Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The most exciting Tuesday night of the year

It's one of my favorite Tuesday nights of the year--he first night of the Idol semifinals! And tonight's show didn't disappoint--well, maybe it had some disappointing singers, but only three are going to advance anyway. It had everything you could want from an Idol episode: some good singing, some really bad singing, some funny judging exchanges, and some spacey moments from Paula.

Before we run down the singers--which I'm going to try to do more briefly this year both because some people complain it takes too long to read and because my (not-so-new-anymore) job has a 45-minute commute instead of a 10-minute commute and thus I can't sleep as late on Wednesday mornings as I used to--a quick word about the new format and Joanna Pacitti. First, I don't really care that Pacitti was bounced from the show--Simon said anyone who forgot their words would be eliminated in Hollywood Week and then she forgot her words during apparently every performance. So she should have been eliminated for that. As for the new format, this is how they did it the first three seasons, and I don't remember anyone--at least in seasons two and three--where I said, "Wow, it's too bad there weren't enough slots in their group for them, because they were really good." If there are too many good people in their group but they're really good, they'll get put through in the wild card. At least with this new format, you actually have to win your way into the final 12, instead of the way you could basically back in in the last few years if you had enough screen time in the first few weeks and didn't screw up. It makes singers go out and take chances (although some of them took risks that were way too big for them.)

As for how they divided the three groups--I'd like to think they just drew numbers out of a hat. Or maybe the judges seeded them, like in the NCAA tournament, so the people they thought were the best were in different groups. But having watched American Idol for eight years, I'm sure the producers selected the groups in a way that would maximize the chances that the people they liked would end up in the final 12. We'll see how that turns out

And before we get to the singers, one request. I work in an office with one co-worker and he doesn't watch American Idol. So, please, leave some comments for me. I want to communicate with other people about the show. Thank you. Let's get to the singers.

Jackie Tohn ("Little Less Conversation")--Whenever I hear the name Jackie Tohn, I always think of former Houston Astros shortstop Dickie Thon. I have no idea why, but I just wanted to get that out there--because I don't think I'm going to be hearing the name Jackie Tohn much after this week. That was just weird--it started off as some lounge singer version of "Little Less Conversation" then got fast but stayed weird throughout. And Randy might have like the outfit, but I thought it was awful. To her credit, unlike a lot of recent singers in this round of Idol in past years (as I mentioned above), at least she was adventuresome.

Ricky Braddy ("A Song for You")--Ricky was the first of a few people tonight that fell into the same category for me--I wasn't crazy about their song choice, and, in some cases, their performances, but I loved the tone and power of their voice. Ricky Braddy, who I don't think we'd heard sing, has a really nice voice. I hope we can hear more of it. But I just thought his performance of this song was too showy and full of vocal runs. I prefer the more straightforward performance Elliott Yamin gave of this song three seasons ago. Two more things: The Braddy Bunch? That's going to get old quick if Ricky advances to the finals. And one of the great judge exchanges of the night came when Simon told Ricky he needed to get more confidence and Paula said, in what seemed like an insult directed at Simon, to "Take lessons from him." Simon turned it right around and said "Why not?" Well done, Cowell.

Quick judge interlude: Simon, of course, is still mostly correct about everything. But I will say Kara was much better tonight than she has been, actually offering something besides "I like you."

Alexis Grace ("Never Loved A Man")--Wow, I can't believe how slutty she looks now, just on the basis of that advice from the judges. Once again, her voice sounded very good and strong, but I wasn't crazy about the song. She gave a good performance of it, but I'd just like to hear a song with a little bit more of a melody before I pronounce her a contender. It may be a classic song, but it was a lot of vocal runs and not a lot of just simply singing.

Neil Patrick Harris and Ted Danson, together in the audience? What's up? Were two of the best sitcom characters of the last 25 years just hanging out together? Actually, can you imagine Barney Stinson and Sam Malone going out to pick up girls together? Well, if there's ever a Cheers-How I Met Your Mother crossover episode, I think we've got a storyline....

Brent Keith ("Hick Town")--I'm not a big fan of country music, or at least real genuine country music (I do like the more pop country music), and so I didn't really like this much. It was, as Simon said, forgettable. Great judge line: Simon responding to Paula's invocation of Bucky Covington by saying "What has happened to Bucky Covington?" I actually would like to know, but I'm not curious enough to stop what I'm doing and Google now--which I guess says something about my lack of interest in Bucky Covington.

