American Idol Extended Chaff Winnowing Part 2! Last week we saw Alexis Grace, Michael Sarver, and Widowed Danny Gokey take their
rightfulplaces in this season’s Top 12. The other nine were mostly too sad to ever speak of again. But we get to start afresh and hope for better things from this second crop of contestants. Ryan’s extra hissy tonight as he says “This(ssss) … is American Idol!” so I think that promises well.
Everything’s Topsy Turvy
Ryan points out some of tonight’s group by their professions: A welder, a bartender, a lady who makes fonts; it’s like Idol Career Day, you can do it too! Oh and there’s Normund Gentle dressed as Nick Mitchell, whom no one should ever aspire to be. The judges dole out a lot of pat encouragement -- Kara says “bring it,” Randy says “stiff competition.” I really don’t know why there are four of them now. Unless it’s because of that time I stole a fountain pen in fourth grade. If so, I’m sorry America. Simon said some stuff about how crappy the production was on last week’s shows and Ryan will defend this cultural cash cow until death so he can’t help but bring it up. Simon snidely declines to talk about it because this here show is about the singers; also he has switched places with Randy and Kara has swapped with Paula so now the table goes Simon, Paula, Kara, Randy.
There’s still the convoluted semifinal elimination process, and then here come all the singers! It’s time for singing! Judges’ Darling Jasmine Murray is up first for this group. We get to revisit all of her seventeen years of life, from watching AI with her mother and being impossibly cute with her million sisters, to her surviving Bikini Girl during Hollywood time.
Here tonight in a silver leather jacket, skinny jeans, and considerably less makeup than usual, Jasmine sings the song about not writing love songs. The key is much too low in the beginning, and the notes are all forced out of her throat which to me says Jasmine’s extremely nervous and forgetting to breathe properly. I can still tell she has a nice voice though. Randy thinks she was pitchy throughout the whole and wished she hadn’t revised the melody so much. Kara praises Jasmine’s youth and commercial appeal but notes the strange key and says that the performance was “all over the place,” while shrugging her shoulders. Paula says it was a stupid song choice. Simon says he likes Jasmine’s package, but he doesn’t think she has a great voice. I disagree. Simon also says Jasmine entered the competition a couple years too early, which is something they almost always say to the babies, so why are the babies allowed to come? Raise the age minimum already! Anyway, Jasmine Murray. Judges’ Darling no more.
Maybe Matt Should Be More Like Ray Charles.
Second in line is Matt Giraud of the dueling pianos, also in a spiffy leather jacket. During Hollywood he sang “Georgia on My Mind,” and played the piano and loved it, especially when people clapped. Tonight he’ll do “Viva la Vida,” otherwise known as that song you must know even if you don’t want to because it is the most popular song of all time. It’s not bad to me, until he tries the falsetto. From that point the whole thing falls apart and Matt just can’t keep himself on key. Kara smiles kind of smugly and says, “You blew me away … at Hollywood Week. Tonight I’m just not blown away.” Dude, uncalled for. She goes on to say that Matt’s thing should be white boy soul and not white boy rock. Ray Charles. Paula agrees. More Ray Charles. Simon agrees with them both. RAY CHARLES. And then Randy agrees with them all. RAY CHARLES, RAY CHARLES, RAY CHARLES. The whole judging process takes twice as long now for no reason.
Matt misses his piano, and didn’t sing Ray Charles because he wants to be Coldplay. That revelation turns the judges into a bunch of hissing 11th graders telling him he’ll never get into the Fashion Club with stubby fingertips.
Meanwhile, the never-before-seen Jeanine Vails is wholly unknown to us, but she would probably be a shoo-in for the Fashion Club with her wavy hair and artful lip gloss application skills. She’s a 28 year old bartender from D.C. and she’s apparently been wowing the judges from the very beginning but not in an entertaining enough way to make it onto the TV.
