Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vienna Waits for You

An extraordinary week on American Idol - the theme was The Billy Joel Songbook, and it didn't end up feeling dated. Several contestants really made the songs their own, including my three top favorites.

Elise Testone is the oldest contestant -- 28 -- and easily the most sophisticated. She's my favorite for her bluesy rasp, her unbelievable musicality, her range and passion, and her tremendous sense of rhythm. And watch/listen how beautifully she works her voice with the piano -- seamless, touch of swing -- to make the best-ever version of "Vienna":

Phillips Phillips is just so his own, excellent man. At age 19 his voice sounds eight to twelve years older, but his energy and edge is for real. His radical re-making of "Movin' Out" is the coolest this song has ever, ever been:

At age 16, Jessica Sanchez is a phenom. Yes, she has crazy range, (clearly) great training and God-given vocal chords, but she also has a surprising bluesy/urban strain in her and it belies her age. She's clearly the most marketable of the three, ready to be a young fashion icon as well as a musical one. Will the pop world accept a young Filipino-Mexican American in the footsteps of Celine and Whitney? She does wonders with "Everybody Has a Dream"?

Sorry, haters. It's an incredibly gifted cast of contestants this year, #11. And any of the Top Ten Finalists this year would have knocked out all but winner Kelly Clarkson in Season 1. Justin Guarini would have been lucky to be #8. And it's a tribute to the show that they can have a performer as individual as Phil or Elise on the show, making it so their own.

Yes, some real, serious talent.

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