Tuesday, March 25, 2008

American Idol- Top 10

Hi. I was born on April 6, 1978 in Skokie, Illinois. I guess that makes me an Aries. (Looks off to the side), "Aries, is that it?"

Are we supposed to believe that these contestants really were unsure about what sign they were?

Anyways, the stars dictate that while they have all secured their spot on the big American Idol tour, one of the ten finalists will be eliminated from the show this week and will have to spend the rest of the week hanging out with Ellen DeGeneres, Access Hollywood, and all sorts of rejected past Idol contestants on the TV Guide Network.

First, as always, we briefly look back to last week, in what was a mild surprise to me, "rocker nurse" Amanda Overmyer failed to advance any further, which sadly resembled the fate last season of her favorite football team. That whole votefortheworst.com thing may not be nearly as influential as they thought. So, now Amanda is safe to act like she never really felt comfortable on the show (which I suppose was obvious in the half-hearted ways she pretended to sing in the cheesy group performances) and how she just did it for exposure. When they open up that whole ridiculous "wild card" round which apparently will be for an 11th slot on the tour, she can do it all over again.

This week saw contestants singing songs from the year they were born, and boy, does that make me feel old. How in the world am I actually a few months older than the geriatric looking Michael Johns? These are going to be a depressing couple of weeks, but enough about me...

This whole theme did have me curious enough to pursue some blogs, etc, and look at some of the potential songs for the contetstants and speculate which ones they would attempt to pull off. There were some really good performances tonight and some that were disappointing as well. What makes this season of Idol somewhat more interesting to me is that there are at least three contestants who seem like they would have fit in more with that whole Rock Star show that used to air on CBS. In that series, I tended to enjoy the musical choices more than what is often on Idol. There was one segment tonight of consecutive performances that I think probably has to qualify as the best back to back ones that Idol has had.

So, here is how I ranked them from this evening, based on vocal performance alone, from best to worst. As always, I am just going to type what comes into my head and thus this should not be confused with what is seen on other blogs or AI obsessed websites.

1. Carly Smithson- I thought she had a tough act to follow after the previous contestant, and while the judges were not overly thrilled with it, I really did like her performance of "Total Eclipse of the Heart." The whole rock style is what suits her best and while she really did try to do it exactly as Bonnie Tyler did, maybe that is why I thought it was as good as it was. I was surprised she was able to pull it off as well as she did. Simon said she looked tense. Well, it is a tense sort of song, in which the singer is on the verge of becoming unhinged. That kind of fits with the desperate but determined way that Carly seems to be going about performing this season. This is her last chance in the music business and she knows it and is going to give it all she has every week. Is she pregnant though? That is the rumor going around. It could possibly explain her visit to the bathroom right before the performance.

2. Michael Johns- As mentioned, he was musically unlucky enough to be born the same year as I was, in a year full of totally crappy disco songs. There were really only two good choices for him, and he picked one of them. It was certainly a not unexpected move, considering the way he killed (in a good way) a Queen song in the Hollywood audition. I do not know if he needed to do both "We Will Rock You" and it's companion"We Are the Champions" in the short time he had. He probably could have just picked one and it would have been really good, but he did manage to pull it off and I think Carly was only extremely slightly better than he was tonight. Johns really needed a strong night and he was able to get it and thus probably won at least two or three more weeks in the competition. So obviously, Freddy Mercury songs are his thing. He still has to prove that he can really raise his game covering other artists.

3. Chikezie- Once again, I am going to be embarassed for having him as high as I do. I definitely expect to be in the minority on this, but after showing off his originality the last two weeks, he played it safer this week on some ballad I really never heard of and I thought did very well. The judges say he is too old school, but I don't really know what is wrong with that. He is very vocally similar to Ruben Studdard on those type of songs and Ruben did prettty well on his season. Maybe I am just getting too old once again, if I can appreciate Chikezie kicking it so old school.

4. David Cook- Most people are probably going to think he was the best one tonight with his own take on Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and if I watch the performance a few times, maybe I would eventually agree, but I have to go with my first instinct. Don't get me wrong, I think he did very well, and was very strong at the end, but I thought the beginning was a little too emo for my tastes and I was distracted wondering what he would do with the rest of the song. Every week though David Cook takes on a song and finds a way to make it his own (even if he has perhaps borrowed arrangement styles from other artists) and thus the surprise factor is not really in play as much anymore with him. It does seem like the judges are maybe hedging their bets on the other David and really trying to talk Cook up too, thinking that if he were to win, they could have another Daughtry type act on their hands. As of now, I think D. Cook is the favorite to win the silver medal.

