Posts Tagged ‘Shannon Magrane’

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Thoughts On American Idol Finale Part 2: The Decision

May 23, 2012

Image edited from the original by Bill McIntyre via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Two surprisingly talented contestants have duked it out this season, but only one can win! I voted for Jessica. Let’s see if it made a difference. Buckle up!

Here’s most of this show’s padding, the musical performances in order of airing:
1. Top 10 who are out of the running – “Runaway Baby + So You Think You Can Dance Promo Breakdown” So Jermaine Jones really did get the hard boot from the cast. That said, I’m glad they reprised one of the more fun performances from this season. In a sea of bad harmonizing, Josh and Hollie’s voices stood out. The dance breakdown with the abrupt music changes was fun, but jarring. I will be watching So You Think You Can Dance tomorrow.

2. Phillip Phillips + John Fogerty – “Have You Ever Seen The Rain? + Bad Moon Rising” Fogerty has to be 2-3x Phillip’s age, but he is way more lively than the mellowed out finalist. He’s also doing a much better job at hitting the belt notes on “Rain.” Phillip can’t shake that cartoon dog singing style for this song. For the second song, Phillip woke up. He looked much happier to be up onstage and slowly began to match Fogerty’s energy as the performance went on.

3. Josh Ledet + Fantasia Barrino – “Take Me To The Pilot” Josh’s voice is in top form tonight. His vocal runs were cool, casual, and awesome. He should be one of the finalists tonight. I never saw Fantasia’s season 3 Idol run, but I thought her super high signing was unique and on point. This performance was just two talented singers jamming out, and I appreciated the relaxed tone.

4. Idol Ladies + Chaka Khan – “Ain’t Nobody + Through The Fire + I’m Every Woman” Erika and Elise have an ouch of a start, but quickly find the soul hook. Shannon sounds much more competent than I remember her. Skylar kicks ass. Hollie gets in two solid notes and Jessica gets one short ad libbed run before Chaka Khan enters the stage. She starts off buried in the mix, but she kicks out enough power notes to show that she’s doing it live. She had a few rough runs up there too, but she had more enthusiasm than at least a third of the ladies on that stage.

5. Ford Music Video – “I Was Here” At least the gimmicks were cute and silly from video to video. It’s just a shame that Phillip wasn’t in the last third.

6. Rihanna – “Where Have You Been?” This is much catchier than “We Found Love” and the bigger stage production allows for a bigger spectacle than when Ri-Ri performed this song on SNL. It still sounds like the hooks of three songs instead of one fully formed song, but I dig its driving beats and laser pyramid. Its production is emotionally devoid, but on a show like this it’s an oasis.

7. Skylar Laine + Reba McEntire – “Turn On The Radio” This rocks! Skylar and Reba sound tough and triumphant. Skylar has been my favorite country contestant this show has offered in a very long time, and that’s because of her transcendent talent and no-bullshit style. She also has way more chemistry with Reba than Lauren Alaina has during her duet with Carrie Underwood last year. That performance felt combative, whereas this performance felt like a passing of the torch. I had a lot of fun with this one.

8. Jessica Sanchez – “I Will Always Love You” This performance didn’t affect me to the same level that Jessica’s first go at the song did. There wasn’t the same emotional rawness that was there the first time, and maybe replicating that was an impossible task. Jessica’s delivery hit most of the notes but sounded a little flat. I felt like she was trying, but it just couldn’t live up to her earlier run. It’s too bad.

9. Idol Guys + Neil Diamond – “Coming To America + Rosy Child + I’m A Believer + Sweet Caroline” Colton sounds high and nasally. Heejun hits the notes but is digging way too low into his range. DeAndre actually did aim for the low end of his range and sounded good enough that the falsetto payoff was worth it. Jeremy had no memorable moments, but he didn’t choke. Josh’s vocal run 3/4ths in was a nice touch. When Neil Diamond came out for the last song, he got most of the spotlight. He didn’t exert any effort on his vocals, but like Chaka Khan he did it live. I just would have liked it if he didn’t perform like he found out he wasn’t getting paid after the show.

10. “Sing The Phone Book skit” The premise was silly enough, but the takeaway was that Shannon Magrane was a better singer than I ever gave her credit for. Where were these notes and this enthusiasm when she was actually a contestant?

11. Jennifer Lopez ft. Lil Jon, Flo Rida, and Wisin and Yandel – “Going In + Follow The Leader” I’m not a fan of the sequined pajamas that J.Lo is rocking, but “Going In” is moderately catchy. I like the ebb and flow of its bassline. Flo Rida’s bridge was abrupt and workmanlike. Then “Follow The Leader” came on and shit got real. That beat was so slinky and W&Y’s hip house flow sounded so freakin’ cool. Lopez also sounded quite on her game. I might have to seek out more from these guys.

