American Idol 4, May 17 - In The Presence of Greatnessby Sting7 -- 05/18/2005
Ryan says we are just seven days away from the end. He adds that the contest is so close, there is only 1% separating the three of them. Flashback, Ryan tells the remaining three that the song choices this week, are all about choices: their choice, the judgesí choices, and Clive Davisí choice!
Who is Clive Davis? Video retrospective of Clive, but it didn't even scrape the surface of who he is in the music industry. And, what he is is a Who's Who among industry heavyweights all to himself! Clive Davis is a Harvard law graduate. Frustrated with that, he parlayed his law degree into his love of music. His first task was getting the difficult Bob Dylan to resign with CBS records. He openly admits that he outsmarted Dylan into doing so. He's also been called the savior of the label, since he is responsible for signing unknown talents like Big Brother & the Holding Company, Santana, Chicago, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. After pleading guilty to tax evasion and using company funds to pay for his son's bar mitzvah, he was hired by what would become Arista Records to work his magic.
He found more unknown gems like Kenny G, Sarah McLachlan, and Whitney Houston. Arista's Nashville Division brought us talents like Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, and Diamond Rio. Even delving into the world of hip-hop music, though he claimed he'd "never get rap music," he was smart enough to align himself financially with those who did - helping to form LaFace Records and adding names like TLC, Toni Braxton, Monica, Outkast, and Pink to the Arista roster. He even made a "50/50" deal with Sean Combs to create Bad Boy Records!
There is no doubt that Clive knows what he is talking about. And, when he says you have talent, everyone listens. He was "enraptured" by Kelly Clarkson, and worked personally on her debut album, as well as Ruben Studdard's and Clay Aiken's. Clive's pre-Grammy festival is among the most sought after venues in the music industry. Last year, Fantasia was very prominently featured, as he cited, "she is a stunning artist full of fire and passion. There is no one out there like her."
Getting a nod from Clive Davis is life-changing. Make no mistake.
Tonight's show starts with Cliveís choices:
Vonzell Solomon, "Iíll Never Love This Way Again"
Clive - "You hit the notes great, you have real real strong voice, one thing I caution is about a hint of a smile in a song like that. Itís about holding on with passion, fearing you will never love again, so no smiles Ė other than that, you hit the notes, great job."
Randy - "Is still think you are one of the better singers left, a little pitchyÖ In the end you brought it home."
Paula - "You have a beautiful range, and beautiful voice... maybe you started off in the wrong key... you ended up great."
Simon - "No tears tonight. The biggest night of your life, this. I think youíre very nervous, I think it showed in that performance, a couple of bum notes, especially in the middle, but you got two more songs. Youíve got to do better though!"
Sting7 - Isnít that amazing? Clive says she hit the notes great, the others say she was pitchy! I think Clive was referring to the power notes. Clive knows pop music is not about hitting every note correctly, itís about conveying the emotion, which is why he critiqued the "hint of a smile." He is absolutely right. Was she a little pitchy? Yeah, I canít say she wasnít. Now, Daddy Clive is here, watch all the judges on their best behavior! Me, Iíll be lobbing spitballs at Donna Reynolds from the back of the class!
Bo Bice, "Donít Let the Sun Go Down On Me"
Clive - "Bo, you really captured the song, it was heartfelt, it was powerful, it was passionate. You made Elton John and Bernie Taupin very proud tonight."
Randy - "Tonight, you are forever in the Dawg Pound, I didnít even think Ė I was questioning the song... you can do anything! You know youíre on your on your way baby!"
Paula - "Pure brilliance, magnificent!"
Simon - "Great, really great. And, I really prefer you doing this kind of song. I really do. I think you come in as the favorite to go through next week and after Ė I think weíre going to see you next week. Really, really good."
Sting7 - Bo has had a very good run on Idol this season, but like Randy, I was surprised he could pull that off. A song as full of melancholy and yearning and woe as youíll likely hear, I actually thought this was beyond Boís scope. While Clay Aiken may have sung it better, Boís emotion was exactly where it should be. He maintained the rock element, but also the emotion, which Clay forsook for sonic pleasantry. Impressed!
Carrie Underwood, "Crying"
Clive - "I think you did a real strong job, I think you felt and carried the sincerity of the melody, I would have loved that extra spark, that falsetto in the end, but you did it your own way. Good job."
Randy - "Weíve got a real competition going on, I think that was perfect, Carrie, that was one of your best vocal performances, that was hot!"
Paula - "That song is so haunting... you made it poignant, brilliant, subdued, but really nice, nice performance!"
Simon - "I would have loved that stripped down even more, I thought you sang it well, Iím not sure about that last note, I thought the performance was a little wooden, which may be down to nerves. But Round One to Bo, though.
Sting7 - Wow! That, my friends, was a home run! From the first verse, I felt the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I knew Carrie was going to NAIL it! Very, very good. It just might supplant "Alone" as my favorite performance from her. The key to "Crying" is the power to juxtapose all those weeping instrumentals. Carrie was right where she should have been. By the way, Clive, that falsetto on Carrie might have sounded like a yodel. Um, no.
Now, for the contestantsí own choices:
Vonzell Solomon, "Chain of Fools"
Clive - "You picked a true soul classic, you have a very good voice, you gave it a pop, skirted, likeable rendition. It was likeable because you are talented. To me, you missed the soulful essence of the song. "
Randy - "I had a good time, I think it was one of the best vocals ever been sung on this show...you made it your own, it was in tune, thatís what this show is all about!"
Paula - "This song has been performed by many a hopeful Idol... nobody has nailed it with such soul, such gusto... it was great."
Simon - "You have a likeability factor, it was infectious, the vocals didnít even seem to matter, I thought it was terrific, it was great fun, I think we have a competition tonight."
