Spoilers for week two of the "American Idol" semi-finals coming up just as soon as I praise Doogie Howser...
Nor-mund! Nor-mund! Nor-mund!
On a night when there were few outright terrible performances but also very few memorable ones, Nick Mitchell, in the guise of alter ego Normund Gentle, stole the show by continuing his Andy Kaufman-esque assault on all that the "Idol" franchise holds dear. His version of "I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" was a mess musically (though the last sustained note was yet another reminder that Nick is actually a pretty good singer), but he embraced the parody, played it to the hilt, and just might have a shot at making it to the finals. And if that happens, I will be beyond pleased. For all my sincere enjoyment of "Idol," I think the injection of some self-aware irony into the competitive portion of the show (as opposed to the auditions, where we've seen Normund's like before) could really liven things up for a few weeks before the public gets tired of the joke.
The purist in me would be annoyed if Nick managed to succeed ahead of a more deserving singer, but the only other guy who left an impression at all was Adam Lambert, whose take on "Satisfaction" is already looking like one of the more polarizing "Idol" performances in recent memory. It was in the neighborhood of jukebox musical Rolling Stones, and his attempt at a Mick Jagger sneer seemed more like self-satisfied smarm, but the guy does have an interesting instrument, and that's one of the few performances I'm going to remember from this show.
The best pure performance of the evening came from Allison Iraheta on Heart's "Alone." That song has been kind to many past "Idol" contestants (Carrie Underwood's performance of it was the only time in season four when she seemed to have a soul), and if Allison's wasn't the best cover we've heard on the series, she still knocked it out of the park and made me want to hear more of her.
The only other woman I'm interested -- and who I'm sure will be back for the wildcard if she doesn't make it through this week, based on how all four judges seem to have a mad crush on her -- is Megan Joy Corkrey. I actually have no idea how good her voice is, both because "Put Your Records On" isn't that flashy vocally and because I was so mesmerized by her complete ignorance of what to do with her arms that I barely noticed anything else about the performance. Seriously, watching her randomly sway and swing those arms around was like having Elaine Benes as an "Idol" contestant.
So far, I'd say both semi-final shows were very disappointing. I'm glad that they dropped the decade themes for this round, as we've gotten to hear the contestants mostly choose contemporary songs that reflect who they want to be as artists. The problem is that they're often picking boring contemporary songs, or at least ones that don't lend themselves well to this kind of solo artist showcase. A lot of the performances this week would have been enough for people to survive in the previous 24-->20-->16-->12 format, but not when the goal is to be one of three people advancing.
Also, while the idea of rotating the order of the judges annoyed me, I did think the four-headed beast did its job this week. With two hours to fill, and no irritating parental interviews this week, the judges got a lot of time to talk, and between Kara's articulateness and some good follow-up questions from either the contestants or Seacrest, the contestants actually got some useful feedback for once. (Other than, of course, poor Jeanine Valles, who got complimented on her legs and little else.) It won't be enough to help most of them, given the format, but it's the sort of thing the judges are supposed to provide in theory but usually don't in practice.
What did everybody else think?