"This evening it's all about girl power."
No, Posh Spice wasn't a guest judge. Ryan Seacrest was merely suggesting that the top 12 girls were about to show the boys how properly to entertain home viewers. (Luke Menard thought to himself, "Wait. Trembling like a wet cat and singing like a eunuch isn't good TV?")
Seacrest immediately went on to say that even "Idol" contestants get the flu, so the chances of squawky notes and vomiting shot up to 85 percent. (Normally, Paula's presence puts the number at around 33.) So, basically Seacrest said the women would knock our socks off, except the ones that wouldn't be able to sing. "Idol" was schizo Wednesday night.
Once Randy finished raving about the boys' performances (I guess you had to be there), the ladies were ready to take the stage, with tissues tucked in their sleeves just in case.
One more note before we dive in: In honor of "Idol" finally recognizing Carly Smithson's professional past, all my "verdicts" below will be song titles from her 2001 album, Ultimate High. (Twelve tracks for 12 singers. Some recaps just write themselves, folks.)
Kristy Lee Cook
Song: Fontella Bass' "Rescue Me"
Verdict: "Beautiful You"
In her pre-performance package, Kristy Lee Cook talked emotionally about how she had to sell her favorite horse to get to the "Idol" audition. Did she not get the memo about Asia'h's monopoly on upsetting audition stories? Nobody's going to be moved by this sad tale, except maybe Bobcat Goldthwait.
Kristy performed the extended cut of "Rescue Me." (Am I the only one who noticed that she sang the refrain about 19 times?) David Cook defiantly sat in the audience with his arms folded, looking bored out of his mind. (He must be pissed about having to share his last name.) Kristy's vocals were OK for the first verse, but pretty soon the Horse Whisperer became the Hoarse Whisperer, and things were in shambles by the end. Poor Kristy claimed to have the flu and a bad case of bronchitis, but judging from her awkward stage dancing, she has Underwooditis, as well. Her feet remained planted on the ground while she bent her knees and shook her hips back and forth. Simon noticed too, calling her performance "robotic" before knocking her song choice.
When Seacrest read her voting numbers, I prayed that he'd ad-lib, "And if you're a horse, you can vote for Kristy by tapping your hoof on the ground one time."
Song: Dionne Warwick's "I Say a Little Prayer"
Verdict: "You'll Never Meet God (If You Break My Heart)"
Plus-size model Joanne comes with a Mo'Nique endorsement of sorts, so I was excited to see her strut her stuff on the "Idol" stage. Unfortunately, the first half of her song was weak because of a problematic lower register, and the second half was unpleasant because of shaky high notes. I'm disappointed that Joanne let nerves get the best of her. If it weren't for Danny Noriega bopping along in the audience like the fierce little diva he is, I would have had nothing positive to say about her tentative performance.
Song: The Spiral Starecase's "More Today Than Yesterday"
Verdict: "Young Love"
The night's first Coca-Cola Real moment showed off two amazing things. First, we saw a coffee table made from Ford tires. (The ad-within-an-ad-within-a-TV-show is almost courageous in its shillness.) But even more exciting, we saw the emergence of a new favorite: Alaina Whitaker.
Before Wednesday night, I always just thought of Alaina as a Carrie Underwood clone. But after her deadpan "Vote for me, it's my birthday, I want shoes" interview and her playful performance, I'm convinced that Alaina is a Carrie Underwood clone, but better. Alaina actually has a personality!
The judges all seemed to be just as surprised by the youngster's stellar debut. Randy gave her a "What?!" while Simon slyly raved, "I think you're very good! If you could make a song as awful as that sound OK, then when you've got a decent song you're gonna be great!" I guess Il Divo won't be covering Spiral Starecase anytime soon.
Song: Van Morrison and Them's "Baby, Please Don't Go"
Verdict: "All Kinds of People"
I wonder if "Idol" used Amanda's nursing experience during the flu epidemic. In between applying copious amounts of eyeliner and taking divas' temperatures, she somehow had time to rehearse a killer showstopper. Like Bo Bice before her, when Amanda sang, it felt like she was channeling a ghost of rock past. Somehow, her lack of eye contact actually drew me into her performance, so much so that when she finally did look into the camera I totally turned into a Beatles fan at the Ed Sullivan Theater. "Ahhhh! Amanda just totally looked at me! Go steady with me, Ringo!"
