The Red Room this year is elevated slightly and looks funkier and desperately more hip. There’s also a glass coffee table in the middle of the room with a tire in it.
Ryan is wearing a picnic table cloth with a sport coat type thing. Silly me — he wears the t-shirt with his jeans to look more butch on the nights the boys perform. Look for the t-shirt with obscure band name on it tomorrow night.
Paula’s hair do makes her look like a runner-up at the New York Kennel Club’s Dog Show.
And it took less than five minutes for the first unnecessary montage of clips from the series thus far. This time, we see how all the girls got to this point in their “journey” thus far. I notice for the first time that they all run away using very very short strides. Those high heels can be tough on 16 year olds, I suppose.
This brings us to our first contestant:
Mandisa (29 years old) is the one best known for being called fat by Simon. She sings “Never” by Heart and does it well. She’s a little breathy in a couple of spots and I thought she oversang it in a couple of spots, but the crowd reacted well, so the little nits aren’t much to pick. It was nice to see the show start off on something other than a ballad.
Usually, in shows this early, the common mistake is to go for the slow ballad to start.
Kelly (19) is everyone’s favorite Grandpa-loving farm girl. She picks “How Far” by Martina McBride and instantly dooms herself. Carrie Underwood won last year. Two country girls are not going to win this contest back to back. She looks more comfortable on stage than she really was, but is slighty pitchy, particularly on the highest notes.
Becky (25) is the twin looker. Really, you can’t not stare at this girl with your jaw dropped to the ground. She choose “Because the Night” from Natalie Merchant. It’s our first patented Crash And Burn of the night, but it won’t be the last. She’s all attitude in her performance, but it sounds like she’s affecting an accent throughout the song, singing lower than perhaps she should. As Simons said, “Quite good is not good enough anymore.” She might get past this week, but she’s not likely to make the Top 12.
She has two things going for her: (A) The judges raked her over the coals. The sympathy phone votes will work wonders for her. (B) She’s drop dead gorgeous. That’ll carry her through with many other voters.
Ayla (17) is next, with Christina Aguilera’s “Reflections” from MULAN. It was one of her favorites growing up, reminding me of just how old I am. Ayla, by the way, is the basketball playing high school kid from the North East, and the latest in a long line of contestants who make Ryan Seacrest look like a Smurf. They’re all so tall this year.
In any case, the judges like her, but I thought her hand motions were too reminiscent of XTinas, and even parts of her delivery came off sounding karaoke. She’s good enough to be safe, though.
And is it just me, or were the judges expecting very little tonight? They keep telling every contestant how badly they thought they’d do, but then compliment them on being better. It’s weird.
Much much much more after the break. This writeup is 1600 words long, and we still have two more Crash And Burns to come!
Paris (17) is the little spark plug whose grandmother is a famous singer from back in the day. And holy cow, can this kid “bring it.” She puts on a vaudeville show for “Midnight Train to Georgia,” with the kind of hyperactive overacting that looks like it’d fit right in on the Vaudeville circuit at the turn of the century. But it’s also the kind of interest-grabbing performance that draws you right in. It’s a wonder to behold how someone so small and so young can command such attention on the stage, be so comfortable on it, and belt out a sound so well. She had a couple of Fantasia’s mannerisms, and very nearly lost her strapless top at least once. Her constant bouncing affected her vocals on a couple of occasions, but nobody in the set would have noticed it — they were all so drawn into her performance.
She also has a little girl’s voice crossed with that of a 20-year cigarette smoker. It’s bizarre.
Stevie (19) is the opera singer who wants to infuse that into Josh Grobin’s “To Where You Are.” As you might suspect from that description, it’s our second Crash And Burn of the night. It’s painfully boring, her performance. It’s all falsetto and softness and — ::yawn:: — it never hits second gear. She’s not memorable. She’s boring, but she vows to “bring it” next week. She’ll be lucky to get the chance.
The awkward moment of the night comes afterwards, when Ryan says that he’s taller than Tom Cruise, at least. Yes, she’s another lanky skinny tall girl. She hits back immediately with, “You might have a chance with me.” Ryan can’t throw it to commercial fast enough.
Brenna (missed her age, sorry) is the “constantly posing” annoying chick best known for smacking her butt in Simon’s direction during Hollywood week. She’s easily compared to the Fran Drescher wannabe from last season, Mikala. She goes with Stevie Wonder’s “You Are The Sunshine of My Life,” and very nearly puts all of the audience back to sleep. Gone is her personality throughout the first three-quarters of the song.
And what’s with these pants that come down to just below the knee? They’re annoying me this season.
She stunk, but I think she might make it through on force of personality alone.
Heather (22) sings “When You Tell Me That You Love Me” and is our third Crash And Burn of the night. She sounds restrained, boring. The song never moves, and it comes off sounding like bad karaoke. She’s also an AI fangirl by her own admission, which means she knows she’s in trouble. She didn’t get much air time before this, and now squandered what little she got with a forgettable performance. I think she’ll be voted out of the show this week.
Melissa (21) sings “When the Lights Go Down” and is the eightieth contestant for whom AMERICAN IDOL is their first trip on an airplane. She must be new to singing in public, because she keeps breathing annoyingly into the microphone. She’s an ex-beauty pageant contestant, but I can see why she chose singing, instead. She’s not ugly, but she’s not going to be a beauty queen anytime soon.
She’s not boring, but her desperate attempts to hit the high notes don’t quite make it. The big notes have tops that are too high for her. I think she’s safe, but her lack of air time might also challenge her.
Lisa (16) goes with “I Am Changing” and proves that 16 is a golden age for AI contestants. It seems that the younger you are this year, the better shape you’re going to be in. She’s amazing. Stunning from beginning to end. It’s a performance worthy of comparison to LaToya London’s “All By Myself” in the same round a couple of seasons ago. And she did it all without breaking a sweat, losing her breath, or cracking a nerve. It’s the performance of the night. All of the other girls had to be shaking on the inside after seeing this one, because there’s one slot in the final 12 already taken now.
Hang in there — only two contestants to go!
Kinnik (28) is one of the older contestants, and proceeds to bend herself in half singing the higher notes on “Get Here,” the Alita Adams song. She has a huge mouth, too. The judges didn’t think as highly of her as I did, but I think she did good enough to be safe this week.
Katharine (28) wraps things up in grand fashion, despite choosing a Barbra Streisand song, “Since I Fell For You.” The entire performance was like a vocal master class inside of three minutes. She has a strong and well-trained voice, and the judges were ready to give her the keys to the kingdom.
She wasn’t without her problems, though. First, it looked like she was wearing a maternity shirt, which also showed off a set of linebacker shoulders that didn’t help her. Second, during the interview with Ryan she turned into a hyperactive 10 year old, more worried about how much of her butt the people behind her had just seen than in looking normal for the voters at home.
Worst of all, she can’t dance. She’s an odd cross between Taylor Hicks (we’ll see him tomorrow night) and Lucy Hale. “Lucy Who?” you likely just asked. She’s the finalist on the AMERICAN JUNIORS show that ran in the summer of 2003. She had a voice good enough to be on the regular AI series, but she couldn’t dance. And being part of a kids music group meant that she had to dance with the rest of the group. The results were often laughable.
And, finally, that’s it for the show tonight. The oddest thing about the presentation? Ryan didn’t end it with “Seacrest Out!” He just wished us all a good night. I miss the “Out” line. =(
If I had to drop two contestants right now, I would go with Heather and Stevie. I think America might just agree with me on that, too, but I have until Thursday to make a final decision. Stay tuned.
Coming up on Wednesday night: The boys sing and hopefully don’t dance.