Wednesday, February 18, 2009

O What A Lonely Boy

Group 1: Alexis Grace, Anne Marie Boskovich, Anoop Desai, Brent Keith, Casey Carlson, Danny Gokey, Jackie Tohn, Michael Sarver, Ricky Braddy, Stephen Fowler, Stevie Wright, Tatiana Del Toro

Every year the producers try to put a twist or two into this beast of a franchise. This year, they are going back to (if I recall correctly) the semi-final format from the first season. Each group of 12 will compete for 3 spots in the Top 12. The top male, top female and the next top vote getter - whichever gender. After those 9, the judges will each pick one Idol from the remaining contestants in the infamous "Wildcard" round.

While it can be argued that this could leave the ladies at a bit of a disadvantage - as there are 10,000 pre-teen girls clamouring to dial in to vote for "the dreamy one" for every viewer such as myself (who doesn't even bother to vote) - there exists the possibility that as little as 3 women might end up in the Top 12...somehow, I think the show will make sure there are at least 4-5.

Last night was the kind of night, you wish you knew the guy who invented DVR technology, so you could buy him a beer.

What a freaking pile of shit that show was! Aside from Danny, last night was a poor man's karaoke at that dive bar you always drive by, but is too gross to really hang out at...and then suddenly a train derails and hurls tons of shrieking metal into it.

Last night's show was such a train wreck...
How big a train wreck was it?
It was so bad, instead of phoning in votes, people were dialing the NTSB.

[insert rimshot!]

...moving on.

Jackie - While I like her voice and song choice, I was overwhelmingly disappointed in her performance. Yes. It's true that The Douche won last year by co-opting covers of songs and performing very different arrangements from the original recordings. But, he didn't do it the very first week of voting when nobody knew him from Adam!

IDIOT'S GUIDE TO IDOL: Let the audience know you can sing, before you go rogue with your song choice/composition/arrangement/interpretation.

If she had performed a solid, rocking version of A Little Less Conversation, I think she would have been the female to beat. Instead, I wanted to give her a beatdown for her wonked out version and for her godawful choice in apparel. There is a reason people don't wear spandex pants, with giant belts and Jane Fonda-esque workout shirts with puffy shoulders. The nickname Benatard shot to mind. Jackie...if you make it through and dress like that again? The nickname sticks for the rest of the season. You have been warned.

As in past seasons, while the other judges fawned over the first few performers, Simon was dead on that her outfit sucked and that she ruined a perfectly good song choice.

Note to the producers: Having the parents/family/friends in the gallery is an epic waste of time and it 0.00% entertaining. NOBODY CARES. Stop wasting our lives, you

Ricky - Promising song choice with Leon Russell. Oof. And that's where the good news ends. What a bland, boring milk-toast performance. Even his "faux-hawk" looks inept. His delivery is completely bereft of feeling or any soulfulness. Not to mention? Kicking off your "groupie" cult, (The Braddy Bunch) before you even make it thru to Top 12? Bad idea.

Here's a story.

Of an setting expectations
That you will never, ever ever ever meet!

And those T-shirts

That your mom made?
Won't sell at all, so take a seat!

That's money that your parents will never see again. Aces!

Alexis - The judges are never more annoying then when they are preening over the advice they give a contestant, that the contestant actually adheres to. Oh...that Alexis! She's a dirty girl, she is! With her pink highlights and her form-fitting slip dress! What?!! Uh...Britney grinding into a snake, Christina wearing a bikini and leather chaps, Madonna writhing on a bed totin' huge cone knockers? That's durty. Highlights and (more) 80's fashion? Yeah. Hannah Montana is more of a skank than you, Irish Spring.

Triumphantly, Alexis breaks a new land speed record for "Picking A Song That Is Too Big For You," when she attempts to take on Aretha.

IDIOT'S GUIDE TO IDOL: Leave the divas at the door. Unless you are Whitney, Celine or Aretha...don't even go there.

Alexis is not a power balladeer. The shock overwhelms my nervous system to the point of yawning. While she has a good (not great) voice, she's completely drowned out (and out-sung) by the back-up singers when they chime in. You can put a fork into Alexis, 'cuz she's done. Yo! Judges! Fawning over her one more time will not change what we just heard/witnessed. Please, close your pie-holes and let's move on.

And seated next to TED DANSON.
What an odd pairing of celebrity.

How I wish that NPH would bum rush the stage and breakout into a song from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog!

Brent - Word on the street is that Brent Keith was on season 2 of Nashville Star (back in '04) and finished 6th. I didn't recognize him until I saw a pic of him from that season. (Now...and then.)

Yup! That's him. I remember him as fairly milk-toast and timid. I think five years, a haircut and a bit of stubble is a bit of an improvement.

