American Idol 8: First Group of Semi-Finalists

Tonight, we take our first steps towards picking Idol's Top 12. It's often said that now is when the "real" show begins, so you may be wondering what the hell I've been writing about for the past month. Well, truth be told, a lot of the early auditions were more entertaining than the performances this evening. With that in mind, I hope you're ready for tonight's recap! Go get your Snuggie on. Time to curl up on the couch with this nice, steaming hot cup of suck.

The theme for tonight is Top 10 songs from whenever. You'd think it would be easy for every contestant to pick a perfect song out of that sea of tunes. Yeah. You'd think. Hey! Stop thinking! We're watching American Idol!

Up first is Jackie Tohn with her version of Elvis' "A Little Less Conversation." I think I mentioned before that I despise Jackie, mostly because she reminds me of someone I know and can't stand. The beauty of the person I actually know is that I don't have to see her that often. Unfortunately, Idol keeps shoving this Jackie broad in my face and telling me that I'm supposed to find her kooky and funny. Well, I find her neither, but you know who really thinks Jackie is a riot? Jackie! If we could hear her thoughts, it would be a stream of constant me-isms. "Look at me, I'm ca-raaazy! Watch me dancin'! Woo! I'm a fun chick! I'm a free spirit! Look at my spandex pants! Oh snap, I'm wearing a bustier! Who does that? Me, that's who! 'Cause I'm AWESOME! Get a load of this red belt!! That thing is scha-weeet! I'm gettin' my Elvis on! Watch me go! Watch me! Me! MEEEE! I, I, I, Me, Me, ME! I'm AWESOME! Yeah! The hipsters won't let me in the Williamsburg bars anymore since I joined this show, so please let me stay in Hollywood!! Vote for Jackie! That's ME! I'm Jackie! I'm AWESOME! Woooooo!!"


Aaaaanyway, the judges all totally buy into Jackie's "cool chick" act and praise her performance skills while skating around the obvious fact that her vocals are pretty awful. Oh, and those "performance skills?" Pretty awful also. My roommate thought she was trying to do some old Rod Stewart dance moves.

Ricky Braddy is next - a guy we never really saw in Hollywood and who has one too many Ds in his last name. He has no shot. Making it even worse for the poor guy is the fact that he can actually sing really well. It doesn't matter though, because as good as the pipes are, he's just completely forgettable. He's like another Elliott Yamin...except that Elliott finished 3rd and Ricky probably isn't getting into the Top 12 unless he's a wild card pick. All the judges love him, but Simon agrees with me about his lack of "star quality." The good news for Ricky though is that he is the 1,000th contestant to sing "A Song For You!" For that, he gets a $1,000 shopping spree at the Coca Cola store.

Alexis Grace whines some more about being away from her baby before taking the stage. I'm not being a jerk, it's just that every time I see this girl, she's crying about having to be away from her baby. No one is holding a gun to her head. She made the decision. She also made the decision to add pink streaks to her hair and to "dirty herself up." No, no...I'm sorry. That wasn't her decision, it was the judges'. She just did what they all told her to do at her first audition. She's singing Aretha Franklin's "Never Loved a Man," and she's pretty good. There are a few bad notes here and there, and she makes some ghoulish faces when she's singing, but overall this is a good performance. Randy says she "worked it out" and a bunch of other Dawgisms no one understands. He, Kara, and Paula all basically praise Pinky for taking all of their style tips to heart and becoming someone else for them. Kara whips out the first double entendre of the night by marveling at how such a petite girl like Alexis can have something so large inside her. Simon calls Alexis the "one to watch," and then compares her to Kelly Clarkson at the same exact moment I'm thinking, "She's okay, but she's no Kelly Clarkson."

Ted Danson (who doesn't look a day under 80) and Doogie Howser are sitting in the front row. What are they doing there? Do they have a FOX show to promote? Isn't Doogie's new show on ABC? Oooh, maybe they're creating a spin-off of House called Howser. Now, that's a show I would watch.

Brent Keith claims that he and his wife are living "paycheck to paycheck," yet I've heard things about him that suggest that he has connections in the industry and is not as bad off as he is letting on. Strike one. Then he takes the stage to sing "Hicktown," a song I loathe. Strike two. He is very boring, his voice isn't that good, and he's not as good-looking as lonely Southern housewives seem to think he is. Foul ball, foul tip, strike three. Kara and Paula continue their game of letting Randy pick a buzzword, and then using it as the basis for their critique. For Brent, the buzzword is "safe." Simon, who always brings his own bag of adjectives, calls Brent unoriginal and forgettable. Brent tries to backsass Si a bit, but even his back-talk is boring.