Stevie Wright ("You Belong With Me")--Speaking of pop country, I really do like Taylor Swift. While her singing voice can be, for lack of a better word, pitchy-and her songs don't require a particularly powerful voice to sing--she writes good songs with some interesting melodies. And Stevie Wright, to say the least, didn't exactly do Taylor Swift justice. That was just bad--a tuneless mess. I will give her mom a little credit, though--she called the judges on the silliness they give us every year. They told Stevie to be young (which is kind of a silly critique anyway--if you sing a Beatles song are you old fashioned?), and then when she sang a young song, they told her they liked it when she sang the songs she used to sing. Of course, the main problem here wasn't just song choice, but bad singing. Best line of the night from Simon came here, when one of the other judgest said "America votes," and he said, "But they listen to me." And because this will probably be my only chance, I just want to say that Stevie Wright shares a first name with one of my most fondly remembered AI semifinalists, Stevie Scott. I will never forget when she told the judges after a bad critique that "I can bring it" if she received another chance. Unfortunately, she never received that second chance--nor did she ever define what she could bring and why she didn't "bring it" to her previous performance. Stevie Wright didn't bring it either.

Anoop Desai ("Angel of Mine")--Another in the category of great-sounding voice, so-so performance and song choice. I got really excited when Anoop said during the taped package that he was going to "sing songs that I have wanted to sing when watching at home." But when he said after singing that he picked it because he wanted to thank people or whatever and that it was the first R&B song he ever heard--Anoop, haven't you learned anything from watching the show? You never pick a song because you like its lyrical content, you pick a song because it's right for your voice and then work on connecting with the words. I kind of always liked this song because I liked the hook in the way "Angel of mine" comes in during the chorus, but the rest of the song is kind of boring, and there was way too much background singing necessary which distracted from Anoop. But I hope, even though I believe he's a Tar Heel, that he moves on to the final 12--because I believe that he has a chance to win if he picks the right songs (I'm not sure there's anyone else I could say that about yet, with confidence.)

Casey Carlson ("Every Little Thing She Does is Magic")--I wrote in my notes that Casey's performance may have been the worst semifinal performance in American Idol history. After thinking about that, I'm probably exaggerating. Sanjaya had a couple bad performances in the semifinal round, Antonella Barba was pretty awful at least once, and Janay Castane was probably the all-time worst. But Casey is a contender. I laughed out loud twice during her performance because I couldn't believe how bad it was. The performance was so bad it actually moved Randy to utter the funniest thing that's ever come out of his mouth on this show--him singing "Everything about it was wrong" to the tune of "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic." And let me add--this was a terrible song choice, but that didn't matter. She was so bad on this song I can't imagine her being all that good on any other song. (It was also hilarious that the judges' critiques were so bad that by the time they got to Simon it was like a funeral was happening in the studio.) On the bright side, Casey Carlson is really hot. I was watching in HD and she was stunning. (And there are photos of her in a bikini floating around the Internet, if you're interested.) But even the chance to see her in different outfits every week can't justify her getting anywhere near the final 12, or even anywhere near the wild card round. And as my friend John texted me after Casey's performance, "At least she will have porn to fall back on."

Michael Sarver ("I Don't Want to Be")-- Does someone have to sing this song every year on the show? I'm sure Michael is a nice guy, as everyone said, but this was just kind of pedestrian and boring. He has a decent voice, but there's nothing distinctive about it like an Anoop or Ricky Braddy. I don't know why Simon is so eager to see him get to the final 12 (probably some theory that "Middle America" will love him), but he has no chance to win.

Ann Marie Boskovich ("Natural Woman")--I've liked Ann Marie from her first audition. She's very pretty (especially in HD) and reminds me, looks-wise, of my old favorite Katharine McPhee. But my reaction to her picking this song was simply "Why?" Why would you pick a legendary song and think, in your first performance on Idol, you could do it justice? It's nice to take risks, but there's taking risks and then there's needlessly putting yourself in danger. I'm really disappointed.

Stephen Fowler ("Rock With You")--Not as bad as the judges said, but not good. I did like the tone of his voice, but he forgot his words during Hollywood Week and then was lackluster tonight. I did feel bad, though, that just because he didn't have any family there, he didn't get a post-song interview (Danny Gokey didn't either, but he got a question after his song).

Tatiana del Toro ("Saving All My Love for You")--As annoying as she is, Tatiana actually did show some pipes on this song. I also found her overly dramatic end to the song, where she closed her eyes and came out of the "singing trance" she was in very slowly, absolutely hilarious. But how can you separate Tatiana's not bad singing from her horrifying, annoying personality? You can't. Although that "this is my dream and it's up to you to keep it alive" plea as they went to commercial was pretty hilarious too...Maybe I'm starting to warm up to her--although she might also be mentally ill...

