Wednesday, March 5, 2008

American Idol Top 8 Guys
Groovin' to the '80s

This is the last week of eliminations to reach the Top 12 finalists, and, we must admit, the men are sounding pretty good. Most of them were able to find songs that both fit their voices and style for the week's theme, which is the '80s. Of course, we had to sit through the video clip for each contestant. The theme of those was "my most embarrassing moment," and, frankly, some were just TMI. Did we really need to know that David Hernandez did a photo shoot with a big booger hanging out of his nose? And did that bit of TMI knock him to the No. 7 (of 8) ranking on, even though he did a nice job with his song? Actually, it was Danny Noriega who should have laid claim to the position. So we wonder: Were the folks at responsible for Noriega taking the DialIdol No. 4 rung instead? Of course, we're still hoping Danny gets eliminated Thursday. Remember, last week DialIdol placed Jason Yeager and Robbie Carrico as Nos. 2 and 3 respectively, and they were both eliminated.

The evening started out with the male contestant that everyone we know agreed in advance is doomed: Luke Menard. That he has lasted this long is nothing short of a miracle for him, in spite of his square-jawed good looks. Luke's most embarrassing moment was when his older sister dressed 8-year-old Menard up as a ballerina, then took pictures (of course we got to see one). After that intro, he sang the somewhat appropriate "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham, a great dance song. But who can forget how even George Michael looked ridiculous singing it with Andrew Ridgely in those embarrassing short shorts and "Choose Life" T-shirts? (And, rewatching the video, how did we not realize that Michael was gay until years later?). Although Luke's voice fit the song, the only way he was going to get away with this performance was by camping and dancing it up to the extreme (Danny anybody?), which he didn't do. You almost have to make fun of the song to pull it off effectively. Randy Jackson said that it started off a little rough for him and that Luke couldn't quite find the pitch and was a little ahead of the band timing-wise. He also found it corny. Paula Abdul, getting in a Jackson-like plug, said she choreographed George Michael's tour. She said she loved Luke's interpretation of it and the choices he took on the upper notes. Simon Cowell(surprise!) didn't like it, saying he thought it was weak and a bit girly (we think not nearly girly enough, Simon). He also struck what was probably the fatal blow to Luke's chances (unless his fans called in sympathy votes like crazy to save him) by saying that after this performance, "There's no chance you're going to make it through, I don't even think to the final 12."

Watch video of Luke Menard singing "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham:

Next came this season's most overrated performer, little David Archuleta. He said his most embarrassing moment was during a fundraising stint in Honduras. In the middle of a Spanish song his voice went and his mommy came onstage to finish it. Wonder if she'll do that for him on "Idol" if his voice goes? He started his romanticized version of Phil Collin's "Another Day in Paradise" at the piano. His singing wasn't quite up to what he's done in the past. He appears earnest, but doesn't exhibit an emotional understanding of the words coming out of his mouth. But our biggest complaint -- and the thing we can't get past -- is his constant giggliness and the sound of the noise he makes, talking or singing, when he breathes in. It's a very audible "whoosh" of air. Randy said it was an interesting song choice but didn't show Archuleta's vocal prowess; that it was nice but had a couple pitch problems. Paula loved that it wasn't perfect because it proved that David wasn't "this hologram that can do everything perfect" (huh?) adding that, "In that imperfection, you still are perfect." English translator please! She then went into her "you really shine" routine (it's either that or her "you're unique" routine). Simon told David that it wasn't as good as his performance last week and that he should have stayed at the piano. He also said David's "getting a little bit gloomy" with all the sad songs and that he needs to lighten up a bit. "There's no question you're going to make it through to the finals next week," Cowell said, adding, "You're probably going to be in the final two, but I think now we've got to see a slightly different, more fun side occasionally. Otherwise, it might get a bit depressing." For us, it's depressing already.

