It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a young man in possession of a serviceable singing voice, must be in want of a stage. Of course it does not follow that he will use that stage to his best advantage, and so here we are at American Idol 7 Boy Night Number One. According to our elegantly dressed Host Sprite, “people” are saying that this year’s Top 24 is the most talented Top 24 ever. Of course these “people” include mainly Ryan himself and Nigel Lythgoe, so I suppose it shouldn’t come as a huge shock that the twelve guys who make up this year’s crop of menfolk didn’t quite deliver the historic night of musical transport we’d been led to expect. But I’m still a little disappointed, and I’m sure some of you feel the same. Luckily, as Ryan reminds us these next few weeks are made for thinning the herd. There’s a whole lot of cannon fodder to get through, so let’s get started!
True to form, the Top 12 guys file out and try to give some sense of themselves with their friendly gestures; I’m most impressed by David Hernandez’s double thumbs-up and Michael Johns’ unnecessary but stylish scarf. Next we turn to our illustrious judges, who don’t have a chance of impressing me. Simon’s shaking Paula’s chair; I’m assuming to jiggle some of her synapses into action. Ryan asks Randy for an opinion on these most talented boys on Earth, and Randy asks them all to keep it real. If I had a nickel for every empty catch phrase Randy says in one night, I’d have one heck of a heavy box of nickels to throw at him.
Now enjoy this lengthy package detailing the stuff we’ve already seen from the auditions and Hollywood.
When we return, it’s finally business as usual. The theme of the week is the 60s, which should fit our 16-29 year old contestants like a smedium shirt. I have to say I’m not happy with the themes showing up so early in the competition, mainly because the themes are always lame, but also because the best part of the Top 24 in the past has been seeing the contestants present their own individual styles. But I can deal. David Hernandez (24, approximately -14 years of age at the end of the 60s) is up first; you’ll recall that Simon is not too impressed by this guy, and I confess that makes me want to root for him a whole lot. David reluctantly hints that his childhood was not the happiest, and says he turned to singing as an escape. Here’s where I went “awwww.” Sorry. But my objectivity is firmly in place, I assure you. And in Rand McNally, they wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people.
Anyway, David says he means to prove Simon wrong about his abilities. So he’s singing “Wait ‘til the Midnight Hour,” standing stock still in the middle of the stage, sounding great, looking scared out of his mind. It’s a little strange but mostly endearing that David seems to have mapped out a small square of the stage which he won’t step foot out of. The arrangement is really fervent and gospelly at first, and then it gets all swingy, and even though David hardly moves, his singing is full of energy and I’m convinced that he has in fact stayed up ‘til the midnight hour at least once before. The performance elicits two, count ‘em, two! yo’s from Randy, who was feeling the gospel mood at the beginning, and liked David’s voice up until the very end. Paula calls him brilliant, and thinks his vibrato is perfect. Simon says David was much better than he was expecting; that the beginning was great, the middle okay, and the ending awful. Simon advises David to loosen up, which advice I would second, if anybody asked me. In his afterburn with Ryan, David confesses that he was tense but feels more confident now that the first time is over. Let’s hope so.
Eze Come, Eze Go
Next is Chikezie Eze, who’s taking a page out of the diva book and dropping his last name. Strike one. He’s worked hard and won a lot of support since his audition, and his cheerful enthusiasm for finally performing on the Idol stage is kind of infectious. But then he goes on to give an uncheerful, molasses-like, warbly and deadly boring rendition of “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday,” in a bright red suit that wouldn’t be out of place on Sunday morning at Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church of the Balm of Gilead. Strikes two and three.
