Thursday, April 28, 2011

Final 6 Love Lost

I'm sorry for not posting my thoughts last night kiddies, but I'm going to be straight up with you-- I'm going through a bad breakup.

It's rough, it's brutal-- but me and American Idol Season 10, we're through.

And no, it has nothing to do with Casey's ouster (he should never have gotten the save in the first place, in my opinion)-- it's not even really about Pia's ouster (OK, maybe it is, a little). It's about the fact that last night, as I was watching, for the first time ever I had to force myself not to hit the fast forward button. All of the ticks and quirks about Idol that I usually find endearing became utterly unbearable (much like a real breakup, hmm?). And really, tonight's "let's not reveal the bottom 3 and make you think Scotty is in jeopardy" ploy was the straw that broke this camel's back.

Worst of all, as I sit down to write about the dreary show, I find that I have very little to say. Nothing moved me, good or bad, to comment. And that's a surefire sign that the love is gone, no?

It may be too early, but I do think I've found someone else. Sure, I have to wait to the live rounds until I announce we're going steady, but I have a serious crush on The Voice. And hey, if that doesn't work out, there's plenty of other X-Factors in the sea, aren't there?

Top 5 Most-Likely-To-Win Rankings:
1.) Scotty McCreery
2.) Lauren Alaina
3.) James Durbin
5.) Haley Reinhart (Bottom 3: Final 13, 12, 8, 7)
6.) Jacob Lusk (Bottom 3: Final 9, 7)
6.) Casey Abrams (Bottom 3: Final 11)
7.) Stefano Langone (Bottom 3: Final 11, 9, 8, 7)
8.) Paul McDonald (Bottom 3: Final 11.2, 8)
9.) Pia Toscano (Bottom 3: Final 9)
10.) Naima Adedapo (Bottom 3: Final 12, 11.2)
11.) Thia Megia (Bottom 3: Final 11, 11.2)
12.) Karen Rodriguez (Bottom 3: Final 13, 12)
13.) Ashton Jones (Bottom 3: Final 13)

I will report back when a performance actually moves me to something other than indifference-- and trust me when I say, I think there's a Z Voice blog coming your way sometime soon...

Waiting Patiently,

Monday, April 25, 2011

Five Reasons Idol Has Floundered

It was mere weeks ago that I (and many other Idol pundits) were heralding the triumphant return of American Idol. In fact, during Final 11 week, I even went so far as to write the following:

"After a teetering dark period filled with lost judges, predictably mundane filler and Michael-Lynche-level talent (remember him? Don't bother), American Idol is back-- and with a bang, baby. We've got 11 wildly different (and equally interesting) contestants, renewed energy behind the judges panel and some serious mentoring (someone (aka Jimmy) has been reading the fan blogs this time around, huh?). Season 10 of Idol has not for one second let us forget that they are searching for a superstar, and for the first time in a while, I think they're really going to produce one (if not more)."

Now, one month later, I'm singing a very different tune (and I'm most assuredly not alone). All the air seems to have been let out of the tires of the great American Idol tank, and all I'm left to wonder is: why?

I've given it quite a bit of thought and have compiled the following list of reasons why American Idol Season 10 is currently floundering (and perhaps may be beyond repair...)

5.) The Risk-to-Elimination Ratio: Something is wonky with the American Idol voting public, as evidenced by the string of all-female eliminations for the first 5 weeks (damn you landlocked tweenage girls). But no elimination has been more henious (and damaging) than Pia Toscano's ouster, which was the linchpin turning point this season, for two reasons: Pia's polished presence genuinely raised the collective talent bar of the contestants, and in the post-Pia era, everyone seems vaguely more amateur. Secondly, the switchup in Pia's performance style that got her booted (going uptempo) signals a dreadful Idol trend: that contestants who take risks (like Naima and Stefano did) get the boot. The result? Expected song-choices that craft a contestant's musical persona and advance them safely week-to-week, but do not infuse them with starpower.

