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Boys' night is upon us on Idol and, Ryan, wearing a perfect undertaker's suit, is here to make sure we all understand how momentous this occasion really is. He also found new superlatives to use which sound exactly like the old superlatives, you know, the whole best talent, best judges, best everything lie, but it's been a year since the last “live” performance night so let's just call his antics new for now. This time the judges have morphed into “three industry experts” and the contestants have been found after an “exhaustive search”. Yes, the producers, I mean, the judges arrived at these 12 dudes after nearly two months of careful, careful deliberation mostly to determine what combination of these people will bring them the highest ratings and most controversy. A miracle of casting, I'm telling you.
Idol has a spiffy new 360 stage this season that Ryan seems very proud of, Randy is sitting in Simon's old spot and suddenly we're back to the tired old pre-performance banter between the overpaid help. Ryan wants to know whether JLo the bawling control freak will be okay with this whole icky public voting thing after tonight. She says she's ready because they, meaning the judges, chose some great people for America to pick from. Translation: We pimped our favorites as much as we could and we hope America isn't stupid enough to vote them out too soon. Hee! Get ready for that rude awakening, JLo! Finally, Ryan gives Steven an American Idol sign on a stick and tells him to use it to cover his mouth whenever he feels a four letter word coming on, 'cause you know they're “in front of a live studio audience” and all that. Not to be confused with an actual live TV audience since this show is not live at all. Ryan conveniently forgets to mention this itty bitty little detail but it's true; the show has been pre-taped last week. So much easier to tinker with judges' and contestants' commentary, sound quality, camera angles, editing and pretty much everything else when things are not live, isn't it?
Tonight's theme is that there is no theme. Ryan says the contestants could choose any song they wished. This is good news since we'll finally find out what who each of these contestants wants to ape, or in several cases, flat out rip off. Bring on the impersonations!
Clint Jun Gamboa has a three part name, which is always a big mistake 'cause it reminds me of a serial killer. He also looks like Harry Potter's shorter, dorkier bastard cousin minus the magic. His pick is “Superstitious” which he delivers straight up karaoke. Simon would call his cheesy delivery and painful off pitch screams cruise ship awful but these judges are ready to be impressed by just about anything. Clint gets a standing ovation – that will be standard audience operating procedure all night – and accolades from all the judges. Steven calls him “brilliant” while JLo calls him Jun and says she was excited and that he was good. Randy says there was no karaoke in Clint and he was “brilliant”. Brilliant is another word these judges love throwing around. Every time they say “brilliant” I'm going to hear “whatever, it was passable”. Next.
If you want to completely give up your privacy and sign over your Facebook to AT&T you're encouraged to become a statistic this season by voting online. Sounds about as tempting to me as volunteering for a public burning at the stake but if you're still tempted, just make sure you vote from a fake account where you lie about everything from your age and name to your location. Also lie about your pet 'cause not even your dog deserves to go on some marketing list for AT&T and FOX. You're welcome.
Shipyard worker Jovany Barreto's shining moment on Idol has been his audition during which he stripped for JLo. Later he sucked up to her further by singing one of her husband's songs and tonight he is attempting to cement his status as slightly sleazy lady killer by singing an overly affected, embarrassingly trite, wedding singer version of “I'll Be”. Steven thinks it was beautiful, JLo is happy and Randy says it was karaoke. JLo disagrees because... well, he did take off his shirt for her.
Jordan Dorsey hasn't had a stellar run so far. There were those unfortunate incidents during group date where he proved himself to be quite the jerk and now in his voice over he says he doesn't just want to sing, he wants to be a legend. See, that's the kind of self-delusion that will get you exactly nowhere. Couple that with the choice of “OMG” by Usher and you're into big time loser territory. I'm not sure why anyone in their right mind would pick a song that not even Usher can deliver without the help of autotune but the sound quality during Jordan's performance aside from the out of tune “singing” – complete with some manic dancing – is just plain off. Now see, if the show were live I'd say the dude is just really bad but this is not live. Besides, this kind of song needs both autotune and a dozen background dancers to distract from the horror of bad lyrics, bad everything. Steven thinks he had the moves but didn't like it much. JLo loves him but doesn't think Jordan wants to be Usher 2.0. Jordan shakes his head repeatedly and says “no, no, no” which makes you wonder why he ended up with this rotten egg of a song. Hmm. Randy feels it was pitchy and way worse than the original which is quite a feat, I guess. Jordan's response is that this song is not him. No kidding!
