American Idol 2, May 13: Sing A Song of Three Picksby Sting7 -- 05/14/2003
This is Sting7 and I am back! Thanks for the really sweet emails telling me how much you missed me, asking for my thoughts and your well wishes for my computer. It thanks you too. Thanks to David Bloomberg for covering my beat, and of course, for being the standard bearer of the quality you expect from RealityNewsOnline. But, enough about me, there is serious business to discuss.
There are only three contestants left. The right three. Josh Gracin had a great run, but he had been outclassed for the last three weeks, truth be told. Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, and Kimberley Locke have shown the talent and the consistency to have a rightful claim to the throne of the new American Idol. Any one them could win and be absolutely deserving. But, that means two have to lose. Tonight, all three made very arguments to stay on another week.
Ryan Seacrest, yes, he really is one of People's 50 Most Beautiful, deduces we are down to three contestants. He also shares that next week, we will have a new American Idol. It's almost over. I'm already grieving!
Ryan introduces the contestants. And, he adds that this is not a popularity contest. Please, vote for the best singer. Exqueeze me? Have I been away that long? Ryan, who has been ubiquitously saying "vote for your favorite" all-season long, has bought a vowel and realized this is a singing competition? Better late than never, but too late for my Trenyce. Oh well.
Let's meet the judges. You know them. Ryan tells us that tonight is a night of picks. There is a Judges' Pick, an Idol's Pick, and a Random Pick. First round is the Random Pick (I wonder how random it will be? Is someone going to have to muddle through "Mr. Roboto"? The "Safety Dance"? The "Macarena"? The "Mambo God-Lovin' Number 5"?). First up, Kimberley Locke.
Kimberley Locke, "Band of Gold"
Randy - "I gotta tell you, you are the most improved contestant we've had in the last two seasons... brilliant"
Paula - "you came here to win!"
Simon - "last week you were terrible... (tells crowd to shut-up, he's been watching pro-wrestling!)... this week you are sensational!"
Sting7 - Memories. Remember when she and Frenchie Davis scared the other girls off and sang this song to oblivion in the Round of 200, basically guaranteeing spots in the Top 32 for themselves? Well, without Frenchie, she sang the snot out of it again. This song is the perfect pitch, the perfect pace for her, and she was comfortable in it. She said she sang this very song in the early auditions and it worked for her then. It still worked.
Ruben Studdard, "Signed Sealed Delivered"
Randy - "good to see you change up a bit... don't know if was your greatest performance, but I dug it"
Paula - "you looked like you had fun... you delivered!"
Simon - "looks like we have a competition... superb"
Sting7 - This should shut up the detractors who claim Ruben only sings ballads. No denying that he looked a bit less comfy with the faster tempo, but he stood up to it. Randomly choosing this song may have forced Ruben out of his comfort zone, but it was an opportunity to show some versatility, he did that. He has nothing to prove anymore.
Clay Aiken, "Vincent"
Randy - "this is what can happen... the song was boring (it was RANDOM, Randy!)... not your best... I bet you'll come back strong"
Paula - "wasn't your best performance... there was bit where the lyrics were a little forgotten (Simon: A little?!)... it happens to all of us, you finished with dignity"
Simon - "dreary rendition... lucky you have two songs left"
Sting7 - The roughest treatment Clay has ever gotten from the judges. I have to admit that I am not familiar with "Vincent," and from what I heard, I don't want to be familiar in the slightest. Clay himself said it was not a song he would have chosen. Me either. I don't blame Clay for this disaster because, from what I heard, he sang it beautifully, and yes, there were a couple of places where there seemed to be a lot of silence, and one place where I think he was singing in tongues. My apologies to Don McLean, but damn, this song stunk. It stunk before Clay got to it. When life hands you lemons, you're supposed to make lemonade, but what about when you are handed a pile of crap? All you can do is try to make the crap pretty. Clay did what he could. Luck of the draw. Bad luck for Clay.
If I had to rank the performances for the Random Round, it would go like this.
1. Ruben - because it was such a departure for him, and a successful one.
2. Kimberley - it wasn't a departure for her, but it was brilliantly done.
3. Clay - I hear Clay Nation has banned the name "Vincent" from being spoken in the chat rooms! Not Clay's fault, he did what he could. Even with the repressed memory-damaged lyrics.
Now, for the Judges' Choice Round.
Randy announces that they have selected for Kimberley Locke, Burt Bacharach's "Anyone Who Had A Heart," which Kelly was supposed to have done last year, but changed her mind in the eleventh hour, if you recall. Randy thinks it will suit Kimberley's voice well.
Kimberley Locke, "Anyone Who Had A Heart"
Randy - "sounded beautiful on you... great job"
Paula - "beautiful... I liken you to Sarah Hughes and you are skating through the competition" (oh please)
Simon - "What?... it was good, not blown away, but safe... good... ish"
Sting7 - This is another one of Kimberley's calm, measured, safe performances. When she does this safe routine, it seems to expose that she is intimidated by the song. Or maybe it just seems that way. The performance had a controlled passion to it, but I felt like she could have let it go a bit more. Loosen the reigns. That said, I still liked it.
Is that Quentin Tarantino in the audience? It is Quentin Tarantino! American Idol pulling the A-list celebs this time!
