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of the problem has to do with Michael Jackson’s catalogue—though brilliant, most of his songs are either untouchable, outdated or not suitable for vocally impressive live performances.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…
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!
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.
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!