Disneyland and the right to vote are two pillars of American culture and tonight on American Idol we got both – songs from Disney movies and real-time/same-time national voting. As to that voting, of course I’m disappointed as I am every year as good Idolists go because towards the end, good Idolists have to go. Still, I was correct in writing that Michelle, Jurnee, Dennis and Ada had an uphill battle in this week’s vote given that they all needed to be saved by the judges last week. Indeed, only Jurnee survived despite strong performances from the others.
This week’s guest mentor was musical theatre star Idina Menzel and she was one of the best Idol mentors EVER!!! Her advice was spot-on and addressed each Idolist’s particular weakness or area of improvement while still being very encouraging. She made them all better tonight and possibly for the rest of the competition.
Here are my grades for this week in order of their performance with the names of the eliminated Idolists crossed out.
Maddie (The Bare Necessities from The Jungle Book) Great song choice for her and she did it with an Americana plus vaudeville approach that suits her vocal style and personality. A
Jurnee (How Far I’ll Go from Moana) She got great advice from Idina to not over-think and just rely on the fact that she has a beautiful voice. Unfortunately, she gave her weakest performance to date. It was still very mechanical, lacking in energy and was out of key most of the time. Maybe surviving this week’s vote will give her more confidence going into next week. C-
Cade (Kiss the Girl from The Little Mermaid) I DO NOT understand. He can’t sing. I couldn’t understand a word since he sounds like he’s gargling. He’s going to bring rock back as a genre, Luke? Really? D- (the last note was good otherwise it would have been an F)
Ada (Circle of Life from The Lion King) She got great advice from Idina to “do less diva riffs” and to perform the song in a lower key to “show off the warmth of her voice”. This was my favorite performance from Ada. A
Michelle (Remember Me from Coco) This was a cute song choice that helped (somewhat) mask her many vocal limitations. She can’t do as much with her voice as she thinks she can and her tone vacillates between shrill and nasal. B
Gabby (Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas) This was a HUGE disappointment. She was clearly nervous such that her voice never conveyed the emotional content of the song; and her usual confident stage persona disappeared. This was not the person we had been seeing. C-
Michael J. (Beauty and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast) I have so many mixed feelings about Michael. I am starting to acquire a taste for him as a singer (in addition to his adorable personality) and really get the Frank Ocean comparison that Katy made. But there is a big difference between being able to do a lot with your voice and knowing what to do with your voice (he should listen to some Frank Ocean or Childish Gambino). And his stage mannerisms are too often distracting. I wish the judges would coach him up better. B
Caleb (You’ve Got a Friend in Me from Toy Story) OK. Competent. Casually confident. Nothing special. Good song choice, though. B
Catie (Once Upon a Dream from Sleeping Beauty) My Daughter Cassandra pointed out that it’s a beautiful song whose impact is felt because of the visuals from the movie. Without them, she was concerned that it might be boring, unless (parenthetically added by me) the singer is really, really good – like Celine Dion good. There was nothing at all to fault in Catie’s vocals but I agree with My Daughter Cassandra that, as pure as they were, the performance felt sleepy. And I didn’t really buy the dressing her up as a princess. B+
Dennis (Can You Feel the Love Tonight from The Lion King) Dennis was given and earned The Glory Spot. This was my favorite performance of the night because he did a Disney song NOT like a Disney song. Rather, Dennis added what Lionel called “some BBQ sauce” and turned it into a cool neo-soul cover version of a Disney song – and one of the best known at that. I was actually envisioning it as an album track on, say, a Miguel album. I believe that Sir Elton John would have been proud. Unfortunately, the judges gave Dennis anemic (rushed?) feedback in comparison to all the other Idolists – Katy was eating an apple and spent her time talking about that – and viewers were given virtually no reason to vote for him. Sigh. A
At this point, I remain committed to Maddie and Gabby being the most compelling Idolists in the competition. I keep waiting for Jurnee to give me a reason that she should be there with them.
Next Sunday the theme is songs from Prince. I have extremely mixed feelings about this – Prince is deeply personal – and need time to process it all before next week. My misgivings aside, this will be an interesting challenge for the remaining Idolists.
Until the next time, I hope you get to listen to some good music. I know I will.
 About a prior performance My Daughter Diandra said “he sounded like he was choking on a pill”.