Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Get those texting fingers ready because Idol has officially begun!

America Idol goes through several phases before it reaches the Top 36. First comes the Candid Camera beginnings where we get to laugh at regular people acting like fools. Then the show does its best Big Brother impersonation during Hollywood week; drama is more important than the actual singing. Although enjoyable and still a ratings winner, Idol does not really take flight until America gets the right to vote (this must be what women felt like in 1919).

Ryan looks like a cross between Mr. Rogers and a frat boy with a collared shirt sticking through his v-neck sweater. I miss ‘I bought my cool tee shirt at a vintage clothing store’ Ryan; is it possible Ryan finally looks like a full grown adult this season? Tonight the show is completely live. I wonder if they are ready for a live show so early in the season before they figure out what they are doing. Ryan says the addition of Kara to the judging panel makes the 4-person desk look like the View. Funny joke Ryan, but since there are no male hosts on the View did you just say Simon and Randy look like dudettes? I guess Randy looks more like a girl than Star Jones. Kara looks super exciting to be on a show that will not be cancelled after two episodes. Do you think she stays up at night wondering why the “One” was not the one? She tells Ryan she is a little nervous, but like the contestants, she has to push the nerves aside and just “go for it.” Kara says she has been under the table, but before Randy and Simon make a sexually laced joke Ryan quickly segues to Paula. Paula sounds coherent tonight. Perhaps she found the right combinations of blue and red pills this season. Simon compliments Ryan’s Simonesque haircut and asks him if he has ever seen the movie Single White Female. I’m actually a little surprised with Simon’s movie reference; I can’t picture him sitting back and watching that movie. The contestants must select their songs from Billboard 100 hits since the beginning of time. So basically they can pick any song ever (at least the ones with cheap licensing fees). Ryan explains the new selection process for Season 8 and introduces the contestants. There are some interesting fashion choices, especially Jackie, who is also the first to sing.

Jackie Tohn – Little Less Conversation

She is an entertainer for a living. Ok here is a tip. If you are on a singing show, and they ask what you do, say you are a singer. She says she doesn’t think she has ever wanted anything as badly in her life, then quickly realizes how stupid that sounds and clarifies that she has NEVER wanted anything this badly. Her goal tonight is to get Ms. Abdul up on her feet. Jackie is going to win the award for most stupid comments in any introduction package. Her goal is not to sing or perform the best, no instead it’s to get the crazy judge who stands up for just about anything, to stand up. Way to set lofty expectations for yourself Jackie. Her song choice is very risky. If not done right this song can be extremely cheesy. She is wearing the worst fashion mistakes from the 50s and the 80s. Leather pants and a 'nurse print' shoulder less top do not exactly scream ‘singing superstar.’ The song’s beginning is a little sultry; maybe she will do the song as a sexual tease like Fever. After the first verse she counts in the band and the effect is under whelming. This is a karaokesque arrangement. This might sound decent with an electric guitar complimenting her voice, but instead she just gets an extremely boring organ player. Henceforth Jackie will be known as Pen girl. She has a lot of fun with the song, and changes up the style a few times adding a little gruffness, but this is not at all what I expected from Jackie. Are they not letting contestants use their instruments in this round? She does achieve her get Paula to dance goal. However, this performance is more silly good; her best ability might be her complete ease on stage. She doesn’t miss any notes, but there are so few pitch modulations in this song such an accomplishment is expected. Randy says although he wasn’t blown away, she was all good on the entertainment side. Kara tells her she can work a stage with her big personality, but agrees with Randy the vocals weren’t her best. Jackie says she wore her leather pants in honor of Randy’s Journey days. Paula has always loved Jackie and thinks she is a true performer, albeit not perfect tonight. Simon thinks her voice is good. However, he says she played the clown tonight, which brings about the first loud boos of Season 8. He predicts the voters will not like her very much tonight and fears she has blown her opportunity. Jackie’s parents are in the red room with Ryan and are extremely proud. Ryan is sitting next to Jackie’s dad. He leaves no room for Jackie to sit down and she has to tell her father to move over. Jackie feels great about her performance; she wanted to show she is a rocking entertainer instead of being a Dreamgirl. She pulls a Tatiania and gets in a little bit of a second song. If she advances to the Top 12 tomorrow night, she will do so based on her personality, not her singing.

