Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ushering in a New Idol

Here's the thing... this is a bad, bad year for Idol.  Its Simon's last year, and rather than going out with a bang, its a slow whimper.  Kara the New Hotness was great last year, seeming to be a great (fine?) balance between Paula Abdul's dithering and blubbering, Randy's "dawg yo man dawg" and Simon's sometimes over the top cruelty.  This season?  She's slipping toward Pauladom faster than I can feel weird that a Billy Mays infomercial is on my tv right now.  That's fast.

Ellen DeGeneres is, in my mind, a disaster.  She's not funny.  She's kind of annoying.  She can't and won't give any kind of criticism without adding on how great they look, or how much she loves them or whatever.  I think she's terrible. 

So, we don't have alot going for us this year.  Even Seacrest has avoided saying things like "the best Idol season ever" and "the most talented group we've ever had".  This is bad mojo.  Yeah.

this is american idol

Tonight's mentor is Usher, one of those guys who, in 15 years, will be like Pat Benetar is now... "Wow, I didn't realize they did so much stuff that I like!"  Right now, on the iPod, Usher's duet with Alicia Keys, "My Boo", is tied for third (with "Rock Your Body" by Timberlake and "How to Save a Life" by The Fray") as the most played track, with 53 spins.  And who doesn't like "Yeah!" with Ludacris and Lil Jon in the background.

I'm watching this on Wednesday afternoon, and when I relay my concerns to The Lovely Steph Leann, who has already seen it--she tells me "I think its actually the best show this season thusfar.  Some were same ol, same ol... others were really good tonight."

The theme is Soul/R&B.  Usher jokes that he's going to be critical, which I wish wasn't a joke, but he does admit he will be brutally honest.  Good! 

Getting the lead-off spot tonight, the front runner not named Bowersox is performing "Through the Fire".   Originally done by Chaka Khan, Siobhan does the unthinkable tonight.  Stinks it up.  Like, wow.  Because I'm not only tone-deaf, I'm tone-devoid of ears, I looked at The Lovely Steph Leann to make sure I was hearing this correctly.

"She's not doing so hot, is she?" I ask.  The Lovely Steph Leann just grimaces and says, "No... no."

Randy the Dawg didn't like it much.  Ellen DeG didn't like the performance (but loves Siobhan).  Kara the New Hotness says that Siobhan delivers, and she just had an off night.  Simon the Cowell says it sounded like she ran a marathon, and singing while running out of breath--that is, it was all over the place.

Course, after the judges speak, its like they spend the next five minutes telling America that it was a fluke, and she's still really, really good.

Country man is taking on "Hold On, I'm Coming" by Sam & Dave, which is a bluesy classic from the day.  Usher's sound and the music CJ wants to make cannot possibly be more different and apart.  Usher says, though, "keep an eye on him..."

Seacrest says this song has never been done on Idol's stage before, if you can believe it or not.  A little rock, a little blues, a little rasp in the voice... dude, CJ is great tonight.

Randy the Dawg loves it.  Ellen DeG calls it generic (but she loved the song).  Kara the New Hotness also thought the song should have had more range.  Simon the Cowell loved it. 

So, perhaps for the first time, at least in recent memory, someone is doing an India.Arie song.  I've often wondered if I should put a "." in my name too.... d.$.  What do you think?

He sits, guitar in hand, on the outer part of the stage, back to the judges who are only slightly turned around towards him.   Now, while I wasn't a huge fan of the song itself, but he sounded really good.   Randy the Dawg liked it lots.  Ellen DeG says it was beautiful (and she loved him).  Kara the New Hotness says it was incredible.  Simon the Cowell says that Big Mike has finally come to a point to be taken seriously as a recordning artist.

The best looking of the contestants--though that doesn't translate into talent always--is singing "What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted".  In rehearsal with Usher, she breaks down and cries... remember, she's the one who had the friend die before Idol. 

Am I wrong to believe the suggestions I've seen that Didi would have been better playing the guitar, or just going acoustic with a single guitar player while singing this song?  The piano behind her is nice, but its not all that great of a performance.  Seriously, I expected better.

