Wednesday, March 23, 2005

American Idol: Definitely Not The Apollo

Anybody who's ever watched "Amateur Night at the Apollo", a Harlem institution since 1934, can't watch American Idol and feel too sorry for the contestants. The audience members at the Apollo Theatre are famous for booing the acts they don't like in 10 bars or less, sending the weak-kneed performers into panic mode, then drowning them out altogether with a chorus of disapproval. At least Simon sits through the whole performance, even if it's obvious he's in aural distress.

Between last week's and this week's shows, the performances were a real mixed bag. Aren't they always? There just can't be enough drama for the AI producers, it seems. First Mario Vasquez bails for "personal reasons", then they find a refill for the #12 spot with the last-ditched Nikko Smith, then Lindsey Cardinale gets her walking papers to bring the number back to 11. But wait -- what's going on at American Idol this week? Are people not paid enough in the AV department?

Due to an error with the graphics shown on-screen (incorrect voting numbers were displayed) during the performance recap at the end of last night?s AMERICAN IDOL, a live, one-hour show will air tonight, Wednesday, March 23 9/8c on FOX, to enable a re-vote. This new show will combine new live elements with encores of Tuesday's performances from the remaining 11 contestants.

Seems a bit fishy to me, especially since people can't vote until the show is over, so that gave them ample time to correct things. We didn't know what the "new live elements" would be, so we taped it, anyway. In the end, we couldn't be bothered to sit through the fast forwarding, so this is my take on the last two "live" shows.

Week 9 - "The 60s"
Week 10 - "Billboard #1"

Nadia was far and away the best female performer last week, singing Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" with equal parts heart and soul. For that, Simon cracked, "In a competition full of hamburgers, you are the steak." This competition is so classy... This week, however, she came out in a mohawk the size of Texas to sing Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time", but didn't have the vocals to match. She sounded more like a backup vocalist than the main event. I think Nadia's voice is wrong for the song -- too low-pitched. Cyndi's voice had a distinct quality to match her persona. If her voice were a colour, it would be orange!

Nikko was brought back from the Idol dead last week after Mario bowed out, so he only had four days to learn a song. What did he pick? "I Want You Back" by Michael Jackson, which he hoped would put him back in the competition. (How embarrassing would THAT be, to get kicked off, brought back, and kicked off in one week???) He danced his little heart out and made it fun, probably to distract us from his rough vocals, and it kept him alive another week. Last night, in keeping with the Billboard #1 theme, Nikko sang an R&B tune I'd never heard of from 2000, one that allowed him to toss his hat and jacket off like a stripper. That part was more memorable than the song, believe me.

Scott actually set the precedent for stripping this week, tearing his glasses off for full effect on "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins. Because, you know, nothing says "my heart is rending" like a little eyewear throwdown. Unfortunately, it wasn't anywhere near the calibre of his star turn last week with the Motown hit "Ain't Too Proud to Beg", but I doubt the audience will turn its collective back on him after last night, which, although not one of his better performances, was far from the worst of the evening.

Vonzell's persistence and hard work finally paid off. Last week she was resplendent in a gown, singing "Anyone Who Had A Heart" with gusto, but it wasn't enough to steal the spotlight. She didn't steal the spotlight this week, either, but her performance of "Best of My Love" was a much stronger contender. Ryan Seacrest announced she'd just celebrated her 21st birthday, so my theory is she discovered the positive side-effects of alcohol. They don't call it "Dutch courage" for nothin'.

Constantine never fails to surprise us with his song choices. Last week his preening on the stage during "You Make Me Very Happy" earned him the title "Smouldering Idol" from Simon, and this week he baffled us with The Partridge Family's 1970 hit "I Think I Love You".

David: "That's not even a real band!"
Me: "He's singing like a 50-year old David Cassidy at the MGM Grand!"

In all fairness, Constantine's voice sounded pretty good last week, but this week David and I were completely distracted by the way he was holding his microphone (backwards) and bouncing around the stage. I, for one, never get the feeling that he really wants to win this competition, it seems he's just in it for the kicks. The fact that he gets enough votes to stay in week after week is great for the diversity of the group, but not saying much for the way people rank the singing on AI.

I realised last week that Jessica reminds me an awful lot of Bette Midler, with her curly blonde hair and her "come hither" gaze, but she lacks Midler's talent. Jessica also does this weird thing with her posture that scrunches her shoulders close to her head so it's as if she has no neck. Anyway, why she chose Smokey Robinson's "Shop Around" last week escapes me, but I was even more baffled by Simon's faint praise this week of "Total Eclipse of the Heart"?!? When you compare it with the original version by Bonnie Tyler, Jessica sounds far too young to carry the song.

Lindsey's number was up last week after her performance of "Knock on Wood" by Eddie Floyd. She can sing, but she doesn't show any range, instead picking all sorts of middling tunes and taking them far too low in vocal register. It's gotta be tough to be the only person kicked out during the show, but she managed to keep it together enough to sing it AGAIN on her way out.

After Mikalah's stellar jazz number a couple of weeks ago, I seriously thought her poor showing the following week was a fluke and she'd make a comeback. Now, I think the opposite -- that incredible jazz performance was the fluke, because she's been absolutely dreadful ever since! Last week, she couldn't pull off Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man" to save her life, and this week's "Love Will Lead You Back" by Taylor Dane was horrendous! It's too bad, because along with the bigger audience, bigger theatre, and bigger stage, she acquired a makeup artist who took a more natural approach with her cosmetics. Now she doesn't look like Liza Minelli anymore, but she's singing like a boozy Liza!

Would the American people just stop voting for Anthony, for crying out loud? Enough is enough! Last week he sang "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do". Why? "I feel connected spiritually and emotionally to this song," he said in the pre-song interview. The judges disagreed, thumbs went down. Last night he sang the 1987 song "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me", which I hope this puts him out of the contest once and for all, because only the hearing-impaired could possibly vote him in after that one.

Anwar is showing too much formula, not enough pizzazz. He sang Burt Bacharach's "A House is Not a Home" last week like he sang all previous songs -- technically well, starting slow and ending big. Which was fine the first few times, but now where's the ZING? This week he upped the tempo with the bodacious "Ain't Nobody" by Chaka Khan, but he just didn't have the right energy for the song. Chaka Khan is a diva, but his performance lacked that diva-esque quality -- I thought he looked awkward, David called him "wooden".

Bo did the opposite of the others this week, taking it downtempo from "Spinning Wheel" of last week (which the judges liked) to the emotive "Time In a Bottle" of 1973 this week, which brought less enthusiasm, but still positive reactions from the judges. It was probably too subdued for Week 10, but Bo remains very consistent in selecting songs that suit his personality and show off his voice.

Maybe Bo's approach rubbed off on Carrie, because she FINALLY picked a good song to suit her personality and voice. Every week she hits the notes, but the songs are never dynamic enough, like last week's "When Will I Be Loved", which Simon liked but Randy didn't, and Paula called "safe and boring". But she turned it on last night, picking the big arena song -- "Alone" by Heart -- and putting on the big arena voice, topping it off with the big arena 80s hair. Whoa! Barely recognise her now, and for all the right reasons. She was smoking!

MY ELIMINATION PICK: Anthony or Mikalah


  • What was up with Simon's hair last week??? He had it parted in the middle like he was a "Little Rascal"!
  • I am refraining from Paula-bashing on the basis that I will sound just as repetitive as she does.
  • Muckdog commented earlier on Paula being smoochy, and after watching the tape I can only agree! Somebody get out the tranquiliser gun!