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The Post-Game Show » American Idol

Archive for the ‘American Idol’ Category

Twelve Idol Boys

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

I do not intend to blog American Idol every week this year. I may not blog it at all after this week, because frankly we both have better things to do with our time. The show has lost much of its spark, and it’s hard to find something new to write about mediocre performers every week. Besides, American X-Factor is just around the corner.

So here are my first impressions of this year’s boys. I may also write about this year’s girls, but frankly the girls always seem homogeneous in the first week.

Clint Jun Gamboa

Clint has the look of a bitchy personal shopper, the sort of person who discourages you from buying the clothes in his shop because he thinks you’ll dilute the integrity of the brand. He also picked up a reputation for sneering self importance during Hollywood week because of his attitude to some of the other contestants, but it’s possible he was edited unkindly. Even so, he lacks likeability. He confidently belted his way through Superstition, a song choice so obvious and banal that it ought to cost him votes.

Jovany Barreto

Jovany (yes, that’s how they spell Giovanni here) is a shipbuilder with killer abs, who looks like he runs numbers for Big Frankie. He may in fact have been built in a shipyard by ancient magical fishermen with unlikely dreams of Billboard chart success. Their dreams remain unlikely. He sang a syrupy ballad that only a grandmother could have loved.

Jordan Dorsey

Jordan also came across badly in the Hollywood shows, but I don’t think he can blame editing. I think he’s just arrogant without anything to back it up. His performance of OMG was slack and boring. He told the judges it wasn’t his type of music, but we were told this season that the contestants wouldn’t have to attempt genres they don’t fit, so what happened?

Tim Halperin

I don’t remember this kid at all from the auditions. He looks like a soft serve version of last year’s abtastic Tim Urban. Evidently he’s an easy listening melody radio kind of a guy. America has an endless appetite for that kind of pablum, but it has to be done well, and this was not. (Steven Tyler reminds us that Tim is usually behind a piano. Now I remember him! He was much better behind a piano.)

Brett Lowenstein

Brett is one of the more interesting contestants, in true love-him-or-hate-him tradition. He looks like Mick Hucknall’s daughter, so naturally I’m inclined to hate him, but I’m trying to force myself to like him because he is at least interesting. Unfortunately his Light My Fire was disappointing, but probably not career-ending.

James Durbin

In the auditions James was referred to as perhaps the best Idol auditionee ever, which is a bit rich for a second-rate Adam Lambert impersonator. Durbin is so comfortably in Lambert’s vocal mould that it’s impossible to see him as anything but derivative and inferior, yet he conducts himself as if he were a true original. For this reason, I dislike him. But he did sing Judas Priest, and that is an Idol first.

Robbie Rosen

Robbie has a look of loose-limbed desperation, of puppyish love-me enthusiasm, of nerdy water-thinness. Yet he sings surprisingly well. He has tone and emotion. It’s middle-of-the-road, but likeable. I’m a little surprised. I think he may be a serious contender.

Scotty McCreery

Scotty has the most distinctive voice on the show this year; an impressively low and textured country rumble. When he’s in his zone he’s so effortless that it’s almost a caricature, and it’s very unexpected coming out of a kid who looks like Alfred E Neumann. He completely occupies his genre and can’t move out of it, but he’s one of my favourites.

Stefano Langone

The better looking of the two very Italian boys, but as a singer he’s in the same league as Jovany. His rendition of Just The Way You Are is painfully strained, with some ill-advised attempts at falsetto and some very poor enunciation. He seems completely unaware of his failure to deliver, so he’ll be this year’s dumb pretty contestant who hangs around too long, and sadly he’s not that pretty.

Paul McDonald

Another of the odder contestants this year, Paul doesn’t quite fit into any contemporary category, but his performance of Maggie May confirmed my one sure theory about him; he came to us from the 1970s. He’s a folksy, slightly creepy troubadour who got lost in the timestream. He might be David Essex.

Jacob Lusk

Jacob Lusk makes me smile from ear-to-ear. He’s something we haven’t seen on Idol that I can recall; a glorious, flamingly theatrical big black man with a gospel-by-Broadway voice that reaches the cheap seats. One almost wonders why he’s not on RuPaul’s Drag Race, such is his gift for emoting, performing, and shooting glances that are more expressive than most of the other singers’ voices. He’s my favourite, and I hope America appreciates him.

Casey Abrams

This year’s most unexpected contestant. Casey is amazing behind a double bass, and it’s a relief to see that he’s still damn good without it. Despite his resemblance to Grizzly Adams, Casey is an accomplished jazz wailer. Sure, his I Put a Spell on You is a little Appalachian for a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins number, yet it’s still convincing. The man makes zoot suit dungarees sound like a good idea. Terrific.

Obviously I want to see Jacob and Scott do well this year, but if the winner is going to come from the boys, I think it’s going to be Robbie or Casey. The first one sent home should be either Jordan or Stefano.

The girls perform tomorrow night. Or possibly just the same girl, twelve times.

Idol: Crystal Tipped

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged Idol for the past couple of weeks. Partly that’s because I’ve been too busy, first prepping to go to Tokyo, and then actually being in Tokyo. But it’s also because, dear God, people, have you noticed how awful this season of Idol has been? One can only grit one’s teeth and trudge on through it for so long. Eventually, shitiocrity fatigue sets in.

Now we come to the final week, and the results are just a few hours away, so it’s safe to say that this was unquestionably the worst season of Idol. There can be no quibbling about that. Since Kelly Clarkson’s coronation and the Clay/Ruben battle, we’ve had the diva season (Fantasia, LaToya, Jennifer), the Southern season (Carrie and Bo), the fabulous wreck that was Taylor Hicks/Katherine McPhee, the epic sixth season (Melinda, Sanjaya, Blake, Jordan), the battle of the two Davids, and The Year of La Lambert. There were crap contestants and crap shows every year, but there was always a story, and there were always a few people to cheer for and a few people to boo, and it was always an entertaining diversion. This season was just limp.

Not that this season didn’t have a hero. Crystal Bowersox is clearly a very talented and atypically authentic Idol contestant, with a great voice and genuine musical ability. The problem is, there was no-one around to challenge her, and that made the whole season a tiresome drawn-out bore. She might as well have been given a free pass to the final two.

bowersox

There were people who could have put up a more interesting fight against her, but Lily Scott was voted out way too early, and Siobhan Magnus succumbed to bad advice, and towards the end we were left with the shockingly dull quartet of Aaron Kelly, Mike Lynche, Casey James and Lee DeWyze. You know those political polls were they put a known candidate up against ‘Generic Candidate’ to see how they might fare? Those four boys were all Generic Candidates, and none of them were fit to touch Dame Crystal’s hem.