Tonight Jeanine’s going to sing “This Love,” which should be familiar to you if you’ve ever gone to see a college a cappella group. And she’s going to do it in Amerie style jean shorts and stilletto heels, for some reason. And she’s not going to do a very good job. This song is only okay for girls with a very rich and ringing low range, which Jeanine ain’t got, so she ends up going flat more often than not. Her dorkily adorable friends in the audience stand up and cheer for her when she’s done, but I’m glad we don’t have to talk with them in any of those awkward backstage interviews like last week.
Instead we get to hear Paula waste her chance at going first by saying only, “Great legs.” Simon eventually agrees with that sentiment, but not before he puts Jeanine through the ringer for choosing a terrible song for herself and making a mess out of it. Some camera guy chooses to do a skeevy slow pan up Jeanine’s legs as Randy adds his approval for them. Somehow I don’t think Jeanine will ever wear a pair of shorts again. Kara adds to this classy moment by beginning with, “I’m trying to think of what else about you is pretty, because so much about you is pretty, thank God.” I have had it with the judges this season. I don’t know if it’s the round number making it easier for them to pretend they’re a Cool Kids Club, or whatever the reason is, but they are all such insipid hosebeasts to me now. Even my beloved Paula. She usually makes it to Top 6 before saying something jerky. What’s happening here? Are Idol and I getting a divorce? If so, I get to keep Ryan, Debra Byrd, and the Coke cups.
Oh Lord, Normund Gentle. I have long been of the mind that lampooning the conceit of this show is a good thing, so I understand why Normund has his fans, but my caveat is that your deal must be funny. I don’t laugh at Normund Gentle. Normund Gentle is like Carrot Top to me. Normund recognizes that he is a polarizing figure in this way; he feels the intensity of Simon’s hatred, and he wears glasses sometimes so I’m sure he can figure out that the sentiment is matched by a good half of the viewing population. But Normund is committed to doing “his thing” anyway, because he would never make it as a singer playing it traditional. This is only too true, and I can certainly appreciate his strategery there. But that’s about all I can appreciate, because I don’t know what “his thing” is. Does he want to be a singer? Why doesn’t he sing well? Does he want to be Carrot Top? Why isn’t he funny? I don’t know. I wish someone would tell me, because otherwise this feels like a waste of my time.
And still I faithfully report: he’s dressed as Normund again, only with a white dinner jacket on top of the costume. I feel for the person in charge of washing Normund’s shirt every day. That is one horrible life space. Anyway, Norm sings “And I Am Telling You,” beginning perched on the stairs and dedicating his performance to all of Group Two. Then he sings, and his parents are staring at him in the audience and then suddenly smiling indulgently and clapping when they see the cameras, so it’s probably just a family thing they do. Normund gads about the stage, playing up the character thing, tossing off his glasses all dramatical like, crouching and crawling on the ground, propositioning the American Idol logo, not singing well, but declaring through song that we “have got to love [him].”
Simon feels himself to be speaking on behalf of America as he hopes that Normund will not go through to the finals. Cut to Normund’s parents looking supremely shocked, which is kind of cute, but also a puzzle. He calls Normund a “horrific comedy,” and Normund calls Simon a “sassypants” and does a karate kick. Randy thinks this was one of the most entertaining performances ever, and Paula tries to stump for him by saying “This is America!” by way of saying anything goes. Ryan says he liked Normund in a way; innuendo, innuendo, Paula is mystified, Ryan likes no one making a joke of his show, vote, and we’re done.
Little Red-Haired Girl
Between auditions and now, Allison Iraheta has been onscreen for maybe 3 minutes, so it’s hard for me to recall anything about her. Ryan helps this out by mentioning to us that Allison is a baby, and so she has to take boring AI driven high school classes because of some silly child labor law. Allison’s a really awkward interview; she’s having marked trouble thinking of “cool” answers to Ryan’s questions.
She sings well though. I say that even though she sings “Alone,” which if I had my druthers would never be performed again, but really Allison did okay with it. She’s guilty of more diaphragm crunching than Carly Smithson ever was, and she really strains on the top power notes, but otherwise her voice is nice. This is the first judge approved performance of the evening; they all take the opportunity to say that even though she’s only 16, everyone else sucked and she ruled. Paula even says “sing the phone book, even though you’re 16.” 16. 16. 16.
