Sunday, April 30, 2006

Phat Girlz: Mo'Nique Has Her Cake and a Boyfriend Too

I've always thought Mo'Nique was da bomb, so I decided to see Phat Girlz in a theater, despite the terrible reviews it's received. I went in with low expectations and found they were met and exceeded! Phat Girlz doesn't have much of a story. Mo'Nique is an aspiring fashion designer who toils at a department store. She lives with her skinny cousin and commiserates with a fellow shop girl whose ponytail and glasses are immediate signifiers to us that she will later be transformed into a sex bomb. Mo'Nique wins a trip to Palm Springs and happens upon a convention of hot Nigerian doctors who love girls with ample curves. Romance blooms but then fizzles due to a dumb misunderstanding, and I will leave it to you to wonder if our plucky plus-sized heroine will end up with the guy and the fashion career. Despite an uninspired script and pedestrian direction, Phat Girlz is a fun movie, only because Mo'Nique has true star power. She fills the screen, not only with her girth but also with her comedic skillz. You just can't help but like her. Phat Girlz is a must-see for all girls who shop at Lane Bryant like myself, because when do we ever see movies where the fat girl gets the hot guy? Or gets any guy at all? Have we ever seen a fat girl in a lead role (and no, I don't count Gwyneth in a fat suit)? With all the plus-sized gals in this country, I am really surprised this movie isn't lighting up the box office (it's only earned around $6.5 million after 4 weeks). I think the title might be a problem. Fat girls who lack Mo'Nique's confidence may not relish approaching the box office window and announcing "1 student for Phat Girlz". I bet they are buying tickets for Silent Hill and then sneaking in to Phat Girlz instead. I hope that Mo'Nique's next project will be a Thelma and Louise type girl-power buddy movie with Rusty Schwimmer - unapologetically large actresses unite and kick ass!

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

American Idol - The Greatest Love Songs Of All?

General Comments

Coolia: I enjoyed this show. I liked seeing the camaraderie between Bocelli and Foster, and Foster especially gave good advice on arrangements, etc. I thought the song choices were mostly good. The only real lowlight was Paula crying. Get a grip, honey!
Terry: First, let me start by saying that my misgivings about this week were (thankfully) unfounded. And, I thought that the rapport between Andrea and David Foster was SO refreshing. And, I think that Foster was second only to Barry with his truly helpful guidance and criticism of the singers. That, too, was refreshing. And, as much as I enjoyed Barry's mucho help with the arrangements and everything, I oh so much more enjoyed Foster's Simon-esque blunt honesty and reactions. I dig that sincerity. His look of "are you kidding me" when Kellie first sang at her rehearsal was simply priceless!

Nerdia: I disagree with Terry and Coolia here. I found David Foster almost insufferable. Foster’s smug comments seemed to insinuate that he and Bocelli felt these singers wouldn’t pass muster in a real-world recording studio. It’s fine if he wants to teach them hard-knocks; it was his tone that I didn’t appreciate. It almost seemed like the judges responded by being all the more harsh on the performances this week and the Foster/Bocelli arrangements.
It was ridiculous when Paula started crying. But Simon was mean to laugh at her during her crying jag. But then it was rude of the show to cut of Simon during his spot-on commentary this week.
C. Crumpet Swank: I'm with Nerdia. I found Mr. Foster annoying and overbearing. What was so refreshing about Barry Manilow was that when he detected weaknesses in either the contestants' singing or the arrangements he would suggest improvements in a positive, upbeat way. David Foster merely sounded irritated when things were not as perfect as he'd like. Barry proved that you can be accurate, constructive and demanding while remaining pleasant. Moreover, the Barry night generated the strongest performances of the season (ten shows and counting), so I think there's something to be said for his methods. Terry equates bluntness with sincerity and I would argue that they are not exactly the same thing. He "digs Foster's sincerity," but Foster was a little too caustic for my taste; doesn't the word sincerity necessarily include a shred of goodwill? I didn't get that from St. Elmo. Compare that to Barry, who was truly sincere. He seemed to be rooting for each contestant while at the same time trying to provide realistic advice which could/would optimize their performances. Foster appeared to me to be the type to relish the role of killjoy. He was a little too interested in serving as an industry gatekeeper. He clearly thinks he has a handle on what constitutes "greatness" and his chief concern seemed to be making snap judgements about whether each of the contestants possessed it or not. Moreover, I did not get any sense that Foster watches the show; therefore, his opinion on whether the contestants have "what it takes" was apparently based on a single meeting with them amid the awkward splendor of the L'Hermitage Hotel. For this reason alone, I don't think his opinion deserves as much credence as Coolia and Terry have bestowed upon it.

Katharine McPhee - "I Have Nothing"

Coolia: Unlike the judges, I thought this was a good performance. First, I was pleased to see her taking our advice and trying to dress sexier. Yellow wouldn't have been my color choice, but it worked ok for her and most importantly she showed off her cleavage. She still wasn't as sexy as Kelly can be in just a tank top, but she was definitely trying. I give her credit for taking on a difficult Whitney song and delivering a solid performance. It wasn't particularly original and she didn't seem to truly feel she would have nothing...NOTHING...but it was good. Note to Ryan: Calling Katherine "Kat" does not make her a mynx.
Art Haarper: Not my kind of music. That was a "great love song"?
Terry: Oh my, she looked stunning...and the word "buxom" comes to mind. Good lord, I think I may want her as much as I want Kellie...well, maybe not quite that much, but you get the drift. I thought it was pretty obvious that she wants this and wants this bad. This was nowhere near as good as Whitney in her prime, but it was pretty darn good nonetheless.

