Saturday, February 23, 2008

American Idol 7' Top 12 male semifinalists take the stage and perform

I have to say tonight's show was a mixed bag for me. There were a lot of surprises for me with the girls' performances, some good and some bad. I went into the show with a few clear favorites and a few that I didn't have high hopes for and it all got turned around on me. There wasn't as much of a "Wow!" factor with any of the girls and actually none of them earned the patented DOUBLEPLAY, but that's not to say there weren't some great performances.

I give Idol a lot of crap, and most of it is pretty well deserved, but one thing they've been hyping is absolutely true. This Top 24 has the deepest pool of talent, and if we (that means you and me) can truly get rid of the twelve weakest singers we're going to have the most amazing Top 12 we've ever seen. If that happens, I guarantee you the ratings questions about Idol being down this year will disappear as those ratings shoot right through the roof.

Apparently the flu bug made it's way to the girls' rooms or something as there was no mention of it last night but tonight we were told that several of the girls had been struck. If that is what's to blame for some of the lackluster performances then I feel bad for these girls. Two of them may pay the ultimate price for not being able to fight through it.

Kristy Lee Cook (24, Selma, OR) - "Rescue Me," Fontella Bass
Kristy's makeover really worked for her. I like her with straightened hair, though it takes away a bit from her country style. She looked authentic down-home in a sparkly tank top and strategically torn jeans, though. Her performance showed confidence, charisma and stage presence, which was even more impressive when we found out she was double-shot with the flu and bronchitis.
Randy: "It wasn't your best performance ... you had some pitch problems all the way through ... [It was] a little rough around the edges."
Paula: "Being sick and being the first one [is] a double whammy ... You don't want to ever let anyone see that you're having a ... tough time. You did a good job."
Simon: "What did we get from that? Not a lot. The song didn't suit you ... [It's] designed for someone who's going to belt out a song. The performance was robotic ... It just wasn't really anything to grab hold of ... You really didn't make an impression."
Jason: "You turned an R&B/Soul song into a country ballad and you know what? For me, it worked. And you looked really comfortable up there. Did anything about that dazzle me? No, not really. It was fun and energetic but you never really pushed it up to that next level and I was kind of waiting for it."

Joanne Borgella (25, Hoboken, NJ) - "I Say a Little Prayer," Dionne Warwick
She's a plus-size model who said everyone expects soul or neo-soul when they see a plus-sized woman. Going into that performance, Joanne looked and sounded like she may have the flu worse than Kristy because her lower register was very scratchy and her eyes looked a little glazed over. The energy level was way too low for the song. It was almost painful to watch because you know she's much better than that performance. She barely moved on the stage. If it wasn't the flu then it was classic "deer in headlights."
Randy: "That was pretty good. The first part was a little weird for me but you got it together towards the end ... Your voice ... felt a little unsure for me."
Paula: "We've seen you .. where you have this unbelievable ... sense of yourself ... [a] real confidence. It's very nerve wracking what you're doing right now. You've got to pull it together and shine through ... I liked it, I didn't love it."
Simon: "I didn't like it at all ... You've gotta come out and nail it ... You did ... a very average cabaret song ... I thought the second half of the song was worse than the first half. There was no confidence ... It was very sub-standard ... I don't accept this thing about nerves at this point."
Jason: "If you're not struggling with the flu then you should be very disappointed in yourself. In hearing you speak, you sound okay so I'm not sure what happened out there. If it was nerves then you've got to pull it together or you're never going to make it through the rest of the season. That wasn't nearly good enough."

