Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Gambler Broke Even; The Idols Went Bust

General Comments

Terry: Sheesh, will this group ever get there act together? How far my initial enthusiasm and expectations have fallen is just unfathomable.
Coolia: I'm not a fan of country music so I figured I would be bored tonight...but I had no idea just how bored I would be. Watching C-Span would have been much more entertaining. Overall, the song selection was terrible. Why didn't they pick more recognizable songs, or at least interesting songs? I was glad Simon made fun of Seacrest's beard, because I'm really tired of Seacrest constantly harping on Simon about Simon not giving constructive criticism. I would like him to please list some examples of constructive criticism doled out by Randy "It was aiight" Jackson and Paula "You made it your own. Touchdown!" Abdul. I think the only people who ever have given constructive criticism in the history of the show are Gene Simmons and Barry Manilow.

C. Crumpet Swank: Coolia, you're right. Simon doles out far more constructive criticism than the other two judges combined. Ryan should ease up on this particular complaint of his.
Terry: Yes! I am SO sick of the "let's pick on Simon but give a complete pass to Paula and Randy" crap. It's SO forced and ridiculous. Randy could not be more fake and unnecessary. Everything is "just okay," "didn't work for me dog," "we got a hot one tonight," or some such repeated mantra. And Paula is still obviously on drugs (prescription or contraband) because she give extra praise to those she "knows" Simon will be honest with and criticize. And, although Simon does get it wrong from time to time (in my humble opinion) he is still the ONLY one who, although sometimes a bit harsh, tells the "truth" as he sees it.
Nerdia:
There does seem to be a ridiculous anti-Simon bias on the show. Seacrest is just coming across like a scorned lover.
C. Crumpet Swank: Okay, why do they even bother to let Simon participate on Country Night? His constant refrain of "Hated the song," is meaningless since he seemingly has no other response to any country composition performed. Moreover, it does a disservice to the contestants because to the less discerning members of the viewing public his comment could be misinterpreted as a criticism of the performance as opposed to the song itself. Props to Ryan for pointing out this semantic difference. A shout out, too, to Katharine for saying, "Simon, just face it--you don't like country music. It's all right." I thought her comment was right on the money and was delivered in a kindly fashion, without an apparent self-serving motive. It was like a gentle remonstration to a child (which I don't think Simon "got"). At least Ryan and Katharine's comments were able to shed some light on Simon's general lack of fitness for judging on this particular night. Anyone familiar with my opinions knows that I am a true Simon fan, so that's why his petulant close-mindedness was particularly grating for me.
Terry: Supposedly, Prince is next up on the parade of "I want to increase my stature or add to the endurance on the charts of my current release" wannabees. Who wants to bet that at some point Cher (Nerdia may never forgive me for saying that!) and Bono (to add yet another avenue to preach his social message) won't be far behind.
C. Crumpet Swank: I disagree. I actually like the appearance of these celebrities performing on the results show. It accomplishes much; it: 1.) gives the results show an American Bandstand feel; 2.) has the potential to expose the public to performers who no longer get a fair shake at radio (bring on Pat Benatar Night!); and 3.) is way more interesting than vacant "suspense"-building via Ryan recapping judges' commentary (the less we have to listen to Ryan, the better).


Performances

Taylor Hicks - Take Me Home Country Roads

Terry: His worst performance yet by far. Was obviously uncomfortable and it showed in his pained performance and OFF vocals.
Coolia: Much to my horror I turned on the TV at 7:04pm only to see Taylor standing before the judges! I can't believe I missed my favorite because I was dawdling over dinner. From the recap, he looked like he was having fun and at least he did a classic song.

Art Haarper: He has an appropriate last name for country week.

