There’s still hope! The women on last night’s episode of American Idol proved that there was actually some talent in the semifinals, and where the guys were mostly bland and insipid, at least half the women brought their A game. Make that their A+ game. Just when I thought I had heard the best vocal of the night, another lady would take the stage and obliterate the competition. To be fair, there were a good number of clunkers — Antonella, Haley, Amy, Antonella. Pretty much, with the exception of Gina Glocksen, all the white girls sucked, and it was never more apparent than when they had to perform directly after one of the many divas we saw last night. Thank goodness no one had to follow LaKisha Jones. It would have been slaughter.Wednesday’s show started on an optimistic note: Ryan had shed his dumb wannabe-Timberlake tweed vest in favor of a more classic and less douchebaggy blazer. After greeting all the women, he told us, “We had a pretty strong start to the competition last night.” Huh? Were we watching the same show? Last time I checked, Tuesday’s show was only slightly more entertaining than watching a thirty-hour marathon of Yes, Dear.
Nevertheless, we sat through a long and painful montage of the boys’ highlights and lowlights from Tuesday, or perhaps I should say lowlights and lowerlights. We then moved into a chitchat segment with the judges, and I’m happy to report that Randy wisely stayed away from the epileptic seizure-causing paisley shirts for this night. Paula, meanwhile, seemed wrapped up in a trenchcoat of sorts and was wearing so much jewelry that every tiny twitch made her jangle like Santa’s sleigh. Simon was just his usual self, this time in light gray, and when Ryan asked him if he liked it when the singers, like Chris Slight, come back at the judges, he said yes — it shows “spirit.” Ryan then tried ceaselessly to convince Simon that Chris had indeed gotten under his skin the night before, but unfortunately, I don’t think anyone really cared about this beyond Ryan, who was probably still seeking retribution for that “sweetheart” comment.
Finally, it was time to get onto the girls. We watched a montage of their journey, set to a remixed version of that Sia song (the same one played at the end of The Hills last week), and then after the commercial break, we were ready for our first singer. Her name was Stephanie Edwards, and she kind of looked like a weird mix of Fantasia Barrino and LaToya London. She sounded just slightly nervous in the beginning, but that was okay because she was pretty much awesome the rest of the time. The best part about Stephanie was that she seemed to actually connect with her song; not just singing the lyrics but performing them. Honestly, the song, “How Come You Don’t Call Me,” could have been really boring or generic, but Stephanie injected a ton of life into it. By the time she dropped to her knees, we knew we were watching a possible contender. Already ninety seconds of Stephanie was better than the whole dreary two hours we spent watching the guys.
Well, the judges praised Stephanie, who earned an enthusiastic round of seal clapping from Paula. Randy gushed, “That set it off!” and then later praised her conviction to the material — something the guys never had the night before. Paula, meanwhile, was almost without words. Well, I guess that’s always the case, but she was really speechless this time around. “You are a star, my God!” she said. Lastly, Simon echoed what most viewers were certainly thinking: “You were a million times better than any performance we saw last night.” Cut to the guys all making mental notes: “Remember to drop to my knees next week…”
Simon ended his comments by noting that Stephanie, unlike the men, looked like she actually wanted to win the competition. I agreed (of course), and even though we had no idea who she was coming into the episode, I had firmly hitched my ride to hers. At least for the next twenty minutes…
After the break, we then went into the Red Room where Melinda Doolittle talked about how the boys were amazing and all that bullshit. In response, the guys all cheered wildly, happy that at least one person in America was willing to say something nice about them. Ryan then asked Antonella some question; although, I’m surprised he could find her, what with her entire torso being camouflaged against the couch.
Behold the floating head of Antonella Barba!
Anyway, next up was Amy Krebs, one of the many girls that we haven’t seen before (and if we have, she’s so forgettable that it’s really not my fault that I missed her in the first place). She was an optometrist assistant, which was lovely and all, but it was a mild shame she wasn’t a dermatologist assistant, if you know what I’m saying.
Well, as expected, Amy Krebs delivered one of the most forgettable performances of the season. Her take on “I Can’t Make You Love Me” was bland, boring, and kind of out of tune. The only amusing part was dumb Alaina Alexander up on the balcony, clasping her hands together and swaying to the song as if it were being serenaded to her exclusively.
Seriously, I really don’t remember much from this performance, and looking at my notes, I’m kind of amused that I wrote down, “Oh God. She’s AWFUL.” She really was terrible, and her eyes could not have been more blank and disconnected. Plus, the way her hair hung down over her face, it was like watching corpse karaoke.
