If last night’s American Idol’s first round of semi-finals had been a theme-night, it would have been labeled Poor Song Choices. Of the twelve contestants that appeared last night, at least nine of them picked the wrong song, and it will be their ultimate undoing. Some of them were quite a surprise just how bad they were, particularly after we were promised again and again that this crop of finalists is the best they’ve ever had. Well, maybe they’re saving them for the next week or two, because they certainly weren’t performing last night.
Under Idol’s new format, there will be 3 rounds of 12 singers, with the highest voted female and male contestants going on to the next round. Then the next highest vote-getter of either gender gets a spot. There will also be a wildcard from each night.
Tonight, and for the next few Wednesdays, we will see the results from Tuesday night’s voting. We’ll also see some guest stars and who knows what else. Tonight’s guests include a duet by Season 7’s Carly Smithson and Michael Johns.
Before I continue, I feel that I must point out that part of the problem last night was the band. For whatever reason, the normally dependable Ricky Minor and his crew were somewhat on the anemic side last night. Often, they slowed down the pace of the song, much to the singer’s detriment.
So, how did last night’s performances rank? Well, it started out pretty strong, if not manic, with Jackie Tohn’s version of A Little Less Conversation, then it got a little better with Ricky Braddy singing a very soulful Leon Russell tune, but then it went way downhill from there and didn’t recover until near the end.
Specifically, this is how they panned out, from best to worst:
1) Danny Gokey – I just can’t over how much this guy looks like Robert Downey Jr. Very strange. Anyway, saying that Danny had the best performance of the night really isn’t saying much. A large part of why it seemed so good is that everyone else was so bad. That’s not to say that he wasn’t very good, because he was. With his back-story to prop it up, the choice of Mariah Cary’s Hero was the best song choice of the night. The fact that he hit every note, and sang with so much feeling, just made it that much better. Note to Paula: Sold-Out Arena is three words, not two hyphenated words.
2) Ricky Braddy – It really is a shame that we didn’t see more (or any) of this guy over the past few weeks. He really has a good voice, and his song choice, Leon Russell’s A Song For You only emphasized that. He and Danny were probably neck and neck for the best performance, but he’s never going to get by Danny, who we have seen more of than nearly anyone. The best that he can hope for is the third vote. I won’t even take points off for his parents’ awful T-shirts that declared themselves as “The Braddy Bunch”.
3) Ok, this one really hurts me to say, Tatiana Del Toro – If she isn’t the top female vote-getter, it’s going to be because she is so damn annoying. Although, she was rather subdued last night. She took on a difficult Whitney Houston’s Saving All My Love for You, and sang it very well. She was even fairly impressive on the runs.
4) Alexis Grace – While I find her pink tips to be somewhat distracting, I will say that she probably had her best performance so far. She put plenty of bluesy soul into Aretha Franklin’s Never Love a Man and was good enough for Simon to compare her to Kelly Clarkson (a comment that judge #6, my older daughter Tara, took great exception to). Alexis has a very good shot at getting the top female spot, mostly because Tatiana has garnered so much disdain that many people just want her to go. If Braddy doesn’t get the third vote, she will, or she’ll get the wildcard.
5) Anoop Desai – While Anoop (ok, his name is just fun to say) did pretty well with his odd choice of Monica’s Angel of Mine, it wasn’t nearly as good as his previous auditions. The possibility does exist that he will pick up the wildcard, but I really think that Braddy was better. One thing Anoop does have that Braddy doesn’t is stage presence and confidence. Anoop looks like he feels right up there why Braddy looked somewhat uncomfortable. And, it was very funny watching Paula try to say “Anoop Dog” and pull it off. Uh, she didn’t.
6) Michael Sarver – One of the best song choices of the night with Gavin DeGraw’s I Just Want To Be. He was pitchy in spots, and probably just not good enough to go to the next round (sorry Nikki, judge #7). If he weren’t going up against Danny and Anoop, he may have had a better shot.
7) Ann Marie Boskovich – Question: Why do people who don’t have a strong enough voice to pull it off try to sing Aretha? Her rendition of Natural Woman was pitchy and weak. Very wrong song choice. She would have been better off singing something like Jordin Sparks’ Tattoo.
8) Jackie Tohn – Actually, she started out singing Elvis’s A Little Less Conversation pretty well, but it quickly nosedived while she jumped around the stage trying to get the judges minds off the fact that she wasn’t singing all that well anymore.
9) Brent Keith – OK, let me first say, I hate Country music. This will be something that I think you’ll see several times over the next few months. That being said, Brent Keith was OK at best taking on Jason Aldean’s Hicktown, but sounded very karaoke. Randy hit it right on the head when he said that he could see Brent performing at a chili cook-off. Pass the cornbread.
10) Stephen Fowler – Fowler will always be remembered as the guy who forgot the words in the Hollywood round and walked off the stage in disgust. He got a very rare second chance last night, and did nothing with it. His version of Michael Jackson’s Rock With You was bad right from the start, and then finished poorly with a warbly run that was clearly way out of this guy’s league. Although I never thought this previously, Kara was right when she said that certain songs are untouchable and that is one of them. However, don’t forget that last season David Cook absolutely rocked with MJ’s Billie Jean.
11) Stevie Wright – As judge #6 said, Stevie Wrong. Yet another poor song choice with Taylor Swift’s You Belong to Me. Her segment started with us watching clips of Simon saying that he didn’t like her about five times, then got worse. She was pitchy, out of breath, off-key, and looked petrified up there. Simon was a little cruel, but right on target when he told her that she had zero chance of making it to the next round.
12) Casey Carlson – Part of the reason that this was my least favorite performance of the night is because she took a great song, the Police’s Everything She Does is Magic, and single handedly destroyed it. I don’t think she hit one note the way it was intended. I hope Sting wasn’t watching cause he’d be pissed.
So, just to recap, the people that will be moving on to the next round are:
Tatiana Del Toro
And, I’m hedging my bets with saying that Anoop has a very good chance. Plus, I don’t want to have to stop writing his name yet, it’s still fun.