Simon announces that the judges considered a number of songs for Ruben and decided to choose one that encapsulates his personality, his winning smile. So, they chose "Smile." Simon also said he hopes Ruben does because he wasn't in rehearsals.
Ruben Studdard, "Smile"
Randy - "beautiful... you did your thing... you represented on that one!"
Paula - "you make every one smile... see those dimples? That's the money shot!"
Simon - "(smiling) job done... well done!"
Sting7 - I think Simon's smile was because when Ruben started, he sounded like he was heading for the dentist's chair. Believe you will never hear Alabama's Ruben Studdard sing this song ever again. For money. Never. Ruben hated this song, you could almost see him try to psyche himself up for it, and who can blame him? But, wow, did he kick it! Once the first verse was over and he could get stretch his vocals, I felt the hairs stand on my arm. Then I actually welled up! Excellent job.
Ryan points out that even Quentin Tarantino was brought to his feet with that performance. Quentin shouts 205, for likely the last time in his life.
Paula announces that Clay has been assigned an 'American classic' known as "Mack The Knife" (we've already had an emailer disputing that, saying the song was actually German. I've heard a lot of music, and I've never heard it in German, but I've heard it in Frank! Sinatra, that is). She also says if he pulls this off, he will be cool and not a lounge lizard. O-kay.
Clay Aiken, "Mack The Knife"
Randy - "You know I don't do this much but (standing ovation)... you did your thing, man!"
Paula - "You were ultra cool... I'm scared of you!"
Simon - "You didn't wink!... earlier I thought you were in trouble, but you just pulled that out of a hat!... brilliant!"
Sting7 - I have to make a confession about Clay. Somewhere around "Fill Me Up Buttercup," I changed my mind about him. He was an original Sting7 Pick To Click (all three remaining were!), somewhere around Round of 10 or so, he got a bit Hollywood for me, but "Buttercup" brought me back. Fact is, Clay has had a stellar performance every week since Kimberly Caldwell left, and performances like this only add to his collection. Pow! That last note? Star stuff.
Ranking the Judges' Pick Round, I say:
1. Ruben - he made my cry, bastard. That's a good thing.
2. Clay - bang! He's back! Vincent is forgotten.
3. Kimberley - a close three. A little too reserved, though.
Now for the Idol's Picks. They are supposed to pick songs from their own idols:
Kimberley Locke, "Inseparable"
Randy - "you know you did a good job, don't you?... you're trying to win this!... hot!"
Paula - "you are like a diamond, you're sparking and smooth as silk... brilliant... beautiful"
Simon - "this is the only time we've had three good people in the Top 3... not the case last year (Nikki McKibbin is wincing somewhere out there)... I don't know who will be in the Top 2 because you all deserve to be there"
Sting7 - This rivals "New York State of Mind" as my favorite of her performances. She brought it all to the table with this one. Dead-on perfect, and the beaming smile on her face at the end says she knew it! Great range, great technique, executed fantastically. If she makes the Top 2, do not be surprised!
Ruben Studdard, "If Ever You're In My Arms Again"
Randy - "I was feeling your passion... you're trying to win this... it was dope!"
Paula - "great night for you... America loves you... I'm gonna shut up!"
Simon - "I said this competition wouldn't be the same without you and the Top 2 won't be the same without you either... you've shown enough that you deserve to be there"
Sting7 - I have to admit that I never liked this song. Ruben sang it well, but Ruben always sings it well. I'm just a bit disappointed with this choice of song. Peabo Bryson is probably one of Ruben's idols, you can hear the influence in his voice, and this seems like a song Ruben has sung a ton. His most effortlessly effective performance of the night.
Clay Aiken, "Unchained Melody"
Randy - "I hated the arrangement, but you made it work... you sang that!
Paula - "this performance, that song, best performance of the competition!"
Simon - "I wouldn't go that far... a little over the top... let's just vote off Ryan and you all can come back next week... very good"
Sting7 - I'm with Simon here, it was a little over the top, but when he slammed the high note (I neeee-eeee-eeed your love), I forgave all those annoying little performance quirks that suddenly came back. Clay said his idol is his mother and this song is her favorite to hear him sing. Maybe he threw on the extra mustard for Mommy. Hard to argue with that. So, allowing for the Mommy curve, it was an exceptional performance. Not the best of the season, I'd have to think about that, but fantastic.
Ranking the Idol's Choice:
1. Kimberley Locke - her best of the night, and, arguably, her second best of her whole competition.
2. Clay Aiken - Randy said it best. He sang that!
3. Ruben Studdard - his most passionate performance, but I really hated the song choice.
Yeah, but that's me! What's America gonna say? I have to tell you that I agonized over this prediction like none before. But, I think, and it pains me greatly to say this, but I think the final two will be Clay and Kimberley. Something has been amiss about Ruben since he was in the bottom two a few weeks ago. I think his confidence has been shaken, and that 'Ruben magic' has been missing. It has affected his performances. He's always sung well, and still does, but something is just... off. The confidence is missing.
Ruben-ites, before you assail me with emails, know that I would love to be wrong. Whatever happens Wednesday night, my heart will be broken. Expect a standing ovation for whoever leaves. Expect Paula to cry. Expect Simon to whip out a contract as soon as the credits quit rolling. Expect Randy to say dawg 17 times tomorrow. Expect the unexpected!
Sting7 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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