The American Idol Powers That Be really, really, REALLY want a girl to win. Why else would they be stacking the deck with mediocre talent and guys who are entertaining, but can’t possibly win? We all know the producers pull the strings and manipulate from backstage. But even the most casual Idol viewer has got to notice how stacked the deck is for the girls in terms of talent. It’s ridiculous.
There were performances, tonight, that were so awful, it was hard to believe the judges could come up with a positive critique. But they did! So far, I’ve loved Nicki Minaj as a judge so far, but tonight she revealed her blind spots, big time. If she finds a guy attractive (Chris Watson, Elijah Liu) or she has a strong personal identification (Charlie Askew), she looses all ability to be objective. Keith, who I also adore, pulled too many punches tonight. Chris Watson, Elijah Liu and Charlie Askew gave horrible performances, and deserved harsher critiques. Astoundingly, it was Randy Jackson who was able to cut through the bull and call out bad singing. Mariah also seemed to have her priorities straight. I mean, yes–charisma and charm are part of the package. But the singing should always come first. And I don’t mean a contestant needs to perform like a virtuoso. I am simply talking about STAYING ON PITCH and NOT MAKING MY EARS BLEED.
Elijah Liu was a case in point. His Bruno Mars cover was flat out horrible, in every single way. It was the wrong song for him. His falsetto was weak. He didn’t sing on key. And I’m sorry, I wasn’t feeling the star power either. But it was obvious the judges had already made up their minds about him. He could have taken a very large and smelly dump on the stage (he kinda did, actually) and he still would have advanced. That’s why the nonsense with Paul Jolley–dragging Jimmy Iovine up on stage to break a supposed tie– was so obviously contrived. C’mon. Are we actually supposed to believe that the judges are making decisions about who stays and who goes, on the fly, during commercial breaks? It’s theater people. Charlie Askew would relate.
Speaking of which–Charlie is great TV, but he’s not a good singer. Tonight was easily his worst vocal performance so far, but his vocals have always been problematic. The boy is really an actor who sings. Are you listening Ryan Murphy? But he really needs some vocal training at this point. He’s entertaining–albeit a little studied–but does he really have any place in the music business as a recording artist? He exists as boy fodder to prop up the girls.
The best pure singers tonight were Curtis Finch Jr. and Devin Velez. Neither has a chance to win. Curtis’ cocky arrogant attitude is going to result in an abrupt end if he makes the voting rounds. Devin has a nice voice, but I’m just not seeing the star power. Elijah, whom the producers also seem to be setting up as some sort of heart throb better improve his vocals if he’s going to continue. I could see Paul Jolley amassing a female fan base–he’s cute and sings well. He’s got the best chance of winning the competition out of the five who advanced.
Putting aside my complaints about the talent–I think the judges made the right eliminations tonight. Considering both vocal and performance ability, I’d vote Chris Watson the worst of the night. Jimmy Smith, Kevin Harris and Johnny Keyser put the sleep in sleep aid. While JDA was super entertaining, his vocals were lacking.
I continue to be super-charged about filming the Top 40 live in front of an audience. Even when an episode is a trainwreck, like tonight, I still prefer the excitement of a live performance over the edited auditions. I’m sure The Voice influenced Nigel’s decision to make the semi finals live. But The Voice has borrowed heavily from Idol too–making the finals longer with fewer contestants. The more opportunities viewers have to bond with contestants the better. By the time we get to the finals, there will be no strangers popping up out of nowhere. But gosh, it doesn’t matter much if the talent isn’t worth investing in.
The producers run the risk of creating a backlash if they continue with the heavy handed pimping of the girls. We could wind up with a guy winner anyway–but one who is unmarketable and uninteresting beyond the show. Personally, I’m more than ready for the first female to win Idol since 2007. So far, I’m on team Kree Harrison, but I hope she’s not Crystal Bowersox part deux. Angela Miller has momentum at this point, but we know what happens with early front runners–they’re usually knocked out at some point.
We’ve only seen half the Top 40 so far. Ten more talented girls will perform next week. And hey–the boys might bring it next week!
I must not think bad thoughts….
It’s the guys turn tonight! Ten Top 40 guys take the stage tonight at the Love theater at the Mirage in Las Vegas. By the end of the episode, the judges will send 5 home. We’re liveblogging the fun here.
Interview with the judges first! Mariah says there was so much RAW TALENT last night, it was almost impossible to cut any. THE GUYS BETTER WATCH OUT, she basically says. Or, in other words, MORE CHICK PIMPING.
