I wrote in my last blog entry that I wasn't really feeling the same excitement for Idol this year as in the past. Well, I guess my excitement is back--at about 7:15 tonight, I was looking at the time going, "I hope I can get out of here in the next half-hour, because I am psyched to watch the top 24." But it had also been a really long day at work too.
Anyway, a few observations before we go singer by singer. First, apparently Simon noticed that Paula seemed entirely too sane and normal during the audition phase of the show, so he decided to do something about it. Asking her what color each singer was put her so over the edge, by 9:30 I'm not sure Paula even knew where she was anymore. She may be crying by the end of tomorrow night. This year could be really fun.
Second, the jury is still out on whether "this year's talent is the best yet," as Ryan said to open the show tonight. (Don't you love how Ryan said "people are saying" that, when the person who has said that the most is Ryan himself?) True, there wasn't anyone really awful tonight, as there often is in the final 24 shows, but otherwise it was pretty typical--a few standouts, a few who were OK but boring, and a bunch who were good but nothing particularly special. Plus, did anyone else wonder how talented this group could be if three of them made it to Hollywood last year but couldn't even make the top 24 in such a weak year? Can someone really improve their singing that much in a year? Who knew that Paula and Randy's "go home and work" actually meant something?
Third, I was all ready to start foaming at the mouth about how unfair it was that there were four guys who we didn't see at all during the audition period, while we spent about a half hour watching Carly Smithson cry. I'm less upset now, after watching most of those guys make horrible song choices and give the most performances of the night. All these guys should have known they needed to do something to stand out, and they did the absolute opposite. I don't feel nearly as bad about it as I did a few hours ago. Oh, and by the way, the argument--proffered by Ryan on the show and by producer Nigel Lythgoe in a conference call last week--that these guys shouldn't worry about not being seen in the auditions because Kelly Clarkson didn't get any camera time is just a joke. To compare the first season of this show, when many people started watching the show after the auditions and there were only a couple audition shows, to today, when every minute of this show is chronicled obsessively throughout the media and we get eight hours of audition shows, is just an insult to my, and everyone else's, intelligence.
Finally, after that whole Ryan/Simon thing at the end of the show (when Ryan refused to thank Simon, etc.), could the two of them just have sex already? This is worse than Sam and Diane on Cheers.
So for the first time ever on a top 24 theme, we get a theme--60s Week. It was never explained, of course, how a song released in 1957, "Jailhouse Rock," qualified for this theme, but what would American Idol be like without such unexplainable mysteries?
David Hernandez (Til the Midnight Hour)--I liked this guy's version of "Love the One You're With" during Hollywood Week, and I thought his song tonight was fine but nothing great. It came across as a little too "white bread" soul to me, although since I presume from his name he's Hispanic, maybe the proper term would be, what, too "whole grain bread"?
Chikeze (More Today Than Yesterday)--So Chikeze dropped his Eze, and I have no idea why. His name is much more melodic and memorable with the two consecutive "Ezes." I think this may cost him. As for the singing, I was impressed that he took a pop song (best known recently as the song Fish sang to Dyan Cannon on Ally McBeal) and made it into a old-time R&B song. And I thought it was pretty cool. Vocally, it could have been a little stronger, but I liked the whole retro feel to it--even if Simon didn't.And isn't retro kind of in these days? Isn't Amy Winehosue big and pretty retro? I guess the whole drug thing makes her current.
David Cook (Happy Together)--The guy really needs to do something with his hair--a shaved head might be his best option--but I really enjoyed his performance. It had a certain style to it, he showed some vocal power, and he appeared, to my surprise, to be a contender.
Quick commercial note: I like Julianna Margulies and I'm glad to see her back on TV, but if that show lasts much longer than the NCAA basketball tournament, I'd be shocked.
Jason Yeager (Moon River)--So we didn't see Jason sing at all during the auditions for unexplained reasons--and then the first thing we see in his taped piece is.. his audition! Any reason why we couldn't have seen that three weeks ago, Nigel? Of course, it's not going to matter. He apparently thought the theme was "standards" and sang Moon River. Sure, it's a classic song, but it's not a song you want to sing on 60s night on American Idol. And not only did he pick the wrong song, but he didn't even sing it with much excitement or originality. Jason, have you ever watched the show? Simon called him a "dependable old dog." That's probably a better compliment than he deserved.
