Wednesday, February 11, 2009

American Idol Season 8
Hollywood Week Day 4

Hollywood Week Day 4, and its time to trim the troupe even further after a solo performance by each remaining contestant. But this time they can be accompanied by a backing band, backing vocals and even play an intrument of their choice. Their song choices are once again limited to a list provided by the producers. Too many of the choices are songs made famous by former "Idol" contestants, and, well, they just sound wrong -- or worse yet -- bad, sung by other people. Whether this is yet another attempt to further promote the careers of former contestants that 19 Entertainment still manages is unclear. Yet there it is.

After the solos the contestants will be split into four groups and wait for hours in holding rooms outside the Kodak Theater where Hollywood Week has been held, while Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi decide their fates and whittle the remaining singers from 72 down to 50. All the wannabe stars will be trying to figure out whether or not they've been placed in a "safe" room by scanning who has been placed in there with them. But it could either way.

And as we watch the judges place pictures in "yes," "no" and "maybe" piles and then switch them around and around until they've reach what they feel is the perfect mix, we realize how arbitrary it can be whether or not you make it to the next round. In fact, at one point during the evening, we are shown footage of annoying drama queen Tatiana Del Toro being taken from one room and placed in another. The others in the room she is moved to are a bit stunned when she enters and now figure their chances of getting through have dropped considerably. Of course, we had hope this means that Tatiana is being cut (does anybody in the world feel differently about that?), until we scan and see the rest of the group includes Brent Keith and Matt Breitzke, two contestants we were fairly confident would be selected. On the other hand, there are a lot on unfamiliar faces in the room that we haven't, as yet, seen during the season. And, uh-oh, there's Nick "Normund Gentle" Mitchell. So which way will this room, designated Room 4, go? We're thinking cut.

But before we go through the drama of who will stay and who will go, we see and hear some of the solos. Performance order is determined randomly, by drawing numbers. "And drawing lucky No. 1," says Ryan Seacrest, "was Adam Lambert." Adam tells the judges he wants to be on the show to take a song "we've heard a million times and twist it." Er, where have we heard that before? Hmmm, could it be David Cook or Chris Daughtry? Adam's background is musical theater and he is still playing the role, complete with guy liner. He is a cute guy, but to this point we've found his voice, though good, to be too high for our taste. Will he change our minds when he changes up Cher's "Believe"? No. He does fine, but he still does nothing for us.

Watch video of Adam Lambert singing "Believe"

Dueling piano player Matt Giraud does a nice bluesy version of Ray Charles' "Georgia," accompanying himself on keyboard. He wasn't a favorite of ours when he auditioned, but has begun to grow on us the more we've seen him perform during Hollywood Week. His group, White Chocolate, did a great rap-sing version of "I Want You Back," and now this. We put him in our "yes" pile. The other contestants and judges love him, too. Randy, Paula and Kara give him a standing O. Simon? we don't think he stands for anyone, with the exception of the season finale.

Watch video of Matt Giraud singing "Georgia"

They came together from Milwaukee to Kansas City. Mo., to audition, roomed together in Hollywood, performed together in the same group on Group Day, and have seemed inseparable since the "Idol" Season 8 process began. So it makes sense that we'd see bartender Jamar Rogers and music teacher Danny Gokey perform one right after another on Day 4 (though we don't believe they actually picked consecutive numbers, this was just some creative editing). Jamar was up first, singing the Plain White Ts "Hey There Delilah." It's pleasant, but we're going to like a later version we hear better. The judges, particularly Kara, who screams "Wooooo" as he finishes, really seem to like him. But as he goes backstage, Jamar tells Danny he thinks he could have done better. Danny tells him, "What? Are you kidding me?" Now it's Danny's turn, and he sings Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance." We really like this song and have never heard a guy sing it, but Danny pulls it off with aplomb. He changes it up in a much better way that Adam changed up "Believe." Paula loves it so much, so looks like she's going to explode as he sings. Score! Will Danny and Jamar wind up in the same holding room? Will they be safe?

Watch video of Jamar Rogers singing "Hey There Delilah" and Danny Gokey singing "I Hope You Dance"

One of this season's favorites, Anoop Desai, takes on Bobby Brown's "My Perogative." He gives it a nice R&B sound, but when he starts pounding his chest as if he's from the 'hood, well we're just not buying it. He's way to innocent looking for that. Anoop is followed by Jorge Nunez doing "Closer" by Ne-Yo, and we like the tiny little snippet they show us from it. Paula is standing and dancing. Apparently she liked it as well. Anoop and Jorge have been given so much face time to date, it's hard to believe they're anything but safe.

