Wednesday, February 27, 2008

AI water cooler - top 20

Speaking of tens... ten boys, ten girls... hopefully, not three hours of teh suq. After watching it all en masse with the Ladybug, I'm here to report my findings. Listenings. Also, each contestant gave us a little "what you didn't know about me" segment before the song. I usually enjoy these because it's fun to see a little behind the scenes stuff. Guys first:

01-Michael Johns - a jock. They show him swatting tennis balls, then they show him singing Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way." Sounds a little sterile to me. He couldn't reach the high notes. Later he says that singing the Mac is a dream come true for him. If so, then why not pick a song like "Monday Morning," which is in a lower key?

02-Jason Castro - his big secret is that he gets easily tongue-tied. They show a bunch of botched takes from interviews. Poor guy. (I feel him on this; I can't talk to answering machines. I babble, stutter, and eventually hang up, despairing of a return call.) His song is "I Wanna Be Your Everything" by Andy Gibb. Though I hate to disagree with the Queen of Infidels, I thought it was a good take on the song. Good arrangement, he seems comfortable with the guitar. But he bailed on the high note, and sounded a little out of breath in general. Not as good as last week but still decent. Is Simon raising his hand to be called on?

03-Luke Menard - his deal is six years in an a capella group. They show a snip of Bohemian Rhapsody, which I don't care for; then he goes live into "Killer Queen." This isn't really any better. It looks rather like Peter Petrelli does American Idol, only without the ability to absorb the talents of others. He's got the wrong voice for this song. It's just too goofy, especially compared to Freddie's original. Agreed with Simon: no charisma.

04-Robbie Carrino - hey, the red couch room! I missed seeing that (in fact, I missed pretty much all of Idol last season). His deal is "Hey, I am me." Brilliant observation, Holmes. "America would be surprised to know I drag-race cars." Yes, I'm astounded that the long-haired bandana rocker is a drag racer. (As compared to Daniel Noriega, who starred in a cartoon called Drag Racer. Thank you, I'm here all week!)

Anyway, Robbie's singing "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner. Not quite as rocking as advertised, Rob. His voice is good, but something's just off to me... is it the constant "squint/weird mic tilt/finger waggle" thing? Oddly, it suffered for being sung in a more comfortable register for him - he needed a little roughness around the edges. (Don Henley usually writes his songs slightly too high for himself in order to get that edge to his voice.) Agreed with Paula (‼) - it was a little too safe.

05-Daniel Noriega - Ghey Manga boy was in a ninth-grade punk-rock outfit. (Oh, and he also apparently sang in a band.) Couldn't tell which was him at first. The lisp is tres annoying - so affected and precious. He's singing "Superstar" by the Carpenters, recognizing that last week was a rushed mess. Much better this week. Usually Karen Carpenter is tricky for the typical tenor because of her excellent low range - baritones seem to handle it more easily - but he's good for the most part. I did expect him to punch the end of the song a little more, though.

Hey - what's this "ISH" deal? Hands off my wife's turn of phrase, Rainbow Brite.

06-David Hernandez - he was a gymnast! He shall henceforth be named Trent Dimas for the rest of the season. Make it so, Mr. Data. He's singing one-sixth of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," and really doing a fine job. Best of the night so far. Great ending, not afraid to go for the moment. Simon's right - he rose to the challenge instead of getting pouty.

07-Jason Yeager - I've wanted to shave that bleach spot out of his hair since Hollywood Week. He plays three instruments. Now, I shouldn't snark since I can barely play a kazoo, but I'd say 2½, since that "hold the same chord and slide it up and down the guitar neck" is kind of cheating.

"Long Train Running." Ironically, this is a song where he could actually get away with the guitar, it's all the same chord, you just have to sustain occasionally. He's Happy Facing. He's also Snappy Pointing. Ugh. Judges are right, this song requires a gritty performance, not this lounge singer pferdkaese. Whoa, he's saying to the judges that he's all about soul? Shenanigans. He's as soulful as matzoh ball soup. I liked his Moon River much better.

08-Chikeize Eze - his big reveal is that his name is Nigerian, means "Well made by God." Neat. He also isn't dressed like the One Top tonight, a plus. "I Believe," lesser-known, I think it's a good choice. He sounds very good, much more like the audition Chikeize than Tom-Jones-eize. Good vocal, good execution. Just don't defend the suit, man.

