‘so you think you can dance’ top 20: boobs, blood and bollywood

After last week’s oh-so-controversial non-elimination on So You Think You Can Dance, we got to see the top 20 dance again last night. Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds joined Nigel and Mary on the judging panel. While it was amazing to have someone who starred in Singing in the Rain involved with the show, she functioned more like your entertaining great-aunt with a penchant for sequined mauve jackets. It was still very cool to have Debbie on the show, Woody Woodpecker imitation not included.

First up were Ryan and Ricky with a “sexy” jazz dance by Mandy Moore. Both dancers were clad in ugly bondage-inspired gear, with Ryan sporting a ponytail mullet to boot. The choreography was a bit over-the-top, but I confess I was distracted from the actual dancing by Ryan’s Joker grin, so much so that I totally missed her wardrobe malfunction. She had absolutely no connection to Ricky throughout the dance, grinning away and hungrily searching her line of sight for the camera. I hope and pray they’re in the bottom three tonight, but the judges seem to have a Lauren Alaina-eqsue crush on Ryan, so I fear she’ll live to smile another day.

My favorite dance of the night was a contemporary piece danced by Caitlynn and Mitchell. There was so much to love about this dance; from the song (Adele’s “Turning Tables”) to the perfectly staged chairs and lamps. Caitlynn, looking lovely in a floral dress, was all lines and extensions, while Mitchell had a lot of strength in his dancing. He maybe had a bit too much strength, as he clonked Caitlynn in the nose, prompting what may be the first live bloody nose on primetime television.

Poor Missy and Wadi missed all the marks in their Jean-Marc Genereux-choreographed cha-cha-cha. This dance is all about hip action, which neither Missy nor Wadi showed much of. I didn’t even bother watching Wadi dance because he so clearly had no idea what he was doing. The judges praised Missy, but I thought her moves were lacking, too. She was wearing a dress with fringe, which should have been moving all about if her hips were moving correctly. They weren’t. I’m sure they’ll be in the bottom three.

Nick and Iveta danced a Bollywood routine by Nakul Dev Mahajan, which was passable, but it was far from the best routine in this style in SYTYCD history. That honor belongs to season four’s Katee and Joshua. Both Nick and Iveta kept up with the speed of the dance, but it lacked the crispness and precision that Bollywood requires. It just wasn’t very memorable.

Tabitha and Napoleon have returned to torture us with their mostly mediocre hip-hop, this time creating a woodpecker-themed routine for Miranda and Robert. A woodpecker routine? Seriously? I’d like to know what kind of shrooms NappyTabs are smoking, because that is the most bizarre theme they’ve come up with. I thought Miranda hit the moves harder than Robert, which is a bit surprising considering this is his style. Again, not a terrible piece, but not very memorable, either.

I confess: I fast-forwarded my DVR through most of Clarice and Jess’ contemporary routine, choreographed by Stacey Tookey. The choreography was boring, with Jess visibly struggling with some of the lifts. This affected Clarice’s dancing too, as she appeared hesitant to enter some of the lifts for fear of falling. Even though I haven’t been impressed by either of their dances together, Clarice and Jess’ solos were phenomenal last week. I’m in the minority amongst SYTYCD fans, but I find Jess incredibly talented and a joy to watch. I’ll be devastated if he’s eliminated tonight.

The night’s second foray into ballroom was much more palatable. Jean-Marc’s Viennese waltz for Tadd and Jordan was fluid and pretty. It was nice to see Jordan play a role that wasn’t sex kitten for once. Tadd continues to impress me, because there is no way a breakdancer should be that natural at a waltz.

My second favorite routine of the night was Marko and Melanie’s jazz, courtesy of Mandy Moore. It was funky yet classic, and the two brought a lot of energy and charisma to the dance. I mostly had eyes for Melanie, though; that girl has a magnetic presence when she’s dancing. She makes everything look so effortless, too.

Napoleon and Tabitha’s second routine was allegedly wonderful, moving, emotional, etc. Alexander and Sasha played a soldier coming home from war and his waiting girlfriend, which is basically like a sequel to Nappytabs’ season four “No Air” routine with Katee and Joshua. I’m usually the first one to start tearing up/getting goosebumps/generally being affected by dances, but this one left me cold. Alexander was so stiff and so unnatural that it was more like a one woman show. I don’t know what I’m missing, but I won’t be adding this to the Nappytabs hall of fame.

I would like to thank Spencer Liff for doing a proper and entertaining Broadway routine; Tyce DiOrio needs to take note. Chris and Ashley were tasked to play a jailed man and his visiting sweetie, complete with prison bars. Nine times out of 10, I’m against props in dancing (see: Mia Michaels’ overrated “Mercy” dance with the doors from season four), but the bars were visually interesting and allowed Chris to do some crazy acrobatic stuff. This dance had all of the sexy that Ricky and Ryan lacked. I’m not feeling a lot of chemistry from Ashley and Chris as a couple, but I hope this routine pushes them in the right direction.

My picks for bottom three couples are: Ricky and Ryan, Missy and Wadi, and Clarice and Jess. Out of those six dancers, I’d really only like to see Ryan go home. Can you tell I don’t like her? Check back tomorrow for an update on the results show.

‘so you think you can dance’ top 20 recap: beauty and the beasts

Praise Jesus, the performance round of So You Think You Can Dance has started. Unlike its bigger, bolder cousin American Idol, SYTYCD zips through the audition/Vegas rounds and gets right to the meat of the competition. Nigel “If I’m being frank” Lythgoe is on the judging panel, as usual, but I’m so delighted to have Mary Murphy and her ear-splitting screeches back. I’ll take the Hot Tamale Train over Mia Michaels’ nonsensical hippie musings any day. Filling in the rotating third spot this week is Megan Mullally, a former ballerina and Broadway veteran. I’m pleased to see she’s moving on from her I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Commercials. Megan, you were Karen Walker and you’re married to Ron Swanson, for chrissakes. You’re so much better than “Turn the Tub Around.”

