DISCLAIMER: American Idol is my brain candy. I know all of the reasons it's a horrible show, a pox on America, etc. But I grew up as a Performing Arts geek, and these people...well, they're my people, warts and all. On with the show...
Well, we finally made it out of the auditions and into the actual performances. I am very interested in how the new voting structure will work. I think it will ensure a better Top 12 by hopefully weeding out the "Vote For The Worst" crowd, but I am also concerned that if one of the weeks was a little "top heavy" in talent there may be too many good ones sent home in a week, with limited opportunity to bring them back as Wild Cards. (Un)fortunately, being top heavy in talent was NOT an issue this week:
1) Jackie Tohn - "A Little Less Conversation": Started out OK...I like the quality of her voice, kind of a smokey bar-band sound. But as the song went on, the performance became more and more over the top...too much face-pulling, cutesy, "come-on-everybody" for me. I think she wasn't really getting the crowd reaction she was hoping for, so she really overdid it with the theatrics. It's a shame, too, because I thought her style could have made the top 12 more interesting, less generic, but her ride ends here.
2) Ricky Braddy - "A Song For You": Have I ever seen this person before? Maybe I have, and he was just so boring that I immediately forgot him. Wow...fantastic voice, one of the best if not THE best vocal of the night, and I like this song, and....and....ZZZZZZZZZZ.
Sorry, I must have drifted off there...where was I? Was somebody singing? What was his name again?
Simon is right, as usual. Great voice, zero star quality, and no matter how many times Randy tries to tell me otherwise, this is NOT a singing competition. They are looking for stars, and this guy is not that.
3) Alexis Grace - "I Never Loved a Man": See, and here is what I mean...she is not even CLOSE to the last guy (good ole whats-his-name) as far as vocal talent, but she's a good performer, she has a great look, a good story, a decent voice, and (most importantly) an IDENTITY as to who she is as a performer. This is the same type stuff we've seen her do all along, and she does it very well. She took an Aretha song, modernized it just a smidge, but still left enough of the old soul in it that it fits her style, which is a bluesy kind of soul thing. Love her.
4) Brent Keith - "Hicktown": This is the guy who was already on Nashville Star before this one, so he has experience in this sort of thing...but you couldn't tell it. He looks very uncomfortable on stage, with his eyes betraying his nerves. This was the WRONG song for him. He should have have gone country ballad, which wouldn't have required him to move around so much, because that "dancing" contributed a lot to the awkwardness. Plus, the song did not show off his voice at all. I just think he would have been much better served doing the "sit on a stool with a guitar (whether he can play one or not - you can fake it), stare into the camera and make all the female country fans go weak in the knees" type song and that would have been playing to his strengths.
Then, he made what is usually a fatal mistake...he smarted off to Simon. Bad idea, dude. You can do that later in the season, but you haven't earned enough points to get away with that yet.
He was still pretty ticked when he got to the Coke room, too, and made no real effort to hide it. I don't think that did him any favors, and neither did his comment that "This is the type of album I am gonna make." Well, then, that settles it...I ain't voting for you, 'cause that would be a crappy album.
5) Stevie Wright - "Some Crappy Taylor Swift Song That I Didn't Bother to Learn the Title To About Cheerleaders and Other Chicks Who Aren't Cheerleaders and Good Lord This is AWFUL": WOW. That was...ugh. This one was literally painful to watch. I'm sure it was 90% nerves, which you could tell because she was gasping for air by about halfway through. She is only 16, after all. But....yeah. Bad song choice, sung badly, with an absolutely MANIC performance. Seriously, her eyes were crazy like WHOA. Nice knowing ya, Stevie...hopefully, there is no therapy in your future resulting from this experience.
