The Tuesday Twelve: Music Artists That Should Have Retired Tuesday, Nov 30 2010 

Brett Favre, man. This guy, once a storied “future Hall of Famer,” is now a cautionary tale of pathos and hubris. An individual less self aware could not be found outside of the Montag/Pratt household. Why play into your golden years? Why undo all the good memories of your prime play? Why not take the advice of Jerry Seinfeld and quit when on top?

But this isn’t about the crybaby quarterback. I know a bit about baseball and the 1984 Olympics, but other than that my sports knowledge is stereotypically girly. So take the Favre tale as a metaphor for a topic on which I have a better base of knowledge and a definite opinion — the world of music.

For every Favre or Steve Carlton or Michael Jordan that plays pro sports a little too long, there is a once-iconic rock and roller who loses luster by merely BEING SUCCESSFUL for too damn long. The whole Stones/Beatles debate is a tale for another time, but suffice to say the four lads from Liverpool are in PART “fab” because their time was so fleeting. 1970, they start to enter their 30s, and they’re done. No more new Beatles music. Nothing to kill the sweet taste left in everyone’s proverbial mouths by Abbey Road and SPLHCB.

Then there are Mick and Keith, still strutting around arenas and charging $300 a head despite the fact that all albums in “recent” years (i.e., since 1983) have been non-events at best and lambasted at worst. And in addition to the Stones, there are 11 other artists (and certainly more) that should have quit while they (or he/she) were/was ahead. (more…)

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The Tuesday Twelve: Best 90s One-Hit Wonders Tuesday, Nov 16 2010 

I’m planning a little soiree for next month that has nothing to do with Christmas. It’s adjacent to my birthday, but I’m not letting anyone know that. Several of my best mates from the 90s era are making the trip in so I’m giving the party a 90s theme. Doc Martens on the feet, Clearly Canadian in the glasses (I wish – those little blue bottles are tough to track down). The biggest challenge, aside from finding unexpired Zima, is whittling down the playlist to a rocking, solid five or six hours.  Right now, I’ve got an iTunes playlist that is roughly twice that.

This decade, while somewhat underrated, was SOLID.  It signaled the beginning (or at least the mass appeal) of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Counting Crows, Nine Inch Nails, Green Day, Dave Matthews Band, and Dr. Dre. It had Achtung Baby, Nevermind, and the second-best Duran Duran album to date.

It also had a solid slew of one-hit wonders. It took quite a lot of soul-searching to get this list down to 12, let alone trim the entire decade to just 90 or so songs. Ain’t no party like a 90s party because a 90s-party playlist never stops.

Honorable Mentions: Cannonball, The Breeders; Got You Where I Want You, The Eels; Save Yourself, Stabbing Westward; The One and Only, Chesney Hawkes.

12. Cantaloop, US3. Funky and catchy. The horn section and the crisp, staccato rap made this one a unique song for the early 90s.  Perhaps the most soulful of all earworms.  It’s the song Tony Toni Tone only wishes they’d recorded first. Bitty bitty bop.

11. Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, Crash Test Dummies. From the first note out of Baritone Brad Roberts’ mouth, one knew this song was going to be different.  The vaguely creepy verses crest into a senseless chorus.  Their follow-up single, “Afternoon and Coffeespoons,” was much livelier, if not outright better, but it never charted.

(more…)

From Treasure to Trash: My Prized CD Collection Thursday, Sep 23 2010 

Oh, how I miss you. Sort of.

Mr. Glib and I are nearing the end of a large-scale construction project. On our end, one of our responsibilities was unloading a pre-fab storage shed and sifting through everything before re-loading everything into a permanent storage structure. It was fun re-discovering high-school yearbooks, old photographs, and that Bundt pan I never could locate. Also re-opened? The proverbial Pandora’s box containing the ghosts of music past: 2-1/2 cardboard boxes full of compact discs. (Oddly enough, Aerosmith’s Pandora’s Box isn’t among my discs).