Alaina Whitaker (16, Tulsa, OK) - "More Today Than Yesterday," Spiral Starecase
The youngest contestant on Idol. Her birthday is tomorrow which means she'll be eliminated, right? Isn't that the pattern? I call Alaina "generic blonde girl" because she hasn't stood out at all and in her talking with Ryan she continued her string of not standing out in any way. In watching her perform she does kind of look like she thinks she's not only great but way better than you. It was a bit off-putting. It was confidence pushed over into arrogance for me. She did manage to stand out by putting on a good performance, though.
Randy: "Season 7 is turning out to be the year of the young ones ... The beginning was a little rough but you sang it with so much conviction and confidence ... I was like 'What?!'"
Paula: "It's such a feel good song ... You nailed it. You had the best ending that I've heard on that song."
Simon: "I think you're very good. I do. [That was] the first time tonight we haven't seen any nerves. I hate the song ... It's just so corny. If you can make a song as awful as that sound okay, when you've got a decent song you're gonna be great ... You are sailing through to the next round after that."
Jason: "I agree that vocally you were great. You were strong and confident, if a little pretentious. Just don't let the praise you get from the judges go to your head or it'll show through on stage and be off-putting for the audience."

Amanda Overmyer (23, Mulberry, IN) - "Baby, Please Don't Go," Big Joe Williams
Amanda has sworn off Janis Joplin after Simon told her it had already been done in Hollywood. I think her vocals were a little overwhelmed by the band throughout her performance. She's got the big rock hair and the black tank top with patchwork pants and a choker so she's got the look down. Vocally, though, I worry that the Idol audience won't like her. She's raw and authentic but very atypical for Idol; even more than Chris Daughtry because he could be tamed vocally but I don't think Amanda can be. And Chris didn't even make Top 3. I could definitely see her headling a rock act. And tonight, we learned that Amanda made her own jeans and Simon had never heard this song before tonight.
Randy: "I love that, man ... I like the trousers too, man."
Paula: "I just love everything that you do ... You're authentic ... A one trick pony, you're not."
Simon: "I really like you because I genuinely think you're authentic. It wasn't the best performance ... I hope you stay around for awhile. I think at some stage you've got to come out and prove what a great singer you are ... [but] I like you."
Jason: "I'm worried for you, Amanda. Not because you're not good at what you do, because you're great at it. I'm worried because there are a lot of stupid theme weeks coming up and I don't know how well you'll adapt to them. There's a very distinct rock edge to your voice that might hurt you in mainstream America. But we've seen it before and I believe in you, so prove me wrong, girl! Tonight, your voice got lost in the music a bit, but you brought it together in the end."

Amy Davis (25, Lowell, IN) - "Where the Boys Are," Connie Francis
She's a trade show model and grad student. Tonight, she got a glamorous and classy hairstyle. Vocally, though, she was pitchy and weak. I hate to say it, but this was the worst performance of the night. I found her incredibly boring. She showed some vocal chops at the end but it may have been too little too late. She better hope the fact that she's pretty can net her some votes.
Randy: "I didn't think it was great ... A lot of country singers scoop up to the note ... but when you [do that] you've got to hit that note dead on and there were just a lot of pitch problems ... It wasn't great for me."
Paula: "The camera loves you." This means Paula did not. "The nerves got a little bit of you. I don't know if it was the most engaging song for you to sing ... It was a little lackless(?)."
Simon: "It was what it was ... You look great, but you didn't sound great ... It was a very boring song ... incredibly cabaret. The arrangement was very boring ... It sounded like you went on for about ten minutes ... I think you're gonna struggle after that."
Jason: "It didn't work at all. You were all over the place through the first two-thirds of that and it got painful to listen to. You're definitely better than that, I don't know if the nerves are killing the girls tonight but there's definitely a problem. And I hate to say it, but you just got the worst of it so far. It wasn't good at all."