The couple with the honor of performing the first dance of the season is Jordan and Tadd, dancing an Afro-jazz piece by Sean Cheesman. The dance is fast-paced and a bit frantic, which led to them falling out of sync a few times. A routine like this requires a lot of strength and control, something both dancers need to work on. Tadd was impressive; I think he’s one to watch among the guys. As for Jordan, I’ve yet to see her do anything to really wow me, other than the sheer stupidity of her wanting to be a Pussycat Doll.

Sasha and Alexander were next, with a contemporary piece from SYTYCD golden child Travis Wall. The choreography was just so-so; nothing like past dances of his that still give me goose bumps. Sasha was very light yet powerful in her dancing. It’s too early for me to form an opinion on the heretofore unseen Alexander, but I think he’ll be safe for a while, considering his partner was heavily featured in the Vegas rounds and is allegedly a frontrunner.

Clarice and Jess were saddled with a boring Tyce DiOrio Broadway number. Watching this dance felt like it was going backwards and in slow motion. Nothing seemed to happen. Jess, being in his comfort zone, was impossible to look away from. His technique appears flawless; I’ve never seen such crisp, precise pirouettes. Clarice was trying so hard to keep up with him, but the cheesy smile she plastered on her face didn’t help.

New choreographer Christopher Scott choreographed a lyrical hip-hop number for Ryan and Ricky. I need to be up front and admit I do not like Ryan. She’s a great dancer, no doubt, but her personality and stage presence reeks of entitlement. Just because you almost made it last season and you’re Mia Michaels’ assistant doesn’t mean you get a free pass in this competition, blondie. The choreography was great, and while both dancers performed it well, it was hard not to be distracted by the gigantic smile plastered on Ryan’s face throughout the routine. When the judges questioned her on why a perma-smile was necessary for a dance about lost love and longing, she spewed some nonsense about remembering happy moments. It was ridiculous and a bit defensive, to which I say she needs to learn to stand there and take whatever the judges say to her.

Caitlynn and Mitchell were supposed to dance a jazz choreographed by Sonya Tayeh, but poor Mitchell hurt his elbow in rehearsal and had to sit out. Not a good thing for the first week of performances, when the audience is still trying to learn who’s who. Season seven’s Robert filled in for the injured dancer, which I feared could take the spotlight away from Caitlynn, but she held her own. To be honest, I haven’t been crazy about a Sonya routine since Mark and Courtney’s dance to “The Garden” in season four, but this dance strayed a bit from her typical style, which was nice. My heart broke a little seeing Mitchell crying in the audience after the performance.

The first ballroom routine of the season belonged to Miranda and Robert, aka “Woo Guy,” courtesy of Jason Gilikson. Their jive, set to a Bruno Mars song I happen to love, appeared great on first glance, but the high energy of the routine hid the technical missteps. Robert’s feet weren’t pointed and Miranda’s posture was a bit too hunched. Personality-wise, Miranda needs to come out more and Robert needs to reel it in. Nigel was right in telling him to tone down the “woos,” which are already getting old. They could be making an appearance in the bottom three tonight.

Sean Cheeseman’s second routine was a jazz danced by Missy and Wadi. The Pandora’s box theme was a bit of a stretch, but the end of the dance was cool, watching Wadi do his free running/parkour on the prop box. I don’t recall much about Missy’s dancing, other than her waist-length hair is quite distracting. She needs to cut it or contain it.

My favorite dance of the night was easily Melanie and Marko’s contemporary piece, choreographed by Travis Wall. The dance’s story, of two marble statues falling in love, made me roll my eyes, but Travis’ choreography, combined with the two dancers’ talents, was wonderful to watch. Melanie is a superb dancer, with gorgeous lines and great strength. Marko was good too, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Melanie. This is going to be a great partnership.

I need to interrupt myself to beg Nigel to stop calling the female dancers ‘beasts.’ I’m sure he thinks it’s edgy and flattering, but it’s just stupid and kind of offensive. Yes, the female dancers are a talented group, but find another term to use to compliment them. All right, I’m stepping off my feminist soapbox now. Carry on.

Ashley and Chris danced the weakest dance of the night, a hip-hop choreographed by Christopher Scott. It was fun and cute, but having this dance follow Melanie and Marko is like eating a fillet and having a Slim Jim for dessert. Neither Ashley nor Chris was particularly great, which I think means they’ll be in the bottom three.

The final dance of the night was the “dreaded” quickstep. Every single dancer who has ever performed the quickstep in SYTYCD history has been eliminated. Tapper Nick and world quickstep champion Iveta may have changed that trend. Jason Gilikson’s choreography was dynamic and fun, two words I never thought I would use to describe the quickstep. The odd couple, paired most likely because Nick is tall enough to properly partner Iveta, danced well together. Despite never having danced ballroom before, Nick’s tap training had to help, as both dance styles have fast footwork. While I enjoyed this routine, I’ll resist judgment on this couple until I see Iveta attempt another style of dance.

I don’t feel confident predicting who’s going home tonight, because there were so many dancers that America basically saw for the first time last night. It should be an interesting results show.

 

RESULTS SHOW UPDATE: After witnessing five wonderful solos and two so-so solos (I’m looking at you, Jordan and Robert,) the judges decided not to send anyone home, giving America the chance to see the top 20 dance again next week before eliminating anyone. A lot of people were upset by this decision, but I think it’s wise. I’m still at the point where I can’t put names to all of the 20 faces, so this works in favor of both the dancers and the voting audience. Four dancers will go next week, but I think after two performance shows, it will be a bit more obvious who was suffering from nerves/weak choreography and who just needs to go home.

‘american idol’ finale live blog

This season of American Idol started out with so much promise; new judges, no more Simon, the promise of new blood in the fading franchise. Things went south quickly, thanks to the early elimination of Pia Toscano, the Judges’ Save used way too early, lack of criticism from the judging panel and obvious examples of producer pimping/manipulation. Tonight, the season 10 winner will be crowned, an underwhelming competition between Scotty “Lovechild of Alfred E. Neuman and Howdy Doody” McCreery and Lauren “Toddlers and Tiaras All Grown Up” Alaina. For me, it’s the battle of who could care less, as my favorite, the sublime Haley Reinhart, was eliminated last week. Stay tuned as I live blog all of the filler segments and performances, and of course, who is crowned Wholesome Southern Teen Idol.

