Thursday, March 10, 2005

American Idol: Can We Eliminate Paula Abdul?

Let's take the heat off the contestants for the moment and JUDGE THE JUDGES!

Paula Abdul is driving me bananas. Once a cheerleader, always a cheerleader? She is a one-note song, but at least she's found her "NITCH" in American Idol *eye-rolling*. (If I hear her mispronounce "niche" ONE more time...) The woman is a clotheshorse who parrots Randy Jackson and acts like a foil for Simon Cowell. I'd say she was useless except the producers would say they need a woman to bridge the two men. Get someone else, I say! She treats this show like it's the Special Olympics:

"I'm so proud of you..."
"You really brought it..."
"I think the best is yet to come..."
"This is the beginning of your journey..."
"This is your 'NITCH'..."
"You know what? You take risks, and that's why I like you..."

... and, my personal favourite redundancy:"I think you're unique in your own special way..."

Randy Jackson also suffers from inarticulosis, often resorting to such constructive utterings as "I don't know, man... that just didn't do it for me." Sometimes he doesn't even say anything, he sits there with a pained expression on his face. We, the audience, are pained, too, but he's paid to ENUNCIATE his pain.

Simon Cowell -- the man everyone loves to hate. He isn't as brutal as everyone makes him out to be, it's mostly because the other two are too busy high-fiving and rah rah rah-ing instead of judging. The contestants should be sucking up to Simon, anyway, since as David pointed out, he has a controlling share in American Idol and it's in everyone's best interests to kiss his British arse.

Fox story, May 27, 2003

Oddly enough (as David is my witness), by the time the performer is finished I usually give an opinion that matches Simon's. In fact, Simon's sometimes kinder than I am, and he's surprised me a number of times with how positive he can be. In recent weeks, he's given at least a dozen glowing reviews that I felt were not all deserved. For example, he agreed with Paula on Bo Bice's performance of "I'll Be" on Monday, in which Bo moved rather awkwardly, and didn't sing like a guy who'd done this at 10 weddings like he'd said! Even Paula, the choreographer, resorted to praising the singing than speak ill of his movements.


The Girls:

My predictions: Amanda Avila and Janay Castine
David's predictions: Janay Castine and Mikalah Gordon
Viewers eliminated: Amanda Avila and Janay Castine

The Guys:

My predictions: Travis Tucker and Nikko Smith
David's predictions: Constantine Maroulis and Scott Savol
Viewers eliminated: Travis Tucker and Nikko Smith

Finally, a week when the American public agree with me! It's hard to believe those four eliminated managed to hang on for as long as they did, although I think Nikko Smith pulled up his socks this week, in this case too little too late. The only explanation for it is a fan base built entirely of family and friends hitting the redial on their phones. (It's not as if the calls are verified in any way -- and how do we know AI producers aren't rigging the polls?)

Amanda Avila wasn't taking things too well at the end, even though she should be pleased that consistent mediocrity took her as far as Week 8. I think she should eat more -- belting out "River Deep, Mountain High" takes the energy and spunk of Tina Turner, and Amanda has neither. I don't even like the (Aussie singer) Jimmy Barnes' version, and I liked it better than this. Clearly calories and some hard living is what it takes to sing these songs properly. When asked about the camraderie between the girls in the face of competition, she said, "We're like soldiers in a war... we bond..." Huh? War?

Janay Castine tried in vain this week to hit those notes cleanly, but even with the (Simon's words) "cute" outfit, she missed the mark. She still looked scared, which didn't help in her bid to avoid looking like a youngster. In Janay's interview, she said she was a romantic, enjoying "candlelit dinners"... Do high school dances count?

Travis Tucker took his nasty habit of singing songs best left for dead into a fourth week, singing Bobby Brown's "Every Little Step". He's like a cheesy-music gravedigger. The dancing is what saved his sorry carcass last week, and before he started with the Bobby Brown number I predicted that he'd do a dance routine with as little singing as possible. And whaddya know...

Nikko Smith had St. Louis on his mind, but he sang "Georgia" instead. At least, that's what he said. I think to sing like Ray requires choking back a thousand cigarettes to start. It was a good choice for bailing himself out of Idol hot water, but he gambled on the force of that final note and the resurgence of the Ray Charles love-fest to make people forget how otherwise unremarkable he's been thus far. Well, it looks like people hadn't forgotten...


Anthony Federov might seem like a better singer -- to me (and Simon, apparently) -- if he didn't try to do a Wonderbread version of Latin singers, this week Marc Anthony. David thought he did quite well, but then again, David hasn't heard the song "I've Got You" before. I thought Anthony went off a bit, and this song too current in people's minds to NOT be compared to the original singer. We'll see which Latin singer he tries on for size next week.

