Thursday, February 26, 2009

Idol thoughts

OK, I'm going to go ahead and get this out of the way before we start, so that I don't have to keep going over it over and over again. For these first weeks when the top 36 are all performing, the producers allowed them to pick any song that has charted on the top 100 since Billboard started charting songs. There was a reason they left it this wide open. With the new format this year (only the top 3 survive the prelims), more than ever, you have ONE shot to make America vote for you. So there are no "themes"(no 70's, 80's, disco, Motown, whatever), because it's not fair to make someone sing a song that doesn't fit their style when this could be their only chance to make an impression. So there is NO excuse for some of the choices we saw last week, and many other choices we saw this week.

I think too many of the contestants are actually out-smarting themselves, trying to find a "song" that's going to make an impact rather than trying to find a "performance" that's going to make an impact. If you have been singing for any length of time, you know that song that comes on the radio that you sing along to and think, "Dang, I sound GOOD on that song." THAT IS THE SONG THAT YOU SHOULD BE SINGING ON AMERICAN IDOL. Now is not the time to be stepping out of your comfort zone and showing different sides...we haven't really even seen the FIRST side yet.

I can tell the judges are really frustrated (except for Paula, who is just stoned). They know these people can do better than this, they are just shooting themselves in the foot with stupid choices over and over, and it's making the judges look like they were smoking crack when they chose these people for their top 36 (which in some cases, maybe they were...more on that shortly).

OK, on with the show...

1) Jasmine Murray - "Love Song": Here is kind of what I'm talking about...I really LIKE this song, and it could be a fun little performance, but it does nothing for you as a vocalist. So what Jasmine did is try to oversing it, especially in the beginning, to turn it INTO a song that will show off what she can do, and subsequently went completely off pitch. She got it back in the chorus, but from there it just went from off-pitch to boring. I have no idea whether she can sing or not, based on that performance, and that's her fault for picking the wrong song. She's cute, though.

2) Matt Giraud - "Viva La Vida": On my bad side immediately for picking a Coldplay song, but let's see how he does with it. Ummm...not good. He seemed EXTREMELY nervous, which I don't know is just a product of the enormity of the moment or the fact that he is used to his piano. Either way, he sounds very shaky. And now he just went into falsetto, and it was worse. Ending was painful. Wow...this is one of the early frontrunners ( had him #1 in their "Power Poll" for some reason), and he just took himself right out of the running, in my opinion. Judges may bring him back for the Top 12 on the strength of his performance in Hollywood, especially since they will be able to go back to their instruments at that point.

3) Jeanine Vailes - "This Love": You know why Blake Lewis always picked songs like this? Because he knew he wasn't that great a singer, and songs like this don't expose that lack of vocal ability. So if you CAN sing, why would you pick a song like this? Again, Jeanine fell into the same trap as Jasmine...she's taking a song that is NOT a singer's song and trying to overcompensate by oversinging, and it's causing her pitch to end up all over the place. At one point, it sounded like her mic was turned up WAY too loud, and she was overpowering EVERYTHING, but it was not the mic's fault...she was just screaming her way through her vocal runs, and it was not good.

Wow, we are off to a terrible start...maybe there is someone coming up that can turn it ar-....

Ugh. Never mind.

4) Nick/Normund Mitchell/Gentle - "And I am Telling You": First the good...maybe the best song choice of the night. This blustery melodramatic song is perfect for his vaudeville act.

You know the drill...he hits the stage, hams it up all over the place, falls on the floor in front of the judges. I admit, I did laugh when he addressed "Doogie," but that was more about my love for NPH than anything else. And then it's over. Oh, and the judges spend the whole time fake laughing like it's the funniest thing they've ever seen.

OK...this is one of those times where I have no idea what the judges/producers are thinking. We've seen this exact same act from this guy, what, like 3 times now? I admittedly thought it was pretty funny the first time, and I didn't mind them sending him to Hollywood, actually. But what exactly are we trying to accomplish at this point? To me, if you put somebody in the top 36, then you must feel they have some shot at going farther than that. At least, you BETTER, otherwise you are giving someone else's slot away who actually deserves it based on ability. And, based on some of the judge's comments last night (other than Simon, of course), it sounds like they actually WANT people to call and vote for this clown*. If that's the case, I have no clue what the judges and/or producers actually want this show to be. The Gong Show, maybe?

The early audition rounds are when we expect to see this crap...there is no reason for it to still be on my TV screen at this point. If he makes it to the Top 12, then this whole season is a joke, and the Powers That Be will have nobody to blame but themselves.

