Thursday, February 26, 2009

American Idol: Semi-finals, week two

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?


Anonymous said...

I was only half-watching this (and switching back and forth with "Life"), and I barely remember any of the performances -- but that Nick kid was hilarious. He's not a terrific singer, but he was by far the best entertainer. I think it may have been a mistake for them to let him get this far -- since his act really isn't what the show is about -- but he definitely has some sort of future in show business.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree, Alan. Frankly, for letting Nick/Normund get this far, Idol may deserve to have him advance to the big stage.

The first few singers were weak enough that I was wondering if something was off with the sound system, until Alison sang. (I didn't think that it was a great performance, but I would say that it was very good.) The collapse of so many performers in the semis make me wonder if 36 was just too many? Or if maybe the pressure to be in the top 3 from the very outset is getting to these kids. That could be another problem with this semi structure. Because I'd say that you could count on one hand the good (as in, better than mediocre) performances from the first 24, which is just sad.

Theresa said...

I thought it was "Norman," not "Normund."

Many lackluster performances. I thought the top performer of each sex was clear; it will be interesting to see who takes the third spot.

Michael said...

Adam looked like a manufactured, polished, rehearsed version of a product put out for tween girls. Sang OK, but I wasn't impressed by how he looked and acted. Not my thing, but he should move on.

dark tyler said...

I loathe Adam Lambert, but at least Allison will go through. And I really hope Jesse does, too; according to Dial Idol it's pretty neck and neck for the third spot.

Also, Megan Joy? So beautiful it's ridiculous.

Linda said...

I don't dislike Allison, but to me, it was just yelling. There was nothing musical about it; it was just the old "Loud is the new good." She looked fantastic next to a bunch of really weak performances from the other contestants, but I think you've just seen every weapon in her arsenal, and they're all called "giant hammer."

As for Nick? Nick must go away. I don't see Nick's whole thing as satirical or knowing as much as attention-seeking and kind of pathetic. That's not to even mention the fact that the show is going to pay the price for putting him in the show FOREVER in the form of even more idiot auditioners.

Anonymous said...

Adam is fine. There's nothing especially wrong with him. He has a nice voice, he's packaged nicely (i.e. commercially), he seems like a decent guy, etc. My issue is with the fact that that was a totally hammy, "look at me!", musical theater performance and the judges were all over him. The only thing that separates him from Norman is that Norman is joking (or, imo, hiding behind a character) and Adam chooses to buy his wardrobe from Hot Topic instead of Gadzooks. It's puzzling to me.

Love Megan. Her singing was a mess in the middle, but she's gorgeous and I always like the spazzy oddball. And that dancing? That's the dancing of the spazzy oddball.

I checked out Dial Idol this morning and their prediction is Allison and Adam, which is fine, but...they have Jesse and Matt second on each list. Wasn't Matt the one that mangled Coldplay? And I'm not sure that I get Jesse at all. She's okay and I found it refreshing to see a contestant actually force a straight answer out of the judges, but she's pretty unlikeable beyond that. I know Dial Idol is not a science and is frequently wrong in the early rounds, but I was still surprised to see her name so high. I would prefer Megan get that third slot if Norman can't.

K J Gillenwater said...

I was determined to hate Adam Lambert the minute he announced he was singing "Satisfaction." One of the most overplayed Rolling Stones songs...ugh. Plus, I see it as one of those 'do not touch' classics. However, that kid has an amazing range (although he got a tad too screechy for me in many places) and is extremely comfortable on stage.

Some of the worst performances usually include some kind of horrible stage fright or nervousness that makes it completely uncomfortable for me to watch.

My favorites (I remember them by song):

Alone - number 1, that chick is amazing...and only 16????

Bette Davis Eyes - I agree with that girl, LOVE that song, and she had this really interesting smoky quality to her voice that I liked, plus she seemed comfortable on stage.

and Megan Corkrey (I remembered her name b/c it's so odd, just like her) - she is very very different, beautiful to look at, I like her weird bouncy sway dancing, and she has some interesting phrasing or pronunciation that I liked (the way she sang 'down' in particular). I think she's modern and relevant if she can keep picking songs that work with her voice, she'll be one to watch.

Adam Lambert is just plain talented. He may be too stage-y or overdone, but you have to admit that guy can SING. So, if anything, he deserves to go through.

Anonymous said...

Lambert can in fact sing, but to sing that song in that way shows that he's got a good set of pipes, but no musical sense. He didn't sing "Satisfaction." He sang bits of Satisfaction and sang other things wholly unrelated to the melody of the song or to the underlying beat that the band was playing. It wavered between good and unlistenably atrocious. It was like a bad broadway-lite version of a rock song, with no soul. If Lambert goes and parties all night for 3 consecutive nights like Keith Richards, he might approach a song like that with the balls it needs, not the castrati coloratura version he performed.

He should go through-- not because it was a good performance (it was rather dreadful), but because he was the only talented male singer in the bunch. Performance-wise, Lambert was pwned by Normund Gentle.