Nerdia: I agree totally, Coolia! Why is this a great love song again? Oh, because David Foster wrote it. Got it. I agree with the judges here that it was really courting danger to try to sing up to Whitney Houston. I also don’t think white girls should wear yellow. It makes them look ill. And it was good to see some cleavage from this dark-hair beauty…but the hair pulled in front again seemed to offset the sexiness. And shots of her Dad in the audience are beginning to creep me out. One good thing about Katharine…she’s had David Foster-esque training from her who? That’s right…her mum. So she could sing scales for his highness.

C. Crumpet Swank: Finally, some sexiness from Katharine. FINALLY!! Each week I think she looks like Katie Holmes' doppelganger (which is, of course, a compliment), but last night she actually reminded me more of Catherine Zeta-Jones, one of the sexiest women alive. Zowee! And, wardrobe, hair and make-up aside, Katharine actually moved sexy. I loved seeing her legs ferociously scissor in and out of that dress. Coolia, the yellow didn't bother me as it did you, but I do admit that another color (emerald green?) might have been even more flattering. Also, she exhibited a vpl on each side which detracted from the look; it also drew attention to the fact that she's got a little too much junk in the trunk. Her butt is probably her least attractive feature and the vpl just drew needless attention to this. Now let's get back to business--the singing. Why did the judges slam her? I was not blown away, but I thought it was a very capable performance with some definite flair. I didn't hear any bungled notes, although the judges said there were many. I Have Nothing is perhaps my favorite Whitney Houston song (the other contenders are Didn't We Almost Have It All and One Moment in Time). I love the sheer bombastic quality of the song; the way it builds and builds and builds. Just when you think it can't get anymore intense it does. It is supremely difficult to sing. And even though Katharine's rendition was not superior to Whitney's, it was quite good and demonstrated her true ability to sing with power, presence and style. Paula was right insofar as Katharine is probably more effective with quieter songs, but I disagree with Randy's opinion that the song was "too big for her," as if she shouldn't have even attempted it. That comment fails to acknowledge the tremendous vocal range Catherine has, as well as her mastery of said range. Again, I would maintain that she's dexterous to the point of almost being facile--which is not a good thing--but nevertheless that facility controverts the idea that any song can be "too big" for her. So, yes, my chief complaint with this performance would be that yet again I was not entirely convinced of an authentic emotional connection to the song. This is the area in which Katharine comes up short for me week after week, even though I am consistently impressed with her "instrument" and her dexterous use of it. And Nerdia--you're right, I don't want to see weepy Mr. McFever anymore either. Oh yes, I have another semantic point to pick with Terry. As much as I enjoyed seeing Katharine's cleavage, I would not qualify it as buxom. In the right outfit, Nerdia is buxom; Katharine just doesn't have the requisite equipment. Lastly, I want to remind you all of the delicious way I Have Nothing dramatically fits into the plot developments of that snoozefest known as The Bodyguard. Remember how the bad guy breaks in and shoots his semen all over Whitney's bed while she's at the recording studio? Of course you do! Well, he leaves a menacing note beside his spooge. It says "You have everything. I have nothing. Die, Marron bitch. Die!" [Whitney's character is the euphoniously named superstar Rachel Marron.] This is my favorite movie note of all time, and I have been known, in fits of glee, to leave its contents on people's answering machines.

Elliott Yamin - "A Song For You"

Coolia: Elliott is really looking a lot better lately. I guess it's a combination of slightly longer hair, the goatee, and the suits (although the tie was inexplicably huge tonight and not properly knotted). I was not familiar with this song and I didn't really connect it with it, although I thought Elliott delivered a fine performance. It was kind of boring for me, so I laughed out loud when I saw tears streaming down Paula's face. I wish Simon had not restained himself and made a comment about her over-reaction. I think Paula's tears and all of the judges' effusive praise should keep Elliott safe this week.
Barb: Sounded good to me.
Art Haarper (on Paula's tears): I guess you had to be there.
Terry: Reminds me of the term, "He cleans up nice." His looks overall are improving with the longer hair, goatee and more flattering outfits, and this was one of his better performances but I still simply do not think that he is any where near as good as Chris, Katherine or even Taylor (or even the robotic Paris). Paula has obviously picked the lock on the medicine cabinet again. Crying!? From this performance!? Get a grip.
Nerdia: I took Nova’s advice this week and closed my eyes during his performance and I was amazed at the dramatic difference it made. I love this song. It was actually written by Leon Russell and has been covered by literally everybody…why Donny Hathaway was getting all the props for it, I don’t get. Did he have the biggest hit with it? I do think it was cool that Elliott called out Hathaway’s kid in the Idol chorus though and think his intro will do well to keep him in another week. I love this song. But I like it better when it’s sung kind of flirty. Flirty and world-weary.

C. Crumpet Swank: Another solid performance from Elliott. But a "master class in singing?" I certainly didn't get that. Hate me for it, but I enjoyed Paula's emotion outburst immensely. And I'm not being ironic/acerbic/condescending. I honestly did. Celebrities always want to appear like they are cool; one doesn't look "cool" doing what Paula did. If I
may use a generality, the only time celebrities want you to see them crying is when they're talking about some painful personal struggle on Barbara Walters or Oprah so that you'll understand they're human too and/or laud/pity them for their heroic response to adversity. To see Paula weep openly because someone's artistry moved her--how can you not love that? [To see Paula weep openly because she's wasted on drugs--let's just say I hope that wasn't the case here.] If I were Elliott and Paula's reaction was indeed drug-free, my goodness, I think that would prove to be one of the greatest moments of my life--past, present, future. Paula's emotional investment in these singers is wonderful. Her desire to see them succeed and to grow as performers is lovely. (Coolia--no Corey Clark jokes, please.)

