Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Maybe the ladies will be better

Ryan started off tonight by telling us this season had the "best talent yet!" Is there some kind of quantitative measurement Ryan used to make that claim that he can provide for us, because after tonight, it does not appear to be true. I did think the judges were a little too harsh tonight--most of the performances the judges strongly disliked I found more strange than terrible. The problem was there was little that was particularly special or memorable. On the bright side: it was the first week and everybody is nervous--yeah, I know, that's not much of a bright side....

So we start off tonight with one of my favorite Idol idiocies: the montage of "how we got here." Yeah, why don't we review what we just spent the past five weeks watching? There wasn't even any singing in the "how we got here" montage, although they did redeem that decision by actually showing a clip of everyone's original audition in their biography clips tonight. That was something I don't remember ever being done before, and it was nice. Why they couldn't, of course, show those clips during the 10 hours of audition shows (they knew who the top 40 were weeks before the audition show even air) is beyond me, but I don't produce the show.

Speaking of producing the show, I saw a couple interviews with AI producer Nigel Lythgoe over the past few days, and he answered this complaint by saying that he views Idol as three separate shows: the auditions, the Hollywood round and the semifinals/finals, and he tries to make the best show he can for each. That means he doesn't care if viewers see someone on an audition show and then never see them in the Hollywood round--in his mind, they're two separate programs. This is ridiculous--does Nigel Lythgoe watch TV? Does he talk to the viewers? Yes, the audition shows, judging from the ratings, do attract more viewers than the Hollywood round and the semifinals, go up as the finals begin, and then take another jump in the final weeks and for the finale. But the ratings are still huge for all "three parts" of the show. The 18-49 ratings for the auditions shows this year were in the 13-15 range, and in past years the lowest they ever go for the semifinals, if I recall correctly, are a 9-10--bigger than anything else on television these days except maybe an occasional episode of Grey's Anatomy. That means that more than two-thirds of the viewers of Idol watch all three parts of the show. That's your fan base, Nigel--do you not have any respect for them? Most of these people, like me, only watch the audition shows so that we'll be familiar with these people once we get to the semifinals. (In fact, who are these people who only watch the auditions and then tune out for the rest of the year? Are they just sadists who only love bad singing?) Anyway, that's enough of my Nigel rant for today, but I'll have a little more tomorrow. Let's get to the singers.

Rudy Cardenas ("Free Ride")--Rudy said in his taped introduction that "it doesn't matter to me if I have Simon on my side or not." With an attitude like that, Rudy, you're not going to go very far. Have you watched the show before? It's always better to have Simon on your side, whatever Randy or Paula might say. Yes, I've heard people say that Simon wasn't on Taylor Hicks' side last year, but that isn't totally true. Yes, he didn't vote for him on the first audition, but during the competition last year, he praised Taylor when he deserved it (his soul performances) and ripped him when he didn't (his awful crazy dancing numbers).
Having said that, I thought Simon was a little harsh on Rudy tonight by calling him not unique. I thought seeing a Hispanic guy with a smooth voice singing a raggedy rock song like "Free Ride"--a song that I would have only thought I would have seen performed on Idol if Bo Bice returned--was certainly unique and sort of strange. I didn't think it was that bad, but it wasn't memorable, either. And I was glad to see that Rudy did say after the song that he hoped to change Simon's attitude--he learned something between taping the intro and his first song of the semis.

Brandon Rogers ("Rock With You")--Brandon is considered one of the early favorites, but he didn't really solidify that position tonight. I thought he sounded fine, very smooth, but his performance was lacking a little excitement. I suppose we'll be hearing the judges talking a lot after every performance of his about how he's no longer a backup singer and he needs to step out and shine, blah, blah, so I'll start steeling myself for that.

Sundance Head ("Nights in White Satin")--Another performance that falls into my category of more strange than bad. His vocals weren't great, but they were OK. Very odd song choice. And Simon was right, it was a very "old-fashioned" performance. I wrote in my notes that it had an "old time feel." I kind of liked that, though--isn't retro kind of in? I'm kind of intrigued as to what's next.

Paul Kim ("Careless Whisper")--So Paul said he wanted everyone to be "shocked and surprised" by his song choices, and he picks "Careless Whisper." Great song, but it's anything but shocking and surprising. Picking a George Michael song like "I Want Your Sex" might have been surprising, picking "Nights in White Satin" like Sundance did would have been surprising, but picking "Careless Whisper" was pretty unsurprising. I was watching the reruns of the first season (airing in syndication) and someone sang it on the show back then.
Unfortunately, Paul didn't exactly shock and surprise me with his singing either. The first verse was terrible, although he did improve in the chorus. But that high note was horrible.
And Simon took the words right out of my mouth--"put your shoes on." You know what wins American Idol--singing, not a gimmick. (And if I have to listen to Paula botch another foot odor joke directed at Simon because he keeps going barefoot, I'm not going to be happy...)

Chris Richardson ("I Don't Want to Be")--So this guy looks like Justin Timberlake, sings kind of like Justin Timberlake and even uses a bunch of Justin Timberlake's mannerisms when he's performing. If this guy goes much farther, Justin might have grounds for a lawsuit or something. Then again, considering Justin is apparently deciding whether he should date Jessica Biel or Scarlett Johansson (while Katharine McPhee is quoted talking about how hot he is in Entertainment Weekly), I think he's got better things to do.
This performance wasn't bad, kind of lively, but I think Simon was right in that his voice did sound "small" at times and wasn't particularly overwhelming. But he looks like Justin Timberlake, so he'll stick around for a while.

