Sunday, March 08, 2009

…reacts to American Idol Top 36 Group C

The third and final group of the Top 36 performed this week and I say THANK GOD because I am tired.

Let’s quickly recap where things stand. We have Alexis Grace, Danny Gokey, Michael Sarver, Adam Lambert, Allison Iraheta, and Kris Allen so far. So two girls, two church singers, a roughneck, and a homosexual exhibitionist. Yay for diversity. And don’t worry about the obvious lack of a black power-singer, because Lil Rounds will be out in just a moment.

First up is Von Smith and seriously… this is a textbook case of not living up to the hype. There is nothing about this boy that is unlikable or offensive. He can sing. He can emote. He can open his mouth wide enough to swallow your soul. And yet… nothing. I’ve watched his performance a couple of extra times to try and identify what it is that makes him a loser and it’s hard… he wasn’t pitchy, he was invested in the performance, he had spirit (yes he did). I’m stuck. Could it be that America was turned off by the suit he wore? Simon hated it, but all I could see wrong with it was that it was about three sizes too big. Will this mystery EVER be solved?

So there was this girl named Taylor Vaifanua, and she is sang If I Ain’t Got You. It was good. HOWEVER, all I can remember about her is how her entire head shook whenever she used vibrato. I’m pretty sure the only things that are supposed to actually vibrate are the vocal cords, otherwise you just look like you’re affirming every lyric with a polite, yet somehow spastic, nod. Unfortunately, my vibrato causes me to shake my head from side to side.

I don’t care what you say about Alex Wagner-Trugman – I LOVE HIM, and if you don’t want him I will gladly take him off your hands. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he’s fed properly and gets plenty of exercise and I definitely won’t spoil him with excessive attention and affection. Just hand me his leash and move on with your life. See? SEEEE? He doesn’t growl at me, but when he does it’s very cute in a sexually non-threatening kind of way. And, let’s be real – Elton John songs can only be improved with a little bit of growling and nerdy dance moves. I’m totally serious, you guys. I thought he was magical.

Be very, very quiet. I’m hunting 16-year-old bitches who enjoy butchering ABBA songs. That was… I can’t… I’m so upset… She is the devil and there is no cure.

This next guy, whose name is Ju’not (it doesn’t matter how many silent letters and punctuation marks one adds, it’s still Juno), chose to sing Hey There Delilah with a slow R&B slant, and it kind of worked, although that song is pedestrian and sluggish in its original arrangement so I’m not sure Ju’not improved it. He’s got a good voice, but the performance was boring and routine and nothing special and I really don’t care if his name is actually pronounced with the accent over the second syllable, which is even more confusing because it sounds like people are calling him y’know, but with a j sound. If I was one of his middle school teachers calling role I would just piss him off royally because rather than attempt to pull the correct pronunciation out of thin air like a soothsayer I would pronounce it exactly the way it looks, which is the only recourse a wise and rational person has in cases like these, even if my way of pronouncing his name calls to mind that special way Hebrews tie their shoes.

I have to hand it to Kristen McNamara: she worked out those wardrobe issues. After looking like such a hot mess in Hollywood, she appeared on stage with good hair and a cute red and pink dress. I’m thinking she might have gone too pretty, especially in the context of her song choice, which was Gimme One Reason, but hey… looking hot is its own reward. She’s got good chops, except for that disastrous crack on her last note. I liked her, but I don’t think she’ll hold up in this field.

Ya’ll, I really want to like Nathaniel Marshall. I understand why people do. But I cannot abide Sonic-the-Hedgehog haircuts and headbands and awkward step-touching and finger-snapping and squinty facial expressions and piercings that make me think luminescent insects are crawling around his mouth. On top of ALL of that, the singing was sub-par. This is such a change for me because I usually pull for the confused and tragically non-comformist gay boys because I remember that time and it is HARD, so my heart is full and bleeding and forcing its way out of my chest to give this poor, poor boy an iron-flavored bear hug, but… this was AWFUL! This reminds me of the great Meatloaf disaster of 2007 and we all remember how that went.

Felecia Barton would like us to partake of another helping of Alicia Keys, even though we’re still stuffed from the last one. The good news: she is much better than that Taylor girl, at least aesthetically. Sadly, there were some horrendous cracks on the high notes, and towards the end, her pitch-boat capsized into the sea of sharps and flats and she was never heard from again.

Scott MacIntyre performed a charming rendition of Mandolin Rain, and totally deserves the highest compliment of the night, which is: I went and bought this song immediately after the show. No, not Scott’s version, the real one, but Scott should take the compliment anyway. I have to be completely honest here, because if I can’t be completely honest on this, a relatively anonymous blog read only by strangers and friends who get me, then really, where can I be so? Anyway, I honestly have trouble watching him perform. Those eyes of his, which aren’t functional, are so penetrating and unblinking and intense… I just have to look away. I’m not being disrespectful of his disability (promise!), I’m just saying that I have to avert my filthy, ungrateful, fully-functional eyes while he performs. Thankfully, his voice is wonderful and I imagine he will do very well in this competition. There will be people claiming he is the lucky recipient of pity votes, but I’m telling you I don’t think he needs them.