Watch video of Anoop Desai singing "My Perogative" and Jorge Nunez singing "Closer"

Scott McIntyre, who is nearly blind, has also received a lot of face time during Season 8. He gets some more accompanying himself on the keyboard for Daughtry's "Home." Though we're sure that Scott will make the 36 semi-finalist cut -- if for no other reason than the producers will love the mileage they can get out of having a blind contestant -- we probably wouldn't place him there. Yes, we know, Scott has already recorded a gazillion records, but his voice is just so bland and undistinctive to us that we can't picture ever running out to buy, or even listen to, anything he records. It's like that easy listening background music they play in the dentist's office. It'll relax you when you hear it, but you won't recall it 5 minutes later. And, sorry, his version of "Home" was lame. Scott tells us after his performance that although he couldn't see it, he heard that Paula gave him a standing O and that means he had absolutely the greatest time of his life up there. No disrespect intended, but from what we viewed, the standing O looked as if it was given more out of respect for everything he's achieved in spite of his physical limitations, rather than for a "wow" performance. And make no mistake, most unlimited people -- including us -- haven't achieved anywhere near what Scott has, and we admire and respect him for that. But that alone is not enough reason, for us any way, to make it to the semis.

Watch video of Scott McIntyre singing "Home"

Next we get a taste of blond Texan Kendall Beard (Beard is such a not good last name for a girl) singing Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats." It's an object lesson in why contestants shouldn't sing songs recorded by former "Idol" contestants. Kendall may be able to sing, but she can neither get close to Underwood's clear beautiful voice nor Carrie's version of this song. All Beard demonstrates is how limited she is by comparison. At best, we'd put her in our "maybe" pile. But she is pretty and blond and, along with drama, that seems to be what the judges producers are looking for this year. Great voice optional.

Watch video of Kendall Beard singing "Before He Cheats"

We get about 16 seconds each of Stevie Wright singing Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" and Lil Rounds, redeeming herself from earlier Hollywood Week shouting with Alicia Keys "I Ain't Got You." We want to hear more from both of these ladies and put them on our "yes" pile.

Watch video of Stevie Wright singing "Bubbly" and Lil Rounds singing "I Ain't Got You"

Ditzy drama queen Kristen McNamara is up next. But before she also proves our earlier point by singing Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You," Ryan decides to have a little fun with her. He asks Kristen why she never let fellow group member Nancy Wilson get to her. Kristen, who makes Kellie Pickler look like a brain trust, answers, "My mom always told me that loose lips sink ships," in a total misuse of the WWII catchphrase. Duh! Next, Ryan asks Kristen what she would say he told her that Nancy was sitting right behind them and wanted to apologize to Kristen. As you may recall, Nancy told Kristen "fuck you" after Wilson was eliminated on group day, blaming her woes on the drama caused by hysterical Nate Marshall and Kristin "I have to take a break and rest my voice" McNamara. Startled, Kristen swings around in her seat to see no Nancy sitting there. She turns back to Ryan and says, "That was a lie. My heart stopped," and hitting Ryan on the shoulder, "Ryaaaan." Kristen has a big 'ol voice, but she also has a distractingly big 'ol mouth, reminiscent of Steven Tyler. But in every way she lives up to "Blondie" appellation Simon bestowed on her on group day, so we figure that she's also probably safe as well.

Watch video of Kristen McNamara singing "Because of You"

To date, we barely seen more than a peek of Mishavonna Henson, who we find out auditioned and made it to Hollywood last season, where she was eliminated on Day 2. She tells us she's back this year with a vengeance. We weren't that impressed by her rendition of Michael Buble's "Everything." Some parts sounded good, others off. Vocally, it feels like Kristy Lee Cook all over again, though she looks more like Gina Glocksen with long hair. We'd put her in the "no" pile. But will the judges feel the same way?

