long live the mullet.

There won’t be an American Idol recap this week for too many reasons to list on here, one of which being I may be suffering from Idol burnout. Anyway, I still cry myself to sleep at night over the travesty that is Alex Lambert’s elimination. Here is Alex’s interview and performance on Ellen. Could he be any more adorable? I think not.

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‘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.

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.