We open the show with a ludicrously overdramatic recap that sounds like some sort of ludicrous “Previously On” segment. Honestly, it was one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen. This is quite the way to open what could be a painful evening of Canadian Idol. Because, let’s face it: NO ONE sounds as good as Freddie Mercury. Especially not these singers.
The Top 7 worked with Brian May and Roger Taylor, members of Queen of course, and the judges prattle on for a while (And Zack wants them to rock…OR ELSE).
Brian Melo – “Too Much Love Will Kill You” (…Queen)
Brian May is all excited not about their identical initials, but rather the fact that he picked a song he performed at Freddie’s Memorial concert. I consider this cheating: although a version featuring Mercury was released, Brian isn’t really trying to sing a real Queen song. While cheating, it is also ludicrously smart. As the crowd rocks out with glowsticks, Brian sounds really good until he totally biffs the chorus (in my view). It was really moving at the beginning, but I just felt that the emotion kind of petered off in the chorus. That said my mother did change the sound on the TV at about that point, so I’d say that was maybe part of it. Some great vocals in the beginning, though.
What the judges think: Jake was moved, Farley felt it was good with his brassy tones, Sass liked its smooth/rough juxtaposition, and Zack thought it was pitchy all over the place. Eh, I disagree about the beginning, but that was my issue with the chorus I think.
The Freddie Factor: N/A, since he really didn’t sing a song he made famous.
Greg Neufeld – “We Are The Champions” (Surprise! It’s Queen)
Brian May and Roger Taylor like that he’s loose, and that he gets the voice…and it was brilliantly performed. I’m not convinced of this, it sounded schmaltzy. And, as he starts performing, I got it right: Greg is schmaltzy and letting the song’s cultural standing carry his performance. He’s performing in the style I call “This song is really good, and everyone knows it, and I know it, and that’s why I’m singing it.” That’s my issue: he didn’t mess with it, he didn’t do anything unique, he just let it sit there. He apparently did a Gavin DeGraw version, which…wasn’t that different at all. Lame.
What the judges think: Farley felt he was athletic and lived up to the song (Ugh), Sass felt it was the definition of a real singer and thinks HE is the champion (Oy vey), Zack felt he was just short intensity wise (I agree!), while Jake thinks he was totally off base (He wasn’t).
The Freddie Factor: You cannot ever sing this song and avoid the Freddie Factor, and Greg just didn’t put enough of his own stamp on it to possible do so. Jake keeps talking about his style…is his style bland singer-guitarists who take all of the edge off of We Are The Champions?
Carly Rae Jepsen – “Killer Queen” (Royal Monarch)
Queen’s first real international hit, and covered by Sum 41, this song isn’t something I’ve heard before. It appears to give her a chance to show off her vulnerable side along with her theatrical side. The girls have a distinct advantage this week, since they don’t have to be compared directly to Freddie in any way. She used the stage well, she played with vocal inflections, and it was a powerful homage to Queen that felt like something only she could do without seeming hideously weird like Steffi last season.
What the Judges Think: Sass is blown away at its gutsiness, Zack thinks it was cool, distinct and unique, Jake felt that she looks great and took the cabaret side of Queen and accentuated it, Farley liked her performance and her depth.
Freddie Factor: She avoids it mostly as a female, but she also allows the vocal inflections of Mercury to embrace the cabaret flavour to keep the comparison from being an issue.
Matt Rapley – “Under Pressure” (David Bowie & Some Band)
Okay, I’m sorry: Under Pressure is not meant to be sung by only one person. It is never, ever going to sound right. The song is itself a great piece of music, but the split vocals are a lot of the charm. He’s fine in the first verse/chorus, but when he cuts into the Bridge he’s basically just an 18-year old singing lyrics until he hits the last set of notes. It’s a Soul/R&B vocal in a song that is neither soul nor R&B. He needed to mess with that arrangement to make his voice work on the song.
What the Judges Think: Zack felt it rocked on occasion (Agreed) but struggled a fair amount, Jake thinks he had passion but got drowned out (Whipping Post callback, of course), Farley calls back to Whipping Post and thinks that there were some weird acoustics, and Sass thinks it was fantastic…okay, Sass.
Freddie AND Bowie Factor: See, this is just unfair. His trained vocals cannot ever compared to Freddie AND David Bowie, it just won’t happen. As a result, he really needed to change this song further.
