Thursday, March 26, 2009

Final 10

I have to admit, after last week’s dismissal of Alexis, I lost my Idol faith. This happens every season when my favorite goes—I become disillusioned and obsessively moody, and the only way I can justify this is by saying that sports fans show the same emotion when their team loses. But I digress—Motown week pulled me right back in, showing that this competition is indeed a shockingly tight seven-way race. Plus, I can actually add another member to my A-Team (no longer Alexis and Allison, but now Allison and Adam). Before I get to the rundown, can I just say: isn’t it totally disheartening that the contestants seem to sound better in their introductory clips when it’s just their voices and the piano? What’s going on with the band this year?

Anyway, here are my thoughts, from best of the night to worst…

The Best

Adam Lambert—“The Tracks of My Tears.” Finally, I can say without a doubt in my mind that I am an Adam Lambert fan. He did what I (kinda sorta) knew he could do all along: deliver a song with conviction, passion and stunning vocals without being completely over-the-top. This performance was so good it goes as far as to re-color his previous performances for me—I alter my undecided status to unabashed support! I cannot wait to see what Adam will do next, and he’s right on track to win this sucker.

Allison Iraheta—“Papa Was A Rolling Stone.” Sweet lord, I don’t even know if I should bother because you know what I’m going to say—I LOVE THIS GIRL. All I can see when I look at her is Kelly Clarkson, and when I listen to her, spontaneous ear orgasms ensue. I was out of my seat and cheering by the end of this. American Idol! (Now if only the judges would put down their crayons long enough to see this too).

The Believable

Kris Allen—“How Sweet It Is.” Kris definitely sounded better when it was just his voice, the piano and the guitar, but he still pulled this performance off. His voice is simply as smooth as butter—there’s something immensely pleasing about it, so I know we’ll be hearing a pop album from him no matter where he lands on Idol. But he’s proving slowly that he deserves to stick around for a good, long while. And kudos on the final power note—I don’t know why more Idol contestants haven’t figured out that a little gratuitous belting goes a long way, if appropriately placed…

Matt Giraud—“Let’s Get It On.” Although I don’t want to think of “The Arrogant Forehead” (yes, I just made that insulting nickname up, I’m sad to say) in any kind of sexual context, I didn’t hate him for this. But I didn’t love him either. That being said, Matt certainly deserves to be crooning up there in the Top 10 (who am I kidding, in the Top 7). But then again, let’s be real—there is NO WAY he’s going to win this thing. I may eat those words later, but I just don’t see him taking down Adam, Kris or Danny. Conclusion: Matt remains firmly in the middle, despite his best efforts.

Danny Gokey—"Get Ready." I am a big fan of Danny’s voice, and I still hold he is a perfectly suited Idol contestant. Let’s face it, he’s going to continue to breeze through and there is little to be done about that. But I do have a bone to pick—Kara (and the other judges) keep (over)emphasizing the importance of original artistry this season for every other contestant, yet no one chooses to call Danny on his total lack of musical personality. His song choices are consistently Lite-FM-worthy and he’s made no impact as far as his own musical stylings go. He’s picked nothing but cheese and sap, and I thought Idol had left these things behind with Taylor Hick’s crown. And NEVER hand-roll with the backup singers, Danny. Ever.

Anoop Desai—“Ooh Baby Baby.” Dull indeed. Beautifully sung, yes, but dull. Step it up, Anoop, if you want to crack 7th place! That’s all I really have…

Lil Rounds—“Heatwave.” I want to like you so much Lil, why won’t you let me? Something about her voice simply doesn’t sound right to me, and this is coming from a true Idol diva expert. This performance was wildly overbaked, and Simon was right, she SO could have had a moment here with the right song. Instead, Adam and Allison stole the show, and Lil keeps sinking lower and lower…and quit it with that damn fake laugh, it’s so transparent!

The Broke-Down

Megan Joy—“For Once In My Life.” What the hell is going on? Megan lacks stage presence, rhythm, musical savvy, style and confidence. She does possess one helluva gorgeous face and a semi-interesting tone to her voice, but she does not possess the ability to sing in key, hit big notes or prove that she is even within remote striking distance of the likes of Amy Winehouse, Duffy or Jazmine Sullivan, just to name a few. This needs to end. Soon.

Scott MacIntyre—“You Can’t Hurry Love.” It’s very difficult for me to actually form an opinion about this performance—well that’s not true, it was miserable and amateurish and suited for a sub-par piano bar. What I’m having difficulty with is caring enough to take the time to write about Scott. It’s time. Please release him from this misery.

Michael Sarver—“Ain’t To Proud To Beg.” If Michael were only mediocre this week, I think he’d be a goner for sure. But because this performance was such a complete train wreck, I don’t think he’ll get the (much-deserved) boot just yet. At least he can stand “proud” among the likes of Haley Scarnato, Kristy Lee Cook, Sanjaya Malakar and John Stevens as the plucky-yet-untalented survivor of this season.

Predictions: It’s obvious Scott, Michael and Megan are not on the same level as the other contestants, and not only do they belong in the bottom three, they probably will actually be there based on last night (what a shocker that would be)! I’m pegging Scott for the boot only because he didn’t tank totally like Sarver, which will probably win the latter the pity votes formerly assigned to blindness.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Final 11

What a solid night, huh? I usually dread Idol’s country week, but I can honestly say that (while my heart may not be pierced) I enjoyed 10 out of 11 of this weeks performances in some way (sorry Sarver). And for the first time this season the competition seems to really be on—more than half of this year’s bunch now feel like genuine contenders, which will likely make for an unusually unpredictable season. But how about that awkward wrist kiss moment between Paula and Simon before Matt’s performance (Gossip Girl reference, anyone)? Also, does the jumbo stage-screen only creep me out?? Moving on, since almost every song this week has previously been sung on the Idol stage (or by one blonde Idol winner), I thought it’d be fun to play a little comparison game!