Pretty People Who Can Sing
Allison Iraheta is 16! I don’t know if you knew so I thought I’d clue you in. But, this other guy Kris Allen is ancient. He’s like 23. There’s nothing else to say; he can never be impressive to you now. Especially not by singing “Man in the Mirror.” I love that song, but it does not belong on American Idol supported only by what sounds like a Casio keyboard track and drippy backup singers. This song needs strings and drums and a mass choir, and Michael Jackson. Even though he is gorgeous, Kris Allen fails to hold my attention past the first chorus, but before that I learned his voice is pretty nondescript but not objectionable. Unfortunately for me and Kris, Kara thinks the last half was way better than the first. Oh well. However, Paula and Simon were charmed by Kris and his performance. Paula is so thrilled by Simon’s agreement that she reaches over to kiss him, and this is when I notice that her top is backless. Now I have to wonder what other wardrobe choices are obscured by the table and chairs. Thanks for giving me nightmares about Randy wearing star spangled briefs, Paula. Randy thinks Kris passed the No Guitar Test, baby, and Simon wonders why Randy calls people “baby.” Simon is clearly unfamiliar with the phenomenon of trying too hard to be down, yo. Chatting with Ryan, Kris admits that he was nervous at the beginning but feels good about his performance. I know I haven’t recapped this part for everyone, but that’s pretty much what everyone has said or will say, so you can just do a mental cut and paste if you want.
A Trio of Quirky-Quirky
Megan Joy Corkrey is no longer any run-of-the-mill Megan. She has a middle name and she’s willing to use it. She’s dressed to mess with your mind – Rapunzel-like blond locks, a Dick and Jane approved white summer dress with big roses on the bodice, and bigger than life arm tattoo of a house and blood or something. . She sings “Put Your Records On,” and I still hate this song, but I can’t hate Megan for singing it. She drops her quirky voice all over it and wiggles around like a toddler in a grocery store and finishes with a big smile. Paula loves her and has always loved her; song choice, hip, cool, relevant. She hearts Megan. Her words. Simon calls her a funny little thing, but warns her not to get too excited when singing because it makes her shouty. Megan thinks she rocked the shouting thing. Randy calls her Duffy, Adele, and Winehouse. Kara says some stuff about her that is everything everybody else just said, and says with the right song Megan could be on the radio. Couldn’t we all? Ryan teases her for her ridic dance move, which Megan promptly dubs “The Corkrey.” Now if she were smart she’d make up an accompanying song and put it all on YouTube, and she wouldn’t even have to do this crazy show anymore.
Big Baldheaded Matt Breitzke, he’s a welder. Isn’t that odd and not like something people really do? How interesting that he’s a welder on a singing show! And so here he is on AI. He sings a song I don’t know called “If You Could Only See,” and has the same cool, smoky voice as ever but fails to do anything interesting with it. Simon really likes Matt but hates the song, and would’ve talked Matt out of singing it if he could’ve done. Matt politely disagrees. Randy thinks the song is great but makes for a boring performance. Kara repeats this. Paula repeats her. Only it took them a thousand more words and a million extra minutes to say all this than it takes you to read it.
Meanwhile, Jesse Langseth is like the third young white girl single mother we’ve seen, so whatever Ronald Reagan. Jesse misses her baby but wants to be a star, and during Hollywood she had to go through one of those ridiculous sing-offs. Also, Simon gave her a lukewarm review then so she’s fired up to do an awesome job just to shut him up. That’s a goal I can get behind. The choice to sing “Bette Davis Eyes” I’m not so enamored of, but I love her anyway for reasons as yet unidentifiable. Something about her being Leslie Hunt plus Carly plus … Elliott? She has no chance. Randy squints a lot and says she didn’t blow him out the box, and she needs to do more. Jesse asks “More what,” and it may have been snappish or she may just be that awkward, I’m not sure. More vocal range, as it turns out. I’m honestly tuning Kara out at this point, so sorry. And then everybody starts clapping for some reason so maybe I should’ve listened. Paula thinks Jesse has unique phrasing and a memorable cool about her, but where Paula sees memorable, Simon forgets. He also says “too cool for school,” which exactly proves my point.