Sting7 - Nice to see the judges come to Vonzellís rescue there. Clive, they are still amateurs, babe! Even Aretha wasnít full-strength Aretha until she got some years under her! As for Vonzell, that was a fantastic performance. I was sort of thinking what Paula was Ė many times this song was sung on this show, but Vonzell came as close anyone Ė anyone Ė including my beloved Fantasia, to Aretha Franklinís raw power and that piss and vinegar (if I may) that canít be taught, youíre just born with it. This season is not long enough for us to see all there is to see with Vonzell.
Bo Bice, "Within A Dream" (a cappella)
Clive - "It was real risky, it was indeed bold and very courageous of you, but you pulled it off. Bo, youíre getting stronger every single week, and I am making a prediction: we are going to have a great time making a very special album together." (Whoa!)
Randy - "You know what I loved about that? Itís the way you auditioned for the show: the public probably forgets, you sing a cappella, thereís no band, thereís no stage, thereís no this Ė you come in a room and you face us. I love that you returned to this... it was the bomb and it was unbelievable. It was great!"
Paula - "You are a gift... on the inside too, youíre a wonderful soul and the rest of the world is going to experience that."
Simon - "You may have put 34 musicians out of work."
Sting7 - Okay, a lot just happened here. First, Clive has anointed a winner! Weíre not even halfway through the show! Guess what? I picked my winner last week. Bo. Yeah, plenty of outraged emails that I dare make such a prediction. How you like me now? Jeez, I got a chill! That was one of the most amazing performances Iíve ever seen on Idol. It is still resonating in my head. That was just spectacular!
Carrie Underwood, "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All"
Clive - "That song choice was very special to me. I loved the fact that you threw yourself into it, your voice soared. Great job."
Randy - "I said it before, I say it again, Carrie you can definitely sing... you can blow dude!"
Paula - "A great choice of song... you sang it great. Unbelieveable."
Simon - "Carrie, youíve had a great night tonight. I think you sang the first song better. I wouldnít have wanted to follow Bo after that. I think you pushed the song too much in the middle."
Sting7 - Doing those overwrought Jim Steinman numbers is always a risk. Doing an Air Supply song may be Idol suicide. Iím with Simon, I think after Bo, Carrie really felt the pressure and she pushed the middle section with the background vocals and the wordiness. I think Simon was dead-on. I really hate this song. Carrie tried to make it a show-stopper. She was only partially successful. Round two: Bo again.
And, finally, the judgesí choices!
Vonzell Solomon, "On the Radio"
Clive - "You were totally in your element, you gave a very strong performance, Simon picked a real good song for you and you delivered big time!"
Randy - "You are throwing all cares to the wind, youíre having a good time... that was great man, I enjoyed it!
Paula - "I second that Vonzell, way to go Vonzell, keep on having fun!"
Simon - "I echo every word of Clive Davis."
Sting7 - I love the key she started in for this song, and it just floated on from there. Nice number from Vonzell, at times she sounded eerily like Donna Summer! I have no complaints at all.
Bo Bice, "(I Canít Get No) Satisfaction"
Clive - "You really nailed it, you have the right spirit, the right attitude, you have taken three entirely different songs and made them your own. This has been your night."
Randy - "I feel like I been at the Bo concert tonight Ė the albumís already out, itís already triple platinum, Iím at the show! No matter what happens, you rocked the house tonight!"
Paula - "One more week, everybody gets one more week to watch this for free, and then youíre gonna have to pay!"
Simon - "Youíve had a very strong night tonight. For me, Iíve heard all this before at weddings. Loved the first two songs, this was just a bunch of light fluff."
Sting7 - Iím having a hard time tonight, because Bo so clearly reduced Carrie and Vonzell to also-rans! This was unquestionably the Bo Show tonight! I donít remember any contestant since Kelly Clarkson who wrested the show from anyone else on it and dominated it. Just with my half brain, I can tell you every song Bo sang tonight. I have to think a little to remember Carrie and Vonzell. That says something! What a night. I think Bo may have had the greatest night of any Idol contestant Iíve ever seen. Is it too soon to crown a winner? I donít think so. Carrie Underwood, "Man, I Feel Like A Woman"
Clive - "Country pop is your element, it just radiates from you, not only in your voice, but in your face, in your body. You really nailed it, congratulations."
Randy - "Iím just happy to see you have some fun up there... you did your thing! Carrie!"
Paula - "I love when you have fun, I love when youíre smiling, itís going to be tough between the girls! Bo did great tonight." (Paula just plunked Carrie right in the hot seat! Sheís probably right!)
Simon - "First part of the song didnít sound anything like you. The second part, the song worked. I think that was enough to get you into the final."
Sting7 - Iím not so sure, Simon. This was a song right up Carrieís alley, but the low parts in the beginning were scary-bad! She brought it home, but if I had to compare Carrieís excellent start to her stumbling finishes, to Vonzellís stumbling start to her excellent finishes, I would have to give the edge to Vonzell! Itís that last song we all remember, history shows. Iím getting ahead of myself.
Letís get the business out of the way. Bo is back next week and fighting for the title. Who is joining him? My gut is telling me that Vonzell may just narrowly edge Carrie out of that final spot. And what a final it will be! Bo may not want to take that victory lap just yet. Vonzell pushes herself vocally every week. Weíve seen Bo coast from time to time, and it always shows. If Bo is willing to step up his game one more time, he may just walk out of this your new American Idol.
As for Carrie, she is beautiful, she is talented. Her future is secure no matter what. But, I think her Idol campaign is going to come to a close-voted end.
Am I right? Letís see!
Sting7 has been a respected published writer for 16 years, as a music editor, entertainment critic, columnist, and interviewer. He also has a curious love for pro-wrestling! You can email Stinger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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