Posts Tagged ‘American Idol’

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: 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.

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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!

downey-frank

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: Unlucky For Some, Possibly Us

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

The ‘final thirteen’ perform tonight, and the theme is Michael Jackson. Simon Cowell gets things off to a heartening start by announcing that two people will go home tomorrow, setting the show quickly back on track to the right number of contestants. This surprises me; I thought they’d delay the double dismissal for a while so they’d have a safety net against the discovery that any of the contestants were hookers or drug addicts or conservative talk show hosts.

Lil Rounds opens the night with The Way You Make Me Feel. She’s predictably strong, confident and bluesy, so it probably won’t matter that she’s in the graveyard opening slot. It’s the strongest opening the show has had this year. Lil’s outfit today has a Pretty in Pink Gladiatrix shoulder ruffle. She left her bedazzled net and trident backstage.

Ryan tells us there is a special number for the ‘extra’ thirteenth contestant. This is not because Ryan is superstitious, but because when Idol decided to have 13 contestants, they forgot to check if the ‘13′ version of their phone number was available. It isn’t. It’s a phone sex line number.

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Blind Scott is next, and I should stop being so cruel and drawing attention to his impairment. I should call him Talentless Scott instead. Scott’s song is Keep The Faith. It’s not Bon Jovi night, Scott! Anyway, Scott is terrible and shrill, but they’ve given him a piano to play with, and people get unreasonably excited about blind pianists, so he should be fine. I’ve never heard this Jacko Keep The Faith song before. Thirteen contestants, and they can’t find thirteen good Michael Jackson songs? Simon Cowell’s brilliant criticism of Scott: “It’s fine being artistic; just not on this show”. Quite right, Simon! No art here, please!

Downey Gokey tells us he comes from a precocious and irritating musical family where they all sung their homework. Ugh. No mention is made of the dead wife, which has started to irritate even usually biddably sentimental Americans. The thing is, as unctuous and annoying as Downey is, his rendition of PYT proves he’s a pretty good singer and not a bad performer (apart from his saddlesore John Wayne dance moves).

Chunky blue-collar man Michael Sarver is a very unlikely pop star; he keeps doing soul, but country is surely the only genre that would have him. He’s singing You Are Not Alone, which is so un-country it could have its own parking garage. Michael wisely dodges the high notes with a tactical rearrangement. His phrasing is chewy; his tone is appealing; his dress sense is a bit Rush Limbaugh. I like him.

Jasmine Murray. The Idol blogger at Entertainment Weekly really hates Jasmine, even though she’s sweet-voiced and seemingly completely inoffensive. I don’t get it. Jasmine sings I’ll Be There, and though she has a young voice (and goes flat in a couple of places) she has obvious talent. She also looks great in her shiny 60s mini-dress. She’s a mini Supreme! Shut your dirty bitch mouth, Entertainment Weekly blogger!

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Kris Allen got no exposure in the early shows, but he’s rilly rilly good-looking, so he got voted through in spite of this disadvantage and a lacklustre live performance. His video package introduces us to his wife, so this may be the last we see of Kris. Dressed in a lumberjack shirt, and mechanically strumming a guitar, he sings Remember The Time like it’s a Hootie & The Blowfish song (which it might as well be; it’s a terrible song). Kris is still an inferior singer, but he seems to be enjoying himself, and he is rilly rilly good-looking. Simon agrees that he shouldn’t have introduced America to his wife. His wife does not look happy about this comment.

Allison Iraheta is the smoky-voiced, carnelian-haired Dora the Rocker girl. I have no idea what MJ song she’s doing, but she must have dug deep into the back catalogue to find a song she could rock to. She’s very good, but lord knows how far she can go in this contest. Some rockers do well, but they all tend to be guy rockers.

Anoop Desai. I can’t help feeling his scream-inducing, message board-bothering audience popularity - out of all proportion to his talent - is based in a patronising post-Slumdog attempt to appropriate those adorable big-eyed, thick-haired, coffee-skinned Indian fellas as new mascots of American diversity. They might as well have voted for a Webkinz. No obscure highly personal ‘this is me’ number for Anoop; he’s all about the gimmicky karaoke stunt performances, so he grinds and whines his way through Beat It. Horrible. The judges hate it too, but Anoop’s die-hards have lost him once in the early rounds, and will be voting in droves to make sure they don’t lose him again. Based on Anoop’s performance, Simon says he wouldn’t have made this a top 13. Ouch.

