Wednesday, February 25, 2009

American Idol Top 36- Group 2

Here are some completely disjointed thoughts about the latest episode (delayed a day by some Obama guy) of American Idol before I check any of the public opinion or look at Dial Idol to determine who is likely to advance and all of that.

This was one interesting show to say the least, from song choices, to contestant behavior, to the simmering feud between Paula Abdul and Kara DioGuardi which will lead to an inevitable on-air catfight if the ratings continue to drop.

In so many ways, Season 7 was so much better than the current season taking into account the new format, the seemingly apparent fact that contestants are not allowed to play instruments at this point of the competition, to the mysterious hidden location of a perhaps scaled down and not as effective Ricky Minor and the band. The first few performances tonight were really all sorts of disappointing. I wonder how many casual Idol viewers at that point though to themselves, "I really can't take two hours of this crap. Let's change the channel and see what the Octo-Mom is up to tonight."

But if those viewers did change turn off Idol, they missed at least a couple of surprisingly good performances from the obligatory "under the radar" contestants that could really shake things up when the results are announced tomorrow night.

And apparently, the experiment last week of chatting with contestant families on the red Coca Cola Couches was done away with this week for whatever reason. I guess too many awkward moments or potential lawsuits. Maybe some of the parents just were too embarassed by their offspring this week as well.

Here is how the show went:

1. Jasmine Murray- "Love Song"

As pointed out by the judges tonight, hopes were high for 17 year old Jasmine. Last week, I predicted she stood a good chance of being the highest voted female in this group. Her song choice was certainly interesting, as a fairly recent one by Sara Barreilles that has never been done on Idol before. In fact, last week, Kara had told another contestant she should have done it instead.

So, this had the potential to be pretty good for Jasmine, who has the right look, the right poise (although some may find her pretty emotionally robotic), and a pretty apparent drive to succeed. When she sang though, it just was ok.... at best. It was indeed pitchy at times, and while I have found that I surprisingly like this tune, it just seemed odd for Jasmine to attempt. Randy Jackson remarked that maybe she should have done Rihanna instead. After all, Chris Brown was not in the vicinity.

Basically, I think Jasmine had a golden opportunity, but was done no favors at all by having to perform first on a two hour show, and may have blown it. I would not be shocked if she winds up the top voted female, but that is going to now be even much harder to pull off. I agree with one of the judges when they said that if she waited maybe two more years to go for this, she could have possibly been tough to stop.

2. Matt Giraud- "Viva La Vida"

The dueling piano player, who has received numerous plaudits up to this point, was of course not allowed to play any piano, and like Jasmine before him, failed to live up to expectations. It was of course another interesting song choice (one that just this month beat out "Love Song" for a Grammy) and the only Coldplay song I can even tolerate.

Before Matt began, I had a feeling this would either be great or be horrible. The song certainly is not an easy one and there were a ton of words to memorize. The first few lines of it I thought were actually quite good but then it really all fell apart vocally, but the judges may have even wound up liking it less than I did. They say that it was the wrong type of song for Matt G. to sing, and I can see where they were coming from, but I do think it was good for him to try to do something risky to stand out. Paula said the audition rendition was even worse. Matt seemed to almost be holding back tears after the judges' comments.

3. Jeanine Vailes- "This Love"

Another song choice from the past few years, but wow, that was bad. Jeanine was really off key on this Maroon Five number and it almost made me even miss Blake Lewis's rendition of it. I was glad when it was over. I am sure Jeanine can sing, and even though she is total fodder who we had seen nothing of, there had to be at least some reason (besides her legs which the judges and Seacrest seemed to focus on) why she was in the Top 36. Needless to say, she picked absoutely the wrong song and she has no prayer of advancement despite the fact that the gams of Season Six's Haley Scarnato kept her in the competition a lot longer than she should have lasted. Worst of all, Jeanine seemed to be begging for her singing life after the song and it came across bad. She pointed out that she is 28 and has been trying to get her big break for 14 years. I think we at least now know what might be taking so long for her.