Paul Jolley – “Tonight I Want to Cry” by Keith Urban – He’s from an itty bitty town. His grandpa just passed away. Paul’s got a very strong voice, but he’s pure Branson cheese. I’m getting a definite Clay Aiken vibe from this dude. The crowd loves him though. Keith thanks him for singing his song. Aw. Keith suggests he DON’T over perform. I love the way Keith puts it–to have enough confidence in a great voice not to oversell it. This is not one of Nicki’s favorite performances. She tells him to watch his “theatrical eyes.” Over-performing, means missing the raw emotion. Randy disagrees. He thinks his big voice is well suited to country. Mariah felt the front half of the song was intimate. She felt it. I’m Team Keith and Nicki on Paul’s performance–his power belting overrides the urgency of the lyrics.
Johnny Keyser – 23 – “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz – HIS TEETH ARE SO FREAKING WHITE THEY ARE SCURRING ME. Hm. Kind of a boring song pick. Zz. I don’t think this song highlighted his soulful voice very well. A very meh performance. Keith thought it was the best he’s sung. He saw the nervousness, but felt it was mostly effortless. Nicki did NOT see nervousness. Calls him SEXY. She asks him about his single status again. Geez. She liked his grooming. She basically says, “you’re not the greatest singer, but you’re cute.” DISS. Randy called it “just OK.” He wanted more moments. Mariah says he brings the masculinity to the stage. She likes his lower register. The “you’re so cute and masculine” critiques from the female judges are backhanded and dismissive.
JDA – “Rumor Has It” by Adele. Whoa. JDA brings total FABULOSITY to the Idol stage. He’s not a great singer by any stretch. But when he lays himself out on the stage floor to plead the bridge. Well, I find myself intrigued. Also his jewels are fab. He strips off his jacket. His outfit is vintage Liza, including the side slit palazzo pants. He really is something. Too bad his vocal is not up to par. Keith thinks he fits right at home in Vegas. He commends him for putting on a show and his originality. He thought there was too much “counting steps.” Nicki calls him “Miss Lady” and suggests he “werk it.” He says he’s “doing it for the gays.” She loves the way he took in and acknowledged the audience, like a pro. But, she says, his vocal wasn’t good today. Randy thought he was too keyed into his performance at the expense of his vocal. Nicki disagrees. Mariah felt he was so confident that he was NOT wavering vocally. She loves his brand of masculinity. Lots of disagreement on this panel.
Back from break…Ryan is seated with the LADIES. He interviews Angie Miller. She celebrated with her family and friends after she advanced to the Top 20 last night –and then passed out.
Kevin Harris – “Everything I Do” by Bryan Adams – I don’t remember this guy AT ALL. Ugh. Is he kidding with this lame song choice? This is awful. So many juicy R&B songs to choose from, and he warbles this 80s AC crap. So old fashioned. He’s also not on pitch. I knew you for a minute. Bye Kevin. Keith loves that song. He thought it was a good song for him, but wasn’t crazy about the riffing at the end. I think we can establish right here that Kevin hates the over-riffing. Nicki felt every musical choice he made was perfection. But she wonders if his personality will connect. Nope. Randy disagrees 100%. He was bored, felt it was karaoke. OK. This time, I’m TEAM RANDY. Mariah would have liked a different song, one where he could have riffed more. I agree that he picked the wrong song. Not sure I would have wanted him riffing all over the place, however.
Chris Watson – “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding – Again. Ugh. His look reminds me of Corey Clark–including the icky flirting with the judges. This is like the worst cruise ship performance ever. He’s dressed in a lame sparkly jumpsuit, with a matching headband. His vocal is mediocre. Nicki appears to be into it though. Keith calls Idol a connection competition. The voice and song choice wasn’t the best, but he appreciates his confidence. “You are the prettiest man I’ve ever seen in my life,” gushes Nicki, unapoligetically. She wants to marry his vibrato. (???) She’s obsessed with him. NICKI IS HIGH. Sorry girl. He sucks. She hears pain, soul and struggle. I want the drugs she’s on. Randy loves his vibe, but the song went nowhere for him. He was bored. Mariah didn’t like the song choice either. But compliments his charisma. ONCE AGAIN? TEAM RANDY. Have I entered bizzaro world?
Devin Velez – “Listen” by Beyonce – This is the best vocal so far. He sings the song half in Spanish, which is a neat trick. He began sort of shaky, but once he hit his sweet spot, Devin was off and running. Still really old-fashioned, though. Keith appreciates that Devin is a singer and knows how to make a connection. Nicki thought he was amazing, and made a smart choice to sing in Spanish. She loves his spirit. Randy calls his performance amazing. He loved the arrangement. “Love love love,” he says. Mariah advises him not to over-critique himself. She also loved the Spanish. She can’t wait to see what a producer does when he gets into the studio.