12. Hollie Cavanagh and Jordin Sparks – “You’ll Never Walk Alone” The music is still plodding pageant fodder, but I have to hand it to Hollie for upping her emotional game. She made some subtle changes to her stage moves that she seemed to form more of a connection to the material than she would have earlier in the season. Jordin Sparks knocked her part out like it was nothing. Both ladies sounded spectacular. I just wish it was on a cooler song.

13. Idol Guys – “Robin Gibb Tribute – How Deep Is Your Love + How Can You Mend A Broken Heart + To Love Somebody” The guys (minus Phillip – where the hell has he been?) can actually harmonize together pretty well. Other than a botched falsetto run from DeAndre, they kept the vocal theatrics to a minimum. Jacob did a reprise of “To Love Somebody” and it was minimal, tasteful and classy. Given the limited amount of time the show had to prepare a tribute, I thought this was nice.

14. Jessica Sanchez + Jennifer Holliday – “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” When Holliday whipped out her vocal ion cannon 2/3rds of the way in, all Jessica could so is stand there and shake her head as if to say “yeah I can’t touch that.” It was actually kind of neat, because otherwise these two women matched each other pretty closely for most of the song, right down to the super-growly nightmare belt at the very end. It was like a bombastic guitar battle for singers and it was surprisingly cool.

15. Aerosmith – “Legendary Child + Walk This Way” This new song sounds like a slurry blend of “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion,” two Aerosmith songs that are actually good. This song, not so much. It’s basically a “here’s our crazy life story” that name checks their albums in the lyrics. Joe Perry can still shred like whoa, but really that’s all this performance has going for it. Steven Tyler’s vocals are flat and the harmonizing by Brad Whitford and Tom Hamilton is off-key. Not an Idol-worthy performance, that’s for sure. And then when the band did perform “Walk This Way” Tyler could barely hit the notes. The little jam-out at the end was cool.

16. Jessica and Phillip – “Up Where We Belong” This syrupy ballad is in Jessica’s wheelhouse. She sounds right at home. Phillip kept up with her for most of the song, but he ultimately gave up with a string of flubs on the last chorus. Still, these two crazy kids are nice and I hope they both find some success. Jessica just deserves to win this show more.

The Winner
I think we all saw this coming. I said as much back in Top 24 Week. One low-voiced white guy with an acoustic guitar passes the trophy to another low-voiced white guy with an acoustic guitar, as Phillip Phillips is the season 11 winner. I’m not as mad as I am with last year’s results, as Phillip actually turned in some top-ranking performances this season, but for shit’s sake how much longer is this going to go on? See if I tune in next year, Idol….

Thank you all for reading these recaps. I’m happy to bring this run to an end.

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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 11 Super-Truncated Results

March 16, 2012

Image from Mike Licht, Notionscapital.com via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

On Wednesday night we had contestants singing songs from the years they were born and really singing songs from the 60s and 70s. I wasn’t happy with a lot of the performances

Bottom 3
1. Elise Testone: Fair-to-Boo! Once again Elise ends up in the bottom 3 with a performance that was really quite middle of the road. She was at least as good as she was last week, but some her competition got comparatively better, at least on a technical level (see Phillip and Hollie.) Accordingly, I’ll concede how easy it became for the audience to forget about her.
2. Erika Van Pelt: Boo! I’m still rooting for Erika and her pipes of near-perfection. She is just so damn competent in her singing! Her risk is turning into a technician. She can execute like whoa, but she’s wanting a little in the emotional department. Also, she really needs to do something uptempo. I’m not saying she needs to be a full-on singing DJ like Colette, but if she wants to be rocker she should do a song that should make me want to throw up the rock horns.
3. Shannon Magrane: Yay! I’ve been down on Shannon for her one percent background and religious vibes these past few weeks, but when it comes down to it she just hasn’t been very good at singing. Week to week she has demonstrated consistently off-key flubbing. At her best she’s as talented as your garden variety show choir/glee club also-ran, which means thousands of kids probably could have had her run and done just as well. Shannon is one reminder of why the seeming meritocracy that is The Voice got popular.

The Loser
OK, did everyone see that bottom three is made up of all women? Especially after Heejun crashed and burned and DeAndre put the audience to sleep? I’m starting to worry that we’ll start to see the disparate impact voting that tarnished last season. The judges’ save is gone and it looks like the audience votes will determine who gets kicked off. This time, Shannon gets the boot and it’s about damn time! If she was allowed to keep going despite her mediocre singing and poor taste in music, I might have had to give up on the show. She can go back to school.

