The seemingly interminable road to the Top 12 continues. Nine strangers were already pimped, primed and surgically implanted, uhm, I mean, voted into the final group, with only three more left to join their ranks before a further three will be added by the judges. I could tell you right now who will make it because it's that obvious, given the lineup tonight, but far be it from me to deprive you. Let's get to it.
The last dozen homeless puppies are ready to take the stage. Seacrest is dressed casually tonight in the metrosexual's standard uniform of pressed, fitted shirt, tailored slim pants and artfully tousled hair. The theme tonight is the Billboard Hot 100 again, because there are still some unexplored sucky songs that nobody cares about which can be freely abused.
Hat afficionado, Von Smith, is the first stray who hopes to be adopted by America. He screamed his way through Hollywood week which he claims was a mistake he will not repeat because that's not who he is. To allay the voters' fears he chose You're all I need to get by for tonight which is a song that starts off breathy and weak but has a crunchy, scream-filled center. Maybe he hopes we won't notice the screeching because we'll be too busy staring at his orange shoes, his spiky hair or his tortured facial expressions. Randy and Kara thinks he found himself and did a good job by listening to Simon. Paula says “this is a memorable first” but I doubt that unless that's really Coke in her sippy cup there and not something else. Simon pulls the Clay Aiken card down to the fashion choices and the voice. That, Mr. Smith, is not a compliment, no matter what they tell you!
If me ain't has none did somethings
Taylor Vaifanua is next. Apart from forgetting the lyrics during Hollywood week, she hasn't made a lasting impression yet. Her pimpage was minimal due to a severe lack of any gut-wrenching family tragedies and other personal hardships in her background. Probably not Top 12 material but she is going to try her best tonight singing the grammatically challenged If I ain't got you by Alicia Keys. This was once a great song until it started pouring out of every Top 40 radio station every 15 minutes on the clock, then it became a song that I'd smash with a sledgehammer if it were a cockroach. Taylor is wearing some sort of taupe and black baby doll getup and a stack of carefully artsy bangle bracelets that scream JC Penney uniform. I could overlook the fashion-wannabe-victim rubber tights and the taupe pajama but I can't overlook her bland delivery of a tired song which she infuses with not an ounce of her own personality.
Kara hears talent but sees no personality and doesn't know whether Taylor would be a good shopping partner. Paula is naturally perplexed. Simon doesn't get the shopping thing, probably because he buys sweaters and V-necked T-shirts in bulk, online, but has other issues such as the fact that Taylor is bland and generic. Randy was just bored.
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End public service announcement.
Papa was a Rolling Stone for a minute and a half
Remember Alex Wagner-Trugman? Yeah, neither do I, but he is here in all his geekiness. Does he have a chance to woo America? I don't know. Whereas plain beige rugs like Clay Aiken and that other dude with the white hair, forgot his name, who won a few seasons back were decorator's neutrals they sort of stood out against their more flamboyant counterparts by virtue of contrast. Alex just fades into the wallpaper. His choice is an Elton John gem called I guess that's why they call it the blues which should not be desecrated, however Alex does his best to do so saying that he wants to be a boyfriend to all people who miss a loved one tonight. That's a tall order. Alex has a good voice with some actual control but an unfortunate tendency for cheesy embellishment and unnecessary flourish coupled with a love for beastly howling. At one point he tries to rip his mic off the stand rock star style, but the stand falls over. All this would not be a problem if he were a rock star on stage – what's a fallen mic stand and a bit of beastly howling next to smashed guitars and other histrionics – but for a pre-finals AI performance it's more than overkill, it's suicide.
The judges waste no time panning Alex's performance. They all deride his imitation rock star antics and, as Simon puts it, his “ridiculous growling”. Alex says the fallen mic stand was an accident and he just wanted to have fun while he could, which just makes it worse. How can the puppy dog loving demographic vote for him if his biggest move was an accident?
A winner will take it all, but leave this
Cutesy and wholesome is how I'd describe Arianna Afsar. I can barely remember seeing her earlier in the season but no matter. She can just wow me from now on. Her choice is Abba's The winner takes it all, which is incidentally the first Abba song ever performed on AI. I guess they finally got the rights to them. Patiently waiting to hear all my favorites from the [/i]Mamma Mia![/i] soundtrack. Poor Arianna is trying to update this song but it's a horrid attempt. She's off key, her voice is weak and breathy and that's before she starts screaming it all in a last attempt to salvage the performance. Way to ruin a perfectly awesome song! The audience reaction is tepid, Simon calls it “terrible in most parts” with a dreary, funeral-like arrangement.