Randy the Dawg says the performance kinda flatlined.  America's Favorite Lesbian Ellen DeG says it was dramatic and it was not her best (but she loves Didi).  Kara the New Hotness says that Didi has lost her way in the competition.  Simon the Cowell says it was muddled and old fashioned. 

But the real fireworks come when Seacrest comes out and tries to push her buttons by mentioning a possible connection to that song choice and her friend dying.  She never even admits that that was the reason that this song makes her emotional and moves her... and Seacrest says, "Tell us why..." even after she persists in not saying why.  Even Simon calls him out, saying, "Ryan!  Ryan!"

In the green room, the video shows Didi being hugged by the other Idols.  She hates Seacrest right now.

So, this guy.  I don't even think he deserves a nickname.  No more "Sounds Like Keith" or "Wish I Were Keith"... and what's he going to try and sing tonight?   One of the sexiest, most sensual "get it on" kinda of songs, "Sweet Love" by Anita Baker.  Let's just say "Sweet Love" isn't about being sweet with flowers and candy.  Song of Songs comes to mind.

And Tim is singing it.

Here's what Slezak said on Entertainment Weekly... For weeks, Tim has been squatting at the abandoned building at the corner of Cluelessness and Hubris that's been empty since Kristy Lee Cook vacated it back in season 7. He attempted ''Apologize'' even though its falsetto notes were well beyond his reach. He treated the raunchy ''Under My Thumb'' like a Land Before Time soundtrack selection. So why not choose Anita Baker's ''Sweet Love'' (the smooth-jazz equivalent of a Harlequin novel) and sing it with all the passion and emotional depth of a man reading off an eye chart at the optometrist's office?

Yeah, I feel that.  And right there on the stairs, he looks kinda creepy.  What on Earth made Tim Urban even choose this song? 

Randy the Dawg tries to find pros in a sea of cons.  He struggles.  Ellen DeG says she can't keep riding on the fact he's adorable.  She says, "Oh boy... why?"  (but she thinks he's adorable).  Kara the New Hotness says Tim ripped the soul out of the song--and Tim laughs.  Simon the Cowell says, "he's laughing because it doesn't make any difference to him what we say."  

That was dreadful.  When Simon the Cowell just tosses up his hands and says, "People will vote for you, you'll smile, doesn't matter, you'll be here next week, so... well done.  Whatever."  its bad times.

He's had a rough few weeks, perhaps finally moving past the "I did a good job in auditions" to "I should actually do something now."  And tonight, he picks "Forever", though I'm not sure when and where the song was written in conjunction with punching Rhianna. 

Not familiar with this song, so here we go... and ya know, its not bad.  I'm guessing with guitar in hand, Andy Garcia's version is probably a little different than Chris Brown's version.  But as it is, I like it.  I really like it. 

Randy the Dawg declares "Andrew is back!".  Ellen DeG says he finally moved past the other song (and she loves his smile).  Kara the New Hotness says she is so happy to say its one giant leap in the right direction.  Simon the Cowell says, "Miles better than the last few weeks... but as a person, you are boring."

Four words you don't want to hear tonight... "Katie takes on Aretha".  First, let's be honest, Aretha could fold up Katie Stevens and eat her in a sandwich.  Secondly, her singing "Chain of Fools" sounds like a worse idea than it is... no, its an equally bad idea. 

Not good.

The outfit is terrible, the sound is terrible.... its too bad that Idol can't pull a Survivor and do one of those "two eliminations tonight!" kind of episodes.  Katie and Tim would both be gone by the time this show rolls around next week.

Randy the Dawg said it was disconnected, but still loved the performance.  What?!  A young Christina Aguilera?  What?!  Ellen DeG said it was great. (and she loves her earrings)  What?!  Kara the New Hotness says she belongs in R&B Pop.  WHAT?!  Simon the Cowell calls Randy crazy for comparing her to Christina Aguilera.  He says it was "pretty good... but a little cold."