So here are my rankings for the night, keeping personal favorites aside (otherwise I fear Alexis and Allison would always top my list)…

The Best

Kris Allen—“To Make You Feel My Love.” One of 3 original song choices of the night…and damn, Kris. Damn. His voice was just perfect and his delivery was filled with pure emotion. Except for that nervous tapping leg (which, lucky for Kris, the camera cut out mostly), this was a top-notch performance. He just proved himself a genuine threat in this little horse race.

Danny Gokey—“Jesus Take The Wheel.” Carrie’s vocals are no doubt better, but Danny certainly injected this song with the conviction it deserves. Even his biggest haters must admit he is an ideal Idol contestant in terms of his performance power. But I have no idea how he’s going to translate his sappy, Lite FM song choices on Idol into an actual singing career—I mean, “I Hope You Dance,” “Hero,” and “Jesus Take The Wheel”—should we expect to see him on Vh1’s next installment of Divas Live?

Anoop Desai—“You Were Always On My Mind.” Fantasia killed this one, but Anoop definitely came close. This was an honest and powerful performance—definitely his best so far. He needs to watch some of the runs because he tends to steer off-course, but overall Anoop showed he can sing and fully redeemed himself.

Matt Giraud—“So Small.” I don’t think Matt did a “more emotional, heartfelt” version than Carrie, but he did just fine (he really needs to kill the entitled attitude, doesn’t he? It’s highly unlikable). I’m glad he kept the band’s involvement to a minimum, and I do think this is the first time Matt pulled his performance together entirely. Not really worthy of the show-closer (see the above three males for a better choice), but still great. Welcome to the tour, Mr. Justin Buble!

The Believable

Alexis Grace—“Jolene.” Alexis blew Brooke White’s manic version out of the water, and I totally ate this up. I thought it was emotional, heartfelt and powerfully delivered. I’m an unabashed Alexis fan, so perhaps that’s why I thought she was shortchanged (yet again) by the judges. Is she this year’s Syesha Mercado, destined to be the continual whipping post for the judges? Alexis was showing a more subdued side people, and I say she did it well. And do the judges just want her to strip on stage? How much dirtier can she get, and then how long will it take before they accuse her of being predictable?

Allison Iraheta—“Blame It On Your Heart.” Allison proved she can sing any genre on this diddy, and kudos for originality in this week of repeats. Sure, this song wasn’t perfectly suited to her style (a little bit too clean-cut), nor was it her best performance (the range was a little too low). But rock solid, like the judges said. Plus she has a fumbling likability that will serve her well, quite like one Ms. Kelly Clarkson. I fear for her safety this week, however, which scares the hell out of me!

Adam Lambert—“Ring Of Fire.” Microphone stroking and shirt lifting? Really, Adam, is that necessary? Well perhaps it is…he’s so consistently over the top, I can’t really fault him for it. But “confused” is the perfect word for my feelings on Adam—he’s the first Idol contestant to totally stump me. I honestly cannot make up my mind about the ever-entertaining Adam—do I love his voice or hate it? I really don’t know. Bottom line is, we’ve never seen (or heard) anything like him on Idol’s stage, and that’s a good (not to mention difficult) thing to do.

Lil Rounds—“Independence Day.” Carrie Underwood eviscerated you on this one Lil, sorry. But I must say for the first time I was somewhat excited by her—maybe it was because she wasn’t an R&B carbon copy. That being said, she still should have made the song her own in some way, like many other contestants. Also, Lil needs to stop presenting herself with all the genuineness of a pageant queen—what’s with that forced laugh? And I don’t like her signature mic pullaway on the last note. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lil in the bottom 3, if only because this was a standout night, and Lil falls firmly mid-pack.

The Broke-Down

Megan Joy—“Walking After Midnight.” The good news: Megan decimated Kellie Pickler’s take. The bad news: I can’t seem to care. Granted, this was her most promising showing yet, but still not enough to win me over. She made it into the top 12 by the power of her vagina and will make it onto the tour on the wings of influenza. But I relent, her unique style is starting to take on some depth…despite the bizarre mid-season name change. And stop that hip swivel, damn it!!

Scott MacIntyre—“Wild Angels.” You beat Carmen Rasmusen, Scott, but that’s not really saying much, now is it? His hair has improved quite a bit, but has his voice? The judges are asking for power notes from him, but I really don’t think he has it in him. He probably won’t go home just yet, but I don’t see his one-trick-pony act lasting past the next few weeks.

Michael Sarver—“Ain’t Goin’ Down Till The Sun Comes Up.” Refer to Latoya London, Michael, and bow your head in shame. He was monotone and breathless, and sure he “had fun,” but what about the rest of us? Michael certainly deserves to go, but I suppose we’ll see…

As for predictions, I’d obviously say Michael is getting the boot. I also think Lil and Alexis will be rounding out the bottom three, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Scott or Allison (blasphemy!) down there either. I do think my A-Team is safe though, and if not, surely the Judge’s Save will come into play, right?


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Final 13

(Firstly, let me say that I ran into Jeanine Vailes at Urth CafĂ© on Melrose yesterday, and she is STUNNING—TV screens so do not do her full justice. She was accompanied by a somewhat wompity, sugar-daddy lookin’ date, though).

So the first night on the big stage is always a bit off, seeing as the contestants usually still need to find their comfort zones. I’m home for spring break and forced my mother into watching with me for the first time this season, and at the end she looked at me and said, “That’s it?” I assured her that past performances packed more punch, but I think part of the problem has to do with Michael Jackson’s catalogue—though brilliant, most of his songs are either untouchable, outdated or not suitable for vocally impressive live performances. I think the best is still yet to come, assuming the band fixes their horrendous arrangements and that the contestants stay away from the creepy screen-stage in front of the judge’s table…

Here are my dream rankings, from best to worst…

The Best

Alexis Grace—“Dirty Diana.” And a star is born (or is beginning to crown, at least)! Alexis took the stage with all the force of a totally un-medicated birth and sheer passion was dripping all over the floor. Abandoning this somewhat-disturbing metaphor, Alexis possesses a raw talent that I cannot wait to see grow. She did overdo it a bit, but this is supposed to be a learning process, right? I can see her blossoming all the way to the Kodak, so keep it up girl!