6) Anoop Desai - "Angel of Mine": SAVE US, ANOOP!! I love this kid. Great personality, great voice. I was not a big fan of this song choice for him, but I thought he did a nice job with it. The fear I have with him is that he may be pigeon-holing himself as a one-trick pony (all R&B, all the time), and it's always a dangerous idea on this show to let the judges put you in a box ("You need to get out of your comfort zone and step out of the R&B box....hey, what are you doing out of that box? Get back to what you are comfortable with!"). I did think the judges were especially hard on him for some reason. I have a feeling he may go home tonight, and be brought back as a wild card.
7) Casey Carlson - "Every Little Thing He (She) Does is Magic": First of all, I hate it when people pick songs where they are going to have to change the gender, especially when it means you're going to have to change a word in virtually every line, due to the repetitiveness of every song written by Sting. Which, by the way...what was up with Kara saying that everybody avoids trying to sing Police songs? When was freaking Sting elevated to the Whitney-Stevie-Mariah-Chaka "You Should Never Try to Duplicate These Vocal Masters" level? Did I miss a meeting?
Anyway...this was not good. Bad song choice, sung at a Bowling Alley Karaoke level, with a bunch of stupid faces thrown in for good measure. Casey is actually one who is really going to be hurt by the new rules. In years past, she would have skated through the first few weeks just based on her looks, but there is no way she is going to be top 3 (nor should she be after that performance), and the judges certainly aren't bringing her back, so this was it for her. There's always the lucrative bikini calendar market.
8) Michael Sarver - "Don't Wanna Be": Good grief, I'm tired of this song. Seriously, Gavin Degraw? Given the choice to be ANYBODY else, you would still choose to be Gavin Degraw? I have a hard time believing that.
Anyway...Michael Sarver. Nice guy, nice voice, HORRIBLE song choice. Seriously, what is up with the song choice tonight? They left it wide open...any song on the Billboard 100 chart since the chart started, which is another way of saying "any freaking song that has ever been recorded that anybody has ever heard of ever." So, Michael picks this god-awful annoying song that only Bo Bice could get away with, that doesn't show off his talent at ALL. Just like Brent Keith, he would have been so much better off doing a ballad, looking lovingly into the camera and trying to take advantage of his good looks and soulful voice. Instead, we have to see more white guy "dancing" and listen to him start to run out of breath due to all of the bouncing around.
He won't be in the top 3...depending on who else goes through (Anoop), he might make it through on a wild card.
9) Ann Marie Boskovich - "Natural Woman": I think she has the voice to sing this song well, but she was another one who just does not look comfortable on stage. I'm not sure what "you make me feel like a natural woman" means, what with me not being a woman, but I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to mean "you make me VERY ANGRY," which was the vibe that Ann Marie was giving off last night. As far as the vocal performance, it was pretty bad to start, but she brought it together pretty well at the end.
You know, the more we hear from the women, the better I feel about Anoop's chances to make the top 3. ANOOP!!!! (sorry, I just like saying his name)
10) Stephen Fowler - "Rock With You": This one really irritated me. Seriously? You forget the words TWICE during Hollywood week, including the last one where you WALKED OUT OF THE MIDDLE OF AN AUDITION, they STILL bring you back for some weird reason, and THIS is the best you can come up with? Next.
11) Tatiana Del Toro (aka The Bane of Scott's Existence) - "Saving All My Love For You": Oh, Tatiana. Performance critique first: Good voice, maybe the best female vocal of the night, but no real stage presence.
Now, on to what Tatiana is really about, which is her mental state. This is when I got really angry at the judges...number 1, they all voiced SURPRISE that she sang really well. If you did not expect her to sing well, why in the name of all that is holy is she STILL ON MY TELEVISION SCREEN? Oh, that's right...because she's crazy. You could see the disappointment in the judges when they didn't get the full scale freakout they were hoping for. The problem is that, like all crazy people, she is also unpredictable, so while you wanted The Crazy (it is in fact the ONLY reason you kept her...because she's crazy) what you got instead was...whatever that persona was last night. See, this is why you know the crazy is not an act...because when she goes for "subdued" she misses "subdued" completely and ends up at "severely medicated, and possibly homicidal."
