Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lucky 13, Except for 1

So American Idol is back and I'd like to say, "better than ever," but I'll stop just short of that. Every season it seems like the producers are struggling to make it new and improved, but I would be fine with "as good as last year." The stage is smaller this year--must be a down year for Coke and AT&T--but the crowd is just as crazy. I'm not a big fan of their plan for the first elimination--please just let America decide who is staying and keep the judges out of it since their picks inevitably flame out before the finale. Randy's sense of style is still as difficult to define as it has ever been, as evidenced by the macrame lapel pin he was wearing. Maybe he'll tell us who it was supposed to be. (A white Stevie Wonder with a fu manchu? Doubtful.)

And let me share one last complaint. In a world where AI judges insist that Stevie and Whitney are untouchable (and they've said this since Season 1), why would you insist that 13 finalists choose songs by Stevie and Whitney? Last week they only mentioned Stevie Wonder, so I suspect the producers had a last-minute idea to try and boost ratings by paying tribute to Whitney Houston, but I would have preferred a medley during tomorrow's elimination show. But even with setting up the contestants to fail we had our fair share of good performances tonight.

Now, some random positive thoughts. Steven Tyler is still the same, don't-wake-me-from-my-trip repository of semi-coherent ramblings. "This moment is so beautiful I want to roll it up in my notepad here, smoke it, and then bask in the beauty of its beautifulness." He's been good for Idol. It also seems that Randy has been trying to express original thoughts a bit more lately. I'm not saying there weren't a fair number of "like the guys are saying" moments, but he actually made some honest assessments that brought down the rain of boos this week. I can respect that. And J.Lo is always the kindhearted, positive voice that balances out the panel. I mean, Steven is usually positive, but J.Lo makes more sense most of the time. Contestants deserve to understand what the feedback is.

On to the review . . .

Joshua Ledet ("I Wish"): Mantasia brought down the house tonight. The first slot on these mega-shows is usually a forgettable position, but he didn't seem to mind at all. Immediately I was struck with how natural he seemed on stage. Joshua did a great job and showed off why everyone is comparing him to Idol's Season 3 winner.

Elise Testone ("I'm Your Baby Tonight"): Her private session with Mary J. and Jimmy was terrible. It was an utter train wreck. As soon as they made her change songs (which was actually a good move for her) I knew Elise was toast. Watching her I felt like she was either completely uncomfortable or totally pissed off, and neither emotion was going to help. Even as she received her critique she seemed the same way. At this point in the program I was thinking that I didn't even need to hear the other 11 contestants to know she was gone.

Jermaine Jones ("Knock Me Off My Feet"): Mamma's little Isaac Hayes/Barry White/Luther Vandross amalgam did pretty well tonight. He has never been the most exciting performer but he is solid. And, he's one of the nicest guys you'll meet on television, and by meet, I mean learn to love through carefully selected behind-the-scenes clips and canned interviews. I really do get the feeling that what we're seeing is the real Jermaine, though. He's a talented, deserving singer.

Erika Van Pelt ("I Believe In You And Me"): This was one of the better performances tonight. Erika's voice is fantastic and is definitely one of the more unique ones in the competition. Thinking back over the night her performance gets lost behind a few others, but she was good enough to easily make it to the next round. For once a judge's wild card selection is deserving of praise (*cough* not Naima *cough, cough*).

Colton Dixon ("Lately"): For Colton, Randy's "cool, indie, rock, kinda sorta dude," just singing a Stevie song from beginning to end would be an accomplishment, but he showed off how good a performer he really is. I would have liked to have seen him behind the piano, but he probably made a good decision to hold off this week. There will be better weeks for him to do that. I wasn't floored by Colton's performance, but I was solidly impressed.

