Archive for the ‘American Idol’ category

Idol 2010: Your Top 12 finalists, America

March 16, 2010

When last we left those crazy kids on American Idol, there were twice as many of them. Now that we’re down to the Top 12, let’s see how the competition has shaped up.

First off, my prognosticating skills positively reek this season. In forecasting the six female singers who’d make it this far, I batted a meager .500 — which would be a stupendous batting average, actually, if this were Major League Baseball, which it isn’t. I guessed correctly that we’d still have Crystal Bowersox, Siobhan Magnus, and Katie Stevens with us. I’m somewhat, yet not entirely, surprised that Paige Miles has survived. I am flabbergasted to still be looking at Didi Benami, and especially Lacey Brown, whom I thought should have been one of the first eliminations.

I did slightly better with the male contestants, accurately choosing four of the final six: Casey James, Lee Dewyze, Andrew Garcia, and Michael “Big Mike” Lynche. That the cute but out-of-his-depth Aaron Kelly has pulled enough votes out of America’s grandmas and tweens to get to this level doesn’t shock me. That Tim Urban — who has the least talent of any contestant of either gender, possibly in the history of the series — hasn’t yet been shown the door is less a surprise than it is a crime against civilization.

Of the people who have gotten the boot, the greatest disappointment for me was Lilly Scott, whose hippie-chic coffeehouse style made her, at the very least, interesting. That latter word I’d also have applied to Todrick Hall, who wasn’t the best singer in the bunch, but had a certain flamboyance (in the literal, not the encoded, sense of the term) that made him stand out. But… life moves on.

That said, here’s how I’m ranking the chances of the dozen left standing.

12. Tim Urban. Hokey smoke, Bullwinkle — how did this guy get this far? Perhaps the most ironic point about young Mr. Urban is his name, given that he’s about as urban as I am hillbilly, which is to say, not much at all. Unfortunately for viewers, Tim consistently attempts to prove this irony — for example, by attempting a reggae version of the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb.” If you’re going to pull off a Rasta-inflected treatment of a bluesy rocker, I think you might have actually wanted to have met a Jamaican.

11. Lacey Brown. Not only can the girl not sing a lick, but everything about her screams “fraud,” from her stagy mannerisms to her clunky, melodramatic phrasing. Should have been sent back to Denny’s with a name badge and a book of order tickets weeks ago.

10. Didi Benami. My opinion of Didi hasn’t changed one iota since we discussed her with the Top 24. I find her affected cheerleader personality grating, and her singing, while not dreadful, is merely ordinary. I suspect that she’ll place higher than tenth, but these are my numbers, and that’s the one I’m giving her.

9. Paige Miles. Paige has a ton of voice, and one of these years, she might be capable of using it effectively. Right now, she’s just a cheerful kid playing with a big, dangerous toy.

8. Aaron Kelly. Randy Jackson was off his nut when he compared Aaron to Justin Timberlake — except for the fact that, as I observed a while back, Aaron would fit perfectly in a remake of The Mickey Mouse Club, where Justin (along with Britney, Christina, J.C., Ryan, and a gaggle of their peers) got started. In terms of talent, Aaron’s more like the Jonas Brother who got cut from the varsity squad. Nice try, son.

7. Katie Stevens. It’s almost a shame that Idol‘s producers put Katie through to the main cast this year. If she came back in a couple of years with some seasoning, a little maturity, and a smattering of life experience, she might be a real contender. At 17, she looks like an overgrown veteran of Toddlers and Tiaras. Or Katharine McPhee’s baby sister.

6. Casey James. Bucky Covington, The Sequel. Coasting on flowing locks and scruffy charm. He’s all hat and no cattle. Kara lusts for him, though, and the ladies will enjoy gawking at him for yet a while longer.