5. Syesha Mercado- For some strange reason, I really did not care for her performance last week, but I thought she was much better tonight, even though I really did not know the song she did. That might fit in with the whole concept of her being a little forgettable though, and that means that despite the fact that she is a very talented singer, she may be continuing to live on borrowed time. The judges loved what she did and hopefully enough of her fans will be motivated enough to pick up the phone.

6. Brooke White- Everybody's favorite cheery nanny sang the stalkerish "Every Breath You Take" by the Police, while once again playing the piano and sparing us from her horrible attempts at dancing. It was good to be sure (even after a botched beginning) but not as good as she was with "Let it Be" and maybe not even as good as the since forgotten Phil Stacey did with the Police song last year. I continue to pretty much be a fan of hers and hope she stays around, but wow, once again it's pretty telling to watch her reactions when the judges are critiquing her in any sort of a negative way. Her jaw clenches and her eyes get really angry. I would not be surprised to hear that she is trashing her dressing room and swearing like a drunken Amanda Overmeyer backstage after her performance.

7. David Archuleta- maybe because I cannot get fully over the Mitt Romney campaign, but I really want the kid to do well every week. His talent is hard to deny but I was really not at all keen on his performance this week, despite the fact that his many teenage fans probably loved it. The youngest contestant was born in 1990, when I was just starting Junior High and was much more into music than I currently am. I thought I knew about every song from that year, but I really had no idea what the song he did tonight was. Apparently, it was written a few years earlier but was released again in 1990, so it fits into a loophole. When I saw the list of song spoilers, I wondered if it was going to be another crappy ballad, but it was at least uptempo, which is what he needed to at least attempt and in that way, he did show some versatility, but I agree with Simon, it was all a bit theme parkish. Maybe it was like the Jonas Brothers XMAS Disney Spectacular, or High School Musical On Ice at the Mall or something like that. Again, the legions of screaming pre-teen and teenage girls will think little David was the bomb, but it's hard for me to relate. I think he has more vocal talent than he showed and I was hoping for a better song choice.

Let me spend a few minutes talking about some songs from 1990 and what he should have done, since I did look at the Top 100 from that year or whatever. There were some very bad songs that year of course, but also some ones that I have fond memories of. Based on last week, Archuleta probably was wise to stay away from songs by Michael Bolton or Roxette that were big hits that year, even though he could have done really well with them. I just don't know what this song was all about with something about all of us being someone's daughter or someone's son. Sounds like something Oprah might have written. (Also interesting how Paula took a shot at the fact that David (or his dad) never picks American artists to cover anymore on Idol).

So, I was hoping that if he could not pull off Skid Row or Kiss, he would have picked "What it Takes by Aerosmith" or "Love and Affection" by those badasses named Nelson. Ironically enough, Phil Stacey (once again) and his version of "Blaze of Glory" from last season would not have been too smart to try to follow. But even Paula Abdul or New Kids on the Block might have been more interesting from an entertainment standpoint.

As I conclude this essay portion, let me just say that while I think David Archuleta is still very likely to win American Idol Season 7, based on popularity, perhaps more than talent, I want him to at least prove that he is talented enough to deserve to win. I think he can do it, but I have never had him ranked as the best in any week yet, either because I find him somewhat boring (while technically very good) on ballads and a little too awkward on upbeat songs. I know that he is just 17 and very wholesome and all that, but eventually, he is going to have to do a song that is maybe just slightly edgy. However, his father may not let him. After all, as the song he sang tonight reminded us, he is somebody's son.

8. Ramiele Mulubay- I don't know if I buy this whole business about her being sick this week. I do think it was probably the best she has sounded in a few weeks, but taking on such a great song like "Alone" by Heart, it still paled in comparison to the original (of course), to Carrie Underwood having done it on the Idol stage one year, and also to when Carly did it during the Hollywood auditions. Ramiele was good, but she was also overpowered at times by her own background singers and on a song like that, if you cannot live up to previous contestants who have taken it on, maybe it was not the best choice.