Allison Iraheta—“Give In To Me.” I am pissed at Ricky Minor for not allowing me to hear the full glory that was Allison’s performance. Her opening verses prove to be continually flawless, her conviction is electric and her voice is indeed wall-crumbling (kudos Kara). I wasn’t crazy about the song’s relatively flat chorus and thought Allison’s outfit was taking it one step too far, but at least we know who she wants to be. I am afraid of whether she has the voting power to succeed though—I would be outraged (though not totally surprised) if Allison graces the bottom group this week, if only because this early, voters tend to congratulate complete success or failure, leaving behind anything in between…

Adam Lambert—“Black or White.” I still cannot formulate a complete opinion on Adam. He knows exactly what he’s doing and he’s always a blast to watch, I’ll give him that. I just don’t know if I can get behind his voice. A lot of the screaming just felt off-pitch, but is that the point? He’s certainly good at inventing notes, that’s for sure. At the end of it all, I’m still excited to see what he’ll do next, and that’s why he’s ranking so high with me.

Danny Gokey—“P.Y.T.” External seams and frayed cuffs aside, Danny gave a respectable showing. I do think, however, that the big stage swallowed him this first time out (not to mention that the band seemed to overpower his voice, forcing him to growl-shout through a significant portion of this groove). But it was certainly good enough to keep him in my (and probably America’s) good graces—not Final 2 worthy just yet though, Paula!

The Believable

Matt Giraud—“Human Nature.” Matt’s another one whose voting support I question, especially coming from the Wild Card, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the bottom. This performance would have packed so much more punch if it was just his voice and the piano (in fact, most instrumental contestants would do well to cast off the dreary band entirely this season). And let’s talk about that never-ending falsetto—get in and get out, Matt, don’t linger! He hasn’t quite nailed a performance yet, but I do still think he has the potential to pull it all together (despite the awkwardly large forehead that steers him safely out of heartthrob territory).

Anoop Desai—“Beat It.” There was a collective groan across my living room when Ryan announced Anoop would be singing Beat It, but all things considered, I think he handled himself adequately. This song doesn’t really lend itself to live performances, but I thought Anoop was energetic and vocally competent. Not his best, but he’s certainly not going anywhere just yet.

Jasmine Murray—“I’ll Be There.” All right, I must admit that I have a soft spot for gorgeous teen balladeers. So maybe my judgments are not totally objective and maybe I’m incapable of detecting the wonky notes everyone else seems to be hearing, but I think Jasmine is being undeservedly bashed. I certainly prefer her brand of diva to the snooze-worthy Lil Rounds, and perhaps it’s because I’m a generation-younger 21-year-old gay boy, but I adore her song choices. I will gladly stand up for Jasmine any day (though I must note she doesn’t really crack my top 6, so I’m not THAT willing…). Oh, did anyone else think it was creepy she seemed to be looking up her own skirt while taking to the jumbo-screen stage?

Kris Allen—“Do You Remember.” Besides being so much fun to look at, Kris possesses genuine stage presence and a perfectly calibrated pop voice. I think the shouting was totally off and crackly on the back end of the song, but otherwise I was pleased. However, I don’t think the contestants should use their instruments superfluously—only sling that guitar on when we can actually hear it, Kris!!

Lil Rounds—“The Way You Make Me Feel.” Lil delivered a decent enough performance, but she still makes me feel dead inside. Perhaps it’s because she’s nowhere near as talented as the divas of Idol past, or perhaps it's because of that miserable ruffled, hip-enlarging mess of an outfit. Whatever it is, she thoroughly bores me, and that usually ensures eventual Idol death.

The Broke-Down

Jorge Nunez—“Never Can Say Goodbye.” I’m sorry, but I cannot get around the fact that Jorge bears a striking resemblance to Count Chocula! Cereal cartoons aside, if anyone is guilty of over-singing, it’s Jorge. All his big notes were not only off pitch, but totally misplaced. The best part of this performance was the judge’s comments: I chuckled at Randy's, “We had a good time in Puerto Rico.” And then when Jorge said, “I wasn’t going to sing “Bad” by Michael Jackson,” Simon followed with the hilarious: “Well you just did.” Paula seems right (weird to keep saying!) to declare that Jorge deserves to stick around for now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him grace the bottom this week.

Michael Sarver—“You Are Not Alone.” Well played, good sir, well played. Scott did everything right and totally exceeded my expectations. And while it’s admirable that he did do everything in his power to stick around on this drippy ballad, I think this is indeed all the power he’s got. Which means Scott will probably make the Idol tour, but is doomed to an early finish (unless he bites the bullet and goes country, in which case he could be sticking around for a good while).

Megan Corkrey—“Rockin’ Robin.” Holy Bad Arrangments, Batman! Kaw Kaw!! Her delivery was awkward, her face was filled with fear, her song choice was manic, her dancing lacked any trace of rhythm and her outfit was heinous. I suppose the only answer is: “That’s so Megan!” Yes, she has an original style, but that doesn’t mean the style isn’t completely ridiculous, people!

Scott MacIntyre—“Keep The Faith.” Oh Scott, it actually pains me to dislike you, but I do, I really do. His story is ceaselessly inspirational, but will fail to inspire actual votes unless he proves he can sing a song well from start to finish. I don’t think he has sustainable vocals and his stage presence is lacking, so Scott gets my bottom slot. I doubt he’ll actually get booted, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he lands in the bottom grouping (however the producers decide to arrange it).

So what is this new judging twist? I really hope it’s something like granting their favorite contestant immunity, or maybe even assisting with song choice, instead of something like determining the bottom three or who goes home. I think all us Idol viewers already feel overly manipulated by the producers /judges, and solidifying their choke hold will only serve as a death-blow to the show’s already questionable status this season.

As for predictions, I’d say Megan and Jasmine are probably going to be sentenced to death-by-Carrie-Underwood-custom-single. I think Scott and Jorge may be in trouble as well (and deservedly so), but I also fear for Allison and Matt. If the producers stick with a bottom 3 though, I’d put Megan, Jasmine and Scott there.

Here’s hoping for no disasters tonight, format or elimination-wise!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wild Cards

So I have to say, my rage has been somewhat satiated after tonight’s entertaining Wild Card show. While I still hold that Felicia should be there in that Top 13 instead of Megan (or in the Wild Card bunch instead of Tatiana), I agreed with the judges choices (with one exception: Ricky Braddy). I know Megan advanced in his spot because of her vagina (yes, I said it), so she should be counting her lucky stars right about now that the Top 13 needed another girl, especially because Jasmine almost knocked her out cold. Anyway, was I the only one who thought Simon was scolding Kara for tipping her cards after Megan’s judging? And how about this passive aggressive streak Paula is on (I’m loving it!)? And hooray for inappropriate live moments, yes I’m referring to kneeling Tatiana and “brown” Anoop…

Here’s what I would have done were I sitting in front of a large red coke cup:

Top Four

Jasmine Murray—“Reflection.” I believed in Jasmine even through the dark days of Love Song, and I now feel the sweet joy of vindication. Under that flawless look, she’s just got a solid, smooth voice—from the power notes to the gorgeous falsetto, I’m so happy she proved herself and smashed her way into the Top 13.

Matt Giraud—“Who’s Loving You.” He won me back over, despite his blatantly arrogant attitude. It was a great song choice and strong vocal delivery, and Matt was obviously playing for keeps. But was anyone else searching for the missing melody in the second half of his performance? I still think he’ll prove to be a poor man’s Chris Richardson (who is a poor man’s Justin Timberlake), but he deserved to advance as the top male of the night, nonetheless.

Anoop Desai—“My Prerogative.” This performance teetered dangerously on the edge of feeling worthy of a certain red headband, but cheesy and dorky theatrics aside, Anoop can simply blow. He’s an Idol nerd with the best voice since Clay Aiken, and I think that’s going to serve him quite well.

Ricky Braddy—“Superstition.” The only reason I’m not that upset about Ricky’s departure is that he came out as if he already knew Paula would write his name on a silver stool. That being said, this show has consistently shortchanged the poor guy, and I wish he had advanced. But even if he had made it through, I think he’d have been doomed to an early, David Hernandez finish anyway.

Send Packing:

Megan Corkery—“Black Horse and a Cherry Tree.” I still don’t get her! This was undoubtedly better than her first showing, but still paled in comparison to KT Tunstall’s vocals on the original. As a pop music fiend, I also don’t think Megan is unique in the least; I can name at least 10 artists who do the same thing as her, but a trillion times better (and thus have actual record deals). At least she’s gorgeous—I keep getting flashes of Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls…

Jesse Langseth—“Tell Me Something Good.” She was certainly entertaining, but Jesse displayed just how limited her vocal range truly is with this performance, which is why she was justly denied.

Von Smith—“Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.” I don’t really care enough about this performance to discuss it. All I have to say is: chance blown!

Tatiana Del Toro—“Saving All My Love.” Your fifteen minutes are finally up!

All in all, I have to admit that I’m pretty happy with the Final 13. Is it perfect? No. But I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing more of Allison, Alexis, Danny, Adam, Kris, Jasmine, Matt and Anoop, and am completely willing to be won over by Lil, Jorge and Scott. So that just leaves Michael and Megan on my shit list, which ain’t so bad!!


Wildcard Announcement

I am equally appalled by the elimination of such hopefuls as Mishavonna Henson, Ju'Not Joyner and Kristen McNamara, though no blow comes harder than the passing over of Felicia Barton. To allow Tatiana Del Toro through instead based solely on her water-cooler potential is just inexcusable to me.

I understand the judges are trying to fill vocal/personality holes in the top 12 with their selections, and that they also must be informed somehow by the public votes, but still, why choose both Jesse Langseth and Megan Corkery? And why does it just feel like the judges (producers) are still pushing their hollywood favorites and ignoring the best top 36 performers (with the exception of Ricky Braddy).

The only consolation I find is knowing that these talented singers, in being overlooked, are avoiding an almost inevitable verbal slapping around by the judges and resultant 12th-11th place finishes...I believe all four are better than this, and if Idol won't give them the respect they deserve, they're better served to find it elsewhere! (Sour grapes, I know, but I can't help it).


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Group #3

Well Idol certainly saved the best for last. Not only was the production format the smoothest it's been all season, but the compilation of talent was also the most believable so far. I don’t think there were the type of standout performances we’ve seen in the past few weeks (Danny, Alexis, Allison, Adam), but the overall level of talent was much higher and much more evenly spread in this group. Unlike the past two weeks, spotting the top 3 this time around is a tricky task. As a side-note, how passive aggressive was Paula? Her comments were priceless: when she said to Kendall, “Hope you enjoyed it,” she might as well have added (because you won’t get to do it again). And poor Alex received: “You're certainly entertaining, and we had fun watching you,” with the once again unsaid (but will not be doing so again).

Here is my breakdown (and I acknowledge wholeheartedly this is NOT how the votes will go tonight, but a boy can dream, can’t he?):

Top Three

Felicia Barton— “No One.” Every week I pick just one contestant to call in for, and this week Felicia won my vote. Admittedly, I am a sucker for a good comeback story (Jennifer Hudson, baby!), but Felicia has oh so much more than that: she looked stunning, her voice was soothing and I could practically feel her gratitude oozing through the TV. Yes, it was a bit obvious she picked the song that gave her Youtube/Idolatry fame (since Idol previously had given her none), but it’s Felicia’s shining attitude and powerful instrument that made me fall head over heels. New dark horse?

Ju’not Joyner—“Hey There Delilah.” So freaking pretty—this performance was just beautiful: the definition of less-is-more. I have serious doubts about Ju’not’s commercial appeal as an artist (where will he fit in?), but that’s the beauty of Idol—the man can sing the hell out of a song while making it his own, and for that, he deserves to be heard again.

Kristen McNamara—“Gimme One Reason.” I have been one of Kristen’s biggest fans through the early rounds, but I was hoping for Kelly/Leona/Pink ballad from her, not a mid-tempo soulful jam. This song requires more attitude than Kristen possesses (plus Jordin Sparks killed it her first time out…). That being said, Kristen’s voice is insane—I really hope she gets another shot to display those gritty power notes and that shockingly high falsetto.

Wild Card Worthy

Arianna Afsar—“The Winner Takes It All.” So the song was wrong and the performance wasn’t winning; I STILL want to hear this girl sing again. Something about her voice is hypnotizing, and I think the judges were WAY too harsh. The ultimate test for me is whether I’ll be shelling out my 99 cents on iTunes, and for Arianna, and I know I will be. Chin up, girl.

Lil Rounds—“Be Without You.” I’ll say it time and time again, I LOVE an Idol diva, but Lil just isn’t doing it for me. She has all the right components: she’s gorgeous, stylish, passionate and confident. And the voice is there. But she pales in comparison to Season 3’s impeccable divas, and there’s a copycat quality about her that makes her kind of boring/predictable to me. That paired with the blatant producer pimping, she leaves me dead cold. Sorry Lil! I wouldn’t be too surprised if she gets relegated to the Wild Cards for the sake of some more interesting contestants, which would be fine by me…

Jorge Nunez—“Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.” Hands down the most impressive vocal performance of the night. But I found it hard to get past the syrupy, drippy quality of his notes, and good lord, someone get this man a pair of tweezers! Those downward curving eyebrows were wildly distracting. Still, like Felicia, I want to root for him, and I really think that counts for a lot.

Scott MacIntyre—“Mandolin Rain.” Admit it, when you saw Scott go for that low squat you thought he was going to try and sit back down, woefully missing his stool. All right, I may go to hell for that one, but all kidding aside, I understand why Scott is crazily appealing. But if he didn’t have that amazing back-story, would everyone praise him quite so much? I don’t think so, but I do recognize how irrelevant this question is. He is emotionally gripping, honest and possesses a passable voice, and that’s much more than most of the previous weeks’ contestants can say. So while I am not yet a fan, I am willing to be persuaded…

Homeward Bound

Von Smith—“You’re All I Need.” I wanted to like him, I really did. But this performance just felt all wrong. From the weird backward slides, to the terrible reverse mullet haircut (party in the front and business in the back?), to the schizophrenic outfit (an oversized gray suit with red t-shirt and matching sneakers?), everything felt a bit alien in this performance. Vocally it was mildly intriguing, but he was too strange.

Taylor Vaifanua—“If I Ain’t Got You.” Pretty girl, fashionable clothes, good voice, stage presence, great song. How can this equation add up to utter blandness? I’m still puzzled, but I agree with Simon: Taylor was utterly forgettable. And it pains me to say so, because I genuinely like(d) her.

Nathanial Marshall—“Anything For Love.” I have never been in Nathanial’s corner, and tonight he reminded me why. I concede that he has a great voice, a big personality and is certainly fun to watch. I just can’t take all that cheese—from the flashy dance moves to the skintight outfits, it’s just way too much for me. But I know people will vehemently disagree with me, and that makes him one to watch (especially because of the emasculating Paula lap-sitting and Kara karaoke buddying, not to mention his supportive-yet-honest grandmother).

Kendall Beard—“This One’s For The Girls.” I was not as appalled as I expected to be. I’m famously dead set against the Kristy-Lees and Pickler’s of Idol past (with one Underwood as a sweeping exception), and I cast Beard in the same light—a thoroughly mediocre country girl. But why is it that these “innocent” country girls are consistently wickedly smart—they know exactly what songs to pick, which notes to belt and what personality traits to show to get people to pick up their phones. Being this season’s only country girl, I would not be surprised to see Kendall in the Top 12, though I really hope it doesn’t happen.

Alex Wagner-Trugman—“And I Guess That’s Why.” So you’ve heard of a butter face, right? (Everything is hot, but her face). Well, Alex is a classic case: everything is great, (but his voice). The kid is massively likable and so much fun to watch, but he simply can’t sing, and tried to disguise this fact with runs and growls and kicks (oh my).

So really, those top 12 slots could go to anyone tonight, but if you held a gun to my head, I’d say Lil, Jorge and Scott will take top honors. Though Felicia, Ju’not, Nathanial and Kendall all seem to have legitimate shots as well. But where does that leave my favorite gals Kristen and Arianna? And what about that quirky Von? This should make for a truly suspenseful results show…and a (hopefully) Group 3 filled Wild Card show!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Group #2

Why oh why does it feel like my beloved Idol is falling apart at the seams? The combination of the jumbled judging table, the band’s weird karaoke arrangements and the abysmally misguided performances all has the effect of creating a rather amateurish show. Though the elimination of post-performance family talk was much needed, the other changes in format make it feel like the producers can’t make up their minds. Could Idol be regressing back to its early seasons? Perhaps I’m being too harsh and all will be right once the fat is trimmed for the Final 12….

Until then, here’s how I hope things shake down tonight:

Top Three

Allison Iraheta—“Alone.” Her performance literally had me talking to my Tivo—THANK YOU! After four unwatchable messes, Allison reminded me why I watch this show: undiscovered, surprising talent (and dangly pinky rings)! Sure, “Alone” is one of the most overused and abused songs in the Idol songbook, but if you can pull it off, more power to you. Allison was raspy, confident and she’s already got her diva hand motions down pat. She’s the first contestant I feel genuinely excited about (despite the bizarre pre-performance interview with Ryan).

Adam Lambert—“Satisfaction.” I find myself liking Adam only because of what he might potentially bring in the future, not based on what he’s actually sung so far. His high notes are undeniably awe-inducing, but his performances are all over the place. I also don’t think there’s a shred of relevance in him, and was shocked to hear Randy say so—Adam is so 80s! He screams Flock of Seagulls with that awful chopped haircut and the gold chains—and were those male shoulder pads?? At the very least he’s interesting, which is more than can be said for most of Group 2’s contestants.

Mishavonna Henson—“Drops of Jupiter.” I found myself charmed by the lovely Mishavonna; I thought her performance was understated, controlled and quite elegant, and I don’t think the judges gave her enough credit. She was much better on the simpler opening verses than the booming chorus, but she’s just so damn likeable. And is it just me or does she kind of look like a dark-haired Taylor Swift? I really hope we see her again.

Wildcard Worthy

Kris Allen—“Man In The Mirror.” Not spectacular, but relative to the rest of Group 2, this guy may just have a shot. He’s cute as a button (you could already hear the girls in the audience screaming) and possesses quite a clean voice (despite the crackling nerves). And he hit the ever-popular Idol power note mid-song, so I’m sure this isn’t the last time we’ll be seeing Kris…

Jasmine Murray—“Love Song.” Despite this disappointing showing, Jasmine definitely deserves another shot. She did pick the wrong song, but she still sounded pretty damn good in parts, and even though her attempts at conviction involved far too much hair tossing, I still maintain that she has what it takes to shine in this competition.

Jesse Langseth—“Betty Davis Eyes.” If we’re picking a retro-pop contestant to push, move over Megan, because I find Jesse to be far more interesting. Her performance was shaky vocally, but still kind of puzzling (in a good way). And Jesse’s got personality for days—I almost picked up my phone on virtue of her vigor alone, but thought better of it. Kudos for making Simon resort to “too cool for school.” Where did that come from?

Matt Giraud—“Viva La Vida.” Jerky indeed. Filled with misplaced runs, miserable falsettos and botched high notes, this was just a straight mess. He took the ever-desired Idol risk, which is admirable, but fell flat on his face. He only deserves a second chance based on that brief moment of Hollywood bliss.

Homeward Bound

Jeanine Vailes—“This Love.” Why, why, why would anyone sing this? It’s a great song, but not one that many singers can replicate, as Jeanine’s flailing vocals demonstrated. The bridge showed a little of what she’s capable of, but the rest was a pitchy disaster. And everything about her felt desperate, from the overdone gesticulations to the “I’m so much older” pleading.

Megan Corkrey—“Put Your Records On.” Did anyone else find this as painful as I did? The contrived attempt at style seemed really silly to me—that odd hip twisting made her appear like a two year old throwing a tantrum. And the vocals just weren’t strong. She’s all idea and no execution, and I’m surprised the judges didn’t see this.

Kai Kalama—“What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.” I adore this song and have always thought it could deliver Idol gold, which is probably why I found myself wishing Megan or Jesse had stumbled across this gem instead of the thoroughly mediocre Kai. So forgettable!

Matt Breitzke—“If You Could Only See.” The song is the least of this guy’s problems. I actually thought it was a smart choice despite the awkward performance, but Matt is just untranslatable as far as the music industry goes. Refer to one Taylor Hicks.

He Who Shall Not Be Named—“Blank.” Go home, before I become violently angry.

I think it’s safe to say Adam and Allison earned the top spots of the night, but third place seems thoroughly up for grabs. I fear it may go to that headband-wearing mess, but I think Kris or Mishavonna could take it too. I’d also say we’ll probably be seeing Megan in the Wildcard instead of Jesse, though I hope not.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Group #1

All right, so have none of this year’s Group #1 contestants ever watched the show before? How else would one explain the TERRIBLE, karaoke song choices? Last night’s show was like a master class in how to pick the worst song possible, so I really hope the upcoming two groups took notes accordingly. And what was with the awkward and unnecessarily encouraging family moments? It made the show feel like a b-rate high school talent show. Also, why were the contestants not allowed to use instruments? At least the judges recovered this dismal showing by delivering some surprisingly on-point criticisms.

Anyway, here’s my rundown of who should place where:

Top Three

Danny Gokey—“Hero.” The hype has just been justified; this guy has simply got “it.” Weird song choice, but one that most Idol fans will eat up with a spoon nonetheless. And his vocal delivery was chill inducing. Can anyone say frontrunner?

Alexis Grace—“I Ain’t Never Loved A Man.” Powerful, commanding and (relatively) fantastic. She possesses both presence and an interesting voice, and her trajectory suggests that she may grow into an underdog powerhouse, a la Elliott Yamin.

Ricky Braddy—“A Song For You.” Probably the right song choice in terms of pleasing the Idol audience, but way overdone. He was clearly going all-out to make an impression, but I have a feeling he’s better than this performance. Which is why he deserves the third entrance slot, despite the appalling and premature creation of a fan group name: The Braddy Bunch.

Wildcard Worthy
(Assuming the judges pick 4 from each group to build the wildcards.)

Anoop Desai—“Angel of Mine.” More mediocre 90s R&B? That song remains obscure for a reason, and Anoop’s pitchy performance was entirely boring. But he’s proven his voice and charm in the past weeks and deserves another shot.

Ann Marie Boskovich—“Natural Woman.” After insulting Sara Bareilles and Kara in one fell swoop, then pronouncing “I sat on the hard part,” she’s toast. But she had the right idea in choosing a power ballad, she just went with the wrong one. Her voice didn’t sound full and her performance felt erratic, but she was much better than the rest of the Group 1 girls (which isn’t saying much, admittedly).

Michael Sarver—“I Don’t Wanna Be.” His attempt to channel emotion was made transparent by the incessant foot-stomping and mike-switching, but he’s got the potential to elevate his amateur status.

Stephen Fowler—“Rock With You.” Why? Why??? Maybe the 3rd chance is a charm?

Homeward Bound

Tatiana Del Toro—“Saving All My Love.” Parts were all right, but that doesn’t salvage her delusional personality. Plus that heinous floral dress made her look abundantly fleshy.

Brent Keith—“Hick Town.” He looked uncomfortable and his voice was barely there. Michael Sarver will take his wildcard spot, most likely.

Jackie Tohn—“A Little Less Conversation.” She tried to channel Katy Perry and ended up looking like a cartoon character. Her performance was manic, and she was quite right to say her voice isn’t as good as everyone else’s.

Stevie Wright—“You Belong With Me.” Oh, sweetie. No.

Casey Carlson—“Every Little Thing She Does.” Jerky and desperate and scrunchy. Goodbye!

So that’s how I want things to play out, but if I had to call it, I’d put Anoop in the Top 3 with Alexis and Danny, and say Ricky, Ann Marie, Jackie and Michael will pull wildcard spots. Let’s just hope Groups 2 and 3 redeem this disappointing first showing…


Monday, February 16, 2009

Hollywood Week #4

Mansions and thrones and sing-offs, oh my! While I appreciate Idol’s attempt to amp up the spectacle, when will they learn that this dream-crushing/dream-making machine has all the built in drama they’ll every need? Though I did prefer this new format to the “suspenseful” elevator rides, because really, who wants to use these awkward, time-killing experiences as a dramatic device? I found myself devilishly desiring a sing-off between Danny Gokey and Jamar Rogers, or even better, Norman “Nick” Gentle and Tatiana “Crazy-pants” Del Toro.

Let me start the rundown with a special note: while I can cope with Tatiana’s entrance into the Top 36 because she seems to have some kind of voice hidden underneath those manic outbursts. Norman Gentle, however, does not. I’m appalled by the blatant play on the part of the judges/producers to generate water cooler buzz. They want the viewers to play the love/hate game with this contestant? I call your bluff, Idol, and resolve to entirely ignore Norman’s existence for the rest of this season. And I hope everyone will join me in doing so.

While we’re on this subject of annoying contestants, Scott Macintyre is shaping up to be much more of a sweet guy than an actual singer, and I think Jackie Tohn is obnoxious and small-voiced, though I’m sure not many will agree with me. To my surprise, Nathanial Marshall (previously on my shit list), really impressed—his sing-off showed, for the first time, real pipes and purpose.

Now, on to some more promising prospects…

Potential Favorites:
(Aside from the Season 8 Producer Pack:
Anoop Desai, Adam Lambert, Lil Rounds and Danny Gokey).

Kristin McNamara—Kudos for withstanding one of the more BRUTAL judging’s from Simon ever. The girl is a bit weird, but she needs to stay strong, because she can sing her two-toned hair off!!

Taylor Vaifanua—This one is so pretty and a great singer. What will take her far, however, are all those positive vibes she seems to send out. Harness that good energy, Taylor!

Alexis Grace—She’s proven herself capable of delivering a powerful and dynamic performance, so let’s hope she does so in the first live round.

Allison Iraheta—Her raspy voice and conviction-filled performance instantly won me over. Yes, Paula, dark-horse indeed.

Von Smith—I’m really excited for this cutie to be the next potential Clay Aiken. He’s certainly got the voice, and maybe he’s learned how to use it for the Top 36.

So these are the stand-outs to me so far, and I think everyone else is probably destined for idol obscurity (barring surprise live-round gold). I am also excited to see Group 1’s Stephen Fowler, Ann-Marie Boskovich and Brent Keith next week, despite being previously underwhelmed by all three.

All right, now that America holds the power, I’m excited to see how the contestants fare with the live stage and what the judges have to say (funny how when they’re decisions actually matter, we don’t see the reasoning, and when they’re essentially powerless, we hear every last word of their opinions).


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hollywood Week #3

Finally, American Idol has decided to grace us with a full show of actual performances! Sure, most of them were tidbits that left me wanting more (or less, in many cases), but at least I now feel I have a more comprehensive look at the potentials in the running for Top 36dom. As a result, I am going to overlook the fact that Idol keeps producing/misplacing three contestants (107? 104? 75? 72?), that Paula thought it wise to wear a broken mirror around her neck, or that Room 1 was blatantly composed of the top contenders.

Since we were gifted with such an abundance of performances, I thought it best to break the singers into several groups…

The Favorites:

Danny Gokey—“I Hope You Dance” is an odd choice, but I assume it was picked from a pre-approved song list, considering how many repeats we heard last night. At any rate, Danny is proving that he can sing the phone book and sound good (as the judges continuously said of the dearly departed Carly last season). He will handle themed weeks quite well (and I say “will” because Idol is blatantly and mercilessly pushing him, providing extended performance airtime, a rare Simon smirk, and inappropriate arm swinging and chair writhing from Paula).

Adam Lambert—So his rendition of “Believe” didn’t sound quite right. Who cares? If you can make a Cher song seem haunting and relevant, I’m on board.

Kristin McNamara—The killer falsetto and powerfully sustained high notes Kristin pulled off on “Because Of You” allowed me to overlook the shaky, raspy parts and the fact that her freakishly large mouth still makes her look like a muppet while singing.

Matthew Giraud—Much, much better than expected. That piano brought him to life, so he better stay behind it. But was his “Georgia” worthy of a standing O? No.

Jamar Rogers—His take on “Hey There Delilah” was surprisingly contemporary and vocally interesting. He’s winning me over.

Jasmine Murray—We only got to see her sing the last few boring notes of “Tattoo,” but I still have complete faith in this girl.

The First-Timers:

Kenny Hoeffpauer—It took me two watches to figure out he was singing “I’m Yours,” but his voice is really, really intriguing. Why haven’t we seen more of him?

Ju’Not Joyner—I adored his soulful take on “Hey There Delilah.” Put him through!

The Flailing Disappointments:

Lil Rounds—STOP SHOUTING. I want to love her so badly, but she needs to find the soul, subtlety and vocal nuance that will make her shine, not the token belting she’s been dishing out.

Anoop Desai—It is “My Prerogative” to pretend this song was never sung and judge him solely on past performances. Wait, he sang Boyz II Men before…are we in for nothing but dated 90s R&B? Say it ain’t so, Anoop.

Scott Macintyre—Was I the only one that thought Scott sounded like the local piano bar singer? I don’t get it, but I’m sure he’ll hit the Top 36, vibrato and all.

Michael Sarver—I can see why people would love him, but he’s just not my cup of tea. Kudos on the O-Town though, Sarver.

The Forgettables:

Jorge Nunez, Kendall Beard, Stevie Wright, Mishavonna Henson, Ann Marie Boskovich and everyone who forgot their lyrics. Oh, and where has Von Smith been?

The Fugly:

Tatiana Del Toro—There was one good note in her entire performance; the rest was as over the top as her incessant whining. I hope the judges are just keeping her around for the drama of a weeping elevator ride of rejection tonight…

Nathanial Marshall—I actually enjoyed his acoustic “Disturbia.” Then he pulled that flourish bow and I went right back to despising him. Grow up?!

Norman Gentle—This is just becoming absurd. Maybe I’d relent if he had the vocals to back up his not-so-funny antics, but he can’t even sing!!!!!!!

Though I’m not looking forward to more recaps of weeks past during the Elevator of Doom episode tonight, I cannot wait for the unveiling of the Top 36. One more week until it’s really on!


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hollywood Week #2

Is the idol machine finally breaking down? Granted, I never really get crazily-into the show until the viewer voting rounds, but these preliminary shows just seem like a bad omen. Not a peep of reasoning from the judges? Thirty minutes of useless, song-less drama? Knowing more about the booted contestants than those in the top 75? Not being able to differentiate between 104 and 107 singers? Are we witnessing the slow, painful death of a legend? I really hope not, but the following contestants serve as proof…

Norman Gentle—I refuse to call this nonsense by it’s real name. COME ON!!

Tatiana Del Torro—So the girl has a good voice. But watching her hysterical rantings feels much like taking a cheese grater to the face.

Nathanial Marshall—A tired Danny Noriega impersonator. Go home.

Still, despite my growing fear, there are a precious few contestants to get excited about…

Danny Gokey—They’re shamelessly pimping him, but I got chills nonetheless during his version of “Somebody to Love.”

Adam Lambert—Shrill, but like Von, if he learns to only hit us with a few power notes per song, I foresee idol gold.

Jasmine Murray—After hearing the vocal cloud that her fellow Diva members served up, Jasmine’s voice cut in like ray of light. She’s simply smooth, and I can’t wait to see what she can do.

Kristin McNamara—Sure, I hated her during the drama half, believed she couldn't sing when needing to "rest her voice," and thought she looked oddly muppet-esque during her performance of “Mercy,” but when she hit those high notes, I had to hit rewind on my Tivo. Instant love!

Until next week, here’s to hoping Norman Gentle’s elevator of suspense malfunctions and careens into obscurity.


Hollywood Week #1

Hello Idol Fans,

Another season of American Idol has dawned, and it's about time this Idol guru makes his voice heard. I'll be weighing in on all things Idol every week, so enjoy!!

Before I even mention the performances, what was with that startling Ford product placement via Danny Gokey? Don't we usually only have to endure these during the top 12 results shows? And in general, I keep trying to determine why the episode felt hollow...probably the age-old Idol dilemma: too much Seacrest dramatizing and not enough actual performance time. Simon loves to remind us this is a signing competition—so why not show us more singing than happy Hollywood touring?

Bellyaching aside, there were actually some people to get excited about…

Jasmine Murray—Anyone singing an obscure Kelly Clarkson song wins points in my book, especially when they have the voice to pull it off.

Anoop Desai—I think he'll take revenge for all the fallen Sanjayas, John Stevens and Anthony Federovs of idol seasons past, because he is a geek who can ACTUALLY SING. Imagine that. Clay Aiken 2.0?

Danny Gokey—Save the sob stories for those who need them (sorry Rose Flack), because this guy’s got it. Besides the startlingly good song choice, he just has stage presence. He’s one to watch.

But so many more contestants I wanted to get behind fell flat…

Lil Rounds—Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good diva. There has not been one big-voiced balladeer to cross idol’s stage that I haven’t rooted for (well, maybe that gay-hating Mandisa). But divas, know thy chops—and don’t touch that Whitney song unless you have Hudson-sized confidence to back it up. For someone who claimed to be so humbly unaware of her talent in her first audition, Lil only went on to pick the biggest ballad ever, and handled it shakily at best. If Lil studies the bible of Fantasia and Melinda, she’ll fair much better…

Rose Flack—What happened? Did boot camp really drain all this girl’s charm? I was appalled to see the lifeless, jittery mess Rose had become during her rendition of Dock of the Bay. I hope she realizes she doesn’t need the best voice, she just needs to own whatever voice she does have, and she’ll sail through.

Von Smith—Can anyone guess who the next dark horse will be? Idol always needs that one contestant people either love or love to hate, and I think that will be Von. He has the kind of polarizing quality that idol producers dream of, and I’d be shocked to see him not make the top 36. I’m particularly excited about him being a potential male Latoya or Syesha (who were prone to shouting themselves). If he learns to harness that big ol’ voice, I think there could be magic.

And then there are the contestants that I just can’t understand…

Nathanial Marshall—Despite eliciting a surprisingly lucid criticism from Paula, his bursting skin routine really, really grossed me out.

Jackie Tohn—No. Funny, but transparently so; she lacks the true charm Rose once wielded. And sparkly fanny packs can only distract from mediocre vocals for so long…

Speaking of gimmicks…Norman Gentle? Katrina Darrell? These felt like slaps in the face to an idol diehard like myself, especially when someone like grandma-caring girl gets the boot without so much as an explanatory note.

Hopefully group night provides more singing and less nonsense...