And now, without further ado...
RJ's Top Ten Favourite CI Performances
(with whys, wherefores, and linkage of videos and mp3s for the Idol curious)
1. The Way I Feel (Shane Wiebe, Top 6/Gordon Lightfoot Week) Large Video | Small Video | mp3 (zipped)
Early in the competition I dismissed Shane as a bland, soulless singer of lame pop ballads, and I looked forward to seeing him voted off. But then he suddenly started taking risks, stretching his vocal range, and showing some real personality. I grudgingly started to like him, but it wasn't until he sang this song that I realized just what a truly amazing performer Shane could be. This is flat-out incredible -- excellent song choice, technically superb, and passionately delivered. It's beyond the level of an Idol competition -- it's simply one of the best live performances I've seen, ever. But you don't even need the visuals: it's just as good as an MP3. Highly, highly recommended.
2. Nature Boy (Kalan Porter, Top 3/Judges' Choice Week) Large Video | Small Video | mp3
Partial as I am to Rock!Kalan, there's no doubt in my mind that this simple, haunting Nat King Cole song was his best performance ever. Both the lyrics and the minor key are perfectly suited to Kalan's personality, and though there's nothing especially profound about the words (it's an abbreviated version of Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince), Kalan invests them with such feeling that I found myself holding my breath. That baritone voice of his is always wonderful, but it's never sounded better than it does here. When you consider that this performance left even Crusty Judge Zack (who openly preferred Theresa and Jacob to Kalan) speechless and moved him visibly to tears, you'll get the idea of just how special it is.
3. True Colors (Kalan Porter and Theresa Sokyrka, Top 2/Finale Week) Large | Small | mp3
It's near the end of the last episode of CI, and Theresa's voice and emotions are both strained to their limit. As she and Kalan walk on stage hand in hand, she falters out the first few lines and loses her voice entirely on the last note, gazing up at Kalan with a misty-eyed, self-deprecating smile of apology. And this shy kid, the one who spent the first half of the competition visibly cringing at all public displays of emotion, gives her a look of such tender reassurance that it just... gah. This is simply the loveliest, most sincere, most genuinely romantic duet I've ever seen, and once Theresa gets her voice back the harmony is drop-dead gorgeous. I still get misty-eyed every time I watch this, and I'm not even a big fan of the song, nor particularly inclined to be sentimental. I didn't think it would be possible to top Jacob, Kalan and Theresa's moving performance of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" the previous week, but boy, was I glad to be proven wrong.
4. Space Oddity (Jacob Hoggard, Top 9/British Invasion Week) Large | Small | no mp3 - it's really a visual thing
The previous week, this raspy-voiced punk-rock singer with the lip ring startled everyone by appearing on stage in a button-down shirt and sweater vest and pulling off a smooth performance of Paul Anka's "Put Your Head On My Shoulder" that gave every evidence of both familiarity and affection for "old-school" music. It was hard to imagine how he could be any more surprising than that, but as this performance shows, Jacob's bag of tricks was a long way from exhausted. Not his best number vocally, but there's no question Jacob knows exactly what he's doing as he pulls off a perfect homage to David Bowie in his glam rock phase (complete with costume, props, and full makeup). Nothing like it has ever happened on an Idol show before, and probably never will again.
5. Song for a Winter's Night (Theresa Sokyrka, Top 6/Gordon Lightfoot Week) Large | Small | mp3 (zipped)
A charming jazz vocalist afflicted by throat problems and poor song choices, Theresa had just come through a noticeable slump, but this was the night she made a comeback--and how. A beautiful song, richly and sweetly delivered in Sarah McLachlan's style but Theresa's own singular voice. Judge Zack declared it "simple and lovely", and he was right. I know of at least one person who was moved to tears by it, and I can understand why.
6. Canadian Railroad Trilogy (Group Number, Top 6/Gordon Lightfoot Week) Large | Small | mp3
Something about the music of Gordon Lightfoot brought out the best in these kids. Jason Greeley never sounded so good as he does singing the opening bars, and Kalan's voice seems even richer and warmer than usual. Not to mention that this was another Idol first -- not only did the contestants sing, they played instruments. Kalan and Jacob's finger-flying duel for violin and guitar alone would make this worth watching, but really the whole thing is excellent. And no cheesy dancing!
7. Born To Be Wild (Kalan Porter, Top 10/Canadian Hits Week) Large | Small | mp3
Up until this point in the competition, we'd only heard Kalan sing ballads, and between his first audition with "House of the Rising Sun" and his Top 32 performance of Kenny Rogers' "Lady", everyone had him pegged as the sensitive romantic type. So it came as one of the biggest surprises of the competition when he stepped out onto the stage in black jeans, jacket and gothic-lettered t-shirt and proceeded to give every evidence of being, as judge Farley commented, "A rock n' roll superstar". The moves, the voice, the expression -- this wasn't a boy-band singer desperately trying to break out of his niche, this was a kid who really knew and loved the material and felt completely at home with it. Not his best vocal performance any more than "Space Oddity" was Jacob's, but it left almost as much of an impression. Ten weeks later, my kids still beg me to play this video at least two or three times a day.
8. Straighten Up and Fly Right (Jacob Hoggard, Top 4/Standards Week) Large | Small | mp3 (zipped)
As front man for a noisy garage band, Big Band music could hardly be expected to be Jacob's area of expertise. But far from being daunted by the orchestra, Jacob steps out with all the confidence of a pro and turns a 40's novelty tune into a terrific performance. The delivery, the shuffle, the "Take it away, boys" -- you'd think the kid had been singing this stuff all his life. No wonder the judges told him he was destined to be a movie star.
9. Come Away With Me (Theresa Sokyrka, Top 2/Finale Week) Large | Small | mp3
It was a tough choice between this one and her more generally acclaimed "Cruisin'" (among other things, it takes a special something to come out in a pink leather jacket with a flower stuck to your microphone and not be irritating) but the latter was so similar to the Huey Lewis/Gwyneth Paltrow version that I have to give Theresa's much more original take on Norah Jones the edge. In spite of continuing throat problems and the strangling tension of being in the Top 2, Theresa delivers this song with a jazzy charm that just sparkles.
10. Still (Kalan Porter, Top 7/Lionel Richie Week) Large | Small | mp3
Can any good thing come out of a week devoted to the music of Lionel Richie? Apparently so. Once more the 18-year-old Kalan displays his "old soul", taking a stale adult contemporary tune about the death of a long-term relationship and making it fresh, poignant and convincing. And for a shy boy raised on a ranch in the wilds of Alberta, he shows an unsettling mastery of the eyeboink. Pity about the sweater, though.
Honorary Mention: Rock/British Invasion Medley (Group Number, Finale) Large | Small
It didn't make the above list because it's a medley involving all of the Top Ten performers, and the various performances are of somewhat uneven quality. Not to mention the choreography. However, the part where fellow Abbotsford, B.C. natives Shane and Jacob snarl, screech and rant "Under Pressure" at each other in full Freddie Mercury and David Bowie style, pushing each other up and over the top to new heights of shameless rock-anthem absurdity, is one of the best CI moments ever. Really has to be seen to be believed. I would never have put these two together at the beginning of the competition, but now I think Shane and Jacob really need to go on tour.
Go! Watch! Comment!