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The Post-Game Show » danny gokey

Posts Tagged ‘danny gokey’

Idol: When You Think The Road Is Going Nowhere…

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

It’s results night. I warn you now, I will say who the winner is by the end of this post, so if you’re trying to avoid spoilers until it airs in your timezone, stop reading this, and avoid all other media. Call in sick and go back to bed. Basically, you’re screwed.

Before I assess this evening’s performances, I want to look back over the season as a whole. Was it a good year?

It’s a good final two, that’s clear enough. Kris actually looks and sounds like I think people who have never seen Idol believe Idols look and sound, but he is a strong performer and a talented guy. Adam doesn’t look like anyone’s idea of an Idol, and he’s turned the competition on its head and put a shot of adrenaline into the heart of mainstream American culture. He inspires people to write hyperbolic statements just like that one!

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But what of the rest of the top thirteen? There are names you’ll barely remember, like Jasmine, Jorge, Alexis and Michael (though Alexis deserved to do better). There are a lot of names I think the world would do well to forget; Scott, Matt, Megan and, of course, Danny Gokey. Outside of the final two, I think only Allison deserves to go on to a successful career, and I suspect she will. I wouldn’t be surprised if Anoop Desai also somehow makes something of himself - he’s the new Constantine Maroulis. I don’t see the appeal, but what his fans lack in numbers, they make up for in passion.

That’s not to say there weren’t other singers who could yet make names for themselves in this competition; they just weren’t in the final thirteen. The likes of Ricky Braddy and Jesse Langseth showed far more potential than many of the contestants ‘cast’ for the live shows. I liked the voting-in format of the show this year, with three groups of 12, but the talent was poorly distributed across them. Fully six of the finalists came from just one of those groups, including four of the final five.

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The other innovation beside the wildcards was the judges’ save, which can firmly be said to have flopped. It was introduced to solve a problem that didn’t really need solving, and it was squandered on Matt Giraud, who didn’t deserve this save any more than he deserved his wildcard save; he was consistently the most horrible performer to watch all season.

Oh, and then there’s Kara. She showed so much promise when she started, offering refreshingly informed and forthright opinions on the auditionees. Compared to Paula, she seemed like a genius. Then the show went live, and Kara became so soft and so stupid that it was like she was a completely different person. Her every utterance was dumb and devoid of insight. By the end of the season, I’d found a new appreciation for Paula. And Kara gave us this year’s diabolical winner’s song (from which the title of this post is taken). The best anyone can say for Kara is that at least she isn’t Randy ‘I agree with Simon’ Jackson.

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On with the show! On with the unflattering white costumes! The top 13 return for another of those tortuous group performances, this time Pink’s So What, and it’s actually better than most of these performances simply by dint of the fact that it’s a shouty song and these people can only shout when dumped on stage together. They are not a chorus. Interesting to note that Blind Scott seems to be managing his way around the stage. Now the show is over, he doesn’t need to pretend to be blind anymore. Watch the audience; we’ll probably see Danny’s wife out there, alive and well.

Last year’s champion, David Cook, follows up with a song for his brother, who died a couple of weeks ago from brain cancer. Proceeds of the sale go to finding a cure for cancer. I have nothing funny to say about this.

Next; the loser awards, for people who humiliated themselves on international TV. I was hoping they wouldn’t do this again this year. It’s cruel and painful. By all means bring the losers back for a group performance, as they seem to enjoy that, but don’t give them medals for stupidity! Anyway, you can guarantee that the winners will be Nick Mitchell and Tatiana Del Toro, both of whom actually made it to the voting shows, which is a sad indictment of the circus this show has become.

Lil Rounds versus Queen Latifah. Winner: Queen Latifah. Then Jason Mraz turns up for a performance of his feelgood summer pablum I’m Yours, with Alexis, Anoop, and Anoop’s scary child abuser moustache.

