Thursday, February 24, 2011

Final Judgments

Finally, we’re at the live rounds.

I’m not sure that the jumbled addition of Beatles/Vegas week did much of anything for me (did anyone else feel blitzed by that barrage of over-propped performances?). Especially when I thought Naima and Brett were part of a massive group cut after the Producer’s Seven were anointed safe (I gasped, hand-to-heart). Luckily, I was mistaken (that was cruel, Idol).

But I did greatly prefer the spotlighted hangar walks of suspense to the ill-conceived security-camera elevator rides, or even those ridiculous mansion sing-offs. And while I did feel there was some genuine empathy emanating from the judges this year (sans Randy, duh), I was able to correctly call every single yes/no. 10 seasons later, and Idol has not mastered the art of subtlety... sigh.

Onto some thoughts on “our” Top 24 (and a few others)…

Lauren Turner: Diva! Werk! I feel some Kelly/Carrie/Carly/Allison/Crystal coming on with this one…not that I can ever judge a big-voiced female vocalist objectively. She'll need some work, for sure… but so did the aforementioned Idol royalty, once upon a time.

Naima Adedapo: Easily one of the most likable and deserving contestants of Idol 10, and for all the right reasons. She'll be one to watch, though at this point I must admit I remember her spirit and wardrobe more than her voice… not a great sign. Sick strut on that hangar walk though, gurl!

Lauren Alaina: Puh-lease, as if there was even a shred of doubt that Lauren would make the Top 24. What’s with all the repeat songs though, little lady? I’m not convinced there’s an artist underneath that stunning voice, but I’m more than willing to find out.

Haley Reinhart: Yes, she over-sings just about everything. But still, she has hit the Christina Aguilera-sized soft-spot in my heart for vocal diva antics. I look forward to your live belting, young madame.

Rachel Zevita: Her funky style, smoky voice and crazy falsetto have flown under the radar… until that shaky (but entertaining) take on Gaga’s “Speechless.” I’m excited to see her sing live, for perhaps she can bring the fire Siobhan never delivered last season.

Julie Zorrilla: Learn how to appear less affected and more genuine, and I will begin to love both your considerable vocal talent and on-point fashion sense (the judges were so spot on with her lack of emotion, weren’t they? How refreshing is that?)

Ashton Jones: My Lil Rounds alarm is going off for Ashton, sadly. I love her look and I love her personality, but I’m not sure her voice can withstand the inevitable black-female diva expectations. If you’re going to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Tamrya, Trenyce, Fantasia, LaToya, Jennifer, Vonzell, Melinda, Jordin & Syesha (whew!), you better BRING IT, betch.

Thia Megia: At least we have some more rainbow-themed outfits to look forward to? Because vocally, I fear there’s nothing pleasant to anticipate.

Casey Abrams: Yes. Love. Bass! Is it just me, or is anyone else getting some serious male-Adele vibes off of Casey? OK, maybe that’s a bit of an early jump, but I think he could really have those kind of chops.

Robbie Rosen: He’s got everything it takes to win this whole damn thing, minus one mullet-esque haircut. If he can deliver even half as well as his previous showings in the live rounds, he’s a shoe-in for the Idol tour this season.

Paul McDonald: I’m not sure that I’m digging all your “look at me, I’m an original artist” affectations (cue limp T-Rex hand and offbeat wardrobe choices). But lordy, is your voice pretty.

Brett Loewenstern: “We are all shining stars.” As adorable and talented as Brett is, when he utters lines like this, totally deadpan, I fear for his ability to cope with the onslaught of opinions about to hit him. He better hope that bullet-proof vest really works…

James Durbin: Everything from his voice to his look to his backstory feels copycat to me, and no amount of Seacrest cover-up will prove what only a well-delivered performance can. And a tip? If you want to avoid Adam Lambert comparisons, don’t choose to sing the crowning jewel from Adam’s season, fool.

Clint Jun Gamboa: While I think he handled his unfair villain-label rather smartly, I didn’t find his overblown emotional reaction earnest—but here’s hoping his desire to show America what kind of “artist” he is will deliver something more interesting than a series of indiscernible vocal runs.

Jovany Barreto: Remember Jorge Nunez? David Hernandez? No? I fear that Jovany will suffer the same fate, soon enough…

Scotty McCreery: You are indeed in over your head, young one. But this is coming from a diva-loving city slicker, so Scotty’s country stylings were never going to do it for me. That being said, he’s clearly not vocally up to par with his competitors (which will do absolutely nothing to stop the hordes of tweens that will no-doubt vote for him anyway).

Jacob Lusk: I'm standing firm on this one--until this boy learns how to wield that big ol' voice of his, it will continue to feel like being hit with a blunt weapon. Currently, his singing sounds more like parody than performance, to me (as his celebratory reel demonstrates clearly)…

Kendra Chantelle & Stefano Langone: I’m not quite sold on these two yet, though by all rights, I totally should be. Please hold.