Rickey Braddy – A Song For You

Of the still top secret contestants, Ricky has the most early buzz. He sits down with Ryan and recounts his evolution from a chicken finger cooking kinda guy into the next American Idol. He seems nice, but a little boring during his introduction. During his audition, which apparently took place in Dick Cheney’s old secret bunker, Randy said he had one of the best voices of any contestant. We finally hear him sing a little of his Hollywood final round solo; I guess Idol could not find 8 seconds in their 4 hours of programming last week to squeeze this in. He has a very nice voice with excellent tone quality. He could be Clay and Elliott’s love child. He sounds fantastic on the higher notes and pretty good on the lower ones. If he had any early exposure he could be as big a front-runner as Danny. Although his vocals are nearly perfect, the performance does tread a little too closely into boring territory. Will people pick up their phones and dial and text repeatedly for a technically proficient song devoid of showmanship? Randy says this is the start of Season 8 right here. He calls his tone unbelievable. Kara, who is way too close to the microphone says he killed the song. She is really impressed he handled such a hard song so effortlessly. Paula reminds him that he has received no screen time so far, but says he deserves to go very far on Idol. Simon isn’t jumping out of his chair. He thinks Rickey has a great voice, but is lacking the necessary charisma to win American Idol. He wants Rickey to have more confidence on stage. This is not surprising since his parents, Clay and Elliott, both struggled early on with stage prescence and confidence. Ricky says it was amazing singing with the best band in the world. All due respect to Ricky Minor and the band, but Mr. Braddy needs to listen to a little more music. His parents are wearing custom made “I’m in the Braddy Bunch” tee shirts. I feel a lawsuit in their near future. Ricky was in an impossible position tonight. If he picks a fast song to get the crowd energized, he probably cannot show off his vocal range. So instead he picks a difficult, vocally demanding song that bores Simon and probably some potential voters. He deserves a spot in the Top 12, but he is a longshot.

Alexis – Never Loved a Man

Ryan gives his first itunes commercial of Season 8! Alexis took the judges advice to heart and changed her image and her hair color. She has successfully ‘dirtied up’ her look. She is brave enough to tackle an Aretha song; nothing bad can happen when a petite white girl tries to cover an all time great right? She is wearing a simple black dress – Jackie take notes. She is putting a lot of spice into this song; her personality is shining through. Normally when someone sings an Aretha song they sound like someone trying to sing an Aretha song. Alexis’s performance is much more organic and original. She makes the song her own. She managed to do what neither Jackie nor Ricky could; she combined excellent vocals with a great performance. I can see a little Kelly Clarkson in Alexis. If she ever really figures out what she is doing she could advance into the last few Idol rounds. Randy says she ‘done found the dirt and soul. He is loving her right now after she worked it out. Kara says the genie is out of the bottle. She loves the ‘new girl’ that stepped out of her shell. Paula is amazed that so much soul, passion, and confidence comes out of such a cute petite girl. Simon says she is the best of the night by a mile. He believes she proved his point with Ricky; confidence on stage is essential. He compares her to Kelly Clarkson and says she is one to watch. Alexis’s dad and his girlfriend are sitting with Ryan. Her dad is half redneck and half hippy - hippyneck. Alexis feels like she is in a dream after such great judges’ comments.