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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 11

March 14, 2012

Image edited from original by maveric2003 via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Note: The show eliminated Jermaine Jones due to a criminal charge and outstanding warrants that he allegedly concealed from producers. The show strung the audience along but the local news affiliate here in DC spilled the beans. I thought the show’s filming and airing of the producers eliminating him was tasteless and tacky. This is American Idol, not The First 48. I understand why Fox fired Jermaine, but they should have broken this news quietly and discreetly. Shame on them.

Theme: Contestants sing songs from the years they were born.

Mentors: Jimmy “I can’t believe this dopey goomba signs Dr. Dre and Lady Gaga’s paychecks” Iovine and Will.I.Am, who should replace Steven Tyler on the judge panel.

Here are the Top 11 performers in order of appearance on the show

1. Phillip Phillips – “Hard To Handle” [1990] Fun fact! This song came out in 1968 from Otis Redding. It’s only “1990” because the Black Crowes’ version is the most famous (surprise props to Randy Jackson for calling Phil out on this.) Already I’m against this dope and he hasn’t sung a note. All that snobbery aside, Phillip actually did a pretty good job with the song. He stayed on key and his growl matched the bluesy tone of the song. He also wasn’t hiding behind his acoustic guitar. He fell apart into some mumbly mumbly at the end and he didn’t nearly take as many vocal risks as he should have, but this was actually an ok start to the show.

2. Jessica Sanchez – “Turn The Beat Around” [1995] Fun fact! This song came out in 1976 from Vicki Sue Robinson. It’s only “1995” because Gloria Estefan had a decent run with it. I like the song and the upbeat choice (after all, you can’t do ballads every time), but fuck, is this going to be a pattern tonight? Old-ass songs getting by on technicalities? To Jessica’s credit, she pushes the tempo for the whole performance and displays some fancy footwork to go with that stage presence. It’s a shame that her big vocal moments come up a little short, though not nearly as abrasive as some of the other flubs I’ve heard from her competitors. I credit her for picking a fun song, but I think she could have been more polished. I hope she doesn’t listen to Steven Tyler who says she should sing more ballads. Idol should have eliminated that creepy dipshit after last season.

3. Heejun Han – “Right Here Waiting” [1985] Bahahahaha! While I believe this song came out in the year it was supposed to come out, Heejun just has no taste in his song choices. He also fails to hit most of high notes in the chorus. Heejun recovers in time for the super big note hold, but it’s like an oasis in a desert of flat singing. Emotionally he tried to come across as vulnerable, but ended up looking desperate and pathetic in all the wrong ways.

4. Elise Testone – “Let’s Stay Together” [1983] Fun fact! This song came out in 1971 from Al Green. It’s only “1983” because Tina Turner had some success with it then. COME ON, CONTESTANTS! When Elise takes the mic, she sounds wavering and uneven until the song gets upbeat. Then she started to sing with a little more conviction and things got interesting. Her raspy tone provides a nice contrast to the vanilla backing track and her above-average belting fills out the rest of the space. Elise beat my expectations, that’s for sure.

5. DeAndre Brackensick – “Endless Love” [1994] Fun fact! This song came out in 1981 from Diana Ross and Lionel Richie. It’s only “1994” because Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross redid it then. [Shakes head] It’s also way more boring than the song DeAndre sang last week. To his credit, he keeps things calm and restrained, which I appreciated since on ballads like these there’s a big temptation to go full power. DeAndre smartly waited until the end to whip out his falsetto superpower so it felt earned. I thought his singing was kind of uneven, but it didn’t suck. It’s just that song choice. Zzzzzzzzzz….

6. Shannon Magrane – “One Sweet Day” [1995] Alright, another song from the year it actually came out in! We get a little more Mariah with Shannon’s song choice. I thought she’d trip out on the song’s built-in harmonies (since it was made famous in part by Boyz II Men), but no, she trips on her own mediocre vocal runs. This feels like the same garbage from the past two weeks. Was she really one of the best the judges could pick from? I hate to say this, but I think she should have listened to Iovine and gone with “Don’t Speak” (or even better, “Just A Girl.”)

7. Colton Dixon – “Broken Heart” [1991] Now we get a power ballad from the twilight of pop metal. Colton doesn’t turn out one of the worst of the night. The arrangement was quite bombastic and upbeat, which I got into (though it sounded kind of messy.) His dancing was awkward as hell, but at least he was committed. His singing seemed mostly on point, though intermittently he sounded like a whiny teenager, which is not the worst thing I could say about his performance. I didn’t hate this.