*I'm not denigrating him by calling him a clown...that's what he is. I actually don't blame him for ANY of this, as I'm sure he never actually expected the judges to take him seriously, and they just keep passing him on through.

5) Alison Iraheta - "Alone": (PLEASE, PLEASE be good...this show is beginning to suck my will to live)

OK, let's address the pre-performance "interview" first...they really didn't have to mention the fact that this girl goes to public school. Her utter inability to carry on a conversation demonstrates that fact completely. I have looked for the video for this catastrophe, but I can't find it yet...I'll post it once it's up, because I can't really find the words to describe it. Other than "vacant."

THEN she informs us that she will be singing "Alone." She says it's by Heart, but let's get real...Carrie Underwood took full ownership of this song back in Season 4, and every time somebody else sings it they will be compared to her. Unfavorably.

After this performance, it's still Carrie's song, but Allison rented it, and did a pretty kick-butt job with it.

So I was fully expecting this to be a disaster. Then she started singing. LOVED her. Great raspy quality to her voice (not like a 16 year old at all). A little shouty in the chorus, but this is kind of a shouty song. Looks kind of like a red headed Alicia Silverstone (including the whole talk-out-of-the-side-of-your-mouth-like-Drew-Barrymore thing). By the end, I'm thinking, "GREAT song choice." Come right out of the box, don't play it safe...if you can sing THAT song, then this is the week you sing it. Good grief, out of all of these people this was the LAST one I was expecting to be labeling the "smart" one, but there you go.

6) Kris Allen - "Man in the Mirror": Never seen this person before in my life. Much like....umm...(Ricky? I think?)...last week, he has now passed through my subconcious, never to be remembered fully again.

I will say this, just as an aside...Michael Jackson is a better vocalist than he gets credit for, in my opinion. His songs are much more difficult to sing than you might think, to the point where I would almost put him in that "untouchable" category where you only sing one of his songs if you know you can NAIL it.

Kris sang it OK, and seems like a nice guy and all, but I don't see him gaining enough of an audience with that performance.

7) Megan Corkey - "Put Your Records On": OK, confession almost every season, I develop a massive crush on one of the female contestants. This season, I think it's Megan Corkey. So, I am going to be making no effort to be unbiased and balanced in my critique of her. I LOVED THIS. Yeah, yeah, she was "pitchy" in parts...but she has a great tone to her voice, very unique, and this was just a really FUN performance. And she's HOTTTTTT.

8) Matt Breitzke - "If You Could Only See": Bad, bad song choice. I'm with you, Matt...I love the song, too, and it IS in fact a great love song. But this isn't about singing your favorite songs. Save that for Karaoke Night at Ethel's Bar and Grill. This is about proving you belong here, and that song did you no favors. Neither did your "performance" thing I can say about that is that you dance like a welder.

Also, like I said last week, now is NOT the time to be going after Simon. You haven't proven anything yet, and that just makes you come off as petulant and unable to accept criticism.

Bottom line...he's a nice guy, but he's not ready for this. And he KNOWS it, which is why the claws came out at Simon so quickly.

9) Jessie Langseth - "Bette Davis Eyes": OK, she should be glad I'm not a judge, because to me all future performances of this song will be judged as to how they stack up against Buckwheat.

Not sure how I felt about this one, honestly...I like the tone of her voice, and I liked the spunk she showed in her pre-performance package when she talked about using the criticism as fuel. But there were many times that she was only AROUND the pitch here, especially in the upper register. She is one that will be hurt by the new format...I'd love to see her stick around for a week or two and see what she is capable of, but she didn't do enough to make top 3, I don't think, so I guess we'll never know.

10) Kai Kalama - "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted": Nice guy, nice voice, creepy facial expressions, NO chance of going any farther.

Sorry, Kai, it's getting late and I gotta wrap this thing up and take it to the house...

11) Mishavonna Henson - "Drops of Jupiter": The BEST part of this whole segment was her voice. Here are my complaints about the rest of it:

- The gender switching in the song was unnecessary - it's not a love song, you would have been perfectly OK singing "her" and "she." I know it's not a big deal, but when performers do that to a song it always takes me out of the performance a little bit...partially because I'm trying to figure out why it was necessary, and partially because I keep waiting for them to forget to switch out the words so I can laugh at them.

- Again, this is NOT a singer's song. Just because you LIKE a song doesn't mean you should be singing it at this point in the competition.

- The echo effect was very distracting.

- The judge's criticism was NOT helpful. I hate it when they say things like "Be younger" and make no suggestions as to how to do that. She should just be HERSELF, because if she starts trying to fake "young," she'll end up like Stevie Wright, and nobody wants that.

