A Dose of Reality: American Idol 3: Week 2 - Country Theme
by The Trades Staff
Published: March 24, 2004
It's Country week at American Idol, and Mary, Molly and Brian are here to give you the low-down on the hoe-down.
Diana DeGarmo - "A Broken Wing"
Mary writes: She starts off a bit shaky with the song, but then she gets rolling a bit more. I like Diana's voice, and it is really evident she has been performing for years. She did a decent job on this song, but it was not her best performance. She should be safe this round, but I think she needs to keep her pipes in good order if she wants to advance to the top 3. I disagree with Randy that this was her best performance. What are those acoustics in that studio?
Molly writes: I was surprised at what a good country twang she had, because I really hadn't expected much from her in this genre. She did a good job, but I agree with Mary -- this definitely wasn't Diana's best performance.
Brian writes: Diana's performance was strong, but the strength wasn't very stable. She had a few breathing problems, and she went a tiny bit flat at times. The last held note, though, was very strong, so she gets a point or two back there. Her on-stage presence was merely okay, however, as she seemed to be distracted by her choreography.
George Huff - "I Can Love You Like That"
Mary writes: I think he did a nice job with the song, but the song didn't sound very country to me. I suppose it is better that he do well on the song, than try to do it in a way where people would just want to vote him off. George just seems like he has a great personality and I want this man to go far even though I don't think he is the best singer/performer in the group. I think George will go forward this round but he may need to worry in a few weeks.
Molly writes: This was more the George I've been hoping to hear. He sounded much more in control of his voice than he did in his previous performances, and he had good solid stage presence without distracting dips. It seemed a more vulnerable performance to me, in the sense that he wasn't hiding behind the funny, goofy-guy persona. I think this marked a big step forward for George.
Brian writes: This was an uncharacteristic performance from George. His voice didn't really fit the song he chose. He started slow, but he was able to get stronger. All in all, he did well given what he was singing, but his style is singing the more energetic songs.
Fantasia Barrino - "Always On My Mind"
Mary writes: You know, I'm actually growing more impressed with her as time goes on. She absolutely nailed this song. She really is a wonderful talent and I cannot believe the restraint she showed in singing that song. Fantasia, you rock like a rocking thing. You absolutely made my night. Excellent song choice, excellent performance, wow.
Molly writes: I was amazed by Fantasia's performance tonight too. It was a very restrained, nuanced, thoughtful performance -- and I never would have thought that I'd see a performance like that from Fantasia. I do think that her vocal weaknesses showed up more tonight; on the other hand, she had a limited amount of time to work on it. I think that with some more time to polish it, it would be an absolute show-stopper. The emotional resonance she put into it was outstanding, I think her forte remains the bolder, funkier sound, but maybe that's why this turned out so well -- she couldn't sing it on autopilot.
Brian writes: In my opinion, this was Fantasia's weakest performance to date, although I have no real complaints about it. Her singing was very good and she kept us engaged. The only thing I can say is that, like so many of tonight's performers, she sang a song that really doesn't fit her style.
John Stevens - "King of the Road"
Mary writes: He did a much better job with his song tonight than last week. However, I think I heard his voice get a bit shaky in places. In addition, he forgot some of the words while he was singing! Yikes. I think he did an overall nice job, I'm not sure that his voice will hold up week after week if he can make it late into the competition.
Molly writes: Another perfect song choice for John Stevens. I thought he did a fabulous job on the vocals. The flub forgetting the words was ... well, unfortunate. But he did a fairly decent job of covering (although I noticed on replay that he really had a moment where his face was frozen with panic). I didn't notice any vocal weaknesses. He does still need to work on his presentation, but I think he did a better job in that regard this week, and loved his little walking-away, peeking-over-his-shoulder ending. Can he go the distance? I'm still not sure, but I think he's making progress.
Brian writes: For the first time, I was a bit impressed by John's voice tonight. Still, I think he's one of the weakest finalists in the three seasons of "American Idol". In the low registers, his voice is almost inaudible. Many people may think that John has what it takes, but he can't win the competition unless he's able to put a lot more energy into his presentation.
Camile Velasco - "Desperado"
Mary writes: I am not sure if it was because she was nervous or if this is the way her voice sounds on slower songs, but her voice was very shaky. She warbled! This was not a very good version of "Desperado," and I might argue that it was the worst rendition of the song that I've ever heard. She also had this habit of doing weird gestures during the song which were distracting. She was just okay, but I agree with Simon, her nerves are going to be her downfall. Also, her hair extensions contribute to her downfall. Too bad they gave her that much hair! Wow.
