Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The last season of Idol as we know it begins

I've avoided blogging about it so far, but now that we're down to the top 24, I guess it's time to start blogging American Idol again -- especially because with Simon leaving, this is the lastyear of AI as we know it. Before we get into the singers, though, I must say that after the first Hollywood episode, when everyone was praising Ellen DeGeneres for how good she was as a judge, I should have blogged what I was thinking then--which was judging the few, edited clips of Ellen they showed is not a true picture of the judge Ellen will be on the weekly live shows. And tonight I didn't really find that she had much insightful or interesting to say at all. In fact, I kept thinking all night when we went to the judges what I thought most of last year: "Why again did we need four judges?" Just like last year, when Paula seemed to step up her game with Kara around, I did think that both Kara and Randy stepped it up tonight--Randy occasionally offering an insightful comment, and Kara not being nearly as annoying with her "artistry" crap as last year. The only thing I can remember about Ellen tonight is the opening bit--which was funny when she talked about Simon being into her, and then became unfunny quickly with that videotaped bit with the hands on the leg, which looked like a bit that Jay Leno rejected.

As far as the singers, my general impression was that it's a very attractive group of women, most of whom are solid singers. No clear frontrunner, but a bunch with breakout potential. As for Ryan's comment when the show started that we "know this group better at this stage of the competition" than others," I have no idea what he's talking about. There were four or five people tonight I'd either never heard sing or heard no more than 20 seconds of singing from them over the last five weeks. Yeah, I know that Katelyn Epperly's parents got divorced and Didi Benami's friend died and Katie Stevens' grandmother has Alzheimer's, but don't we know that kind of stuff about a handful of the Idols every year?

Paige Miles ("It's All Right Now")--What an strange, bad choice of song. Not a strong melody, and the chorus is the same thing repeated over and over. Even worse, the backup singers drowned her out or sung instead of her on the chorus. I know Simon says she has the best voice of the women, but while her singing wasn't bad, she didn't really show me anything memorable. Combine the fact that she went first in a two-hour show, we didn't know anything about her before tonight, and her clip at the end of the show was mostly of the chorus singing, and I think she's in danger of going home.

Ashley Rodriguez ("Happy")-- Didn't think it was the montrosity that the judges thought it was, but it was unoriginal and predictable. She's pretty, though.

Janell Wheeler ("What About Love?")-- She's pretty, too, and apparently is Tim Tebow's ex-girlfriend. (I hope her position on abortion, whatever it may be, doesn't become an issue....) That was not good. I really liked Janell doing "American Boy" during Hollywood Week, but her Taylor Swift song later in the week wasn't very good, and this was disappointing. Ellen, apparently taking the Paula role, praised her for how she "moved easily on stage." Yes, she at least didn't fall down. That kind of sums it up for Janell.

Lily Scott ("Fixing A Hole")--That was really cool. Unique voice, good choice of song, sounded great. Not sure what to make of Kara's comment that the best thing for a singer is to stand on the street and busk. Really? When I come out of the Metro and see someone busking, sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes I don't, but I never think, "We really need someone singing on every street corner." Oh, well. I was disturbed, though, at the way Kara seemed so excited that Simon put his hand on her leg. Didn't I read you got married, Kara?

Katelyn Epperly ("Oh, Darling") -- I thought Katelyn was one of the weaker singers in the final 12 women, but that was surprisingly good. Yeah, her voice isn't as powerful or unique as some others, but the whole thing worked for me. An offbeat song choice, a fun performance and she looked cute--unlike Kara, I didn't mind that she tarted herself up. But at least Kara called herself a bitch--that was satisfying.

Haeley Vaughn ("I Want to Hold Your Hand")-- When they announced what Haeley's song was, I said, "Oh, no. Why would you do that?" And yet, I actually liked Haeley's arrangement of the song. I just didn't like Haeley's singing of the song, which was screechy and pitchy and all over the place. Yeah, Haeley's different, but she's 16 and way too young and has no chance of coming close to winning this thing. Too bad they didn't tell her to come back next year with another year under her belt, and give her slot to poor Angela Martin, who had a sad story and was a better singer.

Lacey Brown ("Landslide") -- Lacey, let me give you some advice. For your first song on the semifinals of American Idol, why would you pick a song that was sung by Stevie Nicks, one of the most distinctive female rock vocalists of the last few decades, and has also been covered by another hugely popular and distinctive singer in Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks? What chance did you have of doing anything that would make us forget them? And when she said that she chose the song beacuse it
"speaks to me as a person," I realized that she hasn't read my blog over the past few years. How many times have I said that you pick a song for how it makes your voice sound, not because you like the lyrics? You can worry about the lyrics once you win. Anyway, it was boring and kind of off-key and a big mess.

Michelle Delamor ("Fallin") -- This song should have been banned from American Idol by now--we must have heard it 40 times, especially in the audition rounds. Having said that, she did a solid but unspectacular job on it, even though the backup singers were too dominant at times. Since I don't remember hearing her sing previously on the FIVE WEEKS I've already sat through, I hope we get to hear her sing again on a less familiar song.

Didi Benami ("The Way I Am")-- Didi was my favorite coming into tonight for a number of reasons. That version of Kara's song "Terrified" she did with a guitar during Hollywood Week was terrific, she's quite attractive, and she's apparently Jewish. (The name Benami is Hebrew meaning "son of the people," and her given first name is "Vered," which is also Hebrew for rose.) But I was a little disappointed tonight--she left the guitar home, did a song I hadn't heard before and did an OK but nothing special job with it. In fact, she kind of reminded me of Megan Joy from last year--in that she sang an offbeat song in an offbeat way--and that's not a good thing. I hope she steps it up next week. (OK, I actually voted a couple times for her--just wanted to make a full disclosure.)

Siobhan Magnus ("Wicked Game")-- Wow, she's a glassblowing apprentice. Who knew there stil was such a thing? The first two lines of the song were terrible for Siobhan, but as Randy would say, I thought she "worked it out" and the rest of the song was quite good, different and vocally solid. I'm intrigued.

Crystal Bowersox ("Hand in My Pocket")-- I've never really liked this song, but Crystal kind of made me like it. The guitar, the harmonica, the vocals--all of it worked for me. Simon is correct, though--she does have to do something to surprise us, not just sing acoustic versions of female singer-songwriter hits. I hope she can do that.

Katie Stevens ("Feelin Good") -- Love when American Idol announces that a song was by, in this instance, Michael Buble, when someone else, in this case Nina Simone, actually popularized the song and Buble is only the most recent to do it. Then again, of all the things wrong with American Idol, this is probably the least important. Anyway, Katie did OK, and with her being in the "pimp spot," it's obvious the producers want her to advance. She's got a nice, rich voice, but it was kind of a strange choice of song for a 17-year-old, as the judges said. On the other hand, it always seems like when the judges say that, they're implying that they want her to sing a Britney song or something. Why? Maybe she's showing that she wants to be a artist who sings jazz songs. It's not going to win her American Idol, but it's still a persona as an artist...

Who's going home? This is tough, but I'll say Lacey Brown and Paige Miles, for the aforementioned reasons, although I wouldn't rule out Haeley Vaughn or Ashley Rodriguez either. But the word Haeley was trending on Twitter a little while ago, so she's probably safe (unless everyone's tweeting about how bad she was, in which case I have no idea.)

Fingerhut out!



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