Thursday, February 28, 2008

And Then There Were 16

Jason Yeager
Alexandréa Lushington

Alaina Whitaker
Robbie Carrico

Watch video of Jason Yeager elimination:

Watch video of Alexandréa Lushington elimination:

Watch video of Alaina Whitaker elimination:

Watch video of Robbie Carrico elimination:

Watch video of Top 20 '70s medley:

Next week, the Top 16 semifinalists will be singing hits from the '80s. The week after, the Top 12 finalists will sing music from the Beatles songbook, available to the show for the first time. There will be a new set, new opening credits and a special exit song by Ruben Studdard.

"Idol Gives Back" returns on April 9. The producers have already signed Brad Pitt, Miley Cyrus, Reese Witherspoon, Mariah Carey, Snoop Dogg, Daughtry and Carrie Underwood to appear.

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2008

American Idol Top 20:
The Less Impressive Ladies

Last week we lauded the ladies, ranted on about how they were SO much better than the men, discussed our three "wow" moments and why we finally had a reason to watch Season 7 of Idol.

Unfortunately, this week made us feel that what a lot of our friends are saying -- it's the year of the man on Idol -- is true. Not that we like the nearly already crowned winner of Season 7, David Archuleta. But overall, the men had a lot more impressive and improved performances in Week 2, while the ladies produced no wows this week. In fact, few, if any, improved, and some actually got worse.

When we peeked at the DialIdol numbers this morning, we nearly keeled over. The person who had the absolutely worst performance Wednesday night was in first place. Is everyone on drugs in America? Aside from the fact that rocker-nurse Amanda Overmyer looked like a cross between Elvira Mistress of Darkness and The Bride of Frankestein -- with a bad stylist -- she didn't hit one right note as she struggled through Kansas' "Carry on My Wayward Son." We winced our way through the performance. And yet, America apparently thinks this was the best female number, while Alaina Whitaker's bland but well-sung "Hopelessly Devoted to You" is dead last. You gotta be kidding us, guys. Poor Alaina, she placed near the bottom last week and at the bottom this week, after giving two very decent performances. There is something about that 17-year-old this country doesn't like.

Here is how the DialIdol numbers looked:
1. Amanda Overmyer
2. Brooke White
3. Kristy Lee Cook
4. Carly Smithson
5. Asia'h Epperson
6. Alexandrea Lushington
7. Ramiele Malubay
8. Syesha Mercado
9. Kady Malloy
10. Alaina Whitaker

First up was Carly Smithson. We all know about her tattoos, her husband's tattoos and their tattoo shop, but Carly told us she also works in an Irish bar and she can make a shamrock in the foam of an ale. OMG, how exciting is that? Can we sing now? Smithson sang Heart's "Crazy on You." Someone is our household pointed out that Carly was in need of a good support system ... for her breasts, and that their bobbling constantly while she sang was very distracting (and not in a good way). Though not a "wow" moment like we thought she had last week, it was a good song choice for her voice and yet another solid performance from Carly. Randy Jackson thought there were some sharp pitch problems especially with the lower notes, but that by the middle of the song Carly had gotten it together. Paula Abdul did some blah, blah, blah on it's great to see you healthy again, then added that Carly is an amazing singer and did an amazing job. Simon Cowell thought it "a much better performance than last week," but added that he still didn't think she had connected with the right song yet. However, he told her, "I think you are, and I'll put it on record, an incredible singer. I don't think any of these girls can touch you vocally. ... I think you're the girl they've all gotta beat." He could be right.

Watch video of Carly Smithson singing "Crazy on You" by Heart

Syesha Mercado tells us about the commercials she has made, then demonstrates an eerily accurate baby cry she can do. We must admit we were disappointed by Syesha's take on Billy Paul's "Mr. and Mrs. Jones," a song we really love. Syesha's powerhouse voice is not a good fit for the song, and, we agree with Simon here, changing the words to "Me and Mr. Jones" is distracting and offputting. Syesha tried to play it subdued and come in with a big note at the end, but overall, much as we wanted it to, it didn't work for us. As Syesha is one of our favorites and has, we think, one of the top three female voices this year, we hope she is not tripped up by one bad song choice, as she is in DialIdol's Bottom 3 for the week. The public seems to be judging contestants this year on only the week's performance, instead of taking their body of work (from the auditions on) as a whole. (That is, except for Alaina Whitaker, who, for reasons unknown, they just seem to plainly dislike.) Randy said, "I don't think this was a great song choice for you," telling her she has a big belting voice and that she should pick songs she can use it on. Paula said Syesha tended to go off on the softer notes, but she liked what she did and the interpretation. Simon called it a bit indulgent, adding "the song obviously wasn't written for a girl so it was probably a bit of a silly choice to have done that. I was put off as soon as you started it. It's not a song that's really designed for your voice anyway so you can't really do that huge note at the end. I don't think that was a particularly clever choice for you."

Watch video of Syesha Mercado singing "Me and Mr. Jones" by Billy Paul

Brooke White is a beauty-school dropout. Yes, a real one, we're not trying to cue the Frankie Avalon version from "Grease." She has been "doing hair" since she was 11 and was attending beauty school when she decided to pursue singing instead. We are beginning to think that America has taken Earth Mother-nanny Brooke White totally into their collective heart. There is something so sweet, engaging, mature and genuine about Brooke's personality, and all without being cloying. Singing Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" while looking straight at Simon, who did, indeed, think the song was about him and seemed to enjoy that, was just a perfect fit. Not a perfect performance perhaps -- there were some pitchy parts -- but her singing that particular song while she played acoustic guitar was the right choice for Brooke. Randy thought it was a great song choice, acknowledging the Carly Simon vibe that Brooke emanates. Paula also called it the perfect song saying that it totally suited Brooke and that she liked what Brooke did to it. Simon said, "I absolutely loved it. The absolute perfect song for you. It was one of the rare occasions where I felt the artist had genuinely chosen the song. It absolutely connected; I thought you sang it very well. The song didn't sound old-fashioned. This is why we put you through into the latter stages." Ah, Simon, you might be vain, but you still have the ability to appreciate others as well.

Watch video of Brooke White singing "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon

Ramiele Malubay discussed her background in Polynesian dance and briefly demonstrated a couple of hula steps. We thought the judges were a bit tough on her version of Thelma Houston's "Don't Leave Me This Way." True, there wasn't enough time to really build the song the way it should build, but we got the impression they just didn't like the song choice. Maybe Simon hears the song at every wedding he goes to, but we still love the era and the song. As the judges used to say, Ramiele could sing the phone book and make it sound good. So we're not sure why they gave her such a tough time. Randy found it a little rough and said it was just OK vocally. He called the song choice weird and said it wasn't his favorite choice for Ramiele. Paula said (well this is the English translation of what she said) that although Ramiele's vocals are truly amazing, the song has the same notes and Ramiele didn't get to perform her magic with it. Simon's problem with the song was "that I've heard it so many times." He said last week she showed more personality and stood out more and that this was one of those performances he wasn't going to remember. He tempered that with "I think you're terrific" and called her one of the top three best singers in the competition.

Watch video of Ramiele Malubay singing "Don't Leave Me This Way" by Thelma Houston

Just as America doesn't get Alaina Whitaker, we're not sure why they've taken so to Kristy Lee Cook, who told us in her intro video what a tomboy and outdoors girl she is. There are certainly prettier women in the competition, and most definitely more vocally talented ones. Is it because she sold her horse to get to the audition? That only proves to us that she cares more about her career than her critters. But what do we know? She did a respectable version of Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good," a lot better than last week's performance when she was suffering from the flu and bronchitis. She also wore a very fitted silver lame top that accentuated her not insubstantial "girls." But vocally, we were not blown away. Randy called it a 100% improvement over last week and a better song choice for Kristy. And although he was waiting (as we were) for a breakout moment that never came, he said "I thought that you did it really good." Paula said it was a good song choice for Kristy. Simon agreed that it was a huge improvement over the week before, but said his only worry was "I don't exactly know what type of singer you really are. I have a feeling that if you were to go down more the country route, you're going to find it much easier to make a statement, which I'm not sure you quite did with that song," but also said she had "a lot of potential."

