The theater was alive with the sounds of Vegas circa 1965.
We didn’t get a look at any ol’ blue eyes, but American Idol‘s Top Five exceeded expectations on Rat Pack night, a tribute to standards made extra popular during the mid-’60s, when Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and their entertaining cohorts reigned in Sin City.
Jamie Foxx played mentor tonight and, thankfully, he left the vocal theatrics to his talented charges.
Paula Abdul stopped just short of declaring Adam Lambert the future winner of “American Idol.”
Instead, she compared him to a certain Olympic swimmer.
The “Idol” judge praised yet another Lambert performance Tuesday night, telling the 27-year-old actor that each week “it’s like watching the Olympics and you’re our Michael Phelps.”
Lambert was the final performer on the “Rat Pack”-themed show. He strutted down a neon pink-lighted staircase while seductively crooning “Feeling Good,” which has been famously sung by Nina Simone and Sammy Davis Jr.
Indeed, as the popular Fox show winds down to the finale, it seems Lambert is destined for a spot in the showdown to win the title.
Who else will compete to the end?
That’s anybody’s guess as the other four finalist delivered strong renditions of retro “Rat Pack” standards.
Jamie Foxx — a stylish singer himself — was the guest mentor.
Foxx, who has the hit song “Blame It” on the charts, helped Danny Gokey channel his inner Frank Sinatra.
The Academy Award winner demanded that Gokey sing a few notes of “Come Rain or Shine” just inches away from Foxx’s face, holding his gaze the entire time. Whatever he did must have worked — because Gokey wound up on Simon Cowell’s good side after the acerbic judge criticized him for a lack of star power last week.
“What you had tonight was swagger and confidence,” Cowell told the 28-year-old Milwaukee native.
Cowell was on a roll Tuesday. While the rest of the judges’ panel gave Kris Allen high marks for his sexy take on “The Way You Look Tonight,” he inexplicably described the rendition as “wet.”
Ryan Seacrest , not letting that comment slip by, asked: “What do you mean by wet?”
Cowell’s cryptic answer: “Not dry.”
Meanwhile, Allen’s father made a face.
And Cowell, ever the contrarian, took an opposite view of Allison Iraheta‘s bluesy cover of “Someone To Watch Over Me.”
“I have a horrible feeling you could be in trouble tonight,” he told Iraheta, noting a “mechanical” feel to her performance and a lack of confidence.
But Iraheta, who turned 17 Monday, drew rave reviews from Abdul, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi , who called Cowell “crazy.”
“If that doesn’t land you in the finals, I don’t know what will,” DioGuardi reassured Iraheta.
The judges were split on Matt Giraud. Jackson rated Giraud’s “My Funny Valentine” as a “six out of 10,” and DioGuardi — one of his biggest supporters — didn’t feel he connected to the emotionally charged ballad.
But Abdul and Cowell begged to differ.
“It was the only believable authentic song I’ve heard tonight,” Cowell told Giraud, who performed in the middle of the telecast. Cowell compared Giraud’s vocal phrasing to that of Nat King Cole.
The finale is three weeks away and, with no glaringly weak link in the group, the contestants entered tonight’s show knowing they had to kill it to stand out. And while we figured Adam Lambert wouldn’t have too much trouble fashioning a polished performance out of a retro hit, what of Allison Iraheta? Or Kris Allen? Or any of the others who don’t look as if he were born in front of an audience, microphone in hand?
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Kris Allen: The sweet-faced singer ditched the guitar and turned up the charm for “The Way You Look Tonight,” even taking a little walk with the microphone at one point to further prove that he can both flirt with an audience and croon at the same time. He rocked his Seacrest-style suit and skinny tie and did a pitch-perfect rendition of the Oscar-winning wedding standard, which was already 30 years old by the time Sinatra got his hands on it. Randy Jackson thought it was his best performance to date, and Kara DioGuardi got so excited, she complimented his “diction”—along with his “impeccable phrasing,” rhythm and timing. And yet Simon Cowell compared him to a “well-trained Spaniel.”
Allison Iraheta: The Rat Pack wasn’t only a boys’ club—Shirley MacLaine, Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe got to hang with Frankie and Dean, too. And we know that just because Allison’s too young to even stop by for a drink doesn’t mean she can’t rip a hole in your heart with torch songs like “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Wow! Some of her high notes sounded a little iffy—mainly because her rasp is so good—but once again, the little one proved wise beyond her years. “You did it in your own rough, kinda gruff, kinda style, and I loved it,” Randy raved. “If that doesn’t land you in the finals, I don’t know what will,” added Kara. But Simon, Mr. Doomsayer tonight, said he had the “horrible feeling” Allison could be in trouble.
Matt Giraud: The fedora-wearing piano player (dude, you aren’t actually Justin Timberlake) may not have the fan base but he’s got an edge to his voice that Kris, as talented as he is, just doesn’t have. At first we weren’t impressed by his take on “My Funny Valentine,” but once he stood up to take the tune home, Matt was no longer our default choice to go home. But Randy thought there were pitch problems and Kara complained that he lacked an emotional connection to the song. And Simon agreed with…Paula, who thought it “pure, simple and really impressive.” “For me,” Simon said, “it was the only believable, authentic song I’ve heard tonight…I thought you were absolutely brilliant.”
Danny Gokey: The competition’s elder, at 27, is a great singer, but he didn’t do as much stylistically with “Come Rain or Come Shine” as Kris or Matt did with their songs—until the end, when he busted out some runs and a big, booming finish that really got our attention. “You are the only one I’ve heard so far tonight that actually could have an album of songs like that—and win!” exclaimed Randy. Paula thought the performance “stellar,” Kara was happy to finally see some “Rat Pack swagger” from him, and Simon—one of Danny’s biggest critics of late—thought he was “outstanding.”
Adam Lambert: Building on Muse’s 2001 cover of “Feeling Good,” Adam revamped (emphasis on the vamped) the 1965 show tune into a glam-rock staple, capping it all off with a high note that reached…well, wherever it is people wear shiny white suits like his. Randy thought it a tad theatrical, but Simon pointed out that was akin to critiquing a cow for mooing. Kara couldn’t contain herself, calling Adam “shocking and sleazy and superb and way over the top”—in a good way—while Paula said, “With every performance that I see, it’s like watching the Olympics and you’re our Michael Phelps.”
Well, we’re getting down to the wire here, folks. For us, this was one of the more impressive Top Five nights in several seasons—usually someone totally blows it but, after tonight, we feel everyone is worthy of a spot in the final four.
Another aspiring Idol will get the boot on Wednesday’s elimination show, and the two-part finale is three weeks away.