Last night, while at The Happiest Place in the Mall, The Lovely Steph Leann sent me a text around 9ish, and said simply "Lee was great!".  So I'm looking forward to this one.

Lee will be singing "Treat Her Like a Lady".  I've said it before, I really like this guys voice.  It sounds good, its got a rasp and soul to it.  Usher tells him that he's got to believe in himself, because, "If you don't... they won't." 

Who knew that, at the beginning of the season, this guy would be so friggin' good?  Love it love it love it.  This is where Daughtry started.

Randy the Dawg says, "Unbelievable!  Best I've heard in weeks!".  Ellen DeG says, "Unbelievable!  Best of the night!"  Kara the New Hotness says, "this could have been on your album."  Simon the Cowell says, "This might be the night your life changes forever." 

His face is like, "Holy crap... this is real..."

Two styles, she and Usher.  Two different styles.  She's going to be singing "Midnight Train to Georgia", instead of doing the guitar, she is sitting in front of the piano.  Now, this is a song that I've never been crazy about... don't get me wrong, Gladys Knight & the Pips brought it when they threw down on this one... but still, never dug it all that much.

C'Bosox is making me like it.  Let's not assume I'm going on iTunes now to buy it or anything, but I like her arrangement on it, and her take on the song.  Good job.

Randy the Dawg loved it.  Ellen DeG loved it.  Kara the New Hotness loved it.  Simon the Cowell loved it, but said the background vocals shouldn't have been there--The Lovely Steph Leann said the same thing mere seconds earlier. 

So, this kid going on 13 is taking on one of the greatest songs of all time, one of my favorite 25 songs of all time?  I defer to EW's Slezak...

Okay, Idol judges, I get it. You don't want to say anything nice about your season 8 champ. (Apparently, Simon Cowell's ''you deserved to be on this stage'' speech during last year's performance finale was supposed to be Pocket Idol's lovely parting gift.) But how is it possible that, at the end of Aaron Kelly's rendition of ''Ain't No Sunshine'' — which was the musical equivalent of watching in slo-mo as a toddler knocks a priceless vase onto a tile floor — none of you were inclined to point out that as far as the Idol stage is concerned, that song belongs to Kris Allen? I mean, that song was such a moment for Kris during Top 9 week last season, he repeated it during the finale, and throughout last summer's Idols Live tour. And yet all Simon could muster was that the song had been done brilliantly ''many times'' during previous Idol seasons. (Um, by my count, only Kris and season 1's Christina Christian have covered the Bill Withers ballad on the live Idol stage, although Lee Dewyze auditioned to the song this season. Correct me if I'm wrong though — as if I have to ask y'all to do that! Ha!)

What next? Is Aaron going to tackle Adam Lambert's ''Mad World,'' Fantasia's ''Summertime,'' and Kelly Clarkson's ''Stuff Like That There'' in quick succession? (Hey, he did David Cook's ''I Don't Want to Miss a Thing'' last week!) I declare these actions to be Rated CP...for ''Child, Please!''

Still, the most daft part of Aaron's performance was the way he totally discarded Usher's excellent advice to add more passion and emphasis on the succession of ''I knows'' in the middle of the song. Aaron's Usher-influenced second take in rehearsals was a vast improvement on his maiden voyage, but once he hit the Idol stage, he performed a brutal soul-ectomy on ''Sunshine,'' gutting it of any deeper meaning and reducing the lyric to a simple recitation about a rainy-day forecast in Los Angeles

Randy the Dawg said it started rough, but it worked out.  Sort of.  Ellen DeG thought it was good.  Kara the New Hotness just liked it.  Simon the Cowell says it doesn't compare to some of the great performances tonight. 

I agree.  I thereby rank Aaron Kelly dead last, behind Tim Urban and Katie Stevens this week for what atrocities he's attempted on this stage.  And I am hoping for a three-way dead tie in votes. 

Lee Dewyze... C'Bosox... Casey James... Andy Garcia... Big Mike... Didi Benami... Siobhan Magnus... Katie Stevens... Tim Urban... Aaron Kelly

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