Welcome back to Night 2 of the Idol semifinal performances. I have to say: I think the boys are a much weaker group than the girls, and I don’t imagine that their performances were helped by the opening introductions, in which Ryan inexplicably scared the holy hell out of them by marching past each guy and glaring like an unhappy principal trying to coerce the truth out of a group of sullen schoolchildren. My expectations for the night were immediately lowered.
Lee: “Fireflies” – I really like the tone of this guy’s voice, but he’s always kinda…pitchy. Okay, I refuse to channel the Dawg for another night; this stops here. Anywho, this is an okay song and a nice performance, but I don’t feel that my world has been rocked in any way. Ellen: “Yeah, there were a couple of pitch problems but I don’t think that matters right now.” Sure, well, it’s only a singing competition. Pitch problems aren’t really important.
Alex: “Trouble” – Wow, he sounds exactly like Ray LaMontagne. Not as good – settle down, LaMontagne fans – but his tone is eerily similar. Except for, you know, not quite being able to hit the big notes; the similarities apparently end there. An upside: he no longer looks abjectly terrified of performing live. Kara: “The only thing standing in the way of you winning is YOU right now.” Well, that and the hair style. That’s pretty horrifying. Also, eternal thanks to Simon for the mental image of Randy in a bikini. That won’t haunt my nightmares or anything.
Tim: “Hallelujah” – Okay, not only did Jason Castro rock this on Idol, but this is one of the five most sacred songs EVER; thus, “Hallelujah” was a gutsy, gutsy choice. Shockingly, the performance was not as horrible as I was expecting; it was in tune and all. BUT: Did he bring anything new to the song? Methinks no, especially when there are three or four iconic versions of it. So why are the judges loving this so much? It was the right pitch and it was soulful, but if you can’t sing “Hallelujah” with soul than you don’t have one. Simon: “For you, it was terrific.” Well, the bar had been set remarkably low, so…
Andrew: “Genie in a Bottle” – This is an interesting idea, but is he a one-trick pony, turning bubblegum pop into accoustic folk? Because I’m over it; three straight weeks is enough. And “Genie in a Bottle” is a pretty superficial song – it’s hard to imbue “you’ve gotta rub me the right way” with deep emotion. Kara’s critique that he was “fighting with the rhythm on the guitar” was spot on (surprisingly). And Simon was right – he was shooting for a Moment and fell flat. It’s sad; he was a really exciting prospect once.
Casey: “You’ll Think of Me” – Hey – handsome guy does a country song. He’s may not be the most versatile contestant, but he’s clearly the savviest. And yes, I’m part of the Kara DioGuardi Memorial “Good Lord, he’s attractive” Fan Club. I don’t know how far he’ll get – he just doesn’t have the vocal range of the other contestants, though I like his bluesy tone – but at least he’s usually in tune, and if he’s around for a few more weeks, well…I’m totally okay with that. On a side note, Kara coining the phrase “Casey Train” makes me nostalgic for Mary Murphy’s “Hot Tamale Train.” In honor of Mary, I will shriek hysterically as if being stabbed. Ah, So You Think You Can Dance. How I miss you.
Aaron: “I’m Already There” – Boy, did this start poorly. I think Aaron’s “he’s so dang cute” factor will keep him around, but this performance belonged in a shopping mall, not on television. And the way he works the camera makes me feel like he’s auditioning for Making the Band about ten years too late. (Hey, whatever happened to O-Town? Anyway…) Randy is overpraising; thanks to the rest of the gang for floating Aaron gently back down to Earth. And why did Kara feel the need to explain the song’s meaning? The lyrics aren’t exactly metaphorical. “He called her on the road from a lonely cold hotel room” doesn’t require context, right?
Todrick: “Somebody to Love” – Wow, between this and “Hallelujah,” two of my favorite songs have been sung by two of my least favorite singers tonight. And Todrick, honey, just because Freddie Mercury could do it, that doesn’t mean you can. Anyone else notice how every attempt at a Queen song only expands Freddie’s legacy? Damn, could he sing. Anyway – like Tim, this wasn’t blasphemous, but it wasn’t terribly original. And again like Tim, the judges are wildly over-praising: Randy said this was one of the best vocals of the last few weeks “by a man.” Repeat: the bar was REALLY, REALLY LOW; it was basically scraping the ground. I simply can’t emphasize that enough. And I’m sorry – did Randy just compare this to the Glee version? THAT is blasphemous. (Download that single immediately, by the way).
Michael: “This Woman’s Work” – The opening falsetto was in tune, and props to Big Mike for being able to hit those notes, but that sequence made me look up from my laptop with a “what the HELL?” expression. And these dance moves are, well…let’s go with “unnecessary.” This performance must have played much better in the studio than it did on television, because the judges love this much more than I did. It was good, it was in tune, but HOLY CRAP IS KARA CRYING?!? Also – sorry, Simon, no way this beats some of the girls’ performances from last night, never mind the whole season. I mean, come on. Is this an anti-R&B bias on my part, or were the judges feeling woozy? I’m confused.
Okay, so, final reactions: I have no clue in hell who’s going to go home; I think Andrew and Aaron should but I’m not sure America will agree. I also have a feeling that the judges will watch this back on television and feel a wee bit silly. I sincerely hope to hear some mea culpas on the results show. But maybe I’m being too harsh; by all means, let me know. In a semi-related story, does anyone else think that Kris Allen comes off much better in his Ford commercial than Bo Bice does in his Taco Bell ad? These boys clearly have some big shoes to fill…
Update: Bo Bice’s commercial is for Moe’s, not Taco Bell. Apologies. Thanks to msalbright for the correction!