4. Nick Mitchell- "And I Am Telling You"

After three very disappointing performances came the moment we were all waiting for..... would the nattily dressed Nick Mitchell who was being shown on camera take the stage? Of course not. I knew it would be his crazy alter ego Normund Gentle instead.

I do not know if this was more worthy of Dreamgirls or Nightmarefamewhores. It was both awesome and horrible at the same time. Vocally, I thought it was pretty poor in most parts and that Nick/Normund is actually capable of better. He was certainly no Tamyra Gray or LaKisha Jones on the iconic diva numer, most likely because he was so fixated on the entertainment aspects of the peformance and not the whole traditional vocal thing. At least, he probably ruined the song so that Von Smith will not be able to scream it at us next week.

Normund Gentle is certainly not the funniest character to ever be created, but has been very entertaining in the auditions and Hollywood up to this point nonetheless. It is just something that we have never seen on Idol before (for good or bad) and the uniqueness of such a contestant just makes it all the more noteworthy. People will definitely be talking about this performance tomorrow.

Personally, I thought that Normund's fan base (Gentlemen and Gentlewomen?) and the Vote for the Worst crowd could get him into the Top 12, and while that still might happen, it seemed like Nick was preparing and almost wanting this to be his only shot on Idol before maybe getting some kind of tv or internet deal out of the schtick, in spite of his corny changing of the lyrics begging America to let him stay.

I just don't know. For one thing, he had done this same exact song during Hollywood week and while everyone loved that, it did feel like sort of a re-run tonight. Is he that limited in his comedy routine? It was captivating nonetheless though so see him crawling around the stage and the judges table. Also, when he gave an in-song shout out to Doogie (aka Neil Patrick Harris, who for the second straight week was in attendance) , I just flat out found that hilarious. I don't know if that was planned or ad-libbed, but that was maybe the highlight of the whole night for me.

After it was over, and after Normund got in a pre-written zinger at Simon Cowell, there were a few interesting seconds while the judges were speaking where I observed the real Nick, dressed as Normund, with an embarassed look on his face like, "What the hell did I just do on national television? I will never be able to live this down."

If Nick/Normund is back (and I would be more in favor of that if he actually sang better), he better have some fresh material, or the routine is going to get really old very fast.

5. Alison Iraheta- "Alone"

Ok, so the 16 year old girl with the stupid fire engine red hair, but who also looks sort of like a younger Kelly Clarkson, and was wearing what looked like a black 1984 faux Madonna wedding dress, and perhaps braces on her bottom teeth was going to be singing what? We had barely seen her on television up to this point. What is she thinking? This song is iconic. It practically made Carrie Underwood the American Idol. Did she not see what happened to Ramiele last year when she attempted it? This girl has to be Idol fodder and this performance is probably going to be a train-wreck..... right?

Wrong. Holy Cow. I think she nailed it. Total surprise of the night She really sounded like Ann Wilson at parts. I would have to watch the Carrie Underwood Idol version again to determine if it might have been even better than that. Awesome stage presence as well for such a young performer too. She came across as a very credible as a rocker and I think a lot of people automatically sat up and took notice at someone they may have never heard of this season on ths show before. I admit to even calling in one vote for her (I got through on the first attempt). Alison may not only sorta look like Kelly Clarkson, she could indeed have the same kind of pipes.

6. Kris Allen- "Man in the Mirror"

The halfway point brought another singer who had not gotten much attention thus far, but who like Alison, I think rose to the occasion and surprised me at least.

Kris's performance of a 1980's Michael Jackson song (back when Jacko could actually look at the man in the mirror and see a nose attached) has never been done on Idol before. I cannot even think of a circumstance when it has ever really been covered (though I speculated that Archuleta might attempt it during Idol Gives Back last year) and because of that it was really sort of interesting to see done.