8. Erika Van Pelt – “Heaven” [1985] EVP makes a bid for the top spot with this Bryan Adams classic. I have to ding her a few points for doing yet another damn rock ballad, but she probably executed the best of all the contestants. She is just pleasant to listen to and tonight was no exception. She nailed all of her notes and sounded really full and rich. She also has the fun showboating down pat. All Erika has to do is rock more uptempo material and be more emotive. Go DJ!

9. Skylar Laine – “Love Sneakin’ Up On You” [1994] Props to Skylar for sticking to her guns in the wake of mentor meddling. Just like Jessica, she used the stage to its fullest and came off as super fun and genuine. The music was churning and fun and her singing was big and brassy. Skylar had lots of swagger and the pipes to back it up – no twitches, no crap, no flubs, just solid execution. I think she just might pull out of the shadow of Lauren Alaina. Well done!

10. Josh Ledet – “When A Man Loves A Woman” [1992] Fun fact! This song came out in 1966 from Percy Sledge. It’s only “1992” because Michael Bolton got famous with it…and I’m out of expletives. That jacket Josh is rocking is pure 60s as well. Josh’s performance is fairly predictable (too slow!) but at least he 100%-On-Expert-Difficulty killed it with all those singing riffs, runs, and screams. When he looked into the audience with that purpose and grimace, you could feel the charisma radiating from the stage. The jacket removal was just icing on the cake. Other than the song choice that was pretty damn good, dude.

11. Hollie Cavanagh – “The Power Of Love” [1993] Oh man, I heard this on The Voice already! The Celine selection continues to scream “pageant” which I feel has been Hollie’s problem since Top 24 week (that dress doesn’t help, either.) Hollie actually does a pretty good Dion impression and I didn’t hear much in the way of flubs or mumbles. I was just bored with it. Erika had the same problems concerning emotion but at least she tried to connect with the audience and stayed away from the early-90s slow song well that this show keeps going to.

And what would I have sung? Let’s see, I’ll be turning 30 next year, so let’s head to ’83. Going though the Rock Band song list, one song that stuck out to me was New Order’s “Blue Monday.” It’s not a song I recall hearing a lot on this show, it’s a neat mix of depressing and dancey, and it was made famous by Bernard Sumner, another guy with a limited range. I’d do the first verse with the original keyboard and bassline along with punched up drumming, after which I’d bring in the drum break and switch to the Orgy version for the third verse and final “HOW DOES IT FEE-EEL!” power belt. If I go out I go out with a bang.

My Top 3 Performers
1. Skylar Laine
2. Josh Ledet
3. Erika Van Pelt

My Bottom 3 Performers
1. Fox, for it’s tasteless airing of Jermaine Jones’s firing from the show
2. Heejun Han
3. Shannon Magrane

Ouch. Tonight’s show sucked. 5 of the 11 songs were not originally from the years the contestants were born, 5 of the 11 songs were boring ballads (though some were well-executed), and it felt like there was just a lot of bad singing to go around. Some contestants came off well (including a surprisingly effective turn from Phillip), but I would rather forget this episode.

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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 13 Super-Truncated Results

March 9, 2012

Image from Mike Licht, Notionscapital.com via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

So Wednesday night we had the gender-bound theme of men singing Stevie Wonder and women singing Whitney Houston. I thought there was a surprising amount of decent performances, but we’ll have to see how the voting shakes out.

Bottom 3 Men
1. Jermaine Jones: Boo! He certainly didn’t bring his A-game, but he had one of the better performances.
2. Josh Ledet: Boo! This guy tries to have some fun and he’s punished for it? What the fuck, Idol?! He’ll be singing vaguely inspirational clunkers the rest of the season to stay safe now.
3. Jeremy Rosado: Fair! While Jeremy isn’t the worst singer among the men, his performance last night was pretty damn boring. I wish he’d bring a little more confidence (or at least steal some from Colton.)

Bottom 3 Women
1. Shannon Magrane: Yay! I can’t stand this annoyingly wholesome rich girl’s act and the audience clearly couldn’t stand her abrasive singing.
2. Erika Van Pelt: Boo! DJ EVP is one of the most consistently competent singers this season, and her power ballad performance was at least a little interesting. She deserves to make it at least to the top 4, so long as she can push the tempo a little bit.
3. Elise Testone: Fair-to-Boo! While I wasn’t offended by her audible-call rendition of “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” I can see how her gravelly performance wouldn’t go over. Kathy told me afterward that she wasn’t feeling Elise’s singing, and I’ll concede that if she goes on she’ll probably do crummy ballad after crummy ballad.

