Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The first dozen: mostly mediocre

American Idol, if nothing else, is an icon of generational popular culture. As a musician/vocalist, I enjoy the show in much the same way that I imagine a gourmet enthusiast would savor Top Chef, or the owner of a fixer home would relish Trading Spaces. I like to critique the performances myself and hear what the judges (okay, the one intelligent judge) have to say.

The opening audition tour boasts some very funny moments, but my conscience can only handle so much of the awkward, heart-breaking scenes interspersed between the talent. Don't get me started on Bikini Girl, that is a sore point between me and the American Idol machine. Hollywood Week is typically my favorite segment of the show. The drama among the hopefuls is just so pitifully entertaining.

The four judges (including Kara, an intelligent and gutsy new addition, thank goodness) selected the top 36 contestants to receive the distinct privilege of performing for America's votes. When they announced this week that the singers would be performing in groups of 12 each week, with only three moving forward from each group, I was taken aback. After witnessing the dismissal of some excellent singers over the past couple of weeks, I was led to believe these top 36 must be the very best. This new elimination process is steep, and the idea that nine people would be sent home each week was admittedly worrisome.

Thankfully, I had only to be worried until the performances were underway. The concern quickly gave way to astonishment at the majority of the contestants' willingness to literally take this one shot at stardom in their hand, crumple it up into a wad, chew it up, swallow, and poop it out the other end in a pathetic, stinky, waste. For a group that we should all expect to possess top-notch talent, the results resonated with disappointment.

Tonight we'll see the guy and girl with the most votes move forward, along with the contestant with the next-highest votes. Here are my predictions, as well as a brief analysis of the rest of the evening, from best to worst.

1. Danny Gokey: This guy is going to be a favorite throughout the competition. He is attainably cute (as opposed to intimidatingly hot), has a smooth voice, and presents a sweet and professional demeanor. If that weren't enough, Danny came to the auditions four weeks after his young wife passed away. I also love that he is coolly professional. When will these American Idol dreamers learn that the childish drama doesn't get you very far (oh wait, Tatiana is just a few spots down). The only way that Danny won't be the top guy tonight is if the general voting public feels so sorry for the poor performers that they all vote for pity rather than talent, under the assumption that the good people will get enough votes. This happens at least once each season.

2. Alexis Grace: While her performance was not the second best of the evening, she was the best of the females, so the next spot should belong to Alexis. This tiny thing is SOUL-full and chose a great Aretha number to showcase herself. She wasn't perfect, but far surpassed all of the girls and most of the boys.

3. Ricky Braddy: I feel kind of bad for Ricky. He's received close to zero airtime in the show so far, so no one in America knows anything about him. But I have to say, his performance blew me away! He was the second contestant on stage, so I wasn't even comparing him to how much most of the rest sucked at the time. I was not a fan of the song he chose, but his interpretation and performance of it hooked me. I think Ricky deserves the third spot this week, and not just because I could see the "Braddy Bunch" shirts his family wore catching on. Unfortunately, I don't know if I can trust America to recognize his vocal talent.

4. Michael Sarver: Michael has a great voice, but "I Don't Want to Be" by Gavin DeGraw was a poor song choice when the stakes are so high and the cuts so deep. The fact remains, however, that the camera loved him and his blue-collar; this potential rags-to-riches story will probably put him ahead of the more talented--yet unknown--Ricky Braddy.

5. Tatiana del Toro: It pains me to say it, but this irritating drama queen was the second-best female singer of the night. Why does the squealing, strange one have to be so good? She toned it way down for this show, and I couldn't help but notice the change seemed very genuine. Almost like the insanity we witnessed over the past few weeks was truly stress-induced. Too bad we won't get to see the real Tatiana after tonight.

6. Jackie Tohn: I like Jackie, I do. Her voice is different and cool, although I felt her song this week did nothing to remind us of that fact. But WHAT on Earth was she thinking with those pants?!? I mean seriously, and I have wondered this many a time before, do these people even look in a mirror before leaving the dressing room? Aren't there wardrobe consultants who give a little, "Um, honey, maybe we should choose an article of clothing from this decade." Or, "You know, sweetie, your butt wouldn't look like my grandmother's if you chose some pants that were slightly more flattering." Perhaps there are wardrobe consultants like this, and they take their jealousy out in strange and cruel ways.

7. Anoop Desai: This guy has a great voice, and a sparkling personality. His song practically bored me to tears, though. He sounded like a one-man version of Boyz II Men. Boy II Man. I wouldn't be surprised if he moved ahead based on his past performances and likeability factor (a benefit that good ol' Ricky Braddy won't have to fall back on, thanks to his lack of screen time thus far).

8. Stephen Fowler: BORING. This performance reminded me of sappy elevator music. Or a tacky adult film soundtrack. Elevator porn, perhaps?

9. Brent Keith: Entirely forgettable performance. And I can't stand contestants who look mad at the judges' comments instead of maintaining a little dignity by accepting criticism professionally.

10. Ann Marie Boskovich: We've heard her sing in the past, but Aretha Franklin is way out of her league. Yikes.

11. Casey Carlson: The Police? Really? When your entire future as a performing artists rest on this performance? And the hideous dance moves and facial contortions didn't add a thing.

12. Stevie Wright: If you turned the TV on to this performance (or any of the last 5 I listed for that matter), you may have wondered if a high school talent show were being televised. This is supposed to be twelve of the most talented singers in America! Why she would throw away this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by singing a horrid Taylor Swift song will forever remain a mystery.

We'll see if anyone agrees with me tonight.

1 comment:

Bridget said...

I don't watch AI but I think I will tune in for your blog post recaps. You make it much more interesting since you have an educated opinion.


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