Molly writes: "Warbling" is way too kind a word. Camile's voice was absolutely out of control. I understand that it must be nerve-wracking to be on stage like that, but the girl's had several chances and she just doesn't seem to be getting any better.
Brian writes: I was mortified by Camile's performance. She tried to make the song her own, but she came off as a bad Christina Aguilera impersonator. This was especially bad considering that many people love the Eagles and probably feel offended by the "updating" of the song. Otherwise, her vibrato was too pronounced, and she again lacked a lot of emotional strength. Camile's days are numbered. Could that number be one?
Jennifer Hudson - "No One Else On Earth"
Mary writes: I think she had a very nice performance. She did reign in some of her "over singing" that she tends to do. She picked a very nice song for her voice and style. That said, she was a bit stiff performing the song. I'm not sure if she was wearing the wrong shoes and was walking around gingerly because she didn't want to break her neck or what the situation was. Simon's critique that she is out of her depth is probably true. However, she isn't worse than half the people left though. I hope she gets to stick around for a couple more weeks, but I worry since she was in the bottom 2 last week.
Molly writes: I thought Jennifer started off a little rocky, but she was swingin' by the chorus. She also has a tendency to go for really low notes that just don't come out -- not that they're out of tune, but they just don't project. I very much disagreed with Simon's comment about her being out of her depth. She's a very strong singer with a great personality and that "connection" that Simon had commented on earlier in the show. I think she'd make an excellent American Idol. Simon's remark about Jennifer was so odd to me, in fact, that I wondered if it was some strategy on his part -- fire her up, and fire up her fans. My biggest concern for her is that she's not doing so badly that people assume she needs help, but she also apparently isn't doing performances that make large numbers of people say "wow, I have to vote for her" either.
Brian writes: In what may be a common theme among the contestants, Jennifer had real problems singing the lower notes. Perhaps the finalists should request a higher key for some of their selections. In general I like Jennifer's energy, but in this performance I think she gave a little too much. She would have been much better if she had just scaled it back some. Her vocals were okay, but she went off-key at the end.
Jon Peter Lewis - "She Believes In Me"
Mary writes: My first reaction when he was singing was "what song is this?" It isn't until he gets to the chorus that I have some recognition of this song, which is terrible because this is a very famous song. This is not a great performance of this song and he has a way of gripping the microphone like he is a drowning man and the microphone is a life preserver. JPL is not one of my favorites and since he didn't dance, he didn't even make me laugh this week. I really hope the USA votes his butt out soon -- if not this week, please vote him out next week.
Molly writes: My first reaction when he started singing was "Hey, he's singing!" I mean, he wasn't singing terribly well, but he was singing instead of goofing. He tried to put some genuine emotion into it. He deserves to go, but you know, I appreciated the effort of genuinely singing instead of goofing so much that I hope he doesn't go this week. Otherwise, he'll spend the rest of his life yammering to strangers in bars about how he could have won American Idol if he'd stuck with goofy style and he lost because he changed his style, when really he'll lose (please, at some point in time) because he can't sing well.
Brian writes: Jon Peter is still a curiosity to me. He probably has the weakest vocals of the group, but has the most charm of anyone. As previous seasons testify, charm can only get you so far. Tonight he made a serious song sound almost goofy. I don't know if J.P. can turn it around and get where he needs to be before he's voted off.
Jasmine Trias - "Breathe"
Mary writes: Yikes. She had a really bad start to the song and it is very inferior to the original. She was not singing on key and her performance did not have a lot of energy. I like her a lot but if Jennifer is outclassed in this competition, Jasmine is certainly outclassed. Hers was probably the worst performance of the night, and it would not surprise me at all if she were eliminated.
Molly writes: Boy, this one was a shocker. Last week, she sounded golden. This week, it was tin. Definitely pitchy. Plus, her stage manner was very affected this week.
Brian writes: What a disappointing reversal of last week. Jasmine gave what I think was the worst performance of the night. What's worse is that she sang the most accessible song of all. She never quite got on key, and she was very quiet in places. I hope the American public votes on the whole body of work and not just tonight's performance.