For what it’s worth - and it’s not worth much - Lee DeWyze is the nominated generic candidate. Last week the judges made a considerable effort to persuade us that Lee was a contender, spouting the most egregious bullshit about his growth and talent (while unceremoniously kicking third-place contestant Casey James to the curb). They even got Lee to sing Hallelujah, which is the ultimate pimp song.

dewyze

Can Lee sing? Sure, OK, I suppose so. He doesn’t have great vocal control, but there’s something there. Can he perform? No. He’s a sleepy lump on the stage, wholly lacking in charisma. Silence is more engaging.

Can he win? Of course he can. He made it to the final two, and the final is always a toss-up. And never underestimate the appeal of someone safe, pedestrian and mid-Western to the safe, pedestrian mid-Western audience. He could be crowned champion tonight - but he’s no Idol.

Of course, the same could be said for Crystal. She’s probably not what the producers were looking for. She had never seen the show before she auditioned, and it was clear at the outset that she didn’t really understand what she was getting into. She seems to understand it now, but she still bristles at the idea of being a performing puppet and singing nothing but cover songs. Whoever wins this year’s Idol will not fit the mould, and will likely be a tough sell for marketing team.

The contestants each have different ‘winner’s songs’ this year, and those songs showed the size of the chasm between them, but also showed what odd ducks they both are. Lee’s song is U2’s Beautiful Day, which is reason enough to pray he doesn’t win. Astonishingly, he made the song even more mawkishly grating than it was before. When the performance was over, it seemed that the judges were embarrassed to have him up there at all.

Crystal’s song is Up to the Mountain, a little known folk song about Martin Luther King. She sang it beautifully, but it really doesn’t feel like the sort of song - or the sort of performance - that you expect five months of American Idol to lead up to.

Lee can win tonight; I’m fairly certain that he won’t, and I’ll be very happy if Crystal is the victor, as inevitable and plodding an event as that would seem. In a way, she’s as subversive an Idol finalist as Adam Lambert was, because she represents real musicianship peeking its green roots through the asphalt of modern manufactured pop. Whether she can go on to any kind of commercial success, even with Idol behind her (for as long as it stays behind her), is hard to guess, since her music would probably appeal most to the sort of people who hate Idol.

The worst ever season of Idol should yet come to a solid conclusion, and hopefully the show can recover next year. But, is it possible that Idol has run out of plausible contestants? Should they rest the show or a few years while America grows a new crop of TV-friendly talent? It now makes sense that Simon Cowell has decided to quit after this season, but I bet he’s wishing he’d made that decision a year earlier. How disappointing, to go out with a whimper.

Idol: Rat Trap

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

I think a lot of the hate that gets levelled at American Idol comes from people who believe it’s damaging to music - it cynically churns out production-line pop stars with zero integrity.

Of course, these contestants are real kids who usually possess a real desire to make music - the fame whores mostly get weeded out. American Idol hasn’t really invented anything; it’s just created a new process to get us to the same place, using kids who’d have as much claim as anyone to legitimacy if they came up through another route. The food industry doesn’t make good food; it makes processed food. The music industry is the same. That’s what industries do; they sell packaging.

None of which is meant to excuse what Idol does - and I’ll let you in on a secret. A lot of the people who love Idol also hate that it cynically churns out production-line pop stars. A lot of the people who love Idol are frustrated by the way the judges and producers chip away at the contestants’ individualism to try to fit them into a pre-formed vision of an existing artist they want them to be like. Or, more accurately, an artist they want them to sell like.

siobhan

Take, for example, Siobhan Magnus. Siobhan was voted off last week - but it wasn’t the Siobhan I’d been cheering for earlier in the season. That Siobhan disappeared weeks ago. That quirky, expressive, operatic alien - a latter-day Siobhan Fahey - was a popular performer. She screeched a lot, but she was exciting to watch and never boring. Then the judges whittled her down with their usual incomprehensible and contradictory advice until she was a bland and uninteresting shell of her former self. The audience doesn’t want that, and that’s why she’s not on stage this week.

And that’s why there’s not much at all on stage this week; everything is neutered. It’s Crystal Bowersox and four dull boys.

This week’s theme is Sinatra, and this week’s mentor is Harry Connick Jr, who must be thrilled that Michael Bublé was apparently unavailable. I didn’t know that was this week’s theme when I mixed myself a Martini, but my Martini is probably the classiest thing I’ll see this evening.

To Connick Jr’s credit, he not only mentored the contestants, but did the arrangements and led the band - which is why the music is a lot better this week.

From worst to best:

caseyjames

5. Casey James, aka Joey Bishop
Casey pulled his hair back this week, which was very good. He looks like Poochie most of the time. Sadly the hair was the only good thing about his performance of Blue Skies. His voice sounded so tight and strained that I thought he’d trot out the old ‘I had a cold’ excuse. But it was just the ‘I’m a bit rubbish’ excuse.

4. Aaron Kelly, aka Peter Lawford
Aaron is still here because he’s never been the worst, but that’s all he has in his favour. He’s the wetter, more in-tune version of Tim Urban. I miss Tim Urban. Aaron got to sing one of the greatest of all vintage swing numbers, Fly Me To The Moon, but vintage swing is not in Aaron’s crayon box. His phrasing was muddy and his performance belonged at the kiddie table. His swing was so lacking that it officially didn’t mean a thing.

3. Lee DeWyze, aka Dean Martin
Connick played an awesome church organ for his arrangement of That’s Life, instantly making this a much more interesting performance than it ought to be. I like boiled potatoes a lot, so it’s a shame that I always mentally associate Lee with a boiled potato. He’s not anywhere near as delicious. But you know what I mean, right? He might be improved with butter. His That’s Life had no life. The judges jizzed all over it, not because it was good but because we’re officially designating Lee as Crystal’s competition. Fine, then let’s fast-forward to the end, shall we?

crystal-bowersox

2. Crystal Bowersox, aka Sammy Davis Jr
Crystal was a bit reedy this week, a bit buried by the music. Summer Wind is a beautiful song, and she softened it, but she didn’t reinvent it. I would have expected her to get her Nina Simone on with this, but perhaps Crystal Bowersox doesn’t have a Nina Simone? The girl isn’t perfect, you know.

1. Big Mike Lynche, aka Frank
Big Mike, in first place? Oh, you better recognise! Here’s the thing about Mike; he may not have the likeability factor, but he knows how to sing, and he belted out The Way You Look Tonight like he knew what he was doing. It was rich, tuneful and very strong - easily the best of the night. Mike will probably go home this week.

Anyway, that was a shitty show.

Idol: Long Twain Running

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

This week’s show opened with a weird Village People vibe, as Ryan introduced the contestants by their Official Barbie Occupation Designations. Glass blower! Mother! Construction worker! But this week’s theme is not ‘bring your work to Idol day’, which is a shame, as that would be amazing. Siobhan could sing Blow, Gabriel, Blow!

No, the theme is ‘the songs of Shania Twain’. You will remember Shania Twain as one of the guest judges this season. She was moderately decent at it, though she seemed to be working from a singing teacher bingo card. Little known fact: Shania Twain was also a popular musician back in, like, the 80s, or something. I think she was in Heart.

Anyway, how many Shania Twain songs can you name? I came up with three; You’re Still the One. Man I Feel Like A Woman. That Don’t Impress Me Much. So, with six contestants left, expect to hear each of those songs twice.

This week I’m listing the contestants not from least to mostest, but in order of performance. Why? Because, honesly, there’s not much to choose between them this week. No-one was amazing. No-one was terrible. There was no Twain wreck. (Stick around; my Twain jokes are way better than Ellen’s.)

train1

Lee DeWyze, aka Freight Twain
I’ve heard that Lee is considered the likeliest contender to join Bowersox in the top two. I suppose that makes sense, but for all the worst reasons. Mike is unpopular; Casey is pedestrian; Siobhan has lost her magic; and who even remembers who the other one is? So Lee is number two by default, not because he rose to the top, bu because he rose to the middle while everyone else was sinking. He sang You’re Still the One, and started it too low, and never brought any intensity to it, but, hey, he didn’t kill anyone, did he? So, that’s good.

Big Mike Lynche, aka Midnight Twain
Mike sings a Shania song I’ve never heard of, and he sang it rather beautifully, with that effortless smooth soul voice of his. But, no-one cares, do they? Mike has a great voice, but it’s so early ’90s R&B that anything he sings sounds like it was ripped from the closing credits of a Tia Carrere movie. He’s out of fashion, which means he’s doomed, never mind that he’s talented. (Shania Twain thinks this song is so emotional that it makes her cry. Shania Twain wrote this song. Shania Twain needs to get over herself.)

train3

Casey James, aka Boxcar Twain
While Casey was singing, I went off and checked my e-mail and forgot to pay attention. It sounded nice. The judges seemed enthused. I’m not rewinding for this guy.

Crystal Bowersox, aka Soul Twain
Crystal sang another twangy Twain obscurity, which only highlighted the wasted opportunity of an all-Shania week in place of country week. I like country music. I don’t especially like country week on Idol, because it’s usually full of blue collar pomposity and disturbing Christian intensity, spiced with an abortive rendition of Jolene. But this year there are a few contestants who could have done something good with a wider country music selection, and Crystal is top of that list. The judges were lukewarm, and Simon said it lacked ‘conviction’, but the same could be said for their judgements; there was nothing wrong with the performance. The judges just needed to shake up the narrative a little bit.

train2

Aaron Kelly, aka Toy Twain
The most interesting thing about the little one’s performance is that he changed the lyric, “It’s in the way we make love”, to, “It’s in the way you show me love”, and he changed “want me” to “know me”, because… he was singing it to his mother. The audience said, ‘awww’. I said, ‘ewww’. On some vestigial, subsconscious level, he just sexed up his mother, and no lyric switch can ever change that. But he sang it prety decently, and I’m coming to realise that Shania writes rather well for singers. It’s pablum, but it’s very singable pablum.

Siobhan Magnus, aka Crazy Twain
We expected too much of Siobhan Magnus. She looked like she had the potential to be Lady Lambert, but she just doesn’t have his control or his artistry, and she really doesn’t have his balls. This was her best performance in a few weeks, but it still felt like a performance any good singer could give; it didn’t feel like the Magnus Opus I’ve been waiting for. Only in the final seconds after her slightly botched big note did Ms Magnus show a bit of grit.

Who goes home this week? Mike or Casey, I would guess, but really it could be anyone. Except Crystal. All hail Crystal.

Are we sick of Crystal yet?

Idol: Pitchiest Warriors

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

I’m so late this week that the results have already aired, and I didn’t even go out last night! No, I was watching superior television - the glorious testosterone-fest that is Deadliest Warrior on Spike, which returned for a second season last night.

For those not in the know, Deadliest Warrior takes two warriors from history and attempts to determine who would win in a fight. It’s gloriously absurd. They cut up pigs with katanas. They test the accuracy of ballistic knives. They take sniper shots at men made of jelly. And then we all go into the Matrix and watch a Shaolin monk fight a Maori. It’s just about the ultimate expression of television as an entertainment medium.

Which brings us to Idol, and its desparately weak ‘inspirational songs’ theme, which served up some of the snooziest performances we’ve ever seen on the Idol stage. With Garcia and Katie gone, I honestly thought we’d get a strong week, but I think I must have forgotten that the last seven acts this year do not include Adam Lambert, Melinda Dolittle or Carly Smithson.

What the hell is an ‘inspirational song’ anyway? The evidence of the night suggests that no-one knows. Oh, I hope they play Bitch, by Meredith Brooks! That’s my favourite inspirational song!

inspiration-point

From worst to least-worst:

7. Aaron Kelly, aka Fly SWAT
I didn’t actually listen to his performance, but I know it was the worst. That sounds irrational, but you’ll understand what I mean when I tell you that he sang ‘I Believe I Can Fly’. That is a war crime, Aaron, and you must be sent down for it. (Up 1, but only because there is no eighth place anymore.)

6. Tim Urban, aka A Patchy Warrior
The other contestants all tried to address the ‘inspirational song’ mystery through their music. Tim, for example, sang a Goo Goo Dolls song that was so boring that it inspired feelings of suicide. Tim, these are not the feelings you’re meant to inspire in me. (No change.)

5. Big Mike Lynche, aka Singer Zulu
Mike thinks an inspirational song is a song with ‘hero’ in the title, so they gave him the big book of hero songs, which is actually the biggest of the inspirational songbooks. Bafflingly, given all that choice, he plumped for… what was it, Nickelback? The one from the Spider-Man movie? Surely even Nickelback wouldn’t choose to sing that song anymore? (Down 3.)

4. Casey James, aka Hicksville Samurai
Casey doesn’t know what an inspirational song is either, so he just went for ‘upbeat’; Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow with an electric guitar. And it really was a guitar performance, not a vocal performance. Casey honestly doesn’t seem to get better or worse any week - everyone else just shuffles around him. (No change.)

3. Siobhan Magnus, aka Spartan Barmy
Ol’ Shiv was all about the microphone plosive this week. The microphone isn’t a bat, Siobhan; you don’t need to bite its head off. Siobhan’s answer to ‘what is an inspirational song’? It’s any reality show winner’s song! She sang When You Believe, the song that launched X-Factor winner Leon Jackson to international… mumble mumble mumble. At this point, the promise of Siobhan Mangus seems well and truly squandered. But she was adequate, which is enough to make her the third least worst. (Up 2.)

2. Lee Dwyze, aka Ninja Potato-Head
Lee DeWyze thinks that The Boxer an inspirational song. Yes, The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel. It is literally a lament about poverty and hard times, and unless I’ve missed something, it doesn’t end with a redemptive exaltation. So it’s a song that only inspires heavy drinking, which is a great interpretation, and he sang it pretty well. That’ll do, pig. (Up 1.)