The judges weren’t particularly kind to her. Randy said it was very middle of the road and entirely too safe. Paula agreed with Randy, and Simon said he simply could not remember her. “You have the personality of a candle,” he said. It didn’t really make much sense, but I enjoyed it. Cut to Lumiere the candle balking, “HEY!”
Anyway, Simon said that Amy was incapable of doing anything to stand out from the crowd, and later, when Ryan asked him to elaborate, the surly judge merely reiterated that she was forgettable. For whatever reason, this prompted wee Sanjaya Malakar to yell out, “YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL!!!” Great. I’m sure everyone wants to hear the aesthetic opinions of a kid whose hairstyle is an ode to Carly Simon.
Next up was Leslie Hunt, a professional dog walker and official Goofy Dancer (this based on her goofy dance during the “Meet The Women” montage last week). Anyway, she sang “Natural Woman,” which seemed a bit soulful for such a skinny white girl. Her voice was not my favorite — in fact, it was kind of flat — but I thought she seemed like she had personality and was having fun up there. She certainly was moving her body around (to less goofy effect), and she hit a nice high note at the end of the song. However, Leslie was reamed by the judges — more so than Amy Crabs.
Randy predictably and accurately said that the song was too big for Leslie, ultimately rewarding her with the assessment of “it was just okay.” Paula said she did a great job, but Simon quickly contested Paula’s critique, saying that Leslie looked embarrassed and ungainly, and ultimately out of her comfort zone. We then cut to Leslie’s friends and family who could. not. believe it. Someone really ought to get them a pillow and a cold compress. They looked like they had just seen five airplanes crash into each other.
For whatever reason — I forget the context — Randy then called upon the Dawg Pound for the first time this season, and as expected, this tradition has not become more delightful with age. It was fun watching Sanjaya do the Dawg noise, only because you know it probably sounded like Michael Jackson making a police siren noise.
Next up was Sabrina Sloan, a singer who never saw a strand of hair she could cram into thirty-five curls. I had no idea who this girl was, but she was absolutely thrilled to have received a standing ovation from Paula during Hollywood week. I didn’t want to burst Sabrina’s bubble, but honestly, a tennis ball rolling across the stage can get a standing ovation from Paula Abdul.
Anyway, like Stephanie, we didn’t know who Sabrina was but we certainly wouldn’t be forgetting her anytime soon. She was awesome. I think better than Stephanie (or maybe that’s because Sabrina was fresh in my mind). This girl could sing, and she absolutely knocked the song, “Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You,” out of the park.
“We finally got ourselves season six a competition!” Randy proclaimed. “That’s the one to beat right there!”
Paula, meanwhile, rose for a standing seal clap, something that surely delighted Sabrina, and Simon said, “That performance… was the best one so far.” Sorry, Amy Krebs. You’re a goner.
Afterwards, Ryan asked Sabrina why she picked that song, and she said she did her research — ballads don’t have a great track record in the semis. THANK YOU. Validation to my little soapbox rant yesterday. I had to respect Sabrina because she not only was a great singer, but she was smart about her song choice… unlike our next singer, the notorious Antonella Barba.
Oh Antonella. During the auditions, I picked her to go pretty damn far. Oh, how things have changed. Since then, we’ve watched her confidence wilt in Hollywood, and now here she was, shaking like a leaf in front of America and attempting to tackle that most generic of ballads, “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith. First off, her voice sounds uneven and warbly. Second, as she started on a little stool, she looked so stiff, I thought maybe she might be some spawn of the Chenbot. Antonella clutched that microphone like her life depended on it — almost as if it were a branch saving her from being swept away by river rapids.
However, once she hit the chorus, Antonella rose from her chair, loosened up a tad, and started hitting a few notes. I really didn’t know what to feel about the performance. On the one hand, there were some terrible elements to it. On the other, we could hear glimmers of her potential, and that potential sounded great. At least to me. Not to the judges.
Randy cradled his head in his hands — his new move for season six — and said, “It wasn’t good. It was really pitchy. It was really bland.” Paula was less upfront, saying, “It wasn’t baaad.” In PaulaSpeak, that means, “Oh my God. That was the worst fucking performance I’ve ever heard in my LIFE!”
Simon, however, was the soul crusher. “The good news is that you’re attractive. The bad news is that it didn’t work. It was way, way, way too big for you,” he said. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he then gave her the kiss of death (the same one that fell Brenna Gethers last year, as well as countless others). “This seriously, seriously, seriously damaged your chances of remaining here another week.”
Poor Antonella. She looked absolutely devastated. She noted that she chose the song because she felt it would be a risk, but Simon countered that it was a dumb risk: “That would be like Ryan doing the news. It just wouldn’t work.” Well, it would work on SNN — the Sweetheart News Network.