The only judge who thinks she is worthwhile in the least is, of course, Paula. Those two are soulmates. Watch Paula when she tries to act normal...you get the same result. Dead, expressionless face, but you can look in the eyes and just SEE the crazy trying to come out.
And...she almost made it. But, then as Ryan is giving the phone numbers, a little crazy finally leaked out. Ryan jumped about 18 inches in the air after her inappropriate touching started, and then she let loose that crap about how this is Her Dream, and that America somehow owes it to her to vote for her. GAH, that ticks me off. Listen, moron, there are 35 other people there who want this just as badly as you do...this show is not called Tatiana's Crazy Dream About Being Famous. Why does the fact that this is Your Dream cancel out everybody else?
12) Danny Gokey - "Hero": OK, maybe I'm still just in a bad mood after having to sit through the Tatiana Show, but this whole thing is really starting to irritate me. Let me count the ways:
1) Stop talking about your dead wife. I let it slide at the initial audition, since it had just happened 4 weeks ago, but we all know the story now, and the more you talk about it, the closer it gets to exploitation. Trying to get us to vote for you. Using your dead wife. Stop it.
2) The puppy dog and rainbow routine. Yes, I know...he's a church music director, and he seems like a genuinely nice guy. But he is RAPIDLY approaching The Archuletta territory with this crap. I mean, of freaking COURSE he sang Hero. Next time he'll sing that Whitney song about how the children are our future (which has turned into a really scary song for me...I mean, have you even NOTICED what kids these days are up to?), and then he'll sing You Raise Me Up, followed by a From A Distance/Wind Beneath My Wings medley, followed by me hanging myself with a rope of crystallized saccharine. And after every song, he'll talk about how he hopes it was an inspiration to everybody, and he just wants everybody to gather strength and hope from his performances, and....ugh. I know, I know, I'm a horrible person. I can't help it. It's just too much.
3) The RIDICULOUS amount of praise lavished on him by the judges. He has a good voice, and he is a pretty good performer (if you can get past the earnestness), but he is not NEARLY as good as the judges (other than Simon, of course) make him out to be. As a matter of fact, I agree completely with Simon last night (as usual)...it was good, not great.
He will obviously be in the top 3, and he is obviously going to stick around long enough to cause me to despise him in an unhealthy way, unless he changes things up a bit.
Other random thoughts:
- The production of the show was really off last night...the sound was never really right in the Coke room, they had the wrong tape miscue, they kept going to some random camera that looked like it was set up in some kind of hall, the background singers mics weren't mixed correctly (one of the singers overpowered all of the other ones, and they were all too loud in comparison with the contestant's mic). I understand that it was the first live show of the season, but haven't they been doing this for a while now?
- Nice to see Dr. Horrible and Arthur Frobisher in the audience, although they didn't really look like they wanted to be there.
- How hard must have last night been for Friend of Dead Wife Guy (sorry, don't remember his name, but really this is the only identity he was ever allowed to have on the show anyway)? It had to have made him physically ill to sit through those trainwreck performances last night knowing that (were it not for the producers desire to have "characters" like Norman, Tatiana, and Nathaniel) for all intents and purposes, he should still be alive in this competition.
- The judges are already ticking me off by how rude they are to Simon. He sits there patiently while they ramble on and on spewing nonsense and gibberish (Randy and Paula), and then as soon as he opens his mouth they all fall all over themselves to interrupt him and tell him how wrong he is. Even Kara, who I had high hopes for, is threatening to turn this into Simon and The Useless 3, rather than The Useless 2 like it has been previously.
WHO I VOTED FOR: Anoop and Alexis. I actually tried to vote for Danny, believe it or not, but I couldn't get through and figured he probably has enough votes without mine.
My predictions for top 3: Barring some sort of voting disaster, it will be those three (Anoop, Alexis, and Danny). I seriously don't see anybody else worthy of a top 3 vote, did you?