Thursday, February 26, 2009

The second dozen: several standouts

Last week I predicted with ease the first three contestants to claim their spot in American Idol's Top Twelve for Season Eight. Although I would have preferred to see Ricky Braddy take the third spot, I knew better than to hope the voting public would appreciate him over the less-talented-but-more-relatable Michael Sarver.

This week was more difficult for me to choose my own favorite contestants. It will be similarly elementary to predict the three who move forward (two of them at least), but I actually connected with more than half of the performances this week. Although the lines between the good, the bad, and the ugly were very distinct, there were about twice as many viable performances this week as last.

The evening kicked off with three successive trainwrecks, leaving me to wonder if perhaps seven years of American Idol had simply bled the country dry of talent (I truly believed that watching Season Six's finale with Jordin vs. Blake. Ugh. But the Battle of the Davids last year proved my theory incorrect). Then we were relieved by the breath of fresh air that is Nick Mitchell (or Norman Gentle, depending on which mood strikes his fancy), followed by a sequence of performances ranging from decent to exquisite with only few exceptions.

Tonight the guy and gal with the most votes and the next-highest "vote-getter," as Ryan says, will earn a highly coveted seat in the Top Twelve. Actually, those silver pedestal seats the winners get to sit in look exceedingly less comfortable than the overstuffed couch housing all the losers. If it's any consolation. Which it probably isn't. So once again, here are my predictions and analyses on the 12 contestants who sang their heart out for this once-in-a-lifetime chance at stardom. Or at least their fifteen minutes of it.

1. Allison Iraheta: Finally, a performance worthy of this level in the competition, and definitely the best female we've seen so far, at least based on these recent "auditions," as they might be called. The infrequent bits of Allison shown on camera prior to her opening note last night had not impressed me. I am not fond of her look, and the girl couldn't have a less eloquent grasp of the English language if she were nine years old. But her first few bars of "Alone" by Heart rocketed Allison miles ahead of her female counterparts in the talent and stage presence departments. This is not the first time that particular 80's power ballad has been performed on AI, and it is a brilliant choice: a crowd-pleaser that truly showcases both a singer's technical proficiency and emotional range.

2. Adam Lambert: Another early fan favorite, it is no coincidence that Adam and Danny Gokey (from the first dozen) were both situated last in the lineup. American Idol has several ways in which they let you know who they want you to vote for, and closing the show is often a sure-fire way to guarantee safety. Adam's rendition of "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones was powerful indeed, and it would be worth arguing that his look alone could sell records. I personally find Mr. Lambert's style to be a little too theatrical, approaching cheesy. But the boy can definitely SAYNG. He doesn't just hit a few high notes, he basically lives on that treble clef without ever breaking into falsetto--a feat that is as difficult to fathom as it is interesting to witness.

The next few spots get a little bit tricky. I am less sure about how the results will pan out this week, so I will tell you what I would like to happen.

3. Nick Mitchell: The spotlight opens on his alter-ego Norman Gentle in a sultry pose atop the arching staircase. He stands to reveal a full dress white tail tuxedo jacket layered over his signature rainbow-sparkle shirt, tucked into khaki tourist shorts. The red Richard Simmons-style sweatbands and dingy tennies complete his fashion statement. I am personally overcome with joy from the very first note, and as he belts out the passionate chorus of "And I am Telling You (You're Gonna Love Me)" from the musical Dreamgirls, I think to myself, "we already do, Norman. We already do." What a perfectly appropriate song choice.

You're thinking, sure, this guy is funny-looking, but that's not what American Idol is about. My response? "Who says?" WE say what American Idol is about, and I think it is about entertainment. The fact is, Nick Mitchell's voice is nowhere near horrid, and his ability to entertain is undeniable. Best of all, even though he is having the most fun of probably anyone in the history of the competition, I can tell he is taking his role seriously. It may sound like an oxymoron, but it's the truth. He won't win the competition, and won't be a recording artist, but this is a television show, and Nick/Norman will keep people watching week after week. I say keep him in!

4. Mishavonna Henson: If the most entertaining contestant on AI doesn't win over the rest of America as he has me, then the third spot should go to the next best voice, right? Mishavonna's performance of "Drops of Jupiter" was a work of precision. That was her only flaw, really: it was just a little too perfect. Kara said it best describing this little girl with a huge voice as "so put-together." Not one sleek, black wave of her hair was out of place, her bright white teeth twinkled under the stage lights, and she was singing a rock-band song in a taffeta cocktail dress. But she is adorable and has a lovely voice that I wouldn't mind hearing more of.

5. Jesse Langseth: She's cool. She's talented. She looks like a tall and slender version of Janene Garofolo. I find her bold personality a little grating, but she sang "Bette Davis Eyes" very well.

6. Matt Breitzke: I love Tonic's "If You Could Only See," and felt it was a perfect choice for Matt's husky voice. The judges all completely disagreed with me.

7. Kris Allen: We haven't seen much of this guy yet, but he is clearly very talented. And handsome to boot. He sang "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson, which was boring at the beginning and end, but he killed the middle (in a good way).

8. Kai Kalama: I bet his mama (who we won't soon be allowed to forget he takes care of in spite of great sacrifice) is very proud of his rendition of her favorite song, "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted." This guy would slay at a karaoke bar. On this stage, not so much.

9. Megan Joy Corkrey: The judges loved this girl, and I imagine they have been won over previously by what seems like a really funky persona. In my opinion, she mutilated "Put your Records On." This is a light, groovy song, and she forced a heaviness on it that wasn't welcome. Plus she kept twisting awkwardly, which I suppose was an attempt at dancing. She got one thing right, though. She didn't hold up her fingers to show you the number to vote for her. Everyone else, take a hint: that is really annoying.

10. Jasmine Murray: The song and the performance reminded me of belting out along to the radio in my car. Admit it, we've all been there with Sara Bareilles' "Love Song." Jasmine's version just wasn't very impressive. Also, when Ryan asked her if she voted after last week's performances, she said something ditzy to the effect of, "Yeah, well, I tried to vote for, like, everyone." You may as well just save the energy sister, because that is completely pointless.

11. Jeanine Vailes: It has come to my attention that some singers view the notes in their song's key as merely a suggested approximation of the pitch they ought to sing. The poor girl started begging for us to give her a chance at the end. Even Paula, Queen of the Sugar-coating, couldn't bring herself to say that Jeanine deserves a shot in the next round.

12. Matt Giraud: Paula Abdul tried to compliment Matt by saying his performance was far better than his rehearsals. If that's the case, it's a wonder they even let him on stage. It was actually uncomfortable to watch, as his Cold Play selection extended above and below his vocal range, among other travesties. There is no way that performance would have made it through the first round of auditions. They showed some great footage of the dueling piano gig he left to come to Idol, and I hope he can get that job back because he was really good at it.

Now I'm off to watch the results show to see how my favorites fared.

1 comment:

Amber said...

Hi Kristin! On a general note, I find your blog really entertaining to read. I am particularly enjoying your AI recaps - they alternately make me want to watch AI (which I rarely do) and make me feel like I don't really have to because I can just read about the performances on your blog!

Jason and I leave for Oregon tomorrow, and I can't wait to catch up with you when we get there!


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