Randy wanted a younger vibe from her while Kara wanted the “shiny button” Arianna. I think Paula is saying something nice about her but she makes little sense and I don't feel like digging up the 10lb Paula to English dictionary I have stashed in the hallway closet right about now. Rest assured, you're probably not missing anything.
Clever subtitle omitted due to lack of inspiration.
Ju'not Joyner has a son. And that's about it. Some people have a dying mother, a dead wife, Ju'not has a cute son who made the judges go “awww” during his audition. His song is Hey there Delilah by the Plain White T's which is another one of those songs that's been pouring out of every fawcet for at least a year now. Which reminds me that my favorite version is a bit I found on Youtube where this dude, GoRemy, made a parody of it with different lyrics and an Middle Eastern spin. I about died watching that thing! Go check it out. Oh, sorry, I'm supposed to talk about Ju'not here. He's okay, nothing to write home about, besides I have GoRemy's version open in another window so I can't hear him that well. He's mostly plain vanilla, boring and very somber. Fast forward, 'cause I think even Ju'not himself is falling asleep while singing.
Randy thinks it was cool that Ju'not did the understated thing, Kara liked the spin he put on it but wants him to let loose next time, Paula babbles a bit about how she liked him taking liberties while Simon gives the ultimate praise: “it was better than I thought”.
I want world peace and a recording contract!
Headband guy, Nathaniel, and Kristen McNamara, who once had purple hair, had a bit of a tiff in Hollywood which nobody cares about except Seacrest because it's a way to kill another two or three minutes of show time. Nothing of substance is said, except that they are now cool. Cool.
Kristen will sing first with Give me one reason by Tracy Chapman. Dressed in a sweet orange dress that would look too young on a 12 year old, with newly done blonde hair straight out the Miss Kansas pageant, Kristen growls her way through the well-known song and leaves barely a footprint. Kara says she's a great singer who can hit notes but thinks she should go with rock songs. Not in that dress, she shouldn't! She also think the outfit is wrong. I'll say. Paula wants the Kelly Clarkson imitator from Hollywood to come back. Simon is confused about her image as well and thinks she's uncomfortable. Randy thinks she picked an easy song which she then proceeded to overdo. Kristen acknowledges her style gaffes and wonders whether she needs a sytlist. I thought they already had a stylist...
Meatloaf. It's what for dinner.
Nathaniel Marshall from New York tries very hard to stand out. He buys headbands in bulk at Claire's, wears whatever clothing everyone else leaves untouched on the Goodwill racks and admits to a drama queen reputation. He thinks that America needs to discover humble and goody Nathaniel. Why does he think America likes headbands, I have no idea. I would do anything for love that great nonsensical power anthem by Meatloaf is his choice which he hopes will impress the voters. I always wondered what it was the Meatloaf didn't want to do for love. What exactly is “that”? No answers from Nathaniel here, but he does frown heavily when he sings that particular line, so it must be something really, really bad.
Would Nathaniel ditch the headbands and the under the lip piercings for love? I'm going to email CBS and ask .
The judges snicker. Simon thought the performance was “verging on excruciating” which is polite of him. Randy is puzzled by the song choice. Nate explains he used to dance to it with his mother when he was a kid. Kara wants to see his serious side and Paula liked him even though he did a Boy George version of Meatloaf. Wow, an insightful review from Paula. Should have bought a lottery ticket today 'cause I didn't think I'd get so lucky. Ever. There's more insanity and weird pimpage when Nathaniel buddies it up with the judges at their table and even sits on Paula lap. I wish I had an explanation for all of this. Sigh.
All Keyed up
Felicia Barton squeaked into the Top 12 after another other chick was ditched due to some scandal. They didn't say that but we all know. Aside from this interesting tidbit she has no other story which makes her, what I like to call, filler. Her song is No one by Alicia Keys. Dressed all in black Felicia is certainly trying to channel Alicia while her rendition is karaoke good. It's one of those performances which puts little spin on the original which is not always bad if the thing is 30 years old, but when it's a contemporary song, you just keep hearing the real version in your head no matter what. She is not bad, just not great.
Paula praises her great looks and talent. Simon cautions her to not be a copycat. Randy wants her to embrace what is different about herself and Kara liked it for the most part. She did detect some pitch problems though.
