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Wednesday, February 28, 2007


American Idolatry: Simon Says

In week two of the semi-finals on American Idol, we didn't learn very much about the male singers...but we did learn a lot about the judges and producers, who worked overtime on behalf of their favorites. From the tear-inducing personal clips to the overextended praise of the judges, here's how we saw it going down:

Phil Stacey: One thing that is already clear is that the Idol producers love this guy, and want him to make the top 12. Last week, he got the coveted final slot; this week, he got to sing first. His b-roll video was so patriotic it could have been a commercial for the U.S. Army. Personally, I still don't see what the fuss is all about; he's disconcertingly freakish looking, his voice is pleasant but uninspiring, and his song choice -- John Waite's "Missing You" -- well, let's just say it's not exactly a masterpiece of lyrical complexity. He's definitely in for next week, but only because the producers are giving him a serious assist.

Jared Cotter: Cotter looked like a million bucks in his suit-and-tennis-shoes, and his version of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" was pretty good. (And that's coming from me, an enormous Marvin fan.) The sexiest of the contestants, he got only middling comments from the judges. But in the first two weeks, Cotter has gone from an also-ran to one of the few male Idols to watch.

A.J. Tabaldo: The only word I can come up with to describe his musical texture: "oatmeal." Bland, uninteresting wallpaper of sound. I'm full, thank you. No seconds for me.

Sanjaya Malakar: An embarrassing, eye-averting disaster. The costume, including a fake fedora and pimp shirt, made him look weird and vaguely disturbing...like Michael Jackson without the talent. His chosen song, "Steppin' Out With My Baby", showed all the weaknesses in his gentle but unimpressive voice. Sanjaya is a sweetheart, and I always have a soft spot for the effeminate boys, who usually get creamed by Simon Cowell for their lack of machismo. His only prayer is for more of that sympathy vote often bestowed on youngsters on this show.

Chris Sligh: Clearly worried about any voter fallout he may have incurred during his tiff with Simon last week, Chris Sligh has been chaste and genteel since then. His song dedication to his surprisingly gorgeous wife was sweet and endearing; his vocal performance was again the most original and creative of the night. It would be a shock to see him not make it to the final 12...but he'll have to starting wowing the audience if he wants to make the final four.

Nicholas Pedro: The breathy Rat Packer offered up a version of the classic "Fever" that was a little too high for him, but the judges didn't seem to notice. During the judging, Simon said Nicholas lacks charisma, but the squealing teenage girls didn't seem to notice. My take? He's a solid, middle-of-the-pack contestant who did enough to be safe for another week. But can he win? I'm skeptical.

Blake Lewis: Now heeeeeeere's something interesting. After slowing down last week, Lewis comes full force with Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity", singing it solid while dancing, beatboxing, scatting, and ending with a falsetto coda. It's easily one of the most accomplished performances ever on Idol, in any season; not perfect, of course, but adventurous and exciting. Randy goes apeshit for it, Paula agrees...and Simon decides to piss all over it, claiming it is derivative of Jamiroquai's original performance. Which is kind of like saying that Jennifer Hudson is derivative of Jennifer Holliday -- sure, there's a similarity because it's the same song. But the performance is unique and different. The best of the night again, but Simon is out for blood. Will his criticism stick with the voters? I think not.

Brandon Rogers: A touching dedication to his grandmother, his version of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" was shaky in spots, but generally heartfelt and exquisitely tender. Simon Cowell trashed it and Brandon's grandmother, clearly stating a preference for style over substance. I'm not sure if that says anything about Brandon's chances to stay this week, but I will say this -- never has Simon Cowell, in all six seasons of Idol, been more full of piping hot shit.

Chris Richardson: Speaking of style over substance, Richardson inexplicably dedicated a Jason Mraz dance number to his grandma, which included lyrics suggesting things that, if done with his grandmother, would constitute incest. But he's cute, white, and poppy, which is Simon's bill of fare. He'll be around for quite a while...maybe we'll learn if he's actually got talent by then.

Sundance Head: The judges lost their collective shit over Sundance's stomping version of "Mustang Sally", saying that the guy they saw in the original auditions 'was back.' That sounds like a little bit of CYA on their part, since he's sucked royally for the last few weeks. I wasn't very impressed by his performance; pushing too hard and desperate for votes, it was adequate at most. But since the judges (and clearly, the producers) love him, don't expect him to leave this week.

Best of Night: Blake Lewis
Getting Cut on Thursday: Sanjaya Malakar and A.J. Tabaldo (Alternate: Brandon Rogers)



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