muse273 Posted April 9, 2021 Share Posted April 9, 2021 (edited) Tapdancing on a Tightrope 4/8 Do we remember when Idol struggled so much with fitting 10 performances into an hour that Paula Abdul experienced spontaneous fits of precognition? Pepperidge Farm may remember, but I don’t because my brain has been pulverized by having 48 freaking performances crammed into it. I no longer remember my childhood pets’ names or the password to my Redfin account, just that John Splithoff is apparently a person who exists and has recorded things. I feel like Victor in The Rules of Attraction after he reels off an entire week of European debauchery in a single run on sentence. All joking aside, I do have to give Idol credit for taking on an utterly insane amount of performances and more or less surviving. I’m not convinced that it was the best way to highlight the contestants in their first full voting appearances, at least the solo rounds. The majority of the solos ranged from eh to decent, with only a couple standouts and a few disasters, owing in large part to only having 80 seconds apiece. As a result, the duets were nearly all superior (this may be a sign of the impending apocalypse, but honestly we’ve had like 387 of those in the last year and the apocalypse has still declined to appear, so meh). Still, the overall impression of this week was good. Let’s look at some aspects. The Good The Talent- There is a ton of talent on this season. It’s been said before, and it’ll be said again. If the voters don’t completely screw things up, and the showrunners can avoid sabotaging everything, you could easily end up with a Top 6 to rival the elite groups of past seasons. That’s, uhh… a big assumption, given the entirety of Idol history. But for now I will maintain hope. The Freshness- Out of 24 solos, 20 were new to the show. The average age of the songs was 8.5 years, and that was with three elderly songs (Willie’s, DeShawn’s, and Caleb’s) in the mix. Without those, the average was less than 4 years old. There were 10 new artists to the show in these two episodes’ solos. This is… mindboggling, by Idol standards. Has the show finally decided that letting, or even encouraging, the cast sing current hits might actually be a formula for post-show success? Do they actually care about post-show success? Is this real life? The Celebrity Guests’ Advice- Did it kind of seem like a lot of this week’s duet partners were auditioning to potentially take a spot on a new judging panel? Jewel, Brandon Boyd, Brian McKnight and Joss Stone in particular seem like they are in the right “not so much career going on right now but bring musical cache” place to fill a spot. Most of the mentors gave pieces of advice that aligned with my main criticisms of the contestants, and some actually worked? This, as much as the additional time, seems like the reason that the duets were significantly better in many cases than the solos. The Bad The Solo Format- I’ve already said it, but let’s say it again. This was just not enough time to make a solid first impression on audiences. It didn’t leave room to create a proper structure to the song, or display a diverse range of facets to the voice. It also felt kind of abruptly cut, without that second or two of space that lets your mind go “Ok, performance is starting, pay attention.” Mostly, these passed without really sinking in. The Song Choices- This goes somewhat hand in hand with the previous issue, in that a couple of these songs could have been workable if there were more space to develop them. But while most of these felt fairly appropriate to the contestants, they weren’t necessarily the best showcase for them. It seems like Cassandra could have found a more impactful indie solo to work with, for one, or Anilee. Some of them, I can see the logic behind, like Grace’s choice, but they didn’t quite work. The high number of recent, new songs does mean having less reference for what works in the circumstances of a singing show, which has an impact also. The Arrangements- I have been quite outspoken over the years that, unlike many in the Idol fanbase, I don’t think rearrangement of songs is an inherently positive thing. There have been many terrible arrangements thrown onstage under the basis of “well at least they did something different,” and we got a few here. It was less “Completely turn this inside out and ruin it in the process,” and more issues of execution. Which suggests to me that it’s less of a problem with the contestants, and more the staff arrangers. The soul arrangements on DeShawn and Anilee’s solos felt forced, verging on cheesy, and the one for Willie’s wasn’t much better. The one I found most baffling was the instrumentation for Hunter’s solo. An acoustic version of Chandelier is hardly mindboggling, but it prominently featured both mandolin and slide guitar, which are diametrically opposed instruments. Mandolins are mostly used for their ability to repeat notes, which lends itself to driving, percussive songs, while slide guitar brings gliding, legato elements which tend more towards to mournful, drawn out songs. These aren’t 100% unbendable, but most of the time one or the other would sound out of place when combined. In this case, it was the mandolin. The Hmm The Overall Format- It’s abundantly clear at this point that I had issues with how the performance time was filled. HOWEVER, I was pretty happy with the overall proportion of performance time to judge/filler time. With 24 performances to stuff in, there was no time for awkward babbling by contestants, to say nothing of some of the horrible filler we’ve seen before (David Hasslehoff songs a song? Here’s Grumpy Cat for some reason?). The judges were also forced to be relatively brief. If future episodes had a per-performance proportion of about 3 minutes performance time, 1 minute of mentor/backstage footage, and a minute or less of judge comments, I’d be pleased. The Celeb’s Performances- While the mentoring was mostly on point, the celebrity guests were a mixed bag in terms of how gracious they were as duet partners. Some were great! Josh Groban and Joss Stone, despite being two of the most powerful vocalists, made a clear effort to give their contestant partners room to show off, and blended beautifully. Brandon Boyd was also very generous, though his voice is showing some signs of age. Others, like Brian McKnight seem to have just sung their parts as they would, and how well the contestants kept up was pretty much up to their own abilities. Jewel outshone both her partners, although it doesn’t seem to have been for lack of trying to get them to step up. And Tori Kelly and Ryan Tedder seemed to be actively trying to steal the spotlight at times, which was quite offputting. The Judgery- Well… they were trying. There were many performances which the judges declined to give the necessary harsh criticism (especially of the vocals, rather than confidence, interpretation, performance, blahblahblah), and the endless number of standing ovations remains farcical. However, they did at least try to offer some criticism for a decent proportion of the performances. Will they ever actually give live performances to match the level of insight they bring to their judging and criticism in Hollywood? It seems doubtful. But at least there wasn’t much of them. I’m going to discuss each group separately, weighted more towards how they did this week specifically, and then a combined ranking that still has an eye towards the longer term. Top 24 Pre-Semifinals Edited April 9, 2021 by muse273 Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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