Bottom 2
1. Jeremy
2. Elise

The Loser
It falls to the judges to decide who will be the first casualty of the top 13 and they send Jeremy packing. It’s kind of a shame since his singing was merely boring whereas some of his competitors took turns figuratively pooping on the stage (I’m looking at you, Colton and Phillip.) I feel that he did deserve to go home more than Elise did, and this does put the men and women on equal footing, numbers-wise. We’ll just have to see if Elise can redeem herself because she is on thin ice. As for Jeremy, he shouldn’t let this elimination get him down. He’s young enough that with some formative experiences he can develop artistically, put some punch in his singing, and go clean up on The Voice in 5 years.

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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 13

March 7, 2012

Image edited from original by Mil on Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Theme: The men sing the songs of Stevie Wonder. The women sing the songs of Whitney Houston. We got gender policing and a death cash-in, baby! Bottom vote getter in each gender is up for elimination, which the judges decide. It kind of reminds of the elimination system on So You Think You Can Dance.

Mentors: The punchable Jimmy Iovine, and Mary J. Blige, who’s all right.

Here are the Top 13 performers in order of appearance on the show

1. Josh Ledet – “I Wish” Wikki wiki Wild Wild West! Gospel boy has to do something upbeat? This could be interesting. To his credit, he really gets into the material and his consistent belting matches the bombastic backing track nicely. And other people might ding him for this, but I appreciated his spastic dancing around the stage, particularly near the horn section. Also props for the James Brown/Axl Rose on-key screech finish. I wish Jacob Lusk was this upbeat last season. Nice start, dude!

2. Elise Testone – “I’m Your Baby Tonight” Alright, another upbeat song! This is actually one of my favorite Whitney songs and its brassy, sexy tone is a good fit for Elise. She flubs the lyrics early on, but quickly finds her footing. Her voice was smoky and gravelly, but her singing was on key and on point. I also give Elise points for really getting into the emotion of the song. The judges did have a point that she could have taken things down a notch, but I didn’t hate this performance.

3. Jermaine Jones – “Knocks Me Off My Feet” Vocally Jermaine is killing it up there. He stays in his range and manages to pull off a few nice runs and holds without overdoing things. What I think he could do better on is really connecting with the emotional vulnerability in the song. I want to feel the lovesickness in the piece and I wasn’t feeling it. Despite the slower tempo of the song, Jermaine also kept things upbeat like a really good (albeit showy) karaoke performance.

4. Erika Van Pelt – “I Believe In You and Me” DJ EVP turns the Whitney showcase song into a power ballad. She does well to bring the song into something she would do otherwise. Still, Erika takes a few risks by doing the traditional diva vocal progression of starting really quiet and singing almost contralto and gradually building to a series of vocal acrobatics. She nailed all of them too. I love that flawless execution! Despite the rock flourishes, I still wasn’t feeling the song choice that much. I also (shudder) agree with the judges in that she could have maybe gone a little bigger and taken some more risks. She has the talent to take these kids to school.

5. Colton Dixon – “Lately” Sigh, another slow song. And what the hell is up with the tone of Colton’s voice? He’s so slurred! He wants to be going for Rufus Wainwright but he could be any lite-grunge singer from around 2002 (I’m thinking the guy from Lifehouse), plus that falsetto was total ass. I can pick up maybe one word out of every 10 off-key, whiney sounds this clown admits. Heaven help us all if he gets to peddle this shit on the radio. What a fucking mess!

6. Shannon Magrane – “I Have Nothing” Shannon sounds thin and buried in this performance, even with the anemic 1991 backing music. Her articulation is only slightly better than Colton’s and emotionally she’s only slightly more engaged than a preteen beauty pageant contestant. Even with those strikes against her she could have nailed the big notes. She did not nail the big notes. Nerves or not, that performance was underwhelming and sloppy. She can go back to her mansion.

7. DeAndre Brackensick – “Master Blaster” Mr. Falsetto kicks things into full on reggae territory that makes me remember how much Naima Adedapo got robbed last season. Nice choice, man. DeAndre kept things fun and bouncy. He was casual but committed in his animated dancing. He also used a slightly wider range of his voice and didn’t cower in the high notes like last week. He was still a little flat, but damn that was fun to watch!