Ryan says you can design your own Coke cup for some unknown reason. Tempting... but no. I always wanted to say that ever since I've seen the movie.
Scruffy dude, Tim Halperin gets a sitdown, on-stage fake interview with Ryan during which he is given a chance to perpetuate the meme that all Idol contestants are always a family and that they love each other despite having known each other for only a few weeks. Tim says all the guys sitting over there on the chairs hoping he screws up and gets voted off are his brothers. Really, really, they are. Yes, all 11 of them. He didn't say the part about how they're all hoping he gets voted off but that's what I heard. I wonder whether Idol believes that we believe that load of crock.
Brother Tim's performance is a wretched karaoke spin on “Streetcorner Symphony”. The mic sound is again very flat and the background singers often shout over him while he's putting on his best Rob Thomas imitation. Steven thinks the song was a letdown. JLo, tone deaf that she is, says it was good and he has one of the most beautiful voices she's ever heard but this performance is not who Tim is. Randy agrees that he didn't do much with the song. Undaunted, Tim thinks it was a pretty good turn and wants you to vote for him. Of course.
Brett Lowenstern has been highlighted plenty so far so I know Idol wants America to vote for his red curly mane and likeable demeanor. However, delivering what feels like a thoroughly not sexy parody of “Light My Fire” should be classified as a federal crime. The dude sways and attempts some sexy looks into the camera but his delivery is breathy not to mention he keeps flipping his hair back and forth. Frankly, I want to smack him. Steven, who seems to be either high or a really good liar – I sort of have the feeling he's a bit of both – tells Brett that he brought it again this week and he's on fire. JLo liked the hair flipping and a big fan. Randy spotted 14 hair flips and lots of pitchy vocals but felt the whole thing was kind of fun. Poor Jim is spinning in his grave.
You will be happy to know that JLo is ready to pollute the airwaves with a new song and Idol with the premiere of her new video. Even better news is that you can vote on the ending of her video. This is a democracy, people! Tune in Thursday night for the big reveal. Can't wait.
Disease-of-the-season, James Durbin, is a real fan of bandanas dangling down his ass. With Steven Tyler sitting in the audience that's actually kind of pathetic but the dude is nothing if not a dedicated imitator with little self-awareness. Idol helpfully reminds us of poor James' many weepy moments on the show before he takes the stage to deliver the first Judas Priest cover ever heard on Idol. Last week this dude was pitifully aping Adam Lambert, this week he's going after Rob Halford with a bit of Steven Tyler thrown in. Perhaps he's looking for that elusive metal rocker cred that we all know Idol is in prime position to deliver and... Just kidding.
Vocally, things are a bit less messy then on previous occasions and while the dude still has plenty of pitch and control issues the horror of his painful upper register shrieks is less insulting with a metal cover, so maybe that should be his niche from now on. But what's with all the obnoxious rocker cliches? The manic hand gestures, the frenzied prancing, the final jump in the air and the ultimate cheesy cliché of a devil's horn that James throws in at the end just show that this dude is an embarrassment to every honest wannabe metal screamer out there. Kind of sad. Steven loved it so much even throws in the F word, and the Idol sign 'cause somebody has to pretend this whole thing is live, but mentions James' lack of vocal control. JLo gushes about James' ripoff performance style. Randy just parrots both of them and remarks on the ass bandana – or as I like to think about it, the douche badge - to which James says that you need something to make you stand out. How about not ripping off other people? A bit of originality would make you stand out more than the dangling douche badge, James! When he throws his arms out and declares that “You're the best audience in the world!”, as if this crap was live, I get the feeling James is quite a bit detached from reality. I hope Idol has a doctor on staff to attend to this kind of thing.
The squishy middle
Ryan says Robbie Rosen is the pride of Long Island but that's just proof that Ryan has never been to Long Island. The boy thinks he is an artist – hilariously enough, they all do – but then busts out a moldy, insipid version of “In the arms of the angels” full off out of tune bits and topped off by a puppy dog delivery style that's going to tug at the heartstrings of absolutely nobody. Steven thinks it was a beautiful, JLo babbles on about how the notes were not perfect but says Robbie is a special singer while Randy, who is apparently the new Simon, thinks the whole thing was a bowl of pitchy mess. Randy tries Robbie to admit to this but of course that never works. They put these people through to the final 24 and then expect them to feel anything but entitled and perfect?
