We’re down to the last three, so it’s a big night. “Vonzie” is the underdog. Bo is my favorite. Carrie is the actual favorite.
They’re going to sing three songs each. The first song is the choice of Clive Davis, and he's sitting in on the judges' panel tonight. The second song is the contestant's own choice. The third is chosen by one of the regular judges.
“I’ll Never Love This Way Again” is Davis’s choice for Vonzell Solomon. She’s immobilized by a stiff black dress. She hits the high notes nicely. But there is something cold and meaningless about it. Randy comes up with his usual set of made-up adjectives: “Pitchy… rangy.” Paula: "pitchy" but you ended up “nailing the power.” Simon: you’ve got two more songs.
For Bo Bice, the song is “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” A great choice for him, because it fits his voice but is pop. Davis: “Heartfelt… passionate.” Randy: “That was hot.” Paula: “Pure brilliance.” Simon: “Great, really great.” Simon likes the pop Bo better than the rock Bo.
For Carrie, “Crying.” The beautiful Roy Orbison song. Beautiful! Best Carrie yet. And you know I don’t like her. Beautiful song. Horrid last note. You missed the falsetto end, Clive Davis moans. Randy: “Hot.” Paula: “Poignant.” Simon: “Not sure about that last note … a little wooden… Round 1: Bo.”
For her own choice, Vonzell does “Chain of Fools.” Again, the high notes are a thrill. But it’s missing some feeling. Clive: “You missed the soulful essence of the song.” Randy: “Perfect… in tune .. you made it your own.” Paula: “Nailed.. with gusto.” Simon: “You have the likeability factor.. Terrific… great fun.” Clive was right, but she’s 19. How much can you expect?
Bo will sing his song without the band. “Within a Dream.” I don’t know this song, but he sings it with real feeling. Is it a religious song? (It ends with a cross-shaped lighting effect.) Did Bo dismiss the band because it played so bad? Or was it a real choice? He stands with his hands clasped behind his back. No acting up. All sheer vocal power. Clive: “You took a risk.” Randy: “Unbelievable.” Paula: “You truly are a gift.. a gift on the inside too.” Simon: “You may have just put 34 musicians out of work.”
Carrie sings an Air Supply song. I don’t know this song. It’s yell-y, and I can’t find the melody. The performance is strenuous, with a show-off extra-long note. This is the kind of thing that leaves me ice cold. Clive: “Great job.” Randy: “You can definitely, definitely sing.” Paula: “You really got to power your voice.” Simon: “You may have pushed that song too much.”
Now the judges pick the songs, and Vonzell is given a Donna Summer song, “On the Radio.” Though I just titled a post "On the Radio" yesterday, I don’t really know this song. The judges all acknowledge she was "having fun." Seems they’ve designated her as the loser.
Bo is given “Satisfaction”!!!!! Paula chose the song. I vocalize my approval (all alone here in my hotel room, with my laptop balanced on my knees). Bo leaps out into center stage. He’s got to be able to do this. And he can. Clive: “You’ve nailed it.” Randy: “You rocked the house tonight.” Paula: babbling praise. Simon: “I’ve heard all this before at weddings. … That was just a bit of light fluff.” Well, Simon, Paula made him sing this.
Carrie is assigned “I Feel Like a Woman,” a Shania Twain song, which, of course, I’m not familiar with. The early low notes are incomprehensible to me. Ack! I hate this kind of song. Partly, it’s the band: just a big cacophonic mess. I don’t get the song at all. It isn’t musical. The judges all think this was a typical thing for her and that she did it right. Simon complained about the weird, early low notes, but thinks she’ll make it.
All in all, it looks bleak for dear Vonzell.
UPDATE: The impoverished language of the judges was quite obvious last night. One judge came up with "nailed" early on, and the word turned up in half the judges' comments after that. Simon's big slam of the night -- that Bo sounded like a wedding singer -- is one he's used approximately every other week. On alternate weeks, the reference is to a singer in any local bar. For a real stretch, he comes up with "karaoke." I'd love to see him for once concede that it's the nature of the show itself to push the singers into such performances. Or that it's the nature of the show itself to drain singers of real emotion and to cause them to rely on oversung long notes and ugly-sounding early low notes leading to thrilling late high notes.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Rereading this post, I notice Simon announced the winner of "Round 1," but then refrained from even mentioning the terms "Round 2" and "Round 3." I think that's because Bo, his winner for the first round, won Round 2 even more decisively, and the only interesting question became which of the two female singers was coming in second. And, really, almost nothing was said to push us to see Carrie or Vonzell as especially needing or deserving our votes. It was also interesting that the footage gleaned from the visits to the home towns was not used to try to inspire voting. I wonder if this was because it would have favored one of the contestants -- Vonzell? -- in a way that would tend to make this crucial vote more about personal warmth than actual singing.