Posts Tagged ‘adam lambert’

Idol: Adam Lambert’s Year

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Dedicated followes of this blog (and, I suppose, Idol) will note that I’m a day late with my comments this week. This is an unavoidable side effect of getting drunk and eating a pound and a half of buffalo wings. There can be no blogging after that much chicken.

Still, Idol does not sleep, and I feel duty-bound to put my thoughts out there on last night’s show before tonight’s results roll in.

Before I get to the performances, I’m going to offer a few words on America’s new gay hero. I’m beginning to feel quite emotional about little Madam Glambot. Latest bookmaker’s odds actually have Adam as the favourite to win the competition. I want that to be true, but I don’t honestly believe it can happen. Still, the fact that he’s the favourite right now is a victory in itself. Adam Lambert is not just gay; he’s ultra-gay. He’s camp, theatrical and unapologetic. He performs like a gay man who wants everyone to know he’s a gay man - and his song choices are almost always about being an outsider. Even after photos of him kissing other men appeared on the internet, he stayed on top, and anecdotal evidence suggests that he’s a favourite of mothers and grandmothers across America. Even Bill O’Reilly said on his show this week that, if Adam is the most talented, he should win. The rise and rise of Adam Lambert may mark a cultural breakthrough. He’s America’s queer messiah. I suspect he’s almost entirely responsible for the decision to allow gay marriage in Iowa and Vermont

On with the show. Downey’s song is Stand By Me. The theme this week is ’songs from the year you were born’, so apparently Downey is 48. Or he’s a great big cheater. Downey offers a bold reinterpretation of this much-loved soul standard, giving it the feel of a combine harvester crashing into a late night jazz club, killing seven and injuring dozens. The judges lavish the same generic praise on the smug Gorg that they give him every week, which is apt, as he gives the same tarmac-constipated performance every week.

Last week Matt Giraud sneered from the crowd. This week pocket cutie Kris Allen is thrown to that same crowd, where the maddened front-row swayers tear him limb from limb in a Bacchanalian orgy of blood. But like Orpheus, he keeps singing. Well, sort of. All She Wants To Do Is Dance isn’t much of a song, and he offers a slightly spluttery performance, like he’s singing with the microphone down his throat.

I’ve had enough of Lil Rounds and her high-power hose of a voice. She still hasn’t had a single good performance, and this week’s mauling of What’s Love Got To Do With It was a hollering embarrassment. I feel her time has run out, but I suppose we do still have Anoop, Scott and Matt to cull, so she’ll get a few more opportunities to hang herself with her own larynx.

Speaking of Anoop, we’re due another shaky, tin-eared caterwaul from the man who puts the ‘dork’ in ‘Anoop Desai is an utter dork’. His version of True Colors is less Cyndi Lauper, more Hindi pauper.

It’s crap sandwich time, as Anoop is followed by Scott MacIntyre. I wonder what Alexis Grace would be singing right now if she were still in this competition? Something awesome, I expect.

Allison Iraheta has fabulous big hair again this week. Allison is very young, so I half expected her ’song from the year you were born’ to be something by Lady Gaga. Instead it’s I Can’t Make You Love Me, and as I’ve come to expect from Allison, she sings with remarkable confidence and real heart. She’s been in the bottom three at least twice now, so she’s obviously not reaching the viewers, but she deserves to go much further than Lil Rounds, and I’d easily take her over Gokey.

Ladies and gentlemen, the smooth jazz stylings of Matt Giraud. Today’s pizza special is the Venezia, and there is an additional five penny surcharge on your bill which goes towards local heritage restoration projects. Please remember that it is apparently 1985, so try not to run over any Sinclair C5s on the way home.

Finally, Adam Lambert, doing Mad World, but secretly the Donnie Darko version, not actually the version from the year he was born. I like Adam even when he’s strutting and wailing and wearing all his make-up - he’s like the brilliant Azerbaijani angel from last year’s Eurovision - but some people find that terrifying, so he scores higher when he shows a little subtlety. This song allows him to show off his two great talents; vocal control and emotional intensity. Simon Cowell gives him a standing ovation, and it’s deserved.

Most weeks I’ll try to predict who’ll be in the bottom three. This week I have the advantage that the figures from Idol predictor site Dial Idol are already in, and it’s looking bizarrely bad for Kris Allen, who wasn’t great but was far better than Anoop, Scott, Matt and Lil. I hold out hope that it’ll be Anoop that goes home, but I think Kris has proved himself enough in this competition that the judges could actually use their save if he is in last place.

Idol: I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for ITunes

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

The theme for this week’s show is ‘popular iTunes downloads’. It’s a peculiar theme, but it does give us a rare chance to see some of the contestants singing contemporary songs - though this being iTunes, there are some golden oldies available as well. It also means the contestants can pick from just about any pop genre, so they get to choose exactly which rope they hang themselves with.

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The first slot of the night is a terrible place to be - a lot of the audience hasn’t tuned in yet, and anyone who has won’t remember you or have any other performances to measure you again. It’s why Matt Giraud ended up in the bottom three last week (though, to be fair, he was also terrible). This week the shit spot has gone to Anoop, and I’m delighted, because not only does it hurt his chances, but his performance of Usher’s Caught Up is gloriously bad, and his sour sneering face-pulls are entertainingly horrid. Side note: He’s come dressed not as Usher, but as an usher, with a faux military jacket and a gold braid. As stylish as he is musical.

Almond Joy Cockring is singing Bob Marley’s Turn Your Lights Down Low. Megan Joy hasn’t had a good performance yet, and there aren’t many songs that fit her Louis Armstrong-tinged gargling grandma voice. Weirdly, I think this song actually does, and this is the first time she’s gone up on that stage and not scared the horses. It was a lifeless performance, but at least my milk hasn’t curdled. Sadly for Megan, the judges give her such a thorough kicking that she’s surely doomed. Maybe choosing a song that shows people what you actually sound like is a bad idea when you sound like a drowning lizard?

Ghoulish muppet Downey Gokey has picked What Hurts The Most by Rascal Flats, which I do not know, but I suspect it’s going to be a ‘my wife is dead’ song, because he hasn’t played that card recently. Sure enough, it’s a sad song about having to say goodbye, delivered with dull keening earnestness. And as soon as the song is done, he’s got that stupid smug shit-eating grin on his fat pork-butt face, which shows just how deep this particular river runs.

Allison Iraheta is singing Don’t Speak by No Doubt, which I could honestly live without. On the plus side, she’s holding a guitar (but not really pretending to play it much), and her hair is done up in a hilarious Jem and the Holograms haystack. It’s all wrong, of course; Kimber had the red hair, Aja and Shana played the guitar, and Raya was the Hispanic one. You can’t be all of the Holograms at once, Allison! And you don’t sound anything like Jerrica Benton! She does sound OK, though. More energy than ‘musicality’, if you’ll pardon me getting all wank. (It sounded like she was actually singing ‘Don’t Tweet’. Has she updated the song for the Twitter generation?)

Last week I said Scott McIntyre turns everything into a Billy Joel song. This week he’s saving himself the journey and going straight to I Love You Just The Way You Are. “Don’t go changing to try to please me; I’m blind and can’t see what you’re wearing aaaanywaaaaay”. Scott’s hair and jacket make him look like he’s off to play Kenickie in a repertory production of Grease right after the show. The vocal is reliably shaky. He’s a terrible singer and he’s more than outstayed his welcome, but disability is almost as popular as death in America’s heartland. (I can be as mean as I like about Scott. Who’s going to read this to him?)

Matt Giraud is horrible. His wretched voice, his wretched face, his wretched choice of songs - something awful by The Fray - it is all just monstrous. This week he’s singing ‘from the audience’, so even his gimmick is awful. I would puke, but then there would be two Matt Girauds in the world.

roundsLil Rounds has been letting us all down week after week. She was meant to be ‘the voice’ of the competition, but her singing is so aggressive that it hasn’t been at all pleasant. This week she’s singing Celine Dion’s Surrender, which gives her scant opportunity for nuance. She’s completely graceless, and worse, she’s flat for large stretches. Mind you, she has been squeezed into such an unflattering powder-blue vinyl sock that she may be struggling to breathe in anything less than desperate bucket-deep gasps. Best bad wig ever, though.

Adam Lambert, oh how we love him. Last week he showed why he’s the best thing to happen to Idol since, like, ever, with a stripped down Tracks of My Tears (which I have since listened to on YouTube about seventy times). Of course he’s back to full writhing grinding showgirl mode this week with a steamroller performance of Play That Funky Music. Ridiculous boy. It occurs to me that the real reason Lil hasn’t been able to strut her diva stuff on this show is that Adam Lambert hoovers up all the divatronium that gets delivered to the studio. That divatronium was meant to be shared, Adam! I note that, as of this week, Simon Cowell has given up critiquing Adam at all. He knows he no longer has any power here.

And finally, Kris. A couple of weeks ago Anoop sang Always On My Mind, which is a lovely song with almost no notes in it. This week it’s Kris Allen’s turn to do one of the world’s most pleasantly unchallenging numbers; Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers. Not only is it easy to sing, it’s easy to remember! Half the lyrics are “I know”! This means Kris can put all his energy into smouldering, which is energy well spent. The more I see of Kris, the more convinced I am that he deserves to get further in this contest than anyone but Adam. Perhaps not unrelatedly, I also find myself increasingly wanting to filth him up.

That’s the show. It’s Megan’s time to go, but Anoop and Matt ought to be in trouble as well, and I always cling to the hope that Scott McIntyre might be led away (whether he has the least votes or not).

Idol: Don’t Forget the Motor City

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

It’s Motown week! To celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest record labels of all time, a bunch of hapless reality brats are going to do their own hand-clappy mayonnaise versions of some of the most amazing songs ever written! Happy birthday, Motown! I hope Megan Joy sings Al Green! Then I’ll know my life has hit its nadir and it’s all uphill from there!

Actually, I generally like Motown week, because it’s hard to pick a bad song from that catalogue. They do exist - Boys II Men is Motown, after all - but you’re not going to go there when you can pick from Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops and the Jackson 5, are you? Are you?

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Matt Giraud goes first with the least sexy version of Let’s Get It On I think I’ve ever heard. The only ‘it’ I can imagine him wanting to ‘get on’ is a Christmas jumper with reindeer on it. This is a performance that immediately puts the lie to the idea that Matt has a white soul voice.

Kris Allen maintains his swoon offensive with How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You. Here’s the thing about Kris: he can sing; he has a nice, palatable voice and he’s proficient in its deployment; but everything he sings sounds so neutered. He’s a child-safe and wipe-clean pop star.

Scott McIntyre is still here, everybody! And he’s wearing astonishingly ugly pink trousers with a brown jacket, because we must not forget that he’s blind. Never forget. His song is You Can’t Hurry Love, because Scott loves taking dynamic girl songs and turning them into dull Billy Joel numbers. This he promptly does.