When I was in college, nothing in the tangible realm was more important to me than my CD collection.  Moving into the dorm, apartment, or sorority house each August, I would mount my CD racks on the wall and unload my collection – alphabetically of course – before I’d even make my bed or dust off my puffy-painted picture frames. Step two to every move-in was hooking up the CD player (and dual-cassette deck). A great portion of my allowance went toward CDs – new and used, popular and fringe. God, how I loved diving into a new set of liner notes and the feel of ripping off the cellophane and peeling off those annoying stickers. Remember when CDs used to come packaged in long rectangular cardboard boxes? Well, I used them as decorations.  I may still have the back side of Ugly Kid Joe’s “America’s Least Wanted” tucked in a folder somewhere. (more…)

Today on Pandora: Counting Crows, BNL, Journey… Thursday, Sep 2 2010 

I recently switched jobs and am heading up my own department.  Which is to say, I’m the only member and don’t have people sitting that close to me.  Good for productivity, and it also means I can jam out a little bit when not actively focused on writing something brilliant.

While I prefer some things about streaming-music-site Slacker, I’ve been giving Pandora a chance lately for variety.  Throughout the work day, I have banal thoughts about the music to which I’m listening. And as having my Twitter feed up at the office would be painfully obvious, I’ve tucked away my thoughts to record them here.

Today’s station:

Based off of the song “We Are the Normal,” with the variety addition of the artist Hanson. We are the Hanson.

Today’s commentary:

Live, Lighting Crashes. Okay, this is the musical equivalent of a shaggy-dog joke.  I suffer through it for six-plus minutes, all building up to that part at the end I sort of love, when Ed Kowalczyk really rocks it up a notch, taking an extra octave or two.  “Oh, I feel it coming ba-ack a-GAIN…. YEAH-EAH-EAH.”  But you can’t just fast-forward to this spot.  You must slog uphill through the lower-register sadness and the placenta talk.

Journey, Don’t Stop Believin. Dear Lord, this song, with the Laguna Beach and the The Sopranos and the Glee. Will it never end.  Apparently not, and apparently it jives with GGD and Hanson.  Catchy as hell?  Certainly. Strangely inspiring?  Yes.  Crowd please?  Hell to the of course. But the lyrics?  Make NO sense. You think it’s a song about a small-town girl and a city boy.  But then it’s all streetlights, people, and never-ending movies.  Oh-oh-OH!  And don’t stop believing in what?  Finding true love in a smokey room?  Getting the f*ck out of Detroit?  No one knows.

Barenaked Ladies, One Week.  Before Pat Monohan rhymed “soul sister” with “Mr. Mister” (but around the same time he rhymed “alligators” and “carburetors”), these chubby lads from Canada DOMINATED at the nonsensical-rhyme game.  “Watching X-Files with no lights on, we’re dans la maison …. Like Harrison Ford I’m getting Frantic, like Sting I’m tantric.”  And etc. Another song that makes no sense at all.  But it was their easily their biggest-ever hit. Figures.

Counting Crows, Mr. Jones. Speaking of nonsensical rhymes. This bad boy of mid-90s goodness doesn’t rhyme at all. Think about it.  It’s a stream of consciousness, potentially drug-induced rambling.  While it is clean, it isn’t neat. And this makes me like it more than I did when it first came out and I was pretending I knew all the lyrics while standing in a soon-to-be-out-of-the-closet Chi Phi’s room with two sorority sisters who were much bigger Crows fans than I.  ANYWAY.

One Headlight, The Wallflowers. “This place is cold, feels like Independence Day.” This song is pretty and well-crafted, Jakob, but this lyric is problematic.  You and the boys are from the U.S. – Southern California, no less – so I imagine your “Independence Day” is, like mine, on July 4.  When it is never very f*cking cold.  Unless you mean a figurative independence, a la Martina McBride, in which case – lame! – and then why do you bolster the analogy with a “parade” reference.

The Ataris, Boys of Summer. My friend Taylor said recently that he likes the swap of “Deadhead sticker” to “Black Flag sticker.”  I feel one one hand like it is trying to hard.  On the other, it’s swapping a dirty-hippie reference for a dirty-punk-rock one.  Which I guess I can appreciate.  A little bit.

Trying my Pipes on a New, if Unappreciated, Rock Anthem Monday, Jul 5 2010 

Pink Houses

Ain't That America?

In which patriotism swells at karaoke until it is unseated by a pop princess.