Watch video of Mishavonna Henson singing "Everything"

Definitely in our "no" pile, in fact on the top and in first place, is pain in the ass drama queen and general all-around psycho Tatiana Del Toro, who again gets more face time than almost any other contestant. We'll be shocked if she makes and shocked if she doesn't. Please America, make a vow, now. If Tatiana gets through to the semifinals, DO NOT VOTE FOR HER. She would no doubt be the sweetheart of Vote for the Worst, but she must be obliterated ASAP. The producers subject us to nearly a minute review of how the judges have hated her from the beginning, leading to the question: Why the hell is she still here? At this point, there is no question in our mind that this is intentional and totally scripted. In a real competition the psycho would have been long gone. Are the producers trying to ensure that Tatiana will be the next contestant committing suicide outside of Paula's house? With her arrogance intact, she takes on Whitney Houston's "I'm Your Baby Tonight," including some of the backing vocals. The beginning is shaky, but the last notes are superb. Doing some weird twirling around backstage, she tells us, "I think I did awesome." We're being played by the producers, readers. Vote no, no, no, no, to infinity.

Watch video of Tatiana Del Toro singing "I'm Your Baby Tonight"

In stark contrast to Tatiana's 1 min. and 38 sec. showcase, a mere 35 seconds are given over to spotlighting Alexis Grace, Kenny Haufpouer AND Jasmine Murray. Hmmmm, that averages less than 12 seconds each. Alexis sounds slightly better than Kendall did on "Before He Cheats"; Kenny sounds interesting on his few seconds of Jason Mraz' "I'm Yours"; and Jasmine sounds off key on Jordin Spark's "Tattoo." Yet, at the beginning of the clip, Ryan says, "Three others who should also be happy with their performances ..." so we take that to mean all three wound up on the judges' "yes" pile. Alexis would have gotten a "maybe" from us, the other two a "yes," but for Jasmine it would have been based on prior performances, not on what we heard here.

Watch video of Alexis Grace singing "Before He Cheats," Kenny Haufpouer singing "I'm Yours" and Jasmine Murray singing "Tattoo"

In so many ways, Rihanna's "Disturbia" was the perfect song for drama queen Nate Marshall. He also gets too much face time so we can review his group histrionics intercut with his accompanying himself on guitar for "Disturbia." Frankly, we've never been much impressed -- actually more distressed -- by Nate. Therefore, he jumps over to our "no" list to keep Tatiana company. 'Nuff said.

Watch video of Nate Marshall singing "Disturbia"

Joanna Pacitti, a favorite of ours, has a disastrous solo, totally forgetting the words of "I Ain't Got You." We take our former "yes" vote and move her to the "maybe" pile. And elfin-faced Casey Carlson suffers the same fate taking on "Tattoo." She scuttles over to our "no" pile. If these ladies can't handle the pressure of Hollywood Week, how are they going to fare when they have to perform for all of America?

Watch video of Joanna Pacitti singing "I Ain't Got You" and Casey Carlson singing "Tattoo"

And the lyric fumbles don't end there. Stephen Fowler thought that the words would be the last of his problems for David Cook's "Time of My Life." Though he tells us the song isn't wordy or lyrically tongue-twisting, he forgot it still takes a memory, which temporarily seems to abandon him at the keyboards. He asks to begin again. Simon shrugs. Fowler screws up again and leaves the stage. Paula says, "Too bad." There's a voice there waiting to be heard, but we'll have to say "no" to Stephen this year.

Watch video of Stephen Fowler singing "Time of My Life"

Though we think there is a real voice hiding inside of Nick Mitchell, we've only been treated to the stylings of his alter ego, "Normund Gentle." Ryan tells us that Nick tried to be himself on group day, but wasn't taken seriously. Simon termed the group "atrocious" and said that Nick tried to influence the group to be a joke. Perhaps figuring he had nothing to lose at this point, it was the persona of Normund who took the stage and had the judges (well some of them, anyway) in stitches with his performance of "Georgia." But "Idol" isn't a sketch comedy or variety show, it's the search for the best pop singer. So what's up? Besides, Nick is a visual performer. How could he ever sell CDs? We put him on our "no" list, but are convinced that the producers will keep him, if only for the buzz and resulting ratings he'll generate.

Watch video of Nick "Normund Gentle" Mitchell singing "Georgia"

Anne Marie Boskovich also sings "I Hope You'll Dance," from what Ryan tells us, a very popular choice of the contestants. Though she's a bit off pitch in places, we like Anne Marie in the same way we like Brooke White, so we put her in our "yes" pile.