Puerto Rico’s Jorge Nunez reminds me of Justin from Ugly Betty. Bless ‘im. The population of Puerto Rico is small, but I suspect they’re passionate about seeing themselves up there on TV, so Jorge definitely has a voting bloc behind him. His Never Can Say Goodbye gets off to a horrible start, recovers slightly, wavers, recovers, gets shrill, does not recover - it’s basically a wreck, and he’ll be needing those island votes. On the other hand, his ‘nuh! nuh! no!’s are adorable.

Perky, booby, strawberry-and-creamy Megan Joy is next, with her floppy dancing and all-devouring smile. In what may be the most bizarre song choice ever in the history of Idol, Megan sings Rockin’ Robin. Or I’ve sustained a head injury and am imagining this ridiculous children’s TV performance. She ends the number by screeching ‘caw caw’, which isn’t even a noise robins make! Lunatic! I suspect Tatiana Del Toro is using voodoo to work through her and destroy her, because Megan Joy took her spot. “You picked the right song”, said Paula. Oh dear, the loonies are sticking together. Then Simon consults Gordon Ramsay, and now I’m sure it was a head injury.

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Supah-gay Adam Lambert is here to save the day, hooray! I’m terrified that Adam will be sent home too soon because of the photos of him snogging boys on the internet. He’s such good fun! He’s so confident! The song is Black Or White, but you might not recognise it from the ridiculously huge drunken Axl Rose/Bonnie Tyler/Rocky Horror mash-up vocal he hurls at the audience. He gets a standing ovation from the entire cosmos, and he earned it. Brilliant showmanship. He should win this and RuPaul’s Drag Race!

Matt Giraud has not been punished enough for his rendition of Viva La Vida, and he needs to go home, the big stupid pianist. His video package tells us his parents love him. Good to know. The song is Human Nature, which he makes sound like Al Jarreau doing the Moonlighting theme. “Summm wak ba-hy naaaa-ha-a-ight, summm flah bah dayyyyyy…”

Finally, virgin/whore Alexis Grace - once wholesome and peppy, but since she arrived in Hollywood she’s put a coloured stripe in her hair! Jezebel! This is why she’s been given the phone sex line as her voting number. She sings Dirty Diana, which is wonderfully apt, because with her short blonde hair and slutty little black number she could actually pass for a dirty Diana. “There were three of us in this menage“. Alexis is pretty good, and in a contest with so few girls, she could do well.

Two people go home tomorrow. I predict it will be Megan and boring, boring Matt Giraud. We’re also promised a ‘twist’, which I suspect means they’re introducing the X-Factor element where the judges save someone from the bottom three, rather than just sending home the least popular contestant. How exciting! Clap clap clap!

Idol: Can’t Polish A Third

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Can week three possibly be as bad as weeks one and two? It’s the least interesting of the three dozens. Thank God they’re wittling down so ferociously, because there’s a lot of crap and not much cream. 

But before we get to this week’s looosers, who were last week’s winners? Allison got through, to no-one’s surprise - every review I read said that she won the night, including mine. (Yes, I read my own blog. It’s the only good thing on the internet.) Kris Allen got through, to my considerable surprise - even in the repeat performance, when people are usually better because they’re less nervous and on a high - he was still shakey. I said he had an outside chance because Simon vouched for him. Apparently that carries a hell of a lot of heft. It saved Michael Sarver in week one, and now this guy in week two. Look out for his papal blessing this week. (Kris is also undeniably cute. I’m sure that didn’t hurt.)

The third place came down to a choice between two theatricals; Adam (musicals) and Norman (comedy). Thankfully - and none too shockingly - the slot went to Adam. America has finally found a theatrical it can love. Since then, photos have emerged of Adam kissing other boys! And wearing make-up! He’s not just a harmless, neutered, sexless homosexual; he’s a scandalous Weimar cabaret-rape-your-sons-and-turn-your-daughters-into-drug-addled-whores kind of homosexual! Oh, Adam, we barely knew thee. (Lambert is the one on the left.)

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Von Smith is the evil Adam Lambert. He has a similarly screechy voice and theatrical bent, but without Lambert’s charisma or range. His song is All I Need To Get By, which he starts in an ill-advised throaty whisper, but he soon remembers that the notes he can manage are a tad higher, and he heads up there with gusto. Doing Aretha is a bloody stupid idea for anyone, especially a screechy boy, but he’s not completely horrible, so already the bar is set higher than it has been in the last two weeks. I don’t think Von is going through, but he did put the work in. Simon says he reminds him of Clay - ‘your voice and the way you perform’. Simon never runs out of ways to tell gay people they’re gay. Usually he says it and follows it up with, ‘you don’t have a hope’, but this time he says that being like Clay will be good for him, so maybe Adam Lambert has opened America to a brave new world of gay possibilities?

