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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.

How To Apologise

Friday, May 15th, 2009

On a recent edition of his radio show, beloved dandy Jonathan Ross said , “If your son asks for a Hannah Montana MP3 player, you might want to already think about putting him down for adoption before he brings his… erm… partner home”.

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It’s just a joke. I understand that. Jonathan Ross is a funny man and a great  TV and radio host, and occasionally his humour is a little risqué. But he’s not Jim Davidson. He’s not one of these repugnant old-guard comedians who like to make jokes about ‘pakis’ and beating women. A joke suggesting that parents should put gay children up for adoption belongs firmly on that side of the line. It’s not a joke at the expense of bigotry; it’s a joke for bigots. The joke is not, ‘people say dumb things about effeminate boys’. The joke is, ‘effeminate boys are bad children’.

Ross responded to the outcry about the joke on Twitter, saying, “Am mortified to hear some people thought I was being homophobic on Radio show. Nothing could be further from truth, as I am sure most know.”

I fully accept that Jonathan Ross is not homophobic. He has demonstrated this time and again. But what he said was homophobic. It was a lazy joke leaning on old prejudices, which perpetuated a message that isolates and alienates children struggling with their sexual identity. No kid wants to be told that his parents should give him away. What Ross seems to have missed is that you can be gay friendly in spirit, and still say obscenely homophobic things.

Ross’s twittered response to complaints was the classic, “I’m sorry people were offended”, but without the “I’m sorry”. His follow-up said; “Have gay/bi family members so never been an issue. But I guess soemtimes you need to be sensitive to avoid upsetting folk.”

Some of his best relatives are gay! And he’s not just sorry you were offended; he’s sorry that you’re so easy to offend! It’s wretched, craven, snivelling stuff.  Bernard Manning could not have put it better himself. The twittered defence actually offends me more than the initial joke.

Over on EW.com, Michael Slezak has called on Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell to stop exchanging homophobic barbs on American Idol. I actually think they have muted their homophobia this season, possibly because Adam Lambert is on that stage, but their enthusiasm for catty ‘U R gay’ exchanges has been very notable in the past, and it’s disturbing for a top-rated family show to revel in perpetuating the idea that gay=bad.

Slezak mentions the recent suicide of a boy bullied at school because classmates assumed he was gay. That’s the collateral damage here. Carl Walker was eleven years old, and he took his own life because we live in a world where TV and radio hosts think it’s fine to rely on lazy gay jokes just so long as they themselves can insist that they are not homophobic. It’s fine to make gay kids hate themselves, just so long as they know a gay person!

Ross has been crucified in the tabloids for saying stupid things before, and it was tedious and it was overblown. I’m not interested in repeating that misadventure. I’d just like an apology, and I’d like him and others like him to make the effort not to do it again. I’m not saying that all gay jokes are off limits. I’m saying, don’t go telling gay kids that they are worth less because they’re gay.

Idol: Feed A Fever

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

It’s disco night. Must we?

Last week the public decided it was sick of Matt Giraud and said could we please not have him and his Davros mole and his sickly rictus on our screens anymore? After all, he was a wildcard contestant; the public didn’t want him there in the first place. And what happened? The judges saved him. They used their one and only veto on that.

Did Matt deserve a third chance? Of course not. He’s always been a terrible, mewling, miserable streak of piss. But the judges were running out of chances to use their special save, and if they didn’t use it at all, it would suggest that the idea was a bad one, and they couldn’t have that. So for the third time, Matt Giraud was forced on a public that didn’t want him. Thankfully, he’s about the least disco person imaginable, so he has little chance of surviving this week, where two acts will now be sent home.

The first to sing tonight - and very probably the other person going home - is Lil Rounds, busting out of a black catsuit and singing I’m Every Woman. Lil’s cavalcade of dead ferret wigs must finally be exhausted, which means her time is through. I was once sure Lil would make the final three, but she’s made bugger all effort to impress and given every impression that she thinks she should get through on brass balls alone.