Watch video of Kristy Lee Cook singing "You're No Good" by Linda Ronstadt

We learned from Amanda Overmyer that David Cook is not the only intellectual in this year's Idol pack. Amanda loves to read, believing that knowledge is power. Unfortunately, her performance was the train wreck of the evening. First of all, the outfit was atrocious and she looked as if she was wearing a fright wig. We like her gravelly voice a lot and would like her to make the finals, but she would have been laughed out of the audition room had she performed then as she did last night. It was that painfully bad. The judges, however, walked on eggshells trying not to be too hard on her. Randy said it was the wrong song choice with way too much melody and that the verses were very pitchy. He advised her to stick to bluesy music. Paula, who couldn't tell Amanda she looked beautiful (because she looked awful) before diving into a negative critique, instead told her she had some great moves and could dance (huh?). She watered down her criticism to "You're special. You are needed in this competition. You are a brilliant, brilliant artist, This was not the right song." (Later, after Simon's critique, Paula jumped back to tell Amanda she was beautiful in her video, without all that excess makeup). Simon said, "In your film [her video intro] you came over as very natural, very cool. Then everything felt contrived from what you wear, from this terrible hair, from the indulgent song, everything. None of it felt natural or real. It was like you're in your own little world, with actually quite an ugly song. I couldn't wait for it to finish. I really, really didn't get that. And if you want the popular vote, you're not gonna get it by doing that." Paula then began to speak, but the cutoff outro music came on, prompting Simon to throw up his hands and say, "It's the Oscars!"

Watch video of Amanda Overmyer singing "Carry on My Wayward Son" by Kansas

Alaina Whitaker joyfully shared her obsessive-compulsive disorder with us. She not only cannot have different types of food touching on a plate, she uses different forks for each food. But, she said, it's getting better. We're glad. As we've already mentioned, she did a very serviceable rendition of Olivia Newton-John's "Hopelessly Devoted to You," though at times it sounded closer to an impression than just Whitaker singing. And perhaps her dress was a bit too "I'm leaving for the prom now." It wasn't great, but overall it was certainly pleasant and assuredly better than some of the other girls. But there her name sits in the 10th position of the DialIdol list. Randy said it wasn't the right song for Alaina and that the verses were really pitchy and that it wasn't his favorite from her. Paula, on the other hand, said, "I think you did a real good job with it. ... I don't think this was as bad as [Randy] thinks." (we agree). Simon told Alaina he likes her but that "it's almost as if your grandmother prepared you for this audition" and that everything about her was very, very old-fashioned and a bit pageant-y. On the upside, he added, "I actually think you're one of the dark horses in this competition."

Watch video of Alaina Whitaker singing "Hopelessly Devoted to You" by Olivia Newton-John

Alexandréa Lushington said that she was the poster child for the Atlanta fire department because her father worked for them. We liked her odd song choice, Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now," as well as its arrangement. For us, she is the most interesting contestant in the competition because of her song selections and arrangements. Each week, we wonder what she is going to come up with. Even her clothing choices are interesting and atypical, but without being outrageous. You definitely get the feeling she is making the decisions, not some Idol staffer. As she is just 17, it displays her vast experience as an entertainer and acknowledges that she has learned alot about the business since she began performing at a very young age. However, the judges didn't agree with us. Randy thought the song selection was too safe (we thought it was rather daring) and told her that she should never make safe choices. Paula, fortunately, saw it more our way (wait, should we be feeling good about that?), saying, "I feel that you did let go. You did your own arrangements. You stretched it; you made it your own. I've never heard a female take on that song." Simon began with "I was a big, big fan of yours in the early stages of the competition," but continued with "I think you're struggling right now. That song has never been covered [well, according to Wikipedia, it's been covered more than 100 times, but not by anyone hugely famous] and I don't think it's been a hit outside of when it was originally released for a reason." He said there's nothing you can do with the song, that she was inconsistent and both in- and out-of-tune, and finally proclaimed the performance boring.

Watch video of Alexandrea Lushington singing "If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago

Kady Malloy clued us in that she has operatic talents. There's a big voice inside that blonde Britney wannabe. Too bad we didn't see much of it Wednesday night. When she wasn't belting on Heart's "Magic Man" (and BTW, how in hell could Simon NOT know that song?) she was drowning in the low notes. In those sections, she mumbled the words as well, making them occasionally unintelligible. But Kady's biggest problem is, well, she just comes off as annoying and petulant. And vocally she didn't shine at all this week. Randy said he loves that song but on the verse Kady never quite found the notes and it didn't work. Paula said that when Kady powered it she sounded great, but on the low notes she lost a little bit. Simon again this week told her that everything she does on film is fantastic, "then you come out here almost like someone trying to impersonate Christina [Aguilera] now, singing at the back of your throat with a song I've never heard before, which has no melody. I just don't think it went anywhere."

Watch video of Kady Malloy singing "Magic Man" by Heart

The pimp spot was awarded to Asia'h Epperson, who revealed she was a cheerleader in middle and high school (whoa!) and that she thinks it helped prepare her for Idol (don't even ask). Frankly, she didn't deserve the pimp spot for "All by Myself" (which, by the way, Randy, was sung by Eric Carmen -- not Celine Dion -- in the '70s). She had some great end notes in the chorus, but the verses just fell flat. To be honest, none of the girls deserved the pimp spot this week. Brooke White probably gave the best performance, but even it fell short of being a "wow." Randy told Asia'h, "A very difficult song to sing, Celine [Dion] sang everything out of it ... Highest degree of difficulty, you did a really good job with it." Paula agreed that it was great, but said Asia'h had problems in the low notes. Then added, "But you know what, the ending, that's what it counts on this song ... You brought it home." (so why do the contestants even bother singing the rest of the song, Paula?) Simon said, "It is one of the diva songs of all time and you have got to be one heck of a singer to pull that off and unfortunately you're not (but was Eric Carmen, Simon?). And then he added the knife in the heart, "The truth is you're not that good of a singer, so you shouldn't have attempted that song. You've got to be incredible. You almost got away with it, but the song was too big for you ... so in my opinion, it showed up and I think it was a silly decision." Again, we ask you Simon, then why is Asia'h in the Top 24? You picked her, not us. And BTW, if anyone cares, we hated her stick-straight extensions. She looks much better with her natural hair.

Watch video of Asia’h Epperson singing "All by Myself" by Eric Carmen

Guys, who should go: Danny Noriega, Jason Castro
Guys, who will go: Danny Noriega, Luke Menard

Girls, who should go: Kristy Lee Cook (we'll give Amanda one more chance), Kady Malloy
Girls, who will go: Alaina Whitaker, Kady Malloy

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Only Sure Thing:
David Archuleta

Not that he's our cup of tea, but to look at DialIdol this morning, the rest of the guys can go home ... no one is even close to The Chosen One, er, David Archuleta. Why The Chosen One, well Simon Cowell has already predicted him the winner on Tuesday’s "Extra." Describing why he thinks Archuleta is optimum Idol, Cowell said, "He's cute. He's likeable. [He has] a big voice. He's the one to beat." He also said this about Chikezie: "He's never going to win unless the other 18 [er, that would be 19, Simon] resign."

Truth be told, he has a nice voice, but there is something about him that rubs us the wrong way, plus we can't stand that sound he makes every time he intakes a breath and you hear it in the microphone.

Of course Archuleta should sing "Imagine" with a fair amount of ease, he been performing it professionally at least since age 11.