5. Andrew Garcia. I’m probably the only person in America outside of the immediate Garcia family who rates Andrew this high. The fact is, despite his struggles in recent weeks, I like the unique quality of his voice. Someone once said that his greatest treasures were words he left unspoken. I’m guessing that Andrew wishes he’d left unsung that acoustic cover of “Straight Up” from Hollywood Week, because he’s been trying — and mostly failing — to live up to it ever since. If the guy who busted out that transcendent performance ever resurfaces, Andrew could soar to this height. If not, he’ll be eliminated. Soon.

4. Lee Dewyze. I sense that the folks at 19 Entertainment would like to see Lee erupt into the next Chris Daughtry. Frankly, I don’t think he’s got Daughtry’s ability, or — just as significantly — Daughtry’s self-assurance. Lee has solid potential, but his nerves and inner demons stand in his way. Being able to do it is one thing. Being able to bring it with moxie and fire on a ginormous stage with a live audience and millions of people staring through their television screens is another kettle of fish entirely. I don’t think Lee’s kept his bait warm.

3. Big Mike Lynche. Kara DioGuardi said on Jay Leno’s show last night that she thinks Big Mike will win this season. He’s certainly fun to watch — although, to be frank, I don’t think his voice is all that special — and he’s a great story, what with the loving wife and the adorable newborn at home. It’s possible that the two ladies ahead of him may end up splitting a lot of the same voting demographic, and Mike could slip past them. I’m just not convinced yet that America wants another Ruben Studdard.

2. Siobhan Magnus. Let’s put it right out there: This chick is seven kinds of weird. But underlying the bizarre fashion sense, the nose ring, the odd facial expressions, and the ditzy-kooky Cyndi Lauperesque personality, she has two things that I admire: a terrific singing voice, and her own genuine style. I never know exactly what Siobhan is going to do from one week to the next, but I’m always positive that it will be worth watching, and hearing. I don’t know what a Siobhan Magnus record album would sound like, but I know it would be entertaining.

1. Crystal Bowersox. I believed the first time I heard her sing that Crystal would win Idol this year. Nothing I’ve heard since has altered that early opinion. Crystal knows exactly what her musical niche is, and she’s eminently comfortable inhabiting it. She may be the most complete performer, right out of the gate, that Idol has ever embraced. Which may be the one challenge that could derail Crystal — the audience’s sense that she’s not growing or changing much from one week to the next. Now, that worked once — Taylor Hicks brought a singular kind of talent to the Idol party in Season Five, and rode pretty much the same pony he came in on all the way to the title. Taylor’s lack of popular success in the years since, however, shows how quickly the public tires of a one-trick pony, even if the trick is a good one. Crystal would be well advised to whip out a new trick now and then, just so the audience doesn’t get bored.

That’s how I’m seeing it thus far. But as noted, I’ve been wrong before. Recently.

A couple of additional observations…

New judge Ellen DeGeneres has added an entertaining element to the show. Ellen’s natural likability overcomes the (often glaringly evident) fact that she doesn’t know music from a performing or technical perspective. Then again, neither do most of the people casting votes, so Ellen often speaks for them. If it were up to me, I’d rather have experts offering the commentary, but this is TV, after all.

Idol has been remarkably free of controversy this season. While it’s true that there are a number of suspect performers left in the Top 12, it’s equally true that none of the people dismissed in the first half of the competition represented a tragic injustice. What that means for viewers is a lack of suspense. Unless some contestant unleashes a supernova of musical brilliance heretofore unhinted, Idol 2010 should come down to a playoff between Crystal and Siobhan, with either Lee or Big Mike a distant third.

We’ll update once again when the field has been pared to the final few.

SwanShadow… out.

Idol 2010: Your Top 12 guys, America

February 25, 2010

In yesterday’s post, we examined the 12 female competitors comprising the feminine half of this season’s cast of American Idol. Today, it’s time to smell the testosterone. As in our previous list, we’ll give you the performers in order of their initial appearance in this round, as well as noting the song each presented.

Twelve men trod the stage. Who will survive the first cut?