Shannon Magrane ("I Have Nothing"): First, the good. She totally owned all the flaws in this performance and refused to take the "there was something wrong with the band" bait. Impressive, especially considering that she is still young. Unfortunately there wasn't much else to applaud. She had a very rough go at it and there were a few times that I felt like she just stopped singing. Watching her you had the feeling that at least 2 or 3 times out of 10 she could normally nail this song, but her father can remind you that only in baseball is 3 out of 10 hall of fame material.

DeAndre Brackensick ("Master Blaster"): I loved the reggae vibe of his performance, excessive gyrations notwithstanding. He was totally into it, though, and that helps make everything seem more natural. He's got some serious talent and should be around for a while. I just hope he doesn't get caught up in a huge lip syncing scandal like his lookalikes had 20 years ago.

Skylar Laine ("Where Do Broken Hearts Go"): Skylar is a bit too country for my liking, but I can admit talent when I see it. This is actually one of my favorite Whitney Houston songs and I thought she did a great job with it. If I were arranging it I would have "countrified" it a lot more, bringing in a steel guitar and some fiddling or a mandolin or something, but hey, a country girl taking on an R&B/Pop diva? Let's give credit where credit is due.

Heejun Han ("All In Love Is Fair"): Critique of his comedy routine first. Great work with the pictures during the private session with Jimmy and Mary J. Loved it. His delivery of all his material had that great, deadpan voice. Loved that, too. Now, the music. Heejun has a great voice and picked a great song for it. Overall it was a solid, somewhat safe performance for me. I think it was a middle-of-the-pack showing at best, so he'll need to get a bit more creative as the weeks go on, but between his smooth voice and likable persona he'll be safe.

Hollie Cavanagh ("All The Man That I Need"): Jodi Foster takes on Whitney. This girl's voice is amazing. 'Nuff said. I was duly impressed with her effort tonight and could see her in the top 3 or 4 of the competition. It's crazy that such a power voice comes out of that small little body.

Jeremy Rosado ("Ribbon In The Sky"): Each week it is so obvious that Jeremy is one of the nicest guys in the competition, but you could tell he was nervous tonight. It's got to be tough to feel like America didn't want you in the first place, so now you have to work twice as hard. He seemed off the entire time, and that's not a "beautiful thing."

Jessica Sanchez ("I Will Always Love You"): OK. So Jessica can take on Whitney anytime she wants. Unreal. This girl is amazing. It's a long competition, and "Songs from the Antebellum South Week" could trip her up, but I'm guessing she'll be around near the end. If this hadn't been a gimmicky "girls versus guys" week Jessica would have closed the show. No one else was even close tonight.

Phillip Phillips ("Superstition"): This was a great selection for Phillip and I love watching him perform. Last week Randy pointed out that he gives off a Dave Matthews kind of vibe, but I've been saying that since Hollywood. Between his look, his vocal tone, and his only marginally coordinated footwork, he could be Dave's long lost brother. I liked the way he interpreted the song and put his own spin on it. I totally want him to stick around. I also totally want to know if his parents really named him that, or if he is using a stage name.

Top 2 of the night: Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips.
Bottom 2: Jeremy Rosado and Shannon Magrane
Going home: J.Lo's love for her wild card pick will send Shannon packing.


Boquinha said...

"This moment is so beautiful I want to roll it up in my notepad here, smoke it, and then bask in the beauty of its beautifulness."


And to that I add . . . you and I are so alike, it's almost scary. Except that it's not. It is, in fact, a truly beautiful thing. :)

Dr. Mark said...

I agree. It is a beautiful thing. But don't worry--I will not try to smoke this moment.

Dave Johnson said...

This post is so beautiful, I want to boil it in water, put a towel over my head, and breathe in the beautifulness of the fumes as they caress the inner walls of my nostrils. Also, cocaine. Lots and lots and lots of cocaine.

I have no idea what we're talking about now.

Boquinha said...

You should've seen it yesterday. Steven Tyler (love him, btw) is still tripping on something.

Dr. Mark said...

When a guy's done so many drugs that he's forgotten an entire decade there is bound to be a lot of something permanently floating around in his body.