#1 With A Bullet: Andrew Garcia, though somewhat based on earlier goodwill. "Sugar, We're Going Down" worked for me in a sincere way, but certainly wasn't great or anything. Also, he looks like more like Lea DeLaria than a male acoustic folk singer probably should, but I can overlook that for a bit.You know what tonight proved? That America will be hungry for X Factor in Fall 2011, when the judges get to help the performers make smart decisions throughout the competition.
More Than I Bargained For: Lee DeWyze really impressed me tonight on "Chasing Cars" -- rootsy, humble, sincere -- the opposite of Todrick Hall's gender-swapping "Since U Been Gone," where I really admired the conceptual audacity enough to overlook the unexceptional singing. (And that's where I knew the judges were just off tonight -- Randy sounded like a Season 1-4 judge with his commentary.) And while I'm not the target audience for The Hunky Casey James, I still get the appeal. [That said, all the judicial leering was unseemly, especially given the Corey Clark scandal. It's just not funny.]
You're Just A Line In A Song: I'm going to pretend that Jermaine didn't sing the Justin Guarini special of Oleta Adams' "Get Here" and make me pine for Sideshow Justin. Meanwhile, Tyler, John, Joe and Big Mike just bored me -- songs and performances which might have done well in the first era of Idol, but were way too conventional to merit much attention today. (Really, John Park, a song which only Mikalah Gordon and LaKisha Jones had done before on the show, and this struck you as a good idea? And Tyler, that "American Woman" was "rock," but not actual rock or roll.)
Going Down, Down In An Earlier Round: Look -- Tim Urban's "Apologize" is its own planet of wrongness, a Juanita Barber/Bobby Bennett-level disaster that was as awful as a performance can be while still remembering all the words. He simply picked a song he could not sing. But that's not to excuse Alex Lambert And His Magical Mullet or Aaron Kelly's whiny country song, neither of whom suggested that there was anything else in the tank worth exploring.
added, morning: The odd thing I forgot to mention -- it seemed like the producers handed bingo cards to Kara and Randy before the evening started, with the names of twenty-four contemporary artists on them. I swear that when Randy kept mentioning "Kings of Leon" over and over to Lee, that was his unsubtle indication to Kara that he completed his bingo.
Also, back to Todrick Hall. Back in March 2008, as part of our ongoing ALOTT5MA Symposium About The Sensitive Subject of Race, I noted that "as [Ann] Powers writes, that there's a certain profile of singer -- Brandon Rogers, Anwar Robinson, Gedeon McKinney and Rickey Smith (and I'd add Nikko Smith) -- that does not progress in the competition as far as his talent would suggest he should."
We may be adding Todrick to that list, and it's a shame -- why hasn't an Usher/Chris Brown/Ne-Yo type ever succeeded on this show?
Finally, read Dan's comment below.