1. Crystal Bowersox, aka Viking Brilliant
Crystal put down the guitar, pushed away the piano and went briefly a capella on People Get Ready. I wish she’d stayed a capella, because it’s nice to hear her voice without all the horrible Idol orchestration. Like the crazy street person she is, Crystal seems to think that music is itself a vehicle for inspiration. Wacky. She loses marks for her blurt of emotion at the end of the song - on Russian Idol she would have been shot for that sort of vulgar excess - but she picks up points again for her fantastic glass lamp microphone stand. (No change.)

cowell-and-poor-peoplePoor people make Simon Cowell laugh.

Why were they singing inspirational songs? Well, it’s Idol Gives Back week, which is the American version of Comic Relief or Children In Need, except it’s only two hours rather than a year of your life, and in the midsts of all that stuff about malaria and poverty and saving children’s lives, they take one young boy or girl and tell them in front of millions that they have to give up on their dreams and go back to a life of miserable obscurity, where they will live forever with the bitter knowledge that they missed their shot at a golden ticket. Ah, America!

While the Idol show was going on in one theatre, Queen Latifah was introducing musical acts in another theatre, and I sort of wonder if they put the musicians over there so they wouldn’t have to tell them they were appearing on Idol. Until the cameras go live, all those video screens probably say it’s the Grammies.

Highlights of the night included Alicia Keys telling us, “tonight we’re going to do the unthinkable together” - all right Alicia, but I have a bad knee, and we’ll never get enough quark at this late hour - and Jennifer Garner giving voice to the false promise that lies at the heart of Idol; “She’s a special little girl, just like every other little kid.”

Ellen DeGeneres went to meet poor people in Monrovia. I suspect she thought she was pulling a fast one on the producers by telling them she was going to a country that she knew didn’t exist. Imagine her surprise when she found out that Monrovia is in Liberia. But it’s also in California, so, guess which one she went to? Clue: the one without a Somali pirate problem.

There was also a stark and harrowing reminder that even in this age of plenty, some people still live with - and die from - severe malnutrition. Yes, Victoria Beckham was on the stage. Ba-dum. She went to a poor school to learn about literacy, but interestingly there was no video of her visit, and you can write your own punchline to that one.

So, who got sent home this week? I don’t know. The show overran substantially. Idol gives back, and Idol taketh away.

Idol: Madam, He Is Adam

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

It’s an exciting week on American Idol. Officially, it’s exciting because last week the judges used their one-off save on Big Mike Lynche, which means two people go home this week, but that’s not so much a thrilling twist as a clerical adjustment. The real reason it’s an exciting week is because the guest mentor is Adam Lambert.

It’s also Elvis week, but Elvis is dead (by now, surely), so Adam is as close as they’re going to get. Now, I sneered at Miley Cyrus as a judge, because she’s only 17, yet she’s been a star for four terrible years, while Adam has been in the pop business for less than a year, so I’m surely being a big hypocrite.

elviskaraoke

But I’m not, of course. Miley Cyrus is a performing puppet. Adam Lambert is a performing artist. The reason Lambert is the first former Idol contestant to come back as a mentor is simple; he understood how to play this contest better than anyone in the show’s history. He can give these kids smart advice that can really change their game. He may inject some life into what has been a pretty dull season. He’s a brilliant choice of mentor.

Before we get down to the performances, I should comment on the judges’ save. I think using it on Big Mike was the right choice. He’s the best male vocalist in the show, and he didn’t deserve to go home yet. I do worry that using the save now means it won’t be there if Siobhan has a terrible week, but it’s better to have the save out of the way.

This week’s performances, from least to most:

9. Andrew Garcia, aka Barrio Elvis
In the mentor scenes, Andrew nearly bored Adam to death with his Hound Dog. Adam told him to, “change it up”. So he changed it to ’still boring, but faster’, and that’s the direction he went with on stage. There are metronomes that rock out harder than Andrew Garcia. This was probably his best week in the live shows, and faint praise has rarely been more damning. (No change.)

8. Aaron Kelly, aka Toys R Us Elvis
What song can a person sing when they haven’t been on the planet long enough to have experienced their first emotion? Blue Suede Shoes! Of course! A song that stomps the stage without really saying anything at all! And that’s what Aaron did this week, with the most milquetoast Elvis impersonation I’ve ever seen. Any kind of toast is wrong on Elvis night. What we need is some deep fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. (Down 3.)

7. Katie Stevens, aka Sanrio Elvis
Every year the show has a Matt Girard - a contestant I’m so sick of that I just don’t want to write anything about them any more. This year it’s this creature and her grating faux-sassy head bobs. The song is, Baby What You Want Me To Do. I want you to go away, Katie Stevens. (No change.)

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6. Tim Urban, aka Surf Shop Elvis
Adam thinks he pushed Tim out of his comfort zone. Probably when he ravished him in the orchestra pit. The puppet poppet sang Can’t Help Falling In Love, which seems like a good choice for squee-inducement, but Tim’s voice is too low and expressionless to induce the sort of nether-tremors that Kris Allen was able to evoke at his most bedroomy. Adam’s advice - sing some falsetto - was spot on, because it got Tim to do some real singing for a change. Plus, Tim looked absolutely terrified while he was doing it, and that was hilarious. (PS. Good open-necked tight t-shirt choice this week, Tim.) (No change.)

5. Siobhan Magnus, aka Estate Auction Elvis
Siobhan and Adam. That’s a meeting of minds - and bouffants - for the ages. Sadly they didn’t speak to each other only in high-pitched screeches. After her sleepy performance last week, Miss Madness needs to be dragged back to the crazy, and I hoped Adam’s supervision would push her there. And it was crazy, but only in an odd way; she opted for an incomprehensibly smiley Sheena Easton-style rendition of Suspicious Minds. The vocal got stronger, but the smile never left, and her backchat was better than her singing. (Down 3.)

4. Casey James, aka Tackle Shop Elvis
I snicker at Casey’s hick-ness every week, so it tickles me that he chose to sing Lawdy Miss Clawdy, which I feel is a bit of a hick anthem. He didn’t do anything with it, though. He’s one of the most consistent singers on the show, but consistent can be very dull. Also, I feel he needed a banjo. (Down 3.)

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3. Lee DeWyze, aka Home Depot Elvis
Wise old Adam told Lee to shake himself out of his dullness, albeit he put it more diplomatically than that. Dullness is exactly the problem I have with Lee. He’s usually a concrete bag on that stage. He changed that a little bit this weekwith a clever country reinvention of A Little Less Conversation. It worked well enough that I actually enjoyed a Lee Dewyze performance. (Up 5.)

2. Big Mike Lynche, aka XXElvis
Apparently Mike didn’t know In The Ghetto. Has he never watched South Park? Probably better, actually, that he hasn’t. If you can get Cartman’s voice out of your head, this is a good song for Mike - it allows him to use his rich texture and enviable control without going back to his deep well of hot chocolate. A very understated performance, but elegant and well pitched. (Up 2.)

1. Crystal Bowersox, aka Thrift Shop Elvis
Elvis has a huge, huge back catalogue, but of course most of the contestants didn’t dig very far into it (while busily product-placing iTunes). Only Katie, Lee and Crystal avoided the most obvious hits, and only Crystal did the legwork to find a song that was a truly excellent fit. With Saved, Crystal took an obscurity from Elvis’s gospel songbook and put on a churchstorming show. It’s a shame she was the first act on, because you always know there’s not going to be much to keep you up after Bowersox. (Up 1.)

This was probably the strongest week so far, and I attribute that in large part to Adam Lambert. Now we get to boot two people off the stage, and I think odds have to be good that one of them will be Andrew Garcia. The other really could be Siobhan, but Aaron and Katie are welcome to bog off any time. It’s unlikely to be Big Mike, after last week’s save and this week’s performance. Because Tim actually sang this week, I think we get to keep him for yet another week.

What did you think, dear reader? Who do you want to see go home?

Idol: Killing John Lennon (And Paul McCartney)

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

I’m a day late this week because I was out having fun last night. Sorry. I’ll try harder to avoid fun in the future. And that starts right now, because this week the kids are singing from the Lennon and/or McCartney songbook, and how much fun can that be? But it could be worse. It could be the Starr and/or Harrison songbook.

All though I’m a day late, the results aren’t in at the time of this posting, so this post is results-free and safe for those in foreign time zones. This week’s ranking, from worst to best:

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9. Andrew Garcia, aka Misery
It’s noticeable that three women have been sent home three weeks in a row - Didi was sent home last week - and I think all three of them were better than both Andrew and Lee (and obviously better than Tim, but he’s Tim, he’s different). This competition is clearly much harder on the girls. Andrew’s rockajosé production of Can’t Buy Me Love continues his run of songs that make me wish Lilly Scott was still in this competition. (No change.)

8. Lee DeWyse, aka Nowhere Man
Lee chose to sing Hey Jude, which is like a 4×4 off-roader saying, ‘tonight, Ryan, I’m going to drive along a dirt track’. No, really? You’re going to Rod Stewart your way through the Beatles’ most popular pub chant? Wake me up when the ridiculous gimmick gets here. Oh, hey, there’s the bagpiper. (Down 2.)

7. Katie Stevens, aka Honey Pie
You remember those big neon rubbers/erasers that you could stick on the end of your pencil when you were at school? Katie came dressed as one of those this week. Let’s pretend that’s a complement, because that’s as close as I intend to get to saying a nice thing about Katie’s boil-in-the-bag version of Let It Be. It sounded much as I would expect a Taylor Swift version of the song would sound, which means Simon is correct; she went ‘country’. Not country as a country music fan would understand it, but country as a Taylor Swift fan would understand it. (No change.)

6. Tim Urban, aka Golden Slumbers
God bless Tim Urban, my little oasis of shining crap in a desert of regular crap. But I do worry about the boy. Not because he might be sent home - we know he must eventually - but because his sentient shell of alien hair is slowly eating his head. Tim sang All My Loving while strumming a guitar, and if you could describe a vocal performance as ’strumming’, well, he did that too. He lightly and methodically brushed the notes with his uvula. It was probably his best performance. It was still crap. Hurray! (Down 1.)

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5. Aaron Kelly, aka This Boy
With Bowersox and Magnus as the frontrunners, there remains a vacancy in this contest for a ‘dark horse’. This can mean one of two things; a contestant who grows in confidence week after week until he has sufficient nerve to let his talent emerge, or a contestant who bubbles along without any huge disasters until he’s one of the only ones left and that alone gives him momentum. Aaron is a dark horse, but at this point I’m not sure which flavour. The pencil-necked chicken-head-eater was overwhelmed by the size of The Long and Winding Road, but I don’t think he was as bad as the judges suggested. (Down 1.)

4. Big Mike Lynche, aka I Am The Walrus
Did he say his family singing group was called ‘the Lynche Mob’? Really? Really? Let’s set aside the worrying implications of that and talk about how Mike is finally trying my patience. I’ve enjoyed Mike’s smooth soul cheese so far, but his Eleanor Rigby felt much too jazz-lounge insipid. Or, as the judges like to say; ‘commercial and relevant’. God save us. (Down 2.)

3. Crystal Bowersox, aka Ticket to Ride
As a musician who accidentally found herself trapped in a popularity contest, Madam Bowersox probably had an extensive repertoire of Lennon/McCartney songs she could have pulled out of her crocheted Tibetan prayer purse, so it’s disappointing that she settled for the ever-obvious Come Together. It just seems lazy. She could knock this out of the park and still have time to perform the entire Joan Baez Woodstock set list before it touched down again. Stretch yourself, Bowersox. Pull your bowersox up. (Down 2.)

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2. Siobhan Magnus, aka Rocky Raccoon
After a couple of rough weeks where it seemed like Siobhan had lost all her promise, the crazy caterwauling lady needed to come up with the goods this week. The fact that she came dressed as Bjork’s Swiffer was a good sign. The unusual choice of Across the Universe was another good sign, and I think she did a good job with it. Yes, it was slow, and slightly over-enunciated and pinch-nosed, but it was refreshing to hear her without the screeching. Her explanation for why she chose the song was the most articulate I’ve ever heard a contestant give, and I think that took Simon by surprise, which was also lovely. (Up 6.)

1. Casey James, aka Happiness Is A Warm Gun
If they made a cartoon musical about hair metal where all the characters were played by anthropomorphic poodles, the animators might get close to approximating the laughable crimp of Casey James’s blond tangle. It’s my favourite terrible hair on television. But that shouldn’t detract from his charming, tender, acoustic rendition of Jealous Guy, so I suggest listening to this with your eyes shut, or you’ll think Peter Stringfellow is trying to get into your pants. This week Casey made a strong comeback from his previous soulless numbers. That said, I’m not sure how much you want folks to emphasise your ‘authenticity’ when you’re singing Jealous Guy. (Up 2.)

Results come in soon, and they’ve probably already announced the bottom three. My guess is that it’s Tim, Katie and Andrew, but I wouldn’t like to guess who’s going home. Precedent says it’ll be Tim and ‘a girl’ at the bottom, and ‘a girl’ will lose, in which case it’s the end for Katie. Fingers crossed!

Idol: Rhythm & Balls

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

It’s R&B and soul week on Idol. I’m hoping this means they’re performing songs by Cab Calloway, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles (and not Aretha Franklin, because no-one should touch that). I fear that it’s actually going to be Rihanna, Boyz II Men and Jodeci (and Whitney Houston, but no-one should touch that). Let’s find out together, shall we?