The judges praised her authenticity (and Randy coveted her trousers), and I finally saw the appeal of the Rocker Nurse. Her hilarious post-performance interview helped too. Aside from an awesome mea culpa to the truck driver who totaled her car, she told Seacrest that the one time she was nervous was when she had to dance in front of the camera for the lame top 24 dancing montage.
So let me get this straight. Doing the Watusi on TV? Embarrassing. Wearing an Elvira wig in public? Perfectly acceptable. To each her own.
Song: Connie Francis' "Where the Boys Are"
Verdict: "Get You Off"
Amy "Ann B." Davis compared her "Idol" experience to "100 Christmases as a 6-year-old girl all packed into one" before calling her self "one lucky dog." Once she started singing, though, I realized that Santa left us coal in our stockings and the dog has only one leg.
Since there are no words to explain how bad she was, I'll instead focus on how nasty the song "Where the Boys Are" is. The basic gist is that the singer is "in a crowd of a million" men, trying to find Mr. Right, who essentially is the guy who smiles at her and hugs her. Connie Francis was easy!
Song: The Turtles' "Happy Together"
Verdict: "I Need a Little Love"
I predicted that the teary Brooke White would give us some "wildly nervous" performances, and she has proven me half-right. Yes, Brooke acted like a drug smuggler at the U.S. Customs counter, yet she used that twitchy energy to help, not hinder, her performance. I liked her "Happy Together" much better than the one grumpy audience member David Cook delivered on Tuesday night. If he, like Brooke, had touched his hair seductively, it would have been harder to pick a winner.
Randy said it took Brooke awhile to get "her slaying on," but Paula and Simon applauded her perfect song choice, even though the latter compared her upbeat presence to that of a dish soap commercial. She certainly was bubbly.
Song: Blood, Sweat & Tears' "Spinning Wheel"
Verdict: "What I've Found" (Meh, I know this one doesn't make sense.)
Why did Alexandrea Lushington dress like she was going to a '60s-themed bar mitzvah? Is she going to keep this up for the rest of the season? (If so, I seriously hope "Idol" considers a Gwar night.)
Young Alexandrea started "Spinning Wheel" by enthusiastically squatting on the staircase. Her energy was through the roof, even if her voice sounded better near the ground. The Lush has the opposite problem as Chikezie and Joanne: Her lower register is solid as a rock. It's when she tries to hit high notes that her vocals become thin. The lyric "What goes up must come down" is actually really appropriate advice. Speaking of lyrics, do you think the "Ride a painted pony" line made Kristy sad?
Although Simon "didn't get it," I say we should mark Alexandrea (say it so it flows, Seacrest) as another victory for Team High Schoolers.
Song: The Mindbenders' "A Groovy Kind of Love"
Verdict: "No One's Safe From Goodbye"
Kady benefited from an awesome pre-performance package. Producers cut from an interview where she talked about being obsessed with music to her brilliant Britney Spears impression. But as soon as Kady took the stage, all her personality flew out the window. Her far-from-groovy number was painful to watch, from the dead, sleepy eyes to the stiff, tense vocals. It didn't help that the song's arrangement was more Phil Collins ear-torture than the original rollicking version. When I wasn't screaming, "Open your mouth!" to my television, I noticed that she resembles my favorite cat on cyberspace, Winston.
Kady won the prize for "Most Awesome Judging," however, thanks to Simon comparing her to a pencil, prompting Kady's boyfriend in the audience to look as though he was ready to take the Brit out back for a beat-down. (Speaking of pencils, was Simon comparing Kady to Skinny Minnie Brooke White or a classic number 2? Discuss.)
