Live Last Night, On TV - Episode 3

1. Robin Thicke, "Magic" (Leno, Thursday)
The dude makes it work. He completely goes for it and his absolute commitment to being The Man on stage pays off. The dance moves, the obvious come-ons - it could be a disaster, but it's as smooth as can be. He owns his persona. It doesn't hurt that this song, the first single from his upcoming album, is a slick slice of throwback soul, with a horn riff that lodges itself in your brain and stays there for a while.

2. Belinda Carlisle, "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" (Ferguson, Tuesday)
Am I wrong for liking this song? How about for liking this song a lot? How about for liking this song a lot? How about for playing it so loud in my apartment that my neighbors bang on the wall in order to get me to turn it down?

3. Gnarls Barkley, "Who's Gonna Save My Soul" (Leno, Monday)
Danger Mouse is dressed as Lincoln and Cee-Lo is dressed as ... I'm not sure. Neo? Dracula? The backing band is in hobo/mime mode for this spacey slow-burner that could pass as a Beach House tune if not for Cee-Lo's voice. You keep waiting for it to go somewhere and it never does - and I think it's all the better for that reason.

4. Rose Hill Drive, "Sneak Out" (Conan, Tuesday)
Apparently Wolfmother is now going by the name Rose Hill Drive. This is actually a pretty good stoner-blues-rock tribute, complete with more long, blond hair than RuPaul's wig rack.

5. Sergio Mendes f. Ledisi, "Waters of March" (Leno, Wednesday)
This is a fun and easy bossa nova/samba romp and Ledisi definitely has the voice and presence of someone who has been doing this for a while and is ready for superstardom. I'd probably like it even more if I wasn't watching it on DVR at 1:15 a.m. a few hours after sitting through my second painful Nats game in three days.

6. Gogol Bordello, "American Wedding" (Conan, Wednesday)
A single song on a TV show definitely isn't the way to best appreciate the sensory overload that is a Gogol Bordello performance. Eugene Hutz and Co. still manage to bring the ruckus, though. It's a bit more of a sideshow than it needs to be, but it still makes you laugh, scratch your head and nod along, which is a unique combo.

7. Griffin House, "The Guy That Says Goodbye to You Is Out of His Mind" (Ferguson, Friday)
Perfectly pleasant country-rock with some doe-eyed romanticism. It sounds like Ryan Adams without the attitude that makes him often annoying but other times exciting.

(More after the jump.)

8. Jamie Lidell, "Figure Me Out" (Kimmel, Friday)
I enjoyed Lidell's 9:30 club show in June when he stuck to his R&B/soul revival stuff and stayed away from the electronic stuff that helped him gain acclaim in the first place. This song is the halfway point and it's not my favorite. That is just way, way, way too much vocoder. This performance makes him seem much shtickier than he actually is.

9. We Are Scientists, "After Hours" (Letterman, Monday)
Generic is generic, whether it's a "cool" genre or not. We Are Scientists are perfectly competent and have good energy, and songs like this one are catchy enough. But there's still just not much there. They do the indie rock-type thing, so they've got some buzz now; Lord knows there are plenty worse bands (as these rankings attest), and not every band needs to reinvent the wheel. That's a long way of saying - yeah, sure.

10. Toby Keith, "Beer For My Horses" (Colbert, Monday)
If you added 31% more gruffness to the voice you could almost mistake this for a Steve Earle song. Although lyrics like "Take all the rope in Texas/Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys/Hang them high in the street/For all the people to see" doesn't quite jibe with Earle's anti-capital-punishment message.

11. Atmosphere, "You" (Letterman, Wednesday)
Slug is wearing an Obama T-shirt, but I get the feeling - just a hunch - that he's not part of Barack's "hip-hop problem." Slug reels off a bunch of cities in this song but the highlight comes after the performance when Letterman asks him if he can fit Muncie in there. People actually dislike David Letterman? How is that possible?

12. Crosby Stills and Nash, "Teach Your Children" (Colbert, Wednesday)
Make that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Colbert. If this song was never written and a band released it today, I can only imagine how much they would be mocked.

13. Bryan Adams, "She's Got a Way" (Kimmel, Tuesday)
Say this for Adams: He's not trying to latch onto any hip trends. This sounds just like a Bryan Adams song from the '80s. So that means there's a bit of cheesy appeal to it, at least.

14. Third Day, "Call My Name" (Leno, Tuesday)
My plan was to see if I would have pegged them as a Christian rock band if I didn't already know. Then Leno's all, "Performing 'Call My Name' from their new album 'Revelation.'" Oh well. It made me think of the Faith +1 episode of South Park, so not a total loss.

15. Mariah Carey, "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time," "Side Effects" (Kimmel, Thursday)
Sometimes I try to think of the No. 1 concert that I would just be completely incapable of writing about. Usually I settle on Mariah Carey, and this performance reminded me exactly why. Choreographed lip-synching to recorded music, complete with backup dancers and fans to keep Mariah's hair flowing at all times is just not something I feel qualified to offer an opinion on.

16. The Ting Tings, "Shut Up and Let Me Go" (Conan, Monday)
If you can find anything positive written about this band the word "fun" is usually right near the top. Here's a secret, ready? "Fun" (along with "high energy") is almost always code for "they don't have good songs." That fits in this case. Some people can get down with mindless pop, but I'm not one of them. A half-minute of cowbell? Really?

17. Low vs. Diamond, "Heart Attack" (Letterman, Tuesday)
Wow, this was unspeakably bad. Seriously: new levels of suck. This band is like the Nickelback of horrible, insipid, anthemic alt-rock. This is a prime example of why people who move to L.A. to start bands should absolutely not be allowed to do such a thing.

By David Malitz |  August 1, 2008; 4:14 PM ET Live Last Night, On TV
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