4.) Great (Unmet) Expectations: Going into the Top 13, we all had very high hopes for this particular band of contestants, all of which have been systematically dashed. Pia was going to bring diva-pop back and all the way to at least the Top 4 (nope, booted Top 9). Stefano was going to wow us all with his emotional conviction, strong voice and potential superstar wattage (nope, he flailed along awkwardly, never recreating the magic of his Wildcard moment fully). Casey was going to be a refreshing breath of jazzy air, marching to the beat of his own humble & unique bass (nope, he resorted to indulgent growly face antics). Lauren was going to be the second coming of Kelly Sparks-Underwood (nope, she hasn't proven yet she understands how to weild her wickidly-amazing voice). Paul was going to woo us with soft, acoustic, emotionally earnest artistry (nope, he pranced around the stage like a laughing-gas-stricken chicken). Jacob was going to learn to restrain his ridiculously rare voice and channel some earnest emoiton (nope, we got straight Lusky Stank). Scotty was going to mature into a genuine country powerhouse (nope, he's done nothing but flip on the country cruise-control).

Practically no one has delivered what was promised early on (aside from James and Haley, who really didn't have many expectations placed on them early on anyway). But seriously, what has happened to all this potential?

3.) Lame Duck Judges: I do enjoy the more unabashadly positive, dream-making focus of Season 10, but not when it's forced down my throat. The viewing public can tell when performances don't go well, no matter how hard the judges try to convince us otherwise. Earlier in the season we were all-aboard the positivity-train, especially when JLo included some astute constructive criticism for a change. But since then, we've got nothing but blanket-complements--and it's getting really, really stale. The lack of reality-checking from the judges has forced us all to focus on the more gimmicky, reality-schtick sides of Idol and has not helped the audience differentiate the good from the bad.

2.) Jimmy Iovine's Artisty-Crushing Band of Producers: Sure, Jimmy does have many astute and constructive insights to offer the contestants, not to mention the fact he's introducing the hopefuls to many A-List producers. But the tradeoff has been overly-produced, single-centric song choices that don't always translate well to the Idol stage (nor do they really create relevant music-- these Idol recordings sound really chinsy anyway)! And I'm sure the contestants are petrified to speak up and do what their instincts tell them (with some welcome, notable exceptions-- Casey & James!). American Idol isn't about having industry professionals craft packaged singers, it's about letting natural talent bloom organically into radio-worthy artists. Can I get an Amen?

So what does all of this add up to? The #1 Reason why American Idol is floundering:

1.) A Complete Lack of Idol "Moments": Even the notoriously underwhelming Season 9 snoozefest was able to cook up some genuine Idol Moments (courtesy of Siobhan Magnus' "Paint It Black," Casey James' "Jealous Guy" and "Don't," and many Cystal Bowersox/Lee DeWyze showings). But the only genuine Idol Moments we've had during Season 10 have all happened in the Top 24 round (Pia Toscano's "I'll Stand By You," and most of the Wildcard performances). Since then, most performances have fallen solidly in the middle: neither spectacularly bad nor good. Is it any coincidence this is when the contestants have fallen more heavily into the clutches of Jimmy Iovine, the Idol producers and the tepid Judges?

I beleive all the reasons above have attributed to the lack of genuine Idol Moments, which in fact, aren't all that difficult to analyze. All Idol moments include an unexpected/unconventional song choice, an interesting (and mostly unplugged) arrangment, a sincere emotional message and a well-timed/rarely executed judging swell.

But this season, contestants have chosen very expected/safe songs (and why shouldn't they? If they don't, they're labeled unfocused artists and their chances of getting the boot skyrocket). They also have very little freedom to arrange a song, because what amateur wants to piss off a "seasoned" producer professional? This season's contestants (with some notable/eliminated expceptions) can't seem to embody these limited/over-produced songs emotionally. And with the judges offering blanket positivity (and only criticism when someone performs at a higher level), the audience has trouble discerning potentially Moment-worthy performances (Pia's "All In Love Is Fair," James' "Maybe I'm Amazed," Lauren's "Candle In The Wind," Haley's "Bennie & The Jets"). You can bet your bottom dollar that if Simon Cowell were around, these performances would sit squarely on our "Best Idol Performance" lists, thanks to his trademark pause-then-praise.

With so little time left in the season, I'm not sure that Idol will be able to self-correct (though I'm placing all of my hope in the predestined Scotty-Lauren boat, because they're both the closest to breaking through the current Idol mediocrity-barrier).

