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Shuffling on the Tightrope 5/6


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This isn't really a writeup of this past week.  I'll remain honest:  I don't have any motivation to do it.  Like I said last time, the Comeback plus the shortened season again plus the continual failure of ABC to develop the contestants has killed the season for me pretty hard.


 If this week had been better, I might be more interested.  But it was a letdown of an episode.  Nobody was terrible, nobody was really outstanding except maybe Grace, and I don't think it made much difference in the long term (lol) of the season.  Disney Night has become emblematic of the flaws of ABC Idol: more interested in cross-promotion and the veneer of positivity than depth and development.  It's also now tied for the second most-used catalogue-specific theme (ie not genre/decade/songs you wish you had on your iTunes), matching The Beatles at 4 repeats (and behind Motown at 7 + 2 Stevie Wonders and a Diana Ross), and even Motown had the good grace to max out at 3 seasons in a row.  It's worn out, and I think that contributes to how indifferent the episodes have become since the first time.  


I will say a little bit about this Sunday's song choices though, since those are potentially more interesting.  Long time readers will recall my belief that the 5th-6th episode (and to a lesser degree 7th) from contestants is many Moments tend to concentrate, and this is a pivotal moment in contender's Idol careers.  Namely: 


S1- Stuff Like That There, A House Is Not A Home

S2- no strong contenders, but arguably Kiss and Say Goodbye for Ruben, with New York State of Mind at 7th

S3- Circle of Life, Summertime, Somewhere

S4- Alone

S5- I Don't Hurt Anymore

S6- I Who Have Nothing

S7- Billie Jean

S8- Ain't No Sunshine, Mad World

S9- Treat Her Like A Lady, Jealous Guy at 7th

S10- Benny and the Jets

S11- Whole Lotta Love, and the Personal Idol episode as a whole

S12- no strong contenders (Lovesong at 7th or 8th stretches it to be honest)

S13- Decode, Dazed and Confused, with Blue Eyed Lie and Fairytales at 7th

S14- arguably Fancy, if you count the House of Blues round since all of the performances were aired

S15- No More Drama, Chandelier


The second performance (Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Whipping Post, Hemorrhage, My Funny Valentine, Imagine, As Long As I Can See The Light, I Will Always Love You) is also a locus of Moments.  But there's something about that 5-6 spot, where people seem to have enough experience under their belt to go for broke, audiences are making up their mind as to who gets their love, and everything comes together.


ABC Idol, due to its truncated format, doesn't quite hit the mark.  You can point to certain performances: Nothing Compares 2 U, When Doves Cry, and How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore were the Final Three's respective high points (arguable for Maddie), and Woodstock/Showstoppers was certainly a season defining episode.  S18 didn't even have five episodes so, oops.  This Sunday will be the 6th episode (Disney was pretty much a bust for really making any difference).  Will anyone actually take advantage of it?  Lets look at the song choices.


Mother's Day is a promising theme, because it almost guarantees emotional investment by both contestants and audience.  For both S16 and 18, it was the strongest round of the competition, although both were weighed down by weak second themes.  It's also basically an open choice, which gives contestants a chance to bring their biggest strengths, as long as they choose well.  Which, you know, not a guarantee, but still promising.  


Coldplay is a lot tougher.  Their songs, for the most part, aren't really well suited to competition.  They don't tend to put a lot of focus on vocal display, they're not overtly emotive for the most part (the exceptions of Fix You and The Scientist being why they're the ones usually done), and they tend towards repetition rather than climactic structures building towards a big moment.  While there are some gems that could work, making this round impactful is going to depend heavily on how the contestants arrange them around those issues.  So, who has the potential to succeed with their song choices?  


(Spoilers Ahoy)


Arthur, In My Place; Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Despite being prone to re-arrangement, I don't think these are going to do much good for Arthur.  In My Place is a prime example of a Coldplay song that just kind of drifts along without much of a build.  It might be hilarious to see the reactions from Chris Martin when Arthur mentions he's just going to sing the lyrics to the tune of Brandy and basically disregard the actual song, but I don't feel like the audience will react warmly.  Meanwhile, Simple Man is as generic a choice as can be made in Arthur's style, and it's hard to see it moving the needle much.  It worked for Cade as a contrast to his generic RAWK OUT performance style, but it's pretty much par for the course for Arthur.  I also feel like, since we've already had one Mother's Day episode from him and he was home until a week or two ago, it's going to be hard to milk much more emotion out of his pre-performance video.


Caleb, Violet Hill; Mama Said (original)

I'm uncertain of Caleb's prospects.  Violet Hill IS one of Coldplay's most suitable songs, being more emotionally open than average and fairly easy to give a more dramatic contour.  In the hands of a skilled arranger, this could be the best choice of the round.  However, can Caleb make it work?  Neither climactic vocals nor emotional expression have really been his strong suit in the competition, and this is literally his first step outside his comfort zone.  Can he make a song that's not a complete soft pitch work for him?  While it's not necessarily going to come across, Violet Hill is also kind of a weird thematic choice, given it's an anti-war protest song that's explicitly anti-FOX (which makes its appearance in Season 13 kinda funny).  Much of the audience wont register that, but some might be put off.  As for his original, they're a little hard to judge.  Other original songs have gotten him attention, but of the three coming this round this one seems the most generic.  It's kind of Simple Man lite, centered around motherly advice, but doesn't seem like it necessarily has a lot of emotional weight.  I also wonder if, having just seen him have an emotional interaction with his mother last week, the impact might be dulled.  He's on the fence.


