‘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.
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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.