Brooke White (24, Mesa, AZ) - "Happy Together," The Turtles
The singing nanny was a "good girl," having never seen Rated-R movies. Simon said he could bring her over to the dark side, but Brooke says it's not going to happen. I think her hair looked even poofier than usual but she looked great on stage nonetheless. She was graceful and confident. Her performance was a little over the top in places but I think she sang the song well. Oh, and can someone get her a cookie. Or a dozen?
Randy: "It started a little rough for me, but by the middle of the song you kind of got your confidence back and you kind of worked it out at the end ... If you come out here and slay it, that's what's supposed to happen ... The back part you started getting your slaying on .. The front part of the song was not good, the back part of the song was good."
Paula: "This competition is about originality. That's what I love about you ... That's what this whole business is about ... You picked the right song and I think you did a great job."
Simon: "You chose the right song." He then started going on about "washing up liquid" and blonde hair and the '60s. It just wasn't his cup of tea. He can't handle that she's sunny and happy, I guess. Honestly, he sounded like Paula during this tirade.
Jason: "You've got a really nice quality to your voice. You're confident on the stage and there's no question you know who you are as an artist. I think you and Jason Castro should probably do a duet. You'll be fine, though. Probably straight on through to the Top 12. Wow factor to make it to the end, though? It wasn't there tonight."

Alexandrea Lushington (17, Douglasville, GA) - "Spinning Wheel," David Clayton-Thomas Combine / Blood, Sweat & Tears
She pronounces her first name like two separate words, Alex and Andrea. She was the girl with the delightful great-grandmother at the first-round audition. She started her performance at the top of the steps and commanded both the stage and the audience masterfully from there. What an incredibly confident performer for 17. I hate to say it but I'm surprised at how good she is.
Randy: "You blew the doors off that ... You stayed on the note. You got it. It was hot, baby. it worked."
Paula: "What I loved so much about this performance is you took control of how your entrance was going to be. You thought about ... your performance from top to bottom ... I saw more confidence in your performance than any performance tonight so far and what I loved is your interpretation of a song that could be on the radio today the way you did it."
Simon: "I didn't get it ... I didn't think the vocals were great ... It reminded me of ... some terrible '60s musical ... I didn't think the vocals were great."
Jason: "I'm going to have to disagree. This was an outstandingly good vocal. The best performance of the night so far. You owned that song, that stage and that audience from the first note like no one before you. What a revelation you just turned out to be. We've got a dark horse contender."

Kady Malloy (18, Houston, TX) - "A Groovy Kind of Love," Diane & Annita
She looks almost exactly like Kristy Lee Cook, which could be a detriment to them both. She still does an amazing Britney Spears impression and was our first girl to sing on a stool with dimmed lights. It was clever of her to select a song that she might have some familiarity with, considering the Phil Collins version from 1988. I always like it when the contestants can pull off little tricks like that to find songs more in their comfort zone despite the forced theme of the week. Too bad her pitch was all over the place and the performance pretty bad overall. I know she's better than that.
Randy: "This song was okay for me. It was so restrained and controlled ... [It] never really quite got there for me. I thought that you got lost a little bit in the song."
Paula: "You look really pretty ... We fell in love with ... your personality ... [so] I want to see the life in you more; the fun .. We want to see the fun Kady." This means she didn't like the performance.
Simon: "I agree with Paula. That was like Night of the Living Dead. When you do the Britney you're brilliant and then when you do you, the lights go off. Literally. It's like watching two different people ... You came across as 80 in that ... Kady, you've got to lighten up. I don't know who could impersonate you. A pencil?"
Jason: "I hate to agree with Simon, but in a way he's right. There was no personality in that performance, it was very by-the-book. You were overthinking it all, trying to figure out what you thought you should be doing and how you should sing each line. You need to cut loose, have fun and feel the songs."

Asia'h Epperson (19, Joplin, MO) - "Piece of My Heart," Erma Franklin
She had an emotional audition in the first round, two days after her dad died, but now she's living his dream in the Top 24. She blasted onto that stage with sass and attitude and I liked seeing that. She not only showed confidence but she showed that she put herself inside the lyric of the song. The song was made famous by Janis Joplin, but Asia'h doesn't try to Joplin-ize the song, despite where she's from (*Boo! Boo! Hiss!*)
Randy: "I love that ... You did your thing with that. I was impressed ... Nice."
Paula: "You had some really good moments in that song."
Simon: "It was my favorite of the night. You let go. You're fun, you're likable, you've got a good voice, you're not taking yourself too seriously. It was what it's all about."
Jason: "You just had an amazing night and made your dad proud. You made that song your own. I could totally hear the Asia'h Epperson version on the radio. Your vocal was nearly flawless with just the right attitude for the song. You actually sold the emotions and story of the lyrics rather than just sing them. Great job!"

