“american idol” top 9: part deux

…And I’m back! Since I last discussed the goings-on at American Idol, we lost Didi and almost lost Big Mike, but then the judges had a momentary lapse of judgment and decided to save the beefy, lip licking super dad. Between Big Mike and Andrew constantly reminding us that they’re fathers on Idol, and Kate Gosselin exploiting her motherhood on Dancing With the Stars, there has never been more parents on TV looking for sympathy. I literally shouted at the TV last week when Simon told Big Mike he was safe. I hate the judges’ save in principle, and it was even more annoying tonight when they were tripping over themselves to congratulate themselves on their great save. On to last night’s festivities…
Adam Lambert, he of the screeching and eyeliner, became the first former Idol contestant to serve as a mentor. As an Idol purist, I called foul at this; why not bring back a truly successful Idol, such as Chris Daughtry? Carrie Underwood? Jennifer Hudson? Before I get a bunch of Lambert fans jumping down my throat, I’m not suggesting that Adam isn’t successful, just that he’s only had a year to cultivate his post-Idol career, while others have had more time. That being said, I thought Adam was the best season 9 mentor thus far, offering useful and insightful advice to the contestants, but whether or not they decided to use it was another story. (I’m looking at you, Andrew.)
Crystal Bowersox started the night by singing “Saved,” an Elvis song I was previously unfamiliar with, although my knowledge doesn’t extend far beyond “Heartbreak Hotel” or “Love Me Tender.” Big shocker here – Crystal vocally nailed it. It wasn’t bad karaoke, but it was fairly forgettable. My whole issue with Crystal is that she’s predictable. I don’t know if I can see her winning the Idol crown this season, and I think her career is going to be middling at best. I just had an argument with a coworker about Crystal, because he thinks she’s going to be “huge in the hippie community.” I responded that a) the fact that he thinks there is a hippie community concerns me, and b) if Crystal is signed by 19/Jive/any sort of Idol-related record label, the hippie community is going to reject her, because she’s going to be all sterilized and pasteurized of her crunchy granola goodness. (It’s also important to note that my coworker’s grasp of reality is practically nonexistent. He still goes to Phish concerts.)
I enjoyed how Adam bluntly told Andrew Garcia that his rendition of “Hound Dog” was boring, and urged him to pep it up. Great advice, but Andrew completely disregarded it and sang a half-assed, lethargic arrangement. If Andrew doesn’t get the axe as part of tonight’s dual elimination, I’ll be shocked. Dude’s been seemingly phoning it in since the top 10.
I never thought I would write this phrase, but Tim Urban had one of the best performances of the night. His version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” was great. The guitar part was nice, it actually seemed heartfelt, and the vocals weren’t terrible. Way to go, Timmy. You’re probably safe for another week.
Lee has always been my favorite Idol, but it’s getting kind of transparent that the judges are trying to create a competition between him and Crystal. I liked his take on “A Little Less Conversation.” He made it sound modern, and his vocals were, for once, growly and in tune.
Aaron Kelly‘s performance of “Blue Suede Shoes” was vocally on point. It showcased his lower register quite nicely and got rid of that going-through-puberty crack he has going on sometimes. The vocals were about all that went right, though, as Aaron had trouble connecting to a song whose lyrics included “drink liquor from a fruit jar” (or something like that.)
When Siobhan met Adam, the world did not collapse into a black hole of screeching and big hair. Rather, she seemed shyly starstruck, which was cute. I love “Suspicious Minds,” (see Chris Daughtry’s version for proof) but I don’t know if it was the best song for Siobhan. The arrangement was definitely too slow, which hindered her vocals, and the whole pacing seemed off. I loved her pseudo-Elvis jumpsuit and pompadour hair, though. I’m quite scared that Siobhan could be in danger due to the double-elimination tonight, but she’s had worse performances and stayed on, so we’ll see.
I’m still peeved the judges saved Big Mike, so I took a Twitter and potty break during his performance of “In the Ghetto.” Please go home tonight.
Simon’s critique of Katie‘s performance being “very loud and a bit annoying” was spot-on. She sang “Baby, What You Want Me to Do,” and her performance definitely felt very karaoke-ish. Someone in the wardrobe department must hate Katie, for she was in another unflattering, bizarre outfit with way too many accessories. I hope she gets the ax tonight. I’ve had enough of the Miss Teen Connecticut act.
The final performance of the night belonged to Casey, and I have to admit, I don’t remember what song he sang or anything about the performance. (Wikipedia tells me it was “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” No wonder I couldn’t remember.) That doesn’t bode well for Mr. James.
Stray observations:
-Mama Lambert is very pretty. (She being the woman sitting next to Adam throughout the show.)
-Kara, stop using “fire” as a way to describe things. It’s not an adjective.
-Ryan Seacrest must be stopped. Between his dancing in the aisles during Tim’s performance to his Dunkleman joke, he was out of control last night.
-Having the cast of Glee right behind the judges all night was great; Jane Lynch’s visceral reactions to various comments were priceless.

Photo courtesy of fox.com

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‘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.