8:02 – When I think that more people vote for American Idol than the presidential election, a little part of me dies.

8:03 – Something that’s plagued me all season: is ‘Alaina’ actually her last name, or is it a middle-name-as-last-name sort of deal? Boggles the mind.

8:05 – Jacob Lusk is loving this Lady Gaga choreography.

8:07 – This isn’t a knock on Lauren’s weight, but she appears to be wearing an outfit from the Fat Elvis collection.

8:08 – Commercial Break Twitter Update (CBTU) “@realityblurred: Um, Lauren’s hometown Idol finale party had tons of empty seats. The camera couldn’t even conceal that.”

8:11 – The fact that both Judas Priest and Iggy Pop have appeared on Idol this season does not bode well for the future of the music industry.

8:15 – No, Ryan, do not go to Randy for any soundbites/reactions tonight. Please.

8:16 – It has occurred to me that I’d enjoy kickin’ it with the Dawg, but in the context of Idol, I’d like to sew his mouth shut.

8:18 – I would rather listen to seven hours of Randy saying, “You’re in it to win it!”than a three-minute Jacob Lusk performance.

8:21 – CBTU “@votefortheworst: Jacob Lusk needs time to queen out by himself. Eliminate Kirk Franklin and Gladys Knight and let Jacob go to town on his own.”

8:26 – I shouldn’t be enjoying this Casey Abrams/Jack Black performance as much as I am.

8:30 – I forgot most of these girls even existed.

8:33 – The top six girls are dressed like strippers at a post-apocalyptic strip club.

8:36 – CBTU “@mattmitovich: True story: Jack Black thinks he’s dueting with Will Ferrell.”

8:40 – Steven Tyler…everyone’s favorite crazy uncle.

8:42 – LOVE Haley’s dress. I wish she was singing with someone a little more current than Tony Bennett, but she sounds wonderful, as usual.

8:46 – J. Lo’s hair, flesh and jumpsuit are all the same color. It’s unsettling.

8:48 – Seriously, who dresses these girls? I can’t even find the words to describe how atrocious their TLC performance ensembles are…

8:50 – I appreciate the sentiment, but “Live Like You Were Dying” is my least favorite Tim McGraw song. Of course he’s singing it with Scotty.

8:55 – CBTU “@rilaws: It’s so weird that Tim McGraw is being styled by George Michael these days.”

8:58 – I can’t wait for this Idol nonsense to be over so we can get to the goodness that is So You Think You Can Dance.

9:02 – Sorry, Mr. J. Lo, but this performance reminds me of the “Island Fantasy Spectacular” put on by my resort on Spring Break.

9:06 – Oh Stefano, don’t ever sing in falsetto again.

9:08 – I think I can safely say this season’s top 13 is the most adept at choreography. Yes, this is something I thought about and analyzed. Help me.

9:11 – This medley is painful. These six voices do not mesh well together.

9:12 – The girls got to sing with Beyonce and the boys get…Tom Jones. Naturally.

9:14 – CBTU “@EWMandiBierly: I wish they’d made the Top 13 girls be Marc Anthony’s feather girls.”

9:23 – This show needed a heavy dose of Gaga’s insanity. Love her.

9:25 – I love playing “Spot Mark Kanemura” during Lady Gaga’s performances. He’s one of my favorite SYTYCD alums.

9:27 – CBTU “@adambvary: Ummm. Is Scotty a little hot for teacher?”

9:31 – Loving that Carrie Underwood is wiping the floor with Lauren. Bow down, bitches.

9:33 – Again, this isn’t a knock on Lauren’s weight, but I couldn’t help but notice that her butt is about three times the size of Carrie’s. I wish I had a screencap so I could marvel at the difference.

9:36 – Beyonce’s back. Snooze.

9:40 – CBTU “@EWAnnieBarrett: Carrie Underwood’s “sun”-kissed legs are the skinniest hot dogs I’ve ever seen.”

9:44 – I will never tire of the commercial where the guy is doing a one-man flash mob in Grand Central.

9:46 – This unknown dude onstage with Bono and the Edge looks like a mix of Ethan Hawke, James Franco and Kris Allen.

9:50 – CBTU “@EWAnnieBarrett: Sorry Bono and the Edge aren’t home right now they’re walking into spiderwebs so leave a message and they’ll call you back.” (Follow her. She’s hilarious.)

9:54 – Uncle Steven woke up from his season-long nap to perform, everyone!

9:57 – CBTU “@MichaelSlezakTV: I am going to have to ‘rise above’ the show’s failure to give a couple of my fave finalists a solo performance slot. #HijackedBySpidey”

10:02 – Okay, folks, here we go…the 2011 American Idol is…SCOTTY MCCREERY!

10:03 – Congrats to Scotty, but ugh, that means we have to hear his stupid “Love You This Big” song ad nauseum.

10:05 – “@rilaws: Time to sing the baby song for babies. Baby gets a bottle after sing-song is over.”

An underwhelming ending to an underwhelming season. I’m ready to move on to bigger and better things…SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE starts tomorrow night : )

‘so you think you can dance’: let’s hear it for the boys.

This week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance marked the first time that a dance has moved me to actual tears. Sure, many of the routines have evoked strong emotions, but I’m talking tears in the eyes, threatening to spill over onto my face. More on that routine later. While I wasn’t getting weepy, I was swooning over the male dancers on the show. Contestants and all-stars alike made me wish I still had a Trapper Keeper so I could write “Alison ❤ Neil” on it (among other names.)

The injuries plague that claimed dearly departed Alex Wong last week struck again, this time in the form of a rib injury for Ashley. Forgettable as she may be, she’s a consistently good dancer, so I hope there isn’t an early departure in her future.

The last time SYTYCD attempted a foray into cultural dance, it resulted in the Russian folk dance fiasco that Jeanine and Phillip were saddled with in season 5. When I heard that Lauren would be dancing a Tahitian dance with Mark, I feared the worst. Before I get into the dance, I would like to thank the Dance gods for bringing Mark back to our TV screen this week; an episode without Mark is an episode without joy. I can’t imagine a better partner than him for this dance, because he brought the perfect amount of masculinity and strength. Lauren got that swively hip action just right, and while I can’t say I want to see this dance every week, it was a welcome
departure from the overwhelming amount of angsty contemporary pieces.

