February 21, 2006

"American Idol" -- the first 12 ladies.

Now we can finally vote, and we see the females, two of whom will be eliminated this week.

Mandisa sings Heart's "Never." I thought it was tasteless and ugly, but Randy and Paula rave. Simon? Oh, he's raving too. What nonsense! They are lavishing praise on her, it seems, to suck up to all the many plus size "American Idol" fans.

Kellie Pickler: "I don't really have a love life." But she's going to do this song -- "How Far," a sexual song -- for her dad. Kind of icky. But we're reminded again that her dad is in prison, and she is a woman of sorrow. It's atrocious, and she's doing that "American Idol" pose I so detest, planting her feet wide apart and doing shallow knee bends. It's so crotchy -- but sexless! They tell her she has the likeability factor. "You're a nice girl," Simon says.

Becky O'Donohue, she's the girl with the miming twin. I detest her. Much as I feel for her muted twin, I find her intolerably phony. But she's doing "Because the Night." That's something. Let's listen. Yikes! She's doing Patti Smith, cornball style. She's gesticulating in a way that says: you must find me sexy. Patti would never do that! I'm horribly nauseated! Simon: "Visually, you are a 10, but..."

Ayla Brown, the beautiful basketballer. She motivates herself by thinking about how Simon called her "robotic" and "empty." She's singing some cheesy song in a horribly cheesy style. Oh, it's something like "Reflection." It's harsh and abominable. She puts that pop-groan into it, but I'm not embarrassed for her, because she's so pretty and so tall. When she's done, she says, "I just feel so complete," as if she'd just had sex with herself. Appalling! But will the judges complain? Again with the praise. Is there no relenting? Simon calls her a "hard worker" with "a limit." But he credits her with "some emotion." Disgusting overpraise!

Paris Bennett: she's one of the very best from the auditions, and she's going to sing "Midnight Train to Georgia." Great! But the song seems to be in the wrong key, and the singing is so unmusical compared to the audition. Judges? Randy: "Whoa!" Paula: "You're my idol!" Simon: "It's a performance everyone's going to remember."

Stevie Scott, a special favorite of mine. She's the one who's studied opera. And quite aside from that, I'm getting a nice "Joan of Arcadia" vibe from her. She's singing an opera song, "From Where You Are." Ooh! She does the Kelly Clarkson stomach grab! She's breathy and sweet. Randy: "Dude, I found myself daydreaming." Paula: "Very intimate." Simon: "You completely and utterly messed that up... It was like being at some Sunday lunch and some child gets up to sing." Whoops! Afterwards, she apologies and indicates she can do what they want. Crash! And now she's desperately acting sexy with Ryan. Noooooooo!

Brenna Gethers, the biggest ham. Ooh, she's squirming her body up against Ryan Seacrest! You don't want to see that. Aw, but she's singing "You Are the Sunshine of My Life." She has five different voices, and she specializes in sticking out her ass and slapping it. Simon: "That was horrible, completely and utterly..." The problem is the safe song, when she's supposed to be a wild cat.

Heather Cox is singing some damned "American Idol" song. Apparently, she wants to pull the stars down from the sky. Despite her lovely chest, she's horribly unmusical and off-key. Please, make her go away. Randy only calls her boring. Paula says it's not great. Simon only calls it "forgettable," but then redeems himself with an honest word: "horrible."

Melissa McGhee. She's weak and dull. "When the Lights Go Down." This is so ugly that I have to ignore it. Somehow, Paula thinks it was a "shining moment."

Lisa Tucker. She's adorably 16. I love her. The audience is screaming. She sings in a beautifully mature style -- "I'm changing" -- that makes all the other girls seem lightweight and ordinary. Lisa!

Kinnik Sky. "Get Here," a song I associate with Justin Guarini. She has a heavy, overbearing voice. Paula: "Sharp notes? A few. So what!" Simon sneers, "Very cabaret."

Only one more. They usually save the best one for last, and it's the one I remember as the best from the auditions:

Katharine McPhee! She sings "Since I Fell For You," which she imagines was originally sung by Barbra Streisand. "I get the blues most every night." Randy: "Wow, wow." Paula: "Fantastic. I think you're going to go all the way." Simon: "There were four very, very good vocalists tonight, and you were the best."