One of my early favorites from the auditions, 16-year-old Stevie Wright, opts to sing Taylor Swift's "You Belong to Me," because it's a "fun, youthful" song, and she's concerned about Simon's past comments that she is too old-fashioned. Ugh, I can't believe that I just admitted that this girl was an early favorite of mine. This is like having to sit through a 6th grade talent show, and Stevie's not my kid. It starts off horribly. It doesn't get any better. I'm not sure one note is in tune. Worst of all, her performance is actually making me appreciate Taylor Swift. The judges (except Simon, who always takes the direct route) try to gently tell her that she just blew any shot at getting in the Top 12, and Kara makes sure to remind her that she screwed herself by listening too hard to Simon's advice. Woops! Too bad!

Are Ted and Doogie even watching the show? Are they wax figures? Their vacant stares are really starting to creep me out.

Back in the interview room, Ryan is very sweet and supportive with Stevie. Why does he do this? Every time I want to hate on Ryan, he does something to make me really like him. Jeez. Y'know, with no man candy this year and Simon's weed-whacked flat-top out of control, Seacrest may very well end up the object of my (unwanted) affections this year.

Anoop Desai breaks out "Angel of Mine," a Monica song I had forgotten all about. It's kind of nice to hear it, and refreshing to hear something that hasn't been done to death on AI for a change, but I'm not sure it's the best song choice for him. He's got a really nice voice, but I liked him better when he was a little goofy. Randy has mad love for Anoop Dogg, but thinks he was a little sharp. Kara brings out entendre #2 by telling Anoop he didn't nail her it the way she it needs to be nailed. Paula played Stuart Smalley and told Anoop that everyone likes him. Simon agrees that Anoop is very likable but, like me, feels the song choice was a little too "grown-up" and serious for him.

Ah, my girl crush, Casey Carlson is looking very Zeta-Jonesy tonight. But before I can say "lez be friends," she sends me hurtling back into hetero-land with a ridiculous version of "Every Little Thing She He Does Is Magic." I haven't seen this many cheesy faces and jerky "dance" movements since William Hung. Oh, Lord. Someone has to bring out the cruise ship comparison on this one. Let's see...well, every judge begins by reminding Casey of how gorgeous she is, as if she doesn't know. Randy says it was weird, Kara says everything was wrong with the performance, Paula says it didn't work, and Simon reached into his bag and pulled out "atrocious." No cruise ship? Oh, come ON! If ever there was a time for that critique, it's now. Ah well, maybe Casey should be on a cruise ship. She certainly looks good in a bikini. She's the REAL Bikini Girl!

Five more contestants to go. Urrgh. Just remember, people - everything I do, I do it for you.

Michael Sarver serves up an AI usual with Gavin DeGraw's "I Don't Want to Be." It's The judges look panicked because Michael was one of their golden boys from the auditions. Ted Danson looks confused. Randy and Kara say it wasn't Michael's best performance, but seem willing to give him a pass. Paula's meds are kicking in, so she tells Michael that he did a good job. Simon acts very un-Simonlike by glossing over the problems with the performance and tries his best to convince the audience that Michael is a good guy who needs a break, stopping just short of holding up a "Vote 4 Michael" sign.

All during Ann Marie Boskovich's performance of "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," I keep hoping that Anoop Desai will pop up to do the backing vocals. Come on, sing it with me:

Looking out on the morning rain (Anoop!)...I used to feel so uninspired (Anoop!)

It's hardly my fault that I'm so distracted. Ann Marie is pretty dull. She's off pitch and sounds out of breath. The only thing I like is her dress. The judges aren't feeling it either, and Randy puts it best with a "Yo yo yo"/deep sigh combination. Kara, who has been telling people what they should sing, wear, think, and be all night long, tells Ann Marie that she should have sung something like Sarah Bareilles' "Love Song" instead of an Aretha classic, to which A-M Bosko replies, "Oh, like something not as good?" Everyone laughs nervously as they try to remember if Kara actually wrote that song. (She didn't.)

Back in the interview room, Ann Marie steals Kara's innuendo thunder by plopping down on the couch and declaring, "Ooh, I sat right on the hard part," causing Ryan to completely lose his train of thought.