Nick Pedro (Don't know the song, but it sounded kind of familar)--All I can say is that was really boring. But I was curious what made him tear up at the end of his taped piece. He was talking about dropping out of the competition, and then he said something about how he "almost had the easiest life" and then something unintelligible. Was he implying that he would have won last year or something if he hadn't dropped out? Is he crazy? Anyway, it's never a good sign when you taped intro is more interesting than your song.

Blake Lewis ("Somewhere Only We Know")--Blake was exactly correct--this is a singing competition and he should be singing, not beat-boxing (Randy, saying that Blake should try to work that in every week, once again proves himself to be an idiot--kind of like how he kept saying Ace should always do his falsetto last year). And Blake did a really good job. I thought he struggled a bit on the high note, but otherwise he was solid. And the guy from Keane really sings the hell out of this song, so to even get close is pretty good. Plus, Blake, with his look and hairstyle, kind of reminds me of Morrissey, and that's always good.
One other thing: Simon said that Black was the first guy who "sounded like 2007." This is the worst criticism that Simon gives, because then he'll go praise someone else for singing a 40 year old Streisand song that doesn't sound modern at all. I wish he'd explain this more.

Sanjaya Malakar (A really boring Stevie Wonder song)--Sanjayah said that his beautiful sister picked out this song for him. I guess that means that even if she had made the semifinals, she would have been eliminated quickly because she doesn't know how to pick out the right songs. Simon once again stole my line, noting that the line in the song "I don't want to bore you with this" seemed to be the theme of the performance. If there was a melody to that song, I didn't hear Sanjaya sing it. On the other hand, I would like to see him stick around a few weeks so we get to see that beautiful sister of his in the audience. One question, though: if he gets eliminated Thursday night, will he continue to smile?

Chris Sligh (I have no idea what song this was)--Everyone, including me, already likes Chris Sligh because he's funny, and I liked him even more when he talked in his taped piece about how important song choice and strategy is (he knows how the show works.) And while I don't know what that song was he sang, I thought he did a solid job of it--it was uptempo and fun. Then he had to go and mouth off to Simon. For a guy with so much knowledge of the show, one would think he wouldn't go there--that's a pet peeve of many viewers. And he didn't just mouth off, he really launched a personal attack, implicitly criticizing Il Divo (the pop-opera group Simon created) and the Teletubbies. I had no idea Simon had anything to do with the Teletubbies, or that the Teletubbies recorded a record, but I'm told Simon was involved in that recording. Simon looked uncomfortable, much of the viewing audience was feeling uncomfortable, and I suppose it was good television but not necessarily good in the long run for Mr. Sligh. I think, though, he's got enough fans that he's not going anywhere for a while.

Jared Cotter ("Back at One")--If I didn't have a calendar, I could tell it was mid-February just by hearing someone covering a Brian McKnight song--it happens a couple times every year in the AI semifinals. But, unlike the judges, I thought Jared, who we hadn't seen sing at all before tonight (had we?) actually was pretty solid. I hope he's not voted out because of his lack of exposure, because I think he has some potential. He's got a nice voice.

A.J. Tabaldo (Luther Vandross song)--Ah, it's so nice to see Paula back dancing during the performances, isn't it--another sign mid-February has arrived. I thought A.J. started out weak, but by the middle of the song, I said to myself, "You know, this guy isn't bad." But come on, the guy has tried out for American Idol five times--how good can he be? If he was really anything special, wouldn't he have made it one of those first four times....

Phil Stacey ("Could Not Ask for More")--The judges were correct, the beginning of this was horrible. You couldn't even hear him over the music. But he did get better over the course of the song, although I'm not convinced yet he's anything special, as Simon said.
And for you Idol conspiracy theorists out there, Phil was placed in what is referred to as the "pimp spot" for week one. The AI conspiracy theorists believe that the producers try to place the candidates they favor in that final spot to "pimp" extra votes, since their performance is most fresh in the mind of viewers when it is time for voting. Last year on week one, the pimp spots, as I was reminded of today, went to Katharine and Taylor. Just some food for thought.

I could rant about the whole Ryan-Simon fight, but I don't really want to, especially about Ryan specifically not thanking Simon at the end of the show. We all know that Simon is correct, and that people at home do want to see him be honest with the contestants and not patronize him. The only people who don't seem to know this are Ryan, Paula and Randy. So before the prediction, I'll just say I'm glad Britney has decided to enter rehab and hope she gets the help she needs. Remember, Britney (like she's reading this blog), people liked you when you were dancing around in sexy videos. No one wants to see you throwing up in limos and forgetting your underwear. That's just sad.

Back to Idol. I'm not going to cheat and check Dial Idol, but make my own guess of the bottom two guys and then check that great site. It's complicated on a night like tonight, because some singers who might not have had the best performances (Sundance, for example) already have built up fan bases that will probably be sufficient to get them support, while the reverse may be true in other cases. So I'll say Nick Pedro will go, because he was the worst of the night and I don't believe he has much of a fan base, and Rudy Cardenas, because he was just OK and went so early in the evening that everyone had forgotten him by 10:00. But I think just about anyone except Chris and Blake, and maybe Phil, could be on the chopping block. Fingerhut out....

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14 Comments:

Anonymous John said...

Excellent blog. Though it is Rudy, not Nick Cardenas. You must have been tired...

Um, I thought it was a very weak show. Rather than go guy by guy, I'll just tell that I voted for Chris Sligh and Blake. I was appalled by Chris's slam at Simon, though.

2/21/07, 9:39 AM  
Anonymous Mom said...

Wow, that was long! I guess it has to be with 12 to critique. I don't think any of the guys stood out as being great. The last three were probably the best of the bunch. I think Sundance (the only one whose name I can remember)and the Asian guy have to go.

2/21/07, 11:40 AM  
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