Saturday, March 06, 2010

American Idol Top 20

American Idol this week saw a change in the schedule with the guys taking the stage a night early due to the illness of Crystal Bowersox, who thankfully was able to take the stage with the rest of the girls on Wednesday night. In what is considered to be a weak season talent wise, it would have been a big blow to the show had Crystal been disqualified or forced to withdraw from the competition. If she makes the Top 12, as expected, it would likely wind up being a much bigger deal if her diabetes would prevent her from taking part in a Tuesday performance show. All things considered though, it was a more interesting week for Idol, especially with the girls, who saw a few strong performances (and some really bad ones.) Perhaps, an extra day of preparation served them well. The guys had to get by on one less day of practice or preparation, but it likely did not make much of a difference in the performances. If everything goes according to plan, the top 8 girls will be the ones to perform six days after their last time, while the guys would have the one extra day.

Michael Lynche- “This is a Man’s World”

It may be a “Man’s World”, but it is probably a Girl’s Season on American Idol. Completely different vibe for Big Mike this week, going from Maroon 5 last week to James Brown. He received plaudits for his soulful take on the older song, and did well, though I am not sure if it was really worthy of the standing ovation from Randy Jackson for instance. Mike’s personality and musical versatility could possibly get him into the Top 12 next week if he has another strong performance. We also learned, perhaps not unexpectedly, that he was a football player who also took part in musicals. Sounds like he could have been a character on Glee…. really do not know what else to say. It’s hard to do these write-ups on Saturday, so these should be brief. Grade B

John Park- “Gravity”

After a surprisingly bad performance last week, John vowed to be more relaxed when he took the stage to sing this John Mayer song. It started off sounding nice for the first few seconds, but then it became clear that pitch problems and nerves were still there for the Northwestern University student. It was just pretty boring. He may have talent, but like the Wildcats in the athletic arena, he fell short, and Simon Cowell questions his believability and predicted that John would be rejoining Purple Haze in Evanston. In a bit of a theme for this season for several contestants, John may be remembered as a weaker version of Season 8’s Anoop Desai. Grade C-

Casey James- “I Don’t Want to Be”

He claims he has never really seen the show before, but he did pick a popular song that has been done several times on the Idol stage in recent years, though Casey’s version was the first to feature a musical instrument. The electric guitar playing was really good, certainly the strongest in that regard that Idol has ever seen. As one of the male front-runners for this season, Casey appears to have made a smart decision in once again picking a well-known crowd pleasing song. His voice sounded really good on the first verse, but then it sort of fell apart a bit after the first chorus, and it seemed more about the guitar playing by the end of the number. Kara DioGuardi, Casey’s biggest fan, said he took two steps backward vocally. Did her husband make her take that tact? Grade B-

Alex Lambert- “Everybody Knows”

I certainly think he did better than last week’s abomination, but I still think it was pretty weak vocally. In fairness, it sounded a bit better to me having just watched it back. He seemed a bit more comfortable on stage, perhaps because he was able to also play his guitar. Alex received great comments though, perhaps due to the low expectations that was set for him and people seem invested in his “diamond in the rough” storyline. I can agree that with more experience and training, he could be much better, but right now, I still think he is far away from American Idol caliber. Grade C-

Todrick Hall- “What’s Love Got to Do With It”

Todrick seems to be trying very hard to say all the right things while the camera is on him, but I still think he might be a bit of a jackass. Surprisingly though, I thought he sounded pretty good on a slowed down version of a Tina Turner classic. I seemed to enjoy it more than the judges or the general public though based on what I later read. It is very confusing why the judges seem to be criticizing him for rearranging songs and putting his own spin on them (and I did not like what he did last week.) Some of the most lauded male singers in recent Idol seasons have been known for changing songs around, so I am not sure why they think Todrick is misfiring so badly. He might need to blow people away next week in order to earn a spot in the Finals. Grade B

Jermaine Sellers- “What’s Going On”

It has struck me that in terms of musical stylings and perception, the two African-American female contestants are pretty caucasianish. This is the first Idol season without a “Black Diva.” In that regard though, Todrick Hall seemed to be trying to pick up the slack with his song choices, and Jermaine is just acting the part of a diva. Singing aside, he really got the banter thing wrong and came across as unlikable both before this week and including. His rocking of a “onesie” was also disturbing. I can definitely picture him as a church/gospel singer, but he was still lacking on this Marvin Gaye number, and it seemed a little too high pitched. The judges did not like and Jermaine did not like them not liking it. He claimed he would be ok with the Lord on his side though, and Simon pointed out that if that was the case, there would not be a need to even give the phone number to vote for him. American Idol just did not turn out to be the right show for him. Maybe he can sing at Simon’s wedding. Grade C

Andrew Garcia- “You Give Me Something”

I do not know the song and I found it boring, though Andrew clearly has a very good voice. He took the stage without his guitar and he seemed to be somewhat disconnected from the performance and the judges keep talking about “Straight Up” from Hollywood. Watching it back a second time, I did not think it was as good, but it seemed fairly competent on Tuesday night. Andrew will be around for a while, but I still think that huge tattoo on his neck will wind up costing him at least two places in the competition. I also suspect we may see him doing an acoustic version of Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted Snake” next week, just to get the judges off his back. Grade B

Aaron Kelly- “My Girl”

Whether it is a bit of an act or not, Aaron continues to come across as shy and soft spoken off stage, but it is also clear that he has been performing in front of crowds for several years. He has a good voice, and made a smart decision to sing a song that would appeal to older viewers, while putting a bit of his usual country twist on it. I think there were some vocal issues though and it reminded me a lot of some of the also-rans from Season 1 for some reason. In the post song banter, and giving of the phone numbers, I don’t know, but does Aaron maybe have a bit of a man crush on Seacrest? That could get weird. He ought to be a little mad at the host though for putting him on the spot and asking him about Justin Bieber, after the judges had brought his name up. I respect Aaron for instinctively not being able to say he enjoyed the musical offerings of young Bieber, but wow, that could really cost him votes of many young girls! Grade B-

Tim Urban- “Come On Get Higher”

Tim was really bad last week, and maybe marginally better this week, with the guitar working to his advantage, but I thought he was the weakest of the night and certainly does not belong in the American Idol semifinals. However, between the sympathy factors and the shirtless photos of him going around the internet, it was very unlikely he would be eliminated. Basically, he is going to be the male version of Haley Scarnato and some other female singers from seasons past who stuck around a lot longer than they should just because of their looks. That is really his own strategy at this point, though it was curious to hear him get positive comments from Simon. Judge Ellen DeGeneres probably made the most sense though when she advised Tim to go into acting with the singing going on the backburner. Maybe he can get a role on Glee. Grade D+

Lee Dewyze- “Lips of An Angel”

So, it turns out my parents’ friend knows him from shopping in the paint store where he used to work. His video package alluded to his having made mistakes during his High School years. Sounds like Idol might be preparing itself for some details of that to be coming out. In a season where the talent level of the guys is so suspect, Lee’s vocal imperfections and nervousness may strangely work to his advantage. He seems to be the most authentic of the male performers and while it certainly had issues, I liked his performance on Tuesday. Without his guitar, he looked really scared at times, and seemed especially focused on trying to avoid a moment where he would be Lookin’ Like a Fool with his Pants on the Ground. Of all the contestants this year, he seems to be the one that will remind voters the most of the two previous winners; David Cook and Kris Allen, though still lacking their vocal skills and charisma. Nonetheless, Lee has clearly emerged as a darkhorse in this competition. Grade B +

To rank ‘em, based on how I saw it on Tuesday:

1. Lee Dewyze
2. Todrick Hall
3. Andrew Garcia
4. Michael Lynche
5. Casey James
6. Aaron Kelly
7. Jermaine Sellers
8. John Park
9. Alex Lambert
10. Tim Urban

Who should have been eliminated: Tim Urban & Alex Lambert
Who I predicted would be eliminated: John Park & Jermaine Sellers
Who was eliminated: John Park & Jeremaine Sellers

Called those two! Bad night for singers from the Chicago area, but Lee Dewyze remains.