Song: Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart"
Verdict: "Rip in Heaven"
Asia'h took the silent H in her name really seriously and turned the Joplin hit into "Take Another Little Piece of My Art." Pronunciation aside, she owned the "Idol" stage with a neat R&B twist to a rock classic. Plus, she won points in my book by doing an adorable victory dance after Simon proclaimed her his favorite of the night. Hell, yeah! (Or shall I say, " 'Ell, yeah"?)
Song: Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me"
Verdict: "Let Me Blow Your Mind"
In Ramiele's taped piece, we learned that she's a waitress (and expert soy-sauce pourer) at a sushi restaurant. But producers left out the part about her sharing a hairstylist with Christian from "Project Runway." There's always next week.
In the meantime, let's discuss the brilliance that was her performance Wednesday night. She dusted off a Dusty Springfield ballad and built it up beautifully until it exploded into a powerhouse showstopper worthy of a thousand standing ovations. Even seat-warmer David Cook was up on his feet! (Noticeably not clapping: David Hernandez. Drama!)
Appropriately, the judges showered Ramiele with praise. Simon's critique indicated that this wasn't the first time she made them flip their ish. "Again tonight, you out-sung every single person."
Finally, young Filipina girls have an "Idol" who isn't the tone-deaf Jasmine Trias. Rejoice!
Song: The Nashville Teens' "Tobacco Road"
Verdict: "Just Missed the Train"
Syesha was a big ball of energy. Before a commercial break she did a side jump-kick. During an interview with Seacrest, she kneeled on the couch and looked compulsively at the wrong camera. And when she sang, she shouted! Syesha definitely has the loudest pipes of the top 24. I'm still not sold on the "big voice" description — her voice isn't full enough to be considered "big" — but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that her amp goes all the way up to 11.
As far as her "Tobacco Road" goes, I never thought in a million years that I'd type this, but I liked Phil Stacey's version better.
The judges disagreed with me and praised her all around, prompting Ryan to ask cryptically, "Simon, does she have the package? I mean, the total package? Total package! She doesn't have a package. That would make her a man. Nice shoes!" (I'm paraphrasing — and by "paraphrasing" I mean making most of that up.)
Song: Tony Bennett's "The Shadow of Your Smile"
Verdict: "Surface Wound"
"Idol" finally acknowledged Carly Smithson's prior major-label deal in her intro, although they left out the part about her album selling less than 400 copies. She says "imploded," others say "absorbed by Geffen Records." Tomato, tomahto.
The singer said something else that felt defensive for no reason: "I'm just here to sing. I'm not here to be the diva or the prima donna or anything like that. I'm just here to be Carly." Had anyone accused her of being a diva or a prima donna? That's sort of like when you were a kid and tried to hide a broken lamp in a closet but then said to your parents, "Whatever you do, don't look in the closet!" What a diva!
Carly was another sicky on Wednesday. (Although it was never addressed, I imagine her bronchitis was what kept her from cheering the boys on yesterday.) Her old-fashioned performance left me a little cold, but my blood began to boil once the judging started. "The best vocal of the past two days!" Randy exclaimed. Paula compared her to a reliable lucky coin in a pocket. I worried aloud, "Are they really going to continue to pimp her?"
But Simon put the kibosh on the lovefest by implying that Carly might be overhyped. Bold words coming from a guy who initially started the hype back when she first auditioned a few seasons ago. Regardless, I was glad to see at least one judge call Carly out for a cabaret performance.
I haven't written off Carly completely. It's obvious the girl can sing (I'd call her voice "big," Syesha), but the lass needs to figure out who she is as a performer before I'm ready to hop on the Randy/Paula Carly Smithson Express.
Despite a rough opening, the ladies did slightly better than the boys, overall. It's much easier to point to which two girls should pack their belongings. Kady Malloy and Amy Davis were far and away the weakest links. Kady had no charisma live in the studio, and Amy showed no signs that she could carry a tune. If Amy survives tomorrow's elimination, either the deaf have started to dial in a major way, or Vote for the Worst has struck again.
I want to hear what you think! Whom did you vote for? Should viewers give the sick singers a second chance? And between Ramiele and Danny Noriega, could this season get any fiercer? Leave your comments below.
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