A few words here on Kara DioGuardi, the new judge. Back in the auditions, Kara seemed like a welcome addition to the show. She was sharp, she was critical, and she said what she was thinking. I want to know what happened to her between the auditions and the live shows. Did she realise being brutal made people say mean things about you, and she wanted to be loved? It feels like she was lobotomised and can now only spew out recycled inanities from the last seven seasons of the show. Is it possible they brought Kara on to make Paula look smarter?

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Megan Joy, singing For Once In My Life. I’ve realised who Megan Joy reminds me of. You remember the movie A Life Less Ordinary? There’s a scene where Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz sing karaoke in a bar, and though Cameron has a flat, rasping voice that’s hard to listen to, she sings with great and painful enthusiasm. She loves singing, even though she’s absolutely no good at it. That’s Megan Joy, and somehow she’s ended up on TV. Paula gives her the ‘you look beautiful’ kiss of death.

I’m getting drunken office party flashbacks; visions of uncool men dancing badly. That can only mean it’s Anoop Desai time! (Actually, it could equally mean it’s Downey Gokey time, but it’s not. It’s geek o’clock.) Anoop’s song is Ooh Baby Baby, a very mellow and understated little nothing. It almost skates within Anoop’s grossly limited range, bar a few strained falsetto moments. Go back to being flamboyant, Anoop! You’re much more likely to get voted off when you’re being flamboyant!

Michael Sarver is not popular on the intertubes. He’s considered an also-ran, and one without the fanbase of a Scott or an Anoop. I can’t really dispute his also-ran status; he hasn’t had a standout performance yet. He always sounds the same. He’s not bad, but he’s not exciting or quirky, and he never does anything vocally dazzling. He’s aural porridge, without the brown sugar. He sings Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, but does it even matter what he’s singing? If he was ever going to give a performance some razzle-dazzle, I suspect he’s left it too late now.

All the better singers have sunk to the bottom of the cereal box this week, leaving us with a second half full of delicious dehydrated marshmallows. We start the main show with Ms Lilian Rounds, the only black singer in Motown week. Lil has to carry all the divas all by her lonesome! No wonder she crumbles under the weight, both of that expectation and of her cushion of Michelle Obama hair extensions, which, by the way, look like no Motown ‘do I’ve ever seen. The song is Heatwave. The performance is lukewarm. Lilian! Stop shouting! (“I can’t!”)

Adam Lambert’s song is Tracks Of My Tears, which is both an awesome song in its own right, and a great song for Adam to sing if he wants to prove he’s more than just a camp spectaculah spectaculah. To drive the point home, Adam has wiped off his make-up, donned a grey suit, and pomaded his hair into submission. The song is similarly stripped down, and he looks and sounds great. Motown is big on falsetto, and his voice is suprisingly well suited to the style. It’s brave, it’s bold and it’s ever so good. That should silence a few critics.

Downey Gokey is doing Get Ready, because it’s a “fun song” to “get you moving”. We’ve all seen Downey moving, and it’s not nice. He dances like he’s squeezing a brick between his arsecheeks. Like Michael Sarver, he trots out exactly the same performance every week, though people seem to like his version more. I am thoroughly tired of him, but we’ll be stuck with his church hall-brand of  ’rock ‘n roll’ for a few weeks yet.

Allison Iraheta ends with Papa Was A Rolling Stone, which is a good choice for the underappreciated rocker. It’s a little low to start, but once she gets going it’s stadium stuff. Small stadium. Local sports team. I think one of Allison’s problems is that she doesn’t come across as 16 when she’s singing, so she doesn’t get the cute vote. She’s already good enough that there’s no journey to cheer her on for.

Looking at the recaps, it’s pretty obvious that it ought to be Matt Giraud (howling dogs), Megan Joy (screeching cats) and Michael Sarver (raging bull) in the bottom three, but if Scott McIntrye stumbles his way down in there, I won’t be upset about it.

Idol: Jesus Write My Blog

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Before we get down to this week’s show, let’s talk about the Judges’ Save. Last week I posited that the change in the Idol rules would mean the introduction of the X-Factor method, wherein the judges choose which of the bottom two goes home. It’s an excellent method, as it allows for a little more nuance and intelligence than the brutal ‘boot the loser’ system. But it would not fly in America, where you can take people’s votes from them in a general election and they will demur, but if you even hint that the power of their vote could be diluted on a reality TV show, they will start painting signs and polishing their marching boots.

The Judges’s Save is not the X-Factor method; it’s the French Idol method. The judges have the option to save one contestant from elimination before the final five, if they are unanimous. One contestant. Once. This is in case of another Jennifer Hudson or Michael Johns; a contestant who either had one bad week but was otherwise awesome, or who seemed so guaranteed to go through that no-one bothered to vote for them, and deserves a safety net.

Is it a good move? No. It makes for a clumsy and uncomfortable end to every results show as the judges tell us they’re not saving this week’s loser. It drains the pathos from the leaving contestant’s song, and adds not a lot. But is it a terrible scandal? Is it an outrage? No! And yet Michael Slezak at EW.com said it would “nullify the public’s vote”, and James Poniewozik at Time.com called it “un-American”. Un-American! Time.com!

To be clear; people vote for the person they want to win, not the person they want to lose. There is nothing undemocratic about the Judges’ Save. By all means complain that it’s a bad idea, because it is, but it’s not robbing you of your basic rights as an American, you whining idiots!

Anyway, last week we lost Jorge Nunez and Jasmine Murray. Neither was a big surprise. This week…

This week is Grand Ol’ Opry week, which is a fancy way of saying ‘Country week’, with guest mentor Randy Travis, whom I have never heard of. As someone who loves Dolly and Glen and the Flying Burrito Brothers, I fear the sort of country they’ll be performing is not going to be the sort of country I like listening to. I predict a lot of Garth Brooks, a lot of Martina McBride, and probably some Carrie Underwood.

sarver-golem

Michael Sarver is first up, doing some kind of crazy scattershot number that sounds like the Saved By The Bell theme. “When I wake up in the morning / The alarm gives out a warning / I don’t think I’ll ever make it on time”. Fond as I am of Sarver, even I can’t take any joy out of thisweirdness. Paula’s comments, verbatim: “I, you know what, it’s a great Garth Brooks song, and I gotta tell you that, it, to me, allowed, to see you having fun, which made us have fun, and your artistic ability to take a harmonica player, it added charm, it boosted your confidence, and you’re fun. I thought that this is the genre that is, that suits you so well, and (drowned out by screaming crowd).” It’s going to be a good night for Paula tonight. Michael gives Simon some well-chosen sass, which may save him this week.

Allison Iraheta does a song about cheating hearts, but not the Hank Williams song. From rock to country is a shorter walk than many rock fans would like to admit (the difference is a fiddle), so Allison belts it out with practiced ease, and ought to sail through, but girl rockers have almost as much trouble on this show as ‘theatricals’. Ooh, maybe it’s a lesbian thing?

Kris Allen has a sideways Muppet mouth, like Peter Petrelli. This week he is singing, ‘I Am Very Handsome And I Love You; You Do Not Want To Send Me Home’. Unfortunately all the girlies at home will be too moist to want to get up and go to the phone. Oh, kids today all have mobile phones! He’ll be fine, in spite of his ill-fitting trousers, which seem to have given him man-cameltoe. Kris will sing this song every week, and will do very well. I for one am looking forward to his calendar.

Lil Rounds is singing Martina McBride’s Independence Day, which is a song I’ve actually heard of, but I’ve only heard of it because Carrie Underwood sang it on this show. Lil promises to respect the country and not do it R&B style. Lil has not listened to Tom Cruise’s advice in Magnolia: respect the rock; tame the country. Lil Rounds sings like we know she sings. Loudly, competently, and with very little nuance or emotion. Note to Simon and Randy: Lil is short for ‘Lillian’, not ‘Little’.

Adam Lambert is coming out, and we’d better get this party started! Tonight’s outfit; gold jacket, Native American necklace, fingerless gloves. Randy Travis does not understand homosexuals. He does not have the words to express his views on men wearing nail polish. Poor bemused Randy Travis. Adam does an Arabian sitar cover of Ring of Fire while writhing on the stage like a cobra. He does not respect the country. He respects the Bond song. I too respect the Bond song. We will call this Adam Lambert’s low-key, understated week. As Randy Travis has apparently made it charmingly old-fashioned to be skittish around ‘unconventional’ men, Simon takes this as his cue to be an asshole about Adam’s self-indulgence (which is a euphemism for ‘theatrical’).

Scott is blind. We judge him by no other standard than whether or not he’s blind in any given week. This week, he’s still blind.

I’m waiting for Simon to use one of his little predator lines on Alexis Grace. “You’re a minx”, or, “you’re a little devil”, or, “you’re a dirty goddamn whore”. Oh, he’s such a rogue! Alexis’ Jolene is shaky, and not up to her previous standards. It’s just a’ight, for me, for you. I slightly resent that she did Jolene at all, to be honest. You can’t cram Jolene into ninety seconds! It’s disrespectful!

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Hurray, Downey Gokey is singing reckless country anthem Jesus Take The Wheel, from the hit album, Jesus Handle My Responsibilities. Other tracks include Jesus Feed My Cat, and Jesus Stop My Sperm From Impregnating This Girl. Downey is not very good tonight, which is a relief, because let’s face it, we’re all sick of Downey now. Loving his spies-on-safari Joe 90 action figure jacket, though! Is Scott picking the costumes this week?

Novelty singer Anoop Desai wants to sex you up, just as soon as he’s finished his calculus homework. His song is Always On My Mind, which is a great song, yet also incredibly easy to sing, as it only has about three notes going up and down a scale. Singing is slightly out of Anoop’s skill set, but he gives it his best I Am Not Very Handsome And I Want To Rub Up Against You; Please Do Not Send Me Home. The judges cream all over him for no reason I can discern. Please send him home.

Megan Joy Cockring does Walking After Midnight. Randy Travis is impressed that she found something new to do with the song. Specifically, she’s singing it like your ancient maiden aunt after too many sherries, trying to relive her music hall days. It is a truly bizarre and frequently tuneless performance, but after last week’s Rockin’ Robin, I’m not sure how bad this girl needs to be before America will send her home. PS, Megan has flu, and she makes sure she coughs enough to let us all know. She coughs so much, I think I now have Megan’s flu.

Matt Giraud finishes the show. When Matt isn’t singing, he’s sneering in a way that suggests he’s wondering why he hasn’t been declared the winner already. His mouth goes up where Kris Allen’s mouth goes down! Melt them down and stir them in a big pot, and this show would be two weeks shorter! Matt sings some song involving a piano, like last week. It is boring, like last week. I hate this piano bar. Let’s go somewhere else next week.

