Wednesday, February 24, 2010

JUST FORGET THE WORLD, FORGET WHAT WE'RE TOLD: Originality is good! It's bad! Get in your box! The judges were odd with commentary that seemed to be from another planet from last night, and the singers ranged from interesting to actively bad, so maybe this is the Year of the Chick Singer indeed. Fienberg's got the full recap, so I'll just summarize my thoughts in tiers:
#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.

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.
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.

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.


  1. Sheila10:24 PM

    Is anyone else already sick of Randy calling Ellen "E"?

  2. Carmichael Harold10:28 PM

    Wow, that was excruciating. In fact, I wish that Roger Ebert wrote about American Idol, b/c I think he'd at least have an amusing way of describing how mind-warpingly awful that was. Can they hit a reset button and start over with new singers?

  3. Maggie10:29 PM

    Aiex Lambert is rocking a sick mullet. You'd think he was on the second line of a hockey team.

  4. Wow, that was bad. Even Andrew Garcia wasn't nearly as good as I expected him to be (as good as he was on Straight Up, I hope he has more range and won't simply do acoustic arrangements of upbeat pop songs each week). Michael Lynch also was OK, and I didn't mind the renditions of Chasing Cars and You and Me Both, but that just might be because of my love for those songs rather than any appreciation for the performers. I'll give Todrick credit for trying to put a new spin on Since U Been Gone, but the result was pretty ugly.

    I'm starting to believe the judges may have been right when they said a female would probably win this year.

  5. Oops, I meant You and I Both (not You and Me Both). I mixed up the song by Mraz and the album by Yaz. Wow, they rhyme too!

  6. i like lee.  granted, for the life of me I can't remember what he sung, but I know that i liked the tone of his voice a lot.  there was something very distinctive about it. 

    i threw some votes to john park.  bad song choice, but ultimately he's got a good voice.  don't think he's the next AI, but i want to see him on the big stage.  plus, i was a sucker for his shout out to his mom and dad.

    the 2nd coming of young david archuleta (whose name escapes me but was #2) is being majorly pimped by simon.  i don't think simon was describing the performance that i watched on my tv.   in general, i'm not a fan of the teen contestants, which is why haeley vaughn must go tomorrow night!  my ears still haven't recovered...

  7. gretchen10:48 PM

    I just -- I don't even know what to say about the judges during Casey James's performance.  I thought he was good, but I was so distracted by their embarrassing antics that it was hard to even pay attention.  Judges: stop being so dumb. 

  8. cremes10:56 PM

    I sang along with a lot of the contestants and stayed mostly on pitch. Why is it that everyone last night and tonight sang so sharp? They need to give those kids some monitors to stick in their ears so they can hear themselves. Holy crap, they were *all* bad.

  9. Genevieve10:59 PM

    Yep, I called in votes for John Park too.  Strong voice, want to hear more of him.
    Could not STAND the Casey James antics. 
    Tim Urban has got to go.  I knew before he even sang that Simon was going to say "we made the right decision cutting you," but I didn't know I would agree so strongly.

  10. I hated them all.... can't recall a more disappointing first episode. Seriously, does NO ONE help these kids choose songs?

  11. Re: Todrick: to paraphrase something said to one of the girls last night: If he'd sung it well, he could've sold the arrangement.

  12. Tyler Grady is the Sweathog That Time Forgot, right? 

    Tonight I finally realized he grew the hair to balance the chin.

  13. Oh and the other thing I realized about this season:
    Women : Gratuitious facial piercing :: Men : Bizarro facial hair

    (And with that I'm now my mother.  Get your hair out of your face, how can you see with it all in your eyes like that?)

  14. Genevieve11:24 PM

    I loved their comments to Tyler - that he was all poses and acting like a 70s star without the vocals to back it up. 

  15. tortoiseshelly11:25 PM

    Oh God, yes.

  16. I thought Casey was pretty good but I wonder how he would have been without the judges goofing off like that right in front of him while he was trying to sing. They looked like morons and it was really rude to behave like that during his performance. Points to him for taking it so well and mostly maintaining his composure. I actually really like his voice. 

    Really liked Lee as well, but I do love that song so that could be part of it.

    I threw some votes John Park's way, too. I've been looking forward to his performance since it seems like we've heard so little from him since round 1 (where he was pretty good). I hope he sticks around and chooses a better song next week. 

    Re: Alex Lambert - What was up with his Lego mullet?  Seriously, his hair was all traditional Lego person in the front and party in the back.  If the good folks in Lego's design shop decide to create a redneck set (<span>"Includes bathtub for your Lego people to make their own gin!"</span>) the people in the set would have Alex Lambert's hair. And he sounded even worse than his hair looked. 