Robbie Carrico ("One Is the Loneliest Number")--So this guy apparently dated Britney Spears about seven or eight years ago, when she was still hot and still sane. I hope we get to hear about that from Robbie. Unfortunately, his dating history is a little more exciting than his singing. He was OK, but I just felt like he was missing that something that separates a competent singer from something special (like Michael Johns later in the show). But maybe he'll kick it up a notch next week, since he certainly did enough to stick around another week.
David Archuleta ("Better Shop Around")--OK, he does have a really good voice and gave a fine performance, but he's already a little too precious for my taste. And with that tearing up after the judges comments, is he trying to emulate Melinda Doolittle? He shouldn't be that stunned by good comments from the judges--apparently, the guy won the Arsenio Hall version of Star Search a few years back.
But here's the issue I want to throw out: When Robbie Carrico sang, Simon questioned whether he was an "authentic" rocker. I'm not really sure. But what about David Archuleta? Is he "authentic" as an R&B singer, as Elliott Yamin was? I'm not sure about that. I'm not sure I really care all that much--but for some reason Simon only brings that up for rock singers. (By the way, I am also interested in whether David Archuleta is a more "authentic" safety than Redskins bust Adam Archuleta.)
Danny Noriega ("Jailhouse Rock")--I think Danny is a little too, um, dramatic or flamboyant for my taste. Having said that, there was something compelling about his performance--he certainly wasn't boring, even if his singing was without much distinction. I think "grotesque" was a little harsh. And I'm sure he's a better singer than his uncle Manuel was.
Luke Menard--(Have no idea what he was singing)--The second of our mystery men bores America with a slow, unexciting song. Simon sums it up better than I could: "No one's going to remember you." As for Paula's comments about how the judges have heard many better auditions from him? That's nice, Paula, but the viewers have seen none of those. So we can only judge the lifeless performance we saw. I wonder if Paula watches the audition shows.
Colton Berry ("Suspicious Minds")--So for some reason Colton takes a song that Elvis made into a classic, and the Fine Young Cannibals did a great cover of 20 years later, and thinks he can compete with them. Even a fine singer like Chris Daughtry was kind of disappointing when he took this song on--and it ended up the week he was eliminated from the competition that week (although his "A Little Less Conversation" was probably the weaker song that week.) Colton's performance was kind of karaoke, as the judges said. As for Simon's general argument that too many performances were not "current" enough, I know what he means and yet I'm not sure I see why, for instance, Jason Castro's performance was so much more current than Colton Berry's
Garrett Haley ("Breaking Up Is Hard to Do")--Our third mystery man may be the most boring contestant in American Idol history. I almost dozed off during his taped package. Then he started singing. It was competent but completely unexciting. I might have to apologize to producer Nigel Lythgoe for something I wrote last month after the first audition show. He had said, in answer to a question about why the program doesn't show the auditions of the entire final 24, that all he's concerned about is storytelling--and he's not going to show someone if they're "boring as hell." My retort to that is if someone is really "boring as hell," how did they make the final 24? Well, now we know. Somehow, Garrett Haley made the final 24. But his boringness did bring out Simon's best line of the night: "You need some fresh air."
Jason Castro (Is the title "Daydream"?)--The only one of our mystery men who stands out a little, because he plays the guitar and isn't completely sleep-inducing. I wasn't nearly as enamored with it as the judges, but it wasn't bad vocally. What I don't understand is how Jason's performance was so much more "current" than, for example, Colton Berry's. I think I understand what Simon means when he uses that term--could you hear it on the radio today--and I know you wouldn't hear Colton Berry on the radio? But would you really hear anything that sounds like Jason Castro's performance on the radio? Or David Archuleta's? I don't think so.
Michael Johns ("Light My Fire")--But I could imagine hearing Michael Johns on the radio a lot. Simply put, this guy rocks. He deserved the pimp spot for the first show of the season. He's definitely an early favorite. And he could probably break David Archuleta over his knee. (Just so Hillary Clinton doesn't bust me, I want to say that last line is an homage to a line Duke Chronicle sportwriter Kris Olsen wrote when Duke was recruiting Chris Webber. Comparing him to another prized recruit who also didn't end up a Blue Devil but went to Indiana, he wrote, "Chris Webber could break Alan Henderson over his knee.")
So who's going home? I think Luke Menard has got to be one. As for the second, I think Jason Yeager will probably survive by getting the senior vote for singing "Moon River." So my choice is between Colton Berry and Garrett Haley, and the unbelievable non-charisma of Garrett Haley will send him home.
Labels: American Idol