Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Top 12 Perform Little Stevie

Ryan says “we have two full hours tonight.” Will it really be full, yes full of filler! The show begins with a video montage, in which the producers use the same song as last year. Consider there are what about 1 million songs in the world, why do they always use the same two for their video segments? The segment includes Kevin telling us “I’m a sex symbol now,” and that’s our first creepy moment of the night. The stylist spent all week pampering the idol contestants and we get out first look at their changes. Elliot looks like he just stepped out of a Miami Vice episode, Kellie like a girl on her way to the senior prom and Kat like a Joss Stone impersonator. As corny as American idol is, once the top 12 hit the stage it is event television, like a super bowl, or the final episode of Joey. Is there a suicide watch on Brian Dunkleman (the original co host with Ryan)? Ryan introduces the judges and Paula declares that the final 12 is “well diversed.” Randy calls out his dawg pound. Can Arsenio Hall sue him for this? He probably should since he hasn’t had anything go right in his career since Clinton played the sax on his show. Its Stevie Wonder night, so of course Stevie drops by to help the kids butcher his songs. Kellie and Elliot immediately start to cry; Elliot because he loves Stevie and Kellie since she has never seen so many black people in one room. The reaction to Stevie is similar to the one Elton John got a couple seasons back. I feel bad for Barry Manilow, who was on the show awhile back. When Elton and Stevie show up the contestants all break down in tears and genuflect at their feet. When Barry shows up the contestants lean over to the idol staff and ask, “who’s that.”

Ace – Do I Do

Ace won the pun of the night award when he declared he was overjoyed to meet Stevie. Ace starts off really rough; I think the big stage and no beanie are getting to him. When he stands still he sounds a little bit better, but he always stands with his legs together. If you push him I think he’ll tip over. Contrast that with Bucky who always stands with his feet wide apart like he is riding a horse. The larger band swallows Ace on parts of the song and overall his normal singing voice feels really thin tonight. Ace needs to work the female vote, I suggest a tighter pair of jeans next week - it worked wonder for George Michael. Paula thought he was fantastic and loved his dance moves, but Randy and Simon called him out for a sub par performance. Overall this might have been Ace’s weakest performance of the season, which is a bit surprising since he should be able to sing a Stevie song. Unless his fans take him for granted, he should be safe for another week. Ace still does not know who he is; he needs to figure that out sooner than later.

Kellie – Blame it on the Sun

No Kellie, blame it on theme night. Other than maybe Outkast night, this has to be the toughest theme for Kellie to sing. She is spunkless tonight, looking like Carrie Underwood, but unable to sound like her. She sings the song ok, even though its two minutes long it feels like 5. At one point I think she ever messed up the words a little bit. It was quite boring, something you wouldn’t expect from Kellie. I think she should have picked a more up tempo song, or one of the easier Stevie Ballads. But since she has probably never heard a Stevie song until this week it had to be hard for her to select one. The best part about her performance was the banter with the judges and Ryan. She is wearing fake eyelashes, just like Ryan! After talking to her for a moment Ryan, revealing that he was filling, looks down to one of the show’s producers and says “we could do this for 3 hours if you want.” Actually I’d probably watch Kellie talk for 3 hours; I nominate her to host the Oscars next year.

Elliot – Knocks me off my feet

This is a dream for Elliot; he gets to meet his idol. Elliot, who cries more often than Holly Hunter in Broadcast news, breaks down as soon as he sees Stevie. He sounds really good on the song. His notes are dead on and he does the Stevie song the same way you might hear it on a record. However, the judges are not ‘wowed’ by her performance. Not surprisingly, Paula never actually said anything about his performance. I think Elliot, ever the Stevie lover, was extremely nervous. Since he loves Stevie so much he felt like he had to be the absolute best tonight, and since he has so much respect for Stevie he didn’t want to make the song his own – why change perfection. The judges are holding Elliot to a higher standard tonight than the other contestants and were a bit lacking in their praise of a really good effort. Based on his performance Elliot will be safe, only a severe lack of prior support could fell the crier on Wednesday night.

