AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — First Batch of 12
Oh wow, so many people crashed and burned tonight. I went in thinking, “How can we pick only 3 for the next round?” By the end of the evening, I could barely find three to vote for.
First up was Jackie Tohn, singing Elvis’s “A Little Less Conversation.” I like her raspy vocals a lot and she sure looked like she was having fun working the stage, but those tight “trousers” were just wrong and the song was bad for her. I wouldn’t mind seeing her again in the wild card round but for now, I think there’s gonna be a “little less” Jackie around.
Next was Ricky Braddy‘s turn. He seemed like a really nice country boy but man, I fell asleep during his cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song For You.” He can sing but, like Simon said, he has no charisma or star quality. After a few bars, I decided it’d be more fun to watch my fingernails grow. I think it ends here for Braddy, too.
Third was Alexis Grace performing Aretha’s “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.” Wow, this girl has completely transformed herself. During her original audition in Louisville, she was a nice, Brooke White-type and Kara and Paula told her to dirty herself up. She took their advice to heart and became a soulful grrrl. The vixen makeup and pink-streaked hair definitely gave her an edge but, thankfully, her talent remained unchanged. I just love how this little blonde girl would open her mouth and a big black woman’s voice would come out. It’s like she was dubbed by Patti LaBelle. She was my favorite female of the night.
Brent Keith came up next and the crew just didn’t seem to like him. His turn started out with a tech snafu that played Stevie Wright’s instead of his video. Then, after he sang, they played him off the stage with the Idol theme song when he tried to respond to the judges’ comments. This guy is awfully cute with his left dimple and good ol’ boy charm but he lost me with the country song “Hick Town.” I applaud Keith for being true to himself but I don’t have to buy what he’s selling.
Then it was Stevie Wright‘s turn and this girl really disappointed me. Her smoky rendition of “At Last” during her original Phoenix audition was as memorable as this performance of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” was forgettable. The song just didn’t do anything to showcase her voice. I had such high hopes but won’t vote for her after this debacle. Girl, you do not belong with Idol.
When I heard Anoop was next, I hollered, “Finally! Let’s get this show started!” Man, I love this kid. He’s just so cool. Every time I see that clip of him singing “My Prerogative,” I keep wishing they’d show that whole rousing performance. But then he announced he was gonna sing Monica’s “Angel of Mine.” Wait, what?! I wanted him to funk it UP, show us his personality, not sing some unfamiliar slow song. Well, it wasn’t a great choice but his voice was as smoof as ever and he’d better move on to the next round. He also gets extra points for giving credit to Ricky Minor and the band for making him sound good. I don’t hear a lot of contestants acknowledging the band.
Next, Casey Carlson was at the bat and boy, did she strike out. As a singer, she’s a very pretty girl. She chose The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” but everything Casey did was definitely NOT. She vamped her way through the song, touching her neck and winking like she’s Sarah Palin at the VP debate. Her voice was too thin and small to sustain most of the notes and she attempted a misguided run at the very end that couldn’t save this trainwreck. I don’t know what happened because I liked her a lot when she sang “A Thousand Miles” in Kansas City. Sorry, Casey, I’m pretty sure it’s over for you.
Michael Sarver was the eighth singer, rocking out Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want To Be.” This song needs some ‘tude because it’s like saying “I ain’t changing for nobody” but Sarver just kind of bounced happily through it. It wasn’t a bad performance but not good enough to move on. Paula pointed out that Elliott Yamin, Bo Bice and Chris Richardson also sang it and I thought, “Yeah, and none of them won.”
After Sarver, Ann Marie Boskovich sang “Natural Woman.” When Kelly Clarkson sang this in season one, she slapped America across the face, woke us up and made us pay attention. I was hoping for the same kind of revelation for Boskovich because I thought she had a crystal clear, Carrie-Underwood-crossed-with-a-young-Dolly-Parton voice during her audition. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make this song soar. It needed soul and passion but she gave it a country feel which didn’t work for me. It was frustrating because I really wanted her to move on.
Then it was Stephen Fowler‘s turn and he chose “Rock With You.” I thought, Oooh, this could be good. Wrong. I like the tone of his voice but he slowed it down and bored it up. He was occasionally flat and by the time he got to the line, “When the groove is dead and gone,” I agreed.
Side note: I hate how the judges tell contestants they don’t take enough risks but when they do, they’re told they shouldn’t touch Michael Jackson or Police or Whitney or Mariah songs because those are too hard. These kids have to sing somebody‘s songs because they don’t have their own catalogs. Maybe they should only choose from Paula’s songbook since they’d be more likely to improve on the original versions?
OK, on to the final two. Tatiana surprised me with Whitney’s “Saving All My Love For You” when she did way better than I expected. She impressively hit some high notes and afterwards, was demure and kept her mouth shut during the judges’ comments. Simon and the gang were confused and tried to goad her into doing her wacky laugh and exhibiting her over-the-top behavior and I was screaming, “No! Why are you inciting the crazy?!” Thankfully, she didn’t go there. I think she’s been studying her tapes from the past weeks, thought, “Wow, I’m a freak” and tried to redeem herself. But her ladylike behavior came too late and I’d be surprised if she makes the top three.
Danny Gokey brought up the rear as the last contestant tonight. I groaned when he said he’d sing Mariah’s “Hero.” That song is overwrought and overused. But Gokey just stood there, Archuleta-style, and sang it beautifully. He didn’t need to prance around the stage to keep us entertained. I wondered why I was compelled to watch him while I was bored during Rick Braddy’s performance and then realized the difference was Gokey has stage presence.
When the phone lines opened, I voted for Gokey, Anoop and Alexis Grace. Who did you vote for? Who was awesome for you and who disappointed?