My evaluation of the duets will be a structured a little differently – a little more general in nature:
With Jacob Lusk:
I’m Into Something Good – Carol King for Herman’s Hermits
As the director / producer of an opera company, one of my most challenging jobs is to audition singers, choose those that are capable of the roles and pray that those that are capable are also compatible vocally, physically, emotionally and artistically.
A 6 ft. tenor and a 5 ft. soprano may sing beautifully together, but look ridiculous together in some of the staging that is required. Vocally they also need to be as evenly matched as possible. I have gotten pretty good at casting in this way over the years, but sometimes personalities take on a life of their own. So when I heard that James and Jacob were singing together I thought – Yikes!!! But I was pleasantly surprised.
Both compliment each other physically as both are big men and they look very good in their color coordinated outfits. From the very beginning I can tell that they are enjoying this time together which is nice to see!! I was concerned that theirs would be a fight to finish to try to dominate one another vocally. But because James’ sound is somewhat brighter and Jacob’s somewhat darker they actually compliment each other well. James is obviously the more accomplished performer, and moves so well and so naturally. But James does not try to outshine Jacob in that area which is to his credit. Their ending vocals are a wild, scatting frenzy with James ending on and holding a soprano high G sharp!! As the kids say today – Booyah (this is a phonetic spelling y’all). 9
With Scotty McCreery:
Start a Band – Brad Paisley & Keith Urban
I cannot get enough of this duet. It is so wonderful. But when I listen to the duet tonight for the first time in a long time, my heart just breaks into little pieces all over again. This is the last time we will see James sing in the competition. Such a shock! I think most viewers and fans alike thought that James would be in the finale and that there was a strong possibility that Scotty would join him. This duet shows what a great battle it would have been – the country boy and the rocker going head to head. Two strong and popular genres of music battling it out for the crown. It was not to be. SIGH!!! I still cannot bear to watch James’ elimination. But life goes on!!
Scotty and James are so well matched in this duet. I know that Scotty is a talented country singer and that James has won a country idol crown in California, but I am still surprised at how well they compliment each other’s sound. They could be singing in Nashville. They flow seamlessly from one vocal to the other as they switch the melody line back and forth. James sounds just like a country boy should. What can’t this young man sing!! James’ movement is terrific but Scotty does better in that department in this duet. James beautifully tailors his vocals to match Scotty’s. There is no trace of the rocker in this duet. They are a great team!! At the very end of the duet James lays his head back on Scotty’s shoulder with a big boyish grin. It is a wonderful gesture of endearment!! Just love it! 10
With Judas Priest:
Living After Midnight & Breaking the Law – Judas Priest
Pure Metal / Pure Redemption
James could never have imagined in February when he sang Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”, that he would be singing with the iconic band and Rob Halford, “the metal god”, in May, in the finale. American Idol will never be the same and neither, I am sure, will James.
This collaborative performance between James and Judas Priest is so redemptive for James. At his elimination he said, “I did what I came here to do and that was to give metal a chance, and give 100% every night!!” On this finale night he did both – again! It is high praise indeed that Rob and the band traveled across an ocean to sing with this 22 year old rocker. And for Rob to say that James has an extraordinary voice is in itself extraordinary. The entrance through the crowd is terrific and sells the performance immediately (entering through the crowd is something that James also does on tour). To watch James on this night hold his own with Rob vocally, to watch them both move so seamlessly as if they had done this many times before is just magical. Their outfits are spectacular. James’ spikes on his arm band are a nice tribute to Rob and certainly compliment Rob’s fabulous leather, spiked long coat!! They are both big men and compliment each other physically. The choice of songs is perfect and the delivery is highly energetic. There is also a nice balance between the vocals and the band. James’ wails and rocker rasp are very well placed and Rob and James perform a first I think – rockers screaming in harmony. Too cool for school!!
I cannot say often enough how incredibly gifted James is. Most of what James does cannot be taught. It is God given – his vocals, his movement, his creativity. It can only be nutured and polished. He is blessed with the talent and the vision As Michael Orland said:
That boy is so smart, so fast, so loving, so appreciative of all the help he gets. He’s just a really warm kid.
His journey now is a far cry from his younger days. He truly dwelled in the valley of ridicule, abuse, frustration, confusion, fear, and anger. James could have become bitter. Instead, he sang. He chose to embrace his challenges – his “freakiness” as he puts it – to be a voice, an example for others who are too shy, scared or beaten down to speak for themselves. His own choice of acceptance has made him free – free to sing, to soar, to live the life he is meant to live. And all those who love and cherish him, including his fans, are so very grateful!! 10 to the power of infinity!!
The British Special Forces have a motto: “He who dares, wins ”. James risked it all and left everything on the stage every week; and although he didn’t win the American Idol title, he won something much more valuable – self respect and the respect and admiration of millions of fans world wide. I am sure they would join me in saying:
James, you are the embodiment of courage!! BRAVEHEART!!