Should be interesting to see how the eight remaining guys do on Wednesday, but as mentioned, Todrick Hall has a lot to be worried about. Much harder to predict who else might be voted off. Lambert and Urban may need to cry to win votes. Big Mike Lynche may need to threaten bodily harm to someone and Aaron Kelly better pray that the Justin Bieber Fan Club does not turn on him.

Next came Wednesday and time for the ladies to hit the stage:

Crystal Bowersox - “As Long As I Can See the Light”

Thankfully, it was a quick recovery for Crystal from her apparent hospitalization, because the show this season would just not be the same without her talent and artistry. She seemed to deliberately attempt to avoid any sort of sympathy reaction from the viewing audience. I was not familiar with the song she did, but it was referred to as a Credence Clearwater Revival tune that Crystal put a gospel twist on it. Technically, it was close to perfect, as Crystal usually is, but still, I think there are other songs she can do that will really blow people away and get everyone talking about her as the person who deserves to take the season. The judges were of course very impressed, especially Simon, who compared her to Kelly Clarkson and also used the word “misunderestimated.” We all miss you President Bush. Grade A-

Haeley Vaughn- “The Climb”

Miley Cyrus is not exactly known as one of the greatest singers in the known world, so Haeley taking on one of her signature numbers was scary from the start. Let’s be frank. Haeley was bad. Really bad. It made Miley look a multiple Grammy winner. It’s tough to see her be so out of her depth at this point, and I thought there would be enough people who would simply vote for her because of her personality and youth, but it’s just hard to imagine that Crystal and Haeley belong in the same competition. Haeley might be much better one day, but blame the judges for advancing her this far in her first year of eligibility while a singer like Angela Martin was turned away once again, in this her last eligible year. Just as Tim Urban should try to break into television, Haeley should try to contact the folks at Disney and see about taking over for Ms. Cyrus on Hannah Montana. Grade D-

Lacey Brown- “Kiss Me”

Last week, Kara suggested that Lacey sing this song, and sure enough, that is exactly what she did. Lacey would have us believe that was just totally a coincidence! Lacey has an interesting voice but once again this week, she seemed to be a bit overwhelmed by the moment and I agree with the criticism that it was a bit of a karaoke performance. She was kind of like the John Park of the girls the first two weeks, and I was not sure if Texas, the night after their midterm primary, would be enough to save her from a subpar performance that early in a two hour program. Grade C-

Katie Stevens- “Put Your Records On”

I really hate this song. Perhaps, because I remember Antonella Barba and Megan Joy butchering it on the same AI semifinals stage. Katie sang it better than they did in my view, but it’s just not really a song where a singer can shine on. Katie has a good voice, but I am not sure how likable she is coming across to older voters. The judges keep asking her to get younger and so something youngish. Radio Disney perhaps? They never had that criticism for some of the most successful teenagers on the show in recent years like Jordin Sparks, David Archuleta, and Allison Iraheta. Seacrest asked her if she was a fan of any teenage-ish singer out there and she really did not know what to say. Had she name checked any of the three mentioned, she probably would have won some of their lingering Idol fanbases. At least she took the 5th on Justin Bieber. Grade B-

Didi Benami- “Lean On Me”

Didi is really good, but she was average at best tonight in her choice of song and how she went about singing it. Had she just performed it in a low key manner with just a guitar as the instrument, it could have been a lot better. Didi trying to sing soul music in a loud way is just not her thing and she took a big step backwards after this performance in the eyes of Idol watchers. She is also very emotionally fragile, and apparently does not take well to criticism or being compared to a screeching cat. Somebody needs to call in Brooke White to consult her on how to keep it all together. Grade C

Michelle Delamor- “With Arms Wide Open”