Old fashioned country boy, Scotty McCreary sang pretty much only one song during his entire Idol run so far. “Turn the lights down low” or something along those lines is what I think of when I look at him. I also remember his bitchy behavior towards poor Jacee who has been dispatched last week. However, the dude does a mean old fashioned country bit with a song I've never heard before called “Letters from home” and it's completely appropriate for him. The audience is appreciative and I suspect the voters back home can picture Scotty with a guitar in his hands despite Idol's best efforts to keep the instruments at bay for now. I'm declaring him this season's white guy with guitar vote magnet. As for the judges, Steven thinks Scotty picked the right song for him, JLo rambles on about being born to sing country and Randy liked the whole classic country thing Scotty's got going.
Stefano Langone has, according to Ryan, “overcome great odds” to be on Ido. As if that's anything special. However, there's nothing special about Stefano's perfectly karaoke cheesball cover of that ultimate cheesball song, “Just the way you are” delivered with a broad fake smile that just makes the whole off key delivery even worse. How do you mangle such a fluffy song that's about as difficult to sing as “Twinkle, twinkle”? I'm not sure but Stefano does a great job of it. Steven who increasingly seems to be just a production shill says he loved it and it was good. JLo thinks he is consistent and she gushes that Stefano is a “beast”. Randy didn't like the crappy falsetto and the whole out of tune part but says that doesn't matter – eh, it's just singing, right? - because Stefano has it all. What “all” is we don't know, but apparently, Stefano has it. If they say so... When Ryan asks him who he was singing that song to, Stefano - all five feet three inches of him - sheepishly quips that “it was for all the ladies out there” saying he loves us all just he way we are thereby destroying all the goodwill I may have had towards him. Patronize me more, dude, go ahead!
A few more to go, among them Paul McDonald who showed up for the 24 reveal wearing a white embroidered suit so I kind of thought he'd at least be on this side of original but, sadly, I was mistaken. His cover of “Maggie Mae” couldn't be more Rod Stewart 2.0 if he were born a twin to the gravelly voiced one. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad karaoke, it's just that it's karaoke. I've used that word a lot tonight because it fits and is there really a good synonym for karaoke? The audience loves it because this audience seems to love everything. Can you guess whether Steven loved it? Why, of course he did! Steven loves everything and everyone. He says Paul has character to his voice and JLo says he has character to his movement too. Not sure what she means by that but then half the time she makes as much sense as Paula did at her more drugged up worst. Randy likes that Paul is quirky and that Idol has embraced him – really, Randy, praising yourself now? - and he says he's a fan. Paul does not get to holler at America to court votes and Ryan moves on to the next contestant.
Jacob Lusk hasn't been much on my radar up until now but Ryan calls him “understated”. He just can't help himself, can he? Jacob powers through a “A house is not a home” making for a very good Luther Vandross sub. He adds a bit of a wink to the weepy lyrics and to his strong operatic delivery, earning himself a big standing ovation from the audience. Suddenly, it's the church of Jacob at Idol. Steven mutters on about “divine intervention” saying Jacob makes him cry, JLo thinks he's the second coming of Luther Vandross while Randy thinks Luther would be proud of him. However, he thinks Jacob can sing anything and that's doubtful. Personally, when I hear the judges or contestants blathering on about versatitlity I always try to imagine them covering Madonna, Lennon, U2 and a current pop Barbie believably. Few past the test. Actually, only two people in all 10 seasons. Jacob is not going to join that list but at least he's good enough and entertaining in his own winky way.
Last but not least is cuddly Casey Abrams. Does it seem like there's a Casey on every season of Idol? Last year's dude was a kind of a manwhore who coasted by on his looks and the lady vote, this year's Casey doesn't have much in the GQ department but he's perhaps the most unique dude in this field of twelve though he does say he wants to create a different American Idol mold. That of course is the wrong thing to say but maybe nobody will notice. His song tonight is “I put a spell on you” which he dishes up with a raw, bluesy fervor mixed in with a bit of a wink even a dose of anger. Some of the screaming is unwarranted and seems like an afterthought but the dude is in his head while performing and projects a distinct persona. Unlike with all the others above, I have a hard time pinning down who he is trying to imitate so that's a good thing. Steven says it was “as good as it gets”, JLo declares him sexy and crazy at the same time and Randy says he's unique and wants more. But will the tween girl voters want to see more of Seth Rogen? I'm not sure. Hell, not even sure about their grandmothers.
Wednesday night the girls will be allowed to do their worst and Arielflies will be here to tell you who screamed the loudest. That show won't be live either however I'll be back to bring you all the deets from the all important and usually most fun elimination night on Thusday. Oh, and JLo is going to be pimping her new video. You don't want to miss that, do you?