Karen Rodriguez, Pia Toscano Tatynisa Wilson, Tim Halperin & Jordan Dorsey: Certainly not bad, but not fantastic either. This kind of mid-level performing is catnip for early public elimination (where only being memorably excellent or mind-blowingly terrible ensures a spot on the couches of safety).

THE DEARLY DEPARTED (slow Steven one-hand clap, please)
Hollie Cavanagh: As much as her departure devastates me, I can’t be mad at JLo’s commentary on her future potential—I’d much rather see her blossom later than become a mid-season castoff now (and we all know us Idol fans love a multi-year comeback. I always had your back, JHud).

Deandre Brackensick: Please make good on your vow to bring it next year. Pretty please?

She Who Shall Not Be Named: At least she managed to bow out of Idol with some surprising grace (and got someone to put a ring on all that crazy). Kudos.

Chris Medina: I didn’t have an ounce of love for his voice, and still I felt myself saddened by his elimination. Thus demonstrates the power of the American Idol dream machine--and I feel your pain, JLo. I feel it.

Jessica Cunningham: Props for knowing that your complete lack of airtime compared to Thia’s would result in an inevitable face-off cut. Hey, maybe you can snag a job as an Idol producer and construct some real suspense for us?

And on that note, I am very excited to see how the live rounds play out. Will JLo and Steven continue to be as dazzling without the power of editing? How will the Producers Pack fare in America’s hands? And will we really get to see this much-discussed (but rarely practiced) transparency the producers keep squawking about? We. Shall. See.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Hollywood Week #3

And from your lips Idol drew the Hallelujah! This post will contain very little angry fan ranting, not because there weren't rant-worthy moments tonight (girls vs boys! unnecessary subtitled humiliation! complete lack of last night's triumphant Minor's results), but because for the first time this season, American Idol gave me something to be excited about--talented singers!! So with that thought, I will put my pinot-grigio fueled fingers to good use and talk about said talent...

The Hot
Haley Reinhart: Holy packaged artist, Batman! Complete with matching lace trim and booty heels, this little bombshell may have crammed more performance dynamics into one 30 second clip than necessary, but we all know that's what it takes to shine on a show like Idol.

Clint Jun Gamboa: Unfurled suspenders? Check. Goggle glasses? Check. Mad-crazy vocals, Dawg? Check. Villainous package complete with canned booing? Check. What do all these disparate parts add up to? An American Idol favorite, my friends.

Those Who Chose To Sing Sara Bareilles: Touche, Julie Zorrilla and Robbie Rosen, touche. I liked neither of you until tonight, when you both successfully (and rahter impressively) tackled the most underrated singer/songwriter currently out there. I'm not going to write you a love song, though.

Brett Loewenstern: You melt my little gay heart, you trendy thing you. I adore that Brandi Carlile song and I adore your perfect timing: in a media climate where Gaga is birthing a tolerant, 80s-pop loving race and Glee is making balladeers out of football bullies, you will shine.

Casey Abrams: I have to admit, I didn't get it before. I saw your early performances and thought (as Randy so eloquenty said), "Really?" But now, I GET IT. I seriously get it.

Lauren Alaina: I don't care that she's being pimped harder than one of Charlie Sheen's hookers, she's got the charm and the voice to win this whole damn thing. And I simply cannot wait to see her sing live.

The Warm
Ashton Jones: Seacrest made sure to tell us that "she truly shined," and usually that means some foul treachery is afoot. Aside from some requisite sass, I don't buy this gal's particular brand of diva-- she's like comparing my laptop speakers to a full symphony. Very few can tackle this song with appropriate meatiness, and for me, for you, Ashton didn't deliver enough delicious protein for my liking.

The Georgia Girls: In theory, I should have liked these blonde bombshells, but I think I know why I didn't: despite their obvious vocal chops, I don't think either of them had the requisite soul to pull of this jam. So I'm withholding proper judgement until both tackle some pop songs more suited to their vocal stylings.

Jacee Badeaux: Every time I hear you sing, I smile. But every time I see you, I can't help but see a lamb being led to the slaughter. It's a rather jarring experience.

Caleb Hawley, Colton Dixon, John Wayne Shulz, Stefano Langone: I'm intrigued, but I must seem more. Carry on.

Jacob Lusk:
This felt to me more like some kind of muppet impersonation of an overblown American Idol audition than anything worthy of a standing ovation, right down to the snotty after-performance discharge. No doubt the boy has a hefty bag of vocal tricks, but who said he had to use a new one every few seconds? This performance was in serious need of some kind of gastric bypass surgery... take off the extra pounds, and I think there's a very promising singer under there.

