Last night on AI, the Top 12 girls got to perform for America's votes for the first time. And I'm guessing that most of them really hate Simon and the gang because they seemed to be in on some sinister plan to make the judges look stupid by disproving their constant assertions that this year's group of women is the STRONGEST EVER.
And because these women are SO GREAT, THEY CANNOT BE CONSTRAINED BY THEMES! So, they were just allowed to sing anything that ever charted. Whee.
Paige Miles was up first, which immediately didn't bode well for her. I mean, she got zero face time during the audition process and she was in the death spot on the first elimination round. Then she ate a whole box of crazy and decided to do Free's "All Right Now." Doesn't she remember what I (rhetorically) asked David Cook when he chose this song? Who covers Paul muthahumpin' Rodgers?? The only difference was that Cookie actually did a really good job. Paige's version was just aight for me, dawgs. It was a little too loud. (Translation: Randy loved it.) I will give her props for not changing any of the shes to hes, because I've never been a fan of the cheesy gender-switching cover songs. (Remember Syesha's "Me and Mr. Jones? Ugh.) But I wonder if that was Paige's reason too, or if she was trying to play up a lesbian angle to please Ellen. Or maybe she's really a lesbian. Whatever the case, I wasn't wowed by her. Simon still insisted that she had the best voice of all the girls, but that she shouldn't have picked such a "wedding singer" song. On the flip side, Kara liked the song choice. And, as always, Randy kind of agreed with them both. And he thought Paige blew the doors off the joint. (It remains to be seen if that's better or worse than blowing it out the box.) Ellen, well, she just thought it was great. More of this to come.
Next up was Ashley Rodriguez with Leona Lewis' "Happy." Ohhhhh, so that's who sings that annoying song! I should have known. Sadly, Ashley made me yearn for Leona's original by trying desperately to imitate everyone from J. Lo to Alicia Keys. On another sad note, I found myself agreeing with Kara, who told Ashley that she should try to take on more unexpected songs. Randy said the same thing in a much longer, and more confusing way. Ellen and Simon chimed in and agreed that the performance was predictable and clumsy. Simon even guessed that Ashley might be in danger of being booted.
Janell Wheeler helped with Idol's mission to leave no Heart song untapped by performing "What About Love." And while I was happy that it was at least something other than the 650th cover of "Alone," I was not happy that Janell turned my favorite Heart song into a bad cruise ship number. Randy didn't like the song choice but said he "still had vibes" for Janell. Ellen did like the song, and only thought a couple of notes were off. Simon thought that Janell gave "100% effort but delivered 65%," but still liked her voice in a few spots. Kara pointed out that the lead singer of Heart was Ann Wilson. Yay! Kara knows something! Just don't ask her to name an early Aerosmith song.
In her video package, Lilly Scott tried to jump on the VSC train by talking about how she used to live in her car. (She'd better watch it or Josiah Leming will try to slap her with sob story copyright infringement.) Hmm. I liked her better before she put on the poor mouth. I liked her better during the audition process too, because her version of The Beatles' "Fixing A Hole" wasn't that great. It wasn't horrible; it was just there. However, all the judges loved her. Randy gave me my first big laugh of the night by calling Lilly "a real indie artist." Come on. First of all, if Lilly were a REAL indie artist, she wouldn't be on American Idol. Secondly, this show is about finding a commodity that can be sold on a major label. And that, coupled with the fact that she'll probably keep picking songs like this that none of the tweentard voters know, is why she'll never win. But she'll probably stick around for a while.
Oh! Katelyn Epperly appeared dressed as an '80s prostitute to sing The Beatles' "Oh! Darling." Didn't anyone tell her this wasn't a costume party? She had kind of a cool, raspy voice, but it seemed like she was trying too hard. Simon looked her up and down and said a few negatives but quickly followed up with "But I like you...quirky...interesting." (Translation: Simon had a boner.) Kara said that Katelyn "knew her voice well," but then told her that she didn't think the makeover was helping. Oh! Snap! Kara and I were on the same page again. God, I hate that! Randy gave one of his more eloquent critiques: "I think you can go places and do stuff." Oh! God! People still pay him to say things? Ellen agreed with my assessment that Katelyn was "pushing" too much, but thought her voice was great.
Ryan stepped in to ask Katelyn if there had been a little word bubble above her head when Kara made the "makeover" comment, what it would have said. Katelyn just jibber jabbered about her different styles, but Kara said she knew what the word bubble would have said: "BITCH." Kara actually made me smile. What the eff...first I'm agreeing with her and now I'm enjoying her comments? What's next? We're going to start hanging out at Studio 57 together? Someone, please hold me! I'm scared.