It could be…

Todrick Hall (“Since You’ve Been Gone”) — It was a good thing Seacrest told us at the beginning what the song was, or I wouldn’t have had a clue. Todrick’s an exciting performer, and he’s a decent enough singer, but this shot practically defined self-indulgence — shouty and spasmodic just for the sake of being “unique.” Nevertheless, the night would have many lower points than this. Take, for instance…

Aaron Kelly (“Here Comes Goodbye”) — Aaron can sing a little, but he’s as nervous as a goat at a Jamaican cookout. This is another of those cases, like Katie Stevens among this year’s girls, where I’d rather be hearing this individual’s fully developed talent two or three years from now, instead of a kid struggling to make the giant leap today. Right now, Aaron would make a cute Mouseketeer if Disney revived The Mickey Mouse Club. Beyond that? I predict a career in casual footwear. Which is more than I can say for…

Jermaine Sellers (“Get Here”) — To quote the often incoherent Randy Jackson of previous seasons, “That was all pitchy and weird, dawg.” As several of the judges noted, this was a peculiar choice of song for a guy with Jermaine’s voice. I’m not sure what he was trying to accomplish with this twisted rendition, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he did not, in fact, accomplish whatever it was. Because if this is actually how he hoped this would sound? Ouch. But not nearly as ouch as…

Tim Urban (“Apologize”) — Good googily goop… what was that? Oh, yes — this was the guy they brought back from elimination after some other kid got booted from the Top 24. If this is the best Tim can do, the producers should have checked out whether someone — anyone — else was available. Or maybe they should have just gone with 11 male singers and a bye week. Or something. Because this was eleven kinds of wretched. Tim needs to “Apologize” to everyone who watched this episode. Including…

Joe Muñoz (“You And I Both”): Did he sing? I must have dozed off. Neither awful enough nor good enough to keep me awake. Next! Unless next means…

Tyler Grady (“American Woman”): Now this was awful enough to keep frozen corpses awake. Tyler reminded me of a kid on his 21st birthday getting his first drunk on in a karaoke bar after watching a dozen episodes of That ’70s Show. If there’s small justice in the world, he’ll be one of Thursday’s first cuts. If there’s large justice, he’ll be one of the first cuts, and get kicked hard in the seat of the pants on his way out of the studio. Perhaps by…

Lee Dewyze (“Chasing Cars”): There were some seriously off-key notes in Lee’s performance, and yet, there was something about the overall effect that I rather enjoyed. Unlike the judges, who see Lee as the new David Cook, I see Lee as the new Elliott Yamin — not because he sounds like Elliott (he doesn’t, at all), but because he’s a diamond in the rough who has the potential to blossom and grow, and really develop into something special as the season goes along. Assuming that he gets the opportunity, instead of…

John Park (“God Bless The Child”): God bless us all for enduring this. I fully expected Billie Holiday to rise from the grave and smack John to the floor with her skeletal, zombified hand. You have to have soul — and preferably, old lived-in soul — to sing this song. John’s a kid from the ‘burbs with a nice voice. But for sultry jazz? Just… no. Which brings us to…

Mike Lynche (“This Love”): A odd song choice for Big Mike, but he made this work fine. As Ellen Degeneres pointed out, he threw in a few off-pitch moments, but it was a fun, charming, likable performance. Do I want to hear several more like this one? Probably not. After all, we already had Ruben Studdard. And I also thought we already had…

Alex Lambert (“Wonderful World”): Isn’t this the same dude who finished in second place last year? Oh… different A. Lambert. That A. Lambert, bizarre as he was, had at least a smidgen of talent and personality. This A. Lambert, not so much. I’m sure he’s a pleasant kid, but he’s nervous and awkward and dances as though he needs directions to the men’s room, desperately. There’s the door, junior — close it on your way out. And take that mullet with you. Speaking of hair, here come the abundant tresses of…

