american idol top 24: boys on the side

After Tuesday night’s two-hour torture session with the girls, I was anxious to see if the top 12 guys could deliver more entertaining performances. There were some standouts, but it was mostly a sea of mediocrity, with the judges being as hypocritical as ever.
Before I get to critiquing Todrick Hall‘s performance, let me take a moment to ask the judges, “WTF are you smoking?” During Tuesday night’s show, they chastised the girls for singing carbon copies of songs instead of making them their own. Then, we have two male contestants, Todrick and Andrew Garcia, who are inventive enough to take two well-known songs and completely, creatively rework them, and suddenly the judges are crying foul and boo-hooing that the songs are unrecognizable. Stop the hypocrisy! Todrick was brave enough to take on Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” which I would argue is the most well-known song from any Idol alum. He took the pop-rock anthem and turned it into a jazzy R&B-style jam. It was hard to remember the original while he was singing, but I took that as a good thing. Apparently the judges did not, because they all panned it. Regardless of what they think, Todrick’s performance was 10 times better than anything the girls sang last night, so we’re already looking up.
Aaron Kelly, the less-annoying David Archuleta type, sang Rascal Flatts’ “Here Comes Goodbye.” The performance is mediocre at best, but his voice is well-suited for country. Simon had encouraging words for him, so hopefully Aaron can shake the nerves and pick a better song next week.
Jermaine Sellers picked Oleta Adams’ “Get Here,” a song that should be retired from the Idol canon ASAP. His version was sharp and full of show-offy runs that just emphasized the sharpness of his notes. Randy thought he looked great; I thought Jermaine looked like Charlie Chaplin gone wrong. I have a feeling he’ll get through this week, but he’s going to need to pick more interesting songs to make it into the top 12.
I wondered why the powers that be chose Tim Urban to replace the ousted Chris Golightly. I soon found out it wasn’t for his talent, because his performance of OneRepublic’s “Apologize” was stiff, awkward, and hard on the ears. The song’s chorus has a prominent falsetto, notes that Tim could not reach. It just became embarrassing after a while. Even the judges gave up on trying to help him, telling him that he’ll get votes because he’s cute. Ouch.
Joe Munoz, seen very little prior to last night, has a terrific voice. His choice of Jason Mraz’s “You and I Both” was a smart one. I’ve always thought that song would do well on Idol, and Joe was the perfect fit. I really hope his lack of screen time doesn’t lead to his elimination tonight, because I think he has a lot of potential, and a great, rich tone to his voice.
Oh, Tyler Grady. I think you and your ’70s swagger are just fabulous, but the schtick wore a little thin last night. Singing the Guess Who’s “American Woman,” it came off as a paint-by-numbers Jim Morrison performance. Stage presence is not a problem for Tyler at all, but I think his vocal abilities got lost in his stylings. America knows Tyler is talented, so now he needs to come out and wow us with something unique.
Lee Dewyze may have been plucked out of a frat house; someone give this boy a makeover, please. The graphic tees and knit caps have got to go. His version of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” however, can stay. Lee wisely tweaked the melody, but not to the point of unrecognizability. He has a pleasant rasp to his voice, and his sound is very radio-friendly. I’m not sure if he has enough momentum to crack the top 12 as of this week, so he’s going to have to be very smart with his upcoming song choices.
John Park also needs to smarten up when it comes to picking songs. Billie Holliday’s “God Bless the Child” suited his baritone well, but my god, that was the slowest, most drawn-out performance of the night. Nothing screams, “Take me seriously as a modern recording artist!” than a song that most people’s grandparents fondly recall from their youth. There’s definite talent in John, he just needs to modernize himself if he wants to go far into the top 12, which I have no doubt he’ll make.
Mike Lynche chose Maroon 5’s “This Love,” which I thought to be an odd choice for him. It was, as it forced him to use his guitar as a prop instead of actually play it, and his vocals seemed forced and breathy. At this point, I think his personality will send him farther in the competition than his talent, and that’s just disappointing to whoever gets booted in favor of the new dad. (PS – go spend some time with your newborn, will you?)
Alex Lambert (whose name I initially typed as Adam) is confidently rocking a pseudo-mullet that he doesn’t seem eager to part with. Get this child to a barber. However misguided his hair style may be, his choice of James Morrison’s “Wonderful World” was perfect. Alex was awkward as anything on stage, but his vocals were great, and he’s got a nice, soulful tone that sounds a lot like Morrison’s. Ellen’s analogy about ripening bananas was spot-on about Alex; the talent is there, he just needs his confidence on stage to ripen.
Casey James’ performance of Byran Adams’ “Heaven” was passable but bland, except for the shenanigans going on behind the judges’ table. Can we drop the “Kara loves Casey” thing, please? It’s awkward to watch, and from the look on Casey’s face during his judging, is awkward to experience too.
The male recipient of the pimp spot is Andrew Garcia, which I saw coming from a mile away. He took Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Going Down” transforming the song from high-energy to low-key and jazzy. Being a huge FOB fan (go ahead, make fun of me,) I loved Andrew’s take on the song. Hands down, he has the best song picking sensibilities in the competition. The judges, however, HATED IT, which once again made me declare that the judges are stupid.
I would say that collectively, the guys were better than the girls, but not by much. Hopefully everyone can shake the first-week jitters and start churning out some water cooler performances next week.