Nerdia:
Coolia, I’m glad you missed this worst Taylor performance. He looked like a scared deer caught in headlights. Didn’t move an inch. What a fun song too, as Coolia’s drunken Octoberfest video can prove. Should have been a slam dunk for Taylor. I figure his dog must have died right before the show.
C. Crumpet Swank: Oh, Taylor...first and worst. Coolia, at least you will always be able to fantasize about Taylor's lovingly fun rendition of the song without the harsh reality of his piss-poor performance crashing down through your reverie. This was the worst performance of the night. He seemed totally uncomfortable and showed virutally no vocal range. This is supposed to be a joyful, rollicking song and it was sung totally bereft of those qualities. The message was more like, "Country roads, take me home, so I can take a dump, a place where I belong..." so uptight and binded did Taylor seem. The performance was all the more disappointing for the fact that Taylor is, in essence, a blues singer, and if music is a spectrum I would say that R&B and country sit on either side of the blues genre. Ergo, Taylor should have had a far easier/better time with this type of music. If Katharine could select a bluesy country song and excel, why couldn't Taylor do the same?


Mandisa

Terry: Who the hell helps her with her wardrobe? They should be strung up by there thumbs and then off with their heads! The song did not fit her vocal range. She is weak to average in the low range and this song had far too much of that. And, surprisingly, she had only decent power range tonight. So-so at best. Nowhere near great and not even good.
Coolia: I agree on the wardrobe - the outfit was horrendous. Did she not read our comments about the jeans last week? The top seemed to be cut simply to accentuate the girth of her thighs. Also singing about an earthquake and the richter scale must have made a few people snicker, given this visual. She was clearly uncomfortable in the genre and didn't pick a song that she could do anything with.

Art Haarper: I kinda liked it.

Barb: My God. Her arms are bigger than my legs. She looks like she lives at Old Country Buffet.

Nerdia:
I disagree with y’all this week and agree with Art. I thought Mandisa looked country-cute in her outfit. I give her props for singing a song with so many words and notes and doing it with some country-fun flair which shows she does have range. But I didn’t engage with the song.
C. Crumpet Swank: I agree with Art and Nerdia. I thought this was one of the better performances of the evening. It didn't make me forget Shania's original, but was good nonetheless. She sang it very well--what was missing was a kind of freedom, the sense of abandon she normally brings to her singing.


Elliott Yamin - If Tomorrow Never Comes

Terry: This was one of his better performances, but for me that's not saying all that much. Low range was just okay but had pretty good power and upper ranges. A decent performance overall.
Coolia: The song choice was fine but he didn't bring much to it. He seemed to be barely there. Again, I don't know who's voting for this guy.

Art Haarper: Get the hook.

Nerdia:
I think this was one of his best performances vocally but visually (and I’m not talking about his teeth and ears) but his visual performance leaves me cold…too much earnest bug-eyed emoting – amateurish.
C. Crumpet Swank: I thought it was boring. Could he be going home tonight?


Paris
Bennett - How Do I Live

Terry: Yet another poor low range performance. She too was obviously uncomfortable, but she also was completely disconnected from the song and is showed. For such a good voice this was overall a terrible performance. Excellent upper power right at the end but not near enough to save it.
Coolia: I think she's really cute and fun. She looked good tonight, while looking her age. I liked the simple, non-extended hair. The performance wasn't great but at least I recognized the song. She seemed flat in the beginning but got more comfortable as she went on and managed to exploit a few runs.

Nerdia:
This song bores me to tears. My crying jag prevented me from paying any more attention to this performance.
C. Crumpet Swank: Paula was right on the money. But how'd she pull such a perfectly expressed, admonitory, multi-pointed criticism out of her ass? She never delivers in that respect. It was great to hear the audience boo her for once. It means she's giving the tough-love that's necessary sometimes. I totally agreed with her observations: 1.) Paris seemed uncomfortable. 2.) She "struggled" with the singing (which was the first time we've seen her do so). 3.) The exuberance with which she normally sings was missing. True, the performance did improve as it went along, but it was, nevertheless, weak overall. This is one of the rare instances in which I disagree with a praise offering from Simon. I hope Dionne Warwick didn't hear the favorable comparison he made. Ouch.