Casey, Paradise; Ironic by Alanis Morrissette

Casey may be in real trouble this week, and even if it doesn't knock her out of the competition this could do serious damage to her chances at the Finale.  Paradise, sung straight is another poor fit for competition, and is especially repetitive.  It CAN be arranged into something suitable, there's a Within Temptation cover which would work fine for Casey.  However, Casey hasn't really shown any inclination to tinker with her songs, she's pretty much sung them more or less as is.  While that's worked out for her fairly well (though less so in her non-rock songs in my opinion), it doesn't seem likely that taking Paradise at face value will help her advance.  Which is a problem, because she is basically throwing away her Mother's Day round.  While everyone else is doing something with emotional resonance, she's chosen a song that's both hilariously inappropriate to the theme, and basically a punchline at this point.  It might be fun, but I don't think it will be much of a vote getter.  Maybe it's her mom's favorite song, but that's a perpetually terrible reason to choose songs.  Unless you were grown in a lab to compete on Idol, your progenitors music choices don't indicate suitability for competition.  Learn this kids.


Chayce, Magic; Mamma (original)

On paper, I would say Chayce has one of the best potential sets this week, and this could be a major turning point for him.  Magic is one of Coldplay's more driving and dynamic songs, and unlike many of the other contestants Chayce has shown himself to be a capable arranger.  There's an Aloe Blacc cover which could easily translate into a strong performance if you traded the piano part out for a banjo and amped the guitars up a little.  It's not the most emotionally invested song, but that's ok given his second choice.  Chayce has maybe the most emotional material to mine for his interactions with his mother, given his backstory of addiction and recovery, much like Dillon had last year.  His original basically weaponizes that, as it makes direct and specific references to their relationship.  The melody may be a bit lacking in a hook, and it needs more build than the version on Instagram, but a full band can make a lot difference in that respect.  This is basically a gut punch to the audience if he pulls it off effectively.


Grace, Hymn For The Weekend; When We Were Young by Adele

If Chayce doesn't have the best choices, it's only because Grace's are excellent.  How do you make a band that doesn't really fit your vocal style work?  Find their song that features Beyonce.  It's energetic without being as cheesy as Happy was, and leaves plenty of room for a big vocal build.  Tapering her performances to that kind of climax hasn't always worked out for Grace, but there's potential (although there's an off chance singing about feeling drunk and high might go over poorly).  Like Chayce, it makes a strong contrast to her second song.  Grace covering Adele was an inevitability, and this is one of the best songs she could have chosen (although Remedy might have been better).  The build to the climax is already built in, and it's a huge sing she can fully deliver.  The Mother's Day connection may be a little forced, but the longing for a simpler childhood in the face of fame works well enough.  There may also be emotional weight to be taken from the passing of Grace's father.


Hunter, Everglow; The River (original)

Hunter has one of the best Coldplay choices, in that it's pretty workable without needing any particular tinkering to fit him.  It's in a restrained style which plays to his strengths, and while it doesn't necessarily build hugely that's not something Hunter can really give anyway.  There's a risk that it'll push him to attempt a falsetto which he hasn't really done well with thus far, but we'll see.  As for his original, it's again hard to judge.  It's got a solid melody, but the lyrics seem like an odd fit for Mother's Day, since it seems to be a breakup song (if a very laid back one).  I'm not sure how it'll land live, since it's a studio version being compared to Caleb and Chayce's impromptu Instagram versions.  Like Caleb, I think Hunter's on the fence here.


Willie, Yellow; You Are So Beautiful by Billy Prestion

For the second week in a row (and third week out of six), Willie's song choices are a disappointment.  Part of that is personal, as I can't stand Yellow and feel that even by Coldplay standards it's repetitive and kinda pointless.  I don't really see it giving Willie a lot of room for vocal display, and forcing it to do so is going to make for an awkward performance.  Of course, his other song is all vocal display, but it's also the clichest cliche that ever cliched.  Even a superlative vocal seems unlikely to make anything really interesting out of it.  It feels like these plus Disney are draining any of the expanded interest Willie might have garnered from Stand Up, and he's basically on autopilot hoping to cruise to the Finale.  Which might work.  But I think his chances of victory are starting to decline, and this feels a lot like a setup for a potential shock boot.  We'll see if he can turn it around.


And we'll see if any of these performances turn around my interest in writing about the season. 




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Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the song spoilers for this week and which contestants you feel made good choices and which contestants didn't. I, too, am definitely worried for Casey this week, which is a real shame given how much I like her. I also think Grace made some very good choices. I agree with you that Chayce will probably do well with the songs he chose as well. I think Caleb will probably end up doing better than Hunter, but both of them might still end up getting into the top 5 at the end of the day. And I agree with you that Willie made some very uninspired song choices, yet again. Sadly, though, he'll probably be just fine, while Casey might end up being a shock boot. And I agree with you about how Disney night was overall. I only really liked about 5 of the performances and felt like it was a bit of a chore to sit through. So I really hope this week will be better.

Edited by Winterfan
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1 hour ago, muse273 said:

Just updating to say I won't be writing up this week, due to a combination of personal life and work.  Will try to do a "who can win" writeup after Sunday.


Okay. Thanks for letting those of us who care know.

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