Allison, Adam and Kris were varying degrees of palatable this week. In a sane world, either Scott or Megan should go home, and neither would get the Judges’ Save, but this is not a sane world, and this was not a good night, so I don’t know what’ll happen. I’d only expect the Save to get used on Allison, Alexis or Adam. (Lil and Downey aren’t likely to end up at the bottom before the final five.)

Idol: The Seconds Feel Like Hours

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I admit it, last week I let my fear get to me and I underestimated the American public. I thought Tatiana was better than a lot of the pack and that she’d had enough exposure that she might actually have won some fans. I was wrong. She did not make the cut, and with any luck she won’t be back in the wildcard round. She shouldn’t be. She’s not right in the head, and the show needs to stop exploiting that.

Setting Tatiana aside, my next three choices to win after last week were Downey, Alexis and Michael, and those were indeed the winners. A lot of people are shocked that Anoop didn’t get through - Slumdog fevah, yo - but I think he’ll be back in the wildcards, sadly. With Tatiana sent home, there was some expectation of a flame out from her. She let us down. All she managed was a melting crying fit, as if she had forgotten that she was one of nine people being sent home and believed that she had been singled out for cruel and unusual punishment. Everyone else who lost was congratulating the winners, bu she was completely obseesed with her own sorry self.

But that was last week. Let’s put the horrors of last week behind us. What about the horrors of this week?

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Cat-faced Jasmine Murray is first, and she’s one of the girls I’ve picked to go far, but she starts her number too low, and it’s not because she’s planning to do some soaring later on. The song is some bland half-cocked mess called Love Song, and it’s terrible. After last week’s atrocious song choices, everyone ought to be reaching for the solid gold genius songbook this week, but maybe these kids are too young to know what good music sounds like? If all they listen to is Rihanna and Taylor Swift. (Are we allowed to pick on Rihanna again yet? If not, pretend I said… oh, hell, let’s stick with Rihanna.)

Ryan seems a bit more relaxed this week. I worry about him. It’s hard to go through life wearing a mask, carrying the burden of a secret that prevents you from relaxing and being yourself around people.

Matt Giraud is doing Viva La Vida by Coldplay. Er… OK. At least he’s exploiting his options, but it’s not a particularly good singer’s song. If it were, Chris Martin wouldn’t be singing it. Matt sings it like he thinks he’s Michael Bublé, and it’s nasty. Matt was another of the big hopes for this week’s group, so it looks like we’re destined for another awful show. The judges make the point that he’s not doing what he’s good at, which is blues, and that’s true. At this stage in the competition you do not show off your range; you do the one trick you know you’re really good at.

Jeanine Vailes sings This Love by Maroon 5. Whatever you might think of Maroon 5, that is one of the catchier pop songs of the last few years, and I always think girls singing boys’ songs (and vice versa) is a good idea - it sounds original and helps the singer to dodge comparisons. But it turns out it’s not the right song for her. She screeches like a cat in a kettle, and even her friends in the audience look like they know it’s a disaster. Paula can’t think of anything nice to say. Everyone tells her how nice her legs are, the camera dutifully gives us an upward pan. Classy.

I don’t know what to make of this tonight. We’re a quarter of the way through, and each singer has been worse than the last. There needs to be a steward’s inquiry into whoever is coaching these kids.

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Next up is Nick Mitchell, aka Norman Gentle, and it’s looking good for him tonight. He really ought not to stand a chance, but even if he’s atrocious, he’ll still be more memorable than all the other bad singers. Thankfully he’s singing in character, and he’s doing And I Am Telling You, with more camp than a jamboree. Even when the jokes are bad, it’s still shamelessly entertaining, and while Simon says he hated it, even he clearly enj0yed it. 

Allison Iraheta has the rock voice, the rock hair, and judging from the interview she gives Seacrest, the insolent disinterested rock attitude - which doesn’t get you any votes on this show. But she sings Alone by Heart, and it’s well in her comfort zone, and it’s an anthem, so she’s able to give it some welly. She’s basically the only singer who has bothered to turn up today.

Kris Allen is this week’s pretty boy. I’ve never seen him before, so the kid must have had zero exposure in the auditions. He sings Man in the Mirror, and it starts very shaky and uncomfortable, but he warms into it a little. There’s nothing very pleasing about his soulless pop voice, so he’d better hope his pretty eyes and winnng smile can get him through. Interestingly, Simon is pulling for him, and given how bad everyone else’s notices have been tonight, that gives this kid an outside chance - it worked for Michael Sarver last week. Ryan Seacrest is totally hitting on this guy.

Megan Joy Corkrey is an all-American girl who is cunningly using make-up to de-emphasise her Jennifer Garner man-chin. She sings Put Your Record On, which I happen to like even if it’s not the least bit cool to do so. It’s a very summery song. She’s unsteady but not horrible. Not by tonight’s standards. Oh God, I think I might put my back out the way I’m lowering this bar.

Matt Breitzke is the fat bald blue collar fella that the judges used to get oddly excited about. He’s a pleasant enough singer, but a very unremarkable one, especially here, and I’m too bored by his performnce to even note what his song was. 

Jesse Langseth is singing Bette Davis’ Eyes, and she’s got the right voice for it - a sort of Chrissie Hynde/KT Tunstall pop rock mewl. Jesse gets a passing grade - she’s achieved the bare minimum to deserve to be here. I don’t think she’ll go any further, but at least she didn’t disgrace herself. That said, she makes herself thoroughly unlikeable in the judging section by trying to be too cool for school, and Simon thankfully kicks her feet out from under her by telling her she’s forgettable. Good. I hate precocious wannabes. (Why do I watch this show again?)