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This is followed by a montage of Kris Allen’s side-mouth singing, and Kris’s duet with Keith Urban. That’s sad. If I got to the American Idol final, I’d like to be rewarded with something more exciting than a guy best known outside the South as Nicole Kidman’s other ex-husband. (And I just checked Wikipedia to check I’d got the right guy, and he’s not the one who got divorced from Renee Zellweger for being gay, and apparently Keith Urban is still married to Nicole Kidman. Well, who knew? Given that he’s wed to Ms Nicole, I presume Keith Urban is also a closeted gay man. Country music is evidently a hotbed of self-loathing homosexuals. Proof, if proof were needed, that what the world needs now is Adam Lambert, sweet Adam Lambert.)

The Idol girls sing Glamorous, and we’re promptly reminded that Megan Joy was much worse than either Alexis or Jasmine, despite her interesting voice. But the producers smile on Megan by putting Fergie on stage, and suddenly Megan looks like Montserrat Caballé. Aaaand fast forward…

Bikini Girl. Ryan Seacrest pretending not to be gay. Fast forward… and there’s an actual nice moment here when Kara comes out on stage to perform with Bikini Girl, whom she loathed. And by perform with her, I mean school her. Turns out Kara can sing, dawg.

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Allison Iraheta versus Cyndi Lauper. Was Allison even alive when Time After Time was released? In fact, no; it predates her by eight years. EIGHT YEARS! Well, it’s nice that Cyndi was given extended day release from the home for this. She’s a bit rude, though, concentrating on her zithering all the way through the performance.

Danny Gokey sings Hello with Lionel Richie. Thrilling. Fast forward. Either this turned into a medley half way through, or this the most HI-NRG version of Hello that’s ever been performed.

To sweeten that bitter pill, we get the Adam Lambert video package, set to Rule the World. A-ha-ha. Then Adam’s showpiece, wherein he’s dressed as a Starlight Express quarterback and backed by Kiss. What’s astonishing is how comfortable and composed he sounds - moreso than he did last night. I think it’s safe to say he doesn’t care what happens next; he’s just here to enjoy himself. It’s glorious. It may be the high point in Idol history.

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Matt Giraud versus Santana. The oiliest few minutes in television history. Thankfully the Idols come on to pour detergent on things. Then a Ford commercial.

Megan Joy and Michael Sarver versus Steve Martin. Uh… OK. It’s some odd country song about an old married couple, with Martin playing banjo. There does not appear to be a punchline. Finally, the male Idols perform If You Think I’m Sexy in anticipation of, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Rod Stewart. And, I swear to God, Blind Scott is definitely not blind anymore. Rod sings Maggie May, and oh dear, Rod Stewart is old. Actually, I think they’ve accidentally booked Rod Hull.

Tatiana Del Toro. Fast forward. Kris and Adam sing We Are The Champions with Queen. But who is the champion? Who? WHO?

The winner of American Idol 2009 is… well, by the time you read this, you already know that the boy-next-door pipped the gay glam rocker to the post. It ought to be a huge surprise, a huge upset… but it’s not. It was obvious at the end what a close contest this was going to be. It is a little disappointing that the gay guy couldn’t win, and I do have to wonder what part homophobia played in his defeat - I’m sure some of those votes for Kris were from anti-Adam bigots rather than Kris fans - but even in losing, Adam has gone further than any ‘theatrical’ ought to be able to get on this show, and he did it on talent, and I’m thrilled to think what he might do next.

And now Adam never has to sing that terrible winner’s song again. Bad luck, Kris.

Idol: The Final

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

It’s the final. The day of reckoning. Well, the day before the day of reckoning, because we don’t get the result until tomorrow. But still, this is the showdown, and… and it almost doesn’t seem to matter.

I mean, it doesn’t matter, of course, because it’s only a reality TV show. But it does matter because Adam Lambert has totemic value as an acceptable face of gay in the American heartland. But it doesn’t matter because… well, Danny Gokey is gone.