Instead of a mentor, they’ve provided a young man who they refer to only as ‘usher’, who will presumably check tickets, hand out programs and show people to their seats. Here are this week’s performances, in order from least loved to most bestest.

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10. Didi Benami, aka the Senator’s Murdered Nanny
Didi’s thin reed voice is not at all suited to R&B. She has a nice voice, a folksy tone, but pitting it against the rich texture of Jimmy Ruffin on What Becomes of the Brokenhearted seems hopelessly ambitious, and she looks and sounds like Cheryl Crowe struggling under the weight of Isaac Hayes. I will give her this; she’s very game. If she survives this week, it can only get better from here. (Down 5.)

9. Andrew Garcia, aka Paul ab-Dull
Last week, Simon spoke truth unto Garcia; you are not as good as your one good moment, and we’re no longer even sure how good that moment was. Garcia needs to pull off a miracle to get back into my good books now. Singing Forever by Chris Brown is not going to fix anything. It sounded like a chewing gum commercial. And why is he giving Chris Brown any exposure? If you’re going to sing a soul song by a domestic abuser, sing Fool In Love! (No change.)

8. Siobhan Magnus, aka Madame Medusa
Some serious throwing back going on here with an 80s Chaka Khan song, Through The Fire. Siobhan goes period with the sort of 80s lounge singing style wherein you can never let your mouth close for fear that the lipgloss will cement. I think they must have fixed her hair with a magical can of vintage Aqua Net to get her into character. Unfortunately she sound awful; more Wrath of Khan than Chaka Khan. I thought last week was her off week, so I wasn’t prepared for this. (Down 6.)

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7. Katie Stevens, aka Darth Mallrat
I said no Aretha. Didn’t I say, no Aretha? Katie has actually been at her best doing blues, which is inexplicable given that she has as much soul as a Pez dispenser. Yet this is not blues, this is Chain of Fools, and you don’t attempt to climb Mount Aretha without spare oxygen tanks. This girl has all the spare oxygen of a whoopee cushion. Watching her trying to give it some head bobbing sass is just cringeworthy. Don’t sass me, girl. If you haven’t done your homework, you’re staying behind. (Up 1.)

6. Lee DeWyse, aka Blue Collar Tofu
Lee sang Treat Her Like A Lady, and I don’t know where it’s from (it’s not the Celine Dion song, that’s for sure), but if this was ever an R&B song, he sanded off the sparkling blue paint, took out the white leather seats, and refitted it for the demolition derby. On the one hand, it was probably his best performance. On the other hand, I don’t remember any of his previous performances and I won’t remember this one. In a boring world, even hiccups seem exciting. (No change.)

5. Tim Urban, aka Mannequin Piss
You’re wondering what Tim is doing up here, aren’t you? It’s not because he was any good. It’s because he’s entertaining. I know he’s a troll, and I usually hate those (though he’s a pretty troll) - but it does make me laugh that Tim is still on the show. He never does well with the voters, but somehow he keeps scraping through, and his pretty little face and his weak little voice get flung at another genre that he doesn’t know, doesn’t feel, and cannot do. This week, hilariously, he sang Anita Baker’s Sweet Love, which is one of the great soul seduction numbers. Could he handle it? Not even close! Strained, tuneless and desparate. Let’s do opera next week! It can’t get any worse! In a year of duff contestants, Tim’s performances are now among the ones I most look forward to, and his upbeat responses to the judges’ brutal critiques are kind of charming. (Up 5.)

4. Aaron Kelly, aka the Second Trimester Kid
I literally forgot about the existence of Aaron Kelly. He was on last, and I nearly turned the TV off after Crystal. It was like the producers were telling me I could go home early. Kelly’s song was Ain’t No Sunshine, and the usher gave him some good advice; find something to do with the endless string of ‘I know’s, or we’re all just going to be sitting around waiting for you to unstick the needle. Kelly did OK. I have to start finding nice things to say about some of these contestants because I know I’m going to be stuck with them for a while, and I’m sure I’m stuck with Aaron for the long haul, so that’s the nice thing I have to say about Aaron Kelly. It was OK. A bit patchy. (Up 3.)

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3. Casey James, aka Thin White Earl
Casey wins major points for bringing Sam & Dave’s Hold On, I’m Comin’ to the Idol stage, but he loses points for a milquetoast performance that walks a delicate path between gritty and smooth without ever committing to either redemptive path. I don’t think that song has ever sounded so peaches n’ cream. I suspect that Casey is lazy, and it’s beginning to annoy me. And this was the third best performance of the night. (Up 1.)

2. Mike Lynche, aka Always Big Mike
Mike sings soulful R&B every week. Give him a Christina Aguilera song and it would probably come out as soulful R&B. He’s cheesy, but he’s good at it. Given that this theme is deep into his comfort zone, it’s striking that he chooses to sing an obscure modern song and not something from the Smokey Robinson songbook; Ready for Love by India.Arie. As a result, he’s not as good as he’s been in past weeks, but he is instantly more commercial and less of a caricature, so it was probably a good idea. Simon’s comments bear out my suspicions; this is what they want from Mike. Less talent, more generic marketability. (No change.)

And with that, we are done with all the insipid performances, and we move on to the good stuff, by which I mean…

1. Crystal Bowersox, aka Buskerella
Midnight Train To Georgia! MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO GEORGIA, MOTHERNUDGER! Pinned behind a grand piano (you can’t just wheel one of those down to the platform at Grand Central Station, you know), Crystal seemed rattled at the start of the song, but as soon as she knew she was ditching the piano, she was able to swagger into position and take the room. While my brain couldn’t quite accept the sight of the Reverend Dame Bowersox in a red dress and heels, she sounded as great as ever, and I think she finally understands that she’s in a singing contest, and that she’s competing, and that she’s winning. Let’s hope that Siobhan Magnus comes back next week to put up a fight. (No change.)

The score at the end of the night, by my count, was six proper R&B songs out of ten, which is not bad going, but one of them was Aretha, and I was very clear about that, and most of the rest were performed by terrible singers. I assume Tim will continue to hold steady in the bottom three, and he’ll be joined this week by Didi and Andrew, possibly Siobhan, whom the judges would surely save. I hope we lose Andrew. I’ll be sorry if we lose Didi. I’ll be devastated if we lose Tim.

Idol: Billbored

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Tonight’s theme was supposed to be ‘teen idols’, but it was changed belatedly to ‘Billboard #1s’, aka ‘close your eyes and stick a pin in it’. I like to imagine that one of the contestants had a diva fit and refused to sing a Taylor Swift song, but as none of the contestants ended up singing a teen idol song, I sadly can’t decide who to pin the ‘difficult’ label to.