american idol top 24: when good girls go bad

After what seemed like an endless round of auditions and a lackluster Hollywood week, it was finally time for American Idol to go live and put the power in the viewers’ hands. It was also time for new judge Ellen DeGeneres to prove herself on a live telecast, and to be honest, she didn’t add much. The top 12 girls took the stage last night, and despite Simon proclaiming to all available media outlets that a girl will win last year, the performances were mostly misguided song choices with off-key vocals.
As Ryan introduced the girls, I wondered if a Forever 21 had taken them hostage prior to the taping. Didi Benami appeared to be wearing an afghan knitted by her Nana, Paige Miles had on a lace romper that caused me to physically recoil, and Katelyn Epperly looked like a hooker from a Hefty factory. Yikes. Someone get these women a stylist, ASAP.
Paige Miles had the unfortunate task of opening the show. I say unfortunate, because prior to her intro package, she had about 5 seconds of airtime. She chose Free’s “All Right Now,” which always reminds me of a car commercial. It’s a strange choice for her, since she has a more soulful voice, and Simon, as usual, was totally right in calling it a “wedding singer song.” It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t very memorable, either. Hopefully she’ll still be here next week to show America why Simon thinks she has the strongest female voice in the competition.
Ashley Rodriguez made the terrible decision to sing Leona Lewis’ “Happy.” Any time an Idol contestant tries to sing a big-voiced belter’s song, (Celine, Mariah, Whitney, etc.) it comes off as a pale imitation of the original. Ashley’s performance was no exception. It was okay, but her voice isn’t rich enough as Leona’s to do the song justice. You could tell she wasn’t pleased with the judges’ reaction to her performance, which I’m sure she thought was stellar, so I suggest a less predictable song choice if she’s around next week.
Janell Wheeler, who may or may not be Tim Tebow’s girlfriend/ex-girlfriend, stood out to me in Hollywood Week with her cover of Estelle’s “American Boy.” It showcased the unique tone of her voice, which is exactly the opposite of what Heart’s “What About Love” did. Janell needs to learn to embrace the raspiness of her voice instead of pushing for the glory notes. You are not Ann Wilson, my friend. My mom kept saying, “No emotion! Make sure you write that down! She has no emotion!” Yes, Mom, Janell was lacking emotion. (I take notes during Idol; don’t judge.)
Lilly Scott finally did what the first three singers didn’t do – she picked a lesser-known song (“Fixing a Hole” by the Beatles) that suited her voice perfectly and didn’t evoke the original version. She has a strange voice and I’m not sure yet if it’s unique or just odd, but she’s smart when it comes to song choice, which can take you a long way in this competition.
Katelyn Epperly, the aforementioned Hefty bag hooker, tries her darndest to cover the Beatles’ “Oh Darling.” From the first few notes, it becomes apparent that she’s trying way too hard to push the notes, which is so obvious right after Lilly’s effortless performance. Whether or not Katelyn liked Kara’s critique of her terrible ensemble, copping an attitude during judging is a surefire way to get a one-way ticket back home. No one likes a snotty Idol.
Haeley Vaughn chose the third Beatles song of the night, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The arrangement was nice, but her vocals were vaguely shrieky. I find her lisp very distracting, and Simon was right that her perma-smile became kind of creepy.
I loved Lacey Brown‘s audition and subsequent Hollywood Week performances, but last night’s version of “Landslide” was all kinds of awful. That song is one of my favorites, but I don’t think Lacey’s voice was right for it. Nothing sounded like it was in the right key. She is strikingly beautiful, though, and I think there were others who were worse than her, so I hope Lacey is safe until next week.