Brent Keith - Hicktown

We have our first ‘live shows sometimes have big mistakes’ moment when instead of seeing Brent’s introduction we see a still picture of Stevie. Whoops. Ryan now has to fill a couple minutes of airtime and walks Brent down the stairs. He is about to do a mini interview when the clip is finally ready to air. Brent remembers how uncomfortable he was when Kara and Paula went under the table. Brent is ready to show us he is a good rocking country boy. He picked a fun upbeat song, which is probably his best style. The song is devoid of any chances to show off his voice. It is pleasant and fun, but this is the classic ‘so what’ performance. I fear every karaoke bar in America has someone singing in it this week that can match Brent’s singing. I am not familiar with this song, but I am pretty sure he isn’t radically altering the melody, which leaves us with a straight cover. Randy is happy Brent returned to his country roots. He thinks he combines old and new country and then makes some rambling comment about being at a chili cook off. Kara thinks Brent can do better by picking a soulful rangy song. She wants him to take more risks. Paula wants America to remember his auditions instead of this safe song choice. She can see him matching the success of Josh Gracin and Bucky Covington. Simon seems perplexed Bucky has found country music success. Simon thinks Brent’s song is forgettable and lacking impact. He thinks this was a blown opportunity, but Brent is happy with his performance because that is the type of music he wants to sing. Brent may be in serious trouble. He is joined in the red room with his wife. Unfortunately for him, the best way to advance to the Top 12 is a dead wife.

Stevie – You Belong With Me

Being the youngest contestant cannot be easy, especially when you auditioned with a song from 50 years prior. The judges have consistently told Stevie to stop singing like an 80 year old. Her goal tonight is to act young and bubbly. I think this is the first Taylor Swift song in Idol history. Taylor does not have the best voice, but she overcomes her shortcomings with a fantastic stage presence, but an Idol contestant without such skills could be in serious trouble. Stevie starts off the song totally off pitch. She looks like she is on her way to school. Seriously Alexis needs to sit down with the girls and explain how to dress properly. Wow, this is officially our first train wreck of Season 8. She cannot find the right pitch throughout the song, missing several notes badly. Her movements look more like nervous energy than ‘feeling the music.’ A fake smile is all Stevie can muster when she looks at the judges after the song. She has to know her dreams of making the Top 12 tomorrow night are officially over. Randy says, ‘yo alright yo alright Stevie man, yo wow wow wow.” Anytime Randy says more than one yo and wow, you know the contestant had some issues. He thinks she is a better singer than this performance; if she did this in the earlier rounds she wouldn’t have advanced so far. Kara thinks she picked a song that has nothing to do with her own life. She wanted a song that had something to do with Stevie as an artist. Paula thinks the song was too low and just not the right song. Simon thinks the other judges are too polite and calls the performance terrible. The crowd gives him a few quiet boos. Simon says at least she got to sing in front of 25 million people and get some experience, but he predicts she has no chance to advance further. Every contestant in the red room hugs Stevie. There is usually a direct correlation between hugs and how badly you sang. The worst you were, the more hugs you get on your way to the red couch. At least she has her mom and dad there to hug her as well. Ryan learns from his ‘sitting so close to the relative the contestant cannot sit down’ mistake from earlier and stands as he greets Stevie. Anoop, who is up next, is sitting next to Ryan looking very awkward. Stevie’s mom is confused. First the judges tell her to act younger, so she does, and then they don’t like the song choice. Let me explain Mrs. Wright. When they said sing a younger song, they did not say sing it like crap. Understand now? Ryan senses Stevie is about to burst into tears and goes right into the commercial break without asking her about her performance. Barring an invite to the Wild Card round, Stevie is done with American Idol.

