*sniffle* Got a touch of the flu? Runny nose, dry cough, fever, aches? Well, you’re not alone. Our top 12 girls have been hit by what Ryan Seacrest solemnly proclaims is the worst flu bug in American history. Oh, Ryan, when will you learn that Google is your friend? It took me about 5.3 seconds to unearth the fact that the 1918 influenza epidemic killed 50 million people. What you really mean is that this is the worst flu bug in American Idol history. Now, I’m a glass-half-full kind of gal, and I prefer to look at the viral problems of the girls this way – it’ll make it a lot easier to eliminate a couple of them. So grab your cold dope of choice – Tylenol Cold, Benylin DM, Contac C (you New-Agey types can have your herbal remedies, I like to at least get a happy buzz out of being sick – more of my glass half-full philosophy) – and your warmest PJs and bunny slippers, then settle in for a February evening full of puffy-eyed, croaky-voiced young ladies warbling hits of the ‘60’s.
The horse rescuer
Briefly, it’s the same deal as Tuesday night, only the genders are reversed – top twelve girls, ‘60’s theme week, everyone gets a couple of minutes to impress America, bottom two girls voted off on Thursday along with the bottom two boys. Randy notes that the top 12 guys were strong last night, while Paula prepares us for the worst and says that some of the girls are sick. So we have to guess who’s really down with the flu, and who just sucks. Whee! A guessing game! I was getting tired of the drinking games where you had to drink every time Randy or Paula said “pitchy”. (Remember – glass half-full.) When pressed by Ryan, Simon admits he really is a confrontational bastard at heart and that he prefers that the contestants challenge his critiques instead of “just sitting there”. Apparently, we’re in for a fun-filled night of Simon picking on the weak and the feverish.
So who gets to open tonight’s germ-ridden competition? It’s horse trainer Kristy Lee Cook, 24, of Oregon. You may remember Kristy Lee for her rendition of “Amazing Grace” at her Philly audition and again during last-chance Hollywood Wednesday. What Kristy may lack in originality of song choice, she makes up with her passion for horses – she sadly recounts how she had to sell her best barrel horse to get the money to travel to auditions, and as soon as she hits the big-time she’s going to buy her horse back. Kristy may have to look at a different money-making enterprise, because her “Rescue Me” is uninspiring and not very tuneful. She makes some rather odd faces into the camera, raising her eyebrows and bugging her eyes out. Other than that, she seems to be a very nice, pretty young lady, who chose a very bad time to have an off-night vocally. Randy attempts to be kind and sympathizes that it’s a high-pressure situation, but adds it’s not Kristy’s best performance and that there were many pitch problems. Paula quickly chimes it that it sucks to be sick AND have to go first, but admonishes Kristy that she should never let people see that you’re feeling weak and ill. Especially when Simon Cowell is in the house. Simon could care less about Kristy’s condition, and complains that the performance was robotic, the song was all wrong for her, and she left no impression whatsoever. Kristy listens with eyes glazed over, and there’s some commiserating about how much it sucks to be sick. Or how sick it is to suck. Same difference, tonight anyway.
Joanne Borgella, 25, is our plus-size model from New Jersey, and is distinguished mainly by the fact she was the last girl chosen for the top 24. Joanne wants to “touch lives” through her music, but her mediocre “I Say A Little Prayer For You” is far too low-key, made worse by Joanne’s rooted-to-the-spot stage presentation. It’s an overall painful experience, and Randy is again reaching for semi-kind words, but only manages another comment about nerves taking over, and tells Joanne her voice was “shaky”. Paula likes it but doesn’t love it, and Simon flat-out doesn’t like it at all, calling it average, cabaret, substandard…gee, tell us how you really feel, Simon.
Simon likes her more today than audition day
High-school junior and Carrie Underwood lookalike Alaina Whitaker of Oklahoma is having a birthday tomorrow, and all she wants is to stay in the competition. Oh, and some cool shoes. If she had to choose just one, it would be the shoes. Kidding, of course, unless they’re some really awesome Jimmy Choo boots. Priorities, people! Alaina is taking on “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday”, and if nothing else, her energy is a welcome relief from the previous tepid performances. Alaina is clearly not one of the flu sufferers, and if she’s not the best of the group, she grabs her chance to shine and pulls off a listenable vocal. Randy proclaims season 7 as “the year of the young ones” and says she “pulled it out”. Paula feels she nailed it, and Simon is all smiles as he praises Alaina for not falling victim to nerves. Though he derides the song as “corny”, he’s confident Alaina will sail through to the next round.