The Man with Two (first) Names is bringing the country. Personally, I prefer classic country of a Johnny Cash, Buck Owens or Loretta Lynn. Unfortunately, he's bringing the (as Pete so rightly called it), the "Big and Rich" type of country...which bores me to tears. It all sounds the same to me. Like if Country and Easy Listening had a bastard child. A bastard child that could only sing one song...and then chokes on a catfish bone.

BK's got a decent enough voice and his energy is good...but when he's done, the two words that no Idol with country aspirations ever wants to hear: Bucky Covington.

[sfx of a church bell ringing, signaling the death knell of your CMA dreams]

Welcome to Mediocre-ville, BK!
You too, can put out a CD that nobody will buy or listen to!

Stevie - You know who I love? Etta James. So, even if Stevie only auditioned with "At Last" because it's Beyonce's flavor of the month, I'll still give the girl style points. When I was her age, I was a fan of Ella Fitzgerald and the Buzzcocks. You don't have to embrace all things pop and trendy as a teen...but if you're going on a show to find the next pop star? better be ready to throw down some fresh trendy grooves.

Oof. I don't often feel sorry for the contestants - you've signed up for this rollercoaster (and after 7 seasons, you better know they will show your ass up every chance they get) - but, I felt a bit for Stevie. Be it nerves or having to figure out how to sing with a headset in her ear - she was not good. Oof. Bad song choice. Too low for her register. Off key in parts. Still, she smiled through and didn't quit. Personally, I think she fell for the oldest Idol ruse and did herself in.

IDIOT'S GUIDE TO IDOL: Don't subvert everything you are just to please the judges. Take the criticism that is constructive and learn from it, but don't throw everything else out and start from scratch.

I think Stevie might have had a shot if she stuck to her guns and sung something that she loves to sing...and saved the Taylor Swift for "country night." It's that old adage, that when you're busy trying to please everyone, you please no one.

Still, points for handing it with grace. Simon's right. This is a fantastic experience and exposure for her. Take it at that...and let the Nickelodeon execs come to you. Because, this adorable girl with the better than average voice will be in the next High School Musical type show/flick currently churning up in Disney's sausage making show machine.

Anoop - I'll say it. I'm rooting for Anoop. Mostly because he's got a pretty strong voice, knows "who he is" as a singer (R&B), seems to be a fan of the show and has a sense of humor about all of it. Unfortunately, he picks a decade old dusty track to trill his rifts. While it's a bit more soulful and the best performance thus far in the evening, still, it's lukewarm. It's like the best tasting three bean salad in a three bean salad competition. And all the other salads smell like feet.

I much rather would have seen him sing something fun and up - more Bobby Brown than Bryan McNight for his first live exposure to the voters. His performance of My Prerogative was way more more fun to watch, yo! I'm optimistic at this point that he can secure the 3rd spot.

Casey - And then there was Casey. This is the point of the show where the train derails entirely. While Stevie hit some bad notes and couldn't quite make it happen, Casey can't pick my jaw up off the floor long enough to tell you how godawful this girl is.

As pretty of a pin-up as she is, HOW the hell did this girl make it to the Top 36?!! The worst song for her range, she makes "cute" faces throughout, like somehow, we'll fall under her adorable spell so we won't hear her butchering The Police. And then there was the winking.

It was reminiscent of that episode in Laverne & Shirley where they mistakenly end up in a Army Training film about VD, playing prostitutes. Laverne eventually embraces the "image" of tramp, complete with the massive, elbow-to-your-ribcage wink. It was on that scale, folks.

Pete had to re-watch it a few times to see it (the camera angle was a bit off), but even Paula commented on the wink. When PAULA tells you that you're overselling your song... Yeeeeah. Not good. To quote the panel...

I gotta say, everything about that was wrong. - Kara
To be honest, that's the least of your problems...the winking. - Simon

The judges served it up straight for once, and for a minute I thought she'd loose it, but points for Hot Casey holding her shit together and taking it with a good attitude. Fear not! She's got a rockin' hot body and seems kinda sweet, so I have no doubt we'll see her on another reality show in short order. I vote Big Brother this summer! Make it happen, CBS! Later, Casey!

Michael - We're more than halfway thru the show and NOBODY has really brought the heat yet. You figure that people still have a chance to impress. Our roughneck just serves it up like better than average karaoke.

I take points off for his "boy choker." It was one step up from puka shells. I also subtract points for Gavin DeGraw. Haven't we heard enough of him, "lately-ahhhh?" Bah. You have the Billboard Top 100 since it freaking started, and you come to me with Gavin DeGraw. (sigh.)