Next was Jordin Sparks, daughter of an NFL player and youngest girl in the competition. At only seventeen, I was a bit wary. Sure, she had a great audition, but with memories of Lisa Tucker and Princess (barf) Pea in my head (that’s Paris Bennett, for those of you who don’t remember), I was afraid we’d be in for some saccharine overload.
Imagine my surprise when Jordin proved to be totally poised and mature for her age. She not only looked older than seventeen, but she acted it too (at least, when she was singing). Her take on “Give Me One Reason” was actually pretty awesome, especially towards the end as she really got into it. I didn’t feel like she was all Mickey Mouse Club, and unlike Lisa and Paris, I didn’t feel like she was trying to play Grownup.
Well, the judges all had glowing reviews for her and said that as long as she had all that natural talent, she should pick bigger songs to showcase her pipes. Afterwards, Ryan stood with Jordin up on the stage and commented that he felt short next to her, causing her to smile politely. He then added that he also felt small. Awwwkward. Jordin scowled with a “Are you calling me fat, little man?” face, and before this scene could become too uncomfortable, we simply moved right along…
Next was Nicole Tranquillo singing a Chaka Khan song. I knew we’d have a problem because Nicole was skinny, white, and from Pennsylvania. She earned points for being spirited on stage and looking like Kristen Wiig, but her voice was so strange and bizarre that I couldn’t help but being alternately transfixed and dismayed. It was almost as if she was trying to sound like Chaka Khan with the way she kept making growling, guttural noises and whatnot. She certainly wasn’t the worst of the night, but she wasn’t helping to buck the trend of white girls singing miserably.
Randy told her it wasn’t her vibe, saying, “It wasn’t really working for me.” Paula paradoxically thought it was out of this world, and yet, not quite the right song. Kind of didn’t make any sense at all, but that’s what we expect from her. Simon, however, called the performance indulgent, aggressive, and fake. Ouch. Later, Nicole couldn’t quite understand why the performance seemed fake when it was one of her favorite songs, but thankfully, Randy clarified the entire situation by basically telling her to stay the hell away from anything that’s too urban. Translation: YOU’RE TOO WHITE FOR CHAKA!
Haley Scarnato was next, and not only did she sing Celine Dion, but she sang possibly one of the campiest Celine Dion songs ever — “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now.” Honestly, I have no idea how this girl made it to the semis. I thought the two second clip of her they showed last week was pretty dreadful, and this performance did nothing to reverse my opinions. She was completely shaky, and she sounded like she belonged in a cabaret or a cruise ship. Incidentally, I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s already a cabaret out there called Scarnato’s.
Seriously, her voice rubbed me the wrong way. It was like a really bad version of Kathy Lee Gifford, and that’s not a good thing. And if you think it is a good thing, well, then I apologize. I hope my criticisms don’t haunt your memory as you purchase your next Hallmark Collectible Figurine.
Anyway, Randy said she was just okay, which was entirely too generous in my book. Paula also said she did a nice job but would have liked a different song choice. Simon, meanwhile, laid the much welcomed smackdown. He told her she sounded like she was forty years old, specifically saying that it was “like being at a reasonably good hotel and that was the last song of the evening.” So basically the show closer at the downtown Marriot. Personally, I enjoyed that her performance couldn’t be found at just any hotel. Only a reasonably good one. AND only at the end of the night.
Afterwards, Haley acted all defiant, but didn’t want to sound stubborn; so she announced that she would change but stick to herself. Yes, that makes sense. Good luck with that. Can’t wait to hear you next week. Will you regale us with Babs? Maybe some Steve and Edie?
Up next was Melinda Doolittle, our favorite confidence-challenge backup singer. She told us in the video segment that about a year ago, she started thinking about being a singer on Idol — a backup singer. Holy self-esteem issues. However, when she got on stage at Hollywood week and had the backups behind her, she felt all empowered. Awwww. Well, we all knew Melinda had a great voice, but would she tense up on stage and shrug her way towards elimination? HARDLY. Melinda was a-maazing. Her voice had so much depth, richness, and control that she raised the bar even higher than where Sabrina and Stephanie had set it. Plus, I was happy to finally be able to pinpoint what exactly Melinda looked like. Think about it: she’s the black Lily Tomlin! It’s perfect, is it not?
Anyway, as Melinda effortlessly obliterated the competition, I was happy to see her bounce and move around the stage. All of those inhibitions seemed to go out the door, and afterwards, she was rewarded greatly. Randy declared, “YOU WERE HOT!” Paula called her a firecracker, and Simon said, “You are an incredible singer, you have a fantastic story, you are a fantastic person. I really hope you do well.” We won’t be able to top her tonight. Or will we…
Certainly Alaina Alexander wasn’t able to win over any fans in the wake of Melinda’s performance. I’ve already expressed my hatred for Alaina many times on account of her subtle sense of entitlement. There’s something about her that also irks me. I can’t put a finger it just yet. Maybe it’s a general wannabe Jennifer Aniston thing. I don’t know. I still need to think about it.