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Kai Kalama looks like he should be busking on a boardwalk. He gives us What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted, which is a bona fide classic, but perhaps not one the kids can groove to, and not really in keeping with his surfer dude appeal. Also, Jimmy Ruffin may not be a household name, but he gave a pretty indelible rendition of this song, and Kai Kalama is no Jimmy Ruffin.

Mishavonna Henson (who was named by her godfather Jar-Jar) sings Drops of Jupiter. That’s unexpected. It’s such a song of its time that I half expected it to cease exist once we got midway through the 00s, along with Nickelback. (That did happen to Nickelback. Don’t try to tell me otherwise.) She drives the last note into a wall, but apart from that it’s… pleasant. I’m sorry, I can’t seem to get this bar any lower.

Last up is my favourite theatrical, Broadway boy Adam Lambert, of the emo-glam dress sense and the overcooked voice. I am keeping my fingers crossed for some showmanship from Adam - he is the last, best chance to redeem this horrible evening. These performances aren’t even bad in a nice meaty way that I can easily mock. 

Adam’s song of choice is Satisfaction, which bodes well. He sings it like a drag Elvis. But, hey, straight girls these days love their emo gay boys; they’re sexy in a safe, let’s-do-each-other’s-mascara way, and they can make girls wet with just one smoulder through the fringe. Adam puts on a good show, and is easily the best and most confident guy of the night. Simon calls it love-it-or-hate-it, which is code for, “you’re a homosexual, and this is America”. Randy compares him to Robert Pattinson, and Adam ingeniously takes the opportunity to say how much he likes the Twilight books, which is catnip to girls. It’s like telling middle America you love God. He’s going through based on that alone.

Besides Adam, I expect the other finalists going through this week to be Allison and Norman Gentle. Yes, after my wrongfooted pick of Tatiana last week, I’m doing it again with Norman.  If not Norman, then maybe Jesse. I’d expect to see Matt Giraud back in wildcard week.

Next week is Lil Rounds week. Some other people will also be singing. One of them is blind. Two of them are dreadful vain screeching mentally unstable theatricals. Surely that show can’t be boring?

Idol: The News Is Not Fabulous

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

I didn’t get around to posting my Idol thoughts after last week’s episodes because last week’s episodes were far, far too boring. There was an hour of people sitting in rooms weeping, and two hours of the judges sitting in big red thrones in a hideous Hollywood approximation of Versailles, and that was basically it. They barely even sent anyone home! They did get rid of the elevators, though, thank God. (Elevators are like lifts, except they never go anywhere nice.) 

The only notable moments were Simon throwing a hissy fit when a pretty but talentless blonde got the boot; Kara telling the blind guy, “we want to see you again” (high five!); and doolally devilchild Tatiana screaming, “I’m going to prove it to every guy who told me that I had to sleep with him to get my album out; this is for all of you”. I think not, dear. Also, Paula tried to do Simon’s “the news is not good… it’s great” swerve, but came out with “the news is not great”, realised her mistake, and had nowhere left to go but, “it’s fabulous”.

Today we get to the first of the live shows, and there’s been a change in format. For the last few years the show has had 24 finalists, whittled down across 14 weeks. This year the contestants are voted in to the final 12 from a pool of 36, divided into three groups. Three go through each week, and the final three are picked by the judges in the ‘wild card’ week. 

What does all this mean? Well, it means singers have very little chance to impress. At least a third of the finalists will only get to sing once before being sent home. There is no cushion for the merely so-so, because avoiding the bottom two is not enough. Only the top boy, the top girl, and whoever comes second or third will survive. Exposure in the audition shows will be a big advantage.

Hopefully that doesn’t apply so much to the contestants who got exposure because they were hideous wrecks. I refer, of course, to hellish Tatiana Del Toro and whiny drama queen Nate Marshall, whose only redeeming quality is the face of horror he pulled when he saw that Tatiana had been put through. The new format should prove an interesting test for Vote for the Worst, which has already given its endorsement to Tatiana for tonight’s show. The only reason anyone would ever vote for Tatiana is because of Vote for the Worst - even her own mother surely does not love her, which would explain a great deal about Tatiana - yet if ever there were a ‘worst’ to vote for, she’s it. 

The new format makes predictions tough - we don’t even know how the second and third groups of 12 will be broken down - but I’m going to take a stab at it anyway. Based on nothing more than my personal hunches (with consideration given to talent, memorability and screentime), here’s who I think will make the final 12, and the order in which they’ll be voted out:

Matt Giraud (first out)
Jackie Tohn
Norman Gentle
Mishavonna Henson
Michael Sarver
Taylor Vaifanua
Jasmine Murray
Scott McIntyre
Stevie Wright
Adam Lambert
Danny Gokey
Lil Rounds (winner)

If I’m even close to right, I’ll look like a genius. If I’m completely wrong, we’ll never speak of this again.

Footnotes:

Jackie Tohn is the ‘funny girl’ contestant, and while she’s an acceptable singer, she’s also extraordinarily annoying, and the sort of girl who hangs out with her brother’s friends and does not get on with other girls. Many voters are going to hate her.

