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.

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“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 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

‘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 16: eight girls is enough.

I first need to acknowledge the wonder that is one-hour episodes of American Idol. All the filler was gone and the viewers were left with an emphasis on performances, as it should be. Last night was the final episode before the top 12, as we were reminded every five minutes.
Katie Stevens began the night with Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway.” I really should like Katie, considering we share the same home state, her mother is an alum of my college, and her brother is currently a sophomore at my alma mater. However, I find that Katie brings nothing new to the Idol stage. This performance was the youngest she’s ever seemed, which is about 30. She started the song too low, and then her voice just went flat on the chorus. Based on the judges’ comments, they seem to have given up on her. I think Katie may be traveling back to Connecticut at the end of the week. Simon’s comment that she “kind of sucked….the air out of the room” was classic Cowell.
Siobhan Magnus, however, won’t be returning to her home state of Massachusetts for a while. I don’t care what Simon said; her performance of the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” was brave, on-key, and showed the amazing amount of vocal restraint she has. Starting the song a cappella takes guts and confidence in your vocal abilities. I hope Siobhan goes far into the top 12, because she’s the only female contestant I really enjoy.
I’ve been rooting for Lacey Brown since Hollywood week, and I think last night was the first time she picked the right song for her voice. Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” highlighted all the uniqueness of Lacey’s voice, and while it wasn’t a performance I’ll remember in six months, let alone six weeks, I think it’s enough to carry her into the top 12.
Katelyn Epperly may not have done enough. Her performance last night was the epitome of “phoning it in.” I don’t care if she claimed she was trying to be less cheesy; the girl stood behind her Wurlitzer with the same kind of enthusiasm I muster for folding laundry. Her vocals on Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” were okay, but it was like Laurie Partridge 2.0 with the plaid jumper and the lackluster musicianship. I think she might be in danger of going home tonight, unless the buzz from last week’s “The Scientist” can propel her into next week.
Watching Didi Benami‘s performance of “Rihannon,” I was sure that the judges were going to rip her apart. It was like a bad coffeehouse performance, and I’m not sure if Didi was actually playing her guitar. Poor Stevie Nicks; after Taylor Swift murdered this same song at the Grammys and Lacey murdered “Landslide” a few weeks ago on the Idol stage, she’s probably not very willing to lend her songs to others. I already aired my grievances about Didi’s tone and lockjaw, but tonight I realized she over-enunciates her words to boot. And seriously, enough with the waterworks. I don’t care if they’re happy tears or not, just stop. This woman is one criticism away from a mental breakdown.
Someone who rightfully shed tears last night was Paige Miles, who definitely reached the end of her Idol journey with a whispery, shaky take on Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.” I don’t know why she picked the song if it evokes such strong emotions in her, because clearly her emotions got in the way of delivering a good performance. It was hard to watch a verklempt Paige try to explain her song choice to Ryan, when she clearly knew the song was her death sentence.
Unlike seemingly every person on the American Idol payroll, I’m not drinking the Crystal Bowersox Kool-Aid just yet. Her semifinal performances, including last night’s version of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason,” are good, but they’re a bit predictable. I know what I’m getting each week, and while the judges like to think it’s because Crystal “knows what kind of artist she’ll be,” I think it’s because she’s a one-trick pony. Just wait until the top 12 theme nights, Miss Bowersox. I can’t wait to see how she puts her girl-with-a-guitar spin on the Barry Manilow catalog, or better yet, disco week! I think Crystal may soon suffer from the backlash that comes from being excessively pimped by the judges. Despite what Simon claimed on Leno the other night, I don’t think this competition is Crystal’s to lose.
Closing the show was Lilly Scott, with a take on Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces.” She carried a mandolin, but I couldn’t discern it among the horrific sounds made by the Idol Karaoke Backing Band, nor did it appear that she played it very much. Instruments are not props, Idol contestants, but rather a privilege. The whole performance was weird, from the arrangement to the weird ensemble Lilly was wearing: balls of yarn hanging from her ear lobes, granny boots and a gray patchwork dress. The vocals were so-so, but none of the judges touched on that, maybe in their haste to end the show. I think Lilly is going to have to break out of her “look at me! I’m quirky!” box to be a true contender in the top 12.
The boys perform tonight at 9 – tune in for another hour of performances from men with middling talent. Seriously, this season kind of sucks.

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: 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.