Danny Gokey ("Hero")--Wow, what a surprise. The guy who has gotten more screen time than anyone but Bikini Girl and Tatiana gets the pimp spot. He was good, but I really don't think he deserved the tongue bath he got from Randy, Paula and Kara. He's got a nice voice, but there are certainly people with more distinctive and interesting voices that sang tonight. The guy's got a moving personal story, but please, judges, don't let that alter your opinions.

So who's not going home? The top girl will probably be Alexis Grace. The top guy will probably be Danny Gokey. And the third person to qualify? Let's say Anoop. As for who I'd like to see advance, I don't have a problem with any of those people, although I'd like to see a little more of Ricky Braddy too. And that's it for me--Fingerhut out!



Anonymous Wei said...

I've always enjoyed your blog, Eric. Some times more than the show itself. :) (I found it a couple of years ago through Google blogsearch and it has been in my Google reader ever since.)

I hated today's show and it made me want to stop watching it (and also because they kicked off Jamal last week who sang the awesome "Hey there delila" and Nickie Amy winehouse Jr.) No one was good..most of them were uncomfortable and the couple of them that were okay were boring. Danny's Hero is mediocre at best, nowhere near Mariah Carey's worst performance...And Kara doesn't add anything to the show and is more Paula than Paula...

Sigh..hopefully next week's group would be better but I am not excited about anyone like I was about Paris in season 5 or Brooke White last season. Nowhere close.

2/18/09, 3:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bucky Covington is taking a break from recording his second studio album to travel to Europe, where he is visiting and performing five free, private concerts for soldiers as part of a week-long USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour. I thought it was tacky of Simon to mock a man who at this moment is overseas entertaining the troops.
Covington's self-titled debut CD opened at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart in April 2007 with the biggest first week sales for any debut country artist that year. The best selling debut artist of the ‘07 class, he is one of only three male country artists since 2005 to have three consecutive top 10 singles from his debut album. Diver

2/18/09, 4:01 AM  
Anonymous John said...

Excellent post! Much more entertaining than the show was and I love any mention for Stevie Scott! Bring it!

Bucky: to be fair to Bucky, I have seen his cd in Target before. I didn't know that he had been successful on the country charts as Anon pointed out and I do follow country a little bit. I guess he's doing well though and it's hard to mock a guy who is playing for the troops.

Jackie: I really didn't like it. Thought that it was rough and was waiting for Simon to say something about her singing like a drunk uncle at a wedding.

Ricky: you know, he was fine. He had a nice voice.

Alexis: She was pretty good. As far as her slutty look, wasn't Kara's advice to improve her performance through intercourse?

Brent: I thought that he was fun. He's a nice looking guy, too, so hopefully something will work out for him, maybe in the wild card.

Stevie: I though this was a mess and the worst of the night. I did feel bad for her and it was clear that she was trying and doing her best.

Anoop: okay, I didn't love the song. But I really like him and I like his voice. Hopefully he'll make it through and I think that he will.

Casey: I've been accused in the past of listening with my privates...but she was really awful. I still think that Stevie was slightly worse but Casey's might have been an odder performance, if that makes any sense. She was flat (just vocally, of course), the dancing was bad. It was a very Stepford sort of performance though I did feel for her as I thought she was going to cry.

Michael: whatever happened to Gavin DeGraw? Is he still performing, because you are right, I hear this song on AI every year. Michael was fine, definitely benefited in my book by performing after Casey.

Anne Marie: she and Anoop are probably my two favorites from the season so far...and I was a bit disappointed by her. Kara's advice was stupid but at this point of the show, after this many seasons, I'm just tired when any judge makes a dumb song suggestion.
I'm still a fan of Anne Marie's, though...

Stephen: you know, I thought that this was okay and kind of pleasant. He was treated like he'd committed some war crime, which is a shame...

Tatiana: you know, I've hated her like poison since this season began and really didn't want her to make the top 36. But I was pleasantly surprised. She did a nice job. Also on the begging for her dream bit: I loved hearing Randy's reaction in the distance ("there we go" or something, meaning, "here comes the crazy.")

Danny: he was good. Simon was right: it was nothing earth-shattering, just...good, bordering on very good.

My prediction for top three:

2/18/09, 1:58 PM  

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