‘american idol’ top 8 guys: a crying shame

After viewing last night’s episode of American Idol, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or shake my fist disdainfully at the pathetic displays of talent that made up the semifinal round. Forgive me for repeating a sentiment many others share, but these 16 people are the most talented out of the thousands that auditioned? If so, I weep for the future of the music industry.
My favorite male contestant, Lee Dewyze, started the show with Owl City’s “Fireflies.” I grimaced when I heard his song choice because I think this is one of the most annoying songs on the radio right now, but Lee actually made it likable. I appreciate his willingness to take on a song that doesn’t fit his “style,” so to speak. What is up with Simon obsessing over performances having “moments?” Was he hired by Hallmark recently? It’s strange.
My second favorite male contestant, Alex Lambert, picked a great song in Ray LaMontagne’s “Trouble.” I just adore the sound of Alex’s voice, and this song was a good showcase for it. The poor kid still has no stage presence, but there’s a marked improvement since week one and his deer-in-the-headlights performance.
That brings us to Idol punching bag Tim Urban. I believe my exact words when I heard he was singing Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” were, “What the hell?” This is a beautiful, nuanced song, and I couldn’t bear the thought of Tim vocally destroying it. However, it wasn’t all that bad. Was it as good as Jason Castro’s version (which still gets played on my iPod a lot)? No. Was it much better than anything else he’s sang on Idol so far? Yes. Nothing he presented last night merited a hug from Ellen DeGeneres, who claimed she’s been really hard on Tim for the last couple of weeks. If by ‘really hard’ she means ‘vaguely critical,’ then sure, hug away, Ellen.
The curtain has been pulled back to expose Andrew Garcia‘s talent to be mere gimmickry. One can only turn so many female pop songs into acoustic jams before America gets bored. His attempt to recapture the “Straight Up” magic by taking on Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” ended up working against him. He messed up the lyrics during the first few lines, his vocals were clipped and breathy, and the whole thing just came off as weird. He removed any and all range from the song, and believe me, Ms. Aguilera has quite the range. I think the neck-tattooed wonder might be in trouble tonight.
Casey James‘ version of Keith Urban’s “You’ll Think of Me” was much better than the goat vibrato he served up last week. He did some weird things to the melody of the song, but it was a decent performance.
Aaron Kelly picked possibly the cheesiest, most melismatic country song I know: Lonestar’s “Already There.” He started off very shaky and sharp, but he was able to recover by the chorus to give a passable performance. It’s hard not to like Aaron because he’s so earnest and he tries so hard. Props to Simon, though, for sticking up for Aaron after Kara claimed he couldn’t relate to a song about a dad on the road. I always think it’s such BS when the judges say stuff like, “You weren’t living the song,” or, “You didn’t bring the song to life.”
Todrick Hall finally lost the theatrics and sang a decent version of Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” although I have a sneaking suspicion he used the arrangement from Glee. The gospel-lite arrangement suited his inclination towards dramatic performances, and he finally gave a straightforward vocal performance that showed why the judges wanted him in the top 24.
I totally called Big Mike singing last tonight, so I wasn’t at all shocked to see him in the pimp spot. (I’ll stop talking about the pimp spot next week, I promise. Even I’m getting sick of it.) Before the commercial break, when Ryan said Mike would be singing a Maxwell song, I turned to my mother and said, “If he sings “This Woman’s Work,” I’m going to barf.” I should clarify that I have nothing wrong with the song; Kate Bush’s lyrics about suddenly having to grow up and face reality in the time of a crisis are truly lovely and moving. Just reading the lyrics online makes me emotional. However, nothing about Big Mike’s performance was deserving of Simon’s “best performance of all these live shows by far” label, nor did it merit Kara’s apparent crocodile tears. For someone who had to tell all of America that she was crying, she sure had a dry face. Those falsetto notes Mike tried to hit were akin to a yowling cat, and it just got worse from there. All of his theatrics, from the dramatically raised hand, to the pained, supposedly emotional looks into the camera, felt so overdone and uncomfortable. When you’re singing a song that packs that much of an emotional punch, just stand there and sing it. No amount of fist-thrusting or shoulder shaking is going to suddenly turn Big Mike into the next American Idol. And no, Randy, he is not the person to beat. Stop saying that.
While I can think of four girls who might be in danger tonight, I can really only pinpoint Andrew Garcia as someone who might be watching his goodbye montage come 8:58 pm tonight. (Side note: how annoying is it that Idol and Survivor are on at the same time? I need a DVR, stat.)

american idol top 20: mediocrity at its finest.