So what do you think? Are there any reasons I missed? Or are you seriously loving this season and thinking I deserve to eat some bitter-betty humble pie?

Let me know, because this Idol fan feels at a serious loss!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Final 7 Results

Tonight's Idol showing raised several questions, to which I will provide hashtag answers:

Why has America condoned Casey's bad behavior?
#WeNeedAnotherJackBlack (#No)

Why does James insist on going sleeveless constantly?

Why hasn't David Cook hired some of Clarkson/Underwood's songwriters?

Why did David Cook's mild showing still out-sing/out-charm most of Season 10's contestants?

Why does Katy Perry think she can contend with Lady Gaga and/or Robyn?

Who keeps voting for the Lusky Stank?

Now really, can anyone argue with the Bottom 3 Golden Rule?

Top 6 Most-Likely-To-Win Rankings:
1.) Scotty McCreery
2.) Lauren Alaina
3.) James Durbin
4.) Casey Abrams (Bottom 3: Final 11)
5.) Haley Reinhart (Bottom 3: Final 13, 12, 8, 7)
6.) Jacob Lusk (Bottom 3: Final 9, 7)
7.) Stefano Langone (Bottom 3: Final 11, 9, 8, 7)
8.) Paul McDonald (Bottom 3: Final 11.2, 8)
9.) Pia Toscano (Bottom 3: Final 9)
10.) Naima Adedapo (Bottom 3: Final 12, 11.2)
11.) Thia Megia (Bottom 3: Final 11, 11.2)
12.) Karen Rodriguez (Bottom 3: Final 13, 12)
13.) Ashton Jones (Bottom 3: Final 13)

But finally, Stefano the wildcard underdog catches the axe. While I'm a bit sad to see him go (I'd so much rather have heard Stefano a few more times over our more rotund male contestants), it's clear Stefano was never going to win (nor will Haley/Jacob, at this point). The only potential upset to my Bottom 3 Golden Rule this season may be Casey Abrams-- but then again, Scotty/Lauren (and even James) keep showing that no matter how much they may falter (cough cough Scotty), their voting bases are massively strong.

I'm still trying to piece together how 3 weeks ago, I was heralding the triumphant return of American Idol without a clue as to who may win in a tightly-packed season of talent, and now I'm dreading the demise of Idol with no doubt as to who will win in a mediocrely-bland season of womp.

If one thing is proven true, it's that we Idol fans remain fickle. And we know exactly what we want...

Here's hoping we get some of it soon,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Final 7 Performances

I'm thoroughly contemplating calling my doctor for some kind of catscan, because apparently I'm having trouble perceiving reality. According to the rhetoric of Ryan Seacrest and his 3 Stooges, we're watching a batch of unparalleled talent constantly elevate their performances week after week. Each contestant is worthy of sold-out arena concerts and artistry-filled albums! Everyone is in it to win it!! And any one of them can win the crown!! (As long as they can't legally drive and sing country mu$ic).

I'm sorry, but are we watching the same show? Because as far as I'm concerned, we're entering American Idol Season 10: Train Wreck Edition, where a batch of lukewarmly talented contestants continually prove they don't possess the kind of self-awareness and/or artistic instincts necessary to wow anyone on the Idol stage (so they all resort to cheap tricks and general tomfoolery). Marching bands, creepy kisses and Tyler-cursing do not an American Idol make.

More and more, it feels like I'm watching nothing but a silly reality show, regurgitating the same stale antics week after week (after week after week). The magical spark that made American Idol something special seems to be missing--which is such a shame, because up until Pia Toscano's unceremonious ouster, Idol seemed poised for redemption. What. The. Hell. Went. Wrong?

We can at least start by pointing out the heinous opening number, where the 6 booted contestants returned to "sing." (Why?) While they all looked fantastic in their best black-clad rocker regalia (minus Paul "I can't care enough to remember my lyrics and/or sing remotely in key and/or wear something besides this tacky rose suit" McDonald), ladies sounded JANK. I mean, even Pia couldn't steer this mess into decent territory with her trademark diva notes (though Naima bopping around like a toddler on crack was rather entertaining, I must admit).

"You just made America think twice about their decision!" cooed Steven Tyler. Um, no. Just-- no.