Taylor Vaifanua does Alicia Keyes, which tends to mean having to sing up and down the piano keyboard, oh lord, why would she? At least it’s If I Ain’t Got You and not Falling. Taylor, looking like a middle-aged maid who stole her boss’s curtains to make a dress to wear to her second job as a waitress, does not have Keyes’ ability to effortlessly throw her voice around the room. She’s competent but unmemorable.

Alex Wagner-Trugman is the adorable geek with a sense of humour, so he has a good chance of getting through based on that alone. Ryan offers to spot him at the gym, so evidently Ryan’s over his infatuaion with Kris Allen already. The song, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues, starts ropy, but he does his best to pummel it into submission with a few pained animal yelps. If he does get through, it’ll be entirely due to his likeability, not his singing.

Ariana Afsar is ‘cute’. All the judges agree on this. So she wants to get away from being cute. Silly girl. She gets massive points from me for singing The Winner Takes It All, which is the most awesome song she could have chosen, but her timing is way off. So way off that it might not even be her turn on stage. It’s hard to tell if the singing is good or bad, because my brain is reeling from the dissonance. She clearly can’t hear the official American Idol Bontempi organ at all. The judges seem to think this was the ‘arrangement’. God, I hope not.

Ju’not Joyner (pronounced ’shoe-know’, not ‘jew-not’, sings something about a girl named Delilah, but without the lyric ‘why why why’, so it is a crappy song. Shoe-know gives a confident, smooth, pleasant performance, but he is a big unattractive black man, and he needed to be amazing to win over Peoria. Shoe-know says something about a cortasone shot, and everyone reacts like he just said ‘look guys, it’s my penis’, so either something got edited or there’s something mischievously naughty about cortasone that I don’t understand. Apparently it’s injected into the buttocks. Well, there you are.

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Nathaniel Marshall and Kristen McNamara are grilled on the fact that they hated each other in Hollywood. Nathaniel tries his best to be diplomatic, but he can’t match Kristen for dead-eyed tooth-grinding insincerity. Kristen is the next to sing, and I always forget that Kristen has a better, grittier voice than her Barbie-doll looks would suggest. She also has the steely glint of ruthless ambition lurking beneath her false eyelashes, and she makes me think of Joy from My Name Is Earl. I don’t know the song, but apparently it’s Tracy Chapman. This girl has made Tracy Chapman sound like Jessica Simpson. That’s quite a skill. Not a good one, obviously.

And now it’s time for Nathaniel Marshall, who will be filling the role of gestalt Tatiana Del Toro and Norman Gentle for the evening - Noise! Hysteria! Flamboyance! Unbearableness! I applaud him for singing I Would Do Anything For Love, but I’d applaud him more if he was singing the “will you hose me down with holy water if I get too hot” part. Tonight Nathaniel has come dressed as Olivia Newton Gerbil. He seems to be enjoying himself on stage, but it’s sloppy and grating, and frankly I can’t imagine anyone liking him very much. If Tatiana couldn’t get through, this kid can’t. Nathaniel’s judging session goes on forever and ever and ever, and ends with Ryan trying to get Nathaniel to sit on Simon’s lap, and I think I’m going to vomit. Copiously.

Felicia Barton is the girl who didn’t make the final 36, and then one of the other girls was revealed to be Simon’s neice and Kara’s neighbour and Paula’s nurse and Randy’s actual honest-to-goodness dog, dawg, and Felicia got yanked back in. She’s singing another Alicia Keyes number. Could Alicia Keyes fund her existence on the royalties from reality shows alone, I wonder? This Felicia creature’s Alicia will reach ya! Well, no, it won’t, I just wanted to write that sentence. It’s a decent performance with moments of strain. Although the overall standard has been higher tonight, no-one is really standing out yet.

Blind Scott is next. Will Ryan attempt to high five him again? Scott brought us that moment of joy, and I thank him for that, and now he may leave. Scott is not a good enough singer, but hey, he’s blind, which is a bit like having a dead wife. Now, this will be a terrible thing to say (yes, this next bit, not any of the stuff I’ve said before), but watching him sing, you understand why blind singers often wear sunglasses, because it’s all a bit creepy watching his eyes swim in a void of nothing (not unlike the eyes of Kristen McNamara, now I think about it). The song is Mandolin Rain (my favourite of the Dulux colours), and the performance would get a seeing singer booted, but - hey - this guy’s blind! Triumph over adversity, Blind Scott!