Norman Gentle (aka Nick Mitchell, not to be confused with Nate Marshall), is the ‘funny guy’, who sings in comedy character mode. He’s a good singer, but not anywhere close to good enough, and he’s funnier than he ought to be, but also not funny enough. I’m putting him in to the top 12 as an outside bet, based on exposure alone - but I freely admit that it’s a slim chance. That he has got as far as the live shows at all is a surprise.

I’m hoping that Brent Keith will make the final 12, because he’s the best-looking guy left, but I don’t think it will happen, so that leaves oil rig lump Michael Sarver as the closest thing to man-candy with a plausible shot, and he’s really more ‘teddy bear adorable’ than ‘rock star hot’.

Scott McIntrye is the blind guy, and apparently that in itself is a sob story. He’s got a shaky voice, but I can see him doing well because, hey, he sure is a trooper!

Despite saying that theatrical contestants never do well, I’m putting Adam Lambert in my top three. Yes, even after he sang Cher in a shrill showtunes style last week. If he fixes his breathing and stops channelling Ethel Merman, he’ll be one of the better performers in the competition with a good chance of building momentum, and his theatricality will seem muted compared to the likes of Nate Marshall and Norman Gentle. He’ll be a wildcard pick, and go on to finish strong.

I’m already bored of smoky-voiced Downey Gokey - by the latest shows I actually thought his star was fading and his friend Jamar’s star was rising, but Jamar went home and Downey is still here. Like Eliot Yamin or Taylor Hicks, I predict he will develop an inexplicably strong fanbase that will carry him through to the final. Also, everyone loves Robert Downey Jr these days.

For a more scientific method; Based on the number of comments contestants are receiving under their photos on the American Idol website, the final 12 will actually be Adam, Alex, Anoop, Ariana, Danny, Jasmine, Kristen, Matt, Michael, Nate, Norman and Tatiana, but obviously there’s a lot of internet hating going on with some of those, and Adam only has so many comments because his photo is first. Worryingly, a lot of people actually seem to like Tatiana.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the person I think will win almost never does. Melinda Dolittle? Katherine McPhee? David Archuleta? No, no, no. That bodes ill for Lil Rounds. Usually the person I think will come fifth or sixth seems to win it, so put your bets on Jasmine Murray, kids!

Idol: Hooray for Hollywood Week

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

“I’m one of those kids that’s been through a lot, and it means something to me becase music has always been the anchor that keeps me from freaking out when something bad happens or when I didn’t have people around me to support me like other people. And I just want this more than anything. It’s on my skin, and it just bursts out of me whenever I’m on stage, and I don’t know why.”

nathaniel-marshall

Welcome to the world of Nate Marshall. Nate wears a headband, and sometimes a tie, and flip-flops, and sometimes a pair of cheap plastic seaside sunglasses that probably cost eighty bucks at Urban Outfitters, and he has acne piercings and haystack hair with a swoosh. Nate is an American Idol contestant, and Nate is what we like to call ‘theatrical’.

‘Theatrical’ is a word that Simon Cowell likes to use dismissively about many of the male contestants. On a show about standing on a stage and singing for public acclaim, we are told that it is bad to be theatrical. And the public sits up and listens. In last year’s final 12 boys there were four ‘theatricals’. Colton Berry got sent home in the first week; Jason Yeager in the second; Danny Noriega in the third; and David ‘gay go-go dancer’ Hernandez in the fourth. There is no room for theatrics on the stage of the Kodak Theatre! In Hollywood!

Still, in Nate Marshall’s case it’s probably fair to be concerned. He is theatrical, but it’s one of those free theatres you get in the food courts at amusement parks, where cheesy teens recite their parts by rote for the thirteenth time that day while you try to ignore them and plan out the best route to get to all the remaining rollercoasters after lunch. Unfortunately, Nick survived the first week of Hollywood week. (Hollywood week airs across two weeks; it’s confusing, but no more so than the fact that ‘group night’ always happens by day.)

The first hour of bootcamp this week was all about the singing line (one: stand in a line; two: sing), which gave everyone a chance to bellow like horny walruses. Even Lil Rounds, who is surely destined for the competition’s top three, managed to deliver ‘I Will Always Love You’ as more of a threat than a promise, but the judges just love her (”I just love you,” Paula said, probably), so they all pretended that this did not happen.

Also bellowing for all he was worth was Von Smith, who had to sing after two talented black guys with big voices and unwisely tried to match them. Von Smith is another theatrical. Von Smith is Shirley Bassey trapped in the body of boy scout and screaming to get out. Von Smith is a ‘YouTube star’, apparently, which is worrying new territory for this show. In spite of a performance that Simon calls “indulgent nonsense”, Von Smith gets through, so apparently singing terribly is no bar to success in this competition.

Other theatricals take to the stage. Adam Lambert, of the dreadful assymetrical hair, stupid boots and wonderful theatrical voice, sails on through. Norman Gentle has a bumpier ride. Norman is the comedy character who somehow survived longer than any comedian has ever managed before in the face of Simon’s withering scorn, possibly because he’s both a decent singer and genuinely quite funny. He sings that one bellicose Dreamgirls song, which I think is called, “And I Am Yelling At You, I’m Not Singing”. To everyone’s surprise, Norman survives, to be sent home another day.

katrina-darrell

Also surviving the first day in Hollywood against all odds is Hey Everyone Come Look At The Tiny Triangle Of Cloth Covering My Pubic Mound Girl, who has been more widely dubbed ‘Bikini Girl’ (above; bikini not pictured). Simon does not find Norman Gentle funny, but he finds his own schtick where he keeps putting the slutty skanky girl through even though she can’t sing absolutely hi-la-rious. Keep the laffs coming, Simon, you wit.

