Idol: Standard Issues

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On last night’s American Idol, the songs sung by the top nine weren’t necessarily hits of this week’s celebrity mentor Tony Bennett. They weren’t even technically all standards, the genre for which Bennett’s known best. Basically, the song choices could be summed up simply as "old." Considering that Mr. Bennett will turn 81 this year, "old" was sort of the theme for the evening.

Blake Lewis kicked it all off with "Mack the Knife." Maybe it’s because popular versions of this song are sung by Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darrin — who each lent their own smooth, cool, effortless air to it — that its violent lyrics are generally ignored. It was cute when Mr. Bennett told Blake during their mentoring session that although "Mack the Knife" is "pre-rap," it’s still really "gangsta." The assumption was the he was being a cute old man, trying to relate to Blake in language that the younger man would understand. But it turns out that Tony was totally right. That song is straight-up gangsta! It’s about a crazy murderer. And as much as I hate to admit it, Blake killed with it. It was really nice to see a performance in which he wasn’t beat boxing, although he still worked in his stupid RLS dance style.

It looks like Blake is going to give Melinda Doolittle a run for her money. Melinda, of course, shined with her rendition of "I’ve Got Rhythm." She held it together, much like her control-top hose (the top of which appeared to be cutting her body in half). Jordin Sparks also seems to be toward the head of the pack. In an interview with People, Ryan Seacrest said that Jordin was his pick to be crowned the next Idol. Tony Bennett made the unintentionally hilarious comment, "Jordin is terrific. She sang in tune, which is rare these days."

Was he speaking of pop music in general or was that specific to this competition? Either way, the remark certainly applied to everyone’s favorite worst contestant, Sanjaya. With his hair slicked back, our hula boy tried to butch it up last night by donning some facial stubble and a Pacino-esque Scarface suit for his performance of "Cheek to Cheek." You know, this song is getting pretty popular on the reality TV circuit. Just a few weeks ago, a woman lacking a leg danced to it, and now this week, a  young man lacking any vocal talent sang it.

Tune in tonight to see which not-Sanjaya contestant will be sent packing.

–Tracie Egan

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