Ace Young

Terry: One of his better performances but still not good enough. A decent enough contemporary take with an excellent end, but overall still just not good enough.
Coolia: I was surprised by how much I liked Ace tonight. I didn't know the song but his performance compelled me to listen to it anyway, and I liked it. He seemed more confident and restrained himself from doing the smoldering looks. And he was smart to throw in his trademark falsetto for a big finish Plus he rocked the basic black - it worked for Johnny Cash, and I think it'll keep Ace around for another week.

Barb: People Magazine says he puts on a little eyeliner to pop his eyes out.

Art Haarper: Not bad. The song suited his voice, which I normally hate.

Nerdia:
We predicted he would put in the obligatory falsetto in there. Hey man, you can’t sing every song falsetto. My theory is that the girls who have a crush on Ace are soon gonna realize it would be better for them to NOT vote for him so when he’s a failed idol they’ll have an easier chance to date him without the entourage that would ensue if he continues. Their love will cause them to vote for Bucky.
C. Crumpet Swank:
Coolia, I'm with you. I thought this was good. In fact, I thought it was the best performance of the night. He is wildly uneven, as last week I thought he offered up the worst performance. But this week he seemed to connect to the song and was totally relaxed. I actually listened to what he was singing/saying because of this. Also, he doesn't come across as vain, despite his sex appeal, which ironically makes him even more appealing in that respect.


Kellie Pickler - Fancy

Terry: Loved that shirt...LOVED it!! I'm still suspicious of whether she is just an "act" or not, but overall she did fairly well. However, yet another weak/poor low range performance and at times she was so soft spoken that I couldn't hear what she was saying. Did I mention that I loved the shirt!?
Coolia: I guess the f*ck-me-red boustier was her answer to those who say she's faking the innocence. Her attempt with Ryan of defending her naivete in the beginning was unconvincing, although I was glad she didn't ask him, "what's naivete?" Her performance was good, although she sounded muffled and I missed a lot of the words.

Barb: She's not sweet and innocent in that outfit.

Nerdia:
If you were really dumb, you would not want to draw emphasis on your dumbitude. You would want to downplay it. Her willingness to rehash her ditz moments convince me she’s faking it. Me thinks she doth protest too much. And her pathetic “I’m sorry’s” whenever she’s criticized is just more manipulation. She’s an amateur on many levels.
C. Crumpet Swank:
Terry, I liked the shirt too. Here it comes...I know it's a singing competition, but...let's please acknowledge the fact that Kellie's got a smokin' bod! Overall, her performance was solid--probably among the three best...yet it was still lacking for me in some respect. She did seem a little mumble-mouthed at times, which you can't be in a complex, story-style song. The song itself I liked a great deal--it was kind of Gypsy, Tramps and Thievish drama melded with Delta Dawn. Given that this was Country Night, I thought Kellie would have brought just a little more to the table than she did. I wanted to be wowed and I wasn't. I prefer her Walking After Midnight to this. What she really should have sung was 9 to 5! It would have captured her upbeat personality while also slyly commenting on the fact that the aspirants on the show are all coming from punch-the-clock lives. Plus, her voice is high-range, just like Dolly's. By the way, when is Dolly going to guest?


Chris Daughtry

Terry: Take that, critics! Bam! In your face! He showed another side and was so controlled, so melodic, so soulful (as in exposing himself not as in R&B soul). I thought this was by far the best performance of the night. He made me care about and enjoy a song that I previously hadn't cared for all that much.
Coolia: He did show another side...unfortunately it was a side that puts me to sleep. He just seemed to drone through this uninspired song choice. He did look hot, though.

Barb: It seems like he left his personality at home.

C. Crumpet Swank:
Boring. Nice change of pace--glad he listened to Simon's criticism; unfortunately, he didn't do much with the opportunity.
Nerdia:
He can take constructive criticism! Good for him. He’s back on track. His voice sounded great.