Sarver fails to bring the heat and it completely sounds like a night at my neighborhood karaoke bar. I am semi-bored and uninspired by this performance. Still, it's a lot better than much of the first half of the night...but the panel has obviously had it, because they each rip him a new one.

And I don't feel for him at all because it's getting late and I need some inspiration, dammit!

Ann Marie - Fails to learn from Alexis (and all 7 past seasons) and sings another Aretha number. It's a solid delivery. She's the best of the girls so far, but passion in her performance. No "umph!" No fire, no tension, no guts. I want guts, dammit! Show me your guts!!

The judges are all, "Bah. Good not great." Simon's sure she's headed home. Well, I guess we know who WON'T be Simon's Wildcard pick. Oofie.

Still, I think she's likable. WHAT. She's only 23? Oof. She looks a good 10 years (cough) older. I was kinda rooting for her as one of the "older" contestants. I mean...not that it matters...but she needs to befriend a stylist, a make-up artist and a hairdresser to update that Crystal Gayle in the making hairdo she's currently rocking. She's a PYT and needs to look it.

This is the point of the evening when it feels like everyone (except Casey and Stevie) is getting a gold star just for showing up!. Arg.

Stephen - If they mention that he forgot the words to his song (but still put him through...he must be amazing on that piano) one more time, I'm going to stick a fork in my eye. SHUDDAP about it already. Obviously you believe in him enough to get him to this point. Let the man show us what he's coming with.

Erg. That was the more boring rendition of Rock With You that I've heard. There was no fun in it. No personality. Hell, he looked like he might take a nap in the middle of the song.

Paula, FOR ONCE, has a really good point. She says THIS was the opportunity to sing that song that he f'ed up at the solo audition. It seemed to be a song he was really connecting with (even with the FAIL at the piano), and that he is 100% NOT connected to this Michael Jackson number.

It scares me when Paula Abdul makes coherent statements.
I'm very afraid right now.
Which is almost eerie when you realise who's on deck.

Tatiana - The only exposure to Tatiana for me was the final night of Hollywood week when they split them into rooms and she had her meltdown when Paula tried to give them the old, "I'm sorry to say....(freakish meltdown) you've made it" routine. So, I'm thinking, she must have a voice underneath all that crazy.

And she does. The voice is there. The rest...? Her delivery and behavior are both artificially stoic and manic (hair flips, shark eyes) at the same time. It all feels very forced. But, the voice is solid. The performance is slightly spooky and overdone at points, but for a Whitney song (sigh), she holds her own.

One couch over, Pete is swearing quietly...because she's the best female singer tonight. Will Vote For the Worst (and her talent) keep her around? Or will the nation of pre-teens give her the boot and save someone who doesn't give them the willies? Tune in next week and see our stunning conclusi..

Wait. While most Idols make little pleading motions and show the number to call, Tatiana actually gives a statement at the end of her segment directly to public, to "keep her dream alive." Or her "dream is in your hands. Don't fuck it up." Something like that. It's weird and off putting.

Much like this entire evening.

With the exception of Danny, on the whole? Last night was one craptastic performance after another.

Danny - What can you say about Danny without feeling like a jerk? You might be the nicest person on your block. Danny's nice and he's a widower. You cannot compete with that bubble of fresh loss.

He seems like a real, authentic, sweet person. More importantly, when he sings, he leaves it all on the stage. It's a natural, full-sounding vocal and he's confident without any trace of arrogance. Did I mention he's a widower? A recent one to boot?

Part of me is like, man...I don't want to watch this guy. Not that he's not talented - he's the best vocalist by far tonight. He's on a completely different level performance-wise. But more out of a concern that by sticking himself in this carnival after suffering such a recent devastating loss?

I feel dirty. Like a voyeur. Worse. Like I'm at the Indy 500 watching the most talented driver...on the off-chance he'll lose focus and crash into a wall.

At the same time, when you go through a loss of that scale, there is a sense of freedom. When you face death or the death of a loved one, if you make it out the other side of the worm hole, everything seems possible. If you can get past the anger, you might just be open to universe unfolding as it should. I think/hope that's where he's at.

Also, the jesus worries me a bit. He's a church guy, and I'm really hoping he doesn't go all Mandisa on us. You can be a church guy and still enjoy AC-DC. It's true.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm rooting for Danny, but I don't want to root for him because of his loss (which, at some point, AI will cross the line by trotting out his dead wife one too many times.) I want to root for him because of his skill and confidence and, most importantly, his (fingers crossed) non-douchiness.

But, I'm not ready to fully invest yet.
What can I say? I'm a commitment-phobe of the first degree.

Predictions for Moving on:
Male - Danny
Female - Tatiana
Magic 3rd - Anoop.

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