Will Kendall Beard be the one to fill the country slot this year? We don’t have one yet, and while I never pull for them, I admit that things will seem sad and empty without some blonde girl singing about tractors and cheating husbands. She wants to be the next Taylor Swift as she performs Martina’s hit, This One’s For the Girls, and she comes very close. It was pitchy and stilted and basically off at all times – actually, she’s better than Taylor Swift.

Hola, Jorge! And hola, Jorge’s eyebrows! My gay is low, so thank goodness Jorge showed up to inject me with another syringe of Elton John. His version of Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me was slightly oversung and not so slightly out of key, but he is a cute young man and his hair has that indefinable quality that causes me to want to obsessively touch it. He wasn’t better than Scott, but he was certainly just as good as Von and JewKnot, so if he doesn’t make it through this time, he’ll be a shoo-in for the Wildcards.

Who’s in the pimp spot? Lil is in the pimp spot. And rightly so. Without a doubt, she was the best singer of the night. On a season that is strangely low on black, female talent, it was nice to hear a good R&B power ballad. Kind of like a homecoming. To be fair, it wasn’t as good as it could have been. I know she’s got better in there somewhere. Maybe it was nerves. The point is: none of these people stand a chance once she starts performing at 100%. As I was watching her, I kind of felt bad for the other girls who performed tonight. They were probably back-stage cursing their fates and packing their panties. But then I thought, all the other girls were pretty rotten – it isn’t like Lil forced out anyone good, so I felt better.

So, did America get it right again? After the jump...

I’m thinking Lil and Scott are givens, but who will get the third spot? I wrote down my three guesses prior to the results show and they were: Kendall (thanks to the country fan-girls), Kristen (because I thought she was pretty good), or Von (because he had such a huge presence in the Hollywood round – really, Von had all of them beat as far as screen-time). And THIS is why I don’t gamble. Somehow, Jorge beat all of them to the third stool. And, you know… I think I’m pleased with that.

It’s so bizarre how male-centric this Top 9 is. It’s almost like the producers planned it. They really picked some terrible girls this year, because even the female singers who made it seem overshadowed by some of these guys. Anyhow, I think I’m coming around to this whole three-week preliminary Top 36 arrangement, because we have successfully weeded out the craptastic singers (female and otherwise) who would have stank up the Top 12, resulting in about 5 weeks of boring television while we wait for the cannon-fodder to get the hell out. This Top 9, even without the final Wildcards, is a tremendous group. I think I like pretty much all of them (except Gokey) and they all seem to have generated positive buzz. How are we going to choose? It’s kind of scary but this is what makes a good viewing experience. Yes… now that I’ve talked that out, I think I’m behind this format completely. Ask me again tomorrow once the Wildcards are done – I may have changed my mind.

Speaking of the Wildcards, here they are!

Jasmine Murray
Jesse Langsmeth
Megan Corkrey
Tatiana Del Toro
Ricky Braddy
Von Smith
Matt Giraud
Anoop Desai

The judges revealed two Wildcards each, but I’m not sure if they represent their actual choices, or what… but I like them. Jasmine definitely deserved another shot. Her dismal performance was about song choice, and she knew it, so I think she can fix it. I’m super happy to see Jesse come back because I’m curious about what she’ll do. Megan was very disappointing the first time around, but she’s got something (not sure what), and I want to see it! And don’t even lie… you were desperate to have Tatiana back too. I said DON’T LIE.

Ricky Braddy was a big fave from Round 1 so big ups to Paula Abdul. Von Smith was pimped for so long they can’t possibly let him go that easily. I don’t like him but I suppose his voice is worth another chance. Matt Giraud kind of blew it with that Coldplay nonsense, even though Coldplay is so obviously not his thing, so hopefully he’ll go back to square one and work it out. And really… Anoop is the best thing ever. I’m all about it. Weirdly, Anoop didn’t seem too pleased about getting called back. I wonder what the hell that was all about?

Were there any oversights? I don’t think so, actually. For once, I’m pretty much on board with the judges. I was, however, surprised that none of the wildcards were used to rescue one of the country singers (Brent Keith, Kendall Beard) because the country quota has certainly not been met, unless they’re counting Michael Sarver, who doesn’t strike me as country, but maybe they can force him into it. And speaking of quotas, with these choices, we have clenched a Top 12 sans black male, which is odd and inconsistent with past seasons. Granted, only two black males made it to the Top 36 and neither were all that great (Stephen Fowler will never live down that tantrum in Hollywood and Ju’not didn’t get a second of screen-time + his uninspired performance in Round 3). The Internet is up in arms over the exclusion of Felicia Barton, but BE SERIOUS SHE WAS TERRIBLE. Other than that, I think the judges got it right.

So, after adding three more figurines to our Diversity Diorama, we have two white rocker girls, two male white-bread church singers, a white gay, a Hispanic gay, a roughneck, a black woman, a white guy with a disability… and a frikkin’ partridge in a pair tree. We’ve already lost our Diversity Diploma since we struck out with black men, but we could stand to add some more women at least, which I think we will, because we must, or the Top 12 is going to look some sort of intramural basketball team from hell.

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