Anoop – Angel of Mine

Anoop says he wants to bring energy to the stage. His goal is to sing all the songs he loves but hasn't heard in previous Idol seasons. And he starts his voting eligible run by singing a really slow ballad? How does this bring out the energy Anoop? What went through Anoop’s mind? Hey I’ve got great comments from the judges so far, have a ton of airtime already, a large group of fans, so the first chance they can vote for me I think I’ll do a boring song unlike any I’ve done so far that will confuse my adoring public. He sounds pretty good after a not so great start to the song. He is doing a fairly decent David Archuleta impersonation. Heck put three other guys around him and we have a new boy band. He ends on a nice little riff, but this is not what I was expecting from Anoop. During Hollywood week he pranced around the stage full of spunk, and now he is reaching his inner Archie. Paula is standing and pointing at Anoop. Randy likes that Anoop has a dog nickname as well. He is a huge fan of Anoop, but he thinks the entire song was a little sharp. This is not Anoop’s best. Kara agrees with Randy and isn’t sure Anoop nailed the riffs. She still likes him and believes he has great believability and potential. Paula says the best part about Anoop is his connection with America. She saw a little Brian McKnight in him tonight and hopes he will be here for awhile. Simon asks Anoop why he sang this song and Anoop says it was the first song that got him into R&B. Simon thinks it was a little too grown up and serious for Anoop. Noop-dog says the song is all about thanks. Simon wants the voters to forget about this song and remember what we all liked about him in the earlier rounds. Simon, despite his ability to destroy contestants, can be nice when he really likes a contestant (see Jackie) like Anoop. Ryan stands up and moves over so Anoop can sit down; he is finally getting the hang of couch seating. Anoop admits he might have been sharp but credits the band for making him and all the other contestants sound so good.

Casey Carlson – Every Little Thing

Before the break we learn Casey is going to sing a Police song. Someone call the cops we might have a murder by numbers situation; depending on the song, this could be extremely dangerous. Back from the commercial Ryan does his second itunes advertisement tonight. Idol inserts so many commercials into the show I wonder why they don’t just do it NASCAR style. Have all the contestants wear jumpsuits with patches all over their body from Coke, itunes, Ford, and all the other sponsors. Casey is from Minnesota and likes to wear hats while she works. To her credit she has never mention her bikini modeling and always wears church appropriate clothing; she wants to succeed on her singing ability, not her looks. Jordin Sparks is her favorite Idol... oh no she picked the worst possible song - Every Little Thing by the Police. This song derailed Chris Sligh a few seasons back and is very difficult to sing without sounding cheesy. Hopefully for her she is doing the slower version. Nope, she is doing the fast arrangement. From the very beginning this song choice is a mistake. She is missing pitches and phrasing the song awkwardly. But I think I understand her plan. She is making extremely weird movements with her face and eyes and hands, which is her attempt to distract us from her awful signing. She looks like Elaine dancing in Seinfeld. I’ve seen people in epileptic seizures move with more rhythm. This is shocking, because when I think white girls from Minnesota I automatically think of rhythm. This is our first high school talent show moment tonight. Every time she reaches the end of a verse she butchers the final note. Near the song’s end she hits a few nice notes demonstrating she can actually sing, but this is by far the night’s worst performance. Randy says it was kinda weird for him and completely wrong for her; it was karaokesque. The dog was lost. Kara says everything about that was wrong, leading to her and Randy singing that statement to the tune of the song. She wonders why Casey went near a Police song instead of a girly anthem. She also noticed the weird dancing. Unfortunately as a pretty girl, no one has ever let Casey know she dances like an animated cartoon character. Paula, as she often does when a pretty girl sounds horrible, immediately compliments her looks. She says the phrasing was weird and on such an iconic song she needed more. Simon asks her how things went tonight and she says she had fun. Simon is again being a little nice. He says she picked a horrible song that doesn’t tell us what type of artist she wants to be, but he didn’t mind the dancing and winking. Before Casey can hug the other contestants her mother embraces her with comforting reassurance. Ryan asks Casey in hindsight if she picked the right song. She says all the advice she was given about the song was dead on. So someone did tell her to pick a different song. Ryan forgets the new format of this season and Ryan hopes she gets another shot next week. Next week? You mean the Wild Card Ryan.