Randy says Chikezie looked and sounded much too old up there. Paula says she’s happy to see him here, and repeats “You are here, you are here,” like maybe he thought he’d slipped into some parallel dimension. Simon then calls him “Jacuzzi,” and I can tell he’s been planning to do that all day, which kinda sucks. Then he goes on to detail everything he hated, mostly the singing and the suit, and a wink I must’ve missed. At this insult to his snazzy duds, Chikezie rears up and says he’s not going to take fashion crit from a guy who spends all of his time in white, grey, and black t-shirts. Not that he doesn’t have a point, but strike four, and I think it’s time for homeboy to find a new game. Simon catalogues all of Chikezie’s faults calling him old-fashioned, corny, and cheesy, and I wish I was anywhere near one of those little, red old-fashioned carts that sell cheesecorn. But I digress. Chikezie looks like he’s trying to save face, and he defends his turning a 60s song into an exercise in smooth jazz, and then pledges himself to doing more current music. When it’s not 60s Night. Touché, my good man.
I’d Like To Rock! Please?
It’s our first official interview on the brand-unspecific Red Couch of Small Talk! Ryan’s chatting with Colton Berry and David Cook. Ryan asks what we chould know about Colton, and Colton says he thinks he looks like Ellen Degeneres. Ryan tells David Cook that he looks too relaxed; David’s glad to hear that he’s masking his nerves well. It’s his turn to sing now; in David’s package he talks about keeping himself at the proper nervous tension, and wanting to hear Simon saying he doesn’t suck. If David’s looking for something similar from me (I know, but I’m just saying, hypothetically if he were), he won’t find it. He turns the Turtles’ “Happy Together” is part funeral dirge, part smarm, and part indulgent rocker-posing, complete with mic stand lift. It’s kind of funny though, as it becomes clear that David has no idea what to do with the stand once it’s off the ground. So many choices: toss it back to the ground, kick it, point suggestively with it, but David mainly leaves it hanging limply at his side. When he’s done, Randy says the performance was a little weird for him, but all in all he approves of the rawk spin that David put on the song. Paula totally agrees, but Simon says he was a little shouty for him, but he almost believed it. Should’ve sent that mic stand flying, boy!
When Dishwater Is Calling You Dull…
Now on is Jason Yeager, 28 (somewhere around -10 at the end of the sixties, for those of you playing along at home). Since we didn’t hear much from him in the audition or Hollywood rounds, it is now your duty to learn and appreciate that Jason is the father to an adorable young son. This show is really important to Jason, because he’s setting the example for his son of achieving a believed-in dream. I urge you now to vote for Jason with all your might, because if that tow-headed kid loses faith in the power of dreams behind this show, it’ll be on your heads.
Then again, Jason’s not really doing his part in this thing. I mean, out of all the wide variety of awesome and entertaining things available to him from “the 60s,” Jason goes with “Moon River,” perhaps the least dynamic song of all time. Not that it isn’t a lovely song, but really, impressive it ain’t. Jason’s performance proves to be a snooze, and now I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t vote for him. The kid’ll have to learn the hard way. Randy calls him out for not even being able to hold his own attention to the song; Paula thanks him for bringing up sentimental memories of her blushing youth as a little ballerina, and it’s so totally awkward to contemplate Paula having a childhood. Jason says his performance was dedicated to his grandmother who taught him the song; Simon says something glib, and then chides Jason for coming like an old lounge lizard on a cruise ship. Then he calls Jason a dependable old dog, which throws me for a loop, and I’m not even sure what to make of that.
The Misfit and the Minor
So we’ll move on to Robbie Carrico, former boybander who is now a genuine rock guy, with the bandana and wallet chain to prove it. His interview is mainly about his dedication to rock, and how authentic Paula thinks he is. Which I’m sure is a ringing endorsement in all the rock circles. Robbie’s singing Three Dog Night’s “One,” and it ain’t half bad. Granted, I love this song and am just happy to be able to sing along to it at the top of my lungs, so it’s probably really me that I think did a great job. Anyway though, Randy loved it, and says Robbie “moved” him, which is weird because Randy’s usually not Paula. Paula says Robbie picked the perfect song, and can hardly gush enough about how authentic Robbie is and so on. Simon says Robbie’s is the only performance so far that made sense in the present moment, but he’s not sold on the authenticity thing and asks Robbie if he’s not really more of a pop singer. Robbie blushes a bit, perhaps in memory of his past life on stage wearing body glitter and singing lyrics like “I believe that I can fly/‘cause your love makes me high”. But he says he’s 100% rock now. Sure, why not. I mean, he is wearing a bandana.