In fact you can watch a video of him singing it at age 11:

What puzzles us is the rest of the DialIdol lineup. Last night, it made some semblance of sense (except for Michael Johns). It actually was fairly respresentative of how well -- or poorly -- each contestant sang. If memory serves, last night's order was:

1. David Archuleta
2. Michael Johns
3. David Hernandez
4. David Cook
5. Chikezie Eze
6. Luke Menard
7. Jason Yeager
8. Jason Castro
9. Danny Noriega
10. Robbie Carrico

It was a bit skewed in our opinion, but not unreasonable (our ranking, best to worst is: David Cook, David Hernandez, David Archuleta, Chikezie Eze, Luke Menard, Jason Yeager, Michael Johns, Jason Castro, Rob Carrico, Danny Noriega). But something happened overnight as the voting moved to the West Coast and, then, Hawaii (ah, the little island spoiler). Suddenly, and inexplicably, Yeager and Carrico were in the No. 2 and 3 positions respectively. No way! It was as if anyone the judges critiqued badly was getting a crapload a fan votes to keep them in. Now it looks as if Luke Menard might be sent packing tomorrow night, sadly after he gave a solid, and much improved, performance. Guess good looks will only buy you so much time. The final DialIdol order reads:

1. David Archuleta
2. Jason Yeager
3. Robbie Carrico
4. David Cook
5. David Hernandez
6. Michael Johns
7. Jason Castro
8. Chikezie Eze
9. Danny Noriega
10. Luke Menard

The only guys that have held the same positions throughout the voting were Archuleta, Cook and Noriega. It seems a safe bet that Noriega is leaving. But who will accompany him? Menard? Eze? Castro? We're betting that Castro is safe.

This week the contestants are singing songs from the '70s (and next week from the '80s, or so we hear). Overall, they fared better with this decade than with the '60s. Each contestant also had to tell us something we didn't know about them in their video intro. We normally glaze over through these videos. Really don't care that much that Michael Johns is a jock or that David Cook is a "word nerd," but we guess the rest of the world does.

First up was Michael Johns. What we don't know about him: he loves playing tennis. We had relistened to the audio only of last week's performance and decided he had a decent voice and presentation. What turns us off about him is his air of self-assurance, which comes across, to us at least, as verging on arrogance. So we were surprised by his weak performance of Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way." Perhaps he was trying to imitate Lindsay Buckingham, but the vibrato in his voice was really annoying. Randy Jackson called it a nice way to start off, but that it started a little slow for him and that he was waiting for Johns to let go. Paula Abdul called him consistent and a seasoned performer and said it was a great way to start the show (er, no, it wasn't). For our money, Simon Cowell was spot on when he said it was by far Johns weakest performance of the whole competition, adding "It was what I call coasting along ... There was no moment. It was a very weak choice of song for you."

Watch video of Michael Johns singing "Go Your Own Way":

Last week, we were far less impressed than the judges with Jason Castro 's performance, so we weren't surprised that he was even weaker this week. After an incredibly stupid video that told us he hates doing inteviews (good luck with superstardom, dude), he sang Andy Gibb's "I Just Want to Be Your Everything" ... and wasn't. Once again, he used his guitar, making it increasingly obvious that he is leaning on it because his voice ain't all that and a bag of chips. Randy told him the vocals weren't that great (they weren't last week, either) and that it sounded kinda karaoke. Paula told Randy, "I don't think it was as bad as you heard," (er, yeah, it was), that Jason made a clever song choice, that she liked the way he interpreted it, but that he should lose the guitar next week and "Allow yourself to be more vulnerable as an artist." Thankfully, Simon told him the song was horrible and schmaltzy (Simon knows a Yiddish word!?!), that it didn't suit Jason's voice and that the vocals were very weak.

Watch video of Jason Castro singing "I Just Want To Be Your Everything":

We learned (well, we didn't, we knew it already) that Luke Menard is a member of the a cappella group Take 6. We were pleasantly surprised -- even if America wasn't -- to see him come back strongly with a good rendition of a tough song, Queen's "Killer Queen." If was certainly one of the hardest, if not the most difficult, song selections of the evening. Luke sang it well and was much more animated than last week. It should have guaranteed him a pass to next week, but, according to those DialIdol numbers, probably won't. Perhaps because he has yet to win Simon over. Randy acknowledged the song's degree of difficulty and told Luke he liked him better this week. Paula agreed, telling Luke he picked the perfect song and that it was a great week for him. Simon, in one of those moments he's having this season when he seems to hearing something different than the rest of us, said, "I'm going to judge that performance and I think it was a mistake." Cowell said with a song like that, you are always going to be judged with the original and that the singer of that song (Freddie Mercury) had charisma and personality and Luke didn't, making him suffer by comparison. He also called it "a bit theatrical and verging on the whiny." But how did you really feel, Simon?

Watch video of Luke Menard singing "Killer Queen":

We discovered that Robbie Carrico likes to drag race, and don't doubt that his video segment added to his allure with both guys and gals. Unfortunately, his singing this week didn't. We were excited to hear the opening chords of Foreigner's "Hot Blooded," but the performance was more like an anemic lizard. It just lacked pizzazz and was, well, boring. He's proving what the judges are saying about him not being a true rocker, regardless of his saying that there are all different kinds of rock and apparently he's just not within Simon's vision of what a rocker should be. Nope, sorry, Robbie, you're more of a boy-band singer, and would probably do better sticking to that genre. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Randy told him "I don't know if the rock thing is really, really your thing," and although Robbie did a pretty good job with the song, Jackson was waiting for a "wow" moment that never came. Paula said that in some ways he played it a little safe and that he has to up the ante. Sounding as if he just wanted to be contrary to whatever the other two were saying Tuesday night, Simon told Carrico, "I thought the vocal was okay tonight."

Watch video of Robbie Carrico singing "Hot Blooded":

Danny Noriega used to be in a punk rock band when he was in the 9th grade (was that last week?). Are you really surprised that even then Danny was doing anything he could to bring attention to himself. His personality grates more with each passing week, and judging from the DialIdol results, more than just "some people weren't liking it." The difference between him and Sanjaya, is that the latter was seen as vulnerable in the beginning. endearing him to young girls and adults who wanted to mother him. Danny showed some of that vulnerability during the judging segment Tuesday night, but then, *snap*, he's right back to being flamboyantly sassy. Unfortunately, his singing was the worst of the evening. Perhaps, as the judges noted, he was trying too hard with The Carpenters "Superstar," but he was hitting bad notes all over the place. Randy told him there were problems with the vocal and he should have sped the song up a bit. He also said, "I felt like you were thinking while you were singing ... and not just letting yourself sing." Paula agreed, saying he shouldn't overthink it and just perform. Simon, too, focused on that point, saying Danny was overconcentrating, but, on the plus side he also told him he was better than last week, stands out in a crowd (ya think?), is interesting and looks terrific on camera.

Watch video of Danny Noriega singing "Superstar":

David Hernandez was into -- and pretty good at -- gymnastics when he was young. He might have been stiff and nervous last week, but this week's performance of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" sizzled. One of the best of the evening as far as we're concerned (although we did have a sense of deja vu after seeing it performed -- twice -- on "Dance War"). Randy excitedly exclaimed that this is the David Hernandez that we fell in love with and telling us "That was hot right there." Paula loved his pure voice and said it pierces the heart and that every note was right in the pocket. She also said his personality really came out this week. Simon thought it was the best vocal of the night so far and gave him kudos for treating criticism as a challenge instead of sulking and rising to it. He then paid him the ultimate compliment, "I'm quite happy to hold my hand up and say I am a fan."

