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Thoughts and Impressions from American Idol, Week 12by David Bloomberg -- 08/29/2002
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With this week showcasing two songs from each contestant – one of their own picking and one picked by the judges – I knew it would be interesting. What would the judges pick? Would they try to stretch the singers vocally, or give something safe to their favorites? In the end, they gave them all songs that I thought were pretty appropriate, and I think it says a lot about the way they expect the eventual winner to go – slow songs, ballads, and the like. There was no “P.Y.T.” in this group of songs.
But first, the contestants sang their own choices. Reading the Official American Idol book (a review will be coming soon), Nikki says that her idol, aside from her parents, is Stevie Nicks. So it should be no surprise that she sang a Stevie Nicks song. OK, so Nicks is not exactly what you would expect from the punky-looking Nikki, but considering her favorite male and female pop articles are Michael and Janet Jackson, I have to suspect at least part of the punky image is a put-on. But, hey, it got her this far!
Anyway, she chose “Edge of Seventeen,” and Randy called it “karaoke.” As it turns out, Nikki says in the book that she loves to do Nicks’ “Stand Back” as karaoke, so maybe Randy wasn’t all that far off. Later, Nikki said something about how her voice sounds like Stevie Nicks. Sorry, but I don’t see it. This is not necessarily a reflection on Nikki – but Stevie Nicks has a very unique sound. This is what Paula – in her usual way of trying to avoid actual criticism – was getting at in her comments. Still, I thought it was, up until that point, the best we’d seen Nikki do.
Then she sang the judges’ choice, “Black Velvet,” and I revised my thoughts -- this was the best we’d seen her do. At least until she tried to hit the high note at the end (I thought she did a better job on the high note on Wednesday, when she sang it again for the results show).
One thing I found incredibly annoying during her first performance was something I’d noticed earlier, but had not grated on me as much. As she sang and held the microphone in her right hand, she kept doing this pointing thing with her left hand. In and out it went, and just got more and more annoying to me. I think she must be aware that she does it, because during her second song, it looked to me like she had her left hand firmly clamped onto her side so it wouldn’t go off pointing on its own. A few times it seemed to slip and do it, but then she got it under control. Probably a nervous thing, like RJ’s clenching of his fists and rocking back and forth.
Justin picked a good song for himself in “Let’s Stay Together.” It showed his voice better than perhaps any other song to date. And he really pulled out all the stops. There really isn’t much more for me to say than that. (I’ve noticed that there is almost always a lot more to say about the people we don’t necessarily like as much rather than those we do.)
The judges also picked a good song with “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” – In the book, Elton John is listed as his favorite male pop artist, so it was a good fit and he was certainly familiar with the song. As he sang, it occurred to me that he is definitely a ballad man. It will be interesting when he puts out an album (and have no doubt, he will, even if he doesn’t win) to see which direction he goes.
And then there was Kelly. My first thought was, “Oh my God, what did she do to her hair?!” My second was, “And what the hell is she wearing? Ick!” She definitely looked more “mature” and less girl-next-door-cute. But I rather liked the cute look, I have to say. But what was really interesting to me is the way her whole look changed after finishing a song. When she was singing, she was all business. But when she was done, her whole face lit up like a child’s who had just done something great. And, indeed, she had. It’s that lit-up face that America has come to love.1 2 Next-->
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