Casey James (“Heaven”): Although he’s not a country singer, Casey reminds me physically of Bucky Covington from a few seasons back. I’m trying not to allow that unfortunate resemblance to prejudice me against him. (Kara DioGuardi slobbering lustfully all over him every time he comes out doesn’t help, either. Get a grip on your biological clock, Cougar Town.) He’s an engaging performer, and easily the most comfortable on stage among all of the men, but his voice is — alas — merely adequate. It’s clear that the producers want him to succeed, and in the face of a mediocre male cast, he probably will. Probably even longer than…

Andrew Garcia (“Sugar, We’re Going Down”): When Andrew broke out an acoustic rewrite of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” during Hollywood Week, I thought to myself, “Now here’s something interesting.” I didn’t like his acoustic rewrite of Fall Out Boy quite so much, but still, I found it more pleasantly ear-catching than almost anything else that preceded it. I hope Andrew’s got something in his bag of tricks besides acoustic rewrites, though, because he’s ridden that horse about as far as it will run.

Simon Cowell recently predicted that a female contestant will win Idol this season. I’m predicting that he’s right, because the guys didn’t impress me in their first time out. Several of them, truth to tell, need to be sent packing posthaste. Since only two get the boot this week, the fastest exits should be granted to some combination of Tim, Tyler, Alex, and Jermaine.

When we reach the halfway point of the competition, your Uncle Swan believes you’ll be stuck with these six gentlemen, like ’em or don’t: Casey, Lee, Andrew, Mike, Todrick, and… (do I have to pick six? yes, because I said I would, darn it) maybe Joe. Not one of them will make the final pairing, which will deliver 100% hot girl-on-girl action to decide American Idol 2010.

Six weeks from now, we’ll find out whether I have any idea what I’m talking about.

SwanShadow…out!

Idol 2010: Your Top 12 girls, America

February 24, 2010

It’s that time again, isn’t it?

Frankly, I blew off last year’s entire season of American Idol, because I just couldn’t drag myself through the whole sordid ordeal again. Besides, was it going to get any better than Jordin Sparks? Most likely, not.

But it’s a new decade, and your Uncle Swan comes back refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to rock. Let’s see how quickly this season’s class of mediocre vocal talents can strangle all this enthusiasm out of me.

Listed below (in order of appearance on last night’s telecast, with the song performed by each) you’ll find the 12 female wannabes whom The Powers That Be at 19 Entertainment have chosen to inflict on us, and my impressions thereof after Week One of the competition. (Because, seriously, no one cares about anything that happened on the show before this week, aside from FOX and its advertisers. Except for the “Pants on the Ground” guy, and that fad lasted the entire 15 minutes it deserved.)

Ladies, if you please:

Paige Miles (“All Right Now”) — Paige has a great big voice, and (mostly) knows how to use it. I agree with Simon that this brassy rocker wasn’t the best choice of song, just because it’s harsh and belty and not well suited to displaying vocal range. But she’s certainly no worse than most of the contestants in this year’s distaff group. I’d like to hear her sing something that shows more softness and subtlety. And quickly, before she’s voted off. Which could be soon, but not as soon as…

Ashley Rodriguez (“Happy”) — Whew… not all that impressive. Her voice isn’t the grand, glorious instrument that Paige has — although she thinks it is — so she needs to avoid material that calls for that type of voice. There was just too much instability in the sound, not in terms of pitch, as much as in confidence, or lack thereof. She won’t be around long. I predict, however, that she will be around long enough to witness the exit of…

Janell Wheeler (“What About Love?”) — Ye gods. If you’re going to sing a song by Ann and Nancy Wilson, you’d better be able to bring it large. Janell? Can’t. Doesn’t belong here, period. Absolutely painful to listen to. She’ll be one of the early eliminations, if not indeed one of the very first two. Which is to say, she’s no…

Lilly Scott (“Fixing a Hole”) — Lilly is a tough call. I’m not crazy about her voice, and she picked a dreadful song (I loves me some Beatles, but that tune sucks swamp water, Sir Paul). Still, there’s something quirky and appealing about her sound, and her neo-hippie persona. I can’t see her winning the competition, but I could imagine some indie label wanting to market her CD. Even more, I could hear her oozing from the speakers at my friendly neighborhood Starbucks. Which is more than I can say for…

