Fancy meeting you here! Yet again, I find I couldn't stay away...so here I am, breaking in a new blog, (fumbling through it, I might add), but delighted to have fellow Idol fans join me. Shall we snark?
Tonight the kids will be singing songs by their personal idols, and mentored by Jimmy Iovine himself. This could be good--or a trainwreck. I thought Iovine gave great advice during Hollywood week (e.g. telling Jacob Lusk to pull back about a million degrees), but the judges' tastes seemed to countermand that. So, do you follow the experienced record producer, or the three bobbleheads out front? Only time will tell...
Little country rocker Lauren A. is our leadoff singer, and she's chosen "Any Man of Mine" by Shania Twain. (As we all learned during Shania week last season, she's like the bestselling female artist of all time, or something insane like that.) She plans to have fun onstage with it. Good idea. Interestingly, their mentoring footage isn't on the same film stock in a living room with a piano, per usual--it's in an actual recording studio, which makes me think that Jimmy don't come to no Idol wannabes. They come to him.
Oof. Poor Lauren apparently forgot to tip the stylist, because she's in a frilly blue tunic that's the wrong length for her, so she looks stumpariffic. She sounds good, though a little overwhelmed by the backing band at first--she's not carrying the room like she did in auditions. She's flirting with the camera and the audience HARD, though. Steven Tyler agrees with me--he wishes that she were "a little more kick-ass." Yeah, J.Lo agrees...it was sung sweetly, and well, but it was talent show level, not command-the-stage level. Maybe if she felt less stumpy. Randy wraps up with praise for the song and Shania, but in awkward R-Dawg fashion, gives a shout-out to "Shania's great collaborator, Mutt Lang." Apparently he forgot about the whole "Shania's collaborator and cheating ex-husband Mutt Lang" part. Lauren's smile is dimmed, and Ryan asks how she's feeling...whereupon she turns into an idiot. "Um...wull, ah had a good tahm," she drawls in a thicker Southern accent than we've heard yet, sort of twisting in place like a child. Girl, own the room! It's so bad that Ryan asks, "Do you understand what they're saying?" Ooh, but she charms the judges back again by apologizing for not kicking ass. Sing more better, Lauren! But you're still cute.
Casey's up next. Wow, Lauren and Casey right up front? I would have thought one of them would get the last slot of the night. (But wouldn't it be great if Idol had them sing in ranked order, the way America's Next Top Model reveals its photos every week? I think it would add even more tension and drive the fragile ones even crazier.) Casey is doing Joe Cocker's version of "With a Little Help from My Friends"...which he first heard on TV's "The Wonder Years." Oof. Raise your hand if you just felt a little older. Casey hopes, like Cocker, to "sweat the music." But he begins sitting on the Idol staircase, which is not so sweaty...can he pull off the Dramatic Stand-n-Walk? Yes! Oh, my...as he gets rolling, 8 backup singers are creeping out from behind the stairs, but Casey didn't really come far enough downstage, so they're having to take tiny little bridesmaid steps to stay behind him. OK, Casey sounds good, but I don't really feel like he's sweating the music. The voice is pleasingly scratchy and shouty, but the motions feel playacted. The audience, however, disagrees with me.
Heh. J.Lo begins by saying, "I go by what I feel. Notes, pitch, whatever...btw I'm not saying anything bad about your notes or pitch." Think ahead a little, J.Lo. [Allow me to take this moment to compliment her awesome red lipstick.] Randy also loved Casey, said he was totally exciting. But that is nothing compared to Steven: "You are a rainbow of talent...you are a plethora of passion." Man, I need to get him to blurb one of my books. Is there any remaining doubt that Steven is the Paula of the group?
Up next? Ashthon. I kind of hope she doesn't last that long, because remembering to type that second h all season is going to kill me. I have just noticed that they don't all have the same producer to help them in rehearsal--Lauren worked with Don Was, but Ashthon has Rodney Jenkins. During auditions, the judges called her a young Diana Ross, and thus she is singing a Diana song tonight, "When You Tell Me That You Love Me." Will she have the range for it? Jimmy I. is not sure. But after rehearsal, he says he was "so inspired that I wanted to invite Berry Gordy from Motown" to hear it. Wait, so, did you, Jimmy? Not clear. I guess we'll look for a quick cut and a helpful audience chyron after the song.