All of that combined to take away from what was actually a very good vocal performance. Stinks for her.

12) Adam Lambert - "Satisfaction": This is the guy that I really wanted to see. His voice is RI-DIC-U-LOUS. I actually am suspicious that he sold his soul or something in exchange for that voice, because to be able to do what he does, go off into the stratosphere without even CONSIDERING falsetto, just powering it out, is...not natural in any way. An amazing vocal instrument.

What I've been worried about is EXACTLY what he talked about in the pre-performance video package...he's very experienced in musical theater, and it's going to be a huge adjustment for him to get used to performing to a camera right in front of him rather than performing for the back row. Good to hear him acknowledge that he needs to tone down the facial dramatics and dial back the over-performing a bit.

So then he starts singing, and I start to wonder if that was actually his twin we saw in the video package (or maybe he's a CYLON!!...there are MANY copies!!!) because he does NOT seem to be following his own advice. Seriously, he's having eye-sex with the camera that would make freakin' CONSTANTINE blush. The vocal performance is of course amazing, if a tad "indulgent" as Simon likes to say, but he HAS to learn to turn the dial to about a 6 if he doesn't want to start turning people off.

Simon nails it in his criticism, as usual...people will either love that or hate it. I loved it, because I love him, but I am nervous about his staying power if he keeps that up.

Dude is also VERY cocky...he KNOWS how good he is. I actually prefer that to the Melinda Doolittle "Who, little ole ME?" thing, but he has to be careful of that, too.

OK, let's wrap this thing up with a couple of random notes...

- Paula was in rare form tonight. And she was really exposed when it was her turn to go first in the Judge's Round Table thing they had going tonight (which I liked)...without hearing somebody else go first, she really struggles to formulate opinions.

- Why IS Neil Patrick Harris there? I don't mind it, obviously, but it just seems strange considering his show airs on a rival network.

- Brooke White gave an interview to TV Guide this week where she made the very good point that she probably would have only been on the show for one week if they used this format last year. And that would have been a shame, because I really enjoyed her progression on the show, stumbles and all. The new format is a trade-off to hopefully keep somebody like Sanjaya (or NORMUND FREAKING GENTLE) from making the top 12 due to the Vote For the Worst crowd, and it's a trade-off I'm willing to make. But if Normund makes it into the Top 12, then that whole format change has been for nothing, and all it's done is short change a bunch of young performers who could benefit from the extended exposure that the old format gave.

Who I voted for: Adam, Allison, and Megan.

Who will make it: Adam, Allison, and...Normund. Serves the idiots right.


Segraves said...

Near flawless commentary yet again. My quick random views:

•My biggest surprise (for the good): Alison. My goodness, that came out of nowhere. Unfortunately, we have another Jason Castro on our hands...DON'T MAKE HER TALK...JUST LET HER SING.

•My biggest surprise (for the bad): Matt. DUDE!?!? What were you thinking? I just hope you made a big enough impression in Hollywood to make the wildcard, but I don't know. Last night was the worst performance of the night. And that's coming from someone that had you as my favorite. Crap!

•Megan would have pulled off the cute little girl in the the cute little babydoll white dress look a little better if it wasn't for that ugly over-bearing tattoo. I still think she has a good quality, though. I like her (not quite as much as Scott).

•Another good surprise: I actually liked Jessie. I didn't think I would. Of course, maybe it was just because of all the BAD songs. It made pretty good look awesome.

•My prediction: Definitely Adam and Alison. The third is a toss-up in my opinion. If I had to pick, I would say Megan goes through. However, I wouldn't be surprised if it were 3-4 other people: Kai, Jessie, Kris (very long shot), or Nick (please Lord, no). I think it helps that Nick went fairly early so people had a chance to contrast what he does with actual singers. Had he been last or next to last, I think people wouldn't have time to come to their senses and go ahead and vote for him.

•Who had episode #2 for Paula to AGAIN utter the phrase, "You could sing the phonebook"? You're the win-nerrrr! Does she really have to say this about someone every season? Can she not think of another compliment? Oh, nevermind, it's Paula.

Thanks again for a brilliant commentary, Scott. Right on the mark!

Scott said...

Russell, I think you may have stumbled across the slogan for this season: "American Idol, Season 8: Making Pretty Good Look Awesome!"

That's the main reason I think Nickmund makes it through...who's gonna stop him? Silly producers thought they were being funny and forgot how stupid a lot of their audience is.

BAYDAWG13 said...