Normund is never going to be a pop star, but he can sing when he chooses to, and his cabaret/lounge/Andy Kaufman take on Idol is more confident than any of the contestants who are taking the show seriously.

Anonymous said...

Go Norman! woot! woot!

Anonymous said...

I had high hopes for Jasmine and Matt Giraud, so I was sorry to see them both turn in poor performances. They won't make it, but I hope they're back for the wild card.

I hate Adam. He's like the male Bette Midler. He'd be fine in some Vegas revue (or, as I read somewhere, in "Mick! The Musical!"). Not here.

Alison stood out, and the rest was boring and, to use Simon's favorite word, forgettable. I'd love to see Normund/Nick go through. At least he's entertaining. That's more than you can say for almost anyone else tonight.

AndyW said...

Adam Lambert is as phony as a three dollar bill and as artfully artifical as a Twinkie, but he can sing.

I was howling with laughter when Seacrest said he had an Edward Cullen thing going on (google it, if you don't know).

1. It's absolutely true - Lambert is a momma's boy with a faux dangerous look that's designed to appeal to tweeners.
2. It's a backhanded slam on Lambert that no one was smart enough to pick up on.
And, 3. It means Seacrest read "Twilight," which is frickin' hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read "Twilight" or seen the movie and we were calling him out for his "Twilight meets Jonas Brothers" look in my house a couple of weeks ago. It's not an obscure reference. Besides, Randy's actually the one that described him that way. Iirc, Seacrest just recapped it.

AndyW said...

Missed that. Props to Randy, then.

Anonymous said...

The guy who sang Coldplay was horrendous and needs to pay a steep fine to both Coldplay and Joe Satriani for butchering that song.

I like Adam Lambert and have ever since his audition. Dude's got amazing pipes, plane and simple.

Looks like Paula's back on the Vicodin.

Anonymous said...

Make that plain and simple.


In my defense, it's still early here in LA, and I'm not yet fortified by caffeine this morning.

Anonymous said...

This was a slightly smaller trainwreck than last week, but still mostly not what I would expect from twelve people who were chosen from thousands of hopefuls.

Love Megan. Her singing was a mess in the middle, but she's gorgeous and I always like the spazzy oddball. And that dancing? That's the dancing of the spazzy oddball.

Megan is absolutely adorable. I am tired, tired, tired of "Put Your Records On", and she had a few rough moments, but I thought she was great, overall. And I'm with you on the "spazzy oddball" thing.

I think Randy and Simon are nuts. Jesse was quite good. I'm a fan of "Bette Davis Eyes', so that helped.

Allison was hot mess, in my opinion. She was screechy and flat, and painful to listen to to. Maybe my ears aren't working?

I don't want to love Nick/Norman, but I do. He makes me laugh and he sings well enough.

kchertu said...

hmmm... I'm really tired of Norman, please don't vote him through.

There are 32 aspiring singers at this stage of the competition out of, what, a few hundred thousand auditioners? What KILLS me is when the judges say crap like, "You know surprisingly you are a pretty good singer"... "surprisingly"????!! If at this stage someone is a surprisingly good singer the judges shouldn't be doing this anymore because out of hundreds of thousands of people, I'm pretty sure my tone-deaf grandma could pick out 32 really good singers.

The fact that Norman or that first atrocious girl that sang are still in the competition is dumbfounding!

As far as last night goes, Adam was by far the best... but I need him to go straight to Broadway and skip the final 12. I thought that the two red head girls were really good. I'm also completely in love with Megan and really hope she makes it through, she's sooooo gorgeous... but I hope she stops doing that weird, uncomfortable corkscrew thing!

barbra said...

The only performance I have seen in all of American Idol this season was "Put Your Records On" last night. Vocally, it was awful, and that song is really easy to sing*, so there's no excuse for it being so bad. Physically, she looked totally awkward. After the judges praised her, I changed the channel, because if that's what's considered good, I'm not interested in watching this season. Are you telling me that was supposed to compare with Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson? No way.

*I sing in a band - I am a good enough singer, not great. I sing that song, so that's where I'm coming from.

Dat Wukid said...

dude that megan chick and her RIDICULOUS dancing and arm movements were so mesmerizing to me that when the judges said nothing about it and only said how good she was i had to rewind it and make sure i wasnt crazy, but no i was right that "dancing"/girating/Elaine Benes imitation was nuts

Dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

Alison's take on "Alone" actually had me on my feet, which was no easy task because the heater was off in my apartment and I was buried under a pile of blankets on the couch. I hadn't heard the original version in a few years, but I went back and listened and you can make the argument that her more vocal-centric take on it blows Heart's out of the water. For a sixteen-year-old to blast out a heavier rock song like that is amazing.

As a side note, did anyone else thing Kai Kalama was alright? The judges didn't really like his performance, but I think it was more the song ("What Becomes of the Brokenhearted"). It kills me, because I love R&B/Motown, but it seems like contestants just can't win with that kind of material.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone care for that inhuman, indecent load of humiliating crapola anyway. Those kind of shows are the only more brutal equivalent of ancient Rome´s gladiator fights. Why would anyone with a brain watch this, Alan?