It was down to the Top 3 on ‘American Idol’ on last night as Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey and Kris Allen brought everything they had in hope of winning enough votes for the two coveted spots in the final.
Each singer was given a song by the judges, and was allowed to choose one song for themselves. It was a solid night of performances, but there was only one major standout among the group. So let’s start there, looking at each performance, one by one.
Best of the night: Kris’ said the song he chose for himself just kind of came to him, and it was the perfect choice. He decided to take on “Heartless” by Kanye West. This could be interesting. This is one of the new wave of synthesized vocal songs that is owning the airwaves, but Kris did a rendition more in the style of The Fray, which covered the song with a rock vibe. Kris stood at center stage with an acoustic guitar and gave a tender touch to the tune. With no support from the band, no wild light show, no smoke, no gimmicks, Kris did it all on his own and turned in another genuine performance. Randy said he liked Kris’ version better than The Fray’s version and better than Kanye’s original version. Kara said that was what they were looking for (referring to her own choice for Kris from earlier in the show, which we’ll get to later). She called it bold and brave to stand on that stage with an acoustic guitar, and said it was perfect. Paula said “this is what keeps you relevant” that he was able to do something completely different. Simon said after a lame song choice for him the first time around (from Randy and Kara), he’d written Kris out for this competition, but that Kris’ performance of “Heartless” changed his mind.
Simon chose U2’s “One” for Adam Lambert and said he actually spoke with Bono on Saturday to get clearance to use the song. In his effort to put his stamp on it, I felt like Adam messed with the melody a little too much, but the singing was still solid. The judges likely wouldn’t agree. Randy said Adam was “definitely still in the zone,” and did surprisingly agree that Adam went a little too far off the melody. Kara said Adam proved he could take a song and do it in a completely different way, change the melody and it was unbelievable. Paula said it was miserable to sit next to Simon, who was gloating over his choice. Paula said it was, “One brilliant song, one superb performance, and one American Idol that I’m staring at right now.” Simon said it might sound a little biased, but he thought it was a brilliant song choice. He called it a “brilliant, brilliant performance.” He said if Adam wasn’t in the final it would be one of the biggest upsets the show has seen.
Pretty good: Paula picked “Dance Little Sister” by Terence Trent D’Arby for Danny Gokey because she thought Danny possessed the same kind of magic that the iconic ’80s singer did. That’s debatable, but it was a great choice by Paula because it’s a catch tune that allowed Danny to be more about performing than singing. It also gave Danny a chance to skat with a saxophone player who joined him on stage midway through the song, and gave Paula a chance to dance at the judges’ table. It was a fine performance, one that showed more energy than vocal prowess. Randy said “let the games begin” and said it was “dope.” Kara said the song kept Danny in his “money spot” but the dancing was too gyrating. Paula said, as a choreographer, she thought Danny did “really good.” Simon reminded Kara and Paula it’s a singing show, not a dancing show. Then he said the dancing “was a little bit desperate.” He said his only problem was the saxophone solo.
Ryan talked to Danny about the tough decision over which song to perform, and Danny settled on “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker. Another song with an iconic, high-pitched finish. Watch out! He kind of freestyled in the middle and added his own lyrics to the song, which was odd. Randy said Danny showed he was there because he could “really, really, really sing.” Kara said everything Danny didn’t do in the first performance, he did this time. She called it “stunning.” Paula said he left everyone breathless and “nailed it.” Simon said he loves the song and it didn’t need re-arrangement, but said he would call Danny’s performance “a vocal master class.”
Adam’s choice for himself was Aerosmith’s “Crying,” and it turned into a bit of a mess. The timing was off, the screaming was overdone, and the harmonizing with the backup singer was really scattered. This was not one of Adam’s best performances, and it felt like he didn’t take his song choice very seriously and decided to just pepper it with the high notes we all already know he can sing. Randy said Adam was one of the best they’ve had on the stage, and said he liked it even more than “One.” Kara wondered how Adam hits those notes and still talks the next day. Paula said Steven Tyler wouldn’t have much advice to give. Simon said he wasn’t going to suck up as much as the other three, but he encouraged people not to assume Adam would be in the final and should vote for him based on talent.
Kara and Randy picked One Republic’s “Apologize” for Kris. He played the piano, which gave him a chance to show some more skills, but also made it a little difficult to connect with him. He sang it well, but it didn’t give him much of a chance to show anything and became the least memorable song of the night. Randy said that song showed the kind of artist he could be and said it “nice, very nice.” Kara called it a competent performance, but at this point he had to swing big, and she hoped that Kris would have done more with it. Paula pointed out a bum note but said she was “so proud” of Kris and said all three of the singers deserve a spot in the top two. Simon said Kara’s comment was a cop out. “You can’t choose a song for him, and then blame him for doing the song,” Simon told her. Simon said it was a competent version of the song, and if they wanted him to change the arrangement, Kara and Randy should have done that.