Well, folks, this is it. We've suffered through six months of audition shows (Well, it wasn't actually six months of audition shows; it sure seemed like it sometimes, though…), and we've finally gotten to the good part. This is where all those Kelly, Ruben, and Fantasia wannabes start competing for our votes. Have you been limbering up your dialing finger? Did you practice your text messaging skills? Well, let's hope you have, because they're gonna come in handy starting tonight. That's right. From here on out, we have the power to decide who stays and who goes on American Idol. Ryan opens the show at the center of the performance area and asks, "What's different this year?" Personally, I'm hoping that Ryan will have gotten rid of that stupid "Seacrest…out!" signoff that he drove into the ground last year, but that's just me. What I think Ryan is referring to is the format for this round of the competition. You see, for the next three weeks, the guys and the girls will compete separately, and two from each group will be eliminated each week until we get down to our Top 12. At that point, it'll be a free-for-all, and everyone will be competing against everyone else. Before we worry about that too much, though, we've got to get through these next three weeks, and then we'll see who's left once the dust settles.
Tonight, it's all about the guys, and the female hopefuls are in the audience to cheer their fellow contestants on. Ryan introduces the judges, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. Randy yo-yo-yo's his way through his introduction, Paula is ready to hand out her oh-so-erudite pearls of wisdom, and Simon has on his typical dark knit t-shirt once again. Ryan asks Randy what he thinks about the group of guys we're about to hear, and Randy says, "Dude, I think this is the best group of guys we've ever had." Of course, after hearing tonight's performances, I am thinking Randy might want to take that back, but I'm getting ahead of myself…
Our first contestant of the evening is Nikko Smith. Now, where the "Nikko" comes from, I don't know. But, I have to say that it's better than his given name of Osborn Smith III. There's nothing wrong with that name, mind you. It's just that Osborn Smith doesn't sound like someone trying out for American Idol. Rather, it sounds like someone who'd be playing golf with Binky, Muffy, and Skip down at the club and fretting over whether to order a Cosmopolitan or a Gin & Tonic at the bar afterwards. Anyway, Nikko comes out onto the stage in this silly fedora and launches into Stevie Wonder's "Part-Time Lover". He does a good enough job with it, and he even sounds like Stevie in a couple of spots. All in all, it's a pretty good start to the show. Are the judges impressed? Randy says, "That was excellent. You'd make Stevie proud." Paula adds, "I ditto that. You came out strong." Simon concludes with, "I thought it was OK, but you have no star quality." I have to agree with Simon on this one. Nikko sounded OK, but there was just no spark there to really engage the audience.
Up next is Scott Savol, and the first thing I notice about him is that he's now sporting this perfectly-manicured stubble. I guess he hasn't heard that they've already casted the upcoming Miami Vice movie. He sings "You Are My Lady", and I can't help but think it's a really strange song choice for him. It's not a bad performance, but we've definitely heard better from Scott. What do the judges think? Randy tells him, "For me, it wasn't your best, dude. It was aight, though." Paula says, "That was an interesting song choice." Finally, Simon tells Scott, "You don't look like an American Idol, but you know that. It was good, but not fantastic." Once again, I agree with Simon (and Randy). The performance was OK, but it certainly wasn't anything to write home about.
We come back from our first commercial break of the evening, and it's time to hear from Anthony Fedorov. We've seen (and heard) what a strong voice Anthony has, so his performance tonight should be good, right? Well, Anthony's voice is strong on his rendition of Richard Marx's "Hold On To The Night", but the overall performance is rather boring to me. Do the judges agree? Randy tells Anthony, "It was good, but it was a little boring…and safe." Paula says, "It was safe. I'm looking forward to you really showing us what you've got and going for it." Simon concludes with, "I thought it was as dull as dishwater. It left me absolutely, completely cold. You define the difference between having a very good voice and being a star, and that was not a star performance." I agree with Simon yet again and think that if Anthony survives this first week's cut, he is really going to have to hit one out of the ballpark next week.
Bo Bice is up next, and—finally!—we are treated to a good performance. Bo's rendition of Dobie Gray's "Drift Away" is solid, and it is by far the best performance of the evening so far. This was an excellent song choice for him, and it is reflected in the judges' comments. Randy says, "I love that. That was hot." Paula adds, "Your voice feels good to the soul." She then makes some strange comparison between Bo's voice and slipping on a tight pair of jeans, and, for the first time, I'm thinking that Paula forgot to take her meds before the show. Or maybe she took too many; I don't know. Anyway, Simon finishes things up with, "You did absolutely everything right. Well done." Wow, a true compliment from Simon. That should make Bo feel good.
After another commercial break, it's time to hear from Travis Tucker. Travis sings Stevie Wonder's "Ma Cherie Amour", and I am not impressed at all. The performance is rather emotionless to me. Travis' voice sounds really weak at the beginning of the song, and it isn't much better by the time the performance is over. What do the judges have to say? Randy says, "That was very safe. I was bored." Paula tells Travis, "That was not the right song choice for you." Simon doesn't mince words and says, "That was out of tune, boring, and not even good enough for a hotel lobby." While I might not be as harsh as Simon if I were on the judging panel, I do think that Travis' performance is the weakest of the night so far.
