his drum playing, etc. Hell, even his smile sends me into violent fits of rage. (I admit this is probably unhealthy and unwarranted. But I’m an American Idol fan, I check all sense of rationality and sanity at the mother fucking door.) So when I heard he was doing “Moves Like Jagger”, I wanted to gouge my eyes out immediately to avoid watching him give me a literal interpretation of the lyrics. Of course he surprised me by turning one of the best modern examples of a pure pop song into a smooth jazz bar performance. I wish they would’ve censored more than just the “I don’t give a shit” line… like, oh say, the entire thing. There was a lot of obnoxious hip shaking and unnecessary scatting and a drum solo that actually made me laugh out loud because he looked a bit like an escaped asylum patient. Basically watching it felt a little bit like death.

Adam Brock – “Think” (Aretha Franklin)
Adam Brock is Danny Gokey if Danny Gokey had measurably less singing talent and thought being a big black woman was a good thing. That’s to say, Adam Brock might be one of the least appealing contestants the show has ever seen. It’s hard to turn “Think” into a boring song, but he managed it by having some of the most lifeless vocals ever. That song would’ve been way better if any of the big black women of seasons past had done it. (I think, at least. I can’t recall someone who could’ve possibly sounded less interesting on it.)

Deandre Brackensick – “Reason” (Earth, Wind & Fire)
I’m not particularly inclined to any singer who sings heavily in falsetto, but I can totally appreciate it on a show like American Idol if it’s done well. The key words here being “done well.” This was not done well at all. It was just ridiculously uncomfortable to watch and listen to. His voice was flat or entirely absent in his lower register and then uneven in his higher register. But on to the good things! He does a mean Swifty hair flip.

Colton Dixon – “Decode” (Paramore)
I should hate Colton vehemently. I really should. His voice is pretty poor and his musical style is questionable at best. But between the flashing image, ever-transforming image of the dead tree in the background and Colton’s high-energy performing, I can’t help but laugh and enjoy the spectacle. I mean, yes the guy has some seriously unfortunate hair and the sound people went overboard with the reverb on his vocals but he jumped onto the piano! All he has to do now is set it on fire and he’ll have perfected the art of over-the-top Idol staging. Who knows what crazy new uncharted territory he’ll take us to next? We haven’t had any live animals brought on stage yet. Maybe he’ll sing to an okapi. Or a tiny lizard. Or a family of tiny lizards! I’m excited just thinking about it.

Jeremy Rosado – “Gravity” (Sara Bareilles)
“Gravity” is one of my favorite songs ever. It’s so simple and brilliant and Sara Bareilles will wreck your soul into many broken inconsolable pieces if you’re not careful. I had vaguely positive feelings towards Jeremy going into this (although clearly not too positive because I legitimately forgot who “Jeremy” was yesterday). I no longer have vaguely positive feelings towards him. They are now distinguishably negative feelings. The arrangement was messy and his vocal was pleasant but totally failed to take the song where it needed to go. Jeremy Rosado, I am disappoint, son.

Aaron Marcellus – “Never Can Say Goodbye” (Jackson 5)
Aaron Marcellus seems like a really fun guy. He also sang surprisingly well and performed with some energy. It would’ve been a great performance if he hadn’t chosen to sing “Never Can Say Goodbye” which can only ever sound dated and cheesy. I would like to see more of Aaron but fear that he is not long for this competition.

Chase Likens – “Storm Warning” (Hunter Hayes)
Chase Likens is the fodderiest fodder who ever did fodder, isn’t he? I mean, not only is he a fairly nondescript white guy among a sea of less attractive, but more memorable white guys, he has the added bonus of having next-to-zero screen time. And I’ll admit that his voice is pretty limited and sounded downright off on a majority of the chorus in “Storm Warning” but I still like Chase. He picked a really fun song that moved and kept me entertained the entire time. I mean, he looked like he was enjoying his time on stage! Oh well, short of West Virginia having an Arkansas-esque voting discipline, we’re never hearing from him again.

Creighton Fraker – “True Colors” (Cyndi Lauper)
The tone of Creighton’s voice is about as pleasing as full subway car on a hot day. His voice is thin and then when he goes to belt he sort of ends up croak-squawking like the lovechild of a bullfrog and crow and it’s just wrong. The arrangement of the song was actually really nice. Like, that’s how you arrange a ballad on Idol. (Heejun, take notes.) It’s a shame that Creighton had to be the one singing that arrangement.

Phillip Phillips – “In The Air Tonight” (Phil Collins)
Phillip Phillips sang a Phil Collins song for his first live show. It’s like he wants us to continually harp on his ridiculous name. (By the way, did Ryan call his dad “Phillip Sr.” or did I imagine that? If so, did Phillip Phillips Sr. really love his name so much that he just had to name his son Phillip Phillips? Because that’s pretty spectacular.) Phillip Phillips always sounds like he’s just about to hack up a gigantic hairball. My throat hurts just thinking about his singing. The whole affair was just a slow plodding mess of lite rock and constipated grunts. Not my idea of a fun Tuesday night.

Eben Franckewitz – “Set Fire To The Rain” (Adele)
Eben’s performance, however, is most definitely my idea of a fun Tuesday night. So Eben thinks it’ll be a good idea to sing the #1 song in the country sung by the #1 artist in the world. Because, y’know, what could go wrong there? It’s not like there are any expectations to live up to. On top of that, he’s 15 years old and pretty much went through every stage of puberty during his performance. His voice cracked, crunched and broke all over the stage. But none of that matters because he sang “Set Fire To The Rain” and his backdrop was rain. But WAIT, that’s not all. His backdrop changed to fire. THEY SET FIRE TO THE RAIN. It was rain! Then they set it on fire! BK FLAMES. I can’t. I get giddy just thinking about the performance. It was an instant classic. I will be replaying this alongside Chicken Little’s “Part-Time Lover,” Trenyce’s “I Need You,” and Tim Urban’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” for years to come.

Heejun Han – “Angels” (Robbie Williams)
I have nothing but love for Heejun, which is why I will spend a grand total of ten seconds talking about his horrifically boring, uninspired overly-sentimental whiff of a performance and spend all the time talking about his fabulous personality. Heejun’s mother dancing around was priceless. Heejun saying that his mother was going to kick him in the head upon realization that they were going to air her dancing was even better. He’s got an insanely dry sense of humor and it’s glorious in every way possible. His pre-performance clips are way more entertaining than anyone else’s actual performance so I’m willing to suffer through “Angels” if it means he stays around and cracks them jokes.

Joshua Ledet – “You Pulled Me Through” (Jennifer Hudson)
It might have taken us 12 performers, but Joshua gave us the first truly good performance of the season. He picked a really perfect song to show off his voice; it was a big song but not one as overdone as the usual diva bait. He’s a great singer and a convincing entertainer. He was also much more controlled with his voice than we ever saw from Jacob last season. I’m sure with Randy coaxing him to “never hold back!” that in the following weeks he’ll start veering off the rails and end up in the overwrought disaster zone, where “God Bless The Child” goes to die. But until then, he’s the only guy worth rooting for.

Jermaine Jones – “Dance With My Father” (Luther Vandross)
Just no, Idol. Stop wasting my time.

Going through: Colton Dixon, Phillip Phillips, Reed Grimm, Heejun Han, Joshua Ledet
Wildcards: Deandre Brackensick, Adam Brock, Aaron Marcellus, Eben Franckewitz
Dead in the water: Jermaine Jones, Chase Likens, Jeremy Rosado, Creighton Fraker

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