I’m really trying not to sound completely sour grapes here, but I wouldn’t be bitching quite so much if I didn’t feel so unabashedly lied to… the Idol producers should consider governing some kind of dystopian regime in the nearby future, because lordy, the propaganda is strong with them!

The Hot
James Durbin: “Uprising.” Whatever else I could say about James’ performance (indulgent indulgent indulgent!), at least he was commanding, convincing and committed. For all of James’ ridiculous grandstanding (your visions aren’t all that original, playa pimp. See: any 80s hair band ever), he delivers consistent showmanship in a season mostly devoid of contestant confidence. And James' vocal acrobatics, if not always pleasant to listen to, are nevertheless impressive. If James could just curb that narsty little ego of his, I’d be way more inclined to like him wholeheartedly.

The Warm
Haley Reinhart: “Rolling in the Deep.” I mean, Haley’s voice is STUNNING. It’s just too damn bad she can’t ever seem to possess a song emotionally the way she can vocally. Haley kept slipping in and out of character (when she has no business playing a character in the first place, but rather earnestly feeling a song). And man, do I wish she chose Adele’s “Someone Like You” instead (that song is all kinds of gorgeous). We’re at a point in the competition where I don’t think it’s possible for Haley to pull it together the way we want her to, so let’s face it, the best we girl-lovers can hope for is another happy accident like Bennie and the Jets. Sidenote: Why the odd retro red polka dot dress, lady? And where did the Ke$ha twin backup singers come from??

Stefano Langone: “Closer.” I really just want Stefano to bust out Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor,” because that’s what he is: the little underdog-who-could probably solidified his tenuous safety yet again by employing one pair of red side-slung suspenders, one upbeat jam and a whole slew of sex appeal (I mean, let’s be real: I’d hit it). Stefano is at his best when he’s believable and, I have to say, I totally bought the flirty-Usher-Chris Brown act (just as much as I buy his more earnest balladeering style). He still can’t seem to escape the jerky/choppy phrasing, but I don’t think anyone can argue that Stefano proved his radio-readiness with this performance.

Lauren Alaina: “Born to Fly.” I really, really hope the producers have been purposefully building us up to some kind of splendorous Lauren Alaina moment, because these mediocre mid-tempo showings are just getting painful. I think everyone knows by now that Lauren’s voice is epic—so why doesn’t she? By all rights, the show-ending pimp-slot tonight should have gone to Stefano, not Lauren’s lifeless limbo. And someone needs to tell Lauren cowboy boots that cut off her ankles aren’t flattering! All in all, I feel one general emotion whilst contemplating Lauren’s massive-yet-flailing potential: Frustration.

The Cold
Casey Abrams: “Harder to Breathe.” Coming Soon to a Theater Near You, School of Rock 2: Time To Cringe. I mean, where do I even begin? I’ll give it to Casey, the opening of this performance gave me David Cook/Kris Allen high hopes. But soon all of these rearranging dreams came crashing down into a fiery pit of growling faces and forced kisses. My only consolation for this sound-mess was a vision of JLo in her dressing room post-show—you KNOW bitch could not have been pleased with that invasion of her personal space. I’d bet the farm that no one else is getting near Jenny from the Block for the rest of this season… I smell a contractual mandate coming. But I digress... wait, no I don't. Casey has made a joke out of himself and I really don't see him climbing out of the Jack Black/Taylor Hicks sized hole he's dug for himself.

Scotty McCreery: “Swingin’.” I’m utterly baffled as to why Scotty doesn’t feel any urgency to do anything other than coast with his performances. Oh, wait, I know why! Because he’s male and teenage and he sings country? Seriously, if Scotty escapes this week’s unabashedly mediocre showing unscathed, there’s no question he’s destined for Idoldom (as if there’s a doubt in anyone’s mind, anyway). In other news, sweet messenger jacket, Aiken-face!

Jacob Lusk: “Dance With My Father.” The only thing Jacob had going for him during this treacly, indulgent performance was the pause at the opening, where it appeared his emotions momentarily got the best of him. And then he had to go and put the Lusky Stank on that too by explaining it was just a sound problem. Several unpleasant/overblown notes and two unnecessary key changes later, I can officially say that I’ll be happy to never hear another preachy ballad from Jacob ever again—I can only hope America feels the same way.