8. Skylar Laine – “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?” What, she’s not singing “I Will Always Love You” (since Dolly Parton did it first?) Wow, I’m surprised. Anyways, Skylar still does a predictably country rendition of the song and while it’s not my favorite I commend her for injecting just enough twang to be genuine. She also did all the big vocal tricks, was on key, and used enough of the stage to convey just a smidge of emotion. The escalating notes at the end felt forced, but Skylar was poised and professional, which not every teen contestant can say.

9. Heejun Han – “All Is Fair In Love” Another slow, plaintive song from Heejun? Wow, I’m not surprised. Poor Heejun just couldn’t project, even against the fairly sparse arrangement. He was so quiet that I couldn’t understand what he was trying to convey. The performance felt so stiff and awkward. I expect that in a shoegaze show, but not in what I assume is a fairly faithful Stevie Wonder cover. Dude needs to get some distortion effects pedals and meet the guys from Sigur Ros, stat!

10. Hollie Cavanagh – “All The Man That I Need” This performance was an improvement for Hollie. She stayed in control of her voice through the performance and had way better diction than last week. Still, a supersize hold, impressive at it is, doesn’t quite cut it for me. I still can’t buy someone Hollie’s age singing the kinds of themes that were in this song. If she messed with the song like Skylar did, I might be tempted to cut her more slack. This performance was technically awesome but lacking in originality.

11. Jeremy Rosado – “Ribbon In The Sky” Jeremy’s singing was kind of messy tonight. I’d like to think that he was trying to get into the meaning of the song, but I don’t know what this is about. It can’t literally be about ribbons in the sky, right? In terms of song choice this was a bit of a snoozer, just like Heejun’s. At least Jermaine put a little upbeat fun with his tenderness. The performance sounded ok, but I would steer clear of it otherwise. This felt boring.

12. Jessica Sanchez – “I Will Always Love You” Ah shit! We all knew this song was coming, but it still hurts when it arrives. All Jessica can hope to do is perform well within the boundaries of the piece. She hits all the notes with the flair of a performer thrice her age, though she has vibrato so pronounced it might as well be coming from a helicopter. I feel conflicted, because fuck this was predictable, but also fuck this gave me chills. You know what sold it for me? When she gave a slight smile about 2/3rds into the song in the middle of a note run. That’s when all the pretense and cash-ins and claptrap faded away. She was happy. She was in sync with all the cathartic emotion in the song. She was GENUINE, and that’s such a rare thing on a show like this. Dammit, I’m tearing up as I’m typing this and I’m embarrassed.

13. Phillip Phillips – “Superstition” This song is fun to do, just because its bassline is so fucking hot and upbeat nature courses through it. Phil turned it into some snarled grungy bag of crap. His singing was off-note and forced, his emotion was totally inappropriate, and his music arrangement was tonally clashing like an amateur mashup. Just shave your head already!

And what would I have sung? Since I’m a guy, I have to sing Stevie, so I would have gone to one of my two favorite songs by him: “Higher Ground” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.” Both tunes are pretty upbeat and fun, but I have to consider my extremely limited range. I suppose “Higher Ground” has a more gradual build in the verses and the chorus sounds good without a lot of strain. As for the arrangement I’m thinking of a sleek, distorted electronic background (think Goldfrapp circa 2002) with punchy blues shuffle drumming (like The Black Keys.) If I actually wanted to stay on the show, I would play it safe and do the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ version.

My Top 3 Performers
1. Jessica Sanchez
2. Josh Ledet
3. DeAndre Brackensick

My Bottom 3 Performers
1. Colton Dixon
2. Shannon Magraine
3. Phillip Phillips

So tonight we had by my count five clunkers, three mehs, four solids, and one huge fucking surprise (still dealing with a few residual tears here.) Honestly this was a pretty decent show. I just hope the judges don’t let the new elimination decision power go to their heads and take out one of my favorites.

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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 25 Results

March 2, 2012

Image from Mike Licht, Notionscapital.com via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

I apologize for the lateness of this post. Since Idol’s results shows will likely be on the same night as Project Runway, I will not be doing same-night recaps in order for Kathy to do hers at Plastic Runway. I’ll then do a quick hit on Friday. In my opinion, this is a good thing since it keeps out the padding, vamping, and tragically hokey Ford Music Videos, and points the focus straight at the results. I’ll still be doing the same-night performance show posts. Let’s break out the results!