Kellie Pickler - "Unchained Melody"

Coolia: Kellie had some courage to take on Simon's favorite song, but she failed to deliver. I felt this was the worst performance of the night by far. I didn't even care for the much ballyhooed high note - to me it sounded like she was yodeling. Following Elliott and Katherine, she demonstrated that she's just not in their league, although her charisma is greater than both of theirs put together. Her outfit was too simple, and her hairstyle evoked Cindy Lou Who. As with Katherine's performance, I couldn't feel any emotion behind what is a very emotional song. I think this performance combined with last week's underachievement will cast her into the bottom 3 for the first time, although I still think she'll survive.
Barb: She's got a lot of makeup on tonight.
Art Haarper: That wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. C for effort. She needs to put her cowboy hat back on.
Terry: Send in the clowns. Where are the clowns....oh, there's one singing on a American Idol. No, wait, it's just Kellie. Hello!? Can you hear me thru all that make-up!?! However, nice can!! Me likey, me likey! Baby got back!! Now, was for the singing, well, uh....turn out the lights, the party's over. That was just plain bad.
Nerdia: I felt bad for Kellie this week. This song is really hard to do….it’s a delicate tightrope walk between tender and boring. Most singers botch it up. It takes a huge amount of concentration and attention to detail, I think. One of the hardest love songs to pull off…its melody is unchained, you see. Kellie faltered – and I agree with Coolia about the dangers of not expressing connecting emotions (why should I care, then); but again she was adult about hearing negative feedback and thankfully omitted the whiney “I’m sorrys.” Her intro speech about not having a boyfriend was grating and sounded calculated.

C. Crumpet Swank: Oh Kellie. You little trooper. Why on Earth did you pick Simon's favorite song of all time? I thought you were a big Idol fan? How could you have not known that Cowellesque bit of trivia? The problem with this performance was not in the singing, it was in the total emotional vacuum which defined the performance. I maintain that Kellie has an excellent voice; what's hampering her is her lack of connection to the material. Moreover, the ballad genre always seem to trip her up. This girl likes to move and the traditional ballad presentation--standing still behind the microphone--makes her uncomfortable. It's as if all her physical focus is then shifted to the singing which turns it into too much of a procedural effort for her. It's like we can see the wheels turning in her head as she progresses through the song, Okay, now I've got to hit this note, then that note. She said it best herself, it became robotic. Which is bizarre, when you think about it, because there's hardly anything robotic about Kellie's personality--she's upbeat, speaks up, doesn't censor herself. Thus, the way she ends up singing these ballads in robotic fashion is both paradoxical and regrettable. Nerdia--I didn't mind the "no-boyfriend" conversation with Ryan, because I think it's the doggone truth. And remember, Ryan's the one asking the questions.
Besides, it was good to know--Terry and I can make use of that information. Finally--the plain/casual outfit seemed wholly inappropriate to this somber yet ecstatic song.

Paris Bennett - "The Way We Were"

Coolia: I thought Paris was great, even if the song was too old for her. It took guts to take on a Barbra song, and she delivered a confident and compelling performance. Her outfit was still on the frumpy side but her hair was cute.
Barb: She didn't blow me away.
Art Haarper: Not bad.
Domo arigoto Mrs. Roboto. Once again, and as pretty much always, great vocals but just no sincere passion, emotion, connection with the song or the audience. Call it Streisand-lite.
Nerdia: I agree with Terry…sounded like a robot version. Does she have to belt everything? Even her soft-intro sounded loud to me. Her whole performance was a Gladys Night rip-off.

C. Crumpet Swank: I've become more and more of a Paris fan as the show has progressed, but this performance left me cold. As much as I was reminded of how much I like both the tone and power of her voice, this rendition failed the song insofar as it is fundamentally a bittersweet love song, one tinged with both regret and longing. Then again, perhaps I am tying it too closely to the content of the film for which it was written. But, and this is a very big but, if one chooses to interpret the emotional thrust of a song in a form different than the original's, then one better offer something as substantial and effective, and in this capacity I believe Paris failed unequivocally. Think of the ache in Barbra Streisand's voice as she sings this, and you'll come to agree with me.

Taylor Hicks - "Just Once"

Coolia: I love this song and thought it was a great choice for Taylor. Parts of the song were boring, but toward the end he really put his own personality into it. He showed passion and creativity, while looking dashing in his suit. I was surprised the judges were so hard on him. I don't think America will be. I cast 5 votes for Taylor - phone lines were busy but not impossible.
Barb: He picked it up at the end. I wasn't really impressed.
Art Haarper: I kinda liked it, but I like lounge singers.
Weak, pitchy for the most part, nice little itsy bit there towards the end, but without question one of his worst performances to date.
Nerdia: I love this song, too. A lot. James Ingram really nails it. Taylor seems strangely dispassionate this week with it and sang it so straightforward I was almost disappointed. He’s also looking chubbier. Put the Twinkie down, Taylor. Step off of the Twinkie.
C. Crumpet Swank: Coolia was thinking with her vagina, not her ears, when she wrote the above comments. This was easily the worst performance of the evening. Oddly enough, much of what I said about Kellie earlier pertains to Taylor too. Taylor also seems confiined by ballads. When his desire to move is squashed by the character of the song he becomes stranded to a certain degree. I partly agree with Coolia--this should have been a good choice for Taylor. James Ingram has a deeply soulful, impassioned way of singing which would seem to jibe nicely with Taylor's style and emotional clarity. So why did he seem so uncomfortable? True, he doesn't want to just stand behind the mic and sing. His impulse is to work the room, to move across the stage, to offer up a little jive, etc., which, unfortunately for Taylor, you just can't do that with every song. But his being uncomfortable with this song speaks to more than these factors. This particular performance also laid bare that Taylor often has trouble reaching and sustaining notes. Mind you, I'm not trying to bury him--the man has undeniable gifts and has been one of my favorites this season. I aver that the strengths of his singing are three-fold: his emotional connection to the material; his genuine charisma; and his scattish/improvisational delivery. These strengths are all connected and reinforce each other. Indeed, they are compelling proof of his talent. But in an uptempo arrangement they also do much to obscure the fact that at this point in the competition every other singer--even Kellie--can tackle individual notes better than he. So put your knees together, Coolia, and get out the Q-Tips.