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Kris Allen has picked She Works Hard For The Money, and a loose white t-shirt. Both odd choices. Wouldn’t a tight white t-shirt have made more sense, dinky little sex-smurf? He’s reimagined the song as a Santana number. (I’m very annoyed that Paula has said exactly the same thing, which makes me fear for my sanity, but she then went off on a rant about men in women’s clothing, so no-one will remember that.) I think we’re going to see a lot of un-disco tonight, which is just as well. I actually like disco. But I like it done well.

Danny Gokey is singing September, by Earth Wind and Fire. And isn’t he looking chunky? Every week, there’s a little bit more of him to be bored with. This is one of his least comfortable performances, but it doesn’t matter; there’s no accounting for the appeal of Danny Gokey. Maybe it’s because he’s a good church-going boy? Maybe it’s still sympathy votes for his dead wife? Or maybe people just like safe and dully consistent? If we get the expected Danny/Adam finalé, it’s going to be very interesting cultural schism; the dependable holy widower versus the flamboyant godless homosexual. Porridge versus popping candy. And then Danny will win, because America is a soulless place.

(You’ll note I’m finally calling him Danny, not Downey. I know the joke wore thin about two months ago, but I just genuinely have trouble remembering that his name isn’t Downey.)

Allison Iraheta’s hair this week is styled in the fashion of the Cowardly Lion, and she’s wearing a PVC and rhinestone emo bee costume. It’s all very bold. The song is Hot Stuff, with rocks on - Donna Summer is this week’s Bryan Adams. It’s not Allison at her finest, but I think she now has some momentum behind her.

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Adam. The pattern says that Adam should go for something stripped down this week, and that he’ll have his hair swept up away from his face, but can he do ’stripped down’ in disco week? He has got the hair back in the pompadour, so the signs are good. The song is If I Can’t Have You, and - shock - he is sticking to his pattern. He is not going for 12-cylinder disco. He’s singing a Bee Gees song as if it were an emotional ballad. Not as good as his Mad World or Tracks of my Tears, but he’s still outsinging the competition and cementing his place in the hearts of grandmothers everywhere.

Ryan Seacrest looks hilariously tiny next to Adam’s hair.

Matt Giraud is singing Stayin’ Alive, because you really want to be doing another Brothers Gibb number after Adam, oh yes. Bad falsetto, a hectoring pace, and appalling sub-Timberlake shuffling. Did we really deserve another week of this guy and his supermarket fish counter hats? Why? What did we do wrong?

The one good thing about saving Matt is that they can’t save Anoop, who is last up this evening. I’ve learned that Anoop’s fans love him because of the R&B timbre of his voice. And also because they want to hump his cartoon eyebrows. They don’t care about his limited range! They don’t care about his lack of vocal control! They don’t care that he’s been in this contest three months too long! They lurve him. The song is Dim All The Lights, by… Donna Summer! Simon gives it the worst comments of the night; he has decided that Anoop has got to go. I can’t disagree.

Two people go home this week, which changes the voting dynamic quite a bit. It ought to be two of Lil, Matt and Anoop, and any such result would make me perfectly happy, but after last week’s reprieve, I’m very keen to see Matt kicked out of here. Go home, Frankenstein!

Idol: Goes To The Movies, Talks All The Way Through, Spills Kia-Ora All Over The Seats, Probably

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

This week on Adam Lambert and friends; Quentin Tarantino and songs from the movies. But first; the reality show contestant people have been talking about this week is not La Lambert, but this lady, Ms Susan Boyle.


Susan Boyle Sings on Britain’s Got Talent 2009 Episode 1 @ Yahoo! Video

You’ve probably watched that clip at least a couple of times before, but you probably just clicked play again anyway, because it’s fully awesome.

Reality show audiences have been conditioned to expect terrible things from their freak-show contestants. These unglamorous, socially inept weirdoes are put on the stage because the show wants us to laugh at them, like the braying subhuman bastards that we are.

With her melting chins, her bushy brows, and her confession that she has ‘never been kissed’, Ms Boyle seems the definitive shat-upon auditions outcast; she’s putting her heart and hopes on the line for one last shot at public acceptance only to be turned into an object of national ridicule. We expect this woman to fail because we’ve been told that these people will fail. So it’s a moving moment when she transcends and ridicules our prejudices and breaks out a set of pipes that are very nearly ready for the stage. Life has handed Susan Boyle a shitty hand, yet suddenly she’s a star.