Mike said...

Just an FYI -- things often sound very different when you're in the audience. I went to a couple Season 1 shows and was astounded to watch the recorded versions afterwards. That might explain some of the variation: the television gives you an objective distance, I think, that being thirty feet from someone somewhat precludes.

shanti said...

what is the line between "playing it safe" and overboard? Is there one? Plus, what is going on with the pained expressions on the pretty faces...

Anne said...

I just finished watching, also, and I'm perplexed. WHAT WAS THAT? Lisa and Paris were the only tolerable performers, but the rest ... yikes. Most of the girls were just vapid and uninspiring.

Wickedpinto said...

I don't have a breakdown of eachone, but I think that Paris was mediocre. Her "performance" was fantastic, but the singing was simplified, and she broke tone so many times. She went from singing, to doing an impersonation, I couldn't stand it.

ODonahue will get throuh just cuz she's hot, what the hell was she thinking picking a nitche song? There is no OTHER way to sing Because the Knight" but as Natalie Merchant.

Didn't like Ayla, but she's so damn cute, I would like to see her advance and "mature" over the coming weeks, she might accomplish something.

I only have 4 more opinions.

MgGhee- her voice and her carriage were, not powerful, but strong, but throughout the entire song her voices was mono-chromatic, there was no real variation of depth, wasn't impressed at all.

Tucker- thought she sucked more ass than all the prags in Oz combined, but she was wicked with attitude, in her performance.

McPhee - I don't think she was too bad, but she was reaching into peggy lee, and it just doesn't work that way, unless you are a 6'4" redheaded male.

and I saved this for last because. . . .well, it's obvious.

Cox Sucked.

vbspurs said...

Just to let Althousians know --

I'll be watching The Apprentice for the first time, ever, this Monday.

Yes. I've finally capitulated to the lure of pop TV culture.

So count me in during future Althouse TV threads, at last.


Semanticleo said...


PatCA said...

The music/judges' opinions also sounded weird to me. I thought Paris sounded off and I feared she was about to bounce right off the stage. I love Lisa Tucker and McGhee. I thought Ayla showed great improvement and enjoyed her little "moment" when she said she felt complete. Hey, she's only 17! Performing can be all that. Take an acting class and see.

BTW I do not for one minute believe Brenna and her hard luck story, but LOL, good try, girl!

Bill Millan said...

A star is born! When Lisa Tucker finished, I felt the way I did when I watched Barbra on the late show "back in the day" singing "Happy days are here again." Just fantastic!You watch her, and you say, "she can't be 16!" What a performer! The old saying is, "she jumps right out of the screen at you!"

Katharine McPhee would have been my favorite without Lisa up there. I will have to see a guy who blows me away tonight to believe anybody else can win besides Lisa.

Stevie Scott and Ayla Brown will be gone, IMO.

This "squat" the girls use is really annoying. To be crude about it, It looked like a couple of them were trying to dump a load on the stage. UGH!

I have read comments about "oversinging," trying to belt it too much, and we saw some of that. One of them was fingering the mike like it was a clarinet. Distracting.

chuck b. said...

The Kellie Pickler review made me laugh out loud. Nice, pithy work, AA.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Great writing. I don't even watch American Idol.

Wickedpinto said...

I hope Kevin makes it. Something about that kid just says "determination and dream" If the judgeds can pass Parris, a HACK, the I hope can accept "The Crew Cut Kid" ESPECIALLY if the Flat voiced twinbitch advances, but we all know the Twinbitch will move forward no matter how many notes she doesn't bother to hit.


XWL said...

Maybe it was cause I made the mistake of watching Constantine (the film, not the singer) the other night, but I swear there was a scene in hell where souls were being tortured by listening to Becky O'Donohue do what she did to poor Patti Smith.


Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera have a lot to answer for.

Pick a key and stick to it, and hold a note for a change and don't warble.