Chris Daughtry - "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?"

Coolia: I thought this was much better than the original version, but then I hate the original version. Chris delivered a strong vocal, probably the best performance of the night.
Barb: He nailed it.
Art Haarper: That was the second worst of the night, after Katharine's.
Terry: Once again, best of the night. And, dare I say, brilliant. Even better than the sappy original. He filled this with angst and destroyed any sense of sappy-ness in the song. And, no one can say that he didn't step outside the box (that so many seem to have/want to put him in). He showed that he's willing to adapt and learn (I LOVED that he followed Foster's advice and sang while laying on the floor...and I think that helpful hint showed in his performance).
Nerdia: I have always hated this song and I groaned when I heard Chris say he would do it. Like Terry said: sappy, also sentimental, amateurish, not interesting, and is it me, but does it feel slightly condescending. In any case, I liked Chris’ rendition. Loved the guitars on stage with him. I too liked the bit where David made Chris sing lying on the floor. That was a funny and interesting vocal lesson; but isn’t “singing from your diaphragm” like the first thing you’re supposed to learn about singing??? Is Chris more like that gay cowboy kid from the try-outs than we thought?

C. Crumpet Swank: Oh Terry--one of the reasons you liked this is because he "filled it with angst." Enough of the angst. That's all he ever fills any song with. Week after week after week. Can there be no flicker of joy or light in this man's singing? I'm not asking for Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, but please, please, please let him show us that he can understand a song in terms other than brooding. As an individual performance--solid and impressive; as one piece in the overall pie--disappointing.

Andrea Bocelli and David Foster

Coolia: They were entertaining and seemed to have a nice rapport. David could even make blind jokes at Andrea's expense. David especially had specific advice for the contestants. I loved that they made Chris sing while lying on his back. And David's "what the hell" look when Kellie started singing was priceless.
Nerdia: So David Foster: aren’t you the shit? When you noted that there’s a fine line between great and mediocre, that struck a chord. Because that’s just what I thought when I heard the St. Elmos Fire Theme. Seriously, you stagehoged the training from Bocelli, who was skiving me out with his blind-ogling of the female contestants all nite. And I have to admit, it was hard for me to appreciate Bocelli because I was hearing disparaging comments (like Popera singer) about him all night from my viewing-partner.


Coolia: Bottom 3: Katharine, Kellie, and Elliott, with Katharine going home
Art Haarper: Chris or Katharine going home
Barb: Bottom 3: Katharine, Kellie, and Elliott, with Elliott going home
Terry: Bottom 3: Kellie, Taylor, Elliott. Going home: Kellie
Nerdia: Katharine, Kellie, Paris – Paris going home.

C. Crumpet Swank: Katharine, Kellie, Paris--Paris going home.

C. Crumpet sincerely hopes to see Nerdia in all her buxom splendor on the night of the Finale.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

American Idol - The First Cut is the Deepest

Terry: Well, first let me say I was STUNNED by how NOT overall disgusted I was like last week. I was taken by complete surprise that everyone did at least decently and most did rather well. Just stunned!
C. Crumpet Swank:
Today is a dark day for me It is the day when I have to admit that Kellie Pickler does not deserve to be our American Idol. Her performance last night was really the worst of the bunch and confirmed her total lack of consistency. The Idol deserves to be someone who delivers week after week, and it appears that my girl Kellie is only delivering the goods every other week I will always love Kellie and I do think she's got a wonderful voice, but she doesn't have sufficient control over it as an instrument and/or she lacks sufficient interpretive ability to warrant a million dollar contract at this point. The girl needs more training. Please send tissues to my home address.

Chris Daughtry – "What a Wonderful World"

Terry: "and I think to myself, what a wonderful world" would be if you won this thing. I enjoyed this performance very much. Second only to Katherine's for the night. However, I will go on record as saying that this still paled in comparison to the Louis Armstrong. This was MUCH better than that slop (sorry Rod Stewart diehards) version that Rod Stewart put out. But, Louis Armstrong’s version is simply THE definitive version. You just can not do better than that.
Nerdia: I agree with Terry. Chris redeemed himself somewhat this week (even made it his own a bit) not that he holds a candle to the original.

C. Crumpet Swank: It was refreshing to hear him sing something that wasn't totally angst-ridden, and to do it capably, to boot. But I must grouse: I think the judges' enthusiasm had more to do with their relief that Chris was trying something different, rather than his actual performance, which was good, but not emphatically "great" as Simon declared. And even though this song is mellow in terms of its music, its lyrics are full of joy. Did anyone feel the joy in Chris? No, neither did I. He still needs to sing something through which can hear a smile. Please. At least once.