I do think one thing is abundantly clear—the patented American Idol “Moment” we all know and love (and crave) has been nowhere to be found ever since one cranky Brit disappeared from the airwaves… and I’m sure now that it’s not a coincidence. X-Factor, here I come!

Predictions: I think this week’s elimination is going to be a tough one to call, but my gut is telling me Haley might be in serious trouble (Jimmy’s right, anything short of magic seems to sentence Haley to steel stool doom). But I refuse to predict her ouster and put that energy in the air, so I’m going with the next-most-likely target: Jacob Lusk. It’s simply time to go, Stank One.

Until tomorrow, hoping for the best and expecting the worst…


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Final 8 Results

If we've learned one important lesson this week, it's that fools should not mess with Kelly Clarkson (vocally or otherwise). I don't know that anyone will ever live up to the original Idol--I could gush and gush about her crazy vocal range or genuinely fun stage vibe for days, but I shant (nor shall I even begin to ponder Rihanna's bozo-the-clown weave).

I shall, however, give a shoutout to Haley motherf***ing Reinhart, bringing down the jazzy house. Girl. Power.

In other news, I don't think anyone was particularly stunned by Paul's ouster-- I certainly predicted it (bringing my current prediction rate to 4/7, with all my predictors at least ending up in the Bottom 3). And now that the bragging is done, here's an updated ranking list:

Top 7 Most-Likely-To-Win Rankings
1.) Scotty McCreery
2.) Lauren Alaina
3.) James Durbin
4.) Casey Abrams (Bottom 3: Final 11)
5.) Jacob Lusk (Bottom 3: Final 9)
6.) Haley Reinhart (Bottom 3: Final 13, 12, 8)
7.) Stefano Langone (Bottom 3: Final 11, 9, 8)
8.) Paul McDonald (Bottom 3: Final 11.2, 8)
9.) Pia Toscano (Bottom 3: Final 9)
10.) Naima Adedapo (Bottom 3: Final 12, 11.2)
11.) Thia Megia (Bottom 3: Final 11, 11.2)
12.) Karen Rodriguez (Bottom 3: Final 13, 12)
13.) Ashton Jones (Bottom 3: Final 13)

This pretty clearly demonstrate that Scotty, Lauren or James will win American Idol Season 10 (though my money's on Scotty). From here on out, Bottom 3 placement isn't really as accurate an indicator of winning potential-- though once again, I'm willing to bet that Lauren/Scotty won't ever grace the B3 (especially since Ryan stops revealing it around the Top 5). Chances are they're polling sky-high relative to their competitors, methinks.

That's all I got folks, so until next week...


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Final 8 Performances

A few notes:

1.) I am currently listening to Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey's "One Sweet Day," still very much in mourning for Pia Toscano. Though there seems to be a silver lining: perhaps Pia's early/shocking ouster will land her a record deal/fanbase that might have otherwise eluded her should she have finished at a more expected 5th/4th place... I'm hoping for more sweet diva music to come from Pia, Jennifer Hudson style.

2.) For those of you who wondered if American Idol would work without Simon Cowell's reality-checking honesty, here's my answer: X-Factor starts in September.

3.) Idol is like a bag of Skittles... I can endure endless bites of yellow and green and purple (eww) knowing that a sweet red is on the way. In fact, anticipating red makes me enjoy the non-fantastic skittles a little more. It makes me think the less-superior flavors are a valuable part of the experience. Red makes other skittles seem better than they are, even.

But what happens if you remove red from the package?

Suddenly, the other skittle flavors don’t taste as good. In fact, I find myself detesting these inferior flavors, having robbed me of the joy of my delicious Pia (er, uh, I mean red!). What was once a yummy supporting act in a delightful ensemble of flavors becomes, instead, a bitter array of yuckiness. And I'm learning in a post-red-skittle Idolworld that I better learn to like a very specific flavor: Tween Country.

4.) Mom has stopped watching Idol, and sadly, I currently have no reason to even try and entice her back...

(Forgive my solemnity-- I'm sure the second someone (HALEY) delivers a swoon-worthy performance or one of the judges (JLO) says something remotely worthwhile, I'll be back on my cheery Idol game).

Till then...

