EJ's take on entertainment and travel plus a few pointers in a fairly smart-for-old-person way

Wednesday, April 14

Even Elvis Music & Adam Lambert Can't Make Them Rock

The glitz of Vegas felt like the perfect setting for the glam of Adam. The shimmering Vegas lights served as the backdrop for Adam Lambert to meet American Idol contestants. Season 9’s Top 9 took to the friendly skies to hook up with the Season 8 runner up and work on an Elvis Presley song. American Idol broke new ground marking the first time a former contestant was invited back to the show as a mentor. And, Adam Lambert was honored.

Lambert obviously found the right words to light up a few contestants as Elvis Night proved to be one of the most consistent in overall solid performances so far this season. In typical Adam fashion, he just ‘put it out there’ in a direct honest style. He said his mission as a mentor was to be completely honest but constructive. A few Lambert comments and a recap of April 13 performances follows.

*Crystal Bowersox and “Saved”

What Lambert said: “I want a little more energy; it’s Elvis. C’mon!”

What Bowersox did: She took Lambert’s advice giving up her acoustic guitar for a bedazzled version of an electric guitar and laid down a bluesy/gospel rendition of “Saved”. It was awesome. As Randy Jackson put it, “You got this whole blues vibe thing goin’ on. It was dope.”

Yes, Lambert even challenged the always excellent Crystal Bowersox but he also praised her as an “authentic, real” singer.

*Andrew Garcia and “Hound Dog”

What Lambert said: “I was bored,” was his reaction after the first run through. He advised Garcia to change it up and make the song his.

What Garcia did: He took the risk with a unique arrangement stamped with his trademark style and tempo change. It sounded like the Andrew who pulled off the Paula Abdul cover. Ellen seemed to nail this one with her comment, “I thought you pulled it off. I liked it a lot.” Randy said he “didn’t get it”. Kara and Simon sided with Randy.

*Tim Urban and “Can’t Help Falling in Love”

What Lambert said: He recommended using a falsetto voice at the end because it sounded “sweet”. “I wanted to push him out of his comfort zone.”

What Urban did: He backed off with the falsetto, but it sounded for a quick second like he might try it.

If it wasn’t Lambert who pushed him, then someone else did or Urban made the move himself. He connected with the audience and his emotions giving a sensitive but vocally strong version of the Elvis ballad. His voice sounded the best it’s ever sounded. He wasn’t Bowersox or Dewyze good; but he was good. According to the often gruff Simon Cowell, Urban went from “zero to hero in two weeks”, most likely a reference to making the bottom three two weeks ago.

*Lee DeWyze and “A Little Less Conversation”

What Lambert said: “Smile a little bit”. He said DeWyze has a great voice and he’s “got a chance to do really well”.

What DeWyze did: He went for it. He let the vocals rip with that gritty voice nailing every note. The passion in his voice came through as his confidence took another step up. When Ryan Seacrest asked about the difference in his performance Dewyze came back with, “Talkin’ to Adam helped a lot.” Randy commented, “Dude, you are definitely in the zone.”

*Aaron Kelly and “Blue Suede Shoes”

What Lambert said: “He doesn’t quite believe in himself yet.” He underestimated Aaron and told him he had a great voice.

What Kelly did: He seemed lost for the first half of the song. Instead of “grabbing” the first words aggressively he was barely audible. It seemed like someone fast forwarded the tape because the second half of the song sounded like a different version. The judge’s reactions reflected the performance. They were all over the place. Randy? Half and half. Kara? Liked it. Ellen? Good job but not all the way there. Simon? “Sounded like somebody at a high school doing a concert . . . I wasn’t crazy about it I’m afraid.”

*Siobahn Magnus and “Suspicious Minds”

What Lambert said: “She’s somebody that likes being different and I respect that.” About her song he said, “She’s got the pipes but it seemed a little sleepy to me.” He suggested she pick up the pace of the song.

What Magnus did: She was honored to be compared to Lambert. The first part of her song was weak and undefined. The second part sounded good offering an opportunity in the vocal range to get her patented scream-type note inserted. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly the right note. Close, but not quite. The glammed out pair struck a pose before a commercial break noting a similar hairdo with a puffed up high on top and sleeked back side style. She also sported a Lambert-like over-the-top look with a white skirt and jacket appearing to consist of wide strips of material sewn together in bandage fashion. At least her laced up white boots coordinated with the outfit unlike the Army boots of previous fashion statements. “That girl can sing right there,” was Randy’s response to her performance. Kara thought the performance was erratic and screechy while Simon said it was not one of her better performances. Then Siobahn went to a placed seldom occupied by Idol contestants. She defended her song choice and singing style to the judges saying she didn’t think she needed a label. “I just enjoy singing.” It sounded like a clear response to conflicting advice and mixed signals from the judges.

*Michael Lynche and “In the Ghetto”

What Lambert said: “I think he deserves to get right down to the end. He’s an amazing singer.” He told Lynche to connect and sing with his heart.

What Lynche did: Sang with his heart. Connected. He sang a soft version of the sad song filled with tenderness and spot on vocals. Lynche seems much more effective when he gives up the drama and lets the song tell the story. Simon endorsed Lynche’s cover of the Elvis classic and said it was one of his favorite Lynche performances.

*Katie Stevens and “Baby What You Want Me to Do?”

What Lambert said: He told Stevens she had the right look and the right voice. He suggested she let her angry vibe carry through in her voice. He wanted her to use the frustration and mixed emotions about judge’s comments and show it in her vocals.

What Stevens did: She belted it out. The frustration clearly showed. When she sang the words, What you want me to do?” it was like she was asking the panel of judges. Kara said, “I guess you told the judges.” Simon didn’t like it. Too old fashioned, he thought. Randy said it was sassy.

*Casey James and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”

What Lambert said: “It’s cool.” He suggested building more dynamics.
What James did: He followed Lambert’s advice and gave a solid performance.

Simon got this one right saying the vocals were good but the song was completely forgettable. With all the Elvis songs that fit his voice, this performance was “a wasted opportunity” according to him.

Considering the controversy swirling around the legendary Elvis and the theatrical Lambert, Elvis Night stayed fairly mellow. Ryan made an awkward comment or two, but no big flops or breakout performances, no verbal attacks from Simon, or long self-serving gushes from Kara, just an average night for American Idol. The drama comes April 14 when 2 contestants say farewell. Adam Lambert’s live performance of his hit “Whataya Want From Me” should be the highlight of the week. He will show the newbies what performance is all about.

To review: Crystal is top dog, Lee is next at the food dish, Casey and Mike sniff around at the door, Siobahn already ate and left, Tim wants to run with the big dogs but he’ll get over it, Katie is yippy and scratching to get in, Aaron and Andrew are on the porch. You know the saying, “If you can’t run with the big dogs stay out on the porch.” They are closer to the door that way.