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Wednesday, February 21, 2007


American Idolatry: Boyz To Men?

The 12 male finalists led off American Idol's first challenge episode last night, and we got our first real glance at the talent...or lack thereof. The rundown:

Rudy Cardenas: The season kickoff singer brought a lot of energy, but the song choice, "Free Ride" by the Edgar Winter Group, was heinous and played almost beyond the top of his vocal range. The newer, tougher Randy slammed him as "corny", and we have to agree. Our initial reaction: not a contender.

Brandon Rogers: Lordamighty, that's a pretty hunk of man. Bedroom eyes, killer smile and a smoky, full voice that could make him a modern Marvin Gaye. Sadly, he went pop and bounced around to a shaky version of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You." The judges weren't pleased, but I think they were fair. Our verdict: he has the goods to be a contender, but has to bring it better than this.

Sundance Head: An unqualified disaster. "Knights in White Satin"...ugh. The performance...ugh. Factor in his unusual look and Meat Loaf-like tendency to overdramatize, and he might go home as early as this week.

Paul Kim: Maybe I spoke too soon. Singing "Careless Whisper" by George Michael, it was waaaay too low for him. Referencing the lyric "guilty feet" by pointing to his own bare feet (yeah, it's his thing) was stupid. Randy was surprisingly nice to him, and Simon got silly about his feet before calling him "third-rate." Personally, I thought he was weaker than Sundance, although the foot thing might make him cute to a certain teenybopper audience.

Chris Richardson: Perhaps trying to avoid being the "Justin Timberlake clone" that the producers would clearly like him to be, Richardson rocked out to Gavin DeGraw's "I Don't Want To Be." I personally thought it worked; he was calm, focused and understated, the first performer of the night to be so. Randy and Paula liked it, while Simon thought his voice was small. And...it is small. So is Timberlake's. This kid looks promising for the final.

Nicholas Pedro: Song choice is a killer. This is a Boston boy who, in the audition rounds, seemed like the perfect mix of Frank Sinatra and Usher. This watered-down balladeering is terrible, boring stuff...musical oatmeal. Simon came to Nicholas' rescue after he was critiqued by Randy and Paula, but still. He's got to do better in the future.

Blake Lewis: The cute, spiky beatboxer from the auditions transformed into a crooner in a sweater vest and a Morrissey-ish version of Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know." And you know what? It worked. It was the most accomplished performance of the night, and the most assured. He's a star.

Sanjaya Malakar: I like this kid, but let me get this out of the way...I hate his floppy, streaky hair. It looks ridiculous. (Okay. I feel better.) And the whole "my-sister-got-cut" storyline is already showing some age. However, Stevie Wonder's "Knocks Me Off My Feet" is one of my favorite songs ever, and his performance of it was merely adequate. He's wasn't the most energetic thing, but I attribute that to first-night nerves and his young age. The judges were really hard on him, and Seacrest then made it worse...so maybe he's going to go early.

Chris Sligh: The pudgy comic with the Sideshow Bob hair, the question was always whether he can actually sing. And he really can...working a slightly retro vibe, he hit the notes with clarity and was interesting to watch. Randy and Paula liked him, but Simon didn't...and Chris went on the attack, going after Simon's work with the Teletubbies and Il Divo. I love him for that, but he may have made an enemy of Simon...future episode will tell the tale. (During this exchange, we also had the season's first icky homoerotic moment between Simon and Seacrest. Nothing will make you straighter than watching these two flirt with one another. Gagging.)

Jared Cotter: As pretty as Rogers, Richardson and Blake, but the first of the quartet to try the smoldering crooner approach. I think Brian McKnight's "Back To One" is perhaps the most hackneyed song of the last ten years, but Cotter's voice showed some confidence and depth. The judges criticized him for "playing it safe", but did so gently. Is he the heartthrob of Idol '07? Maybe. He's also tall, which makes Seacrest look like a munchkin.

A.J. Tabaldo: He sang the entirety of Luther Vandross' "Never Too Much" sharp, but he was clearly having a ball. I can't get inspired by him...as Simon said, nothing great, nothing terrible. Very middle of the road. Can he distinguish himself? I don't know. Definitely makes it to the next round.

Phil Stacey: I'm gonna go ahead and say it: he's funny-looking. Bald-headed, shaggy eyebrows and buggy eyes. Does it matter in the Taylor Hicks age? I don't know...he sang the power chords of his ballad, Edwin McCain's "I Could Not Ask For More," with conviction. Randy said he was the best of the night, which stretches it for me...I'd put Lewis, Sligh, and maybe Richardson over him. But he definitely makes it to round two. Round three? Not sure about that.

Best of Night: Blake Lewis
Getting Cut on Thursday: Sundance Head and Sanjaya Malakar (Alternate: Paul Kim)

Your thoughts, Idol fans?



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