The Hot
Stefano Langone: “End of the Road.” Albeit imperfect (Stefano really needs to watch that sometimes unpleasant vocal tone and choppy cadence of his), Stefano made me FEEL something tonight. By the time the climax of the song hit, I felt a bit of tingle creep back into my almost-dead Idol carcus. Seriously, Stefano brought some vocal power and emotional energy to the end of the road (though let's hope the ominous-lyric Idol curse doesn't strike Stefano down). I'm so so happy to see him finally perform up to his considerable potential (and also sport a tight tshirt. You snag them girlvotes, bro). But I have two questions: why are this season's contestants fighting so damn hard to bring the key change back into pop music? And also, why has no one pointed out that Stefano has sung about twice as many ballads as Pia by now? Shame, Idol. Shame.

Jacob Lusk: “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Oh, Jacob, you fling me like a yo-yo, you jolly gay thing you (two sidenotes: don't try to hit on women at TMZ and don't wear tight tshirts, mmmkay?). Ok, I'm sorry, that was really really mean of me, but I'm gonna cite last week's Pia ouster/mirror comment combo and call it even. But I digress-- Jacob, that was kind of spectacular. Combine one incredible song with several reality-defying notes and a generous heaping of humble pie (Lusky pouting duly noted) and we get one delicious batch of Idol glory. Jacob's problem is clearly consistency: if he stays more on the earnest/humble/restrained end of the dramatic/egotistical/shrieking scale, he'll be sailing right behind (Scotty/Lauren/James into the finals).

Scotty McCreery: “I Cross My Heart.” Let's face it: no matter what any of us coast-dwellers say or do (or vote), Scotty is going to win American Idol Season 10--and perhaps deservedly so. After all, he has all the superstar potential we fans have been squawking that Idol needs, whether we like it or not. Though what's all this talk about Scotty "returning" to his country roots? He's been about as country-vanilla as they come, on Idol. (Sidenote: anyone else notice that if you cover Scotty's hair, he bears a striking resemblance to one Clay Aiken? Ch-ch-check it out!) Take that, tweenage heartthrobbers!!!!

The Warm
Lauren Alaina: “The Climb.” Almost, Lauren-- almost. I don't know why, but Lauren can't ever quite seem to nail a performance all-around. There's a certain conviction and commitment that Lauren lacks (hmmm, maybe it's because she's 16 and she freaking deserves to have some flaws?). But if I think back to Carrie Underwood's Idol run, there were few truly standout moments aside from "Alone" (which was still remarkably stiff)-- Carrie just consistently delivered unfathomable vocal horsepower and small-town charm. Luckily Lauren has both in spades, not to mention her status as a teen girl might actually earn her some peer votes (as opposed to Ashton/Karen/Naima/Pia/every female contestant for the past 4 years). I mean, I don't think it's a coincidence that our last female Idol winner (Jordin Sparks) was a teenage girl-- times have changed people, and we better get used to teen queens and cute boys, cuz American tweendom demands they stay (even if they're not quite ready to).

Haley Reinhart: “Call Me.” I'm going to let the song take the hit for this one-- I've yet to hear a single version of Call Me anywhere that I've even remotely liked. And while Haley gets an A for Effort and is at least beginning to define herself as a singer (or dare I say--as an artist! What, no, we can't assign that moniker to a female! Blaspheme!), Haley's gorgeous dress/killer boots outshined her vocals here. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I wants a ballad, Haley, and I wants it without the Bandzilla. I recommend Bonnie Raitt's "Dimming of the Day" or Joan Osborne's version of "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted." Or dare I even say, Christina Aguilera's diva-throwdown "Mercy On Me." (Don't know theses songs? You should!) All of these possess the type of growl that defines Haley, as well the kind of honest emotion/unplugged vibe that she needs to rock to make herself a true contendor.

James Durbin: “Heavy Metal.” Every week, I find it difficult to figure out what to write about James-- and this week is no different. He's not quite good but not quite bad week-to-week. I guess he's just-- heavy metal? I don't know, all I hear when I listen to James lately is a cheap Adam Lambert knockoff. What happened to the magic behind Maybe I'm Amazed? Is James destined for a Casey James-like run to the end, studded with only one or two standout performances amidst a sea of mediocrity? Only time will tell...