23-year-old nurse Amanda Overmyer of Indiana has been saddled with the “rocker” label this season, but she has only herself and her hairdresser to blame. Seriously, those platinum skunk-stripe bangs have got to go. Amanda has thankfully vowed to no longer cover Janis Joplin after a stinging critique from Simon in Hollywood, who wisely advised her that she “didn’t need to pale by comparison”. Instead, Amanda has made the bizarre song choice of “Baby Please Don’t Go”. Bizarre, because this is a song that has a guitar riff as its star, not a vocal, and I’m sure Ricky Miner and his band are very grateful that Amanda gave them such a grand opportunity to rock out and display their musical prowess. Look, Amanda’s not a bad singer, and I’m sure she’d do great fronting a good bar band – in fact, I’m positive, because she did give a really good bar-band performance. People drunk on beer love stuff like scatting. Though Amanda is seriously out of her element, she’s apparently being kept around for the judges’ amusement – Randy loves her “fly” trousers, Paula (very possibly drunk on beer) loves every little thing about Amanda, while a chuckling Simon is just really glad Amanda is here. He mistakes her “scatting” as forgetting some lyrics, but still hopes she stays around a while. Well, she is a welcome break from all the cutesy girls with long blond curls, at that.
Amy Davis, 25, is a model/student from Indiana. She did a perfectly lovely version of “Blue Bayou” during auditions, and the snippet of “Me and Bobby McGee” from Hollywood week that we get a chance to hear sounds quite nice as well. So my hopes are all high and stuff as she begins “Where The Boys Are”, a song that Connie Francis made famous back in the day with her beautiful, yearning vocal performance. While Amy does have a charming old-fashioned quality to her voice, it’s a little bit too Dean Martin Christmas Special. The judges are displeased – Randy says it’s “not great”, and says something about scooping up notes. Perhaps he’s drunk on beer as well. Paula thinks Amy looks wonderful, but found the performance “not engaging”. Simon agrees that Amy is indeed lovely, but she didn’t have the “country twang” he thinks the song requires. I have no idea what this song and a “country twang” have in common, but hey, maybe they’re ALL drunk on beer. In an abruptly more sober mood, Simon warns Amy that she’s likely to struggle after the lackluster performance.
Good-girl Brooke White, our 24-year-old nanny from Arizona, is still resisting Simon’s call to the dark side. A wise decision, as Simon’s side is very dark indeed. Brooke was an emotional wreck during Hollywood week, but managed to keep the tears and nerves off the stage. She continues to do so on her “Happy Together”, and though I’m a little disappointed she didn’t opt for one of the zillion or so folk songs that the 1960’s produced, her vocals are right on the mark. It’s a pleasingly well-done performance, made just slightly strange by Brooke’s tendency to grab at her hair. Maybe she finally saw one of those X-rated movies. Randy thought the song started rough but then managed to work it out, saying she “got her slaying on”. Of all the strange, awkward phrases that Randy creates every year, that one has got to be one of the worst. It causes Simon to smirk, but he agrees with Paula that Brooke did a great job and made a wise song choice. He mocks Brooke’s sunny disposition and makes a puzzling comment about “the yellow”, apparently referring to the yellow stage backdrop, and likens her to a dishwashing liquid commercial. Yeah, it’s definitely the beer.
Groovy kind of zombie
We may not quite remember Alexandréa Lushington, 17, of Georgia, but we all remember her adorable little great-grandma that made it out to support Alexandréa during her audition. Unfortunately for Ryan, who loves him some old ladies, Great-Grandma is not in attendance tonight. Fortunately for us, though, we’re finally treated to a performance by someone who truly wants to win this thing. Alexandréa has doffed her trademark ball cap and appears as someone mature beyond her years, and if she’s not the best singer tonight, she puts an enormous effort into her performance and presentation of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel”. Randy is again thrilled with the “young ones” of the competition, and proclaims that she blew the doors off the song. Paula is pleased that Alexandréa thought out her performance, and calls her outfit “dope”. Methinks Paula is a little too old for that particular expression, and on behalf of middle-aged women everywhere, I’m a bit embarrassed for her. The outfit is pretty cute, though. Simon, however, puts a damper on everyone’s enthusiasm, saying he “didn’t get it”, and Alexandréa’s vocals were like a terrible ‘60’s musical. Alexandréa takes her displeasure out on Ryan rather than Simon, though, and complains that he mispronounced her name. Just for that, I may leave that pretentious little accent off the last “e” in her name next week. You’ve been warned, missy.
Texan Kady Malloy, 18, is a recording studio assistant whose “Unchained Melody” wowed the judges during the Dallas auditions. She has the dubious talent of being able to mimic Britney Spears’ voice, but hopefully she believes in wearing underwear at all times and buckling kids in their car seats for every single trip. Kady has chosen “Groovy Kind of Love”, a yucky song under any circumstances, but a little bit worse today because Kady has abandoned her Britney impression and substituted a Jessica Simpson one instead. She’s even got the dumb, glazed-eyes stare down pat. And even the judges all prefer Kady-as-Britney – Randy thinks her impression is downright hilarious, but found her performance today too restrained and controlled. Paula found it lifeless, and Simon agrees with Paula and takes it a step further, sneering that it was like “Night of the Living Dead”. He urges her to lighten up, though I imagine that’s a bit hard to do after your spirit’s been crushed.