Michelle Delamor seems to be filling the token diva role this season, and her choice of Alicia Keys’ “Fallin'” was a predictable one. The chorus was a bit flat and the arrangement sucked all the life out of the song, but Michelle has a strong voice. It appears that Simon has taken over Paula’s “you look great!” schtick, as Michelle was the second contestant he complimented thus far. I also noticed that this was the second consecutive judging where Randy gave astute, helpful advice. This disrupts the fundamental structure of the Idol judges’ panel and makes me confused.
I never quite got the Didi Benami hype that’s been steadily building, but I found her performance tonight to be fairly enjoyable. Didi and her afghan vest sang Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am,” which was perfectly suited for her voice, but the arrangement seems a bit slower than the original. There’s something about the tone of her voice that seems affected, and I noticed last night that she does this weird lockjaw thing that’s a bit irritating.
Siobhan Magnus had done nothing memorable so far except dress like Punky Brewster, but after last night, I think she might be the dark horse of this season, even if she doesn’t know what that means. (Side note: Does she have a Mary Poppins tattoo on her arm? I could swear that it’s the silhouette of her holding an umbrella.) Siobhan chose Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” a very interesting choice, but I think it worked in her favor. Her lower register is rich, and I think she needs to pick an uptempo number next week to show her range.
I’m fairly certain that Crystal Bowersox has no idea how Idol works, as she herself admitted she’s never watched an episode before. Her performance of Alanis Morrisette’s “Hand in My Pocket” was good, but I totally agreed with Simon that I can go to any subway station/bus station/street corner in America and hear a busker singing an equally passable rendition. She really needs to reinvent a song, a la David Cook, Blake Lewis, Adam Lambert, etc., but I have no doubts that she’ll live to sing next week.
The lucky recipient of the producers’ pimp spot this week was Katie Stevens, the 17-year-old wunderkind from Connecticut. I think I’m legally obligated to root for Katie, as we’re both Connecticutians, but there’s nothing I hate more than teenagers on Idol. Take your precocious talent and go to prom. Graduate from high school, then get back to me. Katie definitely has a good voice, but everything about her performance last night, from the twee red bow in her hair to the dramatic arm motions, reeked of a voice recital. Her choice of Michael Buble’s “Feelin’ Good” made it feel even more amateurish. Simon and Ellen were both right when they said the song was too old for her. The Golden Child will have to loosen up and think outside of her talent show box to stand out.
To address the elephant in the room, Ellen added nothing of value on the judging panel. (Sorry, “E”.) Every time Ryan went to her for a critique, she stammered and “um”-ed her way through her thoughts. Maybe it’s just first live-show nerves, but I wasn’t impressed.
Overall, I thought the show was kind of underwhelming. I’m hoping the boys will bring the heat tonight to make up for the lukewarm beginning to the semifinals.

live-blogging the grammys!

Greetings! Welcome to my first-ever live blog! Tonight I’ll be picking apart the Grammys, probably my favorite awards show because we get lots of great performances and very little filler. Just a warning: I may give up if this turns into a disaster, and there’s a very good chance I’ll go to bed before the show is over. Wow…if that’s not confidence in my abilities, I don’t know what is. Stay tuned!

8:00: Another crazy spectacle from Lady Gaga. Hopefully this turns into the piano duet with Elton I heard about…

8:02: I think I’m uncomfortable seeing this much of Gaga’s pelvis.

8:05: This is a Grammy performance for the history books, kids.

8:08: Jay-Z was VERY unamused by Stephen Colbert.

8:10: Colbert is killing it. Why doesn’t he host more award shows?

8:12: And song of the year goes to…Beyonce for “Single Ladies.” Great song, but I think it should have gone to Taylor or Gaga.

8:14: J Lo, you’ve come a long way since that infamous Grammy dress all those years ago…

8:16: This is weird…like Green Day meets “Rent.”

8:19: I actually like that song a lot better with the Broadway treatment.

8:24: Kristen Bell looks TERRIBLE. You are so much better than that dress and “When In Rome,” Kristen.

8:26: And Taylor Swift’s domination begins…now. Aww, Mama Swift is so happy.

8:27: Simon Baker is struggling with his TelePrompter. What’s up with the Groucho Marx glasses?

8:29: I really dislike Beyonce. She’s not as great of a singer as everyone claims her to be. This performance is terribly boring…”If I Were a Boy” is one of her weakest songs.

8:32: And now she’s covering Alanis Morrisette? This makes no sense.

8:42: Something tells me Pink won’t keep this demure white robe on for very long…

8:43: She’s taking pseudo-nudity to new heights. (Pun intended.)

8:44: Between Gaga and Pink, the Staples Center must have a team of bikini waxers on staff.

8:46: Oh Miranda Lambert, I love you and your real-woman figure, but honey, that dress is doing you absolutely no favors.

8:47: Best New Artist is always my favorite award…welcome to the club, Zac Brown Band! This is a surprising win; I thought MGMT had this one.

8:54: Go away, Miley. Your dress is ugly, too.

8:55: BEP is not sounding good live. I can’t look at Fergie without thinking of her peeing her pants.

8:57: “I Gotta Feeling” is such a sing-along song. Also, Fergie may or may not be wearing a futuristic poker visor. I’d like to describe this performance as a hot mess.

9:00: JoBros introducing Lady Antebellum? Yes please.

9:05: Joe Jonas, you look foolish.

9:07: Love me some Lady A. They’re one of the few country artists on my iPod.

9:08: Fun fact – Lady A singer Charles Kelley is Katherine Heigl’s brother-in-law. (She’s married to his brother Josh.)

9:09: Yes! Stephen Colbert is a Grammy winner.

9:11: Colbert’s daughter is an insta-celeb now…she’s going to be the coolest kid at her high school/college tomorrow.

9:17: Norah Jones is like the musical equivalent of wallpaper. She’s talented, but she puts me to sleep.

9:18: Wow…Kings of Leon came out of nowhere for song of the year. “Use Somebody” is a great, anthemic song and definitely deserved to win, although I’m quite shocked they beat out all those other pop hits.

9:20: Much like Miley missed the memo about stilettos, I apparently missed the memo about thick, black glasses. Robert Downey, Jr. is like the 5th person to sport Buddy Holly glasses tonight.

9:22: Why does this song merit a Grammy performance? I find Jamie Foxx unnecessary.

9:24: Seriously, what is going on? Everyone in the audience looks pained, especially Josh Duhamel, who looks like he’d rather be anywhere but watching this.

9:26: Ke$ha and Justin Bieber may be the most awkward pairing of the night. Nice recovery though, Bieber, although you might want to avoid Jay-Z for the rest of the night.

9:28: Also, Ke$ha (dollar sign totally ridiculous and difficult to type) looks like a less-cute version of Ashley Tisdale.

9:32: Alice Cooper is like Russell Brand in 40 years. Take it all in, Katy.

9:33: Kind of an underwhelming selection for Best Rock Album. “21st Century Breakdown” is like a watered-down version of “American Idiot.”

9:35: “Chicken Fried” is incredibly cliched, but it’s such a feel-good country song.