Taking on a Creed song was a bold move for Michelle, and thru the first verse, it seemed to be paying off. Then though, as the music kicked in and she stepped away from the mic stand, it started to get more screechy and she seemed to run out of gas. Continuing to sing it in a more low tempo way would have made it better. While I thought she would probably survive by default, Michelle’s low profile in the competition still had her in jeopardy, and I was fairly certain that if not this week, she would be eliminated next week and would not make it to the Finals. Up until this part of the show, a huge gulf existed between Crystal and the others who followed, but things would begin to get better. Grade B-

Lilly Scott- “ A Change Is Gonna Come”

I am not exactly sure if Lilly looks more like a young Cyndi Lauper or a young Tina Yothers, but she is definitely a different kind of singer for the Idol stage. I liked what she did with this Sam Cooke classic, while also playing a 12 string guitar. I hear that some Adam Lambert fans were angry with her for taking on a song their hero did in the Finale last year, but I think she probably did it better and if she can find ways to stay interesting musically and not repetitive, she could continue to do very well in the competition. Simon was really big on pimping Crystal on Wednesday and disagreed with the other judges who said Lilly was the best of the night thus far. Grade B+

Katelynn Epperly- “The Scientist”

I find most Coldplay songs pretty boring, especially this one, but I like what Katelynn did with it. She got some criticism for singing slowly, but that is how the song goes, and her intimate take on it seemed to work. The Idol producers seemed to want to help Katelynn out allowing her to play a white piano, bathed in white light, while wearing a white dress. There is apparently a similar Natasha Bedingfield version of the song that Katelynn claims she never heard of. Hmm. For two weeks in a row now though, Katelynn has come out and exceeded expectations and showed versatility in two different styles. People probably should not “misunderestimate” her as just another young, blonde pop singer (albeit with a large upper back tattoo.) She seems to really have some musical substance and could be worth watching as the competition heats up. Grade B+

Paige Miles- “Walk Away”

Paige has good taste in music and probably would be fun hanging out with and doing coloring books and stuff, but I am not sure who exactly is being motivated to pick up a phone and vote for her. She has a powerful voice in parts, but I don’t really think she has been all that great at all. There are enunciation issues when she sings, perhaps related to the dry mouth that she was talking to Seacrest about having, right before she performed. Kara, who co-wrote the song with Kelly Clarkson claimed she should not have been smiling when singing the angry lyrics about some guys who had done them wrong. Paige will be back for the Top 16, but I still think she somehow winds up as an elementary school teacher one day. Grade C

Siobhan Magnus- “Think”

Last week, I talked about how I found Siobhan to be quite creepy and a likely stalker. The fact that Siobhan had a Mohawk not long ago, which made me think of Jennifer Jason Leigh in the film “Single White Female” and the way that Siobhan’s speaking voice makes her sound like Patty Hearst during her time with the SLA, it’s still hard to shake that. However, I am now far more interested to watch Siobhan’s performances. Taking on Aretha Franklin is a big task, especially for a skinny white girl, but she has quite a powerful voice and there was one note towards the end that is thus far the single greatest highlight of any performance this season. Last week, I mistakenly predicted she would be voted off, but now, I think she will probably be singing “Think” all throughout the summer on the Idols tour. Grade A-

Ranking them from best to worst with the top 4 clearly better than the bottom six:

1. Crystal Bowersox
2. Siobhan Magnus
3. Lilly Scott
4. Katelynn Epperly
5. Katie Stevens
6. Michelle Delamor
7. Did Benami
8. Paige Miles
9. Lacey Brown
10. Haeley Vaughn

Who should have gone home: Haeley Vaughn and Lacey Brown
Who I predicted would go home: Paige Miles and Lacey Brown
Who did go home: Haeley Vaughn and Michelle Delamor

While I did not predict either girl to be eliminated, on merit alone, it is a good thing that Haeley was eliminated. I was worried she would make it all the way to the tour with the help of her friends at Vote For the Worst. Instead, it is back to Pooter High! Good luck to her. Her sing-out Thursday night was pretty bad, but emotional for many, especially when the lyrics of the song as they relate to Haeley’s circumstance are taken into effect. Many of her fellow female Idol contestants were in tears, and before that, I was thinking about how nobody seemed to be crying for those who were eliminated, unlike past seasons.