Of course, her success will empower even more freaks and weirdoes to take to the audition stage in the delusional belief that they too are Susan Boyle, and the intellectual cesspool of the audition rounds will have enough putrid meat to feed another season.

Enough of this jollitry! On with the motley, Madam Lambert! On with the show!

As mentioned above, the theme is movie songs, and the guest mentor is shambling palsied homeless guy Quentin Tarantino, the king of the mixtape! Amusingly, they show a filming clip from Inglourious Basterds, but Ryan Seacrest refuses to say the film’s name.

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Allison Iraheta is singing I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, because, being 16, she knows exactly what it’s like to be Liv Tyler’s decrepit drug-addled father. Allison is in constant danger on this show, having been at the bottom twice, so tonight’s woozy, flailing performance (complete with a ‘fighting my way out of this black plastic bag’ punching dance) could leave her in trouble.

Anoop Desai is singing Jai Ho from… oh, OK, no, he’s doing Everything I Do, the first of two Bryan Adams numbers tonight. Quentin has asked Anoop to rough it up with a big vocal, and since Anoop can’t do rough or big, it’s clear Quentin hates Anoop and wants him to fail. Hurray for Quentin Tarantino! But Anoop isn’t listening, and is doing the song so sedately that he’s managed to make the original sound jazzy and peppy. Big key change? Not for Anoop. Anoop has fewer keys than a jailer at an open prison.

Adam Lambert never saw a ridiculous song choice he didn’t like, so of course he’s doing Born To Be Wild, with leather jacket, chains, and all the guyliner you can eat. This is a song that allows Adam Lambert to be fully Adam Lambert, and it will change absolutely no-one’s minds about him, but this is the clever game Adam is playing; one week he’s celebrating being him. The next he tones it down and wins more converts to his cause. At this stage America is eating out of the palm of his bedazzled gay hand. Grandmothers, mothers and daughters all love this ‘mo, and mo’ power to him.

Miserable Matt Giraud is often compared to Justin Timberlake, seemingly for no other reason than he sometimes wears Justin Timberlake’s hats. His song is Bryan Adams’ When You Lurve A Wurman. Some people actually like Matt Giraud and his scowling arse of a face and his whiny, leg-shagging voice, which just goes to show, there’s no accounting for people being morons.

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Downey Gokey - formerly Orm of Orm and Cheep - gets some interesting advice from Quentin; keep your hands still so that the emotion comes through your eyes. It sounds like bullshit, but at least Quentin is giving this mentor thing a shot. The song is Endless Love. Downey hits some bum notes, and I’m damned if I can sense any emotion streaming out through his wife-murdering gimlet piss-holes, but it’s competent, in a samey, Downey Gokey way. (Note: He didn’t really kill his wife. He did kill JonBenet Ramsay, though.)

When I heard Kris Allen was doing Falling Slowly, the beautiful Oscar-winning song from Once, I thought his would be the breakout song of the night. Short of tripping over Ricky Miner and skewering himself on the band, Kris ought to be delivering a knicker-twisting rendition of this song. Unfortunately it starts too low for him, and it’s not a home run, but I don’t think it will matter; this is the song every Kris Allen fan wants to imagine Kris Allen singing to them. The votes should flow like adolescent liquids.

Finally, Lil Rounds, the girl no-one gives a damn about anymore, because she has staunchly refused to live up to her promise. Simon has written her off, and so have I. She needs a solid gold diva performance to turn things around. Her rendition of Bette Midler’s The Rose isn’t quite it, but when she goes gospel there is a spark of the Lil Rounds I used to get excited about. It’s Lil’s best performance in months, but it may be too late, and that last note wasn’t right.

As Kris failed to fully deliver, the night is sadly without a standout performance. It’s also without any standout disasters, but I’d like to think Anoop and Matt are in trouble, even if only on aggregate.

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?