Michael Sarver – I Don’t Wanna Be

Maybe he should just go by the stage name Roughneck, which could be his name in the porn industry. He is singing a now Idol standard performed by Elliot, Bo, and Chris Richardson. He sounds ok, but adds a weird riff at the end of the first verse. For some reason he is constantly moving the microphone from his left hand to his right and then back again. He is switching it every few seconds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone do that so often. Much like Brent earlier tonight, this is a typical bar band performance. He adds nothing new to the song and he doesn’t sing it as well as Gavin, so why should anyone care? He omits the falsetto note near the end. So he had one chance to show off his range, and he either could not, or did not. Randy heard a few pitch problems. He wanted a more soulful song. Kara says the song is great, but also doesn’t think he gave his best performance. Paula thinks he did a real good job and showed a different side of himself. She did find the constant microphone shifting a little distracting. Simon says this is a tricky one because Michael is so likeable and needs a break. He hopes America picks up the phone and gives Michael another shot. What? Am I really hearing this come from Simon? The guy who for years reminds the other judges that this is a singing competition now wants people to vote based only on likeability? Joining Michael in the red room is his not dead wife. Ok note to married contestants – tell your wives to stay at home because it makes Danny’s story more and more tragic. Based on his singing tonight, Michael should not advance, but based on his likeability he just might.

Ann Marie – Natural Woman

She is a waitress and demo singer looking for her inner star. Uh oh, like Alexis, she is daring to go where few return – the land of Aretha. After Kelly Clarkson’s amazing performance, this song should have been officially retired from Idol. Ann Marie is lightly knocking on the door when instead she should be crashing through with a battering ram. She looks nervous and shy on stage. Her vocals are decent, but timid; her voice is just not thick enough to pull this off. Near the end of the song she finally adds a little of herself to the song and ends on a huge note. If she sang the entire song like this maybe it would work, but she didn’t. Randy gives her more than one yo, and says this is not the right song choice. He thinks she fell below some previous Idol versions of this classic song. Kara says to sing this song you have to kill it. She wants her to sing something more current, like Love Song. Ann Marie says ‘you mean something not as good.” So I guess Sara Barellis is not making an appearance on Idol this season. Nice job Ann Marie. Paula thinks Ann Marie has improved since Hollywood week by taking a big risk tonight. Simon compares her to the best hotel singer in California. He does not think her voice is good enough for the song. He says it was old fashioned and irrelevant. Casey gives Ann Marie a huge ‘hey you were better than me hug.’ Ann Marie gets to the couch and lands with a thud, to which she says, “I sat on the hard part.” Ryan tries not to laugh at her unintentional innuendo. To complicate matters she next says, “I just sat on a big piece of wood and it hurt.” Ryan is dumbfounded and holding back laughter. Instead of asking her about her performance, he quickly goes to break before Idol gets a massive FCC fine.

Stephen Fowler – Rock With You

This season’s most famous lyric forgetter promises he knows all the words tonight. He had never been so upset with himself when he forgot his lyrics during Hollywood week. Uh oh, he is singing a classic Michael Jackson song. He is off pitch already in the first verse. This is a pretty cheestastic musical arrangement. He sounds pretty decent, but his few additional riffs in the song feel out of place. His voice struggles a few times on the higher notes, but those notes are his best chance to show off his voice. He finishes the song on a whimper. Randy is confused again. He does not understand why Stephen picked this ‘joint.’ He thinks he was underneath most of the notes. Kara wishes he sang with the piano (are they even allowed to in this round). Stephen says he still isn’t comfortable singing without his instrument. Paula is glad he remembered the lyrics tonight, but thinks he could have done better by singing the song he forgot in Hollywood. She thinks this song belongs to Michael and only Michael. Simon wishes Stephen forgot the lyrics tonight. In a ‘you are obviously going home’ moment, NO ONE in the crowd boos. Not a single person disagrees with Simon. Ouch! Simon calls out the awful musical arrangement. He thinks the last 10 seconds of the song were decent, but the rest was corny. At least Stephen isn’t flaunting his wife in front of Danny, but regardless, he is packing his bags and going home tomorrow night.