I thought I’d try a new tune at my karaoke haunt on Saturday night (is it a “haunt” if I go there three times a year?)  Anyway, it was Fourth of July weekend, the vague odor of fireworks and hot dogs was in the air, and I thought I’d add a new tune to the repertoire … John(ny) (Cougar) Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses,” which, while not exactly complimentary to our great land, is a poetic picture of Americana and a “classic” (27 years old!) rock tune people can get behind.  “Home of the free-eee, YEAH!”

First, I practiced in the bathroom at home to make sure I could hit all the notes in my range (sign one that I may have a problem).  I anticipated my big debut all evening and worried that every man, woman, or beast who stepped up to the mic would take my song before I had my turn. After all, it was such a winning idea, I thought.

And then?  A one-two punch of awkwardness.  The KJ (karaoke jockey), a very patient, hospitable, lawyer-by-day, chain-smoking-KJ-by-night, fellow, asked if he could sing it with me.  Ummm.  You can’t say no to this guy who is deigning to let you take his “stage” (i.e., corner of a dank dive bar), but I prefer to be a solo act, especially when attempting a new song, which happens like twice a year.  But whatever. He sings well enough and takes a clue to back off if glory notes are involved.

So it’s important to know that this KJ likes to alternate the karaoke performances with dance tunes.  So you’ll have a guy singing Whitesnake followed by Flo-Rida singing about Apple Bottom jeans.  Makes for a fun atmosphere, but one wrought with uncomfortable segue, as dancers may not like the proverbial buzz kill of their dance tune being switched off for a down-tempo song about a black man with a black cat living in a black neighborhood. So my “Pink Houses” debut went something like this …

On the turntable: “Party in the U.S.A.” … crowd goes wild … hips shaking like yeah …

KJ: “Up next!  [Lucy]!”  I approach the mic. 

On the turntable: “See You Again,” the first bonafide Miley hit and easily the most infectious pop tune of the past two years … crowd erupts and goes more wild … this continues for 15 seconds until…

KJ: “Ooops … sorry about that.  Uhhh…”

Me: “Well, this isn’t awkward at all.”

On the turntable: The corn-fed-rock strains of “Pink Houses.”  Ahem.

On the dancefloor: What the what?

Ultimately, even without the lighter-elevating, fist-pumping crowd support I’d hoped for, I was proud of my performance.  I sang it well enough, hit (almost) every note, infused the right amount of passion, and even got a few people to remember it was Fourth of July weekend.  But the crowd?  Well, they still wanted Miley back.  Next year maybe my patriotic ditty should in fact be “Party in the U.S.A.” and kill two birds with one stone.

I still love you, JCM.  Actually, way more now than I did when I was 10 years old.  Another sign that I am growing begrudgingly curmudgeonly.

Hope everyone had a stellar Fourth.  Can’t wait for Labor Day.

What’s Your (Boy Band) Personality Type? Thursday, Jul 1 2010 

Jordan, Danny, Joe, Donnie, Jon

If there’s one talent I have, it is determining which New Kid (on the Block) someone was a fan of 20 (!) years ago. The other day at work, I pegged a girl as a Donnie fan, and could have wagered a month’s pay on this prediction.  It’s simple really, and I’ll let you in on the secrets if you want a fun-slash-lame bar game.

Let’s start with my favorite, Joe “Joey Joe” McIntyre. The youngest by a few years, fair-haired, blue eyed, vocals on the edge of puberty, just plain-out adorable and sweet.  And the most likely to be a virgin (as though any of them resisted groupies for long).  Nonthreatening. Hammy.  With a twist of Oliver Twist. Joe fans are the girls who date younger men, love the nice guys, and go for clean-cut, corn-fed cuties.

Next up, Donnie “Donnie D” Wahlberg, without whom we may never have known Dirk Diggler.  Donnie was the “bad boy,” although if you are really that bad, you either wouldn’t be singing lead on songs like “Cover Girl” or you are in deeply self-loathing (as may have been indeed been the case with A.J. McLean, see below).  In Donnie’s case, “bad boy” meant an earring, a motorcycle, rumors of (gasp!) drinking, and … oh … those pesky allegations of attempted arson.  No big.  These days, Donnie is quite the nice looking older chap, has a decent resume (although dwarfed by that of his kid brother) and his shit together.  Donnie fans may have had a nose ring in high school and like the “alternative” guys, or at least guys with tattoos and/or in bands.

