“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 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 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.