Visually impaired Scott MacIntyre is likable. Really likable. He is also talented and completely free of gimmicks, histrionics and other distinguishing features. In other words, no spiky hair, no headbands, no pathetic crying fits to set him apart from the herd. Oh, except for that teensy-weensy little backstory about his blindness which is touching but we've heard it all about ten times now and I'm starting to be fed up with it. His song choice is Mandolin rain by Bruce Hornsby. Yeah, I've got that song along with It's the hard-knock life from Annie playing on a continuous loop on my iPod. He certainly is earnest, I'll give him that. Can't say I was awake for his entire performance but I saw and heard enough to know what put me to sleep; the dude is a major bore. Cute with a sparkling sob story can only take you so far although I suspect he is a lock for the Top 12.
The judges rave about him one by one like sheep. Criticism, or pimping, depending on your point of view, ranges from amazing to “you move mountains” to genius to Simon's disdain for the song lyrics. But even he admits Scott has some relevance. He is also sure Scott is going to the finals, and Simon is always right. Right?
This one's for the archives
Show of hands: Who here remembers Kendall Beard? That's what I thought. She is blonde, bubbly and has a dad who does an “alligator dance” every time she makes it one more round. I'm guessing this is the end of the road for her then. The stupid pet tricks show has been off the air for a while now and there's a good reason for that. Whatever she sang before, which I can't remember, Kendall chose This one's for the girls for tonight. Yeah, she's one of those. Squeaking by with Top 40 hits then busting out the country when nobody's looking. Simon is going to be pissed! In a yellow dress with a floral sash, Kendall looks debutante sweet and junior prom generic. Mom in the audience is more interesting in a shiny silver jacket that looks like stainless steel body armor on her.
Kara thought she picked the right song but didn't like the delivery, which was lacking. Paula loved the outfit! Simon thinks she went with the cute country which is right for her. He, of course, almost fell asleep midway through because it wasn't his “cup of tea”. Randy claims to love country music – hee! - but he wasn't too enthused about this performance.
Deny thy father and refuse thy name
Jorge Nunez from Puerto Rico was criticized for having a heavy accent during his audition. This prompted him to “work on it” and by Hollywood week, he managed to please the judges by sounding more fake American. Isn't that cute? What is not cute is that he is singing Don't let the sun go down on me by Clay Aiken, I mean, Elton John. That song only works when George Michael sings it with Elton. Any other version is unacceptable, people!! Now imagine this dude, he is squinting into the camera, making Constantine eyes at it under his pancake makeup, channeling that Latin lover shtick that just wants me to smack him. The singing is okay but overly dramatic with annoying runs and unnecessary vocal acrobatics.
Paula gives him a standing ovation and goes straight into fan girl mode, calling him sweetheart. She babbles and says she wants to squeeze him. Simon says they shouldn't have encouraged him to change his accent because Jorge should be who he is. Too late, Simon, you've created the monster already. Jorge now claims to not have an accent at all. The Dawg says the vocals very really good. Kara says he was born to sing. Then she says he's got an amazing gift. Paula starts to bawl then Jorge starts to bawl then breaks out into Spanish. Oh, crap. If this dude makes it to the Top 12, I just know he'll be doing this same thing every single week because if it worked once, they think it will work again. This is how I start getting mighty sick of these people! My only consolation is that whomever Paula called “sweetheart” before got eliminated no later than final four.
One more to go tonight and it's Lil Rounds. According to Kara she has the perfect name for some reason, maybe because it sounds like a more wholesome Lil' Kym or something, who knows. Lil has the whole AI package: Fantasia voice minus the squeaky whine, check, and sweet backstory with kids and hardship, check. She will sing Be without you by Mary J. Blige because she thinks about her kids whom she misses. Told, ya! Cute! Lil comes out wearing a too tight solid black cocktail dress with a yellow bodice and a polished delivery of her song. Well, yeah, she's good, but you know, boredom city. She also sounds indistinguishable from about forty or fifty other R&B crooners out there. The good news about that is that if one of them gets sick before a concert she can sing backstage while they lipsynch on stage and nobody would notice. In other words, Lil Rounds is a very good background singer.
The audience hollers dutifully, Simon says “brilliant” with a smile on his face and calls this his most favorite performance. Still, he says she sounded too much like the original. Randy agrees with Simon and adds something about swagger and yo, yo! Kara says she's a powerhouse and adds that she's been steady and consistent ever since they first met her. Paula says she's first class and that concludes tonight's finest pimping ceremony.
The incredible MotherSister will be back trying to inject some suspense into the obvious and I promise to try find something to like about the Top 12 starting next week, even if it's only their outfits.
Stop laughing. I said I'll try!