Watch video of Anne Marie Boskovich singing "I Hope You'll Dance"

As the hour begins to wind down, we hear JuNot Joyner, who made crashed and burned in Hollywood last year, singing the night's better version of "Hey There Delilah." There's something very engaging about JuNot and we think his voice could potentially prove to be gangbusters, so we put him on our "yes" pile.

Watch video of JuNot Joyner singing "Hey There Delilah"

In the same holding room are Kaylan Lloyd, who is concerned about her performance of "I Ain't Got You" and Leneshe Young, who sang Sara Bareilles' "Love Song." Though it wasn't a horrible audition, Simon ends Kaylan's performance early. It doesn't look promising and Kaylan tears up backstage and in the holding area. On the other hand, Leneshe sparkled on "Love Song." She's got a great voice, great personality and is adorable. Is Kaylan safe or is Leneshe inexplicably in trouble? We put Kaylan on the "maybe" pile and Leneshe on the "yes" pile.

Watch video of Kaylan Lloyd singing "I Ain't Got You" and Leneshe Young singing "Love Song"

In spite of adoring Kai Kalama's audition, this is the first time we've seen him during Hollywood Week and his voice is shot when he takes on Stevie Wonder's "Part Time Lover." We love him, but he goes on the "no" pile. In the holding room with Kai is oil roughneck Michael Sarver whose Hollywood Week has been smooth as glass. He has no trouble with O Town's "All or Nothing." Hmmm, is this good news for Kai? We move Kai to our "maybe" list and Michael to the "yes" list.

Watch video of Kai Kalama singing "Part Time Lover" and Michael Sarver singing "All or Nothing"

Last up is adorable India Morrison who, according to Ryan has "a trying audition." We are shown a few scant seconds and can't even decipher what song she is singing. But again, she's placed in Leneshe Young's holding room. Good for India, or really bad news for Leneshe?

Watch video of India Morrison

The judges have finished making their selections. Simon takes off for a flight London (oh, please), while Kara, Randy and Paula visit each room with their verdicts. First up is Room 2, whose occupants -- including Nate Marshall, Casey Carlson, Joanna Pacitti, Stephen Fowler, Alex Wagner-Trugman, Arianna Afsar, Kai Kalama, Alexis Grace, Michael Sarver, Jasmine Murray, Kenny Haufpouer, Von Smith, Ricky Braddy and Shera Lawrence -- rejoice when they learn they are safe!

Watch video of the verdict for Room 2

The occupants of Room 3 -- including including Michael Castro, India Morrison, Kaylan Lloyd, Leneshe Young, Ryan Johnson and Justin Williams -- are unnerved by the screams of happiness they hear, knowing their odds have just gotten a bit worse. And yes, worse they were. The room is cut.

Watch video of the verdict for Room 3

On to Room 1, which has been waiting the longest. But we are fairly sure that these are the safest of the safe, probably all garnering definite "yes" votes, as its occupants include Danny Gokey, Jamar Rogers, Kendall Beard, Kristen McNamara, Anoop Desai, Mishavonna Henson, Jackie Tohn, John Twiford, Taylor Vaifanua, Adam Lambert, Lil Rounds, Scott Macintyre, Stevie Wright, Jeanine Vailes, Ariana Asfar and Meghan Corkrey. And we are right. They are all safe.

Watch video of the verdict for Room 1

So what about Room 4? It's the biggest question mark of all. It includes Ann Marie Boskovich, Cody Sheldon, Tatiana Del Toro, Brent Keith, Jenn Korbee, Matt Breitzke, Jackie Midkiff, JuNot Joyner, Nick Mitchell, Felicia Barton, T.K. Hash, Devon Baldwin, Chris Chatman and Jesse Langseth. After hearing cheering in two other rooms, there is widespread uncertainly and gloom, nearing despair and almost wailing in Tatiana case (cut, cut, cut please). The room contains some seemingly definite yesses, but also some seemingly definite nos. Plus, there are a whole bunch we've never even seen perform this season. Fortunately, we didn't have to put money on it, 'cause we would have bet wrong. They also are safe! Only Room 3 cut.

Watch video of the verdict for Room 4

Tonight the judges narrow the field to the 36 semifinalists who begin performing for our votes next week. You won't want to miss it. Be there.

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2009

No comments: