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.

you’re a ‘hot mess’ and i’m falling for you.

It’s taken them three albums, but Cobra Starship has finally found stable middle ground. New album “Hot Mess” takes the smooth synth-pop sound from their debut album “While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets,” and mixes it with the over-the-top outrageousness of second album “Viva La Cobra.” Add a dash of big-named guests (Gossip Girl‘s Leighton Meester, Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, Kara DioGuardi, and Kevin Rudolf), sprinkle liberally with lyrics about partying and hooking up, and you’ve got the most consistent album that Cobra Starship has released in their four year career.

Many people who were fans of frontman Gabe Saporta’s former band, Midtown, often beg him to ditch his purple hoodies and go back to his roots, but he seems to be most comfortable in Cobra Starship, where he can take musical risks that would be career suicide for anyone else. Sampling Hall and Oates? No problem. Titling a song “Pete Wentz Is the Only Reason We’re Famous”? Of course.

One big difference between “Hot Mess” and Cobra Starship’s other albums is that this one follows the band’s first true radio success, with “Good Girls Go Bad” reaching number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. None of Cobra Starship’s other singles have ever been featured this heavily on the radio, so it will be interesting to see if radio play translates to higher album sales.

Album opener “Nice Guys Finish Last” explodes out of your speakers and grabs you by the shirt, sampling both Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part II” and Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes.” The title track has a catchy chorus and could easily get heavy radio rotation, if “Good Girls Go Bad” is any indication. “Fold Your Hands Child” and “Living in the Sky With Diamonds” provide a welcome respite from the album’s constant high. Cobra Starship even acknowledges the fact that most of the music scene doesn’t take them seriously with “You’re Not in On the Joke, singing “If you see them laughing/don’t follow them/’cause they’re not in on the joke.” It may seem exclusionary, but it’s true; diehard Cobra Starship fans get what the band is about, and that’s part of their massive appeal. Those who find the band annoying need not apply.

It’s sad, though, that Cobra Starship doesn’t get the respect they deserve and are written off as neon-loving hipsters with limited talent. Peruse and Cobra-related message board on or and you’ll find comments like this gem: “What’s the joke to be in on? Getting a bunch of kids to listen to shitty dance music in the guise of a rock band?” Cobra Starship may not be the most serious of bands, but the music is fun, and that’s really all that matters.

Underneath their quirky, Day-Glo exterior, Cobra Starship is smart and it’s obvious that each musical step they take, including the ones taken on “Hot Mess,  is carefully calculated.

(photo courtesy of

yes, please

blink 182.


Fall Out Boy.

Please come to Connecticut.

pete wentz writes the truth

I’m the kind of person who likes to analyze song lyrics and pick out particularly meaningful sections to put in my away message/Facebook profile. I realize I share this interest with middle school girls who quote the Jonas Brothers, so make fun of me all you want. Here’s my most recent find:

“You can only blame your problems on the world for so long/Before they all become the same old song” -Fall Out Boy, “The (Shipped) Gold Standard”

Think about it.

After offering so many excuses for your problems, it won’t take long for people to realize the root of the problem isn’t everything and everyone else, it’s you.

Who knew Pete Wentz could be so profound?