For a long time, the safe money was on a Danny/Adam final. I wrote last week about the allegorical power of this confrontation - safe Christian values versus debauched Californian liberalism. And then a miracle happened. God himself flooded the Idol phone lines with votes for Adam and Kris, pushing Gokey into third place and out of the competition, as if to say, “You do not sing for me, widowmaker”. Poor God, he must be tired of people saying the devil has all the best tunes.

If Gokey had made the final, this would have been a tense end to the season. But with the smug one’s ouster, it’s tough to care, and for the best of all possible reasons; I like both of the finalists.

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Adam is the favourite, and he’s the most creative performer the show has ever seen, and the best singer this side of Melinda Doolittle, so if he does win it’ll be entirely right and proper. Kris need not worry; he’ll get a career out of this as well.

But if Kris wins… well, it wouldn’t really change anything. Adam would still be a superstar. The Adam haters would be gleeful, but I think most Adam fans would take it in good grace. Most of them like Kris, and it’s still a victory for the flamboyantly gay contestant to have got to the final at all. The voting between Kris and Adam last week was reportedly close, and most of Danny’s votes will go to Kris, so victory for Kris could easily be on the cards.

There were rumours of a Kris/Adam feud in the papers at one point, but it’s obvious from the way the two interact - hugging, joking, sitting together - that they’re very close. The fanfic has already been written. Sharp-eyed fans spotted last week that Kris had nail polish on one thumb, while Adam had nail polish on all but one thumb. This was apparently a deliberate gesture of solidarity between the two. We’re also told that when the results were announced, Kris’s mum ran up to Adam’s mum and they hugged. Whoever wins, I think the loser will be legitimately happy for him. The final result is largely irrelevant.

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Perhaps the clearest illustration of this odd win-win situation is the conundrum that anti-Idol site Vote for the Worst found itself in. VFTW tries to propel bad contestants to victory because… I don’t know, really. Boredom, I suppose. Regardless, the site has had a terrible season. In the prelims they backed Tatiana, Alex and Norman, none of whom went through. For the show itself, they backed Megan, Scott, Lil, Matt and Danny in quick succession. They had no noticeable impact. (If they’d picked Matt Giraud as the worst, like I did, they’d have looked like geniuses!)

The point being, they capped their terrible year with an impossible choice. VFTW is consensus-led, and therefore tends to be musically conservative, so their natural choice for ‘worst’ would be Adam (an early poll showed that VFTW wanted Adam as their pick), but you can’t try to sway the vote in favour of the popularly acclaimed front-runner; it’s meaningless

As it’s too late to back Adam, VFTW picked Kris as its ‘worst’, claiming that Adam had pussied out of being his full queeny self, and that Kris would be a disastrous winner for the producers. Neither of those claims stands up to a second’s scrutiny. Vote for the Worst couldn’t pick a plausible worst in the final two, because there is no worst. There’s no bad result here.

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On to tonight’s performances. Adam starts things off with a Mad World reprise, backlit and wearing a long school-massacring coat. He doesn’t sound as confident as he did last time he did this number, and he’s not offering anything new, but it is a typically well acted and emotional performance. A safe choice.

Kris revisits Ain’t No Sunshine - lovely and unchallenging, I wish he’d gone with Falling Slowly, which was much more original, but much less well known. Another safe choice.

Adam’s next song is A Change Is Gonna Come, the producer’s choice - and it’s a good contrast to what’s gone before. This is a musically challenging, dazzling song that allows Adam to show some shade. He starts out controlled, but intense, then unleashes a trademark wail that could knock a man down. It’s a home run for Adam’s constituency of tweens and grandmas.

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Kris follows that with What’s Going On. And I’m suddenly very aware of Kris’s weird pubescent moustache. Is that an Anoop tribute? Kris is adorable as ever, but he’s definitely milquetoast compared to the competition, and this little acoustic coffee bar set demonstrates that very clearly. Of course, his best chance of winning this really is to run as the anti-Lambert; an island of normal in a flood of glitter.