The Cold

Casey Abrams: “Nature Boy.” Oh, no. Just-- no. This performance would indeed have deserved a standing ovation if: 1.) Casey had hit all of his notes (which he really didn't) and 2.) He removed all the ridiculous, cartoon gestures from his face. I'm happy that Casey stood up for himself (why won't go away until they find a cure for tone-deafness?), but I'm not happy that Casey has used the precious Judges Save only to deliver second-rate lounge music, crazy muppet band style. If you want to bring soulful, jazzy style to Idol, see Melinda Doolittle and Elliott Yamin. 'Nuff said.

Paul McDonald: “Old Time Rock & Roll.” Why hasn't anyone criticized Paul for delivering the SAME EXACT generic jaunty cheer week after week? (Seriously, dude seems to have the emotional range of a teletubbie). Oh wait, I know why! Because Paul's off-color dance moves and strange suits make him an "artist." Right. Listen, judges-- just because someone is odd (and male), it doesn't make them an artist. It just makes them odd (and male). While I saw a brief glimmer of hope in Paul's energetic performance last week, this week he has returned to "I'm too cool to take Idol that seriously" status.

Predictions: I think James/Lauren/Scotty should continue their reign of country/rocker safety and Jacob/Stefano will bounce out of the B3 after respectively solid showings. That leaves three vulnerable... I'm hoping Haley will collect some of Pia's voting block (not Lauren!) and I'm betting Casey will glide through based soley on Judges' overblown praise. Which leaves Tinky Winky, er, Sir Shiny Teeth, er, Paul McDonald to win tonight's prize for most-likely-to-sing-whilst-sobbing-come-Thursday-night (did I mention I miss Pia?).

Till tomorrow kiddies,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Final 9 Results

Tamyra Gray. Jennifer Hudson. LaToya London. Chris Daughtry. Pia Toscano. #ROBBED.

There are no words.

So I will only have a moment of silence for Pia, in protest of this heinous turn of events.

Top 8 Most-Likely-To-Win Rankings:
1.) Scotty McCreery
2.) Lauren Alaina
3.) James Durbin
4.) Paul McDonald (Bottom 3: Final 11.2)
5.) Casey Abrams (Bottom 3: Final 11)
6.) Haley Reinhart (Bottom 3: Final 13, 12)
7.) Stefano Langone (Bottom 3: Final 11, 9)
8.) Jacob Lusk (Bottom 3: Final 9)
9.) Pia Toscano (Bottom 3: Final 9)
10.) Naima Adedapo (Bottom 3: Final 12, 11.2)
11.) Thia Megia (Bottom 3: Final 11, 11.2)
12.) Karen Rodriguez (Bottom 3: Final 13, 12)
13.) Ashton Jones (Bottom 3: Final 13)

So let's be real, Scotty or Lauren is going to win now, hands down. It seems Idol will have their country Bieber, at all costs.

And an open letter to whoever voted for the Lusky Stank: Shame on you. Deep, deep shame.

Idol Faith Shaken,

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Final 9 Performances

My Idol friends, the hour is growing late, so I will recap my general thoughts on tonight's Idol telecast in twitter speak:


The Hot

Paul McDonald: “Folsom Prison Blues.” And finally, it all comes together. For the first time, I understand the power that is Paul McDonald. Channeling a serious Mumford & Sons vibe, Paul pulled his act together: every single little detail of this performance fell perfectly into place. How exciting is this season, where every week someone new steps up to give everyone else a run for their money? Casey's Hollywood bass beauty. Pia rising out of cannon fodder Top 24. Stefano nailing the Wildcard. James unexpectedly wowing in the Top 13. Scotty stretching in the Top 12. Jacob showing restraint in the Top 11. Lauren and Haley stunning in the Top 11 Redux. And now with Paul pulling top honors in the Top 9, EVERYONE left has had some kind of special Idol moment-- which means cuts are going to get tough, my peoples.