You May Sit in the Garden and Eat Worms
Kai Kalama’s alliterative and rhythmic name makes me want to sing “We Go Together” from Grease. I’m just paying that forward. His fluffy bob and guitar are much bigger than him, but “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” anyway. (I love you, Jimmy Ruffin!) Kai makes scrunchy “artistic” faces into the camera, and hugs himself, and dances around in agony, and succeeds in rocking his mama, who we see clapping and singing along in the audience. Kara too; she says she thinks he’s a good guy, even though he had some pitch problems and sang an old-fashioned song. Paula likes that Kai likes the throwbacks, and gives kudos for all of his performing. Simon thought the performance was corny, and we hear both wedding and hotel from him. Randy thought he played it too safe, so safe he was absolutely dull. I can’t stand it when Randy and I agree, but personally I was not even entertained enough to try and think of a quip, so we’re leaving Kai like this.
Mishavonna Henson! I’m finally absolutely sure I’m spelling her name correctly! Misha didn’t get a huge amount of attention during auditions, etc. so you may not know that this is her second go-round. But, she’s glad the judges pushed her further this time, and promises not to let America down with her singing tonight. “Drops of Jupiter” is her song choice; she starts out dragging a little behind the tempo but otherwise this performance is pretty awesome. She sings a cool song in a cool way, and even dances and works the crowd without looking like an idiot. I say she wins, just for that. The panel disagrees. All of the judges say, “That song rules, you can sing, but we don’t like you.” Oh, how much more pleased would I have been by this whole switching around of who gets first comment if these fools hadn’t repeated each other all night. Instead I just want them all to be locked in a windowless room and be forced to fight for the privilege of speaking until only one remains. At this point I hardly care which one, except not Randy.
And Dread Pirate Adam Lambert closes the show. The Hipster’s Choice is still worrying about how to connect with a song instead of being on a Broadway stage at every moment in time, so tonight he’s singing “Satisfaction,” because his mother loves the song and he loves his mother, and so there you go, both an emotion and a connection. They’re happening all haphazardly, so if we were connecting dots Adam’s would look more like a balloon than a whale, but whatever. He’s all in black with the tons of chains around his neck as he is wont to have, and groaning out the song and grinning; kicking back his head and doing a Jagger snarl, wearing a fingerless glove, screeching at the appropriate times and the inappropriate ones too, and earning an ovation. Paula stands to clap for him but then doesn’t have words to say why. She kind of felt like she was at an Adam Lambert concert, and thinks he is leaving everyone in his dust. The crowd goes wild for that, so Gokey, you better be arranging a filmed visit to your church or something real quick like. Simon thinks Adam was good when he wasn’t horrifyingly bad, and knows that people will love it or hate it. Adam philosophizes that “hate it or love it” is what music is. Everyone in all black is always super wise. Randy says Adam is a combo of Steven Tyler, Fall Out Boy, and the kid from Twilight, and My Chemical Romance, and then he runs out of allusions to pale, skinny guys who wear too much makeup and look broody/pouty all the time. Kara thinks his technique and his range are excellent and then something happens in the audience and I think Kara gets snotty about other people deigning to give an opinion? I don’t know, but then the “we’re running out of time” music plays so Ryan and Adam only have a second to girl out about how much they love Twilight and everything associated with it.
Numbers, performance recap, but all that does is remind me that Jasmine’s probably shot herself in the foot and Matt G. to a lesser degree, Kris is not named Nick but the fact that I almost typed Nick means he is not long for this show, people who didn’t get screen time maybe didn’t deserve it, Normund, 16, Mishavonna deserves better than this show, and good Lord this is a long process. There were fewer abominations than last week, so it’s a little tough to call who’s going through besides Adam. Luckily for you the always hip MsFroggy is on deck to let you know who’ll be filling out the first half of our Top 12.