Perhaps the most likely candidate is this week’s mentor, prodigious Vocoder-voiced marketing asset Miley Cyrus. Maybe she’s decided it’s time to throw off the heavy shackles of her ‘teen idol’ identity (well, ‘tween idol’) and redefine herself as a serious artists. Honestly, teenagers! You will notice, in the mentoring scenes, that the former Ms Montana is wearing a dress so short that her age of consent is showing.

Cyrus is an invaluable guide for these contestants, because who else can speak with such expertise about having their youth destroyed in order to become a micro-managed record company asset? Miley probably slipped a note into each of the contestants’ hands that said, in crayon, ‘Run and never look back’.

Once again I’m ranking the contestants from worst to best. My assessments are not necessarily based solely on this week’s performances, but that’s what I’ll be talking about. Oh, and as it’s performance night, not results night, I won’t be revealing the results this week, so as the Blue Erster Cult once said, don’t fear the spoilers.

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11. Paige Miles, aka Bushbaby
Paige sang Against All Odds, which could almost be considered deft given that she’s clearly doing the Mariah Carey version, yet it’s the Phil Collins original that was the Billboard #1. But it’s not deft, because she was awful, and when the judges called her awful, the audience could barely summon a boo. The poor girl was drowning in the song, and given that she was bottom three last week, this should be her last week in the contest. (Down 5.)

10. Tim Urban, aka Crappercrombie & Fitch
The Timbot has been programmed with a series of gestures and swivels downloaded from years of ‘hot young musical thang’ video footage, from Elvis to the Jonas Brothers, but sadly machine technology is not yet sophisticated enough for the emulation to look organic, and Timbot’s stage slide looked like a Star Trek ensign doing the ship-shake tango on a wet floor. Disastrously, Tim is wearing a jacket this week, so we can’t even admire his biceps or his extraordinarily tiny waist. The song was billed as Crazy Little Thing Called Love, but I have heard that song, and this was not it. (Up 1.)

9. Andrew Garcia, aka Straight Down Now
I imagine Mike Lynche would do a pretty good Heard It Through the Grapevine. He’d keep it Motown. He’d keep it slick. He’d keep all the original notes. Andrew Garcia doesn’t do any of these things. His performance is the aural equivalent of cardboard salad. I think he thinks it’s sexy, but it’s just… MILEY CYRUS SPIT OUT THAT GUM RIGHT NOW! Young lady, you are on television! Have some class. You’re not just Billy Ray in a dress, you know. (Down 1.)

8. Katie Stevens, aka Miley Cyrish
Katie can learn so much from Miley, who is a little over two weeks older than her. Those two weeks give a person a completely different perspective on life. In auditions, Katie did an impressive rendition of Etta James’s At Last. I don’t know what happened to that girl, but I think she’s Benjamin Buttoning at a rate of one trimester a week. Katie sounded flat and strained, but it was a Fergie song, so maybe it was meant to sound like that? (Up 4.)

7. Aaron Kelly, aka Kid Ganglion
He has tonsilitis, or laryngitis, or snivelitis. I don’t know or care. He’s astonishingly boring on the best of nights, and this was a bad night. His I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing was dependably dull and wholly unmemorable. (Up 3.)

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6. Lee DeWyse, aka Generic Supermarket Brand
A peculiar jazz arrangement of The Letter allowed DeWyse, who has the air of a waxed orang-utan, to lumpenly bump around the stage like a simian Michael Bublé. Yet the vocal was the same coffee-grinder rocker stuff we’ve come to expect from him. It’s not that Lee is bad, it’s just that this is airtime that could be better used to advertise Dr Scholl’s skin tag remover. (Up 3.)

5. Didi Benami, aka Folksteady
Did’s rendition of You’re No Good makes me think we have a potential Nancy Sinatra on our hands. Nancy always stuck safely within the limits of her voice, but she had the looks and the style to sell her songs. Didi is no Nancy just yet, but that’s where her safe zone lies. She had technical problems and a clod-footed shuffling dance style this week, but I think she was better than the judges gave her credit for. (No change.)

4. Casey James, aka Redneck Messiah
The cornstalk was on fair form this week with a faithful rendition of Huey Lewis’s Power of Love. He walked through it and didn’et exert himself in the least, but his voice sounded good. Certainly, there were more offensive Texans in the public eye this week. (Up 3.)

3. Siobhan Magnus, aka Tuney Loon
After another long week buying toy soldiers on eBay so she can suck off the lead paint, Siobhan Magnus took to the stage with a badger brush up-do and a poorly chosen Stevie Wonder classic, Superstition. It was too orchestrated, too arranged for Magnus, whose golden moments have come in her stripped and spooky performances. Here she was fighting with the brass section and unleashing some fearsome screams. It wasn’t right. This was her ‘off’ week, and she was still better than almost everyone else. (Down 2.)

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2. Mike Lynche, aka Big Mike
Mike Lynche is a whole big bucket of cream coffee. Even Starbucks doesn’t serve in these sizes. When A Man Loves A Woman is a safe choice, but the performance was smooth, soulful and sincere. I like Big Mike more each week, because although he never offers any surprises, he always delivers. He’s the UPS of American Idol. (Up 1.)

1. Crystal Bowersox, aka Gypsy Ford Cortina
Dame Bowersox is seven actual years older than Miley, and about seventy musical years older than Miley, and you just know they would never normally even make eye contact in the Mean Girls canteen of life, so I applaud Crystal for not sending the little snit upstairs to play with a Bratz Terrifically Tacky Tramp Stamping Playset while she smoked dope in the garage with her friend Snake who owns a pick-up and is feeling vulnerable because his brother is in Afghanistan. Anyway, Crystal sang Me And Bobby McGee, but not much of it. Mostly she just riffed and noodled around it. It was good, of course, but the Bowersox is capable of better. (Up 1.)

This was a terribly weak week for Idol, though perhaps par for the course at this stage in the competition. I would be very surprised if Paige Miles survives the week, but Tim and Katie seem like solid contenders for the bottom three, and Didi is pretty, so I doubt she has many fans. I have a suspicion that Siobhan is also capable of attracting a lot of antipathy, so a weak week for her could actually put her at risk.

Do you agree with this week’s rundown? Am I too kind to Big Mike? Too cruel to Lee DeWyse? Let me know in the comments section.

Idol: These Are Your Contestants

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

This year’s American Idol is finally down to a manageable number, which means I can finally tolerate blogging about it. Up until now, there has been too much filler on stage. Too many packing peanuts, no personalities. And because the votes are spread so thin, anyone could go home any week - as proved last week when smoky-voiced witch woman Lilly Scott was prematurely sent home - so it’s barely worth forming an opinion about these people.