Finally, the winner’s song, No Boundaries, by Kara DioGuardi (among others). Yes, her; the shite judge. This is what she otherwise does for a living, you know. The song is predictably rotten stuff, and not even rotten in a dependably stirring way. It’s not a very Adam Lambert song, but he does infuse it with a texture that I suspect it’s otherwise lacking. Ultimately, though, it’s kind of sad that this is the last song he gets to sing in the contest. Kris fares a little better with the MOR-ness, but he struggles with the range, and, let’s be honest, the banality of the song is beneath him as well.

That’s the end. Tomorrow we’ll have a winner. Bookies favour Adam, but I think Kris has an excellent chance - he’ll get a lot of votes from supporters, but I’m sure he’ll also benefit from people voting against the gay guy, sadly. Still, this time tomorrow we’ll either have a queer Idol champion, or a queer Idol superstar. It’s a win-win.

Idol: God, The Devil and Kris

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

American Idol is down to just three. Despite a performance so awful as to have already become notorious, Danny Gokey has survived, and poor Allison Iraheta has been given the boot. We now know that whatever Danny does, the judges will praise him and people will vote for him. As a consequence, we now have the first all-male top three in Idol history.

Last week’s final four saw two rock kids go up against two Christian music kids. It was a mini-referendum, and rock lost (and most of Allison’s votes should now go to Adam). If Kris goes home this week, as expected, we’ll have a final two of such blatant symbolism that the punditry will explode with glee.

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In the Red State corner: Danny Gokey. Church ‘worship director’. Tragic widower. Loves Jesus and talks a lot about heaven. His performances show a complete lack of imagination. He never does anything the least bit subversive or original.

In the Blue State corner: Adam Lambert. Musical theatre performer. Blatant homosexual. Loves eyeliner and lives in California. His performances showcase his tremendous range and presence. He is inventive, magnetic and shameless.

Stuck in the middle: Poor Kris Allen, a good-looking lad who has become the dark horse contender this year, but who realistically is expected to end his journey this week in the face of the warring fanbases digging trenches either side of him.

People hate Danny Gokey. They hate him because he’s dull. They hate him because he’s smug. They hate him because they’ve seen him dance, and, oh dear God, no-one should ever have to see him dance. They hate him because he auditioned with his friend Jamar, and Jamar was better but didn’t get through. They hate him because he gets praised by the judges every week despite being the musical equivalent of gruel.

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Mostly they hate him because, thirty days after his wife died unexpectedly from complications in surgery, he auditioned for this reality TV show. He also wept to the producers and sent them footage of his wedding day so they could tell his story. Then he gave a friend a photo of his wife to hold up during one of his performances. He has repeatedly made gestures of remembrance for his dead wife, or chosen manipulative songs like Hero, Jesus Take The Wheel, What Hurts the Most and Endless Love. He has exploited his wife’s death to win votes in a popularity contest, and that’s sickening.

And people love him, of course. He’s the only contestant this year never to have been in the bottom three, and, most times, that’s the contestant who wins. The judges love him; he’s the only contestant to get good comments every week without fail. Christian conservatives surely love him. He’s a good church-going boy, and he’s struggling on through the grief and hardship of his wife’s tragic death to become a success; an example of what a person can achieve with God on their side, no matter what life throws at them. And he dresses sensibly and talks politely and never tries to scare the horses. He’s intensely nonthreatening and middle-of-the-road. He’s Billy Joel.

People also hate Adam Lambert. They hate him because he shrieks and screeches. They hate him because he’s arrogant. They hate him because he’s over-the-top. They mostly hate him because he’s gay.

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That’s probably not fair to his critics. It is in theory possible to hate Adam Lambert for reasons other than his gayness, but in most cases I think what people object to is his… flamboyance. His theatricality. His loud, proud and unapologetic sense of self. His… how can I put this? His gayness. Even a lot of gay people hate his gayness, but it was ever thus. No queen likes to be out-queened, and Adam Lambert is the queen bitch in charge.

And people love Adam Lambert. Win or lose this competition, he’s a phenomenon like this show has never seen before; an Idol who already sells records, already sets the media afire, and already appears on magazine covers even before the contest has ended. But if he does win, then change has come to America.