9:40: Just realized the telecast ends at 11:30…I’ll be wicked ired in the morning, but I’ll be blogging until the end credits roll. Have no fear.

9:46: Only Taylor Swift can sing the lyrics “I wore a dress/You wore a dark gray t-shirt” and not get laughed at.

9:47: My parents are not T. Swift fans…Mom thinks she sounds flat, and Dad think she “sings like a 10-year-old.” Clearly they aren’t Grammy voters.

9:49: I love Taylor Swift, Stevie Nicks and “Rhiannon,” but I don’t love them all together.

9:50: My family room has turned into a Taylor Swift-bashing festival. There is no love for Miss Swift among my parents.

9:52: I love Lionel Richie…he’s so comfortingly bland.

9:54: Dang, no 3-D glasses for the MJ tribute.

9:55: Carrie Underwood looks fabulous, as usual.

9:58: LOVE the shots of the celebs in the audience rocking their 3-D glasses.

10:00: Call me insensitive, but that was kind of a lackluster “tribute.” Maybe if it was a more familiar song?

10:01: Paris and Prince seem so well-adjusted and normal. They’re very cute kids.

10:08: Sheryl Crow still exists?

10:10: This may be the most formulaic and boring Bon Jovi song in their entire songbook.

10:12: Jennifer Nettles is a country goddess. I love Sugarland.

10:14: Bon Jovi are such seasoned pros that they can play “Livin’ On a Prayer” with one second’s warning.

10:16: Mos Def and Placido Domingo are totally failing at their witty banter.

10:17: PLEASE LET “I’M ON A BOAT” WIN.

10:19: Who is this cute child with Jay and Rihanna? Also, was Kanye not invited for fear of a VMA repeat?

10:26: Must. Stay. Awake.

10:28: I’m sure this is a lovely tribute, but I can’t stop yawning. We need some upbeat performances, stat.

10:31: Drake, Lil Wayne and Eminem will definitely inject some life into this dying telecast.

10:39: Mr. Grammy President, let’s wrap this up. You’re very eloquent and important, but it’s too late for long speeches.

10:41: Adam Sandler looks old and lost. Love that they played “The Hanukkah Song” as he walked onstage, though.

10:43: Maybe I should take up playing a stringed instrument so I can be featured on the Grammys…maybe the viola?

10:44: This is not a great DMB song. Also, Dave Matthews should never dance. Ever.

10:46: Lea Michele is GORGEOUS. I may prematurely name her best-dressed of the night.

10:48: Beyonce is in the running for worst dressed…that getup is a Lady Gaga reject, and her poor boobs look like they’re being cut in half.

10:53: I’m really hoping Gaga pulls of a win for Album of the Year…”The Fame” is a fantastic pop album.

10:55: Excuse me while I take a nap during Maxwell’s performance.

10:58: The first time I ever saw Roberta Flack in my life, she was on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” singing a spoof called “Killing Me Softly With This Thong.” It was a wonderful first impression.

11:03: The “In Memorium” segments are always so sobering. The music industry loses so much talent every year.

11:04: This lady singing with Jeff Beck has her hair shaped like a Cinnabon. I’m very hungry all of a sudden…

11:12: Quentin Tarantino scares me. A lot.

11:13: I think this is Lil Wayne’s last public appearance before he goes to jail. I love Travis Barker so much…he kills it on the drums.

11:16: I always think of “Degrassi” when I see Drake. I’m sure that does a lot for his rap credibility. Also: Jamie Foxx, you are one of those embarrassing people who sings along at concerts even though you don’t know the words.

11:20: I’m getting very anxious to see who’s going home with Album of the Year!

11:25: Here we go…TAYLOR SWIFT WON?? HOLY CRAP! I was hoping for a Gaga win, but Taylor totally deserves this award. To be that young and that talented – congrats, Taylor.

So there you have it…the 52nd Grammy Awards. Thank you to anyone who bothered to read this; I had fun writing and I hope you had fun reading. See you at the Oscars : )