Paris was pretty awful, too. Her voice wasn't the problem, but turning 'Midnight Train to Georgia' into the bouncy happy tune that she seemed to think it was, that's just wrong.

When you sing a song you really should connect to the lyrics and sing the emotion suggested by the lyric, or else it's utterly empty.

But Stevie, Heather and Kinnik are the most likely to be ousted.

(Though there are many filmmakers in the Valley just over the hill from Hollywood who would gladly find a project for Heather to star in)

Pete said...

Yay, American Idol blogging! You're the best, Ann!

I'm with you on most of your review and I'm with xwl about Paris and Midnight Train to Georgia: It's not a bouncy song. Lisa Tucker seems to have the goods. The rest? Eh. At least for now.

Let's see how the boys do.

Ann Althouse said...

1. I've always heard "Midnight Train to Georgia" as a happy song the way Gladys Knight sings it. The man is going back to a more authentic place, and she loves him enough to want to live in his world. The backup vocals sound especially peppy, and Gladys sounds like she's made her decision and she's into it now.

2. The only way to sing "Because the Night" is the Natalie Merchant way? Gah! Merchant covered a Patti Smith song. Don't even icons get respect anymore?! And that's not even mentioning Springsteen! Please, a little historical depth.

3. Those who found the girls blah. Remember these are kids, some only 16 or 17, suddenly singing live, in front of judges, on the most popular show on television. It's amazing that they hold it together at all.

4. Thanks for encouraging me to keep up my "American Idol" blogging. It's a little hard to do a contestant-by-contestant review at this stage, with so many, but for me, it would be harder to sit through the show and pay attention to each one, if I weren't writing.

Lou Wainwright said...

The Natalie Merchant comment was really funny. I'm 34, apparently just on the cusp of thinking of it as being a Patti Smith song. I remember hating the 10,000 Maniacs version when it came out thinking it was a lame remake - I had no idea it had become so popular. But Ann, I had no idea Springsteen wrote it! I had always assumed he was covering Smith's song. Thanks for the news.

Becky's version...ugh. Lisa was the only one who made me think I was watching the eventual winner.

Tristram said...

Ann, please keep on AI blogging.

My wife does pair AI blogging with a friend (though I don't think they have started up this year...). She'd ask me what you said after she does her own posts. It's funny, she'll get mad saying 'That's what I said!'.

Anyway, all I know is she thinks Ace isdreamy and Chris Daughtry is probably her favorite.

BTW, looking forward to tonight, is it possible that Will Makar look like any more like Peter Brady?

Adam said...

For real, if ever the "you sang like a bad lounge singer" tag fit, it was for that atrocious "Because the Night". It's a ferocious song, and she tried to make it cuddly.

But Ann, I've got to ask -- what's wrong about one facet of American pop culture finally catering (hell, even pandering) to the plus-sized, and not treating them as people in need of change?

Laura Reynolds said...

Yes they are generally inexperienced and its impressive that they do as well as they do... but why they so often make the dreadful song choices at this point is hard to explain, especially when they are free to choose nearly anything.

Lisa, Paris and Katharine are clearly talented enough and Ayla is intriquing if limited. Beyond that its difficult (for me) to draw any conclusions. I admit to being less interested in the men, I've seen lots of bar bands that could use Bo Bice or Constantine, so so hopefully these guys have talent to match personality.

Please keep up the AI posts Ann, its a lot more fun than ports and hunting.

Welcome Victoria

MadisonMan said...

...what's wrong about one facet of American pop culture finally catering (hell, even pandering) to the plus-sized, and not treating them as people in need of change?

All people are in need of change. Stagnation is what happens just before you die. If you aren't changing, you aren't growing.

Ann, I don't watch AI (unless I walk through the room while the daughter is watching) but I loved your commentary.

Ann Althouse said...

Adam: "...what's wrong about one facet of American pop culture finally catering (hell, even pandering) to the plus-sized, and not treating them as people in need of change."

I'm just calling bullshit if they overpraise Mandisa to try to get in good with the large folks. Simon insulted her for being very fat before, and now they are putting on a show of making amends. Fine, but Mandisa shouldn't get extra credit for being fat.