Katherine McPhee - You Bring Out the Elvis in Me

Terry: Does anyone else think that she could be Catherine Zeta Jones' double or stand-in? Perhaps a little less of the exotic look with her face, but definitely a strong resemblance there. Odd but fun song/performance. Excellent power refrain but just pretty okay in-between. And, man did she look beautiful tonight!
Coolia: What a odd little song. I had not heard it before, but as an Elvis fan, I enjoyed it. Katherine looked good and seemed much more comfortable in her ripped jeans. This was a nice uptempo counterpunch after so many dull ballads.

Barb: She didn't put herself in it.

Art Haarper: I slept through it.

Nerdia:
Finally Katharine does something feisty, fun, and enjoyable. The best performance of the night.
C. Crumpet Swank: Her performance was very polished--excellent showmanship and excellent singing. One of the best of the evening. I do have a slight reservation--it seemed all a bit calculated. It often seems to me now that she's got this amazing voice which she's demonstrating, but no deep down connection with the material. I want her to connect with the songs in the way that Taylor and Mandisa usually do.


Bucky Covington – Best I Ever Had

Terry: Was he momentarily tone deaf there in the beginning? His pitch was all over the place. Righted the ship to some degree and gave a decent performance for him, but that "ain't near good enough" (my attempt at Bucky-speak). Pretty bad overall
Coolia: Who knew Bucky was married? Did he and Rocky have a double wedding? I noticed his ring during a closeup and then they flashed to his wife in the crowd. His performance was ok, but it really should have been a homerun given that it was his genre. I thought he was better doing the Tim McGraw song last week.

Nerdia:
I just don’t associate this Vertical Horizon song as country. Why didn’t Bucky do something more traditional? What’s going on here? Who am I?
C. Crumpet Swank:
Bucky, oh Bucky, why didn't you shine on the night that was made especially for you?!? A capable, but uninspiring performance.


Kenny Rogers

Coolia: Was that Kenny Rogers or Joan Rivers? It would be hard to tell who has had more work done. I barely recognized Kenny. His face was so tight. He seemed to be a decent teacher. Oh how I wish the Idols had all done Kenny songs! Chris could have done "Ruby" and Paris could have done "Islands in the Stream" and Taylor could have done "The Gambler". It would have been a heckuva lot more fun.
Nerdia:
Coolia, you need to watch my tape of the Grammys…Kenny is on some entertainment news show at the beginning talking about the work he’s had done. He looks awful, awful! His comments were useless and I didn’t feel the love or professionalism like I did with Barry. Barry should make training videos for singers. I agree, a night of Kenny Rogers songs or even old-school country songs would have been peachy keen.
Terry: Kenny Rogers was yet just another joke in a long line of jokes. I could not agree more that in all the years of guest judges that the ONLY two that actually provided useful comments and directions were Gene Simmons and the recent appearance of Barry Manilow. Kenny gave some very very very weak guidance....as so many of these "please give me just 15 more minutes of fame" guest "stars" have offered, but it paled in comparison to Simmons and Manilow's recent outing.
C. Crumpet Swank:
Kenny was dishwater dull. He didn't really have anything profound, or, for that matter, useful, to say, and yet he seemed to relish his role as an elderstatesman which made his banal commentary all the more annoying. It appears he doesn't have much of a vocabulary when speaking of musical composition. I was not frightened by his appearance as the rest of you. Have I been living in L.A. too long?

Predictions

Terry: Bottom 3 – Bucky, Taylor, Paris, with Bucky going home
Barb: Bottom 3 – Elliott, Bucky, Ace, with Elliott going home

Coolia: Bottom 3 - Elliott, Mandisa, Bucky, with Elliott going home

Art Haarper: Elliot goes home.
Nerdia: Bottom 3 – Ace, Elliott, Bucky, with Ace going home
C. Crumpet Swank: Bottom 3 – Paris, Elliott, Mandisa, with Elliott going home

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