I was all for Adechike and Anya’s salsa last night, but the more I think about it, the less sure I am about its awesomeness. The tricks were great, especially Anya’s prolonged backbend and Adechike’s cartwheel over her arm, but the rest of the dance seemed to be lacking. It was a bit too stop-and-go to accommodate the tricks and lacked the fiery feel of a salsa. Choreography aside, Adechike did a great job of stepping out of his technical comfort zone and attacking something completely different.

One dance that I definitely did not like was Jose and Courtney’s Broadway routine. Joey Dowling’s choreography is hit-or-miss for me, and last night was for sure a miss. I get that they didn’t dance together due to the story of the dance, but the meager steps Jose did perform were executed poorly. I would have rather watched Courtney shimmy around the stage in that ridiculous showgirl costume by herself for the entirety of the dance. Don’t even get me started on that wounded puppy face Jose was pulling during his judging…

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, it was Travis Wall’s contemporary, danced by Robert and Allison, that moved me to tears. The one-two punch of Coldplay’s “Fix You” and the emotional backstory of his mom recovering from surgery was too much for my fragile emotions to handle. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Travis Wall is a genius. His choreography was so strong and so lovely that it would have been just as breathtaking without knowing the inspiration behind the piece. Robert put a lid on his oversized personality and allowed himself to connect with the piece, which definitely showed. I’m going to make a bold statement here and name Allison the best female contemporary dancer in SYTYCD history.

I’d like to thank the Dance gods again for the return of Dancing With the Stars pro Louis van Amstel as a choreographer. I missed him last season, when the new fall format of SYTYCD conflicted with DWTS. I love the jive as much as I love Louis, so one choreographing the other must equal greatness, right? Almost. Billy was able to overcome his nervous laughter from rehearsal and connect with Anya, but I wouldn’t rank this among the show’s top jives. Chopping up Meatloaf’s epic “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” into a minute and thirty seconds seems sacrilegious, and it gave the routine a slightly disjointed feel.

Let me offer another hearty “amen” for Neil. Not just last night, but in general. If they changed the title of the show to So You Think You Can Watch Neil Dance Solo For an Hour, I’d be all for it. I know this season is about the contestants and not the all-stars, but I thought Neil totally ruled this dance last night. Tyce Diorio’s Damn Yankees-themed Broadway piece was shockingly enjoyable. Okay, so Kent was good in this routine, too, because it allowed him to fully embrace his “gee-shucks-Kent!” persona, but I can’t believe Nigel told Neil he was outdanced. No way, no how.

Moving on to the contestants-only dances, (which I’m glad they’re continuing with) Lauren and Billy had a fun jazz from Mandy Moore. Her choreography isn’t usually that great, but this funky, peppy routine to “Boogie Shoes” was enjoyable to watch. (Not to mention I want a pair of those bejeweled Chuck Taylors they were wearing.) Adam was right; Billy truly did just let go and dance, and it showed.

I was shocked at the praise the judges were throwing at Jose after his b-boy dance with Dominic, who he was paired with since there was an odd number of contestants left. There is no way that you could sit there and watch that routine and not see that Jose is nowhere near as good at b-boying as Dominic. This was so obvious when they were dancing side-by-side; the leg windmills (or whatever they’re called) come to mind. I’m sick of all the passes Jose gets from the judges. He needs to be in the bottom three tonight.

Not taking into account the weird story behind the dance, (Kent’s girlfriend is a chair and Adechike doesn’t like her?) Dee Caspary’s contemporary piece was strong, masculine and really used the strengths of both dancers. The use of chairs could have hindered the routine, but the choreography was interesting and different.

The last dance of the night was the first disco of the season, and while I had been wondering when we were going to finally see it, I realized after last night’s routine with Robert and Kathryn that I didn’t really miss it that much. Doriana Sanchez’s choreography used to be non-stop good times, but now it’s evolved into death-defying trick after death-defying trick. Robert wasn’t fabulous in this, but he and Kathryn worked well together considering she had to fill in for the injured Ashley.

I think Jose and Billy or Robert will be joining Ashley in the bottom three tonight, and hopefully she’ll be well enough to continue on in the competition and Jose will be b-boying his way back to Miami.

Photo courtesy of Mark Kanemura’s Twitter account, @mKiK808.

so you think you can dance: judges gone wild

Greetings, Dance fans. Let’s take a journey…through this week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance. I love how the producers are, in essence, making this up as they go along, changing the format this week to include an all-star pairing as well as a pairing with another competitor. Wise choice. There’s lots of dancing to be done, so let’s get right into this, shall we?

Lauren started the night doing a cha-cha with Pasha and his ballroom jeans. Her costume made her look like a sexy skunk, but she worked every last centimeter of that fringe. Her athleticism definitely worked in her favor this week, as her moves were strong and commanding. When the camera pulled away to a long shot, I could have sworn it was Anya up there. That’s how effortless Lauren made it look. She is improving every week, but I still can’t fully embrace her. I don’t know what it is about her…

Jose and all-star Lauren (she of the bodacious booty,) were the lucky recipients of another 80’s power ballad contemporary courtesy of Mandy Moore. INXS this time, for those of you keeping score. The choreography was weird; Jose barely danced, instead acting as a human prop for Lauren to twirl around. The judges, of course, loved it, praising his “technique” and growth and whatever other cliche phrase they dragged out in their critiques. I understood what Nigel was saying about Jose being true to himself, willing to learn, willing to grow, etc., but the bottom line is that the kid’s technique will never rival any of his competitors’, even on their worst day.

Kent and hip-hop should, in theory, go together about as well as Lindsay Lohan and alcohol, so I was pleasantly surprised by his routine with Comfort. He brought a crisp jazziness (not a real word, but work with me here) to the moves, which at first I thought to be his spin on the moves, but I think it was actually Dave Scott’s smart choreography. Cat was right; there was a bit of a Timberlake-ish vibe from Kent.