Katelyn Epperly (“Oh Darling”) — I agreed with Ellen on two specifics: Katelyn tends to oversing (she pushes her voice too hard, for you non-vocalists in the audience), and she’s interesting. She’s another one that I don’t think will get close to sniffing the finals, but she could stick around for a few weeks because she’s cute and perky and blonde. Like Frieda in Peanuts, she gets bonus points for naturally curly hair. Earning negative points tonight, on the other hand, is…

Haeley Vaughn (“I Wanna Hold Your Hand”) — Concluding the Beatles set on a self-consciously goofy, screechy, ultimately ridiculous note — that’s Haeley. I give her credit for trying to do something a little different, but there’s good different and there’s… well… what the devil was that? different. This, alas, was the latter. Fortunately for Haeley, she was followed to the stage by…

Lacey Brown (“Landslide”) — She was the last cut before the Top 24 last year, and if I recall accurately, the girl who edged her out hit the door before anyone learned her name. Lacey did nothing tonight to convince me that she deserved a second chance. Her version of “Landslide” would have Stevie Nicks turning in her grave like a rotisserie chicken in the supermarket deli, were it not for the fact that Stevie is still alive. Although, if she was watching Idol tonight, she might have died from embarrassment. Lacey’s a goner.

Michelle Delamor (“Fallin'”) — Michelle makes her living singing at corporate events, and her performance experience shows. She was the first contestant to take the stage tonight who both looked and sounded as though she knew exactly what she was doing here. That said, her overly polished style has the faint whiff of theme park tameness about it. I liked everything she did, then I completely forgot almost every element of it the moment she hit the wings. Could be a top contender if she can unleash some originality. Some edge. Some… something. But I’ll take Michelle any day over…

Didi Benami (“The Way I Am”) — I have to begin this by acknowledging that I find this woman annoying, simply on the basis of her affected, overly melodramatic personality. Even given that, I didn’t care for this performance at all. Worse, it put me to sleep. What was I talking about just then? Oh, yes…

Siobhan Magnus (“Wicked Game”) — I always dread it when someone on Idol busts out one of my favorite songs, because they murder it more often than not. This, however, was a lovely (apart from that first low note, which was beneath the lower end of Siobhan’s tessitura) rendition of the Chris Isaak classic — a song I wouldn’t have imagined a young female singer doing much justice. A pleasant surprise, and one that I quite enjoyed. She’s my second favorite of the night, right after…

Crystal Bowersox (“Hand in My Pocket”) — Crystal is the hidden talent in this year’s Idol class. She’s not trying to be anything but what she is, and that something is completely unlike anything any of the other girls are doing. Is that going to hurt her in the long run? I don’t know. It worked for Taylor Hicks. Then again, whatever happened to Taylor Hicks? The last I heard, he was road-tripping the rubber chicken circuit in a touring company of Grease. Is that the path Crystal wants to follow? We’ll see. (Note for next week: Lose the harp, unless you want to be busking on streetcorners again soon.)

Katie Stevens (“Feelin’ Good”) — With the exception of the aforementioned Ms. Sparks, I never like the kid singers on Idol. Katie’s no exception to that rule. Yes, she can sing, but in that sort of theatrical, too-old-for-her-britches way that pageant girls sing. There’s talent in there somewhere, but it’s talent I’d probably rather hear when she’s 27 than at 17. She’ll get a lot of the grandma votes, though, so expect her to survive for half the season, at least.

Taking what we’ve heard so far, Uncle Swan boldly predicts that the following six ladies will still be tripping the light fantastic with Seacrest and the crew at the halfway point: Crystal, Siobhan, Michelle, Katie, Katelyn, and Lilly.

Drop back in six weeks, and we’ll see how I did. But first, swing around tomorrow, and we’ll break down the 12 guys who are also vying for the title of American Idol 2010.

SwanShadow… out.