Top 5 Men

1. Phillip Phillips – What a shocker! The guy who’s like the last four winners moves on to the next round. Verdict: Root Against

2. Heejun Han – He’s been disappointing musically but kinda cool offstage. I hope he develops better taste in music. Verdict: Hold

3. Josh Ledet – I think this gospel singer’s going to end up just like Jacob Lusk – awesome pipes wasted on boring R&B and Gospel numbers. Verdict: Hold

4. Colton Dixon – He doesn’t deserve to be on the show, his hair sucks, and his confidence in his abilities makes his histrionic performances extra unbearable. Verdict: Root Against

5. Jermaine Jones – While I haven’t been the biggest fan of his slower performances, at least this guy doesn’t overindulge in his singing. He also comes across really in this really unassuming way, so when he hits those super low notes it’s like “Boom! Bass attack!” Verdict: Root For

Top 5 Women

1. Jessica Sanchez – Well, she’s the only person of color among the women, which is reason enough to keep her on, but she did a pretty good job Wednesday night. She came off as mature and soulful, regardless of her age. Verdict: Root For

2. Hollie Cavanagh – One more blonde from the southern pageant factory. She’s too immature for this competition. Verdict: Root Against

3. Shannon Magrane – How dare this one-percenter bring her empty affirmations to the stage without the slightest bit of fun or menace. I spit on your inspiration-bait claptrap! Verdict: Root Against

4. Elise Testone – Decent talent in a package devoid of originality. Since her main rival got bumped off, maybe she’ll seem less cloying. Verdict: Hold

5. Skylar Laine – While she seems like what would happen if Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery got fused together in a nuclear meltdown, she gives a lot of effort and sings decently. She’ll be more about fun than Verdict: Hold

Wildcards, bitches!

1. Jeremy Rosado – I still think this teen is a mediocre performer, but he does have decent pipes and Kathy liked his song on Tuesday. Verdict: Hold

2. DeAndre Brackensick – Well, Eben the Lil Bieber is out of the game, so this guy must be this season’s cute teen boy. At least he’s more talented. He just needs to stop leaning on his falsetto like a crutch. Verdict: Hold

3. Erika Van Pelt – EVP has a lot of the qualities I look for in a contestant – good backstory, a nice sense of showmanship, decent singing talent, and above-average taste in music. If she be this season’s rock star, then rock on! Verdict: Root For

See you next week!

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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 12 Women

February 29, 2012

Image edited from original by Brandon Heyer on Flickr, used under Creative Commons.

The voting kickoff continues with the Top 12 women contestants taking the stage. How come there got to be one more guy? I don’t know. Seacrest even highlights the fact that a woman hasn’t won the show since Jordin Sparks won season 6. You can hear the sadness in his voice. I know it’s shitty, dude. This is American Idol!

Notes: Man, Steven Tyler loves those long shirts and hats. He looks like such a tool! Also, note all the white, blonde contestants standing up there. There looks to be one, maybe two women of color onstage. Yay for diversity?

Theme: Contestants can pick any song. Same as last night.

Here are the Top 12 female performers in order of appearance on the show.

1. Chelsea Sorrell – “Cowboy Casanova” I don’t know this song, but it sounds really upbeat and rich. It was a good choice to start off the night. However, I can’t say the same for the live mix of the music or for Chelsea’s slightly delayed singing and nasal belting style. She was really awkward on the staccato parts of the buildup to the chorus. I also wish she emoted more. I failed to feel the hot, casual lust that was in the lyrics. It wasn’t a shitshow, but she could do a lot better. Also, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of the Tim Riggins-lookalike fiddle player this season.

2. Erika Van Pelt – “What about Love?” For a big ballad like this Heart original, there’s the temptation to oversing like crazy, but Erika keeps things dialed back and lets her volume build and build until the big held note climax at the end. She has a lot of control in her delivery, and her deep melodic singing style reminds me of Cher (that’s a good thing in this case.) She exuded defiant confidence, and I really got into that. Kids, EVP isn’t fucking around. As Lil Wayne would say, “Go DJ! That’s my DJ!

3. Jen Hirsh – “One and Only” Another Adele song? Jen finds her groove late into the song, and while she’s belting like a pro, her performance feels cold and plodding. I felt like she was mugging way too much onstage, especially for a song like this. It failed to pique my interest….ZZZZZZZZZZZZ………….

4. Brielle Von Hugel – “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” So she’s the one with the pushy stage parent? Well, maybe she would have coached her not to sing below her range. Jeez, the first verse sounded like a dryer cycle. Halfway into the song, Brielle found some energy and caught my attention. Her big gospel ending felt cloying and tonally inappropriate, but technically she was ok. She’s the middle of the pack.