The Cold
Thia Megia: "She's amazing," whispered JLo. But the only thing amazing about this soon-to-be-annoying teen is her sesame-street-inspired wardrobe. Her voice just isn't pleasant to listen to, point blank.

Chris Medina & Carson Higgins: It's my prerogative to say that you're both surviving based on anything and everything but your vocal talent.

Scotty Mcgreery: I cannot believe you were the butt of an always ill-fated Idol joke, yet still managed to survive another cut. Nuts of Wonder, indeed.

Ashley Sullivan: Idol chooses one crazy every season as potential water-cooler fodder, and every season, I choose to protest this Idol move by ignoring their existence. Hence, this will be the last time I ever discuss the girl who stole a spot from someone like Sara Sellers.

So there we have it. While this season is shaping up to potentially recapture the glory of Season 8, I'm not holding my breath just yet. Especially not when Idol is introducing some new post-Hollywood, pre-live round (complete with fancy sets and fog machines). Until next week, drop down and get your Idol on, girl.


Hollywood Week #2

Group week has come and gone, and I couldn't be happier to see it go. The mother of all contrived drama fests, group round usually tells me nothing of the future of a solo singer-- not to mention this year we had to endure an extra hour of "remember what we showed you ten minutes ago" footage. Seriously Idol, most of us loyal viewers can remember what happened 7 seasons ago with perfect clarity, so why do you assume we can't remember the stupid group drama you JUST showed us before the commercial break?

I simply cannot wait until we emerge from the overly-edited frustration-fest that is early Idol and get on to what we all really care about-- the live rounds, where no note is left behind. In the meantime, all I can bring myself to do is comment on those standouts (good and bad) from this year's regrettable groupon.

Surprise Standouts:
Four Forties: Lauren Turner's wailing ways may have been a little rough, but that kind of raw vocal muscle is the stuff of (my) Idol dreams. Run and tell your girlfriend, indeed. And Adrian Michael-- where have you been hiding, you absolute cutie. A clean-cut, likable, talented black male singer? Maybe Idol can finally get it right with these two...

The Minors (aka The Cast of Urban Glee): OK, that was kind of wrong, sorry. But these 15-16 year olds gave me some real-life New Directions vocals matched with our first truly deserved Idol-triumph moment (just substitute a confetti shower with a stage mom rush).

Hollie Cavanagh: Love you, girl. LOVE YOU. And, all irrational contestant attachments are a go.

Lara Johnston and Stevie Cain: I see flashes of a "Bette Davis Eyes"-like performances in their futures, yes I do.

Da'quela Payne and Matthew Nuss: equal parts diva, of the male and female variety. I wants more of them, Idol. I wants more.

Hit Em Up Style-- I went to Neiman Marcus on a shopping spree-a, and on the way I called Soleil and Mia. YES nonsensical rhymes. Love that song, so I will overlook the complete lack of individual vocal talent these "Hits" brought to the table.

So Disappointing Indeed
Poor Paris Tassin. She probably didn't have the vocal consistency to survive in the Idol jungle, but she was so damn likable (and well dressed). But stand strong, mama and move on (X-Factor, here she comes).

Emily Anne Reed: If you're going to cut a girl this unique, give us a single wonky note? Just one?

Devyn Rush: We feel your pain, girl. I blame the awful de-boyfriended couple girls for taking your spot (sometimes drama > vocal ability). Seriously, that blonde mess sounded HEINOUS.

Please Go Home
More Jersey Girls: I cannot remember any of their names, or more importantly, any of their voices. Next.

Four Plus One: Jordan Dorsey is almost as massively unlikable as he is forgettable. Sweet boots though, kid. Robbie Rosen, on the other hand, probably hoped the sheen from his leather vest would distract from the fact he forgot his words. Add a helping of bad end-harmony and jank audience reactions, and you get-- five Yes's? Seriously, when JLo's best critique is "you all had a chance to sing," shouldn't some No's be merited?

Rebel Star: Wrong show, ladies. I hear tryouts for Making The Band 19 are starting up-- maybe you can become marginalized by Diddy.

James Durbin: Please stop screaming and remove that bandana-tail from your behind.

Julie Zorrilla: How many poof-skirted dresses does it take to cover a stank personality and a mediocre voice? Three (and counting).

That's all I got for this (disappointing) group round. Let's hope solos have less recaps and more SINGING.


Season 10: Hollywood Week #1

All right, I've been gone for a minute but I'm back at the (season 10) jump-off. And I'm sticking all the way through this time, kiddies. So get ready, cuz here I come...

First of all, RIP Sarah Sellers. You will join the ranks of deserving castoffs cruelly forgotten by the Idol machine, but always remembered fondly by us hardened Idol diehards (whatup, Katelyn Epperly. Still miss you girl).

