Our esteemed American Idol critic, Jason Matthews, is unavailable this week so I’m doing a mash-up review of Idol and the “Madge-ical” Glee. It was all music, all night long on Fox tonight.
On Idol, Alicia Keys mentored the remaining seven hopefuls on inspirational songs, this week’s theme. I like how she repeatedly stressed connection to the lyrics because I think that’s what some of these kids don’t get. They think they can wow the judges by hitting high notes and with awesome guitar riffs but great singing for me has always been about the emotion behind the words. Bruce Springsteen may not be a technically perfect singer but man, when he sings about the working-class guy who dreams of bigger things beyond his small-town roots, his voice aches as if he’s pouring his guts out right onto the stage.
First up is Casey James. I like this dude; he’s cool, has a rocker’s voice and can really play the guitar. And I disagree with Simon that Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” isn’t inspirational. It was the first song I heard on the radio after 9/11 and it made me weep. (“If you wake up and don’t want to smile/If it takes just a little while/Open your eyes and look at the day/You’ll see things in a different way/Don’t stop/Thinking about tomorrow/Don’t stop/It’ll soon be here…”) But I do agree Casey isn’t pushing himself and is showing us the same thing every week. He’s a competent performer but at this point needs to blow us away. Nerd verdict: Should be “Causing a Commotion,” not playing it safe.
Lee Dewyze went next with Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.” I think the judges overpraised him. His voice has a built-in roughness that served him well on a song about a poor boy but the connection wasn’t all the way there. When he sang, “He cried out in his anger and his shame,” I felt neither. Lee was earnest, but not quite truthful. Nerd verdict: He needs to go “Deeper and Deeper.”
Tim Urban performed the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Better Days.” He’s definitely improving but I’ll have better days when he’s no longer on the show. Nerd verdict: “Borderline.”
Aaron Kelly followed Tim with R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.” He’s a child so I don’t want to be too hard on him. I’ll just issue my Nerd verdict: “Take a Bow,” then pack your bags.
Siobhan Magnus was fifth, singing “When You Believe,” a duet between Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. The girl’s got nuts picking that song! And surprisingly, I liked it, butterfly outfit and all (she looked like a wood nymph). She had nice control, especially in the beginning. Her signature high note wasn’t annoying this time because she didn’t scream it. But while I enjoy seeing her come out with a different look and style each week, I still don’t get true emotion from her and don’t know what her musical personality is. Nerd verdict: “Who’s That Girl?”
Michael Lynche followed Siobhan with another snooze-inducing performance. His rendition of “Hero” was overwrought like all his other ones in past weeks. Even if the song had been inspirational, it was no longer by the time he hit us over the head with it. Nerd verdict: “Papa, Don’t Preach.”
Crystal Bowersox closed the show with “People Get Ready.” I already had goosebumps in anticipation because that song always rips me up. Then Crystal blew it sky high. It was like she was performing at the Grammys while everyone else was doing their high school talent show. I was half expecting Jeff Beck to come out and back her up. Then she cried, and I felt a lump in my chest. The competition is over. Just crown her now and everybody can start rehearsing for the tour. Nerd verdict: A “True Blue” star.
After the uninspired Idol (except for Crystal), the fun kicked into gear with Glee. The Madonna songs took me back to when I was in school and I found myself singing along loudly to the whole show.
We find out Sue has long idolized Madonna and wants her Cheerios to do routines to the singer’s music. The “Ray of Light” routine was one of my favorite numbers. Performers on stilts were swinging cheerleaders around by their legs! It was like when you were a kid and your dad swung you around like that. Remember how great that felt?
When Will saw this routine, he decided the glee club’s assignment would also be to put together a performance to a Madonna song. Rachel and Finn did a surprisingly successful mash-up of “Borderline” and “Open Your Heart,” feeling a little something for each other in the process but Rachel’s still seeing Jesse St. James, who decided to quit Vocal Adrenaline and move in with his uncle so he can attend McKinley High and be with Rachel.
As Madonna fever spreads, everyone at McKinley seems to want to lose their virginity: Emma with Will, Finn with Santana (well, she suggested it), and Rachel with Jesse. This resulted in “Like a Virgin” being sung by all six characters in a montage cutting back and forth between their respective bedrooms. I’ve heard this song a million times and there was nothing virginal about it even the first time I heard it. But having it sung by virgins on the show made it sensual for me. It gave the song an innocence Madonna never had.
But the showstopper for me was the group performance of “Like a Prayer” at the end. In music (and life), there are certain notes that will make you cry when you hear them. It’s different for everyone and most of us don’t even know what they are. During the “Prayer” number, the gang hit those notes for me and it was a little like finding religion.
Nerd verdict: Got me Into the Groove