Adam Lambert is secretly a handsome and wholesome pop star, but he’s also a subversive godless sinner. He sneers and writhes and glowers. He’s sleazy and sexual. It’s all in a safe, cartoon way, but still it’s all there. I’m sure there are people in the midwest who refuse to accept or even consider that he’s gay, but he remains a totem of gayness. It doesn’t matter if they don’t accept that Adam Lambert is gay; if America votes for Adam Lambert, they have already de facto embraced the gay.

Adam is the salvation! He is the promised gay messiah. Perhaps Adam is actually the new face of the divine, and menacing wife-slayer Danny is the devil preaching scripture?

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On to tonight’s performances:

Danny’s first song tonight, chosen by Paula Abdul, is Terence Trent D’Arby’s Dance Little Sister. If it has a melody, you wouldn’t know it. It sounds like a coffee grinder that’s been left to run with nothing in it.

Kris Allen’s song, picked by the count-as-one-choice budget judges Randy and Kara, is Apologise by OneRepublic; a popular contemporary ballad that fits well with the sort of soft radio hit you’d expect from Kris. Kris breaks out the grand piano in a bid to impress. It’s a fairly heartless performance, and Kris isn’t actually at his swoony best here - some of the low notes are too low, and he’s not entirely comfortable with the falsetto. But it’s better and more interesting than Gokey.

Adam Lambert is the chosen contestant, so of course Simon Cowell picks his song (and Simon has come right out and said he thinks Adam will win). The song is One by U2, which Simon tells us he personally got Bono’s permission for, because Simon is all-powerful. This is Adam’s ‘nude’ performance of the night - less make-up, no costume, lots of raw emotion. It’s an arrangement I’ve never heard before, and it’s impressive. The boy has an amazing voice.

Danny’s second song, chosen by himself, is You Are So Beautiful, by his soundalike Joe Cocker. No effort required there. He sings on a stool, with a string quartet. The song is actually a little quiet, a little delicate, for his voice, but when he gets into it it’s the same competent piano bar rendition we’ve come to expect. I simply can’t imagine anyone going out of their way to hear this man sing. Interestingly, Kara praises his second performance as if she had criticised his first performance. But she hadn’t!

Kris Allen comes back with Heartless by Kanye West. Two contemporary songs, Kris? This is unprecedented! And he’s singing with just a guitar! Which he’s playing! Playing two instruments in one night is also unprecedented. It’s a delightfully upbeat performance, great fun to listen to (and a bit incongruous given what the song is about), and probably the best he’s ever been. Great stuff.

Adam’s song choice is Aerosmith’s Crying. In two words; it rocks. It’s not actually as extravagant as I was expecting it to be. He must be saving something huge for next week.

So is Adam Lambert going to be in the final? It would be the biggest shock in the show’s eight seasons if he didn’t make it. Is Danny going to be there? Almost certainly. But I’ve been hoping to see him sent home for weeks now, and this week is no different. An Adam/Kris final would be a wonderful thing. But Jesus wants a Danny/Kris final, and you wouldn’t want to disappoint Jesus.

Idol: Poppy Rock Out With Your Poppy Cock Out

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Last week, shock, tears, angst, as Adam Lambert found himself in the bottom three. It was the lip-tremble heard round the world! How could this happen?

It is conceivable, when you get down to this few contestants, that anyone could find themselves in trouble. Fans of Adam may feel so confident of his popularity that they didn’t bother voting. With two contestants voted off the week before, all their votes may have gone to anyone but Adam. Allison was very good last week, and Danny was the same as he always is, which some folks somewhere seem to think is good enough. Adam might have been third. He might even have been fourth.

On the other hand, it is also conceivable that the producers of Idol would pretend Adam was in the bottom three just to drive up the number of votes for this week’s show. From ITunes sales to Google Trends to internet buzz, the data suggest that Adam is soaring above his rivals in popularity, and that should translate to a top two finish even on a bad week. I’m not buying last week’s result at all.