9. Kristy Lee Cook- Simon sure knew what he was talking about when he called her rendition of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." a very "clever" song choice. Indeed it was. After sounding a bit too much like Monica Lewinsky during an unfortunate soundbite last week, KLC clearly tries to appeal to conservatives and her Red State base by taking on such a revered and beloved tune that is special to all of us patriotic Americans in the Grand Old Party. Rev. Jeremiah Wright and perhaps Michelle Obama as well might have really taken issue with the song, but many others are going to be extremely motivated to vote for her now, based on the song choice alone.

Vocally though, I don't think it really did much for me. For one thing, I have never found any singer that is able to remotely capture the whole Lee Greenwood version well enough and KLC's whole needing to change tenses at the beginning as to not mention her having a "wife" (which definitely would not be cool with the Right) was a little awkward. She gave a pleasant performance all around but it was more worthy of being sung this September at the big convention in the Twin Cities or during John McCain rallies this fall than a performance worthy of an "American Idol." If KLC can somehow play down the whole (unfair) KKKristy nickname and maybe distance herself from the Confederate Flag, it could work out. Hopefully, Meghan McCain might have enjoyed it and can work out a deal in which the long-since departed Idol contestant can make some stops with Sen. McCain and sing this and maybe flash a red tongue, in honor of a red electoral map.

10. Jason Castro- Happy 21st birthday dude! I wonder if he had a big post-show night planned. Of course, many believe that he is already perma-baked, but I hear he is too religious to get into that. Tonight, he did a Sting song that I really do not know much about and I thought it was just lacking vocally and performance wise. Again, Simon had a good point when he talked about the fact that the laid-back Castro may just not want this as much as all the others. That could be a plus in some peoples' minds, but I get the sense that if he was voted off, he wouldn't be at all disappointed. He is still likely to stick around though over more talented vocalists based on buzz from previous performances, looks, and personality, but ever since they all went to the big stage, he has been pretty disappointing.

Even the most ardent Castro-naut has to admit that he certainly belongs in the bottom three this week, and while that might happen, I actually think he skates by just based on popularity. It is really hard this week to pick a bottom three and who will be voted off, but I am going to say that once again Kristy Lee Cook takes a stool, and I will go out on a limb and say she will be joined by Ramiele and either Syesha or Chikezie.

People have been predicting the demise of Kristy Lee since Britney Spears was still under psychiatric care, but every week she finds a way to hang on as the next to the worst, last surviving contestant. In the case of nuclear war, I fear we will be left with cockroaches and Kristy Lee being sent back to safety. If she has to sing the Lee Greenwood song as the end of the hour tomorrow night, it will certainly be very emotional for some, but based on the way she has continued to survive, plus all the Republicans who she may won over/i.e. pandered to, she probably makes it at least one more week.... again.

I really hope that Chikezie/Syesha do not get screwed here somehow, so while I have her eight this week and thought she was pretty good, and has more potential than we may have seen in several weeks, I am going to take a very risky guess that this is the end of the road for Ramiele.


At 12:50 AM, Blogger wtgm3 said...

I beg to differ concerning Phil being forgotten. He is not forgotten to us, his Philnatics, and I'm sure many in the business are paying attention to him. He writes a blog for USA Today's Idol Chatter every Monday; his single, "If You Didn't Love Me" is at #35 on Billboard chart; he's got a video to he single playing on CMT and GAC; has been going around the country promoting the album and performing, and has an Opry appearance this weekend. Not too bad and certainly does not make him forgotten. And in case others, especially those on "American Idol," might have forgotten him, like you seem to have: the show will air a segment about him next week during Dolly Parton week. As far as Brooke: I like her, but her rendition of "Every Breath You Take" cannot hold up to Phil's.

At 1:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I earned the wrath of Phil Stacey fans! I must be on Google.

It's cool that you keep following him and I certainly appreciate his service to the country, etc.

I also found a way here to praise two of his performances from last season as well.

At 12:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corey, this is Conservative Democrat:

NO FUCKING WAY Ramiele goes home tonight: she has a massive Asian-American voting base and she's staying put and I see her in the Top 3.

My bottom 3 will be Kristy Lee, Jason Castro and Chikezie.



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