Ramiele Malubay (20, Miramar, FL) - "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," Dusty Springfield
She's the tiny little Fillipino with the big voice. There must have been some change in the water they got in the red room because Ramiele came out and owned this just as Asia'h did before her. She had the saucy passion the song demands and just a beautiful pure tone to her voice. A very impressive start for her.
Randy: "You know what I loved about that? ... You saved [your big voice] to the end ... [and] made it your own. Very classy, almost like a pro ... That was hot!"
Paula: "You're a force to be reckoned with. I hope you sail all the way in there ... There's such a beautiful range in your voice, the tenderness how you started ... You had a really great performance."
Simon: "I'll be the first to admit it. I didn't like you when I first saw you. During Hollywood you were the most consistently good singer ... tonight, you outsang every single person."
Jason: "Well, I'm the first to admit that I called this from the beginning. I thought you were one of the clear favorites to make it all the way toward the end and you proved me right with an amazing performance tonight. You sang that like it was written for you. Keep on keepin' on, girl!"

Syesha Mercado (21, Sarasota, FL) - "Tobacco Road," John D. Loudermilk
She's a working actress in Miami. She lost her voice in Hollywood but still managed to pull off an amazing vocal performance when needed. She sang from her soul and even though she couldn't talk, her singing voice was amazing. The same voice came out of her tonight. Her voice was powerful and spot on. And she hit the mother of all Idol power notes there at the end.
Randy: "You definitely can sing ... there were a couple of pitchy things in there ... [but] all in all I liked it. [It was] not my favorite performance."
Paula: "[You are] consistent ... joyful, fun, big! ... Way to go!"
Simon: "I agree ... it wasn't your best performance. Having said that ... I don't think it really matters because you are probably one of the most talented girls in the competition ... I thought it was terrific."
Jason: "You've got a big old voice to go with that big beautiful smile. Definitely the strongest, in regards to power, performance we saw tonight. Did that last note really last forever? Seriously, you just wrote yourself a ticket to the Top 12 with one performance."

Carly Smithson (24, San Diego, CA) - "The Shadow of Your Smile," Tony Bennett (The Sandpiper)
She owns a tattoo shop with her husband. She admitted to being signed to a major label., though the company folded (MCA Records) and she was left in the cold. Simon told her she was one of the top three vocalists in the competition in an earlier audition. She has had a consistently beautiful quality and purity to her voice and that came through again tonight. It was a sultry performance that was better if you didn't watch it. I can see where the mic pulling in and out can be a little annoying. Question: do newer microphones have the feedback issues of older mics where they had to do that or has it been fixed, or is it just done to control volume now?
Randy: "The best vocal of the Top 24."
Paula: "You're reliable ... You do not even have to power your voice. The tenderness of your voice. Everything, every choice you make, beautiful inflections."
Simon: "I didn't get it ... There's so much hype about you, so much expectation ... The song was way too old-fashioned ... Your mic technique was very cabaret. Everything about it to me was a let down ... I was genuinely expecting something fantastic. I didn't think it was fantastic."
Jason: "I'm actually going to agree with everyone. That was spot-on a professional performance. Your voice sounded great and your control was amazing. That said, the 'Wow' factor that I fully expected to get from your performance tonight wasn't there. Maybe the hype is hurting you at this point as our expectations have been raised too high. I don't know. Take all that away and it was one of the better performances of the night but I definitely don't give it best of the entire Top 24. Sorry."

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