Wednesday, May 23, 2007

American Idol Wednesdays: Sparks Burn Beat-Box

I'm not sure Blake wanted to win. The first indicator for me was when he won the coin toss, yet elected to sing first in the finals. Singing first puts a contestant at a huge disadvantage on Idol, and with the exception of Ruben Studdard (who won by the slimmest of margins in Season 2), every Idol winner has sung last on finals week. For me, the show was a Jordin Sparks blowout victory and I could only wonder what might have transpired had Jordin faced off with Melinda, the seasoned pro instead of America's crowned price of beat-box gimmickry. Here's how they did:

Blake Lewis: "You Give Love a Bad Name"

The Showcase verdict: "He's confident, he commands the audience, and he's MUCH better than Justin Guarini."

Blake trots out a repeat of his best-received cover for his first song. Though in terms of sheer performance value, it was among his best efforts he was BARELY in tune throughout the song.
Randy (outfitted in one of the most hideous jackets ever photographed on Idol) agreed with me, saying "the singin' for me was just ai'ght."I will say...Blake wore a great outfit for this song. Loved the charcoal blazer-- very sharp.

Jordin Sparks: "Fighter"

Jordin countered Blake with a Christina Aguilera cover. It's about time she went for a Christina tune. On this song, Jordin could certainly handle the melody, but for me it's a hard song to separate from it's original artist. And Christina so oversings everything that it's become a hallmark of her style. It's hard to pull back a little on the Aguilera melodies because everyone's used to hearing them at an 11, and when Jordin comes in and delivers one at a 9? It comes off a little lacking.

I think Jordin chose this song for a reason. While all of her power ballads have gone over well with both the judges and the audience, I think Jordin felt the need to prove that she can handle the Kelly Clarkson-esque "strong angry vengeful woman songs" along with them.

Blake Lewis: "She Will Be Loved"

Awwww... it's Beat-Box's soft side, complete with argyle sweater. There really isn't a lot of difficult melody to this song and his delivery of it shined a big ol' spotlight on the weakness of his vocals and range when compared to Jordin. 80% of those falsetto notes were flat. Randy liked that he sang "naturally and pure." I disagree... as much as I think the beat-boxing is fucking retarded, I'd rather hear that than another crappy Maroon 5 song delivered by a completely average vocalist. Simon deemed the performance "safe" and wouldn't have chosen this song "because it doesn't make much of an impact." And he's right.

Jordin Sparks: "Broken Wing"

For her repeat-of-the-night, this was a great choice. It was squarely in her wheelhouse in terms of style and genre and she seriously laid the boom on Blake vocally with this performance. And it's not like she was going to bust out "You'll Never Walk Alone" again after all of Simon's "old-fashioned" comments. Randy said it was better than the original and Simon had nothing more to offer along with his trademark smirk other than a simple "now THAT was good." Now here's a case where, like Blake's affair with Maroon 5, I'm not a fan of the song. But Jordin's soaring vocals made me forget it was a cheesy Martina McBride ballad.

Blake Lewis: "This is My Now"

The Showcase Verdict: "America loves the obvious."

Onto the winner's single, which this year was selected via a nationwide songwriting contest. The winning tune was OK, I guess, for a milquetoast pop song and was a little more listenable than some of the atrocities forced upon the finalists in years past (shit-cakes like "Before Your Love," "Inside Your Heaven" and "Do I Make You Proud?") In his final performance, we got our second dose of the night of soft side Beat Box... and this time he wore an argyle VEST. Encrusted in SEQUINS. Blake's performance was pretty much a disaster. His voice is just not big enough for the song. It was perhaps his worst effort of the season. Of course, this style is not suited to him at all. I mean, you could practically see him cringing at the lyrics coming out of his mouth. Not exactly the final impression one wants to leave with the voting public. And the bouncy-dancing in the middle was the WORST.

Jordin Sparks: "This is My Now"

Well, she oversung it a little, but who doesn't oversing the winner's single? Simon said it all when he commented that Jordin had "wiped the floor with Blake on that song." Jordin Sparks, all of 17 years old, standing onstage at the Kodak Theatre singing about how her dreams are all coming true while wiping away tears from her eyes--well, that's American Idol in a nutshell, isn't it?

(Potential spoilers ahead! This is your warning!)

I think Jordin will win this by a sizeable margin and the geeks over at Dial Idol agree, showing Jordin ahead of Blake by over 15 points.

My only question left-- just how much Sanjaya will there be on tonight's finale? The 2-hour Idol extravaganza kicks off tonight at 8 with a half-hour red carpet pre-show at 7:30, wherein idiot entertainment reporters will ask all the arriving celebs "so who do you think is going to win?"

Jordin Sparks will. Bank on it. Good luck to all of you with action on tonight's results.

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