We are wondering if Vote for the Worst's allegations that David H. is gay and worked as a gay stripper will hurt (or help?) him in the competition. They write: "An interesting rumor has just surfaced that David Hernandez was a stripper in Phoenix before his time on American Idol. Obviously we're not 100% sure, but here's what we've found so far. After rumors were posted around the internet that David has a steady boyfriend of 2-3 years and that he stripped at Dick's Cabaret, we found pictures of David working at Burn, a gay nightclub that just recently closed in Phoenix. Obviously you don't wear the club's logo if you don't work there. So although we haven't found any pictures of him stripping just yet, we're still on the hunt, and the pictures we found are leading us in the right direction. We'll keep you updated." (Click on the link to see "the pictures").

Watch video of David Hernandez singing "Papa Was a Rolling Stone":

Jason Yeager tells us he is a self-taught musician (and some might say a self-taught singer). Although last night's performance of The Dobbie Brothers' "Long Train Runnin'" was roundly trashed by the judges, we kinda liked it. We liked it A LOT better than his rendition of "Moon River." We even thought this week his voice sounded a bit like Steve Winwood's. We liked its tone, we liked his enthusiasm, we liked the performances. The judges felt otherwise. Randy told Jason, "I don't think you did yourself any justice with that song," and called it very pitchy and karaoke, saying "I didn't really get it." Paula, fumbling over herself trying to kindly criticize Jason, finally said, "It's a song that has not many notes in it that doesn't show your vocal range," and that Jason should pick singer's songs. Simon, never at a loss of words to put someone down, told Jason that last week he was boring and this week he was awkward and ordinary. He also hated what he called, "that horrific ending," saying "It was like you were drunk at a party" (ah, the Taylor Hicks' critique) and Jason was "a quite good singer who can't perform very well, so I'm very disappointed." Worse yet for Yeager, Ryan Seacrest had to engage him in that pointless post-performance banter which went on and on, leading Simon to say, they needed Oscar music to cut the finalists off. Hey, it wasn't Jason's fault.

Watch video of Jason Yeager singing "Long Train Runnin' ":

We learned from Chikezie that his name is Nigerian, what it means -- something well-created by God -- and how to pronounce it, but he knows it'll always be mispronounced, so he just goes with the flow. He, too, gave a much improved and enjoyable performance this week, singing Donny Hathaway's "I Believe to My Soul." Like Elliott Yamin, he introduced us to Hathaway's daughter, one of the show's backup singers. Everything about the performance reminded us of why we loved Chikezie going into the semifinals. Things were going swimmingly, that is, until he opened his Big Mouth -- again! -- to Simon. Man, he needs a leash on his lips. Randy told America, Chikezie is back and this is the guy we fell in love with, adding "That was blazing, you were having fun, you were singing at ease, at will, you didn't care what was going on. That was hot." Paula called it brilliant fun. Simon, again about to screw up Chikezie's name, said, "I'm gonna call you Chi," then paid him homage with "You look better. You sounded better. I thought it was a very clever choice of song. It was a million times better than last week." Then Simon asked if Chikezie hadn't agreed with Cowell's criticism after watching last week's show back. Chikezie went into a good-hearted rant about his orange suit and how he didn't agree with Simon at all about it. Simon asked him, "Would you wear it again?" and Chikezie answered, "I wore it on TV, I can't wear it twice, you can't do a replay, only you do that!" The audience went wild and Chikezie immediately started backpedalling with, "Oooh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry ..." Funny for us Chikezie, lethal for you? The DialIdol numbers look real scary this morning.

Watch video of Chikezie singing "I Believe to My Soul":

David Cook reveals that he's a "word nerd." He loves doing word puzzles, crosswords and word searches, he's a vocab guy, i.e. the guy's not only got a voice, but a brain as well. Yes, we still hate his hair (but love that accompanied himself on guitar), but he rocked the house Tuesday night with "All Right Now" by Free. It was our favorite performance of the night (he, in fact, sounds better than Free does on our iPod), and David C. proved he's the true male rocker of Season 7. Michael Johns and Rob Carrico pale by comparison. He's the real deal (even flipping him guitar pick out to the crowd after the performance), and not afraid to admit he's a vocab guy, to boot. Randy agreed, saying "To me you're our real rocker from the boys this year. I actually really, really liked that." Paula called him the real deal and said it was very smart, very fun. Simon, of course, didn't totally agree, saying it was solid and sort of believable, but adding that his intro video didn't help him any -- "tennis, drag racing, to crosswords, it's boring." (Did he think Jason Castro's incoherent one helped him?). He then told David C. he didn't have a lot of charisma. David C stupidly cut Simon off, and told him, "Fortunately, I don't have to win you over with my charisma, I've got to win these people over." Simon's smile literally morphed into a look of shock at the comment.

Cowell then tersely answered, "David, I think I know, by now, the rules of this competition." He went on to say that it was his opinion, and that he didn't think the film helped David C. Randy and Paula tried to deflate the moment, but it was tense. Hopefully, David C. doesn't come to regret his mouth, even if his sentiment was correct.

Watch video of David Cook singing "All Right Now":

Last up was David Archuleta, who revealed what the rest of the world has known for months, that when he was 11, he got to meet, and sing for, Kelly Clarkson and the other Season 1 Idols.

Watch video of David Archuleta singing for Kelly Clarkson:

We suppose that probably gives him the automatic right to inherit the throne. No point going into our opinion of his rendering of John Lennon's "Imagine." You either love or hate David A., and we're on the side of the devil on this one. Even though his voice doesn't come close to the purity of David A's, we actually preferred Blake Lewis' performance of the same song last season. We felt it had more understanding of the lyrics. But, so it goes. David's tongue bath by the judges included these comments: Randy: "That's one of the best vocals I've ever heard on this show. You're singing with such maturity way beyond your years... You were born to do exactly what you're doing there. That was brilliant." Paula: "David, you are ridiculous. I want to squish you, squeeze your head off and dangle you from my rear-view mirror ... That was one of the most moving performances I have ever heard. You're destined for superstardom."; Simon: "Right now, you're the one to beat and there are nineteen very miserable contestants sitting here tonight ... after that."

Watch video of David Archuleta singing "Imagine":


From JoesPlace. More than likely accurate, considering the source.

1. Carly Smithson – "Crazy on You" by Heart
2. Syesha Mercado – "Me and Mr. Jones" (changed from Mrs. to Mr.) by Billy Paul
3. Brooke White – "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon
4. Ramiele Malubay – "Don't Leave Me This Way" by Thelma Houston
5. Kristy Lee Cook – "You're No Good" by Linda Ronstadt
6. Amanda Overmyer – "Carry on My Wayward Son" by Kansas
7. Alaina Whitaker – "Hopelessly Devoted to You" by Olivia Newton-John
8. Alexandrea Lushington – "If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago
9. Kady Malloy – "Magic Man" by Heart
10. Asia’h Epperson – "All by Myself" by Celine Dion

Which brings up some questions: Why have last week's and this week's performance shows been pretaped instead of airing live? Also, we've heard that the contestants have been given a paltry selection of approximately 50 songs each of the two weeks (so much for "you've got a whole decade to pick from," Simon). Some believe the reason the contestants are receiving such a short list of choices is that the deal with iTunes to carry the contestants' recordings dictated that they select songs that would be cheap and easy to clear.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Who's Crying Now?

Remember Josiah Leming, the Top 50 “Idol” contestant known as much for his crying and living in a car as for his singing with an English accent? Hollywood Today reports that Simon Cowell now has misgivings about Leming’s semifinalist rejection. Speaking at the Playboy Club, where he was attending a party with Randy Jackson, Cowell said, “We should have let him go through. It was not my decision and I don’t think we should have had him leave so early.”