I do not think Kris's vocal was necessarily perfect, but it was still very strong and surprisingly interesting. For some reason, it felt more genuine than a lot of the performances you often see on Idol (cough Gokey). So, while I did not think he had much of a chance before the show to advance, he may now really have a decent one. Young girls are probably going to like him and vote for him (at least the ones who are not deluded enough to think they have a chance one day with Adam Lambert) and I also think that older folks (say those over 40 or 50, perhaps in the Red States) on a night where they were subjected to many 21st Century songs they may have a hard time warming up to, will like Kris's clean-cut look and earnest manner, at least contrasted to most of the other males in Group 2.

7. Megan Corkrey- "Put Your Records On"

She is from Utah and is an attractive blonde, so I am thinking she is probably Mormon, so keeping that in mind, I find her tattoo choices interesting as well as the fact that she seems to talk so openly about being a young mother in the process of divorcing her husband. I don't know how that is going to play with some aspects of America, but the guy must be a real SOB if she keeps talking about it.

After her initial audition, a lot of people loved it and she seemed to be the hipster choice to go far. I did not get her or her singing style then and I certainly did not get it tonight. Perhaps, I am in the minority on this, but I sorta hated it. Am I absolutely crazy or did Antonella Barba sing it better on Idol a couple years ago?

Even worse than the singing was Megan's awkward dancing-like movements while standing at the microphone which to me looked like they were stolen directly from Elaine Benes on Seinfeld. I just did not get it at all, including what I thought I heard of her saying that she disagreed with some criticism and saying she "rocked it" but if she is really Mormon, she may not be done for. They seem to go far on this show, whether deserving or not.

8. Matt Breitzke- "If You Could Only See"

Last week, I picked welder Matt in front of roughneck Michael Sarver in my "Working Class Dad: Heavyweight Division" Primary. I also really like the way that Matt B. seemed to find a way to get around the dorky dancing segment they make all the semifinalists do. So, I wanted him to do well tonight, but the singing was just maybe okay, and the performance even featured some sort of awkward dancing-like motions. I have always disliked this song and I think Matt could have picked one perhaps a little more rocked out, if he wanted to take the best advantage of this one shot. He disagreed with the judges though, (while sweating like a bald goateed Nixon) on the criticism of his song choice. I wish him and his family well on the soon to be beginning post- Idol portion of their lives.

9. Jesse Langseth- "Bette Davis Eyes"

While American Idol will probably never mention these things, I did know that Jesse is the sister of Grammy award winning singer Jonny Lang (and thus perhaps may have some more industry opportunities than others) as well as the fact that she seems to be the only contestant whom TMZ has found a DUI conviction for thus far. What I did not know was that the 25 year old singer has an 8 year old daughter.

I thought her singing tonight was actually pretty good, while being a little different and yet forgettable at the same time. I think she has a really good voice and could fit in today's contemporary market, but she did play it a little safe tonight on her song choice. Will it be enough to get her through? Could she be a wildcard contestant maybe? Do the rules make them sing the same song next Thursday? I am not sure. I just think that maybe she needed to really get peoples' attention more. The banter with the judges was also sorta awkward.

10. Kai Kalama- "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted"

Kai seems like a really nice guy who deserves props for taking care of his mother (though Idol won't harp on that like some other backstories) and he has more gray hairs than any contestant since Taylor Hicks.

I thought he sounded pretty good tonight indeed for the most part, and maybe it was good that he picked an older song that the older Idol viewing audience (such as my own mother) was able to relate to and appreciate more than a lot of the newer stuff tonight. But like with Jesse, it was sort of a safe song and Kai, who was an underdog to begin with, is going to probably find himself Anooped, in that a good singer did not stand out nearly enough to get people to want to pick up the phone and vote for him.

Also, I seem to think that I heard somewhere that Octo-Mom named one of her brood Kalama. If not, she should have.

11. Mishovanna Henson- "Drops of Jupiter"

First of all, does anybody know or have any guesses as to what her ethnic background is? I am just sort of curious from a demographic standpoint. She was the third teenage girl to take the stage tonight (something that could be a harmful factor for all of them in the voting) and like some of the others, I do not know if she stood out enough. The judges told her that she needs to "bring the crazy" if given another chance, etc. To, it was uncomfortable to see her on stage talking to them as if to validate that she is mentally unstable enough to advance. She is probably a nice enough person the way she is.

While I have found many performances this season have started off good and then gone off the track, I had the opposite reaction this time. I thought it started off very weak, and then towards the end got much better, which caused me to rank her higher than I would have initially done. Of course though, she felt the need to change the pronouns around to be gender appropriate in this song, which was another of the ones tonight that I am still sick of coming across on the FM dial.

12. Adam Lambert- "Satisfaction"

And now, for the pimp spot. Who else would it go to but to the contestant who most looks most like Lisa Minelli, and who brings to the season his already assembled fan base going back to his days on Wicked as well as those who have seen his performances (from mainstream ballad to musical theater to crazy glam rock).

As been speculated on blogs, the producers may be trying to already set up an Adam Lambert vs. Danny Gokey (who even got pimped by the judges tonight in comments to others) finale as some sort of controversial Left vs. Right, Church vs. Heathen sort of conflict. I bet they have high hopes that on the night of the finale, Gokey will sing some sort of inspirational song for the expressed purpose of curing Lambert of his gayness.... and then since they are all Hollywood liberals, the "sinners" will win out at the end and Gokey's dreams will be crushed. Personally, I think both of those annointed front-runners are a bit overrated and I am holding out hope for others.

Adam's singing tonight was good and his performance was impressive. You cannot deny his vocal range or his talent, but I still wonder if he is too Broadway or theatrical to ultimately win this thing. I did once see an interesting comment comparing him to David Cook, David Archuleta, and Syesha Mercado all wrapped up in one singer.

While his take on "Satisfaction" was sort of like Mick Jagger the Musical, I think Adam probably did the right thing to ensue his advancement to the Top 12, including the Mr. T. gold chain starter kit he was wearing. It was smart of him to be himself and walk a reasonable line between doing things his way and not camping it up too much at this stage for Mainstream America.

He managed to put his own take on a very well-known song and many will fawn over his on stage charisma. He certainly is no stranger to performing in front of audiences and that was evident. I just think that a few of the notes were off and while it was an impressive performance, it was not the best of the night on vocals alone. I also think he was wearing more makeup than Paula and Kara combined.

Judging them on vocal performance alone:

1. Allison Iraheta
2. Kris Allen
3. Adam Lambert
4. Jesse Langseth
5. Kai Kalama
6. Matt Giraud
7. Mishovanna Henson
8. Jasmine Murray
9. Matt Breitzke
10. Nick Mitchell/Normund Gentle
11. Megan Corkrey
12. Jeanine Vailes

On merit, I would want to see Allison, Kris, and Adam advance. It is indeed also my understanding that the next highest vote getter after that will automatically be back next week for the wild card show. That means that last week's Anoop Desai should definitely be returning to Hollywood and if things go the way I think they should with the top three tonight, I think Jesse Langseth should be given a chance to join him.

I am almost certain Adam will receive the most votes of the evening and will be in the Top 12. It is tougher to pick the top female, but because of the surprise factor and the fact that I think she kicked some derriere on her song, I am going to go out on a limb and say that Allison will have the same sort of triumph that Alexis Grace had last week.

Picking the next highest vote getter is probably the toughest of them all. It will either be Kris, Matt Giraud, or Nick/Normund. Really tough to predict here. Normund was fun, but was he as fun as we were hoping? Are we sorta over it already? The vocals were not that hot, dawg. He maybe could not sing the phonebook after all. Hopes were high vocally for Matt G., but he is probably going to be perceived as having fallen short, and as we saw last week with Anoop, having an early devoted fan base may not necessarily be enough. So, going out an even longer limb, I think Kris Allen will appeal to the same sort of voters that put Michael Sarver through, so my final prediction is that my top three will actually be the three to go through. Well, at least I will be right on one prediction.

Now, off to see if I am wrong at the Dial Idol website..