Tatitanic - Saving All My Love

She is relatively sane in her introduction video. She is stupidly singing a Whitney song (will these people ever learn)? She is subtle at the song’s start, which is a little surprising. When her voice gets big she actually sounds really good. Near the end of the chorus she encounters a few pitch problems. This is another bad musical arrangement with an organ playing random notes. Sure she is missing a few notes, but overall this is a far better performance than I could have expected. She hits a very pretty note near the end, but short changed the lyrics to pull it off. The crowd begrudgingly gives her a standing ovation. Randy was ready for this to be rough, but he heard some ‘you can actually sing’ moments. There were “moments.” Kara says Tatitanic is like a roller coaster. She doesn’t know where Tat fits in the music industry. Tatitanic says she fits in everywhere. Paula thinks Tatiana is the most talked about Idol contestant this season. Despite a few pitchy moments, she thinks Tatiana (she isn’t a disaster tonight) was pretty good. All the judges are confused and want the crazy Tatiana back. Simon calls her a drama queen that wants fame more than anyone else. Tatiana says she is just trying to market herself professionally. He is surprised she wasn’t bad at all, but wants her to return to her crazy self. Simon wants her to do the weird laugh and then all the judges do their best Tatiana laugh impersonation; very rude, but also very funny. Ryan asks her what is the real Tatiana. She says she is a multi faceted woman. After Ryan finishes with her she interrupts Ryan so she can say, “Thank you America, please vote this is my dream and its up to you to keep it alive, so thank you.” Someone off camera, I think Randy says, “there you go” as the crazy Tatiana returns for a brief moment.

Danny “my wife is dead” Gokey - Hero

The chosen one is finally here. Wow Danny’s wife passed away, I had no idea. I wish Idol told me this earlier in the season. He is a music director of a church and seems to be hinting at his faith, but never comes out and proselytizes. He has the David Archuleta hand of emotion in full effect. His somewhat rough voice is a departure from every other contestant. He probably has the most unique sounding voice this season. Paula is a fan as she jumps up for no reason in the song’s second verse. His transition to the bridge is a little awkward, but that might be more the song’s arrangement than his singing. Danny sounds good, but a few times the song sounds as if it will swallow his somewhat limited vocal range. This is a really good performance, but I am guessing the judges will laud it with undue praise as though he just had an ‘Idol moment.’ I can already hear Paula and Kara screaming. Jamar is in the audience; he doesn’t look happy. Randy says Danny was blazing hot and redeemed the night. Kara calls him a hero and says he gives them all hope. Paula predicts sold-out arenas for Danny. Simon thinks the performance was good, but not fantastic. He is not yet buying the Danny hype. At least he admits that they do hype contestants; that might be a first. Danny says he pictured people coming out of rough situations while he was singing. Gee do you think he’ll be safe this week?

Final Thoughts

During the recaps, Jackie still looks silly. Ricky sounds better than Danny. Alexis is still impressive. Brent still belongs in a country bar not on Idol. Stevie is still a train wreck. Anoop is still too boring. Casey is a plane crashing into two trains colliding during an earthquake. Michael is still hoping people vote based on personality. Ann Marie is still singing a song that is too big. Stephen is still making a big mistake. Tatianna is still sounding pretty darn good. Danny is still over hyped. Ryan implores the voters to call and text for their favorite contestants. After an outstanding start, the show hit a massive lull in the middle and then finished pretty strong. Several contestants picked the absolute worst songs tonight. I wonder if the other contestants in the later rounds still have the chance to change their song choice. If so, then going in the first group makes singing much more difficult, especially for the younger less experienced contestants. Danny is clearly advancing, and based on tonight’s singing, Alexis should be tagging along. The final spot in the Top 12 could go to a few different people. Michael, Tatianna, and Anoop should all be in the running, but in the end I think Noop-dog gets the golden ticket. Jackie, Michael, Ricky, and Tatianna all have a decent chance at a wild card invite in a few weeks.


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