Filed under: Recaps & Reviews
Gavin Rossdale is mentoring our eight intrepid performers on this, Unplugged Week. And what a fine job he does. And he looks mighty fine doing it.
Not looking so fine is our Ben Mulroney, who is wearing what should be a hot outfit (dark jeans, a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a skinny black tie, and casual white shoes) but, like everything else, he can't pull it off. It lands somewhere around awkward and incongruous.
First tonight, it's Sebastian. Gavin wisely counsels him on vulnerability versus bravado. Sebastian is singing "Lucille" by Little Richard. His jeans are very Oliver. He sings as he normally does, only with more passion, in an old-school Sebastian manner (and not just because of the return of The Hat). It's bluesy and on par with his performances during the early rounds. He whips out the harmonica again and looks way hotter than he has since Top 10 started. The judges, like me, are impressed with the passion he injected into the performance.
Earl is doing some Ryan Adams. Awesome. Gavin appreciates Earl's unique vibe and natural instincts. The song is "Two," and Earl's sitting on a stool playing guitar and sounding enough like Ryan Adams not to ruin the song, and enough like Earl to be... Earl. The judges love it and Zack likens Earl to John Hiatt before saying he feels like Earl is singing the soundtrack to his (Zack's) life. Wow; quite a compliment. Jake too would rather just sit and enjoy Earl than judge him.
Gavin thinks Mark is the opposite of jaded, and his tip is to sing every line of the song like it's the only line. Mark's singing Sugarland's "Stay," and he sings reasonably well and it's believable, but it's also incredibly boring. But, as I've said before, I'll take Boring Mark over Dancing Mark any day. The judges appreciate the purity of his tone and the abandon with which he felt his lyrics, but Zack won't be buying the album anytime soon. Me neither, Zack.
Ben calls Zack out on his disco ball jacket. And then says he's sparkly.
Mitch practices with Gavin, who suggests to him that he focus on one person in the audience and really sing to that person, instead of getting so lost in the music. It's all about connection. Mitch ponders finding a cute girl in the audience to feed off. Mitch is singing "Oh Atlanta," which as far as I can tell is an Allison Krauss song. It's kind of hokey and down-home to begin with, and there is accordion and fiddle, and Mitch's voice, which is very indie rock, doesn't suit the idea of the song. Overall, the effect is weird, and Mitch's pants are ugly. I'm uninspired. The judges, save for Sass, who liked it as it was, feel that Mitch needs to step outside his comfort zone and do something risky and spectacular.
Amberly has her mentoring session with Gavin, who is very happy to finally see a girl. He seems quite taken by her, and by her emotional connection to the song, and he gives her a lovely compliment when he says that he hopes she sticks around because the competition is richer for having her there. I completely agree. Amberly's singing "The Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson, a song which I happen to love, Old Navy or no. She's singing without playing an instrument, and she's note-perfect and flirty the whole way through, exactly as she should be. Her voice is perfect for the song, and the song is perfect for her voice. Good show, Amberly. The judges feel likewise.
Gavin thinks Mookie is cool. He does – he calls him cool. There are very few people on earth as qualified to judge cool as Gavin Rossdale. You realize whom he's married to, I'm sure. At any rate, Gavin doesn't have a whole lot of advice to offer because he thinks Mookie's awesome as he is and doesn't need to improve on any areas of roughness, because they suit him. The upshot of it is that Mookie is perfect and cool and Gavin gets totally grinny around him. Right there with you, sir.
Two paragraphs for Mookie; that's how deep my love is at this point. He's singing "Ophelia" by The Band, and lo, it is awesome. I don't even mind the fedora, and see, when Mookie wears tight jeans like that, it looks right. MITCH. Take notes. Note the first: "I am not Mookie." So anyway, Mookie's performance. His vocal is about the best it's ever been, and the performance is just all-around perfect. The judges concur and are a bit more eloquent than I am, commenting on his singing, his confidence, and his maturity in choosing and performing songs. By the way, keep an eye out for the Mookie signs in the audience – some of them are rather epic in their brilliance.
Jully and Theo chat backstage and it's not interesting.
Drew is going to sing "Sunday Morning" by Maroon 5, without playing any instruments. Gavin touches on how Drew's versatility is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, he can do anything; on the other, it's difficult to pin down exactly who he is, and that's something that becomes necessary in this kind of forum. Drew starts out sitting on the piano bench beside Mark Lalama, then wanders over to dance with the backup singers a bit. It's cute and relaxed, and he sings it well. That said, I don't disagree when Jake calls it a bit derivative, though I do disagree with his criticism of Drew's outfit. He's dressed very boy-next-door tonight, but it works with the vibe of the performance. The male judges are underwhelmed for a plethora of reasons, but Sass liked it. You're shocked, I'm sure.
Theo. The last of the eight, finally. I don't know why it seems that the fewer contestants remaining, the longer it takes me to recap the show. Gavin has "a word" with Theo about the trilling, as he calls it (runs, melismas, what have you), and wants him to just sing the song like he would talk to a person, from the heart, and who needs all those runs in their conversation? At least, I think that's the gist of it. I'm really tired. At any rate, Theo sings (and plays) Serena Ryder's "Weak in the Knees" (which you may recall Earl forgot the words to during Top 200). It's beautiful and heartfelt and there's this slight edge to it where it feels like at any second Theo might lose the plot because he's feeling it so deeply. That is a serious mark of a true performer – that ability to keep it on the razor's edge without tipping in either direction. That's what sucks people in. The judges unanimously declare it the performance of the night.
Recap: Sebastian sings relatively poorly; Earl is mellow and looks hot in farmer plaid; Mark sings from his soul, boringly; Mitch is squeaky; Amberly kicks ass; Mookie is perfectly Mookie; Drew looks like this guy I see on transit all the time; and Theo is going to win.
Who did you vote for? Do you agree with me on Theo? And who's toast this week? I think it's Sebastian's week to go, and I foresee Drew and potentially Mitch accompanying him in the Bottom Three. We will see tomorrow!
When I first heard Amberly, I thought her singing style and voice inflections were only comparable to Ingrid Michaelson, so it's absolutely brilliant (to me) that she sang one of her songs. Though I'm not cool with Jake's bashing of Ingrid, because she's incredibly awesome, as is Amberly.
Oh, and I really liked Earl this week, which certainly isn't always the case (even if I always recognize his skill and appeal). And yeah, Theo is really good. I may not 100% dig his style of singing or all the songs he chooses, but he's ridiculously talented.
Too bad that Sebastian likely will go home when he finally shows why he should be there. I'd still pay to see him if he came through the 'Peg any day of the week (along with Amberly and Mookie, and maybe a couple others).
LOVE THEO. Which you knew already. Also, Amberly has been growing on me every week. I think I may have to start voting for her too so as to help secure her spot in the top three.
@ Paul: Theo doesn't do much for me personally, but there is a great deal of talent there, and objectively, I want him to win. I think he's the most deserving candidate, and could potentially be the most successful winner if he takes it, whereas people like Mitch and Mookie, who I like more personally, would likely be more successful without the Idol title. I would love to see a Theo/Amberly/Earl F3, with Mookie rounding out the Top 4.