Mandisa – Don’t you worry about a thing

Mandisa can’t fit into her shoes. Thus continuing a long line of things that Mandisa has trouble fitting into: pants, shirts, dresses, and the state of Rhode Island. A lot of people are enamored with Mandisa, although I respect she is a good singer, she is not my favorite in this competition. Her lower register sounds below average tonight. The song should be in a higher key. She goes from sounding thin on the lower notes to screaming out the higher ones. I suppose it sounds good, but I’m really not impressed. In fairness, she was distracted by a fan of Kevin in the audience who tried to derail her concentration by holding up a deep fried Twinkie. Mandisa sounds good more often than not, but I’ve yet to see the subtlety of voice present in great singers. Randy and Simon love her performance and call it the “best of the night” so far. Their love fest for Mandisa continues. She did well tonight. Barring an adverse American reaction to her bare feet, Mandisa won’t be going home anytime soon.

Bucky – Superstition

Singing Stevie Wonder songs is right up there with reading on Bucky’s list of things he never thought he’d do in life. Bucky does not sound horrible tonight, but he sure doesn’t sound great either. The horn section in the band sounds pretty good though. Like so many of the other contestants, Bucky didn’t sound great on the lower notes, and when the melody moved around he struggled. At least he demonstrated why there will never be a Stevie Wonder themed night on Nashville Country Star. The judges were more concerned about his new hairstyle than the performance, which was probably justified. He looks like one of the cousins on Dukes of Hazard. If Bucky walked into the bar back home with that hair he would either get beaten up, or asked to recreate that scene from Brokeback Moutain. Based on the performance, Bucky was not the worst singer, however its quite possible he could be going home this week.

Melissa – Lately

During her video intro we learn that she has trouble remembering the lyrics to the song. If this were the Apprentice or the Amazing race you know from that foreshadowing that she will have trouble with the lyrics tonight. But this is a live show, so there is no way it could happen right? Wrong, within the first few bars of the song she flubs her lyrics. No one is singing ‘End of the World as we Know It’ so you’d think they could learn the lyrics. Maybe we can institute the Wonderlic test for American Idol contestants like they do for the NFL draft. Why stop there, get their 40 times too. I want to know if Mandisa can break the 15-second mark. Melissa looks a little bit like Minnie Driver tonight. She has good and bad moments in the song. The girl can sing and demonstrates it in the last quarter of the song, but there are other notes where she has pitch problems. The one thing that Melissa did do, was make the song her own, for that the judges gave her credit. Even with the mental breakdown, she was better than several people tonight and should stick around, but her fan base seems pretty small. Therefore, Melissa may be going home this week, which would be at least a couple weeks too soon.

Lisa Tucker – Signed sealed delivered

She prances onto the stage looking far older than her 17 years. She sounds pretty good on the song, but the entire time I wonder how long the lines for the rides are going to be today. Oh sorry, I thought for a second I was at Disney World while watching Lisa. Every time she sings it feels affected, like a prepackaged I’ve rehearsed every move across the stage cookie cutter performance. I rarely feel like she is ‘getting’ the song, instead she gives us what movement she thinks the song requires. Vocally, this was on the better efforts tonight and the judges really enjoyed it. In some ways she reminds me of Ayla, in that there isn’t enough emotion when she performs, because of this, I think Lisa could be going home this week, even though vocally she is quite good.

White Urkel – Part Time Lover

I was hoping Kevin would do Jungle Fever tonight, and in the mid song dance up on either Randy or Mandisa, oh well. Ryan welcomes Kevin’s groupies onto the stage, not surprisingly, they are both under the age of 12. Letting kids this age have cell phones and vote repeatedly for crappy singers like Kevin and John Stevens poses more danger to this country than rising health care costs. Parents, please take the phones away from your teenagers on Tuesday nights so they can’t keep Kevin on the show. In the video intro Stevie said he has an “interesting kind of voice” which in black blind person language means, “shut the little white kid up.” Vocally, Kevin is not horrible tonight, the higher notes are actually pretty good and for the most part he is in tune. However, he is doing some form of dancing on stage. It looks like Kevin is trying to look like an idiot on purpose, embracing the fact people want to watch him as a joke instead of because he is talented. Kevin should be on next seasons Dancing with the Stars, now that entertainment. Kevin tries the Scott Savol pander for votes approach when he is flippant towards Simon. He tells Simon “I wasn’t expecting much from you anyway,” well Kevin, America wasn’t expecting much from you either. Gedeon, oh Gedeon where are you???? If there is any justice is this world, Kevin will go home this week, however this is American idol and the expected never happens, so I think Kevin will stick around for at least another week.