Watch video of David Archuleta singing "Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Collins:

OK, everyone who is so over Danny Noriega, raise your hands. *snap* Thought so. The last thing Season 7 needs is another Sanjaya "look at me" Malakar. Sassy Noriega might think he's "it," but to us he's just so "ish." Danny's most embarrassing moment was when a friend tripped him at the movies and he fell in front of one of his crushes (hmmm, interesting that gender was not defined here). Actually, we think his punk Christmas video where he hopes that Santa Claus rapes you F*** mother is far more embarrassing. Love the lip ring and full eye makeup. Looking pretty as a girl, we then got to see him do all the camping that Luke needed when Noriega sang Soft Cell's "Tainted Love," pouting and voguing and thrusting his hips all about. We'd like to say that it was so hot that the stage almost went up in flames, but we'll have to skip the former and settle for the stage almost went up in flames. His voice wasn't all that and a bag of chips. In fact, his voice in the semis hasn't once sounded as good as it did in the auditions. Any entertainment value here was solely in the attitude and vamping. Randy thought there was good stuff and bad stuff in the performance. It was pitchy he said, but he loved the arrangement. Paula said she loved that Danny is "like this bright light in the competition" (that was just the flaming part, dear). She told him he had great vocals (did she hear something we didn't?) and that he looked fabulous. Well, we guess it's better to look fabulous than to sound fabulous. Fortunately, Simon returned sanity to the panel with, "I thought it was horrible, the whole thing. Absolutely useless. Sorry, I didn't like it. Hated the arrangement ... hated the performance, hated the vocal, didn't like anything about it." Amen.

Watch video of Danny Noriega singing "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell:

Poor David Hernandez. He has a wonderful voice, but he is missing the spark that he needs to win over the audience. And his most embarrassing booger story was just plain gross and certainly didn't add to his allure. Too bad he didn't have any good stories from his days as a nude dancer at male strip club Dick's Cabaret in Phoenix. Really. According to AP, the manager of the club, Gordy Bryan, said that Hernandez had performed fully nude and gave lap dances to the club's mostly male clientele. "He had the look and the type that people like, so he made pretty good money here," Bryan said. Now isn't that better than the booger story? Hernandez, we thought, did a really nice job with Meatloaf's "It's All Coming Back to Me Now." He has a good range and a nice tone, and could do very well as a recording artist. But his personality just doesn't light up the stage, which is pretty weird considering his previous experience at Dick's Cabaret. Randy called it a nice song choice because of David's "big old voice," and said it was really good except for some little pitch problems. Paula said that David was getting into his groove and finding his niche. She also said he's becoming a very good performer and has some of the best vocals in the whole group (agreed). Simon, however, didn't feel David was as good as last week and prefers when he does soul songs, but added that "You've 100% secured a place as a finalist for next week on that." Hope so.

Watch video of David Hernandez singing "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" by Meatloaf:

Michael Johns scored fairly low on DialIdol this week (sixth of eight), which surprised us. After his video embarrassing moment, which was when he worked as a mascot at a rugby match and got beaten up in front of 20,000 people, he demonstrated that he still has the exact right touch for picking songs that suit him. He also demonstrated his previous experience onstage with Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)," looking totally professional. Though he was pitchy in spots Tuesday night, in general his voice is good (though not great), he's easy on the eyes and he has the charisma that David Hernandez lacks. Yet he still hasn't become the breakout star that we think the "Idol" producers thought he would be. Randy incorrectly said, "You know what I loved about that? The Aussie went home for '80s week." Well, Mr. Record Producer, you should be embarrassed. Simple Minds is from Scotland, not Australia. Then he said, "It's so you, you kind of remind me of Michael Hutchence." Well, the late Michael Hutchence was in INXS, not Simple Minds. This is the second time in the semis Randy has compared Johns to Hutchence. There is a slight similarity in voice, but we think the fact that they are both Australian and look somewhat alike bring Hutchence to mind, not Johns' singing. Jackson also told him that "You've got that big old range, that big old voice. Very nicely done. Good song choice, I loved it dude." Paula said he picked the perfect song (agreed) and that Johns has "this presence that's different and unique; the way you hold the microphone and you've got like a hopping thing going on." Well, really, a million other singers do that, Paula. Simon liked it, but didn't love it. He said that Johns still hadn't "connected with the right song and had your moment yet," that he preferred when Johns was more like a soul singer. But, he added, "I really, really like you and I think you're going to do very, very well in this competition." Perhaps.