Adechike and Courtney’s jazz split the judges, but I thought it was sweet and charming. There was a bit too much prop work at the beginning with the counter and stools, but as Nigel pointed out, the part where they danced off to the side was sublime. Courtney is just adorable and radiant in anything she does, and I don’t care what McBitchy Mia had to say; I thought Adechike was personable and fun to watch. I think her headband was cutting off all blood flow to her brain.

I’m sure Billy and Allison’s Broadway would have been lovely, had the all-star not suffered a flare-up of a rib injury. Have no fear, for season 4’s favorite female dancer, Katee, was conveniently nearby to fill in for Allison. Spencer Liff has proven to be the most consistently great Broadway choreographer on the show, and this thief-themed piece really brought out the precise nature of Billy’s dancing. Katee’s great, but I had my eyes on Billy the whole time.

I was unable to properly assess Ashley and Dominic’s Nap/Tab hip-hop routine because my judgment was clouded by the horrendous song chosen to accompany the number. Ludacris’ “How Low” is one of the most inane songs to ever grace the radio, and now it’s stuck in my head. Thanks, Tabitha and Napoleon. I was also dismayed by the costuming for the dance; I get that it was a ninja theme, but someone in the costume department must really hate Ashley, because those drop-crotch Hammer pants were hideous. Regardless, it was refreshing to see her do something other than contemporary, and she kept up with Dominic quite well.

Robert and Kathryn, or should I say “Bob” and “Kathie,” were dolls come to life in Sean Cheeseman’s jazz. The concept was great, and it played up to Robert’s inherent cheesiness, but the synchronization was very off at the beginning when they were dancing in the boxes. Robert stumbled few a through lifts and turns with Kathryn, bumping her butt on the ground and making her seem awkward and cumbersome. Something was just a smidge off throughout the entire dance.

I have to applaud Nigel and crew for allowing the actual contestants to dance together last night. Some people think this make-it-up-as-we-go format of season 7 is unprofessional, but I think it shows flexibility on the producers’ part and a willingness to try something new. (Take note, American Idol producers.)

Alex and Adechike should have danced a powerful Bollywood together, but an Achilles’ tendon injury sidelined Alex last night. Now, this was definitely not the sharpest Bollywood I’ve ever seen danced, but I think the judges failed to give Adechike any credit. Not only was he dancing with a new (and female) partner, but I’m sure some of the choreography at the end was tweaked to make up for Alex’s absence. Did any of the judges acknowledge this? Of course not. Instead we got freaking Mia Michaels snidely declaring she “missed Alex so much right now.” You know who I missed so much last night? Mary Murphy. Props to Cat, though, for calling out the judges on their hypocrisy. How dare they praise Jose for doing a more lackluster Bollywood a few weeks ago, yet rip Adechike apart for doing the same, if not better? I could have strangled Mia with her stupid headband after she responded, “Jose has heart…” Bring back Mary. Please.

Lauren and Kent’s contemporary was the highlight of the night. Travis Wall is such a genius when it comes to choreography, and last night’s piece was a great showcase for both dancers. The prom story behind the dance was subtle and relatable for Kent and Lauren, considering they both just graduated from high school. This is one of the most emotionally real dances on SYTYCD thus far, and that’s counting standouts like “Bleeding Love,” “No Air,” and “Addiction.” And then there was that kiss at the end….wow.

The producers were cruel enough to “randomly” give Ashley and Robert the quickstep, aka the kiss of death on SYTYCD. This leads me to ask, why continue to include this dance? If it consistently leads to eliminated dancers, then drop it from the lineup. Robert and Ashley did the best they could with this dreaded dance, although the music Jean-Marc and France picked was awful. Fingers crossed that these dancers are spared the fate of other quicksteppers.

The final dance of the evening was an African Jazz, danced by Billy and Jose. This was a meeting of the two SYTYCD staples: personality vs. technique. The premise involved Jose’s hunter preying on Billy’s panther, but I’d say the panther ended up victorious. For a routine that required power, strength and athleticism, Billy excelled while Jose floundered.

If I had to pick a bottom three for tonight, I would say Jose, Robert and maybe Adechike, but I think he’ll get enough sympathy votes to be safe this week.