Kat – Until you come back to me

She is thrilled to meet Stevie, but worried about doing one of his songs since the last time she tried it crashed and burned. However, last time she picked a death march and tonight comes out with a more up-tempo easier to groove to song. When they come back from the video intro Ryan is saying ‘cue the host’ and then introduces Kat. This continues the trend of at least one weird Ryan moment a night. Kat finally wears something other than a pair of jeans and replaces them with an extra long dress. Her voice sounds great; she is spot on and hits every note. Vocally, this is the strongest performance of the night - she has her sparkle back. While repeating the numbers Ryan gives a shot out to Lance Bass who is apparently sitting in the audience, we assume he is there, since the camera never cuts to him. Wow, how far has his career fallen? A few years ago he was a member of the biggest group in the world, now his appearance in the idol theater doesn’t merit even a second on camera. If Kat goes home this week I won’t watch American Idol anymore.

Taylor – Living for the City

More so than anyone in this competition I am excited when Taylor takes the stage, what is he going to do next? He is awesome, by far the best in the competition. His voice is perfect for the song and he delivers it with the passion and dedication the other contestants strive for and usually miss. Taylor doesn’t act like this is a competition; he is just out there singing his heart, letting the music consume his body, kinda like how a Jedi uses that force thing. George Clooney’s illegitimate half brother rocked the house tonight and if he isn’t safe this week it means the terrorists have already won.

Paris – All I Do

This girl changes her hair more than John Kerry votes against things he used to support before he was against it and then changed his mind again and decided he was against supporting it because supporting it would be against his support. Her hairstyle has the Vanessa from the Cosby show look, which is fitting, since Stevie did a guest appearance on Cosby after his limo hit a car driven by Denise with Theo and Vanessa as her passengers. Paris sounds great tonight, when she moves around the stage its considerably more natural than her contemporary Lisa. It might be the second best female performance of the night. She hit all the notes and delivered them with a flare we haven’t seen from her since she took the midnight train from Georgia. The only negative part of her tonight was the singing her answers to Ryan’s questions. It was a little weird; Gedeon was sent home for less. Maybe it was a tribute to Stevie; every time he presents a Grammy or an American Music Award he always sings at the dais. Paris was really good tonight and should be just fine tomorrow night.

Chris – Higher Ground

Chris shows he has little musical knowledge when he repeats over and over again that he didn’t know Higher Ground was originally a Stevie song. Yes Chris, some songs are remade. Other things that shocked Chris: there was a TV show once called the Dukes of Hazard, King Kong is a remake, and Puff Daddy samples music. Chris is not doing the Stevie version of the song tonight; instead he is using a guitar dominated Peppers remake. His voice sounds good on the song, but this is a cop out for him, much like Vehicle was for Bo on the disco night. Chris has yet to show he can produce something other than the intense rock sound he does so well. Sure he sounded good, but this was not as funky as the original Stevie version, or as hard and fun as the Peppers version. It was halfway in between both, which for me didn’t work. Of course, the judges loved Chris and Simon called it the best of the night by a mile. Being British, Simon should stick to the metric system. Simon also commended him for taking a risk? What risk, he sang the song in his comfortable style and didn’t extend himself. Chris has a big following and I’m sure the people at home will eat up his version of the song, but if you have heard either the Stevie or Peppers version, I don’t know how you can embrace what Chris did tonight.

Final Thoughts –

Nobody tonight, other than Kevin, stuck out as “needing to go home right now please don’t let them ever sing on this show again,” which is pretty good. Most seasons there are several people in that category at this point in the season. I know who won’t be going home on Wednesday, who is going home is much tougher. Kevin will be safe, since there are enough people who are amused by his antics. That leaves Bucky and Melissa as the bottom two, with maybe Lisa rounding out the bottom three. For some reason, I think Lisa is going home.


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