Since being booted by “Idol,” Leming has appeared on MTV news, where he said he had no regrets about choosing to (badly) sing Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” without the band, a move that almost certainly cost him a Top 24 spot. “There’s a small window of opportunity, and I don’t want to do it too quick or too slow,” he said. “I’ve always been aware of the fact that one day you can be everything, and the next day you can be nothing. It’s sitting in the back of my mind that I could just be another flash in the pan.”

On Sunday he posted a video on YouTube to tell his fans that he is going to be meeting with a few record labels -- “some major, some indie” -- in hopes of releasing a CD before summer so that he can go on a summer tour.

Watch video of Josiah Leming talking about his future plans:


Last week's four losing semifinalists talked to reporters on a conference call Friday about what they thought went wrong for them.

Garrett Haley said most likely song choice was the reason he was eliminated, but that the choice wasn't really his.

"We are allowed to choose three songs from a list," he said. "Every contestant is for sure to get one of the songs; I didn't get any of my songs, because they had given them out to all the contestants before that, so I just ended up with having to choose from the list again. I didn't get to chose. They threw the song [Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"] at me and said, 'Sing this one.' I took what I got and I did what I could with it. It is hard to make a ballad song pop out at the beginning. I did the best I could and I am happy with what I did."

Amy Davis put the blame on herself. "It is a technical issue on just my part of why it was a bad performance," she said. "There is nothing I could do about that. It was just the fact of me not being able to hear myself. It wasn't an 'American Idol' issue, or a sound issue on their part. It is the way my brain works. I have been using an in-ear monitor for the past two years. The way my brain works is very mechanical. It is not creative and go-with-the-flow like a lot of musicians. My brain is trained to use the in-ear monitor that blares my vocals, so I can stay on pitch. Obviously, when I came to 'American Idol,' I knew I wasn't be able to use my in-ears, so I tried to retrain my ears to use the floor monitors, and I just could not retrain my ears quick enough to stay on key. It was my 'bad skill' that I couldn't improve quickly enough."

Don't cry for model/singer Amy, though. She is already featured in an online layout for Maxim magazine's Web site:

Plus-size model Joanne Borgella doesn't feel her size led to her elimination, but said that there is a perception about women of her girth -- and she doesn't match the image. "Usually with a plus-sized woman you think they are going to sing neo-soul," she saids. "For me, I love that music, but that isn't the kind of performer I am. I don't sing that kind of music. I listen to pop and R&B -- Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. I love doing power ballads, but I also want to do the song you would love to dance to in a club. You don't usually put that with a plus-sized woman."

As for Colton Berry, he said, "I have had two dreams in life. I am 18. I was born in 1990. My dreams since I was young -- No. 1 was to be on 'American idol,' because I grew up with the show, and No. 2 was to be on Broadway. I can check off the first one. And, hopefully, that first check will lead me to my second one. That is what I am getting ready to pursue. I am going to set up as many auditions as I can and really go for that."


A few week's ago, Entertainment Weekly announced that the "American Idol" Season 7 exit song would be "Hollywood's Not America" by Ferras. They even had a video with an interview of Ferras that included him singing and playing the song. And, indeed, "Idol" did use the music ... once. It seemed an odd choice with the chorus:

So long! Put your blue jeans back on girl.
Go home! Remember, Hollywood’s not America.

It sounded like a post-coital breakup song.

But surprise! When this week's first four semi-finalists were eliminated, their journey video was set to the much more appropriate "Best Days" by Graham Colton.

Watch video of Graham Colton singing "Best Days":

- Graham Colton Band Lyrics

This is not Colton's first "American Idol" affiliation. The Oklahoma-born rocker's Graham Colton Band was the opening act for Kelly Clarkson's 2005 Behind These Hazel Eyes Tour. Colton and his band previously opened for John Mayer, Maroon 5 and the Dave Matthews Band.

In fact, Clarkson and Colton dated for seven months, but broke up, according to Us Weekly magazine, because a long-distance relationship just wasn't working for the couple. "He was in the studio, and we didn't even see each other. We were both like, 'This doesn't make sense,'" the original American Idol winner explained to the magazine. They split in February 2006 and remain, according to People magazine, good friends.

In the German magazine Bravo, Clarkson, reportedly said of Colton: "He will always be one of my best friends. I'm not sad, really, because our relationship made me believe in love again," adding, "Graham is the coolest guy I've ever been with. Maybe one day we'll get back together -- if we don't have to work so much anymore."

And she told Us Weekly, "I love him to death ... But if I'm not going to get to hang out or make out, I don't really want to date."


Are there conflicts of interest on "American Idol"? Are you kidding us? Of course there are! We know from those folks at VFTW that Carly (Hennessy) Smithson had a contract with MCA records while Randy Jackson was Senior VP for A&R. Now they've brought this video of Syesha Mercado in a recent pre-Idol Ford commercial to everyone's attention. As everyone knows by now, Ford is one of Idol's very major sponsors. Each week the finalists do a Ford commercial that airs on the show and is posted on the official "American Idol" Web site. It's not unusual for Ford to hire Idol winners to do ads for the company after they win. Seems that this year Syesha got the jump on her fellow contestants.

Watch video of Syesha Mercado in Ford Sync commercial:

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

And Then There Were 20

Garrett Haley
Amy Davis
Joanne Borgella
Colton Berry

Watch video of Garrett Haley elimination:

Watch video of Amy Davis elimination:

Watch video of Joanne Borgella elimination:

Watch video of Colton Berry elimination:

Watch "journey" video of the four eliminated contestants:

Watch Top 24 photo shoot montage set to Daughtry's "What About Now":

Watch video of Top 24 Group Song on Elimination Day:

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Even With Flu, Girls Whomp Boys

The girls of the Top 24 took the stage for the first time Wednesday night and it was a strange experience. Ryan Seacrest prefaced the evening by telling us that, just like everywhere else in the country, the flu had hit the "Idol" contestants and that a number of the girls had been dealing with it for the past week (and what about the boys?) Nevertheless, sick or healthy, they were ready to take the stage. Even with illness, the girls' performances easily trumped those of the guys. We actually had three "wow" moments Wednesday night, zero on Tuesday night. What was even more amazing, of the three performances we liked the most, Simon Cowell hated, or to use his terminology, "didn't get" two of them. We rarely disagree with Simon, but he was coming off really weird in his appraisals of the girls. Plus, he showed an incredible lack of knowledge of the music of the '60s (which even Ryan noted). It was bad enough that he admitted that he didn't know the group Spiral Staircase or their song "More Today Than Yesterday," but did he even realize that he had heard Chikezie Eze sing it just the day before (although Alaina Whitaker's version was infinitely better)? We contritely admit that the other song he didn't know, "Baby, Please Don't Go," sung by Amanda Overmyer, we didn't know either. But then, we don't earn our living in the music business. And we found it odd that there were two repeat songs over the two evenings, the aforementioned Spiral Staircase number, and The Turtles' "Happy Together," sung by both David Cook and Brooke White. We don't remember that ever happening before on the same week. Does anyone out there know for sure?

Taking the stage first was Kristy Lee Cook singing a really mediocre version of Fontella Bass' "Rescue Me." It was warmed-over karaoke, even if Cook was suffering from the flu and bronchitis, as Ryan told us after her performance. We give her kudos for performing while not yet well, but still, we thought her whole presenation had the impact of a limp noodle. No personality or style. Plus, she kept popping her eyes open in a really scary way. Unfortunately, "Amazing Grace" might be the only song she can deliver on. She is definitely in our Bottom Three this week. Randy Jackson said it wasn't her best performance, that it had pitch problems and was rough around the edges. Paula gave her empathy for both being sick and having to perform first, but added "You don't want to ever let anyone see that you're having a ... tough time." She then rewarded her with "You did a good job." Simon, having no empathy for anyone Wednesday, sick or not, told her the song didn't suit her (he was right) and that it was designed for someone who is going to belt it out (yup). He also called the performance robotic and said she didn't make an impression (well, maybe a bad one?). Kristy Lee looked a little sicker after her critiques.

Watch video of Kristy Lee Cook singing "Rescue Me":

Sadly, watching her perform, we thought Joanne Borgella was sick as well, but not a mention of that was made. Prior to Wednesday, we had found her modestly talented, but it really fell apart for her on Dionne Warwick's "I Say a Little Prayer." She was pitchy, low energy and her focus seemed way off, which is why we assumed she was ill. Sadly, if it was illness, it might cost her her place in the competition. She, too, is in our Bottom Three this week. Randy, surprisingly, started with "That was pretty good," adding that the first part was a little weird but that she had got it together toward the end (na-uh). Paula gave her a mini-lecture on not letting her nerves get to her, of pulling it together and shining. When Simon badgered her with "But did you like it?" -- which, as always, Paula was trying to avoid saying ... because she didn't -- she gratuitously answered, "I liked it, I didn't love it." Simon jumped in with "I didn't like it at all," calling it a very average cabaret song, then telling Randy that he thought the second half of the song was worse than the first half. Simon said Joanne showed no confidence, adding "I don't accept this thing about nerves at this point."

Watch video of Joanne Borgella singing "I Say a Little Prayer":

If not a "wow" moment, the first good performance of the evening came from "I am 16 going on 17 (today!)" Alaina Whitaker. Even though the first two contestants have previous experience in recording and/or TV, inexperienced Alaina showed them how to do it with "More Today Than Yesterday." She also proved just how bad Chikezie Eze's performance of the same song the night before really was. In strong voice, with energy and personality, she ran through the number as if she does this sort of thing every day. We must admit, she was much better than we expected her to be. Randy told her the beginning was a little rough but that she sang it with conviction and confidence, Paula told her she nailed it and "had the best ending that I've heard on that song." (OK, so we had no idea what she meant by that since the song endings are always truncated.) Simon said "I think you're very good. I do," then admitted he hated (and didn't know the song), but "If you can make a song as awful as that sound OK, when you've got a decent song you're gonna be great," adding that she would sail through to the next round.

Watch video of Alaina Whitaker singing "More Today Than Yesterday":

We might be at odds with the judges and our reading audience on Amanda Overmyer, but we just didn't get "Baby, Please Don't Go." Admittedly, we weren't familiar with the song, but we could barely make out any of the words other than those in the title and it just didn't work for us. But we still love Amanda's raw voice and her energy. She definitely brings something different to the competition, and even if we don't always love her song choices, we'll always be curious to see what she chooses to sing next. And we were glad that she said in her intro that she's going to shelve Janis Joplin songs. Even though Amanda's voice is authentic, she can't help but sound as if she's doing an impression when she sings Joplin. Randy loved her performance (and her patchwork pants), and Paula said "I just love everything that you do," adding "a one trick pony, you're not." Simon, like Paula, called her authentic. He said it wasn't the best performance, but that he liked her.

Watch video of Amanda Overmyer singing "Baby, Please Don't Go":

To paraphrase Judge Judy, "Beauty fades, but bad singing is forever." Poor exotic-looking Amy Davis learned Wednesday night that being beautiful and having a killer body won't make up for not having the goods in a singing competition. In a word: horrible. Surprising, because she is a vocal member of three groups, but still ... We thought the pitchiness at the beginning of "Where the Boys Are" was just nerves, but honestly, did she a right note in the entire number? She gave us a brand new appreciation for Connie Francis. How bad was she? She made Garrett Haley, Tuesday night's weakest male singer, sound good. She is, without doubt, the worst singer in the Top 24. If she doesn't go home tonight, we'll demand a recount. Randy said something about country singers who "scoop up to the note" have got to hit the note dead on, but we have no idea what scoop up to the note means. Whatev. Ultimately, he said there were a lot of pitch problems and that it wasn't great for him. That we didn't need a translation on. Paula began with the camera loves you, which meant, as we all know by now, that she didn't. She added that it wasn't the most engaging song for Amy to sing. Ya think? Simon said, yes she did look great, but she didn't sound great. He called it a very boring song with a boring arrangement and said it sounded as if it went on for 10 minutes. He also (rightfully) told her, "I think you're gonna struggle after that."

Watch video of Amy Davis singing "Where the Boys Are":

Brooke White confuses us. She pretty and sweet and seems sooooo nice (she is a nanny, after all). She has a pleasant voice and a happy demeanor, but she leaves us just blank vocally. Something about her reminds us of a '60s throwback to hippies, peace, love and flower power. She did a very respectable version of "Happy Together," but honestly, David Cook did it better the night before. And she also needs to stop grabbing the sides of her head while singing. It's just weird. Brooke has a lot of strong competition from the other girls. She's certainly safe this week, but making it to the Top 12 will be a real challenge for her. If we had to call it this minute, we predict that the 6 girls that make it to the Top 12 will be: Ramiele Malubay, Asia'h Epperson, Carly Smithson, Syesha Mercado, Alexandréa Lushington and Amanda Overmyer. Where does that leave Brooke? Overall, we think we'd rather have as a friend than as an Idol. Randy said it started a little rough for him but that she had worked it out at the end. He also went into something about "getting your slaying on," which made about as much sense to us as his "scoop up to the note." Paula said Brooke picked the right song and did a great job. Simon agreed it was the right song, then said that "there are times tonight I feel like I'm in some commercial for washing-up liquid [dishwashing liquid] from the 1960s ... the blonde hair, the yellow, the happiness" (we're beginning to need a translator for the judges. Up to this season we only needed one for Paula, but Randy and Simon are becoming increasingly incoherent as well). He said the performance was all very Brooke but that he was struggling with the relevance. Well, OK, Simon. But to lift one of your lines, did you like her?

Watch video of Brooke White singing "Happy Together":

Our first "wow" moment of the night came with 17-year-old Alexandréa Lushington. Previously, we only remember hearing her sing on the very short audition clip that aired, and weren't overly impressed with what seemed like 6 seconds of "My Funny Valentine." But, lord, she killed it, or to use Randy's terminology, got her slaying on, with her jazzy rendition of Blood, Sweat & Tears' "Spinning Wheel." She had total control of the stage, the performance and her voice from word one, singing and posturing like she has been doing this forever. It was amazing. Oh, and in case you didn't get it by now: we loved it. Randy gave her the kudos she deserved with "You blew the doors off that" and "You got it. It was hot, baby. It worked." Paula, equally appreciative said that what she loved about the performance was that Alexandréa thought about her performance from top to bottom. She said she loved the interpretation and that it could be on the radio today. Shockingly, Simon said "I didn't get it." He didn't think the vocals were great and said that it reminded him of some terrible '60s musical. WHAT!!!! Simply Simon you couldn't be more wrong.

Watch video of Alexandréa Lushington singing "Spinning Wheel":

In our house we're having a dispute over Kady Malloy's version of "Groovy Kind of Love." I was the one who disagreed with the judges (and, apparently, the rest of the world). In her audition, they told Kady to knock-off what they admitted was her great Britney Spears impression and be herself, but Wednesday night criticized her for not having more fun like she does when she does her (all together now) Britney Spears impression. We loved her slow-tempo version of the song, reminiscent of the way Phil Collins sang it, and thought her voice was beautiful and that she had great control of it. What we didn't like was her reaction to the judges criticism. She looked really angry, totally pissed off and pouty. Hey, get over yourself, Kady. If you can't deal with criticism, move on (which she will before the finals). Randy said it was okay for him, if restrained and controlled. Paula, starting with those words you never want to hear, "You look really pretty," said, "I want to see the life in you more; the fun." Simon agreed with that, then really got his slaying on with "That was like 'Night of the Living Dead.' When you do the Britney you're brilliant and then when you do you, the lights go off. Literally. It's like watching two different people." Worse yet was, "Kady, you've got to lighten up. I don't know who could impersonate you. A pencil?" Yikes!