Watch video of Michael Johns singing "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds:

David Cook's most embarrassing moment was when he sang in a talent show but forgot the second verse to the song. After a delay (he was supposed to go onstage before Johns) due to difficulty setting up his guitar and amp, he surprised yet again with a wonderful emo-rock arrangement of Lionel Richie's "Hello." It was our favorite moment of the evening. Cook is certainly the dark horse of the males in this competition. Many gave him a weak chance of progressing in the beginning, but he gets better week by week. Randy thought is was a great arrangement, saying "I think that could be a single and be a hit, dude. I thought it was brilliant." Paula agreed that it was fabulous and would be a hit today, saying David changed things up and made perfect choices. Again, she went into her "shining star" routine (as opposed to a tarnished star?). Simon called the performance a very brave thing to do and said he loved it, adding "I like people who go out there and take a few risks. It was unpredictable and I thought it worked. I think Lionel Richie will be very happy when he hears that," adding, "I really, really hope we're going to see you next week." Yea!

Watch video of David Cook singing "Hello" by Lionel Richie:

Jason Castro was embarrassed when he tried to tie his hair back on a date and one of his dreads came out. Yup, that would be pretty embarrassing. But, man, he just has to lose that stoner act. It's really becoming annoying, like watching "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" over and over again. Castro gave our second favorite performance of the evening, doing the Jeff Buckley version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Everything about his performance was near perfect: Accompanied by only an acoustic guitar player, Castro began seated on a stool in the dark studio with only a spot on him. His voice was sweet and poignant. It was a subtle and very effective rendition of a difficult song, only slightly marred by a broken falsetto note at the end. And the judges loved it. Randy told him that he did a pretty good job of it and that he gave him props for coming out without the guitar and showing a different side. Paula said that Jason made it sound effortless and showed a beautiful vulnerability and that his phrasing is what makes him great. Simon said, "I thought it was absolutely brilliant what you just did." He said that he loved it and that it was arguably one of his favorite performances of the whole night, definitely Jason's strongest so far. He also told Castro that he is getting better and better and better.

Watch video of Jason Castro singing "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen:

The pimp spot of the evening belonged to Chikezie, whose most embarrassing moment was in high school, where, he said, he used the same bathroom every day because it was clean and no one was there. He then discovered it was a girls bathroom. We worried when we heard he was going to change the gender of "All the Man That I Need." We were expecting an off-putting performance like Syesha's "Me and Mr. Jones" last week. But Chikezie pulled it off without a hitch, right down to the song's falsetto notes, and made it sound as if it had been written that way. The fact that Luther Vandross has done a version should have assured us it would work. Still, it wasn't deserving of the night's pimp spot. Either David Cook or Jason Castro should have held that honor. Randy thought it an interesting song choice and said Chikezie did a good job and that he was really impressed. Paula said his vocals sounded really good and that she was very proud of him. Simon first asked, "Did Whitney do it?" When told "yes," he answered, "Then, no, I don't think that worked at all." Huh? Why? If Whitney hadn't done it it would have been OK? We don't get Simon's thinking at all on that one. He also said it was OK in bits, but was much more cabaret than last week (was not). He also said, "I don't think that was a very smart move, personally." It was almost as if Simon was trying to get Chikezie eliminated this week. And if it works, it would be undeserved.

Watch video of Chikezie singing "All the (Wo)Man That I Need" by Whitney Houston:

Best of the Night: David Cook, Jason Castro
Worst of the Night: Luke Menard, Danny Noriega

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