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I’m really looking forward to there being less than 12 performances to sit through in any given week. It feels so bloody endless. Next in the endless drudge is some impossibly perky blonde little bit. Its owners call it Kendall. Honestly, she looks like she should be perched in Paris Hilton’s purse. She could also pass for Kristen Chenoweth’s mini-me, which is quite the miniest a me can be. Kendall sings… I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to guess it’s a Taylor Swift song. Let’s check. Darn it, it’s Martina McBride. So close. Anyway, a cute pocket blonde girl singing country could disappear without trace, or she could win the whole competition. Who the hell knows?

Jorge Nunez is a good-looking Puerto Rican boy with a big smile and a heavy accent. Hurray, West Side Story numbers all around! No? No. It’s Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, so he’s trying to dodge the Latin artist tag, leading me to expect one of the judges to say, “I see you doing more of a Latin music kind of a vibe, dawg, you know, dawg?” He’s a little pitchy (dawg - God, I have to stop that), but he’s got some pipes on him, and his performance is one of the most enjoyable of the night. It’s actually Simon who brings up the ‘Spanish’ artist thing (Simon never did quite get to grips with the concept of ‘Latin-American music’), but he gives Jorge the ‘likeable guy’ nod of the week - hallelujah! - and Jorge gets flustered and gives his reply in Spanish, ensuring that a whole heap of first generation immigrants will vote for him in their thousands.

The final slot of the night is the star slot, given to the anointed one in each group of 12; first Downey Gokey, then Adam Lambert, and now Lil Rounds. The song is Be Without You by Mary J Blige, which is not the best Blige song to do - not very ambitious or memorable - but doing Blige was sensible. Lil drops a shameless bit of pimping into her number and hits the big note, and she has those two things and the name ‘Lil Rounds’ and the love of Simon Cowell all going for her. Other than that, it wasn’t as stellar as I expected. She’s more amazing when you’re watching than when you’re just listening.

Even so, Lil is going through, and Jorge will probably join her. The third spot could honestly go to almost anyone, because although the standard has been higher, there haven’t been any serious stand-outs. Any one of Kendall, Felicia or Kristen could make the cut if the third slot goes to a girl. If it’s a boy, it’s either Blind Scott or Geeky Alex, neither of them for their voices. It’s the age of the geek, so I suspect Alex will claim that third spot.

Next week; the wildcards. There are four boys and only two girls in the final nine so far, which is not a surprise - girls vote, and girls mostly vote for boys. Even if two girls get through from this week, the boys will still be the majority, so expect to see some attempt to redress the balance with the wildcard picks. No non-white people have got through yet either. Lil and Jorge may change that, but it’s looking good for Jasmine Murray, and bad for Matt Giraud and Ricky Braddy. The only boy I expect to see go through from the wildcards is Anoop Desai.

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 First Cut is the Weakest

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

It’s the first ‘live’ show of the season, and Ryan Seacrest is wearing… a dun-brown sweater and slate-coloured jeans. That’s not TV clothing. That’s not even date night clothing. That’s cleaning-out-the-loft clothing. Are the gay rumours getting to him, so he’s decided to slob down? Ryan doesn’t seem into it tonight. He can’t get into the patter, he doesn’t flinch in the face of Paula’s ramblings, and he doesn’t respond to Simon’s taunting. Don’t you care any more, Seacrest? You are paid to care, you know.

The theme is ‘Hits from the Billboard Hot 100 since the charts began’, which is not a theme, it’s just ‘all commercial music ever’.

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Jackie Tohn opens with a lounge version of Little Less Conversation, and it starts listless and quickly crumbles into crazy. The timing is off, the style is all over the place, and there’s no spark at all. For a contestant who was big on personality, she’s really not showing herself off well. Ryan then conducts the world’s emptiest interview with Jackie’s parents, and it’s clear we’re in for a long, long night. 

Ricky Braddy is next. He’s sort of cute in a Will Young way, and he has that Will Young vibe, if you follow my meaning. He even has Will Young’s stage mannerisms and similar vocal tics. He gave up serving chicken fingers to be here at American Idol. That’s an amazing story, Ricky. I can’t wait for the biopic. The song is Song For You, which I’ve never heard of, but it’s pleasant, and the performance is very smooth.

Alexis Grace is being played by Toni Collette. Alexis is all punky truckstop girl now, and it’s hard to remember how wholesome she was in the auditions. I actually had her confused with someone else at first, she’s changed so much. She’s singing I Never Loved A Man (nope, no idea), and I like it. It’s blues with a country twang, and I could happily listen to that over a cold Martini. The judges love her, so she could be a wildcard contender if she loses tonight.

The post-performance family interviews are really painfully awful, especially the way the singers have to squeeze in halfway through. Clunky and amateurish television, and Ryan just isn’t awake.

