Idol Does Disco, Some Boogie Better Than Others

Donna Summer gets a lot of play as the Top Seven sing 1970s-era classics

By Natalie Finn Apr 22, 2009 5:30 AMTags
American Idol, Adam LambertFOX

It was back to the old American Idol ball game Tuesday, with all four judges getting to comment on each performance—which was great for some and not at all good for others—as the still intact Top Seven waded through the sounds of Studio 54, Saturday Night Fever and Donna Summer's greatest hits.

Meaning, they sang disco-era tunes.

Best of all, besides the musical magic worked here and there, there were no lengthy interludes between performances. It went song, critique, song, critique...and so on.

That's still a lot to squeeze into one hour, however, so here we go, starting with Lil Round's swan song opening number...

Well, Lil made "I'm Every Woman" her own. Her own lesser version of Chaka Khan's empowerment anthem, anyway. Could she pick song arrangements that sound more like the original versions? Perhaps the 23-year-old, sensing she's probably on her way out with tomorrow's double elimination, just wanted to have some fun. And there's always the Las Vegas staple Legends in Concert if the original-artist thing doesn't work out. "I'm glad you had fun, because I think this is the last week we're ever going to see you," said mind-reader Simon Cowell.

Kris Allen: It was Donna Summer by way of Jason Mraz when Kris strummed out a nearly acoustic, bongo-utilizing version of "She Works Hard for the Money." Very interesting choice and, not surprisingly, a very pleasant performance. The arrangement was a little easy-listening but...hey, last we checked, easy-listening tunes made money. He really rocked the plain white tee, though. "I am so impressed with you," gushed Kara DioGuardi, while Simon called his "a complete polar opposite to the first performance." Paula Abdul said Kris' tune had "a classy Santana feel to it," and Randy Jackson remarked, "You're ready for the big time, dawg."

Michael Becker / FOX

Danny Gokey: Speaking of original arrangements...That wasn't what Danny offered up with his pretty spot-on rendition of Earth, Wind and Fire's "September." Yeah, he's a great singer, and he proves it every week. But does anyone else find him a tad boring? Three out of four judges would say no (Paula even called his voice "one of the sexiest…ever"). But Simon is still underwhelmed by the 27-year-old's stage presence. "Can't fault the vocals…As a performance, though, I didn't get any star power from that," he said.

Allison Iraheta: The arrangement of Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" did a disservice to the little one at times, and the 16-year-old was wearing another of her funked-up outfits—but we love Allison, and there was still plenty to love about this performance. Randy, too, felt the arrangement "a little overindulgent," but he had nothing but love for her. "From a singing perspective, that was like a 9, 10 for me," Kara said. "Taking everything into account, that was a brilliant performance," Simon concluded.

Adam Lambert: Disco night wouldn't be complete without a Bee Gees tune. And being the consummate pro that he already is, Adam wouldn't hear of such a thing. Knowing the brothers Gibb—or original vocalist Yvonne Elliman—were no slouches at hitting high notes, he sang the sprightly "If I Can't Have You" as a slow, wistful ballad that brought tears to Paula's eyes. "It's as if you tore your heart out and left it on the stage," she said, adding, "You're brilliant, you're awesome and you will be in the finals." Simon wasn't quite so bowled over, but he called Adam's vocal "immaculate."

Matt Giraud: Kudos to him for keeping those lyrics straight, but Matt's decision to do "Stayin' Alive" may not have been the wisest choice. The second half kicked the first half's behind, though, as the extraordinarily lucky, fedora-topped contestant started breaking it down and injecting a little non-Airplane-reminiscent soul into the soundtrack staple. "Not crazy original, but solid," Kara said. Paula was convinced Matt is through to next week based on his performance, but Simon rained on the comeback parade. "That came off to me as a bit desperate," he said.

Frank Micelotta / FOX

Anoop Desai: Yet another dude doing Donna, Anoop straddled the line between ballad and disco beat—and we're not sure he ended up on the right side of either. Randy, Kara and Paula gushed over his singing ability—and Paula was absolutely right when she said (more or less) that stubble was a good look for him—but Simon thought it "mediocre at best." His contrary panning of the performance left Anoop's parents, who were sitting in the audience, sharing a laugh of disbelief.

American Idol will be down to five following a double elimination on Wednesday's show, which will also feature a performance by season-seven wunderkind David Archuleta.

According to America's Line oddsmaker Benjamin Eckstein, there's even money on Anoop getting dismissed tomorrow, while Lil is a 2-to-1 favorite. Matt isn't exactly in the clear at 5 to 1.

(Originally published April 21, 2009, at 6:24 p.m. PT)


Dissecting American Idol's Disco Night

Who had the hot stuff, baby, this evening?
Lil Rounds
Kris Allen
Danny Gokey
Allison Iraheta
Adam Lambert
Matt Giraud
Anoop Desai

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