As if it wasn't clear before, Adam Lambert proved definitively on Tuesday night that he is the one to beat on [url id="/news/topics/a/american_idol/"]"American Idol"[/url] this year — assuming everyone actually saw his performance and their DVRs didn't click off when the show went more than five minutes over.
Even if you missed Lambert, though, you saw some serious drama: Another top contender, Lil Rounds, was thrashed by the judges; Scott MacIntyre came in for his first serious criticism; and another favorite, Danny Gokey, did just OK on a night when the singers were allowed to pick a song from the year of their birth.
Gokey, born in 1980, was up first, and he cheated a little by choosing country singer Mickey Gilley's version of Ben E. King's 1961 R&B classic, "Stand by Me." But rather than cowboy up the song, Gokey infused it with a touch of pop soul and a few of his signature rousing gospel touches.
Judges Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi didn't love the gospel jazz arrangement but said Gokey is such a talented singer that he sold them on it with this stellar vocals. Simon Cowell said cryptically, "I thought the beginning was good, I thought the middle was lazy, and the end was terrific, so overall, great."
Kris Allen, born in 1985, was next, turning the rock tune Don Henley's "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" into a funky blue-eyed soul shuffle as he strummed his electric guitar in the midst of a circle of clapping fans. The result made Kara say he sounded like he was doing a "jazz-funk homework" assignment and that the arrangement was too old. Simon Cowell was more direct, dubbing the performance boring, forgettable and indulgent, and saying Allen came over as a guitar player that wants to sing, rather than a singer. "It was a stupid, stupid song choice," he said. When Randy said he felt like the arrangement overwhelmed Allen's vocals and that he was listening to the music more than the singer, Allen looked on with a surprised, hurt expression on his face.
That look was nothing compared to the crestfallen face Lil Rounds, born in 1984, showed when the judge's blasted her choice of Tina Turner's titanic comeback hit, "What's Love Got to Do With It." From her black leather vest, short black skirt and slow walk across the stage to her half-closed eyes and a soaring, husky vocal, Rounds channeled Turner, though she occasionally gave the tune a unique spin with her powerful vocals.
Paula loved the hot outfit, but said she was hoping Rounds would step outside the box a bit this week and take some chances, calling the song a "beautiful karaoke rendition." Simon was more succinct, saying that the show is losing the singer they fell in love with to bad song choices. "We're not looking for a second- or third-rate version of Tina Turner, because that's what it was, even to the point where you were copying the way that she walks," he said. Kara said the competition was about making the leap from a singer to an artist, which Rounds isn't making.
Who took a chance? Anoop Desai. Born in 1986, 'Noop Dogg went with Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors," taking the already turgid ballad into an even more dramatic direction, tapping into his whispery falsetto and putting a bit of Babyface R&B flavor on it.
Randy loved how Anoop pulled back from his more uptempo performances and said he liked the vocal. Kara said he controlled the song, instead of letting the song control him, as he gave it some soul swing. Simon called Desai a musical yo-yo, because "one minute you're down, and then you're up," and praised him for taking a song originally sung by a woman and making it his own.
Scott MacIntyre, also born in 1985, finally mixed it up. Standing center stage with an electric guitar, he crooned Survivor's "The Search Is Over," struggling at times to hit some of the notes in the schmaltzy power-rock ballad.
Despite the clearly off performance, MacIntyre still got mostly high marks from Kara, who commended him for playing guitar and taking on a difficult song, though she said it was the wrong song choice. Paula called the high notes a bit "screechy." Simon counseled that he should go back to the piano, because that's where he's comfortable, calling the song horrible and saying the "guitar-playing was not much better."
The youngest contestant, 1992 baby Allison Iraheta, went with Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" (exactly as we predicted), slowing down her usual rock engine and giving Raitt a run for her money with a smoky, controlled vocal that reeked of barroom blues.
Paula couldn't get enough, saying all she needs to hear is one note to recognize Iraheta's vocals. She gave the 16-year-old props for putting some tenderness into the song and making it her own. Simon also really liked it and said Iraheta just needs to work on being more likable and showing the audience her personality.
"Let me just say this, there was a girl who won the first season of this that you remind me so much of," Randy told Allison, referring to Kelly Clarkson. "She could singer her face off, and so can you!"
Matt Giraud, yet another 1985 baby, dipped into Stevie Wonder's "Part Time Lover." He channeled Justin Timberlake again, with a fedora and black leather jacket, but changed up the arrangement by slapping some slowed-down, greasy funk onto the classic, uptempo tune.
Paula liked it enough to get up and boogie. Randy said it was one of the best vocals of the night. Kara called it "incredible on every level, unbelievable," and Simon said it was a million times better than the week before.
And, finally, well past the top of the hour, which might have caused some people to miss it, Adam Lambert, born in 1982, chose Tears for Fears' "Mad World." Only, in keeping with his David Cook-like desire to perform unusual twists on songs, he performed it as sung by Gary Jules in the cult flick "Donnie Darko." Seated center stage, bathed in an otherworldly blue spotlight and singing only in his keening falsetto, Lambert stopped the clocks by performing the already dramatic song with perfectly executed stagecraft and hitting a spine-tingling high note at the end. As he has almost every week, Lambert found a way to take a song and make it an event. Due to time constraints (and seemingly also because of the sheer power of the performance), Simon was the only judge to speak, and he simply gave Lambert a standing ovation. 'Nuff said.
Wednesday night's elimination show will feature performances from Flo Rida and former "Idol" contestant Kellie Pickler.
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