09-David Cook - our 38-year-old contestant is a big word nerd. (Me too.) Please lose the scarf. (Hey, he did!) Now singing and playing Free's "All Right Now." I think it's pretty good - the guitar work was solid, not trying too much, and his voice worked perfectly for the song. Just please shut your word-hole about not needing to win over the judges. It's obnoxious (to use Simon's phrase). Heh, he's already backpedaling while talking to Ryan about realizing the need for charisma. I think my Ladybug is right, and he realized that he just sounded like a tool.

10-David Archuleta - it's probably for the best that the best pure voice in the show is going last. He reveals that he met the season one finalists and sang for them. Cute. The song, however, is the godless commie dirge "Imagine." As I said at Snark Raving Mad, I turn other people's radios off when this comes on. But of course, the arrangement is beautiful, and he's absolutely blowing it out of the water. Tremendous. Better than the original, even. Easily the best of all the men this week. The other guys had better watch out or he'll crush them like Tiger crushes the PGA.

So... Tuesday amounts to Dave and the Nine Pips. (Maybe Chikeize has eight more suits to share with everyone.) Bottom three are Yeager, Luke, and Robbie. I think that (as Ladybug says) the emo vote will boost Daniel, and Jason Castro was stronger than Robbie this time. Going home are Luke and Yeager. No big loss. For other takes on the guys, see Tracey and Ken S. and naturally the lasses of American Midol.

On to the ladies: hopefully with a minimum of spunk and ya-ya-hood.

01-Carly Smithson - another shocker: she works in an Irish bar. Being Oirish an' all, you wouldna expeck thot. She's taking on Ann Wilson - "Crazy on You" - and she has the pipes for it. Yup, she's got it. Really good, especially on the power sections. She's selling it far better than most of the guys did last week. Biker Nurse is Googling the flight schedules back to Dixie after that.

02-Syesha Mercado - she did commercials locally, and also does a creepy-good impression of a crying baby. Now she's singing "Me and Mr(s) Jones," and coming on the heels of the crying baby, is extra-ooky. I don't like this song much. She's not that bad, I don't agree with Randy at all; she was soulful. Paula's right (wow, she's been right a lot this week), the power notes were better than the softer ones. Simon calls it indulgent, and is predictably booed AGAIN. You know what? The booing is really getting stupid. I love that he shushed the crowd. Dunno, I seem to have liked it more than anyone else: it's not her fault that Carly went first.

03-Brooke White - she went to beauty school. Oh, great, she has David Cook's scarf from yesterday. Is it unusually cold out there this week? She's singing "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon. Heh, she even kind of looks like CS in profile. I really like this, she's singing well, though the guitar isn't adding anything for me. Maybe it's just grounding her a bit, I don't know. The entire second verse she's just got it propped on her lap. Then why bother? (Out of order alert: at the end she says she debated about leaving the guitar backstage. Hm.) But it was still quite good. Ha! At the end Simon says, "I love how she was looking at me while she was singing." Funny: then Randy and Paula decide to take a decent quip and burn it completely into the ground. Way to go. And for the love of heaven, Randy, stop calling Simon "Mr. Happy." It's insulting, and has some disturbing ramifications.

Now Ryan is taking a whiz on the ashes of Simon's decent quip. Idiot. Simon gets a good dig in reply to it.

(Aside - the ADA singing dentist gum commercial is odd, but kind of fun.)

04-Remiele Malubay - again with the amazing revelations: she knows how to hula dance. I could drop dead from not surprise. Hope the song is good. "Don't Leave Me This Way." She's handling the slow bit all right, but the transition is rough. The song really kicks there and she didn't kick with it, it left her behind. I also think the song needs that key change upward, or it just lays there. Speaking of which, she's just immobile. The vocal is maybe a six; the rest of it is a two.

And who stole Randy's brain? It's not a bad song choice. The trouble wasn't the choice, it was that she didn't sell it at all, it just lay there. No conviction at all.

05-Kristy Lee Cook - surprise! "I'm a tomboy." Gosh, NO! The horse-riding, kickboxing, strong-shouldered, muscle-toned girl is a tomboy. What, is this M Night Shyamalan Twist Week?