Young (totally young, OMG 17 year old, approximately -21 at the end of the 60s and don’t forget that he’s only 17) David Archuleta is up next. He’s the kid with the paralyzed vocal cord and the unusually mature voice, if you don’t remember. David A. is quite the Nervous Neddy, getting the shakes just from thinking about performing for the live audience, but I think he does a great job with The Miracles’ “Shop Around.” It doesn’t sound dated, and it doesn’t sound dull, and David’s voice is really controlled and capable. So way to go him. Plus he looks really comfortable up on stage, and not in an obnoxious way. Randy calls his performance mature, and throws in his age in a way that I will never let up hating. Paula says he came out in a bold way with his choice of song and then calls him an old soul. Simon says he was the best of the night by a mile, which makes David positively giddy. Sweet.
If You Sing It Loud Enough, You’ll Always Sound Precocious
18 year old, no job having Danny Norriega gets to thrill us now. He got cut last season during Hollywood but then immediately decided to try again, and this time he made it! He thinks he was cut last time for not being himself, and promises us all that he will bring his attitude to the stage in full force. I don’t think I can handle it. So Danny does a strutting version of “Jailhouse Rock,” and he sounds pretty good, though he looks more like the lead singer of Panic at the Disco than Elvis. He still gets on my nerves though, with the posing and the sassy neck swinging. I find him comfortable on stage in an obnoxious way. Also I wonder how he can breathe in those skintight jeans.
But Randy loves his energy, and appreciates that Danny is always having a good time on stage. Paula loves hearing the colors of his voice, but thinks he picked a safe song so he could wow with his performance. Simon takes the opportunity to mock Paula for implying that Danny’s voice has colors, but vocal color is a real thing, a descriptor of the tone and mood of a particular phrase. Not that I don’t fully believe that Paula just saw a rainbow somewhere in all the stage lights and thought “Ooh! Pretty!” I’m just saying it’s not as if the term doesn’t exist, and people employed to critique singing should probably know it. Simon. Anyway, Simon goes on to call Danny’s performance “grotesque,” but is very vague on the reasons why. The judges begin to bicker among themselves about whether or not Danny is safe or grotesque or yellow or green or original recipe or extra crispy, which is really pretty tedious. And then Danny fishes for compliments about his shoes and then brushes off Simon’s harsh words with a feisty neck roll. That’s telling him, Danny.
The Book of Luke Is A Real Snooze
From what I recall, we haven’t heard a blessed thing from Luke Menard before tonight, so he’s starting off a veritable unknown. He’s a 29 year old carpenter from Indiana, and very handsome in that he could easily play the dumb but sweet boyfriend in your average chick flick. Luke got rejected in Memphis, but persevered on to Omaha where he earned his golden ticket, which made him really happy. He sings Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talking” and basically, his tone is almost nonexistent. Luke looks thrilled with his performance when he’s done; there’s a huge “Mommy I did it!” smile on his face, and the audience cheers wildly for him. But the judges disagree. Randy thinks he was sharp all the way through, and I like, almost keel over and die from the shock of Randy using an actual musical term. Way to go, dawg! Paula agrees with Randy and says his song choice sucked but she can tell from his auditions that Luke can do so much better. Too bad we can’t tell. Simon quickly sums it all up by saying that Luke was forgettable. That’s why they pay him the big bucks. In his Ryan chat, Luke goes on to say that he disagrees with the judges that he was forgettable and is glad that the decision is up to the voters now. We’ll see … um, what’s your name? Luke? Yeah.