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Brent Keith is lovely - a sweet, handsome Southern boy with a lovely smile. Unfortunately he’s a very stiff performer, and whatever the hell country song he’s singing, it does nothing to excite me. I swear, they’re pumping nitrous into that studio, because everyone is soporific, especially the audience, and it just isn’t a very good show. Kara points out that Brent had more soul in the auditions, and she’s absolutely right. Someone needs to be coaching these kids better, because if they pick the wrong song at this point, it’s the only song the audience will ever hear them sing. 

Saucer-faced Stevie Wright is doing a Taylor Swift number in an effort to sound young, having sung ‘At Last’ in the auditions. She is very young, and it shows; the girl is terrified, and her voice is fluttering like a butterfly. She’s trying really, really hard, and it’s sort of endearing, but it isn’t good. Even Paula can’t find nice things to say about it, though she is at least gentle. Simon isn’t. Stevie takes it with unusual grace considering the circumstances.

Time to start fast-forwarding through the trainwreck interviews. Anoop Desai is next, and Indian is the new black. Anoop looks like a software billionaire, and he sings a bit like I’d imagine one might - weedy, whiny and sharp. But at least I actually know his song, Angel of Mine. Which also means I know that he’s mangling it. Paula says she thinks Anoop will be here for a while, and then remembers that only three people are getting through and pulls a rictus grin to cover her doubts.

Casey Carlson has a good recording artist name and a bit of a Vanessa Hudgens look, and she’s singing Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, which, you know, is a proper song. All the signs are good. Then she starts singing, and it’s instantly and obviously a very bad song choice, and she does not have the chops to ride it. It’s beginning to look like bluesy Alexis is going to get a free pass into the next round, because none of these girls can touch her. Paula is torn between offering advice and having a small breakdown. This is weird, as Paula never normally offers coherent advice.

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Roughneck Michael Sarver is next, and please God let him be decent. We need someone to get this series started. But, no. He’s singing I Don’t Wanna Be Et Cetera And So On, and it’s a trainwreck start, and although you can hear what his voice is capable of doing, he’s not doing it. Oh God, what happened to this show? I will say, though, that I think he’s adorable enough that he could still get through.

Ann Marie Boskovich is the girl who sang really well in auditions and then got sent away to put on some lipstick, come back and sing again, for really no reason at all. Tonight she’s doing Natural Woman, which is a very smart song choice. Hit the notes and you can sail through on a song like this. She hits most of the notes but, magically, she makes the song really, really dull. For the first time in my life I’m wondering if I have the strength to watch this show week after week. I need a drink.

Gin in one hand and Dairy Milk in the other, I’m now ready to venture onwards, safe in the knowledge that the horror of Tatiana Del Toro lies ahead. But first, soulful Stephen Fowler, who forgot his words in Hollywood and walked off stage. Remember when Simon said “forget the words and you’re out?” Yeah, apparently not. Stephen’s song is Rock With Me. A little bit of MJ is sure to lift the mood! (Unless there are children present.) But Stephen delivers a banal and pedestrian performance, and I’ve already finished my Dairy Milk. Damn it. 

Here comes Tatiana - and on a night as shitty as this one, the devil could actually come out on top. Some people are obviously enchanted by Tatiana’s psycho craziness and her inability to speak without either giggling or crying. She sings Saving All My Love For You like she’s a man pretending to be Cybill Shepherd, but rather tragically she is actually better than most of the other singers who performed tonight. Vote for the Worst will be disappointed; she is far from the worst. What’s really weird about Tatiana tonight is that she’s shifted her game plan now we’re on the live show; she’s turned off ‘character’ Tatiana and is trying to be sane and balanced, which just makes her seem even more schizo. The fact that she’s now in ‘normal’ drag - even her laugh has changed, and that is just damn sinister - may actually lose her some of the votes she was getting for being ‘crazy Tatiana’.

Finally, Downey Gokey. Will they mention the dead wife? Will she be propped up on the interview sofa? Let’s find out! And even as I type that, the dead wife gets a mention. Also, he’s singing Mariah’s Hero, because of ‘what he’s gone through’. So, he’s going to get the votes, and we don’t even need to hear him sing. But, for the record, he sings serviceably well. Raising the bar, there, Downey! 

Predictions: I think we’re stuck with Tatiana - the girls were mostly so awful that it’s made life easy for her, and a lot of viewers won’t have seen the audition shows. I think Downey is sailing through as well, because the judges overreacted massively to his performance. The third slot should either go to Alexis or Michael, and whichever of them doesn’t get it will be in the running for a wildcard slot. Ricky or Brent could be in with an outsider shot.

I won’t be blogging the results show tomorrow night, so come back next week for more of this tortuous hell.

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.