so you think you can dance: thoughts on season 7 so far

I’ve been unable to catch the entirety of both performance episodes so far, (reason #69263 why we need a DVR, parents!) so I haven’t been able to write recaps like I had wanted. I’m not totally wowed by anyone yet, and I’m still unsure if I like the all-stars format or not. Here is my take on the remaining nine dancers.
I don’t know if it’s the extremely high bar he set for himself during his brief appearance in season six, but Billy Bell has been just so-so in his first two performances. Lame choreography dragged him down in his Tyce Diorio Broadway number, and the poor kid never stood a chance next to Comfort in a krump routine. He needs a contemporary or jazz piece soon to really shine.
Kent Boyd is the cutest, most adorable thing to grace my TV screen since the Gosselin sextuplets. He has enough personality for three people, and regardless if you find him entertaining or not, there’s no denying the boy’s got legitimate dance talent. It was impossible not to smile during his cha-cha-cha with Anya, and even though the costume department saddled him with some heinous S&M-type getup in his jazz with Courtney this week, his technical ability shone through any sartorial missteps. I can’t wait to see him in a hip-hop or Broadway number.
I was ready to send Lauren Froderman back to her cheerleading squad after week one’s disastrous pop-jazz with Ade. Technically, it was great, but that cheesy perma-smile was so off-putting. Her redemption came in the form of a Tessandra Chavez lyrical hip-hop. The cheerleader-y grin was gone and she absolutely nailed the choreography. I’ll warily give her my support, but I’m unsure how successful she’ll be with ballroom or something more obscure, like African Jazz.
I keep forgetting that Ashley Galvan is even on the show; the little airtime she received before the top 11 combined with two routines that didn’t really stand out make for a forgettable dancer. Her contemporary with Neil during week one was okay, although I was confused by her declaration to the judges after she danced that she thought she might be in love. With Neil? You best step off, sister. Week two’s jazz (or contemporary if you’re Nigel Lythgoe,) was better, but she needs something really different to make her stand out next week. Give her a hip-hop with Twitch or a jive with Pasha.
Robert Roldan seems to be doing everything in his power to make himself extremely unlikable. The hammy antics and the spastic mugging for the camera have got to go. Personality aside, I think he has a lot of talent left to show us. The guy’s in an Alvin Ailey dance troupe, for crying out loud. I thought he was better than his all-star counterpart, Courtney, in week one’s African Jazz, and while I missed his Argentine tango with Anya last week, from what I saw, he seemed to hold his own. If he could just stop trying so damn hard to be funny, he could make it pretty far.
Jose Ruiz fashions himself to be Legacy 2.0, but he’s not even close. Legacy rose to the occasion each week and made it seem like he’d been doing whatever given genre his entire life, whereas Jose seems very limited in what he can do outside of the b-boy style. Take this week’s Bollywood number, for example. The judges praised him to no end, but I thought it was the sloppiest performance in that style throughout the entire show’s history. I dread the week where Jose picks contemporary.
Judging by the fact that she’s been in the bottom three both weeks so far, I seem to be in the minority of people who like Melinda Sullivan. Nigel sees an inability to connect with the audience; I see someone who isn’t trying desperately to get votes (I’m looking at you, Robert.) Her week one jive with Pasha was a bit off, and terrible costuming and choreography ruined her week two contemporary piece for me, but I’ve loved both of her “dance for your life” solos so far. I do wish the judges would stop praising her technique for being “just a tapper,” though, because Melinda has repeatedly admitted to taking classes in other styles of dance.
Towards the end of Vegas week, I had hoped that Adechike Torbert would survive and make it to the top ten/eleven/whatever number the producers decided to settle on. I’m starting to forget why I wanted him to move on, because his two performances so far have been less than memorable. In his defense, he was forced to stand out while dancing with all-stars Kathryn and Allison, a seemingly insurmountable task. He needs a dance this week that forces him to show some personality, otherwise he could be gone before top five.
Alex Wong‘s technique is so perfect that even Baryshnikov would feel inadequate. However, I don’t foresee him winning, because as SYTYCD history shows, technically flawless male dancers never win. Just ask Danny, Brandon, Jakob, etc. I don’t think he needs to win this show to have success in the dance industry, though. His Broadway number with Lauren was fun, so I hope he gets something like hip-hop or an upbeat ballroom number to showcase his personality and take some of the focus away from his freakishly amazing technical skills.
As far as the new all-star format, I love it and I hate it. I love it because I get to see people like Neil, Pasha, Mark, Kathryn and Courtney dance again, but that’s also the reason why I hate it. Sometimes I’m so focused on watching the all-star dance that the actual contestant becomes an afterthought. I understand what Nigel and co. wanted to accomplish with the all-stars, but I think cutting down the field from 20 to 10 and putting well-known and well-loved dancers into the mix alters the natural balance of SYTYCD.

i’m a beLEEver : )

Well America, like it or not, your American Idol is….(cue unnecessarily long pause where Lee nearly vomited on himself and Crystal appeared to stop breathing) LEE DEWYZE! The paint salesman from Chicago beat out the single mom from Ohio by a close margin, capping off what some claim to be the worst season of Idol thus far. I wouldn’t say worst…maybe more like most boring? Most phoned-in judging?

I was never a huge Crystal fan, so I was happy with the results. Going into the show last night, I honestly had no clue who would win, because I don’t put much faith in stuff like DialIdol, but I think it came down to the fact that Lee’s fans were more likely to mobilize and vote because he appealed to a younger audience.Regardless if you were a staunch MamaSox supporter or not, you had to smile just a teensy bit at the outpouring of gratitude and pure excitement from Lee after he won.

It will be interesting to see how well Lee does in his post-Idol endeavors; Entertainment Weekly posed the question, “Will Lee be the next Kelly Clarkson or the next Taylor Hicks?” I think it’s wayyyy too soon to tell; let the guy tour, soak in his new life, figure out what kind of music he wants to make, and then pass judgment. I urge any haters to check out Lee’s pre-Idol stuff on YouTube or iTunes before they make any snap decisions.

I made it through 42 episodes of American Idol, which probably means I lost about 60 hours of my life to this show. I will never get to reclaim those lost hours, but I had fun watching and recapping. From the shocking elimination of Alex Lambert to the misused Judges’ Save, and all the way through to the finale, it was an interesting ride.

Thoughts on (the second hour of) the finale:

-LOVED Casey James and Bret Michaels singing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” Did not love a celebrity who nearly escaped death and had a minor stroke last week performing without telling his doctor.  Bret is the ultimate Comeback Kid, though.

-Not gonna lie, I was enjoying Larry Platt’s dance moves during “Pants on the Ground.” When William Hung came out, however, he just ruined the fun.

-Paula Abdul looked great, but her “roast” of Simon was so awkward.

-All of the past Idol winners and top 12s from past seasons coming back to sing to Simon was a great TV moment. It’s easy to forget how many people have experienced success from this show.

-Joe Cocker kind of scared me…

-Departing musical director Rickey Minor did not get any acknowledgment from the show, which is a shame and kind of embarrassing on the producers’ part.

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

“american idol” top 4: consider the shark jumped.