Paris Bennett – "These Foolish Things"

Terry: Definitely in her element. But, she enunciated SO much that it frequently took me out of the song. Despite the fact that her vocals were pure gold, this emphasis on enunciation made it seem as if this song took great effort for her. Beautiful vocals/singing but once again the result simply did not come across to me as genuine at all.
Nerdia: I was bored.

C Crumpet Swank: Oh, you two. I thought this was far and away the best performance of the evening. It was like she channeling Dinah Washington. The vocal was so crisp and clear, so lovely--yet powerful. I have to say that it felt genuine to me, fully so. There was a wonderful, controlled passion in the singing. It was shiny and elegant and transported me to the past in the way that no one else's performance did. She seemed totally relaxed and enjoying every minute of it. It was a truly effortless performance in the best sense of the word. Better for me than Fantasia's much ballyhooed Summertime.
I can't believe that Nerdia was bored by this. I think her trauma from Queen night has dulled her senses to the point of incomprehensibility. Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention--judging buy the looks of her outfit, I guess that on the days the show doesn't air, Paris is supplementing her weekly Idol stipend with a stewardess gig on Alaskan Airlines. She looked so smart in their salmon-colored regulation suit!

Taylor Hicks – "You Send Me"

Terry: "you-ew-ew-ew, send me"....and send yourself to your best vocal performance yet. I liked this a lot. Began a bit week but quickly grew and improved and was fantastic at the end. Nice!
Nerdia: I was bored at first (love Aretha’s version); but Taylor sent me at the end with his crazy scat. My favorite of the night.
C. Crumpet Swank: I think everyone who watched probably feels the same way about this performance, more or less: ho-hum throughout and then a slam-dunk at the end. That ending was truly astonishing. It was a goosebump-inducing moment. And not that the whole song can be sung in that way--but...let us not forget the first 4/5 of his rendition was pretty uninspiring. Therefore, I don't think it was the best performance of the evening--how can it be when it wasn't great overall?

Elliott Yamin – "It Had to Be You"

Terry: I sincerely like him as a person (from what I can see and have gleamed from the show), but once again, just a so-so performance.
Nerdia: I couldn’t help but think wistfully (and better) of Harry Connick Jr.’s performance. This was like a less-charming version.
C. Crumpet Swank: Good but not great. As always. Bye, bye Elliott.

Kellie Pickler – "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered"

Terry: Began as if this would be her best vocal performance yet (and oh my goodness did she look soooooooo goooooood.....she dresses up nice!!); but the she got all pitchy and progressively worse. Very well may be her first visit to the bottom 3 this week.
Nerdia: I was bewitched, bothered and bewildered when Rod Stewart defiled Cher by singing this duet with her. Brings up baaad memories. Kellie is out of her performance-league but I think she’s winning the popularity contest. Was she trying to flirt with Rod? I think she was. Smart girl. He’ll be divorced soon enough.

C. Crumpet Swank: Nerdia I wish you would have commented on Kellie's actual performance, which you didn't.
Nevertheless, I totally agree with Terry. It started out so promisingly...and then...yikes! I almost had to take a personal day off today to come to terms with my feelings. I think it's clear now that Kellie does not excel with the ballads--remember her bland performance on Stevie Wonder night? At least that evening she sang everything in tune. But then, and last night, it was obvious that the ballads seem to straightjacket her. She's been truly uncomfortable and unconvincing with them. In her first audition Simon told her she somewhat oversang "Since You've Been Gone," even though he liked both her voice and her rendition. I think that performance spoke to the fact that Kellie likes to belt, and a soft-edged ballad like "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" certainly doesn't permit that, so she ends up feeling at a loss with what to do with her voice (which echoes Simon's comment that she herself appeared truly "bewildered" last night). In such situations such as this Kellie attempts to hew closely to the melody. When this works (as with the Stevie Wonder) you end up with a bloodless, but technically sound performance; when it doesn't, you just end up with a mess (last night). She was like the captain of a ship trying to resume the rightful course--you could see it in her face as she was struggling to get everything right once she went off track in the middle of the song. I have to give her props, however, for the gracious way she handled the judges' comments. On this show no contestant is ever willing to cop to a bad performance. When confronted with the question, "Well, how did you think you did?" as a prelude to some negative criticism, virtually every contestant says, "Well, I felt good/I did my thing/I have no regrets/Etc." At best, these standard responses are phony, self-courage boosters; at worst, arrogant delusions. That was why it was so refreshing to hear Kellie admit that she didn't do the song justice. Moreover, she could have deluged us with Jasmine-like tears and she didn't. In fact, she was totally composed (and still comedic, too). She seemed genuinely disappointed in herself and yet not defeated or despairing. Very clear-eyed for a dimwit, eh? I wonder if she'll even end up in the bottom three, considering how gracefully she handled the aftermath of her performance. I still love Kellie, lest anyone forget.

Ace Young – "That's All"

Terry: His best yet. But, still not good enough when compared to Chris, Taylor and Katherine...or even Kellie or Paris or Elliott for that matter.
Nerdia: He annoyed me this week with his humorlessness and weak sultry looks. I’m not buying.