Another of my early favorites, Stephen Fowler, is up next to sing Michael Jackson's "Rock With You." I'm just going to quit dubbing people my "early favorites," because so far they're disappointing the hell out of me. There's still something I like about the guy, but he sounded much better during his auditions - even in the one where he forgot all of the words. Kara agrees with me, but that doesn't mean that I like her any better. Simon wishes Stephen had forgotten the lyrics this time around, and calls the performance "pointless and corny." Randy and Paula contribute nothing interesting.

Finally, it's the gal everyone's been waiting for - Tatiana Del Toro! It seems that mostly everyone on the Internetz hates her except for VFTW and little ol' me. I thought she was really annoying in her first audition, but her insanity won me over and I'm finding myself really rooting for her now. She sings Whitney's "Saving All My Love For You," and does a nice job. I don't care how nuts the girl is, she can actually sing. But, of course, the judges were expecting her to fail from the get-go, so they can't even give her the credit she deserves. Randy makes the new buzzword "moments," and each judge proceeds to hem and haw about how Tatiana only had some nice "moments" in her performance. Then they quickly change the subject by complaining that she's not acting crazy enough tonight, so they're not sure who she is. So what? Tatiana doesn't even know who she is from day to day, but that doesn't mean she's not entertaining.

In the pimp spot tonight is Danny Gokey, which is no surprise and, I'm sure, no simple "luck of the draw." It takes him all of two seconds to bring up his deceased wife again in his video interview, and then explains that he's singing Mariah Carey's "Hero," because it will help people look to his "situation" and find strength to get through their own problems. Sooo, he's a hero because he tried out for American Idol a month after his wife passed away? I guess he's the first person to ever lose a loved one. Whatever. I'll get to my issues with that in a minute. On to the performance. Other than a little heavy breathing, Danny sounds really good. Definitely one of the better vocals tonight, but not worthy of mass hysteria. But that's exactly what ensues. Oh my God, it's like the producers paid off the entire audience! As soon as he's done singing, the whole place erupts as if Danny had just disarmed a bomb in the studio. Three of the judges go completely apeshit (you can guess which one didn't), and Kara does her version of the Meg Ryan fake orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally. Randy ridiculously dubs Danny "The Redeemer of the Night," while P-Ab gives us a classic Paulaism with, "I have two words...with a hyphen...'sold-out arenas.'" After everyone is done reaching Nirvana, Simon drills through the wall of boos trying to keep him out by saying, "It wasn't fantastic, but it was good. I like you; I'm just not buying the hype yet." I'm surprised he wasn't immediately stoned by all of the Gokelytes in the audience, including BFF Jamar.

Okay, so here's my problem with Danny. He was another of my "early favorites" (they're all doomed) and even in the running to be the "man candy" of the season, due to the lack of anyone better and his slight resemblance to Robert Downey, Jr. However, it sickens me every time his dead wife is mentioned which, at this point, is about once every 14.3 seconds. Clearly, the producers love his sob story and intend to milk it and profit from it as much as they can. I don't think that Danny himself is exploiting his loss, but I always find it a bit unsettling when people eagerly spill their most private information on national TV.

And then, of course, there was the comment directed at Simon when he didn't slobber all over Danny like everyone else - that he must be heartless. Really? So, they're admitting that Danny's story is more important than his talent? And I'm not saying that he's not talented, because he is. But he is not this blinding brilliant light from Heaven like TPTB would have us believe.

There is no Danny anymore, only "The Widower," a character that the show has created. If we don't love him, we're cruel and unfeeling. It's like he could go up on stage and slaughter a Panda, and everyone would still fall all over themselves to tell him how great he is.

Danny's a lock. The top male and female will go on to the Top 12, along with the person who places third in the ranking. So now, it's up to the voters to decide which two contestants not named Danny will make it through to the finals.

My prediction for the Top 3 is: Danny (DUH), Alexis, and...Tatiana! Yes! Crazy Tat has the undying support of VFTW, and I even voted for her a few times. Everyone else was either awful, boring, or a Chosen One who doesn't need votes to make it through.

Tomorrow night will be THE BEST RESULTS SHOW EVER!! And no, Seacrest didn't tell me to say that. I say it because Michael Johns will be on! Unfortunately, he won't be alone - they're making him duet with Carly the Screamer. But who cares. A little bit of Michael is better than none at all.