If all of the preceding episodes of American Idol this season were distress signals, then last night’s performance episode was those signals flat lining. “Songs of the Cinema” night was an all-around disaster. The judges could barely muster up any relevant critiques, and even the praised performances were just so-so in comparison to other things we’ve seen from the contestants this season. This is the top four, people! This is the time when you need to step up your game, not sit back and churn out something mediocre that borders on karaoke.
Before I get to the actual singing, I have to address the ridiculous theme and equally ridiculous mentor. Ryan proclaimed that everyone loves the movies, but that doesn’t mean that everyone loves songs from the movies. Based on the pathetic list of songs the top four had to choose from, I gathered that the theme was actually “Songs Written Specifically For a Movie,” rather than “Any Song In a Movie/On Its Soundtrack.” Nine times out of ten, songs that are penned to play over closing credits of movies are dull and schlocky, which explains why I spent most of last night waiting for Idol to be over so Glee could start. This type of theme is usually a momentum killer, which is exactly what happened.
Jamie Foxx was partly to blame; he spent more time obsessing over his silly “artist” and “contestant” shirts than he did offering any useful critique. No, I don’t think sticking his face in Lee and Casey’s personal space counts as mentoring. Maybe I’m still riding high from the excellent mentoring of Harry Connick, Jr. last week, but it seemed like Foxx was just there for the face time and didn’t care too much about the contestants.
Lee Dewyze and his face full of spray tan opened the show with a shaky version of Seal’s “Kiss By a Rose.” First of all, way to pick an awful song, Lee, and second, please stop dressing like you’re performing at Zeta Chi’s Beer Bash 2010. The pitch was just beyond his grasp the entire song, and all of the words ended in a vague mumble. You know I adore Lee, but I had to hide my face behind a pillow in embarrassment.
Here’s a shocker: Big Mike picked one of Michael Jackson’s cheesiest songs, the Free Willy song “Will You Be There.” Nothing about this performance indicated that Mike has the chops to become the next American Idol. I’m hoping Big Mike will be heading home tonight. Free Willy, indeed.
I missed out on season 8, so I hadn’t seen any duets on Idol until last night. I think it’s a great idea, and I’m all for duets being introduced earlier on in the season. Group night creates lots of drama and entertainment during Hollywood Week, so why not carry that into the rest of the show? Lee and Crystal sang “Falling Slowly” from the movie Once. I loved how their mic stands were positioned to face each other, and I also loved that they both played guitar. I wasn’t too keen on how their voices meshed; Crystal’s Joplin-esque howl was a bit grating against Lee’s gravelly tone. Things definitely picked up around the chorus, and Lee redeemed himself for his hideous solo performance just minutes before. Bonus points to Crystal for calling Lee her “musical crush.”
Back in solo land, Casey chose “Mrs. Robinson,” which is hands-down my favorite Simon and Garfunkel song. It could have been okay, but he chose to sit in the crowd and play a mandolin to a slowed-down version of the song. The judges were so proud of themselves for making the connection between the Graduate and Kara’s supposed crush on Casey, but anyone with half a brain/knowledge of music history knows that the song was originally titled “Mrs. Roosevelt” and was changed only to fit in with the movie. Nice try, though, Randy.
Crystal was the only solo performer to change up her song a bit, but no amount of orchestral rearranging could hide the fact that “I’m All Right” is the song from Caddyshack. It was the best performance of the night, but that’s like saying it was the pile of dog poop that smelled the least. I did enjoy her boyfriend’s American flag pants, though. Forgive me if this sounds incredibly mean, but her boyfriend is way cuter than I thought the boyfriend of Crystal Bowersox should be.
The duet between Casey and Big Mike was like a nonentity, as I think one of them will be going home tonight and the other next week. I do enjoy “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” for the cheesy ballad that it is, and I thought the guitar stylings of the two gents worked well. Casey may not be the next American Idol, but damn, that guy can play the guitar. Their harmonizing wasn’t as bad as I thought, but someone was way sharp during the chorus (methinks it was Casey.)
Will there be a shocking, Chris Daughtry-type elimination tonight as we see who makes it into the top three? You never know with American Idol
Photo courtesy of Fox.com.

i miss the kooky glassblower already.

Last week, as I watched Siobhan Magnus, one of my picks to make it to the top 4, if not top 3, sing her American Idol swan song, I felt a whole lot of…nothing. I’ve experienced many emotions over the years as an avid Idol viewer, but never has that range included apathy. As I watched Siobhan absolutely kick ass on “Think” in that gorgeous two-tone pink dress, I couldn’t help but think that maybe the naysayers are right. Maybe season 9 is the worst season so far, although one could make a compelling argument in favor of the snooze-worthy season 5, with the Blake/Jordin finale, but that’s a topic for another time. The five contestants left standing elicit nothing more than mild enthusiasm from me, yet by this point in other seasons I was already (illegally) downloading performances and anxiously awaiting the day Idols Live tickets went on sale. If I miss an episode of Idol this season, eh, I move on.
So where did American Idol go wrong? How did Ken Warwick and Co. reach this plateau and turn a watercooler show into a defeated shell of its former self? Let’s face it, when you’re being beaten out in ratings by a cheesy (albeit delightfully so) dancing competition made up of minor celebrities, it’s time to panic a little. There are numerous reasons why Idol is slipping this year: the loss of Paula and subsequent addition of Ellen, losing favorite contestants before the top 12, Simon’s last season, etc., but most of the blame can be placed on the contestants themselves. You could have the best recipe in the world, but if the ingredients you use are subpar, the end product isn’t going to taste so great. Clunky metaphors aside, here’s my take on the top 5:
Call Aaron Kelly the Little Engine that Is Trying So Damn Hard. You can almost hear, “I think I can! I think I can!” running through his mind as he makes an earnest face and hits a glory note. His naivety and innocence are refreshing amidst backtalk and egos, and the country tone to his voice is great, but Aaron hasn’t had a true “wow!” moment to make him a legitimate contender. He’s too much like Archuleta 2.0; we’ve already gone down the precociously talented teen guy route before.) I do think he’ll have success in the country industry, but I hope he finishes high school and maybe considers college before taking on the entertainment industry. (Am I really giving out parental advice? In that case…get off my lawn, turn your music down, pull up your pants, etc.)
I take back my earlier comment about feeling nothing during last week’s results show. I felt deep-seated rage that we could have been done with Big Mike and his ridiculous behavior back in the top 9. He represents everything annoying about Idol. “Check me out on iTunes!” Um, no. “I’m doing it for my people!” You don’t have people. You’re a contestant on American Idol. Then there’s the lip licking, the facial mugging, the arm flexing, the weeping, eye-glitter fanatic wife, the need to pick up all lightweight contestants and mentors…I could go on and on. Maybe it’s just my musical taste, but I don’t find his R&B stylings to be anything new and different, nor anything I would download/listen to.
Casey James is the epitome of vanilla: semi-decent to look at, marginally talented, but oh-so-boring. I’m not saying I want my Idols brimming with personality, because hello, I want to sucker punch Big Mike every time he appears on my TV, but I think Casey was born without the personality gene. The goat vibrato slips into his voice far too much for my liking, and the John Mayer-ish faces he makes while playing guitar are frightening. He could make the top 4, barring any shocking eliminations, but his complacency is not going to win him the competition.
I confess that I usually join in on the backlash that comes from a contestant being too heavily pimped by the judges/producers, and this season I bought my round-trip ticket on the anti-Bowersox express. I’ve always criticized Crystal for sticking too close to her “wheelhouse,” as Randy would say. We get it; she likes girls with guitars and soulful jams. Yet when she tried something different-ish, a Shania Twain cover, it was lethargic, half-assed and a bit pitchy. I think tonight’s Sinatra night is literally do or die for Crystal; no instruments and no rearranging of songs allowed. How is she going to fit her crunchy granola hippie style into that box? I wasn’t too keen on her comment on last week’s results show that she “didn’t think” she’d ever been in the bottom 3. Really? You can’t remember? Maybe the judges have been blowing smoke up her butt for so long that she has selective amnesia. I know Crystal is favored to win, but I’ll be shocked if she does….
…Because I think Lee DeWyze is going to come from behind and take the crown right off Crystal’s head. We could have a repeat of last year on our hands: an overhyped favorite and a dark horse in the finale, with the dark horse ultimately victorious. Lee is by no means the most consistent person ever to grace the Idol stage, because he does suffer from pitch problems every week and he’s yet to really command the stage. That being said, he’s the only remaining contestant whose album I would be interested in buying, although if he were competing in any season other than the current one, he’d be a mid-pack player at best.
Tonight’s show should be very interesting…

