American Idol 2
by The Trades Staff
May 21, 2003
American Idol 2
by The Trades Staff
May 21, 2003
Mary writes: Thank God this show is nearly over. Damn.
Ruben Studdard -- "A House is Not a Home"
Mary writes: I think Ruben did a very nice job with the song. I have to say that I think Tamyra tore up this song last season, but I like Ruben's version quite a bit. Nice start to the competition this evening.
Amanda writes: I'm surprised that Ruben chose such low-key songs for this evening. I'm especially surprised that he opened with such a low key song. This song is tough to sing, but it doesn't have any truly big moments to wow the audience, and in this final night, Ruben really needed to be more than winsome and charming. I feel that his song choice tonight really hurt his chances.
Molly writes: My gosh -- is it really so hard for them to get new songs for these guys to sing? I have to admit, I thought it was a good song choice for Ruben, though, in the sense of being in his range and his style. I thought he did an okay job, although his pacing seemed off at the beginning of it and the arrangement was nothing to write home about. However, the specter of Tamyra's version was looming large tonight, and my overall feeling was "good," not "great."
Clay Aiken -- "This is the Night"
Mary writes: Okay, this is a disastrous song. Clay is doing the best anyone could probably do with this song, but I definitely got a "St. Elmo's Fire" vibe from the song. It definitely has a '80s feel to it and I can see Rob Lowe and Demi Moore walking through downtown D.C. with this song playing in the background. Nice job with the song Clay, but it is a terrible song. Oh and is it just me, or was Clay's song longer than Ruben's?
Amanda writes: This song was awful. I said to my friend that it sounded like a song from a Disney movie. That said, Clay performed the song well, and it offered him plenty of chances to showcase his voice. It had (hee hee. Hi, Libs!) glory-notes aplenty, and the audience really ate up the big-money moments. I had thought previously that Clay would win, but Ruben's relatively lackluster first performance and Clay's shining moments in his opening frame made me even more positive of the outcome of this contest.
Molly writes: Oh, now, come on. I didn't think this song was that bad. It was a basic, nice pop song. (Or maybe I'm prejudiced for having gone to high school in the '80s and currently living in DC.) I thought that Clay did a great job with it, as well. He applied a light touch, particularly in the beginning, had a straightforward, confident manner, and then poured on the emotion at the end. He really seemed to me like an American Idol. Round One I give to Clay.
Ruben Studdard -- "Imagine"
Mary writes: This is the strangest arrangement of "Imagine" I have ever heard. He is starting to sound a bit raspy while he is singing the song but less raspy than I heard in previous weeks. I like this arrangement, I think but it is quite different from what I'm used to. I think Ruben did a good job with the song. I liked his first song better, but this was good.
Amanda writes: I was again taken aback by Ruben's song choice. This is a song that everyone knows in its purest classic form, and to meddle with the formula at all seems kind of - - can I say sacrilegious here? Will you readers crucify me for this? You get the idea. I didn't love the arrangement, just because I'm not certain that the song should be arranged at all; it's its quiet simplicity that makes it so darn pretty. Ruben sang the song small-ly, despite the arrangement asking more of his voice. Again, I really think that Ruben should have chosen more showy songs to compete better against Clay, whose showmanship is almost as remarkable as his voice.
Molly writes: I'm not generally fond of this song, so for me this rendition was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed it, and thought he did a better job than with the first song. I agree that Ruben sounded small compared to the background music, but I'm inclined to put that towards bad sound management by the technicians, and not Ruben's voice.
Clay Aiken -- "Here, There, and Everywhere"
Mary writes: He did a nice job with the song and I like it a lot better than his first song. The main thing unfortunate about Clay's performance is the bad lighting. Good grief could they have lit him any worse if they tried? Nice lower key performance from him. I like that he didn't power shout the song.
Amanda writes: I'm giggling about Mary's comments because I kept having flashbacks to telling ghost stories at slumber parties when I was a kid -- you know, when you held the flashlight under you chin to make you look spookier? What was the point of that lighting? Is this a scary song? I don't know the song, actually, but Clay sounded fine. I mean, I wasn't wincing or anything, so I suppose it was fine, if a little bland. But life isn't all glory-notes and belting. Sometimes you just have to sing.
Molly writes: Guys, was there a reason you didn't want to invite me to your AI party? I heard a different version from Clay. He sounded -- and I know the word's overused but doggone it I think it fits this time -- pitchy. His high notes weren't working for him, and several of the low ones weren't either. Second round went to Ruben.
Ruben Studdard -- "Fly Without Wings"
Mary writes: This is another terrible song. The "original" songs were just awful. Crappy songs that I don't ever want to hear on the radio. Clay had "St. Elmo's Fire", Ruben had "Sister Act." Seriously, this song belonged in a Whoopi Goldberg movie. Oh, and a choir popped out midway through the song as if to support my point. Producers of "American Idol", don't do this to Ruben and Clay. Don't make them sing these terrible songs. Ruben performed the song well enough. I think he sang this better than "Imagine" and seemed more comfortable singing it.
Amanda writes: I could not agree with Mary more. This sounded like a B- side of some mid-80s song. I was kind of outraged at the disparity between the two songs, Clay with his big notes and Ruben with his gospel choir. There were moments in the song where I thought, "Ruben is doing really well here," but for the most part, I felt cheated on Ruben's behalf. I would have preferred that, as last year, both finalists sang both of the crappy (if only I could swear openly and tell you what I really thought of these songs) original tunes so that a fairer basis for comparison could be gleaned.
Molly writes: I had never heard this song before, and I thought that it was this year's crappy song that they both had to sing. Ruben seemed nervous to me, and his vocalizing seemed to wander a bit, so I figured he was just trying to figure his way out of this song they were stuck with. My jaw dropped at the idea that he in any way chose this song!
Clay Aiken -- "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
Mary writes: Okay, first things first: I absolutely love this song. And I love Aretha Franklin's version of this song. That said, I'm not sure I liked the arrangement of this song as sung by Clay. Clay has the voice to do the song justice, but I didn't like the first verses and at times I think Clay belted a bit too much.
Amanda writes: While I agree with Mary about the beltiness, I again point out that this is a competition, and the way to win it is to "wow" the voters more than your opponent. The beltiness Clay chose leaves a mark with the audience that Ruben's low-key singing will not.
Molly writes: Clay hit it out of the park. That was a great song choice for him, and he worked really well with the gospel choir. While I prefer Clay in his gentle mode, and his vibrato was coming on a little heavy, in this song, his spirit and his showmanship and his power were outstanding, down to the big ol' money note at the end.
Mary writes: Final thoughts: I stand by my comments last week. I believe Clay will win this. In fact, I'm so confident of this, that I would put $$ on it. I do not think this week was one of the finest episodes of "American Idol" though. Clay has definitely performed better and Ruben's voice has taken a beating all these weeks. Good luck to them both and I wish them successful careers. I hope to heaven that I won't hear those original songs ever again though. Kimberley, put out a CD soon because I'll definitely buy it.
Amanda writes: Clay's going to win this thing, and we should all just accept this as fact. I'm far more okay with it than I've been in the weeks leading up to right now, in large part because tonight he showed that he could outperform Ruben when it counts, and that's the mark one should have to have to win this exercise.
Molly writes: Based on tonight's performances, Clay's got it. My hesitation in declaring him the undisputed champion is whether the Kimberley Locke voters will provide a swing for Ruben, whose vocals are closer to hers than Clay's are. It's going to be a close vote -- partly because both of these guys are talented, and partly because the technology of the phone voting process is going to limit the number of votes that can get through.