Anonymous said…
Totally agree with your pics. I was SO disappointed when Steven Fowler sang, I thought he was better than that.
Anonymous said…
Yep, I think you got the top three right.

Last nights show was nothing short of brutal... maybe the worst two hours of Idol ever... even if two of those hours were composed by putting all the Ford videos back to back.

Anoop really disappointed me last night. We need him to be fun, not uber-sincere.

Brent Keith was only the third worst singer last night (behind Stevie and Casey) but he was easily the most loathsome, between his awful song choice and then his pathetically bowed-up response to criticism.

Fingers crossed that the next show will be better than this one, I'm not sure America can take another one of these.
Anonymous said…
Tatiana is my hero!
Anonymous said…
Last night's show was hardly the worst 2 hours of Idol -- it was actually quite average for the first live performances. Some good singing, some choking with early picks falling by the wayside.

It's been this way since Season 1. The mystery is how viewers are still surprised when they don't get 12 stellar performances that bring tears to their eyes.
Falwless said…
I have to admit I was disappointed with pretty much the whole show. But my boy Gokey did me proud.

And as far as Jackie's outfit, what the fuck was that? Seriously. Effing terrible. Was she worried she wouldn't have time to change before her jazzercise class?
Anonymous said…
I wish that Tatiana had a much better voice, because she out-divas Mariah and Whitney combined. I want her to be wildly successful just so I can enjoy laughing at her when she's changing multiple ensembles on Mtv Cribs or having a total breakdown on live tv.
Red said…
I was pissed about that Braddy guy. He was, hands down, the best vocalist of the night, but will go no where because we've never seen him before. Lame.

I still love Anoop. Everyone at has mad love for him so I hope he makes it through (if not tonight, I'm sure he'll be back for the Wild Card show). Really, it should be Danny, Anoop and Ricky, but I'm guessing Danny, Tatiana and Anoop.

And thank God we never have to see Jackie again...ever...
Unknown said…
Hey! "lonely Southern housewives" I resemble that remark! I did think Brent was quite the hottie. Hottest of the night. I'm with you on the Danny thing. I just wish they could level the playing field before the voting starts. Danny gets over an hour of on screen pre-voting time and Ricky get what? Ten seconds on the last show if that? I keep on forgetting that Idol isn't about being fair. A girl can dream. Sorry about Casey, that was disappointing.
It's good to know that there is at least one crybaby in the group. You need those to sacrifice in the event of an emergency.
Anonymous said…
I like alexis for the female slot, and think (with VFTW hard a work) you're right about tatiana making the cut as the third-highest vote getter. anoop could give her a real run for her money though.

I agree with your danny analysis - he's pimped to be the choice. ricky braddy sang just fine, better really than danny. maybe ricky gets in on the wild card round. or maybe not. he's just not that well-known.

my guess on wild card: michael sarver, anne marie, and anoop.
Mike said…
OMG MICHAEL J! Wow. Must see TV.

Agree with all you said. sorry to lockstep into what you write...its just true.
Anonymous said…
Casey Carlson's bikini pics = having to tell myself over and over again, "I'm STRAIGHT! I'm STRAIGHT! ... Damn she's hot... I'm STRAIGHT!"

Is there such a thing as only being bi-curious about select members of the same sex?
Fancy Schmancy said…
For once, I agreed with Simon every step of the way.

If this was a rational, logical show, Ricky, Alexis and Danny will make it through, with Anoop and Maybe Crazy Tatiana as wildcards.

The rest was a suck-fest.
Anonymous said…
Hey, I've been a Tatiana fan since Day 1! My initial picks before the show began were Danny, Tatiana and Anoop, but I replaced Tatiana with Alexis after the show. I hope my initial picks turn out to be correct. Alexis annoys me.
Claire said…
Awesome! And I cannot believe that anyone sang a Taylor Swift song. I saw four magazine covers featuring Miss Swift at the grocery store yesterday, and she projected cow-eyed total vacancy in each one. Ugh.
Dave said…
If I were a girl, even without Casey's bikini pix, I'd go gay for her.
I'm SO with you on the Widower Gokey. And the problem is that I want him to go home through no (okay, some) fault of his own.

I think Alexis, Danny, and (God help me) Tatiana deserve to advance, and I think they will. Ricky Braddy has the best pure voice, but he's about as exciting as a glass of warm milk and sang a godawful song.

Finally, the Anoop love mystifies me. He's awkward and has the worst taste in music of these people. Hands down.