Sure, this show suffered from over-production, annoyingly bickering judges and a host who shouldn’t even be hosting a small-town pageant.
But through all that dreck, they managed to come up with three decent finalists. And I watched this via DVR so I was able to fast forward through much of the dross.
Round one, the trio all showed deference to their celebrity duet partners, as in Alanis Morissette, Avril Lavigne and R. Kelly. So for me, that didn’t really help us determine their worth as individual artists.
Then we watched them repeat their original audition songs in fully produced form. And each one in their own way proved why they are here tonight.
Josh Krajcik oozes earnest soul. Chris Rene elevates joy and hope after much darkness with a hip-hop edge. Melanie Amaro is full-on diva, a vocalist of supreme power and grace when she truly lets go.
Each has their negatives. Josh is so nice, he doesn’t seem to have enough edge for a scruffy rocker. And he sometimes sounds too much like Joe Cocker. Rene’s vocals are pretty thin at times. And Melanie sometimes seems to be singing on auto-pilot.
So who will win the guaranteed $5 million?
Melanie would seem to have the edge, having the pimp spot and favorite status from day one. But Josh has a strong base of fans, too. And while polls (which may be taken by a group of people not matching the voting base) show Chris lagging behind the other two, his likely younger fans might Facebook him to victory.
I do have to make a prediction. I say Josh wins though actually, I’d like to see Chris win.
1) Josh Krajcik with Alanis Morissette (“Uninvited”) – Alanis dueted with runner-up Crystal Bowersox in the finals in 2009 with “You Oughta Know.” She’s back! Josh and Alanis work together well. “Uninvited” isn’t quite the masterpiece that “You Oughta Know” and Josh isn’t dominant. What do you expect? This is Alanis’ baby! “You kept your identity,” Paula said. Grade: A-minus/B-plus
2) Chris Rene with Avril Lavigne (”Complicated”) – Really? This song was sung by a bratty 16 year girl in 2002. Not a good fit for Chris. Avril swallows him during the duet moments. He at least is having a good time. Nicole should be penalized for saying, “You made it your own.” Grade: B
3) Melanie Amaro with R. Kelly (”I Believe I Can Fly”) – She seemed very nervous in the early going and it never really soars. R. Kelly was overshadowed by Kelly, as L.A. Reid said. Grade: B
The trio then joined Cirque Du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson Immortal” spectacle, which killed a few minutes.
Now each sings their original audition song and solidify why each one is in the finals:
4) Josh (”At Last” Etta James) – A lovely homage to the ailing singer, armed with just an acoustic guitar and his soulful voice. He goes thankfully with no backup dancers and singers. A truly brilliant performance. “You made it your own,” Reid said, and yes, he should be placed in the penalty box for using Paula’s line, too. “You own that stage,” said a slightly less cliched Paula. “You took that massive risk with the guitar. What I liked about it was it’s all about you,” Simon said. Grade: A
5) Chris (”Young Homie”) – This is the song that got the judges’ attention and it remains incredibly inspiring and catchy. It proves he can write music. “You are magic!” Paula said. “That was your $5 million song,” Simon said. Grade: A
6) Melanie (”Listen” Beyonce) – Melanie doesn’t always connect with the lyrics of the song and can be tentative. But she sings this one practically busting her gut. It still works. “That was a $50 million song,” L.A. raved. “So gorgeous,” Paula said. “I am so so proud,” Simon said. Grade: A
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk