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...