"You're No Good," Linda Ronstadt. She tended to shout a little, so Kristy may do well here if she's powerful but in control. Alas... control is good, but she's lacking a little in the power. The "gonna say it again" phrase needs to be stronger. Gotta SELL IT. She just never went for bust in that performance. However, she did move around a lot better, looked good, and the vocal was better than last week.

06-Amanda Overmeyer - Biker Nurse is already Dead Girl Singing. Goodness, why is a badger perched on her head? "Carry On Wayward Son." You know, for a rock tune, this is really sedate. It must be hard to rock out with a giant fork sticking out of one's back. At least she picked something with words this time, but it's just sitting there. Her vocal is messy. What the heck was that spazz dance during the guitar break? Too stagey. She's done like Christmas ham. Paula, oddly, says "We need her in the competition," but Simon has the perfect description: "Contrived." It's so obviously bad that the audience doesn't even boo him when he rips her. Ouch.

07-Alaina Whitaker - will be singing "Hopelessly Devoted to You," so I will spend this commercial break cringing. Everyone sings this, especially when they used to do Movie Week. Olivia Newton-John is a tough act to follow. Please don't stink.

Heh, interesting, kinda-OCD secret habit - she hates for her foods to mingle on the plate. I used to have this when I was a kid - I would have to dig out any peas or whatever that got into the mashed potatoes, and eat them first. Only then could I move on to the rest of the meal. Cruel parents would have noticed this and served me jambalya.

Ironically, she's the right age for the role she's singing, but is her voice up to it? I liked her demeanor for the song, but the vocal is average. Better finish than start. She didn't bother trying for the high note at the end (probably wise). She may not get another shot to improve.

08-Alexandréa Lushington - didn't notice her secret. It was probably that she likes to wear her shoes on her feet. "If You Leave Me Now" - watch it, you're starting to Happy Face.... tapping your hand in time. Quit bein' glad about your misery! Just eh - dull. This song has a dearth of vocal fireworks, so you have to sell the emotion behind it. I also don't like that she omitted the only real pop in the tune, when Cetera practically starts bawling at the very end. Alaina is the happiest girl in the room right now. And she just made it forty times worse when the judges point out that this was a poor choice of song: "I know the song was right for me." WRONG-O. She also adds, "I'm the underdog." I'll take Self-Fulfilling Prophecy for $400.

09-Kady Malloy - wow, she sings opera. Does darned well, actually. Hearts have been broken, so she's doubling up on the Wilson sisters, this time "Magic Man." She's taking it to a lower key, which is just silly. If you can sing alto opera, couldn't you hit these higher notes? Instead, she started too low and her bottom register is bad during the verses. She's not selling the song well. The girls are staggering around the final turn here. It was kinda maybe better than the last two but she's not safe.

(Aside - I hate "The Moment of Truth." It's despicable. In the promo, the show's own host says that he wished the producers would have spiked the upcoming episode. Good job, boys! How was this ever greenlighted?)

10-Asia'h Epperson - are you sitting down? She was a cheerleader in school. Like, no way! Even she realizes that this is less than startling. I wish everyone would have taken her advice about selling the cheer/selling the song. She's singing Eric Carmen, "All By Myself." Another person singing in the wrong key for their voice, she's not reaching the bottom notes on the verses. Chorus is better until the big note, which is screechy and sharp. I am not pleased at all. She had the emotion, but the performance didn't get there. Since this was such a poor week for the ladies, she's probably OK. Somehow, however, Randy is happy with it. Did he grab Paula's cup by mistake? He's loopy and she's on target, noticing the pitch problems. Simon, as usual, is spot-on: "You almost got away with it, but the song showed you up." Ryan tries to rally to Asia'h's defense but Simon nails him: "You have to know your limitations - like Ryan."

By the way, typing the word Asia'h's made me bleed from the eyes. This is a job for the Name Police.

Whew, the girls really closed out poorly. Any of six girls could make the bottom three. I'm going to say Biker Nurse (mortal lock), Alexandréa (for singing a slow old song no young people know or like - and then kvetching at the judges), and Remiele (first dud of the night, with three good-to-awesome performances before and a good performance after). Kady could get in there too, I don't know. Biker Nurse and Alexandréa will be leaving us.

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