5. Hallie Day – “Feeling Good” Jazz standards like this are done to death, but you could make the case that the “new dawn, new day, new life” lyrics work with Hallie’s backstory. Vocally Hallie was noticeably off-key, but she had a good sense of timing and command of the stage. And that big note at the end was totally earned and gave me chills! When Hallie is on she’s on, but otherwise she can be a hot mess. [Sidenote: Stop talking about Adele, judges! She’s good, but she’s one singer! And no, Lana Del Rey doesn’t count. Do you have any other cultural touchpoints?]

6. Skylar Laine – “Stay With Me” Dressed like a Mardis Gras float, Skylar lays into a song I haven’t heard of. I give her points for delivering one of the more energetic performances of the night. Her delivery was a little unintelligible, but she hit every note but the last big one (which…ouch….) Her bopping stage moves were awkward and klutzy, but maybe that will come off as endearing. I give her points for trying to be fun and not completely choking onstage.

7. Baylie Brown – “Amazed” Another country performer? And this overdone wedding staple? Baylie needs to deliver a flawless victory. How did she do? OK, remember Denise Richards’s Becky Leeman character from Drop Dead Gorgeous? Entitled, overconfident, smug, and underwhelming? Well, this is what Becky Leeman sounds like singing “Amazed.” Her performance was off-key, bleating, messy, and harsh (and her ill-fitting “don’t vote me off” dress is just icing on the cheesecake.) I hope I don’t have to listen to her failures for much longer.

8. Hollie Cavanagh – “Reflection” Are all these contestants blondes from Texas? It’s like the cabinet of the George W. Bush administration up in here! The ersatz, schmaltzy music arrangement that accompanies Hollie screams “pageant” to me. Did you notice that Hollie wasn’t really articulating the lyrics outside of “MY RE-FLE-EC-TION?” I’ll concede that for her big notes Hollie did a decent Xtina impression, but outside of that her pitch and delivery combined to form a slurry of immature singing.

9. Haley Johnsen – “Sweet Dreams” Haley comes across as likeably quirky and I really want to root for her, especially for bringing a new wave song to the Idol stage. Sadly, she had the same problem as some of her competitors – singing below her range. Haley and the house band were so divergent key-wise I thought they were performing two different songs. The big belt-off at the end was cool, but so were those from a lot of the other contestants. Let’s go back to Haley’s montage that showed her doing gymnastics. If her performance was a floor routine, she would have scooted her ass around the floor for 5 minutes but she would have totally stuck the landing!

10. Shannon Magrane – “Light Your World” I don’t know this song either! I feel so out of touch! This feels like another one those shitty inspiration-bait songs. I blasted Creighton for this shit last night and I’m blasting Shannon for it now. The empty charity lyrics and tacky arrangement seemed like bedding for cheap vocal fireworks. And that pageanty sound-off didn’t help either. Chant it with me now: One percent! One percent! Jennifer Lopez, Shannon may have good passion for a 16 year old, but if a 28 year old went on stage and did that same shit would you be giving the same kudos? This stupid panel!

11. Jessica Sanchez – “Love You I Do” Project, dammit! When Jessica isn’t belting she’s like a shy Joss Stone. But I think she’s one of the better singers among the women in that she can hit the notes, whip out the vocal firepower, emote like someone who understands her song, and command the stage. I feel weird rooting for a teen contestant, but Jessica came across like an experienced professional. You go, player!

12. Elise Testone – “One and Only” Didn’t Jen just do this earlier in the show. Well, that’s points off for not finding another damn singer (or at least another damn Adele song) to perform from. Elise’s performance was competent enough, but for fuck’s sake I couldn’t feel this one. Hey Adele, can your label temporarily forbid contestants on this show from performing your music?

In conclusion, I think the judges did a horrific job picking female contestants. While last night’s performances were overall decent with two clear clunkers, tonight I saw mostly trainwrecks with two clear winners. It was so hard to pick a third “top” from this group. Seriously, these were the twelve best female singers of the audition pool? There had to have been a better bunch of contestants out of thousands of applicants. And so many of these contestants look the same! This cannot be reflective of America! Tonight felt like some craptacular pageant. I really hope that some of these contestants can wake the fuck up and convince me to root for them. I want to root for them, especially since guys have won the past four years, but I can’t abide such bad performances.

My Top 3 Performers
1. Erika Van Pelt
2. Jessica Sanchez
3. Skylar Laine

My Bottom 3 Performers
1. Baylie Brown
2. Shannon Magraine
3. Elise Testone + Jen Hirsh [Tie, because they sang the same song]

Some housekeeping: Kathy will be busy recapping Project Runway on Plastic Runway on Thursday night, so expect a quick post from me tomorrow or Friday about this week’s results.