Meet Randy Jackson... the voice of reason? Wait, wtf?
I know Steven and JLo are new to the whole judging game, but blanket complements do not an American Idol make. Dare I say I agreed with the majority of Randy's ramblings (and splashes of much-needed constructive criticism). Just because someone sings competently doesn't mean they deserve to have a record deal-- being an artist is about so much more than that (as both Steven and JLo should know first-hand). But here's to hoping they shake off the first-day Paula-isms and that Randy continues to earn that fat paycheck of his.
But on to more important things... the talent. Nothing infuriates me more than when a hopeful singer takes the Idol stage and proceeds to do something derivative, dated or safe. You get one chance, people. ONE CHANCE. Yet every season, half of "our" Top 24 usually devolves into karaoke land, making song choices that would seem strange even in your local dive bar. Crafting an Idol moment is a delicate art, requiring equal parts power and restraint, drama and subtlety-- but anyone who has seen one damn season should know what works and what doesn't on that big stage. It honestly baffles me...
But on the flip side, nothing delights me more than when a hopeful singer takes the Idol stage and proceeds to do something original, unexpected and simply unforgettable. And hallellu, a handful of singers did just that. Season 10's inaugural live episode was littered with those who were clueless, those who tried valiantly and those who succeeded... so let's get onto it.
The Top 5
Casey Abrams: "I Put A Spell On You." Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. Casey has personality for f***ing days. Add in a steaming pile of artistry and a massive helping of talent, and you have an American Idol sensation. Naima's wild balcony fist-pumping and JLo's astute commentary said it all-- someone's about to change the whole game, Chris Daughtry style. I salute you, sir.
Jacob Lusk: "House Is Not A Home." Never in a million years did I think someone would steal Tamyra Gray's Idol thunder with this song, and never in a billion years did I think the diva-thief would be Jacob. I retract my earlier him-hawing; Jacob can SANG. He tackled that song with all the conviction of a lion stalking its prey, and not since Adam Lambert has an Idol contestant been this exciting to watch. I'm still not sure there's necessarily a relevant artist under all that voice (Taylor Hicks style), but in a night of vanilla, Jacob was a heaping hunk of chocolate lava cake. Can I get an Amen!!
Stefano Langone: "Just The Way You Are." Damn, boy. You gave me Felicia Barton flashbacks (robbed on Season 8, anyone?). Stefano displayed a raw talent and charisma that is wildly rare, but perhaps too raw to advance in this year's Idol game. That being said, I devoted my dialing power solely to this cutie, because I fear his mid-pack running is going to need it. Let's hope, though, that his journey goes more underdog Kris Allen than Kristen McNamara or Ju'not Joyner (I'm sorry, but those Season 8 wounds still run deep).
Paul McDonald: "Maggie May." The sum of his distinct voice, Bradley Cooper looks, dinosaur-esque affectations and "quirky/different" (we get it, Idol) wardrobe adds up to something much greater than this somewhat forgettable performance, luckily for Paul. I wants to see more, and I wants to see it shirtless (jokes, jokes).
Robbie Rosen: "Angel." I had such high expectations for Robbie, so I'm trying not to over-judge this shaky first showing. He certainly displayed the signature vocal re-arranging that makes him special, but not as flawlessly as he did in Hollywood/Vegas. And few teenagers possess the emotional experience necessary to deliver that song-- it's haunting and depressing, but Robbie had a half-smirk on his face the whole time. Any other season he'd have earned another showing in the Final 20, but perhaps not this season where we're cutting to the top 10... nonetheless, he graces my list of ideal finalists.
James Durbin: "You Got Another Thing Coming." Much to my surprise, I liked James this week. I did not think he was quite as "crazy good" as he thought he was (tone down the celebratory leaping, man), nor do I believe yet that his rocker antics are authentic-- but he sang an interesting song well and demonstrated who he is as a singer. This all merits another shot in my book, one way or another.
Scotty McCreery: "Letters From Home." Let me start by saying I will never vote for Scotty, nor will I ever buy one of his albums. He's simply not this bicoastal, pop-diva-loving gay's cup of vocal tea. But I can't deny that as far as country goes, he's the real deal. And I'd imagine he's going to have the votes of every land-locked teenage girl in America after this performance-- he nailed it, plain and simple.
Brett Loewenstern: "Light My Fire." I get what Brett was trying to accomplish and I respect the (albeit failed) attempt at originality, but I was hoping for much more from Brett. Despite this high school auditorium worthy performance, I do think Brett's positive message and Willow Smith hair-whipping ways will make enough of an impression to move on... but we'll see.
Cannon Fodder Fails
Clint Jun Gamboa: "Superstition." There's no denying that Clint has one hell of a voice, but that didn't stop his performance from lacking a shred of musical relevance. The self-proclaimed "artist" shouted his way through a straight-karaoke rendition of a 40-year-old song, leaving me (and America) with no clue as to what sound he would produce were he to record an album.
Tim Haplerin: "Streetcorner Symphony." Why would anyone ever think that this song would deliver a one-shot pass to the Idol finals? I'm honestly baffled by this choice (which is a shame, because I really want to like this Tim).
Jovany Barretto: "I'll Be." Yes, Jovany sounded (and looked) good. And as a 23-year-old who unabashadly LOVES him some Dawson's Creek era ballads (whatup Paula Cole), I still managed to HATE this performance. Complete with a 90s-diva mid-bridge key-change, Jovany failed to update this song to sound even remotely current (someone should have sat him down and made him watch David Cook's "Hello." 'Nuff Said).
Jordan Dorsey: "OMG." And I'm like, Oh My God, there's so many ways to hate you (and this performance), so I won't even bother recounting them. But can I just say-- you ultimately CHOSE this song, so why on earth did you act like someone else forced this heinous decision upon you? You're stank, jank and bank(rupt).
Predictions: So while this is how I want things to go down, my Idol instincts tell me that Casey, Jacob, Robbie, Brett and Scotty will be filling out the male Top Five on Thursday (which would leave Paul, Stefano and James to hopefully snag wildcard spots). And by the way, anyone else digging the format change? I really think it combines the best of all previous Idol semifinal worlds...