Wednesday, February 20, 2008
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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