C. Crumpet Swank:
I completely disagree with you, Terry. After Kellie, this was the worst of the night (and, remember, I'm someone who thinks that Ace is often unfairly maligned). I thought he would do exceptionally well this week, given that ballads are his forte (I thought he gave the best performance of Country Week), but his vocals last night seemed quite forced to me. It was like he was singing his "idea" of what the song should sound like, rather than just singing it "for real," as Randy would say. It all seemed very deliberate, and not successfully so. Also, the transition into the falsetto was weak for the first time, so he loses points for that. And he sang the final word in a weird vibratory way that was totally distracting.
I'm not buying either, Nerdia. (Although I do have to say that it was fun seeing how much Simon's approval meant to him.)

Katharine McPhee – "Someone to Watch Over Me"

Terry: Just great. Best of the night by far! And yes, even though I'm this huge Chris fan, I have to give props when they're due...Katherine blew me away! Just fantastic!
Nerdia: Snoozefest.

C. Crumpet Swank: The camera eats this girl alive! She looked breathtaking--like a movie star from the 1940s. And let's face it--the vocal was superb. I liked Paris ever so slightly more, but that is not to say that Katharine's wasn't an exceptional performance. And in it, something crystallized for me about why I like her voice--there's a kind of ache, which is very compelling.
I do still feel, though, that overall she's a little bit too calculated; that the emotional connection to the music is not entirely authentic. I almost typed earlier "she employs a kind of ache," and the way the word employ came to mind made me realize that there is something of the technician in her which predominates. I'm not entirely convinced of it, but I wish she'd offer some definitive proof to the contrary.

Rod Stewart

Mary: I was annoyed by Rod Stewart but found him mostly innocuous. I almost felt sorry for him when Ace was clinging to him for validation.


Terry: Elliott, Kellie, Ace
Home: Elliott

Nerdia: Paris, Chris, Ace
Going Home: Ace

C Crumpet Swank says to Terry that "Great Minds Think Alike."
Bottom Three: Elliott, Ace, Kellie

Going home: Elliott

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mama Mia! Is Freddie Mercury Spinning in his grave?

General Comments

Terry: Overall, I pretty much got what I expected...mediocrity. Somehow, despite the fact that I expected this I was so very disappointed because I had sincere hopes for some real surprises. Didn't happen. Sigh!
Nerdia: This episode just reinforced to me how horribly lacking these singers are at the end of this season. Sure, some have charisma, some can hold a note; but none can hold a candle to a talent like Freddie Mercury. Most of Queen was butchered last night. Lyrics were screamed, lacking the nuance of Freddie’s singing when all the tender soft moments of the songs were removed. His effortless vocal flourishes were replaced by lame runs and the dexterity with which he put together surprising musical movements within songs was ripped apart and patched together jarringly. In some songs, all the tragedy of his wailing delivery was completely ignored. The more I let this episode percolate in my mind, the sadder I feel that we’ve lost Freddie.
Coolia: Funny...I thought this week was a big improvement over the last two weeks. I guess it's because I'm not a big Queen fan, although I do have a lot of respect for them. I don't have personal connections to their songs so didn't feel they were butchered. Overall, I was entertained. I agree that the judges should probably have emphasized that it's extremely challenging to do a Freddie song - like they always mention when a contestant does a Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, or Celine Dion song. Freddie should be in that category of uniquely talented vocal stylists. Perhaps it's unfair to have a Queen night, if they would never have a Celine night. We can't judge these kids too harshly for not being Freddie Mercury, as there was only one Freddie.
C. Crumpet Swank: Nerdia, I really think you're being a little melodramatic and not taking into serious consideration that the performers are stuck performing within a 90 second format. NINETY SECONDS! Can anyone reallly do justice to Bohemian Rhapsody in ninety seconds? It's what, a six or seven minute song? They are forced to cut and paste, to "butcher" the material, because the producers are forcing them to sing, in this case, songs by a prog-rock group who wrote long songs as a matter of course.

Bucky Covington – “Fat Bottomed Girls”

Terry: I still don't care for his road-grating gravely voice, but this was by far his best performance to date. Better than average karaoke, but no where near good enough to be this far along on American Idol.
Nerdia: I thought he did okay this week: his teeth are whiter and less distracting and he was enunciating. Maybe the teeth-whitening helped. I didn’t get any of the wink wink playfulness of the original, though.
Coolia: His voice reminds me of a car that needs an oil change. It's like gears grinding together. That being said, it was a fun choice for him, but it was "just aiight".
C. Crumpet Swank: I thought he did a fine job; it's such a good-natured, rollicking song and that's his personality in a nutshell. Randy said it best--"I was entertained." I am shocked to admit that Bucky is growing on me from week to week. He is also getting better looking as the show progresses. Someone needs to investigate whether he's had Da Vinci veneers put on, because there's been some serious improvement in the dental department since when first we met.

Ace Young – “We Will Rock You”

Terry: Turn out the lights. The party's over. That wasn't singing. That was melodic loud talking. That so did not work. That was terrible. However, excellent job of clapping for himself. A definite A+ performance there. Whatever. See ya!
Nerdia: Was that a Willie Nelson reference I just read? He tried; he came up short. This is a rock anthem. He seemed too tender for it. He didn’t rock me in the least. I was annoyed that he clapped for himself and was so haughtily dismissive of Simon’s comments about this performance being lite-rock. This was like asking Justin Timberlake to sing Juke Box Hero. Can’t sing it; probably doesn’t even “get it.”
Coolia: Simon's comment about "we will rock you gently" was right on. Ace didn't capture the anthemic urgency of the song. But he did look hot in the leather pants.
C. Crumpet Swank: He needed to be way rockier. This is such a ferocious song and he didn't amp it up enough. He was more forceful vocally than he has been in the past (a change of pace for which he should be given props), but not enough to serve the song properly. He was also seriously undermined by having the chorus started by three chicks; that is certainly not the roar that the song demands, not unless the three chicks in question are Ann Wilson, Exene Cervenka and Toni Childs. The backup singers' underwhelming vocals diminished the impact of the song and thereby one's overall sense of Ace's performance. But it must be said--his appearance was stellar. Last night's "look" was the single hottest look of any male idol contestant in the history of the show.