Elijah Liu – “Talking to the Moon” by Bruno Mars – He’s half Mexican and half Chinese, in case you were wondering. Oh. And he likes the LADIES. Dear God. This is a pitchy mess. And ya know what? If you HAVE NO FALSETO WHATSOEVER, maybe this is not the song for you. Keith thinks the song choice was perfect, but the performance was shaky. He looks like a pop star, says Keith. Nicki doesn’t care about the song. He’s a “super-duper star” and she wants to have his babies. Ew. She’s also obsessed with Elijah. She would sign him TODAY. His face and voice are marketable, she thinks. Randy notes that it wasn’t a great vocal, but he’s pulling for him. Mariah loved his mid range and the control on his softer voice. So in other words: “You sucked tonight, but since you’ve already been hand picked to advance, it doesn’t matter.” Sheesh. Guys. C’mon THAT was terrible!
Charlie Askew – “Rocket Man” by Elton John – Ha. He got his belt from JDA. He practiced his song with a golf club to get used to the mic he’ll be using. I adore Charlie and his weird theatricality. He’s right up my demented alley. But that vocal? WAS NOT GOOD. It was shaky, nervous and off pitch in many spots. The audience adores him, however. Keith says, “It’s like if Freddie Mercury had a love child at Woodstock.” Keith feels he made it work. Nicki thinks he made the smartest song choice of the night. She loves his lack of cuteness and his weirdness. “I want to cradle you in my arms. You remind me of my little brother. I love you so much.” She orders her barbz to love him. She cannot stop gushing. Randy loves him, his originality, but it was too “stage school” for him. “Forget singing tonight,let’s just all perform!” snarks Randy. AGAIN MAKING TOTAL SENSE. Mariah loves the song choice. But, it wasn’t her favorite performance. Instead of constantly reminding us how raw, real and weird he is, maybe Charlie should concentrate a little more on his vocals. I like Charlie, but his self-conscious, studied and very deliberate “awkwardness” is already beginning to wear thin. He needn’t try so hard.
Jimmy Smith – “Raining on Sunday” by Radney Foster (Keith Urban covered) – Jimmy dips back into the Keith Urban songbook. It worked so well the first time…why not? This performance is pretty lackluster, though. The performance is pleasant enough, but I’m not feeling much star power off of this dude. Keith thanks him for covering him again. “You did a really good job.” Not exactly a resounding endorsement. Nicki admits she was bored, “I guess I was thinking about something that happened earlier in the day.” BURN. Randy is not sure it all came together. Mariah has been fighting for him. But the quality she loves was more apparent in his early audition. She still thinks he’s special. Oh boy. No way he’s going through.
Curtis Finch, Jr. – “Superstar” by Luther Vandross – Well. Finally we’ve got a contestant who can ACTUALLY SING. But, Curtis’ style is almost too studied, like you can see him thinking about the next note. There’s some unnecessary showboating going on there. And to be honest, he’s got an arrogant vibe that won’t go over well with voters. Keith felt parts were over-performed, but he loves his voice. Nicki says he raises the bar. She liked hearing his lower bassier register. Randy says he’s one of the best singers in the competition. He advises him to keep it young. Mariah was moved to tears. But maybe he should loosen up a bit. “Your voice and your musicality are who you are,” she says.
It’s TIME FOR RESULTS. I say send them all home. But that’s just me. Probably you too.
Results. The judges deliberated on brake. Ohhhhhh. There is a split decision. Jimmy Iovine will have to cast a vote! Nicki fought for her favorites tonight. Nicki hands the GOOD NEWS to Curtis Finch, and she does not mince words. Jimmy Smith is next. And Randy tells him he’s going home. Kevin Harris gets the bad news from Mariah. She didn’t want to be the one to say it. He’s one of her favs. Elijah Liu receives news from Keith that surprises no one. His attempt at a fakeout ALMOST works. Next, it’s JDA. Nicki delivers the sad news. He’s going home. Ryan says we won’t soon forget JDA. Except, we will. Paul Jolley takes the stage. THIS was a split decision! And Jimmy Iovine makes the decision. He say Yay. Paul is through. Jimmy thought he had the wrong song, and oversang it, but his voice is so good, he deserves to move on.
Back from break. Chris Watson is next. Randy is the one tasked with delivering the inevitable news. He’s going home. Three contestants remain! Charlie Askew is next. He looks like he’s going to throw up. Mariah attempts to fake him out. Poor thing is shaking. But he’s through. Johnny Keyser and Devin Velez remain. I think we know where this is going. Johnny looks like a dead man walking. Nicki delivers the news. They are both talented, but Johnny is going home. Devin makes it through!
- Curtis Finch, Jr.
- Elijah Liu
- Paul Jolley
- Charlie Askew
- Devin Velez
- Jimmy Smith
- Kevin Harris
- Chris Watson
- Johnny Keyser