TWO WEEKS LATER AND I STILL CAN'T GET THAT CHER SONG OUT OF MY HEAD, SO THANKS FOR THAT: Last week I wrote a long, wildly inaccurate preview of the American Idol Group 1 (misnamed) semifinals. For Week 2, I promise you a preview that's slightly shorter but at least as inaccurate. This is interesting, because the five guys who I think have an actual shot at making the finals are so different: a musical theater singer that only dogs can hear, a white soul pretender, a possible indie rocker, a welder, and a joke. As with last week, the men seem to have the edge on the women, in likelihood of getting votes if not in talent. Again, in reverse order of certainty of being booted:
Jasmine Murray: Best bet to be not doomed. I think that every time she sang, I said, "wow, she can sing." She's cute, she's drama free, she's talented, and she's kind of boring. She could do herself a big favor by singing a song that gives her some personality. If she does one of those ballads that makes you stand still in a gown with a blue spotlight, her constituency might sleep through the voting deadline.
Mishavonna Henson: May not be doomed. I can't be the only person in the world who looked at her and went, "that's not what I would have expected Mishavonna to look like." If I remember right, she had a big voice and a lot of personality and a magical hat intended to give her an extra 15% of sassy cuteness (note: did not work for Casey Carlson). She looks a little like a muppet, and with that last name you have to wonder if somebody is putting one over on us.
Adam Lambert: May not be doomed; early favorite to not be doomed. Lambert is a good test for the cultural mood of the AI voting audience. On the one hand, he has the pipes and seems as professional he is (he said in his audition that he tours with Wicked, Adam tells me. I wish it were Cats, though). On the other hand, he sang a Cher song. This show's relationship with sexuality is not as bizarre as its sister show, So You Think You Can Dance, but in the past it still has preferred the kind of gay that grandmothers read as "such a nice boy, why doesn't he bring home a girlfriend" to the kind of gay that wears eyeliner and wallet chains. And he seems like kind of a dick and has bad skin and has a voice like early '80s heavy metal. The question for Lambert is whether his talent is enough in a contest that equally values the characters its contestants create. I think he's safe this round. Ultimately I'll be interested to see how voters respond to him, but of one thing I am certain: he will never be successful in the way that Cook, Underwood, and Daughtry are successful. Sexuality aside, if the answer to "what kind of artist are you" is "the kind that does 'Believe,'" then you have a pretty low ceiling in the real world.
Matt Giraud: May not be doomed. The Timberlake beard, the Timberlake thin white t-shirt, the Timberlake mannerisms at the piano, the Timberlake stare that is one part good sport, one part indifference, and one part contempt. I'd rather have a Timberlake impersonator than a musical theater lover who sings like Geoff L'Hereux from Queensryche, so I'm hoping Giraud unseats Lambert.
Kai Kalama: May not be doomed. This show definitely needs a former torturer from the Iraqi Republican Guard to coordinate the defense of the beach from the Others. Would benefit from being able to sing with his guitar, because a guy with a guitar is cooler than a Timberlake impersonator with a piano is cooler than a muppet with a kicky hat is cooler than an aging welder with more hair on his chin than on his crown is cooler than a street clown in short shorts and a headband.
Matt Breitzke: May not be doomed. He may be a really good bar singer, but come on. Taylor Hicks was a really good bar singer. I don't see Breitzke as having the menopause-sexing charisma of Hicks, but if he goes deep into this show the judges are just getting what they deserve.
Normund Gentle: May not be doomed. And speaking of giving the judges what they deserve, there is a danger to giving so much airtime to a joke contestant, which is that the voters may prolong the joke. Would William Hung have made it through? Incidentally, the judges are wrong in saying they just want Normund. His act only works if you think you're going to get Nick and then Normund busts through, which obviously won't fly more than once.
Megan Corkrey: Outside chance of not being doomed. I think she had a nice soulful audition in a way unusual for AI (I can't remember if the difference was Fiona Apple or Jolie Holland) and like I said before, she looks like Carmen Kass without the anorexia. And the sleeve tattoo is okay now that Richard Rushfield has already named Alexis Grace as the object of his inappropriate attentions. But she has an intimate (rather than bombastic) voice, she disappeared during Hollywood week (except when she was last-picked for vocal kickball), and she seems a bit melancholic, which is bad strategy for a show that favors outright yell-singing. Speaking of the happy dancing, Corkrey did the worst happy dance of any female contestant in AI history. You expect that kind of stiffness from, say, a Sarver, but the women can usually work up a decent shimmy. I'm going to say I like her, which is another way of saying she's going to have the kind of implosion you saw from Stevie and Casey and Stephen last week.
Jesse Langseth: Very slim chance of not being doomed. Simon gave her the "you can't win" brushoff. She didn't seem very likeable in The Chair, and nothing about her voice, look, or backstory portends a long future on the show. I'm inclined to agree with Simon.
Allison Iraheta: Doomed. The Asian Jackie Tohn. No thanks, I didn't even like the Etheridge I already had.
Kris Allen: Doomed. I'm fairly certain Kris Allen is a male singer and not a George Clooney ex-girlfriend, though you wouldn't know it from the auditions or the Hollywood round.
Jeanine Vailes: Doomed. Who?