Kellie Pickler – “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Terry: Well she shook her money-maker oh so nice in the intro portion. Sadly, that was the best part (I will rewind and enjoy again shortly). Uh, when did she become a zombie witch? (I didn't know that was possible) Of course, she was the hottest undead I've ever seen, but let's keep it real. That was by far the worst she had ever looked on this show. She chose a song that was WAY beyond her vocals and she sang it poorly. Interestingly, however, it was still not as bad as I had expected. I'm conflicted.
Nerdia: Terry, your conflict makes me LOL. She was brave to do this…and the whole look was inventive; plus she did sing it with gusto (which the song requires) so I give her kudos for that. What has come to bother me this morning is that the song is architecturally constructed with separate rock-operatic movements. And they aren’t arbitrarily glued together. Amateurs can’t do this. By cutting it up and pasting together the more dramatic parts, the songs sounded insane, schizophrenic. It takes a real artist to string disparate movements together like that. You can’t tamper with it and squeeze it down into a showcase song. It made no musical sense. The song was raped.
Coolia: The opening of the song, with the lighting and the black outfit made her look like a floating head. It was laugh out loud weird. I feel like Kellie was brave to do the song and she did show that she can do more than country, however I think this song should have been retired after Constantine's brilliant performance of it last year. They should retire certain songs that belong to certain past idols, the way sports teams retire jerseys.
C. Crumpet Swank: The song was raped. Oh please, Nerdia--have you stopped shaving your armpits, too? Spare me the melodrama and kindly refer back to my opening comments about the unfortunate necessity of compressing songs as a function of the show's format. And yes, Kellie did look odd--like some Barbarella style dominatrix, but I thought it suited the fundamental wackiness of this song. I disagree with Terry--I thought the vocals were fine. Nothing that's going to make me forget Freddie Mercury, but capable nevertheless. What I liked was that Kellie was so game. It was brave to attempt this and I think she pulled it off. And she seems really comfortable working the stage, the audience, and the camera--perhaps better than anyone in the competition at this point. Rock on, my winsome hillbilly!

Chris Daughtry – “Innuendo”

Terry: VERY disappointing. Quite frankly, THE most disappointing performance of the night. His vocals were great as always. The song choice was terrible. His vocals were great. But, quite honestly, I didn't care all that much about his great vocals because they were overshadowed by a bad song. What was he thinking? I agree with Simon completely. This could and should have been another "moment" for him (like with his Fuel choice) and he totally let his slip through his fingers. Great vocals, bad song, ultimately disappointing because he could have truly been great. And, he made his first "snide" remark to Simon...and that was just not endearing.
Nerdia: God, this song was botched up. This is a fabulous song. It has Latin moments, rocking moments, hard moments, tender moments. Please don’t judge the song by this piss-poor take on it. You will be shocked to hear the original. It ranks up with Bohemian Rhapsody for surprising musical turns. Chris took ONE PART of it and sang it like a Metallica song. I listened to the song again in my car this morning. It’s a tragedy that this song’s reputation could be ruined by American Idol. I want to SCREAM!
Coolia: Chris is boring me to tears at this point, and I am speaking as a metal fan and someone who's attended 9 out of 10 ozzfests. He should be my favorite, but lately I don't even look forward to his performances. As Simon said, this week was made for him to shine, and he blew it by singing a song very few people knew, not making us want to know the song (although Nerdia's description makes me want to hear the original), and delivering another funeral performance. Chris, "Six Feet Under" isn't on anymore - there is no market for these dirges.
C. Crumpet Swank: The only thing I can add to your collectively perfect evaluation of his squandered opportunity is that he should have most definitely sang We Are the Champions once Taylor gave it up.

Katharine McPhee – “Who Wants to Live Forever”

Terry: Bright red shirt with way too much make-up....she looked like a very pretty Korean crack-whore (Cartman from South Park would have been so proud!). Really good voice. Came very close to pulling it off, but didn't quite make it Very close but just not there. VERY good but not great.
Nerdia: This is an absolutely heartbreaking song by Queen, written for the movie Highlander. The super-hero in this sci-fi movie is immortal. The collage of scenes that under this song depict how awful it is for the character to be immortal because he watches everyone he loves die over the decades. It turns him into a bitter character by the 20th century. Freddie’s performance is full of heartache and you feel raw pain when he wails at the end. It’s masterful and poignant. Katharine smiled through the whole song, recalling similar brainless performances by last season’s winner. This wasn’t a rainbow, happy song. Her outfit, her hair, her expressions, the complete lack of emotion in her performance was ridiculous. The song was butchered by rainbows and smiley faces. Aaaaghhh!!!
Coolia: I thought she gave a strong vocal performance, but I agree there was no real emotion behind it. She's still technically one of the better singers, although she has about as much sex appeal as Bea Arthur.
C. Crumpet Swank: Hey Coolia, how do you know there's not a sizable contigency of us who came of age five-fingering the daddy-pole to images of Bea Arthur as she implored us in her wondrous gravel to give it to her, harder, harder? If you can fantasize about Nasty Jack, don't be dissing our girl Bea. I think a more apt comparison would be to say that Katharine has about as much sex appeal as Jon Lovitz. I am in agreement with Terry's assessment, that last night Katharine "came very close to pulling it off, but didn't quite make it Very close but just not there. VERY good but not great." I watched the show twice last night, and realized that I was more impressed with the vocal the first time I heard it. The second time around I picked up on some of the slight pitch issues to which Randy and Simon alluded. She went sharp a few times.