Ashthon is wearing a one-shoulder silver gown, and her hair is Out. To. There. She looks good, but it's become clear that she has only one hand gesture in her repetoire--and sadly, it's a sort of arm-waving move that looks as though she's modeling flight for a flock of baby condors. She hits all her notes, and did OK, I think, but it wasn't that exciting. She also has a bit of a simper on her face that's a little gross. What did you think, Randy? Well, first of all, he atones for his Mutt Lang misstep by pointing out Berry Gordy in the audience. OK, Randy, you're out of the dawghouse. There's a lot of hemming and hawing about whether it was a good choice, and he comes out basically positive, but the pull quote is "I think you did yourself some good with that." Um, thanks? Steven agrees with Randy that it was basically good, and suggested that she has more to show. She was not, however, a rainbow of talent. J.Lo liked her too, but gives her a nudge to sing something we know (nitwit). Ashthon appreciated the chance to show her softer side...but she needs to quit mugging for the camera.
Paul in yet another showy jacket is the next to go...tonight's ensemble is black and red, military-inspired. (Or Sgt. Pepper-inspired? We'll find out after the break.)
OK, this Red Riding Hood movie? Seriously? Could this secretly be not as terrible as it looks? Because right now it looks like something M. Night Shyamalan passed on.
We're back! What's Squeaky Paul going to sing tonight? He should just sing that song from "Once" over and over again. But no, he will be singing "Ryan Adams...with an R." (I would laugh at him, but in fact I just got all excited that he was going to sing Bryan Adams, and then "...Oh.") A small-voiced emo hipster? Pretty good fit. Don Was is helping him to perfect "Come Pick Me Up." I don't know any Ryan Adams, but I think he did a song called "New York, New York" (unofficial subtitle: No, Not That One). Paul's teeth are still scarily white. He might need to take up smoking for a week or two.
Eeeeek. I am losing my Paul love. He's shimmying and squeaking and sort of staggering around like he might be drunk. This is exactly what he did during the auditions, I know, but it turns out I might have just hit my recommended season allotment of Vitamin Paul. Also, this song is weird. I think Ryan Adams needed one more tune to fill out his record, and just started scrolling through his texts to find some lyrics. Steven opens, says he loves Paul's voice, but also gives us the first "pitchy" of the evening. Points out that he could have made his chorus a bigger moment. J. Lo likes that he moved the crowd, even if not everybody "gets" Paul. "I don't know Ryan Adams or that song, and I know a lot of music, so..." she trails off. Somewhere, Ryan Adams throws a can of PBR at the television and slurs, "Whatever, Jenny from the Block." And then he prints an ironic t-shirt of it. And the Dawg? First, he has to top J.Lo by telling us that he knows who Ryan Adams is, but ultimately he agrees that he loves Paul, even if none of them know quite why. The audience is squealing as Paul tries to teach Ryan to do his signature dance.
"House" has completely jumped the shark. That is all.
Pia. Blam! She's in a one-shoulder, gold lame minidress with a dangerously high hemline. Pia's singing Celine Dion's "All by Myself." Well, this should be subtle. But amazingly, the women have avoided doing classic belters thus far, so I suppose it's time. Her producer is Ron Fair, who looks to be in his 50s but is wearing a newsboy cap backwards. Shame on him. At rehearsal, Pia gets kind words from Jimmy but looks like a newsreader, not a pop star.
And we're off! WOW. Did not know it, but apparently the minidress comes with a floor-length sheer chiffon train. She opens quietly and then goes big on the chorus, to a little cheer from the audience. She isn't moving at all...just Disney Diva Dramatic Squats. I think it's because her heels are seven and a half feet high. She ends, audience is screaming, J.Lo is grinning, and in general she sounded good. I thought it was boring, but that might be the song's fault? J. Lo is practically overcome, and thinks it was "really beautiful." Randy also loves it, and seems to think she's a real contender. I'm skipping the rest of him so that I can tell you that Steven Tyler wishes Pia a "Happy International Woman's Day." That engenders in me...a mixed reaction. Slightly creeped out, because it feels a little Skeeven Tyler--but part of me is shocked that he even knows there is an International Woman's Day. The more you know...