Of course, I next listen to Constantine Maroulis massacre Seal's "Kiss From A Rose" and realize that I may have to take everything I just said about Travis' performance back. I'm really disappointed with Constantine's performance, because I really wanted him to do well. However, he sounds bad from the start, and I think he is flat and out of tune in more places than he's not. Do the judges agree? Randy says, "That was definitely out of tune, dude." Paula tries to find the silver lining and says, "You have your own style." Simon says, "This will be interesting. The other guy (referring to the other "rocker", Bo) outsang you, but you have more charisma."
After yet another commercial break, it's time to hear from David Brown. Now, David sounded great in his local audition, but you wouldn't know it by listening to his performance tonight. He sings "Never Can Say Goodbye", and the beginning of his performance is really flat and boring. He does pick up steam about midway through the performance, and, by the time he's done, he's redeemed himself a good bit. Are the judges impressed? Randy says, "That was a very safe song, and it was very pitchy." Paula says, "You found it at the end." Simon concludes with, "If this was the first time I saw you, I would be 50/50 about you." I like David's voice, and I hope he stays around a while, but he is really going to have to step up his game if he makes it past this first week in the competition.
Jared Yates is up next, and he sings the ballad "How Could I?" (Well, I think that's the song's title; I'm not familiar with it, to be honest.). His voice sounds good, but he delivers a rather "so what" performance. Are the judges as unimpressed as I am? Randy tells Jared, "That was very average. It was actually slightly below average. It was weird." Paula says, "I wish you would have picked a song we'd heard before." Simon tells it like it is and says, "That was like some ghastly audition of a boy band, and the boy band didn't pick you."
Up next is <s>reggae superstar Maxi Priest</s> music teacher Anwar Robinson, and, thankfully, he has not chosen to sing a Stevie Wonder song this evening. Instead, he's selected the Oscar-winning "Moon River" for his performance tonight, and I'm left wondering what would posess him to pick a song like that for his first performance. (Of course, I'm also wondering what in the hell kind of shirt/zip-front jacket he is wearing, but I digress…) At the beginning, Anwar looks nervous and doesn't sound like the Anwar we've seen in previous episodes of the show. However, he takes the song and makes it his own, and by the end of the performance, he has restored my faith in him. What do the judges think? Randy says, "You brought it down, man. That was incredible." Paula gives her first standing ovation of the night and tells Anwar, "I want to buy that recording." Simon concludes with, "You showed originality. That worked."
The next performance comes from Judd Harris, and he does a raucous rendition of "(Playin' In A) Travelin' Band". The performance comes off as rather cheesy to me, but the audience seems to like it, and they're all whooping and hollering by the end of the song. What do the judges have to say about it? Well, Randy says, "That was a very odd song choice, but it was definitely fun." Paula tells Judd, "You're definitely a crowd pleaser." Simon concludes with, "You're a definite entertainer, Judd. I think a lot of girls will vote for you." Ryan goes over to meet Judd at center stage, and, in the night's oddest moment, Judd goes down to his knees to beg for the audience's votes, and Ryan looks down at him like he's afraid Judd is going to do something else. Or maybe he was hoping he would. I don't know…
We come back from our last commercial break of the evening, and it's time to hear from Joseph Murena, who sings "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You?" for his performance tonight. Now, Joseph loses major points with me for choosing to sing a Michael "If I Grow My Hair Long, Maybe People Won't Notice That I'm Balding On Top" Bolton song, but he gains many of those points back by turning in a good, strong performance. Do the judges like it? Randy says, "That was safe, but you can definitely sing. It wasn't one of your best, though." Paula tells Joseph, "I actually think it was one of your better performances, Joseph. Great job." Simon concludes with, "It gets you there, but it was not very exciting."
It is time to hear from our last performer of the evening, and tonight that person is Mario Vasquez. Mario sings Stevie Wonder's "Do I Do", and, in tonight's one performance, I swear I think he says, "Come on, people!" more times than Diana Degarmo did all of last season. He turns in a very solid performance, and he definitely has the most energy of any of the performers this evening. There's no doubt that Mario can sing, but there is still just something about him that bugs me. Maybe it is that silly cap he wears tilted ever so slightly to the side, I don't know. Anyway, do the judges like Mario's performance? Randy tells him, "Now that was da bomb. You get the award…that was the best performance of the night." Paula stands up yet again and practically screams, "Touchdown! That was awesome." Simon's not quite as enthusiastic about the performance as his fellow judges, but he says to Mario, "That was not the best of the night vocally, but as a performance, it was the best."
Well, folks, there you have it. By the time this gets posted and you read it, the phone lines will most likely be closed to the voting for the evening. Did you get your gazillion votes for your favorite in there? Will he still be on the show when Week 2 rolls around? There's only one way to find out for sure…tune in Wednesday night to see!
Best performance of the night: Anwar, Mario, Bo
Weakest performance of the night: Constantine, Travis
Who should go home: Constantine, Travis
Who will go home: 2 out of Travis, Nikko, Scott
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