Of course, I did have opinions. Of the top 24, I was sorry to see Latino mole man Joe Munoz and wannabe rubber Jagger doll Tyler Grady kicked out so quickly - they weren’t going to win, but Munoz was better than most of the boys and Grady was more interesting. Asian crooner John Park showed great potential in auditions, but was a sucking vacuum on stage. Haeley Vaughn had a lot of charm, and Michelle Delamor had talent, but they were also both ethnic, and that never helps. By my count, ten of the top 24 were ‘contestants of colour’, and seven of those went home in the first three weeks. It’s always easy to get the minorities out when they haven’t had a chance to become people yet.

Now that we’re down to 12, I’m bothering to care a little more. So here are my thoughts, in order from least to most favourite.

12. Katie Stevens, aka Rinkydink Girlchild
You can see in her face that Katie doesn’t know what she’s still doing on the show. She’s a weak runt kitten that should have died weeks ago. Her version of Wild Horses was like watching a goldfish with a gun floundering on a pavement. I’m struggling to remember why I had nice things to say about her at the audition stage.

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11. Tim Urban, aka Crap Efron
I find the continued presence of Tim Urban on this show kind of hilarious. He was brought in to the top 24 as a replacement at the last minute and he should have gone straight back home again, but week after week his dimpled smile, his dewy eyes and that ridiculous mound of hair have kept him in. The shirtless photos of him on the internet can’t have hurt. So long as he keeps wearing really tight sweaters, he has a chance to stay in. But his voice is shaky and soulless, and as a performer he’s so wet and floppy that I assume he must also be lemon-scented and Swiffer branded. But I’ll give him this; he’s good-humoured about the mistake his life has become.

10. Aaron Kelly, aka Rinkydink Boychild
Completing the troika of contestants who have no idea what they’re doing on this show. He looks like a young Ed Norton squeezed through a toothpaste tube. He may actually be Ed Norton, smuggled onto the show to prep for a role. He can’t be here based on talent.

9. Lee DeWyse, aka Canless Meat in a Can
So uninteresting. Solid, but so dull. He simply never gets started. When Simon trots out his ‘you sound like a pub singer’ line, Lee DeWyse is the Platonic ideal of that concept. I suspect that Lee is a Chicago attempt at a Frankenstein’s monster, moulded together from breeze blocks, toilet roll tubes and a thick paste of corn grits. Corn grits without the butter.

8. Andrew Garcia, aka Guy Who Did That One Good Song That One Time
Remember that one time he did Paula Abdul’s Straight Up as a ballad? Remember how good that was? You’d better, because Andrew Garcia has been coasting on that performance ever since. He tried to recapture the magic with a reinvented Genie In A Bottle, but it didn’t work, and this week’s Gimme Shelter was unforgivably boring. It becomes increasingly clear every week that Andrew Garcia had one good trick in his repertoire, and now he’s all used up. But it was a good trick.

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7. Casey James, aka The Shirtless Streak
Casey James is proof that you can have a weak audition and go on to be a contender, which shows how unreliable the audition process is. This blond ratty white Jesus lookalike only got through because he took his shirt off and everyone but Simon thought he was a good sport. Never mind that he has a body like a gnawed corn cob! Since the auditions, he has improved a great deal, though he’s sliding  a little lazily into an easy country groove.

6. Paige Miles, aka Miss Teeth
Paige can really go either way. She has a lot of personality, but her version of Smile last week was shaky and badly arranged; her Honky Tonk Woman was much better, but may be as big as she can go. Even so, I like her a lot in principle. She’s sweet and cheerful, and with her big eyes and round face she looks like a Sanrio character. But she should never again wear a shorted safari suit. No-one should.

5. Didi Benami, aka Jo-Beth Sweetums McGee
Didi is the girl-next-door type, but let’s not hate her for that. I think she has potential. She tries too hard to force that 60s girl singer sound that’s so in fashion at the moment, but I suspect that country is more her thingdawg. (Thingdawg is Randy-ese for ‘forté‘.) If she stops pushing the vocals and tries to sing to her strengths, she could be very good.

4. Lacey Brown, aka Baby Cougar
What I like most about Lacey Brown is that she looks like the young white trash waitress in a roadside biker bar, all leather skirts and meth breath and a baseball bat always just in reach. But she sings with this lovely sweetness that’s just on the right side of cloying babydoll cute. There may be a rocker beneath the surface, but I think her distinctive look is a suit of armour and there’s a terrible lack of confidence under the surface.

3. Mike Lynche, aka Big Mike Lynche
Mike is the only guy singer that I actually like thus far, in spite of his abandoning his wife while she was giving birth so he could be on this show. Last week he sang Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work as a tribute to his wife. It was an extraordinary choice, but he made it through the falsetto parts and the parts where there’s not really much melody to grab hold of and acquitted himself brilliantly. This week he sang Miss You, which isn’t much of a song, but still out-sang most of the competition with his gospel riffs. Hopefully he’ll stick around, but that’s a lot to ask for a black dude on this show. He should stop trying to dance, though.

crystalbowersox

2. Crystal Bowersox, real name Mary Jones, probably
Simon was criticised for comparing Bowersox to a busker, but she is a busker. I mean, both in an actual sense - she is a busker - and in an abstract philosophical sense - she is the embodiment of buskiness. She is the busker queen. Crystal Bowersox has never seen American Idol, and it’s clear that she’s baffled by the whole process, from the tortured group performances to the offensively awful Ford ads. She’s what happens when a musician accidentally walks onto the show. Crystal’s stripped-down, Americana numbers are dependably great, and in all likelihood this year’s show is hers to lose. But she’s not my favourite this week.

1. Siobhan Magnus, aka Solid Gold Crazy
Siobhan is my favourite. I love Siobhan. She is a kook. I think Siobhan is a tiny mouse in a Billie Piper suit, trying to operate the controls that will allow her to pass for a real girl, but the controls are all slightly too far away from each other, so she can’t quite make it look smooth and convincing. There is something detached, peculiar, and massively over-medicated about her. In fact, she brings back the madness we lost when Paula left the room. I thought her House of the Rising Sun (which she sang as a boy) was an Adam Lambert moment, but this week’s operatically gothic Paint It Black blew that out of the water. When she sings, that little mouse has complete mastery of the controls. Delectably daffy.

If you don’t know who got sent home this week, look away now. But before I get to that, a few comments on the judges, who broke new ground this week. First, Kara said something that wasn’t wrong (that Mick Jagger put passion in his songs- it wasn’t original either, but it wasn’t wrong). Simon contradicted her anyway, but it’s a reflex, he can’t be blamed for that. And second, one of the judges made a gay joke that wasn’t homophobic. Admittedly, it was Ellen, but I’ll take what I can get. Unchanged since last year; Ryan Seacrest is still a twat.

This week’s loser was my fourth favourite, Lacey Brown. We will never know if she could have come out of her leopard print shell and rocked the hizzouse.

Whether you agree or disagree with my rundown, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the top 12. Do you love Tim Urban’s dimples? Do you hate Crystal Bowersox and her ‘credibility’, whatever the hell that is? Let me know.