Who's next? It's James! (Wait, which one is James?) Oh, right, the Tourette's guy. (I would feel worse about ID'ing him as such if the show hadn't forced him down our throat that way.) James's idol is "Paul McCartney, from the Beatles." Thanks for explaining that for us, James--we might not have known PAUL MCCARTNEY otherwise. You're fired. [Oops. Wrong reality show. Incidentally, Gallery is publishing or has published books from 5 of this season's Celebrity Apprentice candidates. Do with that knowledge what you will.] OK, we're back--he's doing "Maybe I'm Amazed." Wasn't that one of Crystal Bowersox's finale songs? They've run a beatboxy rhythm underneath the song (at least in rehearsal) and I Do Not Approve. That's because I'm a curmudgeon. I'm also not crazy about the spelling of producer Jim Jonsin's last name. That's because I'm an editor.
Heh. Iovine says James's voice is very unusual, and "that can be difficult in the record business. I didn't even know there were people out there singing like that." Guess he didn't watch Adam Lambert's season. James takes the stage in unsurprising garb--vest, t-shirt, boots, fauxhawk. I get the feeling the whole first two verses are just him waiting to scream. "Can I scream now? How 'bout now? No? What about now?" Aaaaaand....here we go. Audience seems pleased (though not as hypnotically adoring as they were for Paul--must be the teeth), but Randy is a little "so, listen, man..." to start. Bad news? No! Fakeout! He loves that James went from last week's Judas Priest to this week's Paul McCartney. While yes, that shows a great range on paper, but I think those performances were basically the same. One was on 7, one went to 11 is all. Steven and J.Lo love him too--I'm trying to catch up so we're summarizing. J.Lo praises his musicality and his "melodic quality," which the great rock singers have (not just screaming). Gotta say, I am really appreciating relevant comments on singing! Such a novelty on this show.
Our next contestant is Haley and her giant creepy face. Sorry, Haley fans. Didn't like her in auditions, didn't want her as the wild card, am prepared not to like her now. She's singing Leann Rimes's debut single, "Blue," and her producers are a him-and-her team called "Rock Mafia" (no first names). There is a great shot of Mr. Rock Mafia explaining his vision to Haley, who looks utterly lost. Mrs. Rock Mafia looks like Lily from the Munsters.
Oof. Haley's first note sounds flat to me, and she's pretty much copying Leann's delivery (which of course was copying Patsy Cline). She gets the yodel in there, but she's making the same smarmy faces to the camera that she always makes. Looks terrific, though, in a long peacock-blue dress and miles of wavy hair. I have nothing else interesting to say, alas--she didn't move around, she didn't seem to do anything new with the song (or I missed it), she just...sang. Steven opens the judging and tells her she was beautiful, and that if she listened closely, she could hear "the rest of America--the country/western part of America--roaring." Good thing he qualified that, because there was no roaring in my apartment. He then tries to tell her a story about the time he met Leann Rimes when she was doing that song (and why her handlers would let a teenaged Rimes anywhere near Steven Tyler, I don't know), but Haley is so eager to agree with him that she kind of cuts him off. J. Lo? Care to bring some conflict to the panel? Nope. She praises Haley for her special voice, and compares her uniqueness to Paul. Randy begins with, "OK, the good parts..." which means Yay! Someone will say something critical. He tells her it was a little boring (which it was) and the audience starts booing. He starts to go on, ignoring the boos, but Haley cuts him off to try and defend herself playfully. J.Lo jumps in saying "Everybody doesn't have to run all over the stage," but Randy insists that it wasn't the stagecraft, it was the singing that was a little "sleepy, like at a luau." I am shocked to say so, but Randy is right.
Oh, lordy. Jacob will be singing R.Kelly after the break. But first, I have to ask you all about this trailer for Hop. Wha--why? Do you want to go watch a movie about the Easter Bunny, who craps jelly beans? Ugh!