Then there is Jordan Knight.  If we deny his disgusting and bloated performance on The Surreal Life, we are left with a good looking simpleton and front man.  Jordan was the one who shed his shirt in front of a wind machine, whose dimples could make even the Moms in the audience melt, and who took the leading role more often than he didn’t.  Jordan fans can be one of two things. Either they were fringe New Kids fans, who didn’t know much else, or they are the girls who maybe aren’t that bright and assimilate with the pretty face, empty head.  (No offense to Jordan fans! Ahem.)

Jon Knight? Jordan’s long-suffering older brother.  He was “shy.”  He was “quiet.”  He was “mature.” He was boring!  For years there have been gay rumors about Jonathan, which actually makes some sense.  Jon fans are the hardest to figure out.  Sometimes he attracted Donnie girls that were a little offput by the “craziness” but still wanted to be alternative.  And obviously, shy girls would be drawn to him as well.

And finally, Danny Wood. Okay, in all my time as a “hardcore” Kidophile, I never met one fan of the completely Simian Danny (who has grown into his features and looks better these days by a country mile).  Perhaps using performance-enhancing drugs (and the performance he was enhancing was his dancing … and lifting weighs in videos), Danny rarely sang and rarely had solo pinup shots in Bop.  I would imagine the girl who claimed to be a Danny fan is, like all Andy Taylor fans, first of all lying, and second of all trying real damn hard to be contrarian.  To which I would say, sweetheart, he’s still a New Kid, even if he’s the ugly New Kid.

This formula extends with great ease to the Backstreet Boys:

Nick Carter = Joe (young, cute, blonde)

A.J. McLean = Donnie (bad to the bone, tortured)

Kevin Richardson = Jon (older relative to Brian, quiet, lame)

Brian Littrell = Jordan (front man, “cute,” minus a heavy degree of douchery)

Howie Dorough = Danny (uhhhh … whatever. Have you seen the “I Want it That Way” video?)

And some extent, even the Beatles fit the mold.  Paul is Jordan/Brian, John is Donnie/AJ, George is Jon/Kevin, and Ringo falls somewhere in between the youthfully/goofy and the not-so-attractive. Ringo, incidentally, nabs my favorite slot there as well.

So who had the right stuff for you?

Name that Lyric – The Friday Lyric Quiz Returns! Friday, Jun 25 2010 

Hint!

So back in April, 2001 – good God, that’s nine years ago – I began a silly little game. Every Friday, I sent out snippets of song lyrics from 15 different songs. Just to my close friends.  Just a “lyric quiz” of songs from the past 21 years (since 1980 … yes, that would now be the past 30 years, for those keeping score).

The distro list grew.  Friends of friends got added, as did strangers.  I began posting the quizzes to my old blog, and traffic would spike (relatively speaking, of course) on Fridays.  I started adding themes (“Songs with Girls’ Names,” “Bands With Bald Singers,” “Songs with Animals in the Title”).  And then!  BAM!  Book deal.  Revenue-banking web site. A spot on VH1 I Mother-F*cking HEART the 90s!  Well, so none of that last part is true, as it turns out.  In actuality, I was faithful and loyal to the project for eight years and quit, quite unceremoniously, last March.  I felt out of touch with the music of today (as I’ve noted here previously), I was slammed at work, no one was “playing along” with the quizzes anymore, and it had become more of a burden than a hobby.

And yet, I miss doing them. While certainly not an original idea, it was my unoriginal idea, and it was something people expected from me (even though I heard nary a complaint when I stopped sending them).  So what better place to reinvent them than here, my blog that five people read?  Spread the wealth, Lucy.  SPREAD the WEALTH! But I’m not going to overextend myself – I’ll do 10 quips a week, instead of five, and for all of my anonymous readers out there, I’ll mix in (not on Fridays) snippets from an old quiz – a classic rewind, if you will. (more…)

School of rock subjectivity Wednesday, Apr 21 2010 

Ummm hi.  Remember me?  Probably not, and fair enough.  I officially like two Idol contestants, I think Whole Foods workers can be (gasp!) elitist, and I’m convinced a time-traveling Joshua Jackson from 2035 has gained 30 pounds and rides my train every day.

My Facebook page has been abuzz the past two days with rabid debate over the “worst” bands.  Others may disagree, but I feel a discussion of this dubious distinction has to come with certain ground rules.  One, said band has to have had a degree of mainstream success – say, three top-40 hits.  Two, one must automatically exclude purely commercial experiments (Milli Vanilli, NKotB, even perhaps The Monkees).  Three, possibly also exclude bands that don’t take themselves seriously and are unapologetically making pop for pop’s sake (Color Me Badd, Ace of Base).  So perhaps the real anti-superlative here is “Worst ‘Rock’ Band That For Some Reason Doesn’t Know How Bad They Are.”

This launched into a debate between “worst” (Creed) and “overrated” (Zeppelin), which are in no way the same thing.  Overrated means more people (critics and listeners alike) like the act than should; “worst” means it is unfathomable that said group had three hits, not to mention a legion of fans.  Maybe The Stones are overrated; that doesn’t mean Sticky Fingers should have NEVER BEEN MADE.  At any rate, I think the early victors were Starship (I support), Air Supply (I don’t support; they were just the most successful soft-ass-rock band from their time), Nickelback (CLEAR. LY.)

And then this devolved into definitions of quality versus personal preference.  I will listen with pleasure to “Wannabe” or “Bye Bye Bye” or Mandy Moore’s “Candy” with TREMENDOUS enjoyment, as much as I know the lyrics are vapid, the music is overproduced, and the vocals are nothing special.  It doesn’t mean I’m not entertained.  On the flip side, I can’t take more than four minutes of Pink Floyd but I understand why they are important and significant.

So what does “worst” mean, really?  Is any act really undeserving of success if someone finds them entertaining?  If Rob Thomas bellows in the woods and one person appreciates it, is he allowed to continue irritating the masses?  Do I need to be more tolerant? After all, I want people not to judge Hanson based solely on “MmmBop,” so why do I judge Creed based on their handful of hits? Because they are f*cking terrible, is what I really want to say.

Idol Thoughts – Season 9, Top 10 Wednesday, Mar 31 2010 

So this is like 23 hours late and my last blog was an Idol-related post.  I need to get my sh*t together and share more meaningless thoughts.  Until then … THIS.  Is American Idol. 

Man, remember when Usher was a flaming a’hole on Punk’d and essentially sold his pre-adolescent brother/legal ward down the river?  NEITHER DOES USHER.  He’s smooth over everything tonight, though, and Ryan is delightfully dapper in sunglasses and cracking jokes here and there.  Maybe the whole Ricky Martin thing has him manic.  This is American Idol.  Randy is wearing some sort of argyle Garanimal.  And I yawn. 

Sioban Magnus – “Through the Fire,” OPB Chaka Khan.  “I’ve loved you since age 6!”  Way to make Usher feel utterly irrelevant at age 30.  Her outfit is laughable, all tube socks and fake Chucks mixed with an assymetrical evening goan and a faux-Princess-Leia hairdo.  Hideous monster.  Her voice, all runs and squeaks and breathy disaster, isn’t much better.  Her crutch of screeching has grown old (Simon agrees with me) and her pitch is way off tonight.  Luckily, she’s in the first spot so maybe people won’t remember this performance, per se, they’ll just remember liking her. 

Casey James – “Hold On, I’m Coming,”  OPB Sam and Dave.  That’s what she said.  Typical Casey.  Safe but rugged vocals, capable gui-tar strumming, a bit more of a robotic smile than usual.  I do like his tone, though, and Lord knows the show needs some rock to carry us through the next few weeks when Aaron and/or Katie are still with us. 

“Big” Michael Lynche – “Ready for Love,” OPB India.Arie.  Big Mike’s the first of the Top-12 to assume the creepy halo glow, but he’s set up behind the judges quite arbitrarily.  Too much vibrato, as I always say.  Just SING!   I can barely tell where the notes are supposed to go.  His voice is certainly strong and pretty, but there is too much flourish.  Toward the end, where he pushes into his chest voice a bit more, I’m slightly more entertained, though I wish he’d pick something more up-tempo for a change. 

Didi Benami – “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted,” OPB Jimmy Ruffin (thank you, Wiki, I only know the Paul Young version) .  Oh, Didi.  The crying is not becoming and Usher could not care less about your mental frailty.  She looks lovely – the makeup, the dress, the hair.  And her voice is strong and pure until about halfway through, when she tries to Siobhan things up a bit and “pushes” (tm Ellen) a little too hard.  Decent song choice, decent performance, if a tad old-fashioned as the judges point out.  Still liked her Stones’ performance best of all.   

Tim Urban – “Sweet Love,”  OPB Anita Baker and detested by Lucy for about 20 years.  Ummm.  BLINK, Tim.  You look like Clay Aiken or Zac Effron.  His vocal doesn’t sound terrible in the chorus – strong and rich – but the low-register notes in the verses are a slight challenge.  I hate this song like poison, it reminds me of depressing Sunday nights in 7th grade when I dreaded band the next day, and Tim is certainly not the best singer here, but I don’t have a problem with this performance as a demonstration of vocal ability.  Good range, controlled tone.  Just get the eye-f*cking under CONTROL, man!  Randy? Shut your Garanimal-hole. 

Andrew Garcia – “Forever,” OPB Chris Brown.  Hmmm.  Suspect song choice on a family show, for God’s sake.  But at least Andy’s back with the acoustic guitar and not dancing around like an awkward gigilo.  I’m sort of bored – is it possible his voice isn’t really that good, it just sort of has that contemporary vibe and he highlights it with unusual song choices?  I think that is, in fact, probable.  He hits wrong notes all over the place in his low register and doesn’t demonstrate much range overall.  But I do agree with Randy that it’s the best in a while, because he seemed comfortable for once. 

Katie Stevens – “Chain of Fools,” OPB Aretha Franklin.  Wow!   What an original choice!  I’ve only heard this like 90,000 times in the last eight seasons of Idol.  Haaaate.  She’s gone from virgin to Madonna (circa 1984) and looks not unlike myself at age 8 dressed up in my Mom’s cast-off nightgowns and costume jewelry.  Her voice is a bit shrill and all up in her throat, Shakira style.  She’s trying to walk the stage with confidence, but looks a tad foolish, “If I’m being honest” (tm Simon).  I mean … better than I would be at age 17 in front of millions of folks, but ugh.  So tired of the baby munchkins. 

Lee Dewyze – “Treat Her Like a Lady,” OPB The Temptations.  Usher :hearts: Lee!  I still don’t forgive you for Punk’d, RAYMOND.  Dave Matthews-esque vocals morph into strong, powerful, rock vocals akin to a DAUGHTRY or a COOK.  Ladies Love Cool Lee, keep it up.  This was your moment.  Just stellar.  Love Simon and your drama. 

Crystal Bowersox – “Midnight Train to Georgia,” OPB Gladys Knight and the Pips. Crystal on piano – the big “surprise” of the night.  Simple, soulful, and using the back-up singers to the best of their ability at first.  And like so many of Crystal’s show-stoppers, she swells at the end, shows off her big vocals, and wows everyone.  It wasn’t her best performance of the season, but it was, as usual, one of the best two of the night.

Aaron Kelly –   “Ain’t No Sunshine,” OPB Bill Withers.  What is going on with the Danny Zuko hair.  For as many times as this child has gotten his hair cut, you’d have thought someone would suggest an eyebrow trim.  He’s not murdering the song – all the notes are right, basically – but there is no SOUL here.  Has he ever faced a lack of sunshine in the absence of anyone?  Zoink.

Didi may be in trouble, but will The Powers That Be let another girl go home? If rigged, which it certainly is, then maybe … I just don’t know.  Andrew?  Baby Tim? 

 

“Idol Thoughts” – Season 9, Top 11 Tuesday, Mar 23 2010 

Miley Cyrus as a mentor.  A  MENTOR (or a men-tar[d]), as she says).  I’m sure Andrew and Big Mike and Crystal will take very kindly to being “taught” by a 17-year-old.  Fantastic.  THIS.  Is American Idol.