Dwight D’Eon – “Tie Your Mother Down” (Canada’s Head of State)
Dwight is able to do a few things here: first, he doesn’t even step on the stage until the very end of his performance. And, second, he is able to go with a Foo Fighters version of a song, although he is still technically singing it in the realm of Queen. The biggest problem he has, as Brian May and Roger Taylor point out, is that he is screaming. However, he’s also running around like a maniac, and it works much better than it should. It’s got the right sense of stadium rock to feel eventful, and unlikely Rapley he felt like a Rock Star.
What the judges think: Jake gives the performance a 10, the vocals a 7, Farley likes that he used the space well, Sass think it’s 5 for 5 thus far and it was the perfect song (Wicked!), and Zack thinks he’s back to being a contender.
The Freddie Factor: The song has enough screaming that it doesn’t have the same issues as other songs in terms of being performed by someone other than Mercury. Dwight kept in the same groove, but didn’t try to match the vocal gymnastics of Mercury.
Tara Oram – “Headlong” (The King’s Wife)
Tara gets some breathing advice from May/Taylor, and we learn that this song was Brian May’s but was performed by Mercury. I think it’s an important distinction, because it’s a much more rock-focused tune than perhaps some others. And Tara really stepped up to the plate in terms of her performance in my books. She looked like she was comfortable and engaged, something that we don’t see at some points. This is the extension of a bar singer into an actual performer, even if the voice and all of that was off a bit at points. She has more energy than she ever did before, and really commanded this.
What the judges think: Farley loved it, Sass loved it, Zack felt it needed less yips but she sang the hell out of it, and Jake loved it and her look.
The Freddie Factor: As an unknown Queen song, and as a female vocalist, there really wasn’t much comparison to make: in fact, it didn’t even sound like a Queen song. But it did sound like a good song. So, good on ‘er.
Jaydee Bixby – “I Want To Break Free” (Queen’s Bassist)
Okay, why is he not singing Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Most predictable song choices are bad for Jaydee, but that song was perfect for his voice and has themes that allow for his smiley face to make sense. May/Taylor tell him to have more angst with this other song that is more or less entirely horrible for him, but he doesn’t really listen to them and just kind of drones it out of the side of his mouth. Wearing leather does not a rock star make, and I think that he really needs to realize that he can’t just take a song and sing it. He COULD have done that with Crazy Little Thing Called Love, but he didn’t. And that was STUPID.
What the judges think: Sass apparently isn’t offering constructive criticism this evening, Zack thinks that he found it oddly appealing, Jake thinks that he once again did not actually listen to the meaning behind the song, Farley disagrees.
The Freddie Factor: Uhh, yeah. See, it would have made sense on Crazy Little Thing Called Love, but here it was just awkward and lacked any vocal dynamism to match up with Freddie legacy.
Best of the Night: Carly Rae Jepsen and Dwight D’eon
Queen has two basic calling cards, if we’re going to generalize: stadium rock and theatricality, often combining the two. The two best performances of the night took those two qualities and isolated them: Carly Rae brought a sense of cabaret to her performance and was by far the most unique, while Dwight embraced the rock with a great performance if not vocal. These two didn’t shy away from Queen, but rather took their elements and adjusted them to fit their own styles.
Worst of the Night: Matt Rapley and Jaydee Bixby
I don’t like to mix Matt in with Jaydee, but I think that both of them missed gaining a real connection to their songs of choice. Under Pressure is something that needs to be gritty and flawed, almost…like someone is under pressure, perhaps? Instead, it sounded all too easy for Matt, and I think that took all of the life out of the song. Meanwhile, Jaydee had an easy song choice sitting right in front of him and chose again to remove all angst or emotion from a song and sing it with a smile on his face. His idea of putting his own spin on things is destroying their meaning: I don’t “get” this.
Who’s In Danger?
I’ll make a note: I said that things could get bad, but things were actually on the whole fairly good. However, I think that Brian Melo is in danger simply due to a lack of fanbase, Carly Rae is in trouble for being female (Sexist Canadian Idol voters, tsk tsk), and Matt is in trouble after hitting the Bottom Two last week and not really pulling out all the stops this week. Who goes home, though, is really too tough to call.