Matt Rogers - "Amazed"
Mary writes: From a performance standpoint, I think Matt did a good job. I wasn't wowed by him, but at the same time he certainly wasn't terrible. He was a lot better than last week and I think that performance should keep him in the running for next week. Simon had a good point about the strange smile on Matt's face when he is singing. I think what Simon needed to go farther to say is that the smile on Matt's face coupled with his banter with Ryan Seacrest, give Matt a whiff of insincerity. I could be way off-base, but to me, his insincerity distances the audience from him and makes me root for anyone but him. It could be that Matt is just arrogant and that's what I'm sensing from him, but he needs to show more vulnerability soon.
Molly writes: This was a really interesting performance from Matt. When we heard his little spontaneous outburst of opera from the video of his post-audition celebration, I was really longing to hear that power tonight. Instead, we heard exactly the opposite. It was a soft, light performance. But it wasn't bad. I liked his performance last week because it was full of personality, and I felt like it was displaying his personality. This time, we saw a different side of Matt. I have to admit, I kind of like that he's keeping me off balance.
Brian writes: I know what Matt was trying to do. I don't think he did it. To me, his vocals were just too puny, too light. I agree with Simon, that his smiling (in this instance) was just too cheesy. However, his vocals were good, and the only place he really went off-key was a very difficult key change. If Matt promises to cut out the schmaltz, I'll be happy with his continued participation.
La Toya London - "Ain't Going Down 'Til The Sun Comes Up"
Mary writes: She did okay. I think this was a poor song choice for her. It is difficult to sing and to get all the words in. Simon really liked the performance, but I have definitely seen her do better. However, she wasn't horrible by any stretch.
Molly writes: That was definitely not a great song choice. She also had a horrible background track that almost drowned her out. I'm wondering if it's possible that they switched background music on her, because there were times when she was singing against the background vocals, and she just seems too professional to do something like that. However, with all those problems, I still thought she sang the heck out of the song.
Brian writes: La Toya continues to impress me with her confidence. Her energy really came across well to the audience. She was a bit too feminine in her presentation of the song, but that's a minor complaint. Also, she seemed to be the most affected by the overbearing background vocals.
Amy Adams - "Sin Wagon"
Mary writes: She did a nice job with the song overall. There were some low notes that she didn't quite hit, but her performance was pretty good. It might be the best I've seen of her this competition. She definitely gave a performance that will keep her in the competition another week. She needed a strong performance because I consider her a borderline performer.
Molly writes: Wow. I mean, wow. She stayed in one register. She put out a lot of energy. She was connecting with the audience so much she was practically dancing with each and every person there. Amy kicked butt this week. Of all the people who showed a different style of performance this week, Amy had the most dramatic difference. Gone was the pretty but slightly ineffectual voice, and hello to a vibrant performer that I could actually imagine making it to at least the top four.
Brian writes: I thought Amy's was the best performance of the night. Talk about a perfect song choice! She really knocked this one out of the park. Her dancing could use some (okay, a lot) of work, but I can really see her being a professional singer. Maybe not a big bright shining star, but she can make a living at this.
Mary writes: Overall: I think Jasmine is gone this week. Hers was the worst performance, with Camille coming in a close second. Either of them will be the one voted out this week. The other person who should join them in the bottom three is John Paul Lewis. But I think it is more likely Jennifer will be the person who comes in third.
Molly writes: I really enjoyed this week. Contrary to Simon, I didn't think people were playing it safe; Fantasia, Amy, Matt, Jon Peter Lewis, and even La Toya to some extent all went in different directions than I would have expected. Camile is definitely the one who should go this week. As for other picks for the bottom three ... I'm having a hard time making the call. Jasmine would be in my bottom three, but her great performance last week and her presence as the most viable Hawaiian singer might keep her out of the official bottom three. Jon Peter Lewis would round out my bottom three based on the quality of his performance, but I'd also want to reward him for giving up the dancing, and if his fans feel that way then he might not make it to the bottom three. I agree that Jennifer is in danger, and possibly Diana. I have to admit to feeling glad that Camile was so obviously the worst, because there were so many contestants this time that I really wanted to stay another week.
Brian writes: Like I alluded to before, I think that the background vocals in many of these performances are way too strong and need to be toned down. It really is distracting. I thought Amy gave the best performance tonight, and the bottom three were Jasmine, Jon Peter, and Camile. Hopefully, the voters will consider the entire season so far and vote off Camile.
American Idol roundtables at The Trades: 1st Quarterfinal | 2nd Quarterfinal | 3rd Quarterfinal | 4th Quarterfinal | Wild Card Round | Soul Theme
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