Lee Dewyze – “The Letter,” OPB The Box-Tops and popularized by Joe Cocker.  Damn. My favorite guy in the death-knell number-one spot. Miley is giving him the eye-f*ck up and down and says what I’ve been saying for week – great voice, sub-par stage presence. And AK points out to me that Miley is in hot pants while Lee is wearing a hoodie and leather jacket – who’s wrong here? He’s trying to Hicks it up a bit, strolling suavely up and down the damn place in a pseudo-suit though is clearly more comfortable rocking a Cars tee shirt and holding a six-string. The vocals are smokey and strong, with fewer pitch problems than usual. Judges are split, Simon repeats his new mantra (“Have a moment [like this]!”).  Lee’s still getting my vote.

Paige Miles – “Against All Odds,” OPB Phil Collins.  Oh, dear. This never ends well for people.  Ugh.  Are these actual notes she’s singing?  It just sounds like breath pushed through a cracked wooden pan flute.  When she gets into her chest voice, she hits a couple – literally, a couple – of fine-sounding notes.  But all in all, an UTTER mess.  Judges agree that she was horrendous; will she get sympathy votes?  It’s a distinct possibility, because they ripped her absolutely to sheds.  Not undeservingly.

Tim Urban – “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” OPB Queen. What can one say. It’s Tim. He’s cute as a button, has a smooth tone, and is perfectly likable in his nautically-themed outfit. The pitch seemed fine, but there wasn’t a whole lot of “oomph.”

Aaron Kelly – “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” OPB Aerosmith and ruined by Mark Chestnutt. NERD. Ahem. I saw this song coming up the street in a cab. I think he started too soon (that’s what she said) – but if so, the band caught up post haste. So while Aaron is wee, and annoying, and nearly everything that is wrong with music and America in general, his voice isn’t super terrible (especially given the laryngitis). And the ladies love him, because the ladies are idiots. Whatever.

Crystal Bowersox – “Me and Bobby McGee,” written by Kris Kristofferson, performed by Gordon Lightfoot and made famous by Janis Joplin. Predictable song choice, but absolutely spot-on beautiful. The beginning is quiet and angelic, the end is powerful and literally gives me chills. She’s one of the best contestants on this damn show, ever. Done and done.

“Big” Michael Lynche – “When a Man Loves a Woman,” OPB Percy Sledge. Again with the predictable song choice. My typical problem with Big Mike is overload on the vibrato, and runs all over the place, and that’s true this time around once again. His tone is pleasing as always, however, and he commands the stage like the giant he is. I’m not sure … he’s talented, and seems like a nice guy (did you know he’s a new father?) but something about him is not quite doing it for me.

Andrew Garcia – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” OPB Marvin Gaye but also performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Were they given a list of 25 songs from which to choose? Same shit, different season. In the words of my 24-year-old buddy at work, Andrew is “Supes Totes Awks” without his guitar. The boy pointed to his eye when he said “tears,” people. To his ear when he said “heard.” My f*cking God. There is something about his voice I still like, but the kid is out of his element something fierce. He is off the rails and not long for this world. So sad!

Katie Stevens – “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” OPB Fergie. Well, at least someone is doing something released in the last 25 years. And her hair is so shiny! She sounds fine, sometimes, but also like every young girl who’s been on this show for nine seasons from Carmen Rasmusan to Mikaleh Gordon and everyone ever since. GUTTURAL TONES take over as the song wraps up. And she’s wearing stupid neon suspenders and a peace sign tee shirt (“PEACE RULZ, y’all!”) Ugh.

Casey James – “The Power of Love,” OPB Huey Lewis and the News, and arguably the best song EVER!? I like his rockin’ version; it is making me smile, as does the staccato horn section. Again, his performance was great, his voice was fine, but not showcased as brilliant. One of my favorites of the night.

Didi Benami – “You’re No Good,” OPB Linda Ronstadt. Not sure what is going on … she’s a little uncomfortable and a little off-key at the beginning but pulls it together, a bit, toward the end. Why is everyone singing these hacky, ancient songs?  Again, I wonder who her fan base could be.

Sioban Magnus – “Superstition,” OPB Stevie Wonder. YAWN. What list were these kids given? Only Casey picked something not Idol-esque. Blah, blah, blah. Strong vocals, weird, screech. Side note: all these girls were stuck on a treadmill and are dropping pounds. Please, what is the Idol diet?

I’m just not that excited this season.  Except by Crystal.  And I still like Lee as well.

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