Nevertheless, my hatred of her aside, she was AWFUL. First, she picked a song that I definitely like but would never use on Idol: “Brass in Pocket” by the Pretenders. It’s kind of a lazy song with not a lot of range. On the one hand, it could be construed as too safe. But on the other, how safe can it really be if you can’t even pull it off. That’s right, Alaina absolutely butchered the legacy of Chrissy Hynde, seemingly missing every other note. The performance was karaoke — at best. Surely this judging would end with tears…
“I’m awful. So awful. I gotta have some of your attention. Give it to me!”
“It really wasn’t great,” Randy said, adding that it was pitchy and not that different from the original. Paula noted that Alaina didn’t really go for it or make the song her own. And Simon said that while the tune was all about being special, the performance was anything but. We then cut to Antonella up on the balcony, a look of shock and awe on her face. Yes, Antonella. Even Alaina is fallible.
Ultimately, Simon stated, “You are going to be reliant on your looks at the moment. Not your voice.” Oh snap! Ryan then came on stage and tried to stir up some positive feedback for Alaina, noting that she had great passion. After all, she was going to quit before Idol and now she’s back at it. Last time I checked, that wasn’t passion. That was defeat and near-failure.
Simon didn’t know what to make of Ryan’s nonsense, and so he asked, “Are you trying to date this girl?” This resulted in a simultaneous “WHAT?” from Alaina and Randy, which was followed by general awkwardness — more so than the usual Seacrest transition. Moving on…
Next was Gina Glocksen, a favorite of mine from last year. I was happy to see her finally have her moment on the national stage, but upon hearing that she’d be tackling Celine, I was somewhat disheartened. C’mon, Gina. You have a streak of color in your hair. You can’t go all Scarnato on us do Celine! Turns out, she was singing “All By Myself,” which actually wasn’t a Celine Dion song originally; so she got a free pass on that.
Anyway, Gina was a little shaky at first, but as Randy would say, she worked it out. In fact, when she hit that famous, sad-sack chorus and belted out “All By Myself,” she really found her groove — so much so that her mom started to cry. It was actually impressive that she took on this song because at one point, she had to tackle a crazy high note, which she did about 80% successfully. It was a reach, no doubt, and she was ever so slightly off, but she eventually got it and finished out the song with aplomb.
Randy thought the performance was nice (I think he sold her a little short), and Paula praised her for picking the right song. Simon also liked Gina but said that she didn’t hit the big note. Gina later disagreed, but it was all a moot point now. Hopefully, she’d be moving on. I mean, she had to. She was literally the only white girl who could sing.
Last but certainly not least was LaKisha Jones (with a capital K, thank you very much). She boldly decided to sing “And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going” from a little musical known as Dreamgirls. This was a definite risk. After all, with Jennifer Hudson’s ovation-beckoning version still fresh in most people’s heads, LaKisha had giant shoes to fill.
Well, this big momma stepped on stage ready to out-Mandisa Mandisa and out-JHud JHud. But could she do it? For all intents and purposes, yes. She was amazing. Was she as good as Jennifer Hudson? Probably not. But also, Jennifer Hudson didn’t have to sing an abbreviated version of the song that sapped away a good portion of the dramatic heft. It’s not even fair to make the comparison anyway. What was important was that LaKisha knocked that song out of the ballpark. I mean, wwhheeeewwww! She KILLED IT! When it was over, I half expected her to growl, “I WANT AN OSCAR TOO!!!”
Unsurprisingly, the judges had nothing but raves. “I do love you!” Randy said, in response to the song’s lyrics. “Jennifer Hudson watch out!”
Paula gushed, “This is where you belong, honey!”
And Simon made a callback to Gina by saying, “That’s the right note.” He then laughingly said, “I’m very tempted to tell twenty-three people to book your plane tickets home.” You’d think that comment would generate huge applause, but it was only met by confusion by the studio audience. People, he’s saying that she should win the whole thing. It’s a good thing!
Because there was time to kill at the end, Ryan then asked how many boys and girls the judges would send if there wasn’t a six/six limit. Randy said it would be like four guys and eight girls. Even four seems too liberal a number for the guys. Either way, whoever advanced would have their work cut out for them. Simon declared that Lakisha had “thrown down the gauntlet.” And then some.
What did you think about the ladies? Should we just move ahead to an all-female top six?