Elliott Yamin – “Somebody to Love”

Terry: He gave it his all...I'm just not sure it was good enough. It was "good" but not great. The song was beyond his power/him. It was simply too big for his voice. But, he did better than I expected, so there's that going for him.
Nerdia: I think he sang Somebody to Love, but the fact that I can’t remember says it all. He mugs too much. Looks like he’s trying too hard.
Coolia: This was a good but unspectacular performance. He looked a little better than usual, maybe because his hair has grown out a bit. He's still not compelling in the least.
C. Crumpet Swank: Nerdia, I don't think he mugs at all. Zilch. Zip. Zero. That's part of his charm. In fact, I daresay that only Taylor bests him in terms of generating an honest connection to the material he sings. A few weeks back I would have put Chris ahead of Elliott in this respect as well, but now I'm thinking Chris seems to be on emotional auto-pilot; or rather, what came across as emotion previously is really more of a convincing stylistic tic. Coolia, you're right--a good, but not spectacular performance from Elliott. The final moments were quite rousing, though. He seemed really free and powerful. I wish he had been able to produce that effect throughout the entire song.

Hicks – “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”

Terry: Good move changing songs (and I will forgive his failed first attempt to "rock" and missing his first attempt to kick over the mic stand...he stuck with it and ultimately kicked that sucker over!). So-so vocals but very entertaining performance. Sorry, definitely good enough to stick around to next week, but no where near good enough to win Idol.
Nerdia: The only performance I thought was engaging at the end of the day. His growls, going in different directions with the notes (going up instead of down sometimes), his spastic dancing were a relief in the sea of staid, lifeless performances. He has a sense of fun joie de vie that fit with Queen, a rock band less angry and more life-affirming than most.
Coolia: I was hoping Taylor would do this song! He was awesome - totally fun, totally watchable. His awkwardness, as exemplified by the failed microphone kick, makes him endearing to me - I felt the same way about Jon Peter Lewis, the pen salesman. I liked that he put an Elvis-spin on the song and moved around with energy.
C. Crumpet Swank: Very entertaining and probably among the top three vocals of the evening. It definitely got better as it went along. The ending was great. He loses a few points for the failed microphone kick, and several points for the goofy, angled jump/run up and down the steps; it was extremely hammy and far too deliberate. I like Taylor's physical goofiness only when it's a natural, spontaneous extension of his singing. Anything planned--like that dreadful step move--simply comes across as crappy shtick and vote-begging. Taylor, please take note.

Bennett – “The Show Must Go On”

Terry: What the hell was she wearing? She looked like a cross between a Dominatrix and a Bounty Hunter (from the movies). However, this was by far her most flattering hairdo to date (she actually looked a bit cute). I did NOT buy that as a rock song/performance. But, it was a great rocking Broadway/Showtunes performance.
Nerdia: This song, along with Innuendo, were recorded on Freddie’s last album with Queen. In fact, this was the last song on the last album. I listened to it again this morning. Freddie doesn’t scream the lyrics at all. Paris obviously didn’t get this song any more than Katharine got hers. Gone is all the pathos of Freddie’s swan song. Gone the heartbreaking wail at the end of this song, a song about continuing to trudge on while facing death (Freddie was dying of AIDS at the time). What would Paris know of this? This brings up another point: these singers are even lousy actors…they couldn’t perform a theatrical piece to save their skins. Queen was like calculus for these pre-algebrarians. They didn’t get it. And it upsets me that Queen was so misrepresented. It was worse than Musak in an elevator.
Coolia: Paris and Kellie should not share clothes.
C. Crumpet Swank: Amen. What was Paris thinking? Didn't she see that Kellie was wearing pretty much the same outfit and realize, Gee, Kellie has a 9.5 body and I have a 5. Maybe I shouldn't wear the same get-up? Coolia--you're right, the hair looked nice. It was flattering and not remotely ghetto, for once. I didn't know the song, and even though Paris didn't look that good, I did appreciate the space-age look melded with the rock-style performance. It was very Tina Turner circa Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The accompaniment was too loud, however. I had trouble hearing Paris through the volume of the guitars. That's a shame, because I think her vocal was pretty damn solid.

Final Comments

Nerdia: I haven’t been so upset at mediocrity in a long time.
C. Crumpet Swank: I'll buy you some tissues.
Coolia: I just don't feel as passionately about the Queen butchery. I found it to be an entertaining evening of good rock songs. I think, on the positive side, this show introduces Queen to a gigantic new audience. Perhaps some of them will have enjoyed the performances enough to want to discover what the real thing sounded like.
C. Crumpet Swank: Still I need to know: why hasn't there been a Pat Benatar Night? Also, there should be a Carpenter's Night, even a Carly Simon Night. They have wide enough repertoires.


Terry: Bottom 3 – Ace, Bucky, Elliott, with Ace going home
Nerdia: Bottom 3 – Ace, Katharine, Bucky, with Ace going home
Coolia: Bottom 3 – Ace, Bucky, Elliott, with Ace going home
C. Crumpet Swank: Bottom 3 – Paris, Ace, Elliott, with Paris going home

Read more about it - A Butchering Queen Blog

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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.
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).


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.

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?


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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

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.
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 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?


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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