Muckdog predicts Anwar Robinson to win this competition. Me, I'd love for him to win, but I'm with Simon on this one, too -- the guy is just SO nice it's hard to say anything bad about him. Yet, I think he won't win. As with the other songs he's done, he put a spin on the old Louis Armstrong song "What a Wonderful World", and all the judges loved him. As he was singing, I couldn't help thinking of CHRISTMAS for some reason, and I'd rather he did a big ol' arm-raising gospel tune, instead. Maybe next week.

Bo Bice, as I'd mentioned earlier, took it too downtempo this week, in my opinion. I'm beginning to question his versatility, since he didn't exactly bring down the house with this performance. I think he should stick to rocker ballads as that suits his voice and style better.

It says something about Carrie Underwood's singing that her choice of wardrobe distracts from her performance. If this was the Grand Ole Opry, she'd have won by now, but her style is just too low-key for this competition. She was wearing this Vegas-flashy silver sequined camisole top that drowned out her voice. David says her singing is well-controlled, but maybe she could've picked a more dynamic song. Personally, I thought her skills would've been better put to use in a song like "At This Moment" by Billy Vera and the Beaters -- a torch tune with lots of heart and plenty of room to move, vocally.

Constantine Maroulis is walking a thin, thin line on American Idol. He's testing the loyalty of his fan base and hoping they're too young to remember The Police. Although David liked his performance, I agreed with Simon -- "a bad impersonation of Sting" on "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic". If Constantine wanted to do a Sting song, he should've moved forward in time. Hey, Sting can sing, but when he was with The Police it was more of a ska/reggae style, and Constantine should've cut out the vibrato completely. I would've suggested a jazzier Sting, like "My One and Only Love". That would REALLY woo the ladies.

Jessica Sierra wowed 'em last week, and did just as well this week, growling her way through the rock anthem "The Boys are Back in Town" with an outfit to match (Simon says). She's got a sultry quality to her voice and heaps of personality to deliver the goods. I don't know if it's enough to get top votes, but she's definitely got a fighting chance.

Lindsey Cardinale has more staying power than I've given her credit for. She somehow managed to stay off the bottom of the list, but she's going to have to pull an ace out of the deck to stay in another week. She's got a relatively low voice, too, but I don't think she's found a good song for her range yet. Why don't more of the girls do rock and roll, like Tina Turner? There are plenty of big arena-type songs if they want to bring the audience to their feet.

Mario Vazquez, in the words of Simon (it sounds like I'm only quoting Simon, but that's because he's the only one who says anything original), looked like "a nice boy who's meeting a girl's parents for the first time", singing "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart". But, he's consistently high-quality and is confident, two things that definitely stand out after weeks of performances while others have their bad days. I really, really wish Mario would do a classic Prince song like "Purple Rain" and work it like I know he can, but at the same time I think the American Idol band would ruin the music.

Mikalah Gordon squeaked into the Top 12, which proves that the audience can be forgiving. Last week Mikalah owned the show with her toned-down jazz number, but she committed the same sin as Nadia last week -- she took it TOO far down. Vocally, she went all the way down to the bottom of her singing range on Streisand's "Somewhere" and nearly lost her grip on the notes. (She reminds me of Babs, but it must be the Jewish thing.) David thought this song took her out of the running, but she got the last spot going forward. Though I find her speaking voice grating in a Fran Drescher way (she's from Las Vegas, which makes the New Yawk squawk even more affected), I think she's a gifted performer. She needs to do something fun next week, like Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive".

Nadia Turner turned it on this week! She probably sensed her own spot was in jeopardy after her weak showing of "My Love" and thankfully took action this week. (Puns aside, I likened her to Tina Turner early on, and thought her well-suited for a Tina song.) What surprised me was that she admitted to hearing "Try A Little Tenderness" for the first time last week. What??? C'mon, she's 28 -- didn't she hear it on the soundtrack of "The Commitments" played ad nauseam in the early 90's?? Hers was far and away the best performance from the ladies on Tuesday, especially since her arrangement included both extremes of tempo. My bets are on Nadia to win the competition if she continues her streak. She's got the edge over the others in terms of style and charisma, even if she doesn't have the best voice.

David didn't think Scott Savol would make it through this week with his rendition of "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)", but I thought the song was great for his voice. Scott needs a choreographer, for sure -- he did this really weak hand wave partway through the song that made me laugh. Simon grimaced and call him names. But aside from that, when Scott speaks he lacks whatever expression he brings to his singing voice, and I don't know if that's enough to send him much further. He's going to have to pull out all the stops to make it through next week.

Vonzell Solomon wore a cowgirl outfit that didn't match her singing "Respect" by Aretha Franklin. It made her look like she wasn't going to GET any respect wearing such a getup unless she sung for her supper. I'll hand it to Vonzell, though, she works hard -- her whole body is constantly moving while she sings and she always has a big smile on her face. She's got a great attitude, which has everything to do with her getting this far, because she's far from the top, rank-wise. My call is she might be in her last week, too, if she doesn't pull out a big number next week.