Watch video of Kady Malloy singing "Groovy Kind of Love":

Fortunately, next up was Asia'h Epperson, the young woman whose dad died two days before her "Idol" audition. Because of her emotions, she choked up a bit then, but has brought it on ever since. Although we didn't deem her "Piece of My Heart" a "wow" performance, we loved it nonetheless and feel she'll fly through to the finals. She's got an interesting voice and a magnetic smile. Randy said he loved it and that she did her thing, with Paula chiming in with "You had some really good moments in that song." Simon called it, at that point anyway, my favorite of the night. He told Asia'h that she's fun, likable, has a good voice and is not taking herself too seriously.

Watch video of Asia'h Epperson singing "Piece of My Heart":

What followed were, as far as we were concerned, three powerhouse performances. Ramiele Malubay is always a wonderful surprise. A huge gift in a small package. Because of the subdued opening, you don't expect the big voice at the end of Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," but there it was. She has amazing vocal control, a wonderful tone to her voice and great stage presence. She will, indeed, be a force to be reckoned with in the finals. She was our second "wow" moment of the night. Randy loved that she saved her big voice for the end. He called it very classy and said it was hot. Paula said, "there's such a beautiful range in your voice, the tenderness, how you started" and that Ramiele had a really great performance. Simon, surprisingly admitted that he didn't Ramiele when she auditioned, then told her that during Hollywood you were the most consistently good singer, ending with "Tonight, you outsang every single person."

Watch video of Ramiele Malubay singing "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me":

We knew after she regained her voice at the end of Hollywood Week that Syesha Mercado could blow, and she proved it again with a particularly upbeat adaptation of "Tobacco Road." As with Asia'h, we don't proclaim it a "wow" moment, but we did think it was a very strong vocal performance with an amazing final note that should carry her all the way to the finals. Randy thought there were "a couple of pitchy things in there" (there were?), but all in all he liked it. Paula agreed, telling Syesha she was consistent and joyful. Simon didn't think it was her best performance, but mollified that with "I don't think it really matters because you are probably one of the most talented girls in the competition," adding "I thought it was terrific."

Watch video of Syesha Mercado singing "Tobacco Road":

OK, we were really set to hate, and we mean HATE, Carly Smithson at the beginning of the season after all we had read about her and her past recording contract et al. But how can you hate after hearing that voice. We were left nearly speechless by her rendition of "The Shadow of Your Smile." While not as good as (no one will ever be), it was the closest thing we've heard to Streisand, since, well, Streisand. When we found out after she finished that she had the flu and bronchitis, we were blown away even more. She actually coughed onstage after singing. Needless to say, a "wow" for us. But this was another instance when we thought Simon was absolutely whack. She garnered the best praise possible from Randy, who said, "The best vocal of the Top 24," adding "Hot, hot, blazing hot." Paula added her own lauding of Carly, calling her reliable. Simon, who Carly called Captain Fantastic, left us dumbfounded with "I didn't get it," adding the song was way too old-fashioned for her (call us old-fashioned), and adding that everything about it for him was a letdown and that "I was genuinely expecting something fantastic. I didn't think it was fantastic." OK, Simon, you're entitled to your wrong opinion.

Watch video of Carly Smithson singing "The Shadow of Your Smile":

Top 3: Carly Smithson, Ramiele Malubay, Alexandréa Lushington

Bottom 3: Amy Davis, Joanne Bogella, Kristy Lee Cook

Watch official video of Paula Abdul singing "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow" featuring Randy Jackson:

If you loved her in the '80s, you have to admit, she's still got it!

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Best 12 Guys Ever? Hardly

After being tortured by Ryan Seacrest's endless promotions since Day One of Season 7 that this is the most talented group of competitors EVAH on "American Idol," we watched the 12 male semifinalists compete for the first time. We are now firmly convinced that the producers were only (surprise!) trying to pump up the show's flagging ratings with that lie. They knew the hype wasn't true, and now we do, too. In fact, the talent from Season 2 exceeds what we've already seen on Season 7 (Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard, Joshua Gracin and Rickey Smith for example, check out "American Idol Rewind"). And suprisingly, for the most talented group EVAH, the judges didn't seem to love most of the performances!

Were there some good voices? Yes. Was there any charisma? A bit. Did it ever come together in the same contestant? Well, not really. This season, there are themes for the semifinals, as opposed to the competitors selecting just any song they like. This week's theme is the '60s, a time *ahem* we remember quite clearly, and enjoyed. Only a couple of the performances sparked our normal enthusiasm for the period. This well might be because the contestants have no memory of it and don't know the music. But then, British Invasion week last season -- the same decade -- was one of Season 6's best shows. And we must admit, there are just too many youngsters (four of the 12 males are 18 or younger; three of the females are 18 or younger) and their childishness is grating at times.

Here's how it went down: First up was David Hernandez, who was first shown during Hollywood Week. We kind of liked him then, although Simon Cowell made it very clear to Hernandez that he had not voted for him to become one of the Chosen 24. We still like David H. (there are currently three Davids in the competition, 2 Jasons, and 2 Cooks. This makes things quite confusing, especially, when Simon says to a different-named contestant, "When David did ..." and we're thinking, "which David?"), and thought his version of "Midnight Hour" was OK. It began with a gospel-tinged opening, which we couldn't decide if we really liked or really disliked, then played into a rather pedestrian version of the song. Still, we found it pleasant, if not inspired. Randy Jackson loved the "whole kind of gospel vibe" but said it fell apart at the end; Paula Abdul thought it had perfect vibrato and was a good job, while Simon said it was better than he thought it would be, but that David H. was very stiff and nervous and that there was nothing distinct about his voice.

Watch video of David Hernandez singing "In the Midnight Hour" by Wilson Pickett:

The first thing that Chikezie has to do is reclaim his last name. To start out the competition by dropping your last name is just too pretentious, Cher, er, Chikezie. And although going into Week 1 Mr. Eze was one of our favorites, he fell apart for us on Tuesday night. His vocals were weak and pitchy on "More Today Than Yesterday." It came together somewhat by the end of the song, but by then, it was too late for us to care. Frankly, based on that performance, he deserves to be eliminated Thursday night, but will "Idol" eliminate the only black male contestant they have this season in the first week? We doubt it. Randy said it was pretty good, then downgraded that to "aight," after telling Chikezie that he sounded old-fashioned and needed to make the song fresh and young. Paula, on the other hand, thought he was a throwback to great R&B and said it was a very nice job. Simon, who called him Chikoozie (insert laughs), called the whole thing hideous, corny and cheesy, starting with Chikezie's orange suit. Chikezie stupidly decided to dispute this with humor. Hello, does he not remember how this backfired on Chris Sligh? All we can say, Chikezie, is Dead Man Walking. Maybe not this week, but ...

Watch video of Chikezie Eze singing "More Today Than Yesterday" by Spiral Staircase:

There is something about David Cook that we don't love -- maybe it's the hair -- but we do think he's a good, not great, singer and a strong entertainer. And being a strong entertainer is probably more important than having a great voice, right Madonna? Anyway, we liked David C.'s arrangement and performance of The Turtles' "Happy Together." For us, at least, he's a keeper and should wind up in the finals. Randy thought it started out a little weird but that David worked it out and made it rock, which Paula agreed to, telling David that he made it something original. Simon -- whose theme last night was telling contestants they sounded old-fashioned and that they needed to add a contemporary twist to old songs -- said he thought it was good, adding "It's a weird song to choose because I never heard that song sung like that before ... you almost made it believable." Well, isn't what you were asking for, Simon?

