Is it just me, or is this one of the worst groups, collectively, to appear on American Idol? I mean, really. We were promised that this would be the best season ever, and instead, it’s quite the opposite. In fact, the singers from last night’s show easily outperformed most of the contestants from the last two shows, and there were only about 5 of the 12 who were good last night.
Then throw in the shameless manipulation by the producers to force their favorites down our throats (yes, I’m talking about Danny Gokey, Adam Lambert, and Lil Rounds). While they’re all very good, the public should decide if they’re good enough to move on to the next round, not be brainwashed into deciding. Chances are, they would all go right on to the Final 12, but why force the issue? Just leaves a sour taste.
Anyway, last night we were treated to the first of three AI nights this week. Last night gave us the final 12 semi-finalists, tonight is the ever-popular results show where we’ll see 3 more go to the finals, and tomorrow night we see who the judges bring back as wildcards. I have my personal choices, but I’ll get to those later.
As for last night’s wacky episode, the first performer, Von Smith, who sings Marvin Gaye’s You’re All I Need to Get By. While he’s toned down his shouting and over-exuberance, he still tends to overdo it some. However, he hits nearly every note and sounds OK. Judge Randy Jackson tells him he sounds better than he did during Hollywood Week. I agree.
Next up, 17 year old Taylor Vaifanua, who sang a fairly boring version of Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You. But, on the bright side, her performance gave us the first crazy moment of the night, courtesy of Kara DioGuardi. While attempting to explain to lovely young Taylor that she wasn’t letting her personality come through and they didn’t know who she was, Kara dropped the gem “I want to know what it’s like to go shopping with you”. Simon Cowell didn’t miss a beat and said, “What cereal do you like?”
People, you just can’t get stuff like this anywhere else.
Alex Wagner-Trugman gave us more comedy, but probably not intentionally, while he sang-growled-destroyed Elton John’s I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues. If he sang anything like that in his previous rounds, there is no way we would be seeing him this week. How many times does he have to say that he knocked the mic over accidentally before the brain trust that is the judges understand that it wasn’t part of his shtick?
Arianna Afsar sang ABBA’s The Winner Takes It All, and it was barely memorable. Her voice wasn’t nearly strong enough for the chorus, and the verses were worse. Too bad, she actually has a decent voice, if she only chose the right song.
And speaking of song choice, Ju’Not Joyner’s choice of the Plain White T’s Hey There Delilah may have been one of the most surprising of the night. I really couldn’t decide whether I actually liked it or not. Parts of it were very good, and parts were just OK. But, when you’re singing one of the sappiest songs written since Bread’s Baby I’m-A-Want You, you can only do so much with it. I think Ju’Not has a chance to go to the finals as either the 3rd highest vote-getter of the night or a wildcard pick, but it’s almost more a function of how bad everyone else is rather than how good he is.
Before Kristen McNamara sang Tracy Chapman’s Give Me One Good Reason, we were given the gift, yet again, of getting to watch the infantile behavior of her group-mate from the Hollywood groups round, Nancy Wilson, who nearly single-handedly caused both Kristen and Nathanial Marshall (up next) to lose their spots in the top 46.
Anyway, back to Kristen. Her performance was, so far, the best of the night. She showed us all that she’s not the sweet, shy little girl that we saw in the Hollywood rounds, and sang with heart, soul, and passion. I was mildly uncomfortable for her when Simon pointed out that she looked like “she was dressed by her mum”, then he picked on her smile. Yeah, way to build up her confidence. Give the kid a break, Cowell.
This season’s self-proclaimed drama queen, the afore-mentioned Nate Marshall, took the stage next and attempted to sing Meatloaf’s I Would Do Anything for Love. Despite all of Nate’s previous histrionics (we’ve seen him cry more than we’ve seen him sing), I actually thought he had a pretty good voice, until last night. Again, I blame it on poor song choice. Not to say that it was a lousy song. In fact, I love Meatloaf and all he sings. I just don’t think I like when others try to sing his songs.
And, we get the next great line of the night when Simon tells him he reminds him of Olivia Newton John with his headband and suggests he might try to make a fitness tape. Paula actually impressed with her memory, reminding Nate that she loved his version of Disturbia during the Hollywood rounds. Kara told Nate “You’re the guy I would want to go to karaoke with!” OK, first she wants to go shopping with Taylor, now she wants to do karaoke with Nate. Doesn’t the poor girl have any friends??
Felicia Barton gave us the second Alicia Keys song of the night with No One, and sang it quite well. She showed us that she really deserved to be there, and unlike Stephen Fowler two weeks ago, took advantage of her second chance. Unfortunately, she wasn’t quite as good as either Kristen McNamara or Lil Rounds. To refresh your memory, Felicia was the very lucky young lady who got the call when original semi-finalist Joanne Pacciti was disqualified due to her connections with some of the show’s employees.
Scott McIntyre, who admits to be much more at ease behind a piano (shades of last season’s Brooke White) does a very good version of Bruce Hornsby’s Mandolin Rain. He missed a couple of notes, and it was picked up on by Kara during her critique, but overall, he did a very good job and would have had no problem picking up the top male spot for the night, if Jorge Nunez wasn’t there to compete against (more on him in a minute).
Have I mentioned that I HATE COUNTRY MUSIC??? Yet, they still allow it on the show. Clearly no one got the memo. Kendall Beard, certainly didn’t, and sings the Martina McBride song, This One’s For The Girls. To make things worse, she didn’t even sing it all that well. She was pitchy and missed some notes. Paula told her she looked awesome. That’s Paula-speak for better luck next time.
Jorge Nunez (see, that didn’t take long) sings the second Elton John song of the night, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me nearly perfectly. Wayyyyy better than Alex’s Elton John debacle, I mean, song. Much was made of the fact that Jorge did a great job toning down his Spanish accent, but why should he have to? As it was pointed out last night, many performers have had very successful careers with Spanish accents: Mark Anthony immediately comes to mind. Get off the dude’s back. He’s Puerto Rican. He’s supposed to have a Spanish accent. The important thing is he’s got a great voice and knows how to use it. Could pick up the top male spot or the third-highest vote-getter spot. But, either way, he’ll be in the final 12.
Last up, Lil Rounds. Lil sings Mary J. Blige’s Be Without You, and she sells it well. This girl is a natural and by far, the best performance of the night. Interesting that the judges saved her for last, as they did last week with Adam Lambert and the week before with Danny Gokey (see comment about being manipulated). At any rate, it wouldn’t have mattered where in the show Lil sang, she was, as Simon said, brilliant.
So, after all that, who is going on to the next round? Here’s what I think:
Top Male: Jorge Nunez
Top Female: Lil Rounds
3rd Highest Vote-getter – Scott McIntyre
Now, this is where it gets difficult. The wildcard. It’s possible that two of the three wildcards could come from last night’s show. I can easily see both Kristen McNamara and Ju’Not Joiner each getting in. They were both better than most of what we’ve seen on the other shows. I can see Anoop Desai (from the first group of 12) rounding out the final 12.
And you thought I was going to pick this season’s nut job, Tatiana Del Toro, didn’t you? Sorry, I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing her cry again.