Besides, how can Adam even come close to losing when he has support like this?

It’s rock week this week, and the mentor is Slash. Hurray for a ballad-free zone! It’s also the first week - nay, the first time - that the show has paired up the contestants to perform duets, which could be interesting. One assumes they will pair Adam with Allison, because Adam has the gay, and he can’t be seen giving it to good Christian boys Danny or Kris. America is a land where you can choose same-sex singing or opposite singing, and when it comes to Adam Lambert, I think that I believe that singing should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.

Adam’s solo number is up first, and he’s singing Whole Lotta Love, aka the Top of the Pops feem toon - the first Led Zeppelin song ever performed on the Idol stage! Adam’s rock drag looks terrible - hedgehog hair, biker bling and enough eyeliner to render him cross-eyed - but he’s turned the Elvis sneer up to 11. Adam does have a great rock voice, and he gives this the usual full dose of welly, but I have to admit, it’s far from my favourite performance from him. The judges love it, though. Interestingly, this is the first time I can recall that he’s sung a song about (or rather, aimed at) a woman, though, despite the title, it’s not exactly a love song.

Allison is next, in her own rock leathers plus Ronald McDonald hair and lipstick. Allison is the show’s natural rocker, so this should be her week, though the fact that she’s a girl rocker on Idol means it’s a minor miracle she ever got here. The song is Cry Baby by Jackie Jormp-Jomp. Sorry; Janice Joplin. I think there are many better Joplin songs she could have sung. I’m not feeling this one. Her other choice was Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane. God, I would have loved that. I’m now going to pause the show and go listen to that on YouTube.

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Aaand I’m back, and we’re into duet territory already, with Kris versus Danny on Renegade by Styx. Aww, seeing these two together, it’s like Katherine McPhee and Taylor Hicks all over again! I note that, while all the other contestants are wearing black with at least some leather (or, more likely, pleather), Danny has apparently popped out to American Apparel for a safe red shirt, because he don’t have no truck with no devil worshippin’, no sir. Renegade is a great campy song with terrific harmonies, but these boys aren’t exactly rockers. Simon tells Danny that he was better, and man does Kris look pissed.

Kris’s idea of classic rock is… The Beatles. Look, I know that technically that’s permissable; The Beatles belong to that era, and they produced some bona fide classic rock hits, but it’s not exactly true to the spirit of the theme, is it? It’s kind of a pussy choice, Kris. The song is Come Together. He survives it, just about, but Kris Allen does not rock.

Danny Gokey is singing Dream On by Aerosmith, aka all the awesome bits in Sing For The Moment by Eminem. He starts flat, and gamely carries on in that vein for much of the journey. There were no full dress rehearsals this week because of an accident on set, which may explain the general lack of confidence this week, but Danny seems to be suffering from it more than most. His screams at the end are just horrible, and if ever Danny is going to be in trouble, this is the week. His usual flat matt competence is missing.

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It’s been a lacklustre show, but there is one last hope for redemption; the Adam/Allison duet. On reflection, it’s a good thing they paired these two up, because they should be able to have some fun together. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Dead Ringer For Love. Sadly it is not to be. The song is… Slow Ride by… Foghat? Is that a real thing? Foghat? Never heard of them, but never mind. Adam and Allison give it their all, they sound terrific together, and they’re having a great time.

I have to say, I thought Allison would be going home this week, but after that last performance, and after Kris gave such a poor accounting of himself, I think it’s time to say goodbye to Idol’s pocket pin-up. Danny was far and away the worst of the night, but his supporters are immune to both reason and music.

Idol: Stupid Stupid Rat Creatures

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

It’s suits night on American Idol, where all the men wear suits! Awe-inspiring. Officially, they’re calling it ‘Rat Pack’ night, because swing was very in years and years ago when they started doing this, and somehow the show never got over it. Once again, no modern, relevant music for these aspiring modern, relevant performers!