Some people who are neither theatrical nor quirky also get through, but who cares about those people? Actually, I do care a little about oil rig worker (and adorable giant teddy bear) Jeremy Michael Sarver, who was ‘Jeremy’ when he first appeared on the show but is slowly transitioning to ‘Michael’ and is currently in that awkward ‘two first names’ stage. (This is not the first time a contestant has done this, but I might be the only person who has noticed this strange phenomenon, which I think is called ‘we can’t market someone called Jeremy; what’s your middle name?’). Jeremy Michael has a lovely voice and absolutely no idea what to do with it, but I’m hoping they can fix that.

And so we head into the second hour of Hollywood Week; ‘group night’. Group night is when all the contestants form into groups (ah, you see?) and try to put together a group performance of a song, thus testing their ability to create a showpiece and work well with others - skills that have absolutely nothing to do with this competition! They might as well have juggling night, or a Ready Steady Cook round.

No, the reason there’s a group night is not because it’s useful to the competition; it’s because it creates a tentpole of interpersonal drama in the middle of Hollywood week, between the first solo round and the second solo round. Group night has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with finding out who’s a bitch.

tatiana-nicole-del-toro

Tatiana (above) is a bitch. Tatiana is a world class bitch. And she has no idea she’s a bitch; she thinks she’s the nicest person in the world, trampling through life with her satanic empty giggle and her disregard for the feelings - and possibly the existence - of others.

When Tatiana says, “This is everything to me. You don’t understand. This is not a game to me. This means everything to me. I’ve been to hell and back to be here”, she either honestly believes that she’s the only person who feels this way; or else she just thinks that if she says it loudly enough it can only possibly be true for her. Tatiana is certifiably bugfuck. When one girl says how tired they all are in the group, Tatiana replies, “Don’t say that about me. Ever. Ever. Never. Ever. Ever.” All with a broad, nutty, I-will-kill-you grin on her face.

Despite the fact that Tatiana is both an awful person and an awful singer, she survives the week, as does the rest of her group, who come out the other side of the process looking like they have known war and seen death and understand the true horror of man’s inhumanity to man.

Yet such is the effect of Tatiana that the tremors of her tantrums manage to reach out and destroy the chances of Nancy Wilson, who is in a completely different group! (Of course, Nancy Wilson already had a career with Heart and is now in her 50s, so she shouldn’t even be… oh, different Nancy Wilson. The jazz singer Nancy Wilson? No, it’s not her either. Reverend Nancy Wilson of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches? I need to spend less time on Wikipedia.) 

Nancy Wilson will return to the spotlight one day, as I think she’ll hunt down and kill the dumb blond girl she was singing with. Meanwhile, the machinations of Tatiana will surely claim more victims before the week is through. On getting through the day, she proudly proclaims, “You all make this a part of me. You’re all a part of me.” Psycho.

Bikini Girl also tries her best to destroy the hopes and dreams of the people around her, in her case by going to bed while the rest of the group is still rehearsing - she needs her trampy sleep, poor thing - and then by claiming she’s too ill to get up for more rehearsals the next day. But she’s magically well enough to slip on a slutty little nothing and shimmy on down when it’s showtime!

Thankfully the scheme doesn’t work, and Bikini Girl gets sent home, despite claiming that she only went to bed because she has scoliosis. (”You wanted to go to bed early because you were in high heels all day”, says Simon brilliantly.) Unfortunately her rejection does not seem to matter in the least to Bikini Girl. She did not come here to sing; she came here for exposure. She’ll probably never sing again. You can see from the steely glint in her eyes as she sashays off the stage that she’s already moving on to phase two.

danny-gokey

One of the strangest things about group night is that apparently every group needs a name for their once-in-a-lifetime performance, so Nancy Wilson and Nate Marshall are part of ‘Team Compromise’ (nothing says ‘reach for your dream’ like the word ‘compromise’; was ‘Team Give Up And Go Home’ already taken?), Bikini Girl is part of Team Diva, and Danny Gokey (above), the Robert Downey Jr lookalike I choose to think of as Downey Gokey, is in Rainbow Coalition. What? Are they named after the former ruling coalition of Kenya? The Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition in Israel?  The ruling coalitions of Finland from 1995 to 2003? (Back on Wikipedia again; sorry.)

Incidentally, Downey Gokey has a great voice (and a dead wife; don’t forget the dead wife), but it’s such a soulful and - may I say - black voice that I keep expecting him to come out with, “I know what dude I am. I’m the dude playin’ the dude, disguised as another dude”.

On which note, the worst name of all the groups may be White Chocolate, but they were the first group to perform, and their inspired arrangement of ‘I Want You Back’, complete with beatboxing and rap, was so completely brilliant that it probably made everyone else in the theatre vomit their hearts out into the aisles. 

Among those who lost their cool were a couple of surprises. Rose the Hippie hated Bikini Girl so much that it made her forget her lines. David Osmond of the Utah Clan Osmond is sent home despite the fact that he’s a motherfucking Osmond, and even the chipper little ‘yay spirit team’ kid, who is president of every club in his school, did not get through. Not that he seems at all bothered. Gee willickers, tomorrow is another day! 

And thus ends the second hour of Hollywood Week. The week continues next week, with the second solo rounds, and a full hour of people standing in a lift. TV does not get more compelling than this.