Watch video of David Cook singing "Happy Together" by The Turtles:

Poor Jason Yeager. He seems sweet and nice. He has an adorable little boy and a pleasant voice ... but he's also deadly dull. Not that we didn't like his version of "Moon River." But then we loved the song when Andy Williams sang it, too. This performance was definitely stuck in the 60s. Although Jason Y. can sing, he just doesn't strike us the next great American pop star. If he's spared elimination this week, it's only because they kept showing his cute little mini-me. Randy and Paula offered nothing substantial in commentary. He hesitantly said "You definitely did a pretty good job with that song," she, beaming, added, "I did my first ballet recital to that song." Er, OK. We totally agreed with Simon, who told Jason Y. that he came over much older on that song and that it was very cruise ship (we were thinking more Holiday Inn lounge, but whatev).

Watch video of Jason Yeager singing "Moon River" by Andy Williams:

We really like Robbie Carrico. He's got the whole package: voice, looks, stage presence. He was beyond comfortable performing Three Dog Night's "One," but then he's had a lot of previous stage experience. He was a member of a boy-girl band that toured with Britney Spears (and, allegedly, was one of Spears' boyfriends, but, then, who hasn't been?). Prior to "Idol" he was in a rock band. His performance was strong, but he still has too much boy band in him to be a true rocker; he's like a rocker with a boy band voice. He needs to acquire a bit more edge, and you can't get that with clothes alone. Randy told him it was a very nice and that Robbie had moved him. Paula said Robbie had picked the perfect song and was authentic. Simon said it was a good performance and the only current performance, but, like us, Simon wasn't convinced yet that Robbie was very comfortable "in this rock thing." Robbie assured that that is who he is.

Watch video of Robbie Carrico singing "One" by Three Dog Night:

OK, we know everyone out there is going to disagree with this, but we just can't stand David Archuleta. Can you say "precocious." Yes he has a good voice, yes he won "Star Search" when he was 12, and, yes, he's a little manufactured entertainer and one that is being pimped by "Idol." Maybe we're just missing the cuteness gene. We know he'll make it to the finals and the Top 10, but, sorry, we're already tuned out. Randy told he was really brilliant and "just born with this gift" (ugh!) and that he loved it. Paula, for some absurd reason, called it a brave and bold choice and that he did a great job. Even Simon got on board the kiss fest with "When you got it, you got it. That was, by a comfortable mile, the best performance of the night so far." No comment.

Watch video of David Archuleta singing "Shop Around" by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles:

Yes, we can't wait for Danny Noriega to be eliminated. He seems to think that the reason he is on "Idol" is to *snap* display his attitude with a capital "A," instead of perform. His performance of "Jailhouse Rock" was so camp, it bordered on ridiculous, which is sad, because he's previously displayed that he has a good voice. And his dancing, much as we love Taylor Hicks, came straight from the Hicks' School of Dance. We're surprised that Cowell, who hates the Season 6 winner, didn't make the connection, especially because Hicks sang the same song during Elvis Week. Maybe Danny needed to add a Woo! to the end. Randy hemmed and hawed with it was pretty good and the vocals were OK, then inexplicably ended with "It was kinda hot." Paula, who obviously likes the flamboyant Danny, started going on about the colors in his voices, something that Simon made fun of the rest of the evening. (every time someone sang, he asked her what color it was). Simon, disgusted, got straight to the point, calling Danny's performance verging on grotesque, hideous and awful. This led to a two-minute fight between the judges. When they were through, Ryan asked Danny what he thought. He said that he thought the song would be a fun one for the first week, *snap* "but some people weren't liking it." Season 7's Sanjaya has arrived. Can't wait to see what Danny will do with his Sanjaya-like hair as the weeks go on.

Watch video of Danny Noriega singing "Jailhouse Rock":

Luke Menard is definitely the best-looking guy in the compeitition. He sings with an a cappella band and has a Kenny Loggins-like tenderness to his voice. We so wanted to like him as a singer, but his version of "Everybody's Talkin' " was weakly pleasant and very forgettable. The judges felt the same. Could the best-looking guy this season be eliminated on the first go-round? Yep. Randy called it very pitchy and consistently sharp and said it wasn't great for him. Paula tried to say it sucked, but got lost in her own incoherency. Simon simply called Luke's performance forgettable, saying no one is going to remember that as being either a great performance or a great vocal. Luke respectfully disagreed, saying people would remember him. His looks, maybe. His voice, never.

Watch video of Luke Menard singing "Everybody's Talkin'" by Harry Nilsson:

Unfortunately, Luke started a string of forgettable singers. Colton Berry is so fair and bland physically (he thinks he looks like Ellen DeGeneres) and personality-wise, he almost disappears. His version of "Suspicious Minds" reminded us for the second time in one night how good Elvis was and these contestants aren't. It was no better than what you'd hear in a karaoke bar. No style, nothing even remotely memorable, entering Colton in this week's deserves-to-go pool. Randy thought he did a pretty good job. Paula said it wasn't his best performance but was an "eager and fun attempt" (not the reason we're watching the show). Simon said it was OK, but added that Colton had no relevance in today's music industry.

Watch video of Colton Berry singing "Suspicious Minds" by Elvis Presley:

We slept through most of Leif Garrett look-alike Garrett Haley's performance (does he wear his hair that way because they share a name?) He has a strange high voice, but it worked on Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do," perhaps because Sedaka also has a high voice. What didn't work was the slow pace of the song. The original up-tempo hit has always been the better version and, at the very least, Haley should have mixed the two, but he didn't. BIG MISTAKE. Randy said there were a couple of pitch problems and it was just kinda boring. Paula said he should change it up and that the slow tempo brought the performance down. Simon called in boring, said Haley's voice sounded a bit whiny and that he looked terrified verging on haunted. Will America find breaking up with Haley hard to do? Probably not.

Watch video of Garrett Haley singing "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" by Neil Sedaka:

The judges loved Jason Castro, the first contestant to play an instrument during an "American Idol" competition (the guitar). We aren't in love ... yet. Although the audience was clapping along, his version of The Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream" was more hayride than "Hootenanny" for us. John Sebastian can still sleep at night. But he's cute, personable and his dreadlocked-look should appeal to the girls. Plus, his audition shows that his voice has real potential. So we think he'll slide into the finals easily. Randy said it didn't blow him away but it was alright. Paula said "You did blow me away," that the song was absolutely perfect for him, and that he had nailed it. Simon said it was one of the top two performances of the night, it was current and effortless and that Jason has charisma (we agree on that). He ended with "I think it was terrific."

Watch video of Jason Castro singing "Daydream" by The Lovin' Spoonful:

In the pimp spot, was the contestant the producers have been pimping since the season began: Australian Michael Johns. How much are they pimping him? Ryan began his segment with, "Have we saved the best for last?" Well, no. He has a good voice, but if he were any more full of himself, he might explode. And we don't think he comes close to touching Jim Morrison on The Doors' "Light My Fire." But, like Season 4's Constantine Maroulis, he's very savvy at choosing songs. In addition, he's a seasoned performer, whose band was once signed to Madonna's Maverick Records. So, arrogance be damned. Between his looks, accent, song selections and voice, he certainly has a chance of winning it all. Randy said "You sing great. I feel like I'm seeing a true legend rock performer," with Paula chiming in, "You did set everyone on fire." Simon told him he is "the most consistent contestant we've had. Every one of your auditions I've loved." and that he has "the natural charisma of a lead singer. You have just got it." Shall we just crown him now?

Watch video of Michael Johns singing "Light My Fire" by The Doors:

Who should/could go: Jason Yeager, Luke Menard, Colton Berry, Garrett Haley

Who should/could stay: David Hernandez, David Cook, Robbie Carrico, David Archuleta (not our choice, but realistically ...), Jason Castro, Michael Johns

Either way: Chikezie (we'll give him a second chance), Danny Noriega

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