OK, so Jacob's idol is R.Kelly? That seems...ill-considered. I presume he'll be doing "I Believe I Can Fly." And...he is. Shocker. Jacob tells us the song is special to him because he's loved it since he was 9, when he "fell in love with Space Jam." I think I may be officially done with Jacob after that. And if not that, then after this song, for sure. He comes out in a suit and tie, surrounded by the obligatory gospel choir--well, what else did you think he was going to do? And here we go...we get one fairly restrained verse, and then he just Jacobs all over the song. Half-music, half-seizure. Whatever, dude. Pop is not your genre. I don't care if he has control, that was ridiculous. Steven Tyler disagrees: "Pure passion...pure music. I can't even judge it, you are that good." Oy. J. Lo is all full of feelings again, which is interfering with her ability to judge. Randy loved him too, loved that he hit the high notes--Jimmy Iovine, would you please come out here and tell the judges to stop encouraging his oversinging?
Maybe Thia will be more to my liking. Think she'll do a Michael Jackson song to honor Randy's comparison last week? Why yes! Sort of. She's doing "Smile," which Jimmy I. explains to her is familiar as a Michael Jackson tune, but is actually from a Charlie Chaplin movie. Or as Thia then explains to us, "Charlie Chapman." Oof. In rehearsal, Jimmy encourages Thia to make the beginning more intimate, softer (once again showing that all these contestants have been trained to oversing by the fake judgery), but I bet this'll become a beltapalooza in no time.
Aww...she looks very pretty, though, in an ombre maxidress. Only problem is that the front hem reveals her shoes, which appear to be heavy platform sandals. Bad Thia! No clodhoppers with your flowy dress! She starts the song, and appears to have listened to Jimmy--it's a mature, calm, jazzy sound. Of course, if Simon were still here, he'd be warming up his "cabaret" knife as we speak. And then...a drum beat, and suddenly it's like a bossa nova or something. I think the beat is too slow, because the song feels labored somehow...and now it's back for a glory note. Ugh, that was D-U-L-L. Randy agrees with me that the arrangement sucked. He liked the beginning, though. So did Steven...uh-oh, he's going off on "you're so new and young..." Steven! Stay clean! OK, we're safe. J. Lo agrees that the beginning, unornamented and clear, was good, but she's a little softer on the cheesy arrangement.
Time for Stefano, who'll be singing Stevie Wonder's "Goodbye." Stefano talks about how he and producer Polow da Don "bounced ideas off each other." Shut up, you idiot, and sing what the producer tells you to. Onstage, he's in untucked shirt, tie, and a confusing jacket that has a leather vest-part and sleeves that look like a suit jacket. He's moving around the stage, and he does sound like Stevie Wonder, but sort of...desperate? I feel like he worked really hard for that piece. Steven says he pulled it off, and J. Lo loves it too--the song sped up in the middle, which I guess was a new mix of the song (which I didn't know--sorry, Stevie!). Randy was more dubious, but was won over by the end.
I've just realized that poor Stefano got about a third of the blog space that everyone else has. I think this is partly AI's fault--it feels like we're racing through the contestants now--but mostly mine. I will have to start doing some hand stretches before Idol nights! Also, I find Stefano boring. My apologies to his fans--but he's giving me nothing! I can't even make fun; he's just...nice. Maybe Paul would lend him his Nudie suit from the other week?
On we go to Karen...will she come off as 16 or 47 this week? Unsurprisingly, she's singing a Selena song, because she is riding her bilingual hook all the way to the bank. It may be "I Could Fall in Love with You Tonight"? Karen sounds weak starting out, like she's singing into a hairbrush in her bedroom--I suspect she started a little low for her register so she could hit the high notes later. But OH! What is she wearing? Ay ay ay...it's a halter necked, midriff-baring, black sequined lounging pajama suit. Also about a gazillion pounds of rhinestones at ears and wrist. Basically, picture every "Love Boat" guest star ever. Oh, this isn't Project Runway? Sorry. She sounds nice enough...pretty, but not very confident. No real showmanship, I felt. J. Lo begins with "You're so pretty..." which is a bad sign. Oof--J. Lo points out that she was missing notes uncharacteristically (though she throws her an excuse by asking if she could hear herself onstage), and J. Lo hasn't said anything bad about anyone tonight. Randy felt she was "fighting the song" and called it sleepy, which appears to be this year's "pitchy." Awww, Steven makes it three for three--the song had no energy and wasn't anywhere near what Karen could do.