Second of all, I hate to even say this, because I have been a ridiculous Idol fan for 10 years (my fervor for the show can only be compared to the most intense of sports fans), but I think the end is near. With The X-Factor and The Voice vultures circling, I was promised transparency by my Idol producers for Season 10, but if said "transparency" just means the occasional glimpse at a recording microphone, cameraman or disgruntled P.A., or Ryan Seacrest saying we'll be "losing some of our favorites," then you have another thing coming, Idol. So far, the brand new Idol hasn't been so brand new (save for some seriously upgraded judges-- though only live-round auditions will allow them to prove their musical judging mettle).

Anyway, enough blabbering, and on to what really matters-- the TALENT.

Brett Loewenstern: I have a feeling this plucky red-head will ride a Glee-sized wave all the way through this year's Idol circus. From the moment he opened his (singing) mouth in New Orleans, I saw the stuff of Idol legend. My expert prediction: he's going to blow up, Clay Aiken style. My second expert prediction: he's going to break down, Lindsay Lohan style. If this gay seedling thinks high-school bullies are tough, wait until he meets the world's biggest bully: America.

Rachel Zenita: Great song choice, and thank god the girl wore something more memorable: though fish-netted bra tanks and front-faded jeans do not an Idol make. But sing on, girl. Sing on.

Thia Megia: Stop singing, girl, stop singing. See: Diana DeGarmo, Paris Bennett, Ramiele Malubay, Lisa Tucker and the dozens of other Idol teens who's infectious talent turned straight infectious in a matter of weeks. Also, who told you the homeless rainbow flag look was in this year?

Casey Abrams: Something before that wonky high note must have gone well, because I'm not sure where the yelps and standing ovations are coming from yet...

Victoria Huggins: The bitchy glares you received from your fellow LAX patrons says it all.

Paris Tassin: "Set it off, Paris," uttered J.Lo. And set it off she did. I understand that this Celine Dion juggernaut song reeks of pure irrelevance, but anyone who can get her diva-belt on that tight wins in my book. If you're here Paris, there's nothing I fear.

James Durbin: How many off-pitch notes can you get away with if you insert one Adam Lambert-esque wail at the end of your audition? Unlimited, apparently.

Lauren Alaina: I'm drinking the Kool-Aid on this one, because girl has simply got "it." But whether she has the experience to reign in that superbly massive voice of hers has yet to be seen. I'm praying she can, because anyone who can potentially be a hybrid of Carrie Underwood and Jordin Sparks is my diva wet dream.

Chris Medina: I'm cashing in for my ticket to hell on this one, but come on. Guy just isn't up to par. And the fact that Randy cut him off before he even got out a third line shows why he has made it through... (wow, I want to punch myself in the face for this one. Because I think even I'd send him through if I were on that judges panel... some backstories speak louder than voices).

Jacee Badeaux: Is he a star? No. Do I want to hear him sing in the live rounds? Yes. Will he ever recover from this experience? Probably not.

Robbie Rosen: This kid seems to be the real deal, potentially. Excited to see more (sans mullet, of course).

Hollie Cavanagh: OK, who else didn't see this one coming? Girl obviously went home and practiced her butt off (in some gold sparkly stilettos, to boot). Within two notes I became a massive fan. This marks my first unyielding and irrational attachment to a contestant (because man, do I love an underdog). Congratulations Hollie, if you ever release some kind of fantastic (or janktastic) album, you'll sell at least one...

Awkward Foursome Roomies: I couldn't care less about any of their relationship drama (or their voices, for that matter). I did love, however, that after Randy's unnecessary and socially-retarded cruelty to boyfriend Nick, J.Lo and Steven rightfully shunned him (damn, can that Jenny throw some shade, or what?). That being said, if anyone deserved the Dawg's brand of "honesty," it's Mr. I-get-by-on-my-looks.

The Encores: You are most likely going to be given 10 seconds (if you're lucky) in front of America to show what kind of artist you want to potentially be, so why on earth would you choose to repeat yourself? Oh, I know why. Your low range can't support any other song? Your insane screaming only sounds good when it's about sexy time? But damn, Jackie Wilson, you rock. Why you gotta deprive my ears of another sweet song, especially when Aretha has dozens of comparably amazing ditties? Shame on you.

Tiffany Rios: Maybe you and Tatiana Del Toro can form some kind of heinous girl-group. I hear Danity Kane has some openings (tell me are you up for the challenge, cuz these girls are damaged)

Molly Dewolf: Now we didn't get to hear you sing, but I got your back, girl. As a fellow ivy-league over-achiever, I know people will hate on you for appearing "privileged" and "spoiled." But no one gets where you are without heaping amounts of hard, hard work, no matter where you come from. And you can sing your pretty little butt off. I've already set my speed dial for you..

And thus concludes my first (but far from last) Idol rant. It's gonna be a long season...