After enduring four hours of aural torture last week, only a fool would be back for more American Idol this week. Clearly I’m a fool, because tonight’s show just proved how mediocre the semifinalists are this season. Crystal Bowersox’s medical emergency (I’m hearing something diabetes-related) prevented the girls from performing in their usual Tuesday night slot, so the guys took the stage a night earlier. This was the most exciting thing that happened last night.
Big Mike started the show with James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s World,” and although I don’t count myself as one of Mike’s fans, it was much better than last week’s Maroon 5 song. His voice is well-suited for R&B, but I suddenly got a Ruben Studdard vibe from him last night. Anyone who’s followed the Velvet Teddybear’s post-Idol career knows this isn’t necessarily the best thing. (“Sorry 2004” anyone? I didn’t think so.) I’m glad to hear Mrs. Mike and Baby Mike are moving to LA if he makes it through this week, which he probably will.
A sub-theme of last night’s show seemed to be “Sing One of Alison’s Favorite Songs…Badly.” John Park decided to take on John Mayer’s “Gravity,” which is a song that gets played a lot on my iPod. It was definitely better than last week’s performance, but John really needs to pick a more up-tempo song if he’s still here next week, which is questionable. “Gravity” is great, but it’s slooow. He needs something to prove that he’s got stage presence, or else he might be rejoining his a capella group sooner than he thought.
Learning that Casey James has never seen an episode of Idol explains a lot. Why else would he choose to sing a song already covered by Bo Bice, Chris Richardson, Elliot Yamin, et al? Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Wanna Be” is a good song, but it seemed like Casey spent most of the song trying to imitate Gavin’s distinct voice. I agree with Kara; it was two steps back for him. He needs to find middle ground between acoustic crooner and electric guitar rocker. (Also: what’s in that secretive box? I’m guessing hair extensions and Aqua Net.)
I really want to like Todrick Hall, because I think a singer/dancer has the potential to do well on Idol, but he’s making himself hard to love. First, there’s the ego, which is ridiculous to have on an amateur talent show. I know he toured with Fantasia, blah blah blah, but he’s not as good as he thinks he is. I didn’t mind last week’s controversial Kelly Clarkson cover, but this week’s cover of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” was all kinds of awful. That’s possibly the most iconic song from Tina’s oeuvre, and Todrick didn’t even come close to doing it justice. The judges clearly want him gone, which I think stems from some producer prodding; no one wants an Idol contestant who scammed money from children, now do they?
I have grown to loathe Jermaine Sellers in the past couple of weeks. You only pick Marvin Gaye if you can sing the crap out of it, and Jermaine’s performance of “What’s Going On” was just plain crappy. As if his performance wasn’t bad enough, Jermaine had to get on his God-fearing soapbox after the judges critiqued him. Now, I love God too, but there was no need for him to say, “I know God,” twice during his impassioned plea. A lot of people know God, Jermaine. You’re not as special as you think you are. Ugh, then he asked the judges what he could sing. It was like a lesson in “What Not to Say to the Judges 101.” I’m hoping he’ll be headed back to his beloved church singing after Thursday night.
Oh, how far the mighty Andrew Garcia has fallen since his sacred Paula Abdul cover in Hollywood week. I’m sure if he knew the judges would be comparing everything else he sings to a 30-second performance, he would have saved the Abdul gem for later in the competition. His rendition of a James Morrison song that I can’t remember the name of was passable, but I don’t think either of his semifinal performances show much star quality. To me, he’s just a Gokey-ish kid with a bad neck tattoo. I’m not sure what the judges want him to do next week, but it looks like he’s got a lot of thinking ahead regarding song choice.
Wee little Aaron Kelly sang the Temptations’ “My Girl,” which was definitely too old-fashioned, but props to him for putting a country spin on the song. There’s really not much to say about him, since he fits the non-threatening teenage boy mold, but it was cute how awestruck he was by Simon’s backstage comment last week.
Tim Urban should thank whichever deity he prays to, because divine intervention is the only explanation I can come up with for how he made it through while Tyler Grady and Joe Munoz were sent home. (That, or legions of teenage girls who have seen his shirtless pictures online. Go ahead, Google ‘Tim Urban shirtless’ and see why he’s a probably a lock for the top 12). His slaughtering of Matt Nathanson’s “Come On Get Higher,” another personal favorite of mine, was painful to watch. I believe I closed my eyes through most of it. Simon was entirely too nice to him, and Ellen was a bit patronizing. I feel bad for the kid, because he seems nice, but he’s become the laughingstock of American Idol. He’s just not good, and staying in the competition longer than he should isn’t going to change that.
Poor little lamb Alex Lambert, he who vomits prior to each performance, has definitely won many sympathy votes after he admitted to his rampant stage fright. He has a great voice, though; I challenge you to find a soundalike for Alex. He, unlike many other contestants, actually got constructive criticism from the judges, who really want to see him succeed. He seemed a bit more relaxed behind a guitar, and his take on a John Legend song was a good fit for his voice.
That leaves us with the pimp spot, this week graced by Lee Dewyze. Dude needs to ditch the wallet chain and plain tees ASAP, because right now he’s seeming more like a college coffeehouse act rather than the Next Big Music Superstar. Picking Hinder’s “Lips of an Angel” was a good choice, even though I kind of hate that song. Still, Simon claims he’s the one to beat, and Kara was right that Lee’s voice is extremely commercial.
Another underwhelming night from the guys, and I have 2 hours of Idol to look forward to tonight (note the sarcasm.)
UPDATE: I didn’t get to watch the girls perform because I was out to dinner with some coworkers, but from what I could see on YouTube at work today, I was pretty impressed. Of course I miss the one decent performance show thus far…

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.