‘american idol’ top 11: too awful to make a witty headline.

I almost didn’t want to write about American Idol again, because I mentally checked out of the show about halfway through last night, and because it was so damn boring/awful/pitchy/etc. that I don’t care who goes home tonight; it could be any one of six people and I’d be happy. But I have some perverse dedication to this blog, even though about four people read it on a regular basis (Hi Mom!), and honestly, last night was just too awful not to discuss. The Idols could pick from any number one single in Billboard‘s 50-year history, and they managed to pick some of the schlockiest, cheesiest, over-performed songs on the list. Guest mentor Miley Cyrus wasn’t as bad as I thought she’d be, although her statement that, “People take me seriously because I take myself seriously,” proves all that is wrong with today’s youth.

Lee Dewyze, my current favorite, started the show with “The Letter,” by the Box Tops. The brass ensemble was borderline hokey, although it was a nice departure from the ‘dude stands behind mic stand with guitar’ performances in Lee’s past. I liked the vocals, and he definitely brought more stage presence, although he clearly had no idea what to do with his left hand, the one not holding the microphone, and flailed it around awkwardly.

Why Paige Miles thought it would be a good idea to pick “Take a Look At Me Now (Against All Odds),” a song already covered on Idol by Corey Clark, George Huff, Jessica Sierra, Scott Savol, Katharine McPhee, and Ramiele Malubay, is something I can’t fathom. Calling her performance ‘pitchy’ is an understatement. My living room cleared when Paige started singing. I think my dog was in pain. The girl sang better when she had laryngitis, for crying out loud. It was just awful.

Another performance that falls into the ‘just awful’ category is Tim Urban‘s take on Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Freddie Mercury rolled over in his grave, for sure, during Tim’s performance. There was nothing exciting about the vocals, and Tim’s attempts to be fun by sliding across the stage, touching audience members’ hands and standing amongst the audience were just cheap gimmicks to cover up the fact that he’s a terrible performer.

Aaron Kelly – whom Ryan called David Archuleta when giving out his numbers – picked another tried and true Idol favorite: Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.” It was okay. It’s nothing I’m going to remember in a week or two, but his vocals were decent, and his performance was another chance for him to show off his earnest faces.

Crystal Bowersox‘s “Me and Bobby McGee” was yet another crunchy granola acoustic jam, this time with a rug on the stage! She really makes it seem effortless, but homegirl has to mix it up with the musical choices in the upcoming weeks if she wants to be a true contender. Enough with the Starbucks music. Take a page out of the books of Lambert, Cook, Allen et al, and find a song that isn’t from your genre of music, and revamp it to fit said genre. Otherwise, I think Mamasox will find herself amongst the eliminated former front runners, including but not limited to Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson, and Melinda Doolittle.

I missed Big Mike‘s performance; I’m not sad at all. I don’t like him.

Andrew Garcia‘s performance of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” was cheesy and amateurish. I know, I know, this is an “amateur” talent competition, but I’ve seen more skill from drunken coeds doing karaoke. He lost the guitar and gained a whole lot of awkward stage presence. I won’t be surprised if he’s in the bottom three tonight.

Katie Stevens‘ attempt at being young and cool resulted in ill-advised suspenders and Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” It reeked of high-school talent show. I just can’t get behind Katie as a valid contender for the Idol crown. Her voice is great, just not technically at the level it should be to compete on a nationally televised talent competition.

I may be the only person who enjoyed Casey James‘ “The Power of Love.” Sure, Huey Lewis and the News isn’t the most current song choice, but Casey’s vocals were great. I could have done without the horn section blasting down from the band loft; they definitely contributed to the outdated feel that Randy spoke of, and they pretty much muted Casey’s guitar playing. (I did quite enjoy his comment to Miley that he’s a big fan…of her father. Zing!)

Didi Benami just plain sucked last night. There’s no other way to say it. Her performance of Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good” was cheesy, overdone, and flat. I believe I may have changed the channel to check the weather forecast during this performance.

Siobhan Magnus and her magnificent pink faux-hawk took on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” Vocally, it wasn’t perfect, but I did like hearing Siobhan’s voice against a more upbeat, less morose song. “The shriek” is getting old fast, though, and while I don’t hate it, I find myself bracing for impact throughout her performances, waiting for that note.

My bottom three prediction for tonight: Urban, Miles, Garcia, with Urban going back to safety first and most likely Miss Miles heading back to her kindergarten class.

Photo courtesy of USA Today.