Haeley Vaughn took the stage to sing the third Beatles' song in a row, "I Want To Hold Your Hand." I should have used my hand to shut the TV off at this point. Good Lord, that girl is annoying. She's like one of those pageant kids all grown up. Not to mention, she can't sing worth a damn. It's okay to mention that, right? We're still pretending this is a singing competition, yes? Kara, Randy and Ellen all tried to sugar coat their critiques, and Randy and Ellen made sure to remind Haeley that she's only 16. (I'm starting to think they are contractually obligated to mention any 16- or 17-year-old contestant's age at least once per show.) Simon was the only one who got real, by telling Haeley that it was "verging on terrible," and comparing her to a "wind-up doll that never stopped smiling." Ahhh, the truth. It's so wonderful. But when Si called the performance "a mess," Ellen tried to make things better by proclaiming, "If it was a mess, it was a hot mess." Yeah, exactly. I don't think she really knows what that term means.
Another contestant that didn't get much face time during the auditions was Lacey Brown, who lost a spot in last year's Top 24 to Lady Caw Caw, Megan Joy. Diss Megan all you want, but it became immediately apparent why Lacey didn't make it last year — quite simply, she wasn't very good. Her version of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" was sluggish and off-key. It's kind of funny to think about how the judges have been hyping this group of girls as the BEST EVER, yet the group includes a reject from last year. Whatever. Randy threw down the first "pitchy" card of the season, while Ellen would only say that Lacey was "better than that." Simon thought the performance was "depressing" and "indulgent," but made up for Paula's absence by throwing in a compliment about Lacey's appearance: "You have nice eyes." Kara thought "Landslide" was the wrong song. Then she actually suggested that Lacey sing something by Sixpence None The Richer. What?? Okay, that's the Kara I know and hate. We will not be hanging out at Studio 57 together any time soon. Seriously, who would think covering Sixpence None The Richer is a good idea? Who even acknowledges that they exist?
Michelle Delamor surprised no one by covering Alicia Keys' "Fallin'," and even though it wasn't that original, she gave one of the better performances of the evening. Ellen thought Michelle was great, fantastic and amazing. Simon liked Michelle's performance (and her bod), but didn't think there was any "wow" moment. KaRandy wanted her to get out of her comfort zone. So, I guess that means no Vanessa Williams covers next week. (See what I did there? Har har har.)
I was already prepared to hate Didi Benami's performance, and she did nothing to make me change those plans. The irony of her singing Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am" in such an affected manner was not lost on me. And though I'm usually a fan of irony, this performance just plain pissed me off. Simon said if he shut his eyes, he could confuse Didi with 3 or 4 of the other singers, who are all trying to sound like Adele and Duffy. Kara tried to stick up for Didi a little bit, probably because she sang one of her songs during Hollywood Week. Randy and Ellen thought Didi's first impression was too "sleepy" and "low-key."
Siobhan Magnus, whom I predicted to be this year's "one to watch," justified my statement with a terrific and unexpected version of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game." Kara said that Siobhan was the most "real" contestant because she lost herself in the performance. Randy babbled on for a while to basically say that he hopes Siobhan will sing louder in the future. Ellen loved it. Thought it was really great. Simon called Siobhan a "funny little thing," because her song choice was unpredictable. Then Siobhan spoke in a really odd monotone that nearly put Simon into a trance.
Crystal Bowersox pretty much admitted that she only signed up for AI to make tons of money to take care of her kid. Ahh, the truth. When Seacrest announced that she was doing Alanis Morissette's "Hand in My Pocket," I immediately cringed because I imagined being assaulted by a horrible, nasally Alanis impression. How can you blame me when just about every other girl did bad impressions of the artists they covered? But Crystal gave the song a much more roots-rock feel. If I would have to accuse her of impersonating anyone, it would be Melissa Etheridge or one of the Indigo Girls. Or Neil Young, considering she did the whole guitar/harmonica thing. Randy and Ellen loved Crystal's "honesty." Kara thought she was merely "good," but had "greatness" in her. Simon said she wasn't that original because "there are thousands of you doing this outside subway stations at the moment." I'm not sure what his point was. As if that's any worse than the thousands of pop tarts being churned out by the music industry. With the help of shows like this, of course.
Unsurprisingly, Katie Stevens got the pimp spot with "Feeling Good" by...Michael Buble?? Was that a joke?? I know she didn't write it (or even perform it first), but I think most people would attribute that song to Nina Simone. Anyway, Katie has a lovely voice. We all know this. But this time around, she was just good. Not great. Not "Ellen great." I was sure that the judges would give her a tongue bath anyway, but they all kind of ganged up on her. Almost more so than I thought she deserved. Simon thought Katie looked like she was dressed by her mom and dad and that her performance was "annoying" and "pageanty." Everyone else fulfilled their obligation by reminding Katie that she was 17. And apparently, they really thought that she forgot, because they kept telling her to BE 17. Yes, Katie, please be 17 so Randy has something to talk about every week.
The Top 12 guys perform tonight. And I'm going to go out on a limb and say that they can't possibly be more boring than this group of girls. (I don't know why I tempt fate like this.) Hey, Seacrest, tell me again how this is going to be THE BEST SEASON EVER!!
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