Simon finds his happy place
Asia’h Epperson of Missouri is the unfortunate 19-year-old who lost her dad two days before her audition. Asia’h still managed to pull off a brilliant audition and continues to soldier on in her dad’s memory, and if that story doesn’t tear off a little piece of your heart, Asia’h’s rendition of “Piece of My Heart” just might. Asia’h’s attempt at Janis Joplin’s classic is light-years better than Amanda’s, and that’s just because she’s clearly not trying to emulate Joplin’s vocal style. Instead, Asia’h wisely keeps the blues riff but sings the song her way, resulting in a stand-out performance. She looks a bit too happy while singing a song about painful, all-consuming love, but I’m so desperate for one of these girls to do a fabulous job I’m perfectly willing to let that slide. Randy is impressed, while Paula thinks she had “good moments”, but it’s Simon’s favorite of the night, and we all know that Simon’s comments mean the most to the contestants. Oh, you know it’s true – Cowell is king at the judges’ table. Or maybe it’s just that after seven seasons, I’ve been lured to the dark side. That or the beer.
24-year-old Ramiele Maluby is a big-voiced little girl, who has the unenviable job of working at a sushi restaurant. I love the stuff myself, but hey, no one wants to be around dead fish all day. The few seconds we hear of her in Hollywood sounds pretty good, and her “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” is also pretty good. Yes, she’s basically a garden-variety diva type, but it’s not American Idol without at least one or two of them. The main problem with Ramiele this week is her truly horrible outfit – the stylists have mysteriously chosen to dress her as though she’s headed off to English Lit class, in a cardigan and skinny beige jeans. Randy thinks she’s both classy and hot, and Paula figures she’s a force to be reckoned with. Simon admits he didn’t like Ramiele at first, but she was the most consistent vocalist in Hollywood and out-sung everyone else tonight. Tiny Ramiele is thrilled with the praise, but tells Ryan the best thing about AI so far is the hair and makeup. Yeah, you can sing in front of 30 million people any old time, but to have your hair and eyeliner professionally done? Now that’s sweet.
The reality-show veterans
Syesha Mercado, 21, is an actress. She certainly does smile at the camera a lot, even when Ryan is speaking to her, but that’s probably a little trick she learned when she was on The One. Syesha is the girl in Hollywood who had laryngitis, but somehow managed to wail the walls down with “Chain of Fools” when it really counted. I’m sure none of that has anything to do with the fact she’s an actress, though. Tonight, Syesha is going with the tried-and-true AI standard “Tobacco Road”, and there’s certainly no doubt the girl can sing, though she’s a bit shouty at times, particularly during her final note. Randy really liked it, but didn’t think it was her best. Paula thinks she’s consistent, joyful, and fun, while Simon also doesn’t feel it was her best but says that Syesha is still one of the most talented girls in the competition. Vocally talented, I presume.
Has anyone NOT heard Carly Smithson’s story yet? Anyone? If you haven’t, then crawl out from your cave already. Carly, 24, calls herself a tattoo shop owner, and uses her video time to “confess” to her previous record deal at age 17. The song she does tonight is called “The Shadow of Your Smile”. I think. To be honest, I’ve never heard it before, or the way she’s singing it is unrecognizable. Oh, and I think her outfit is more dope than Alexandréa’s. The boots in particular are outstanding – maybe she can give them to Alaina for her birthday tomorrow. Right, back to the performance. The song, frankly, is rather bleak, but it does the trick of showing off Carly’s obvious vocal skills. It’s not as good as her Hollywood “Alone”, but Randy is practically wetting himself with excitement, saying that in spite of Carly’s bronchitis it was the best vocal of the top 24 and “blazing hot”. Paula loves Carly’s “beautiful inflections”, but Simon has tired of Carly and what he calls the buzz and hype surrounding her. I suppose it’s useless to remind him that the judges are responsible for a good chunk of that buzz and hype, and besides, after one hour and fifty minutes of middling vocal performances I’m not up to arguing with him about it. Simon claims to be let down, and Carly looks fairly devastated herself, but offers no rebuttal.
So what’s the verdict, judges? Randy thinks the guys were definitely hot, but the girls were a little hotter. If you think that sounds lame, Paula then offers her “insight”, which consists of a jumble of random adjectives. Simon is as confused as I am, and says he can’t follow Paula’s words, but offers up his opinion that the two groups are evenly matched with 3 great guys and 3 or 4 great girls.
Tomorrow, our brilliant interviewer Yardgnome takes a break from chatting with the famous and almost-famous and brings us the first results show, which will see two of the guys and two of the girls sent home. Are we in for a shocking elimination this early in the game? You have to stick it out for nearly a whole hour to find out, as results shows for season 7 are 60 minutes. There’s a bit of news that is sure to make a recapper’s heart sink like a stone. Filler, anyone?
Kleenex or Puffs? PM me.