    Overall I just wish we were cutting 12 this week instead of two. Why drag it out?  Are there even 12 worthy singers/performers in this group of 24? I guess it's unfair to judge them all so early on and really just based on this week's performances. I hope it's just nerves for most of them and that they choose better songs next week and do a better job with the singing. 

  17. Wow, I'm not looking forward to this season at all.  Both nights were awful!  I didn't rank a single performance above a 7, and most were 5 or less.  At this point I honestly don't think there is 1 of the 24 that I am interested in hearing from again.  What a tremendous disapointment.  I'll give it next week, and unless there is a big improvement I'm out until the round of 5 (that is, if my wife will let me skip it...lot's of tradition here).

  18. Daniel Fienberg12:11 AM

    The conspiracy theorist in me looks at it this way: If the producers want a female winner, I mean REALLY want a female winner, Step One is obviously getting the judges to pick a weak assortment of males.

    But that's not enough. Because you can think you've picked a weak assortment of males and STILL end up with a Kris Allen sneaking up on you out of nowhere. So how do you make sure that there's no potential spoilers arising from your shallow pool of guys? Give them conflicting advice. Praise ones who seem mediocre and uninspired. Insult the one who seems like he might, in theory, be far better than the rest. Tell them the exact opposite of what you told the women and then, when you reach the Top 12, reverse field and force the guys to play by the same rules as the women, which they'll no longer be prepared to do.

    I'm not implying anything that nefarious is happening on "American Idol" this season, but if it WERE happening, could the wheels have been put into motion any more fluidly?


  19. Hmmm.

    last night for girls: "you should reinterpret a song, deconstruct it, give us your own version."
    tonight for guys: "you really destroyed that song when you reinterpreted it."

    last night for girls: "everyone is imitating Leona Lewis or Duffy, get away from that"
    tonight for guys: "hey guy with the Kings of Leon voice, you should be singing Kings of Leon." 

  20. Fred App7:27 AM

    Yeah, I'm getting tired of the judges not knowing whether they want someone to be original or to get back into their box. I also found it ironic that the judges killed Tyler Grady for his '70s schtick, when really he was using the Lenny Kravitz arrangement. So he should have been killed for imitating a '90s guy imitating a '70s guy.

    I still like Big Mike, although he picked a boring song. Aaron Kelly is David Archuleta without the stage-managed childhood. And Andrew Garcia is a dead-ringer for Kim Il Jong.

  21. I see your conspiracy theory and, without disagreeing, raise it to another level (as implicit in my final original comment): Simon's trying to ruin the show on his way out the door in order to ensure that X-Factor prevails, and part of that means highlighting the role that good judicial mentoring could provide (by its absence here).

    Query: do the producers care that Kris beat Adam last year?

  22. Kara clearly initiated this stupid subplot by making Casey take his shirt off during his audition, but I blame the producers for Wednesday's shenanigans. They way they hyped Casey's performance to Kara before he even took the stage makes me think the producers mistakenly believe we as viewers are eating up this angle.

  23. Depends. Do they get a cut of his Ford Focus money?

  24. As for Adam's question on why AI has never found a Chris Brown-Usher type of performer, I agree with EW's Michael Slezak, who discussed this issue a week or so ago. I'm guessing that the best male R&B singers never make it past Hollywood. Aside from Ruben Studdard, have we ever seen an African-American male semifinallist who had a realistic chance to win. I liked Chikezie and remember being impressed by Anwar Robinson in the semifinals, but neither guy made it very far. Slezak cited the example of Jermaine Purifoy, who seemed like a decent contender in his audition and in Hollywood, but got passed up while the likes of Toddrick Hall and Jermaine Sellers made it through.

  25. ChipC3:33 PM

    Todrick ... I just don't know. He's from my area originally (despite the "Arlington, TX" under his name), and I actually met him briefly a few months ago when he was pushing a musical version of "The Wizard of Oz" (not that one, his own). He came off as a smooth talker who probably couldn't back up all of his promises. (And our local news, in fact, did a poorly reported story about people still waiting to get promised payments for that production and others across the area.) I appreciated the attempt at reconceiving "Since U Been Gone," but not enough to put me in his corner.

    Incidentally, it's a shame that the first time my area has been represented on Idol, we get Lacey and Todrick.

  26. Scott4:27 PM

    Well, to be fair, the opening was The Guess Who, then he transitioned into Kravitz.

  27. Scott4:28 PM

    And Danny Gokey's friend whatshisname...