I'm not stating a more general opinion about whether or not people should be pressured to get in shape. But generally, I think whether it's better to be slim or not, pressuring people about it doesn't help and it's impolite anyway.

Adam said...

Fair enough. I thought it was a strong, confident performance, not on the level of the top 2-3, but there were certainly 5-6 worse than Mandisa last night -- both in terms of performance and potential.

David A. Carlson said...

Because the Night is a Bruce Springsteen song - he wrote it for Patti, as he has with many songs for many artists.

It is also on his Live Album

Dad said...

I never watched AI until this year. I don't care much for the style of music. But I was struck last night by the sight of 12 young women, amateurs every one, gleaned from thousands of auditioners, pursuing their dreams, realistic or not. Certainly there was much to criticize, but each of them is very talented (several are extremely talented) and singing solo into a mic with a live band and a live audience is really difficult, even for pros.

Nice job, ladies!

Roger Sweeny said...

""Since I Fell for You," was a '40 Buddy Johnson tune that had been recorded countless times by everyone from Louis Armstrong to pop-and-R&B vocalist Lenny Welch, who had a Top 5 hit with it in 1963."

Later covers include Nina Simone, Bonnie Raitt, Michael Bolton, and (yes) Reba McEntire and Natalie Cole.

LarryK said...

IMHO, the best version of "Since I Fell For You" is by Charlie Rich -probably the most under-rated artist in American musical history - on his "Pictures and Paintings" album. Because I love his version of the song, I hated Katherine's. And even though she didn't do the three-step squat (step 1: place feet wide apart; step 2: squat; step 3: bounce up and down while squatting), she did jiggle her shoulders at the camera. Haven't seen that move since Charo. It could have been old-fashionedly endearing, but she didn't pull it off and just looked like an idiot.

I think Paris should be crowned the winner right now because she had the courage to sing "Midnight Train to Georgia." This could be the anti-anthem for American Idol, especially the lyrics (quoting from memory)

He stopped dreaming, that one day he'd be a star (Pips: superstar, but he didn't get far)

But he soon found out the hard way that dreeeeeeeams don't always come true (Pips: don't always come true, no, uh uh)

How could she sing this right to Paula Abdul's face? The typical AmIdol song is about reaching deep into your heart, or maybe looking up to heaven to touch the wings of an angel, and always, always believing in your dream because you are a star.

Based on what I've seen, this is the lamest Idol cast to date. It's a tremendous drop off from last year, when the last three standing (Carrie, Bo, Vonzell) were all potentially legit stars. I also think this show is seriously in danger of jumping the shark - how many more times can we hear Randy call the girls "dude," listen to Paula's pained pep talks, and Simon's snark? I'll check out tonight's show but if it's not any better, just follow the weekly updates on Ann's blog rather than wasting my precious TV watching time.

Ann Althouse said...

LarryK: Yeah, reading the Althouse blog is a great way to save time -- in so many ways!

LarryK said...

Slight correction to the last post - I checked and "Since I Fell for You" wasn't on Pictures and Paintings, but it is on Feel Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich. I've got both, but was momentarily confused because "Since I Fell" is such a jazzy arrangement and P&P is Charlie Rich's "jazz album." Just wanted to make sure no one rushes out and buys the CD because of the power of the Alhouse blog and is then disappointed.

me said...

Patti Smith cowrote her first big hit, "Because the Night," with Bruce Springsteen, and that track was the force behind this album's ascent of the U.S. Top 40. Never fully departing from her punk-poetess roots, Easter was nonetheless produced by hit maker Jimmy Iovine, resulting in a more accessible overall sound than her earlier work. Her vocal gymnastics and dramatic rock & roll sensibilities threw sparks in every direction, with the vitriolic "Rock N Roll Nigger" and the anthemic "Till Victory" further paving the way for punks and women rockers everywhere. Churchly keyboards and huge drums drive Smith's quest for "a reason to live" on the religiously inquisitive "Privilege" and she's unabashedly sexy on the raunchy "25th Floor." A great work all around. --Lorry Fleming