Before we get to the songs; iTunes accidentally revealed the sales figures for Idol downloads in their chart last week. Of the seven most popular Idol tracks, six were by Adam Lambert (which, at that time, was all the available songs by Adam Lambert). Kris Allen had three of the Idol top ten (including number two). That left Danny Gokey with one entry at number nine. Allison and Matt’s highest entries were outside the top ten and safely out of the Adam Lambert zone.

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So, if iTunes is a reliable yardstick, we’re probably looking at an Adam/Kris final, which would be a surprisingly good result for a top 12 that was bogged down with crap like Megan, Scott and, well, Matt Giraud. Last week they sent home Lil and Anoop. I’d be perfectly happy if they sent home everyone else this week and we just cut to the chase.

Just so we’re clear; Adam Lambert is now a bona fide cultural phenomenon. He doesn’t have to win this thing (though he almost certainly will); he’s already a star. How it happened, I don’t know, but there are widespread reports that he’s a favourite of the grandparent set, who regard him as something of a throwback to the golden age of rock ‘n roll, while he’s simultaneously winning big with Twilight kids, and he’s even the most popular contestant in places like Arkansas, Utah and Oklahoma, according to Google Trends - and they can’t all be hoping to hunt him down and burn him. (Even in their home states of Wisconsin and Arkansas, Danny and Kris are getting fewer searches than Adam. Only in his own home town is Kris more popular than Adam.)

As the theme is the Rat Pack, the mentor is… Jamie Foxx. The first person you’d think of. As Ryan Seacrest explains, “like the Rat Pack, Jamie Foxx has gone on to break the boundaries of the entertainment industry”. Thanks Ryan.

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Wearing a suit first tonight is Kris, whom Jamie identifies as his favourite. He’s my favourite too, Jamie! Apart from Adam, of course. The song is Someday, and it’s a little low for our perfect package pop-star, and there’s not much for him to do with it other than add some runs and hit the end-note. A workaday performance, but who cares? He’s adorable. (Randy calls it Kris’s best performance to date, but remember, Randy didn’t like Kris’s actual best performance to date, which was Falling Slowly.)

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Allison is not wearing a suit. She’s wearing a lampshade. Her song is the Gershwins’ Someone to Watch Over Me, and it’s a great choice, because all through the competition Allison has been showing how good she is at rock vocals, but she’s never shown her softer side. This is a tour de force performance that, for the first time, let’s us hear some softness and emotion in Allison’s voice. It would be a real shame if she went home after a performance like this one.

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Matt is wearing a suit and another from his collection of too-small hats! It now occurs to me that he’s been wearing hats all the time so we couldn’t see the witch’s nipple on his forehead. Matt says this week is his week. His My Funny Valentine gets off to such a flat, shaky, unconfident start that I’m not sure he believes that. It’s a horrible exercise in tortured vowel sounds. Simon is bizarrely nice about it, and I’ve no idea why. I don’t know why he gave Matt a wildcard slot, I don’t know why he gave him the judges’ save, and I don’t know why he’s being nice to him now. I can only theorise that Matt has some incriminating dirt on Simon that he’s holding over his head. Literally nothing else makes sense.

Danny is wearing a dark suit and dark-framed glasses. His song is Come Rain or Come Shine. He sings it the way you would expect him to sing it. I have completely run out of things to say about Danny Gokey. I don’t even have the will to insult him anymore, he bores me that much.

Finally, the man you all came to see; Adam Lambert. And of course - of course - he’s doing Feeling Good, and I don’t know if he’ll be doing it Muse or Nina. Oh, and he’s wearing a white suit. He wears shiny suits a lot already, so there’s no way he was going to just wear a suit today; it had to be a white suit. This may be his most dragalicious cabaret performance yet, but of course it’s a tremendous display, and the last notes are showstoppers. Simon actually mocks Randy for calling it theatrical - this is how Adam Lambert has changed the face of this world.

It’s obvious that Matt should go home this week, and I still think he actually will, but I’m entirely open to the possibility of an early exit for Danny Gokey. The world demands a Kris/Adam final!

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.”

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.

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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.