Pia Toscano: “River Deep Mountain High.” Murderer!! Pia SLAYS me, every time. Every. Single. Time. I'm hard-pressed to think of another Idol contestant who has performed this flawlessly week-to-week, without a single vocal misstep. And while Pia could certainly benefit from a splash of personality and a dash of dance (and maybe even just a smidge of imperfection), who gives a flying f**k if she sounds that magnificent!! I mean, the way Pia ripped into the verses and soared on the high notes has me COVINCED she's destined for pop divadom. Stick that girl in a sparkly dress, throw her in a (gay) club and slap her vocals against a dance track and Pia is going to make BANK. Trust. #90sDivaPopComeback

Scotty McCreery: “That’s All Right Mama.” Get it, girl. Dare I say, I was mercilessly charmed by Scotty's somewhat silly/somewhat sexy stylings on this song. He laid some Paul McDonald-style affectations down on his country crooning, and to my complete surprise, I wasn't mad at it (even the side-microphone singing is growing on me). In fact, let me just get on with it: I downright enjoyed Scotty's performance. And that's all right now, mama.

James Durbin: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Well played, good sir-- and just because Will.i.Shutthehellup can't deliver anything but hyped-up nonsense, doesn't mean you shouldn't show your softer side. And while I'm not quite sure this song was the way to go (twas a bit too obscure/unrelatable for my taste), I am quite sure that last note made me stop caring. Contedor, anyone?

The Warm
Haley Reinhart: “Piece of My Heart.” Haley is slowly but surely becoming one of my favorite contestants this season-- her powerhouse, growly vocals and stompy, awkward gestures make her the definition of a hot mess (in all the best ways). To me, Haley still hasn't quite yet hit a home run (only triples, at best. Holy gay sports metaphor, Batman!), but I think Haley is one Idol "moment" away from some kind of meteoric rise to stardom. And while this little ditty wasn't quite perfectly calibrated, I'm already dreaming of the recorded version-- because at the end of the day, I'd rather hear Haley's magnificent voice unimpaired by her jokey demeanor. #TimeForABalladGurl.

Lauren Alaina: “A Natural Woman.” Lauren came so close to glory on this performance, but I feel like she was holding back and overthinking things. If she had just let loose and wailed to holy hell (like she did on that spectacular FEEEEEEEEEL note), it would have been magical. I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I wish Lauren would add a touch of the the Lusky Stank to her style, because she's still not quite losing herself in her performances the way she needs to. I'm frustrated that Lauren hasn't teared into a song vocally yet-- I want to hear her swing for the fences, leave no man behind and every other terrible cliche about giving it all she's got (because that's what America will need to see in order to give her the win).

Stefano Langone: "When a Man Loves a Woman.” Something tells me if Stefano had performed this right on the heels of "If You Don't Know Me By Now," I'd be singing a very different tune. But in the post "Hello" debacle era, and with my confidence in Stefano shaken, I'm not sure another retro ballad was what Stefano needed. I love Stefano's voice (and look), but I'm still not convinced he's a musician/artist at heart. I think he'd make a fine mid-level, heavily-produced pop player, and as such, he should probably start displaying some more contemporary chops (because his commercial sensibility is his biggest/only advantage, currently).

The Cold
Casey Abrams: “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” I have indeed seen the rain, Casey, and watching this performance was about equally as exciting (minus some killer upright bass love). Casey best pray he's got some rollover Judges Save votes stored up, because he just committed the cardinal Idol sin: Dude. Was. Dull.

Jacob Lusk: “Man in the Mirror.” Lusky stank, indeed-- stank 'tude! "Let me say this: if I end up in the Bottom 3, it won't be because I sang the song bad(ly), it'll be because everyone in America wasn't ready to look at themselves in the mirror." Oh, please. If America puts you in the Bottom 3 of this singing competition, Jacob, it'll be because you failed to prove (once again) that you're a viable recording artist-- not because we're all too shallow to "believe we can fly" and change the world. But moving on: anyone else think at first that Naima magically reappeared to backup sing for Jacob, George Huff style? But that poor woman not only had to suffer through Jacob's wildly ridiculous air-humping, she also had to hear her song steamrolled with all the subtlety and emotional sincerity of a raging bull. Anyone else tiring of the antics?

Predictions: Methinks our ladies will be safe a bit longer, due to their dwindling numbers-- so my money is on a Casey-Jacob-Stefano Bottom 3, with (hopefully) Jacob going home in a "vicious" surprise elimination (though Stefano might sadly catch the axe this week instead...)