Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The third dozen: fairly forgettable

My predictions for best male and female last week were right on, just as with the first group. But the third spot was a shocker for everyone. And probably for no one more than Kris Allen himself. I thought he did a great job, but didn't expect him to take the vote. I am excited to hear more of his voice on some better songs, though. I knew my choices for #3 during the last two weeks wouldn't go through, and stated such in my recap. I don't think this week will break that pattern.

It wasn't a particularly bad night for American Idol. But the nine contestants who will bid adieu to the cameras and lights tomorrow night will be forgotten before the stage has been swept. I didn't particularly hate anyone's performance, but there were a slim few that I connected with on a level deeper than, "that was nice."

As I understand it, the final three voter-selected spots in the Top Twelve go to tonight's guy and gal with the most votes, and the person with the next-highest votes. I believe the remaining three slots will be filled by the judges as part of the Wild Card show on Thursday. As usual, here is my relatively unimportant take on what transpired this evening on American Idol:

1. Lil Rounds: They saved the best for last, of course. Lil closed the show with a powerhouse vocal, which leads me to believe the folks behind AI just don't care about any suspicions that they manipulate the public to vote for their educated favorites. Not only by having her sing last, which I have already mentioned is practically a guaranteed golden ticket (worked during the last two weeks already), but also the judges' gushing praise. Their comments exuded only positive, to the extent that they might as well have been reading from a script. Which might have been necessary if they were as distracted from her singing as my couch-partner. Truth be told, I could hardly hear Lil's Mary J. Blige over my husband's awestruck curiosity at the wonder that is Lil Round's "big round." Admittedly, it's impressive. Gary mused that if we looked up "badonkadonk" on wikipedia, there would be a picture of "that." If only I knew how to spell badonkadonk, we could check. I don't dare dirty my internet cache with that term, but you go right ahead. Anyway, the girl can sing, and she has shown herself to be an adorable mother of three, which you know people relate to. So I think she'll roll on forward.

2. Scott MacIntyre: Although definitely in the top three of the guys, he wasn't actually the best singer of the night. Scott is legally blind, which in itself is a pretty incredible back story. No one wants to not vote for the blind guy. More importantly, the passion flowing through his vocal instrument is profound, and the judges keep assuring us that once he gets behind his piano we'll fall deeper in love. So I think people will vote to see that.

3. Kristen McNamara: You might remember Kristen from such blog posts as this one about my hair, where I posted a photo from her first audition. Tonight she attempted to fool us into believing that her stylist "accidentally" gave her purple hair and she was so embarrassed. Whatever, Kristen. We know that's not true, and anyway, I liked it. So, in precisely the same situation as the last two weeks, I don't actually believe that my third choice will win the vote, but Kristen was my next favorite. And not just because we share a name, but because her version of "Gimme One Reason to Stay Here" was creative and fun. She looks like an absolute natural on stage, which is a breath of fresh air in these early rounds while we whittle away the wannabe's. Unfortunately, the judges completely disagreed with my opinion, and the lemmings usually follow them.

4. Jorge Nunez: I don't know how to make the little squiggle over the n to make it a Spanish "enyay." As in Horhay Noonyez. He'll probably take the third place because he is different, has a good voice, and is refreshingly humble. The Puerto Rican young man belted out Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me," a perfect choice for a vocal competition if you've got the pipes for it. In earlier auditions, we heard the judges criticizing Jorge because his accent bled through too much. At the time I thought that was at least condescending if not downright prejudiced, and tonight I felt his attempt to mask the latin accent sounded all wrong. Simon must have thought so, too, because he stepped up to the P.C. plate and admitted they were remiss to have told him to train away his natural inflection, but only after Paula blatantly attributed his smooth sound to adopting their advice and his excellent work with the dialect coach. Nice.

5. Ju'Not Joyner: When his song was first introduced, I was less than thrilled, since we all heard Plain White T's' "Hey There Delilah" about a hundred and sixty-three times too many a few months ago (and I actually like the song). But he softened up the tone so distinctly and took some creative risks that I felt really paid off for his silky voice.

6. Felicia Barton: She seemed to be fighting harder than nearly anyone else. This is likely attributable to the fact that she already took that long, misty-eyed flight home once, only to be recalled as a replacement for a contestant who was deemed ineligible. Felicia has a big voice, but it cracked on a few of the powerful notes. She also looks a lot like Jim Halpert's ex-girlfriend, Karen, and that doesn't work for me. I just love Pam too much.

7. Von Smith: I was shocked when he was invited to come to Hollywood in the first place, and his voice was still strangely grating when he got there. Tonight I thought he did an excellent job, but the song was very boring. I don't even remember what it was. He also sang first, the guillotine position of American Idol lineup, so his vast improvement won't get him through. I think Von was meant to be a 1920's newsie. I can see him wearing suspenders and a plaid newsboy hat, shining shoes for a nickel.

8. Alex Wagner-Trugman: The judges were too hard on Alex. This competition is way out of his league, sure, but he poured his heart and soul into this Elton John rendition, and they kind of teased him as if he were Norman Gentle, who is dorky on purpose. I put Alex in 8th position because these last 5 contestants are equally mediocre, but Alex is at least hilarious! My favorite part was when they showed a clip of Simon telling Alex during Hollywood Week that he would rate his personality as a 9 and his voice as a 3. Then cut back to Alex's interview where he says, very matter-of-factly, "I can only assume that both of those were on a scale of 3." Ah, now that's comedy. And he's just this adorbale little nerd who reminds me a lot of an old friend Mike Bush, whom some of you know.

9. Taylor Vaifanua: I read somewhere a while back that this girl was a "plant" in the auditions: someone that the record label-people (or whoever comprises the "powers that be" of American Idol) want to be successful and so they "encourage" them to audition and then make sure they get through. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, because if a record-producer wanted an individual to produce records, they wouldn't need to wait for said individual to muster through the ranks of American Idol. Just offer a bunch of money, and she'd be yours, right? Anyway, if this rumor were indeed true, tonight's performance would be enough to make those record label-people deny it. Not awful, but very forgettable.

10. Arianna Afsar: Haven't these contestants ever watched American Idol before? The slow ballads almost never win in the early rounds, when so few move forward each week. So far the winners have without fail performed upbeat rock, pop, or jazzy tunes. Later, when only one person is cut each week, those songs stand a chance of not being in last place. But right now, there isn't room to be "not last." Abba's "Winner Takes All" was an ironically grim sentence for "cute as a button" Arianna. Her voice is lovely, but it caught on a few notes, and she had a lot of pitch problems (I refuse to say she was "pitchy" a la Randy and Paula, because I don't think even they could define their own word).

11. Kendall Beard: Of course there needs to be a nondescript pretty blonde girl! More definite pitch issues, but the Martina McBride selection suited this sweet little Texan.

12. Nathaniel Marshall: What a joke. There were some really, really talented singers who were cut from the competition to make room for this hot mess. In the middle of his performance of "I Would Do Anything for Love" by Meatloaf (yes, he did sing that), I wanted to take bets on which would be the first anaolgy we'd hear from a judge: mortifying high school talent show, drunk uncle at a wedding, cruise ship cabaret...the winner? Kara claims she wants to be his karaoke buddy! His whole image is a contradiction to me (effeminate tough-guy, for one), but that is another story. Musically, he just doesn't have the skills to make it as a recording artist. High school drama director? Totally. At least he has tattooed around his neck, "Music is my Life." Show us, Nate, don't tell us.

We shall see tomorrow if my top two predictions are right for a third time.

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