Who's the next victim? Scotty McCreary! I'd forgotten he was on this show. So, will he be doing "Baby, Lock Them Doors" for the 47th time? Scotty's singing Garth Brooks, which is...appropriate. He's singing "The River," which is an older one. What's Garth Brooks up to these days, I wonder. I think he's married to Trisha Yearwood, but they've always been cagey about their friendship in the press. Do you think that means "cheating on spouses" or "beards"? (OK, or "they're really just friends, you nasty perv"?)
Scotty's tone is lovely in its usual country fashion, but he does not know how to move onstage or hold his mike. He keeps both giant man-paws on it, which has the unfortunate effect of making him look neckless in closeup. Oops...and he gets to the music-cuts-out-while-audience-claps section, throwing an arm into the air, but he doesn't signal for the clap, and the audience doesn't seem to go with him. Eh, I fear this was just a strong karaoke version of the song...but the audience is screaming and cheering. I think he may be this year's "sexually safe cute boy." Randy gives him props for not trying to reinterpret the song and straying from his abilities--he loves his old-school country stylings. Steven says Scotty "did the Garth justice." Then there's some confusing blather about shooting a hole in the moon, and Roy Rogers, but I think it was all kindly meant. J. Lo was excited to see him perform...um, well, if by "perform" you mean "shuffle and bob awkwardly," I agree. Heh--Ryan wraps up by making fun of the cheesy landscape slideshow that served as Scotty's backdrop. The Great Lakes are lovely this time of year, apparently.
How are we not done yet? I swear, my green Tivo line is nearly used up. Are there still more contestants? Ahhh, of course--Naima. I cannot WAIT to see what she's wearing, but I'll probably need three paragraphs to describe it. Naima's doing Rihanna's "Umbrella," and Tricky, the producer who did that song, is the one assigned to her! (I love "Umbrella." I liked Rihanna's version, I liked the Mandy Moore version...I even like my karaoke version, though others may disagree!) She will be doing it "with a twist" to make it her own. Also, you'll be happy to hear that rehearsal footage proves that Naima owns a pair of jeans. Jimmy loves her already.
So, showtime. But first, costume check. I...I don't know how to describe this: it appears to be sparkly cuffed jeans over lace-up wrestling boots, a black bustier that appears to be slipping down, and a bolt of striped cloth kind of wrapped under her breasts and serving as a tunic blouse? Maybe? Steven is grinning and nodding in approval at her entrance, which isn't quite caught by the cameraman so to me, it looks like she's doing the Elaine dance. I can't understand what the "twist" is, except that---oops, here it is! She busts into a reggae rap thing for the bridge, which I'm not sure is even in the original song. Plus there's more dancing and another chorus. You know, she put on a show, which was good, but honestly, she's sung better. Steven Tyler tells her that she's "crazy good," but there's a "but" coming. He found her pitchy, and suspects that she couldn't hear herself. Fair enough. God, Naima already looks like she's going to cry...but then she recovers as Steven applauds her flavor. J. Lo also says "screw pitchy, you have fire" (OK, she didn't say "screw") but encourages her to find more control to go with her dancing. Randy was a little more bugged by the pitchiness, but gives her an excellent comment about getting her stamina up because it's much harder to control your breath and pitch while you're dancing. He also loved the reggae bridge and wished the whole song had been done that way. Naima ends by dedicating the song to her husband and is actually kind of charming in acknowledging that singing and dancing is hard, "for real."
That's our last contestant! Clearly we came in a little short, because Ryan's still holding Naima there and is now filling for time by chatting with the judges...but I don't need to stick around for that. I can barely feel my fingers.
For tomorrow. I'm not going to blog, but I'll pop back here and put up a Results update. Predictions? I think we'll probably see Ashthon, Stefano, and maybe...Thia? in the bottom three. I suspect Stefano will get the boot. See you next week!