Seems He Don’t Fit In
You will perhaps remember Colton Berry (!8, approximately -20 at the end of the sixties) as the final male pick of the Top 24; his epic face-off against geeky Kyle left Simon dissatisfied, but Colton says he is totally ready to get out on stage and make his dreams come true. I think this flies coming from Colton only because he bears a disturbing resemblance to Hermie the Elf from the Rudolph Christmas special, flipped blonde bang and all. Colton sings “Suspicious Minds,” and is really enthusiastic about it, which is cute. It’s not a cute, enthusiastic song though, so the performance is a let-down. Randy thought it was good, Paula appreciated seeing a different side of him, and Simon thought it was okay, but not relevant to the pop music world. Harsh. Okay, so maybe he’s not a pop star, but I bet he could still be a dentist.
Garrett Haley is another guy we’ve never met. Ryan grills him about whether this is a disadvantage or not, and Garrett has the chance to look confused and say “Wha?” before Ryan points out that we never saw Kelly Clarkson before her semifinals round either. True enough, but American Idol is a completely different animal now, with the fanbases and voting armies well in place before the Top 24 get to sing a note live, so it’s not really a fair comparison, Seacrest. Thought you had us, didn’t you? Garrett’s not a really good on-air interview; he’s at a loss for words for most of the time, as Ryan tells him he looks like Leif Garrett and asks if girls scream at him all the time. Awkward. In his package, Garrett says he struggles with confidence, but he’s happy to have this opportunity to prove himself.
Why he chooses a droopy, syrupy song like “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” to do this is beyond me. Anyway, Garrett’s as good a singer as Leif ever was, so there’s that. Randy says he was dull and didn’t make the song his own. Paula parrots Randy, and Simon echoes them both. There’s not much else to add.
Have Guitar, Will Warble
Jason Castro’s dreds really bother me. Just getting that out of the way. He’s a 20 year old Texan who’s not used to being in the spotlight, but he’s ready to see what everybody thinks of him. Well, since he asked, I think I hate his hair. Jason’s the only one who brought an instrument tonight; he strums his guitar nonchalantly and does a nice enough job on The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “What a Day for a Daydream,” a song that consistently proves that slow doesn’t mean boring. I’m not bowled over by his voice or his strumming, but even though he flubbed a few words, Jason certainly did an okay job. Randy liked his subtle reworking of the melody, but wasn’t blown away. Paula though is somewhere all the way up in the rafters; she praises Jason’s song choice and style, and the minimalist spin he put on the whole performance, and can hardly gush enough. Simon thinks Jason’s was one of the best two performances of the night.
Where’s A Match?
Closing our evening is indeed Michael Johns, the 29 year old Australian transport who wowed the judges consistently since his initial audition. Michael says he hopes people will judge him on his voice and his passion, in that order, and not his accent. Dangit, there goes my chance at getting him to come out some night as Crocodile Dundee. Oh well. Michael is singing the Doors’ “Light My Fire,” and I seriously doubt that Jim Morrison would be out there with the posh scarf, but then maybe that’s Michael making the song his own. As far as American Idol goes, Michael’s version is pretty good. He doesn’t totally sell it, and there’s some trouble with the lower phrases, but that might’ve been from all the rocker screams he was throwing in. But Michael’s pleased with himself, and the judges love him, love him, love him, so what more is there to say?
Not much! We’re done for the evening, and the boys have to sweat it out until Thursday night to find out if anyone remembered that Luke and David H. existed, or if Jason Yeager’s crimes against entertainment will go unpunished. I don’t know which way the wind will blow, but I’d like you to ask yourself one thing. Do you remember what Luke sang? Ponder that, and meanwhile stay tuned because the always snarkilicious AJane is bringing you the news of our Top 12 gals!
All donations to the Randy Jackson Memorial Box O’ Nickels fund may be sent here.