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Idol Worship: Best To Worst Of Semifinals Round 1

The season 8 semifinals got off to a shaky start on Tuesday night, leaving us a bit perplexed. Did nerves get the best of the first 12 contenders, or was the Hollywood round a complete farce? Plus, what was up with the half-ass parental pipe in? And the shoddy camera work? And wait, Tatiana Del Toro was actually good?! This two-hour episode of bizzaro Idol was quite the trip, but at the final turn, there were few clear winners and many more wipe-outs. Here are our round one rankings.

1. Danny Gokey: Get used to that name, because we have a feeling he's going to be around for a while — possibly all the way to the final three. There's something about Danny boy, besides his tragic backstory, that gets us all weepy. Maybe it's a natural charm, or his spot-on, seemingly effortless delivery? Simon's not buying the hype right now, but we heretofore proudly declare ourselves Danny disciples. See you all at church next Tuesday.

2. Alexis Grace: While we barely recognized the frumpy single mom from the Louisville auditions, who's since undergone a major transformation that's part Gwen Stefani, part Avril Lavigne, there was no denying that voice. Her uninhibited take on "Never Loved A Man" proved big things really do come in small packages and that Alexis is no dark hose, she's a clear frontrunner. Simon even name-checked Kelly Clarkson so the pressure is on!

3. Ricky Braddy: While Ricky's been under the radar so far, clocking mere seconds in airtime, the buzz had been building online for weeks. So we were happy to find that the rumors were true — Ricky is indeed an undeniable talent with real soul, but we have to agree with Simon that he's lacking in the star quality department. In fact, if you squint your eyes just a touch, Ricky could easily come off as velvety lounge singer. Is that Idol material? We're not sure, but considering Paula's public endorsement of Ricky, we anticipate he'll get another shot. 

4. Tatiana Del Toro: Besides championing Tatiana in their own voting drive, we have a feeling she'll get through this round on talent alone — that's how tragically bad many of her fellow  contestants turned out to be. That said, Tatiana pulled off Whitney, not an easy feat, with only a couple of bumpy patches and no tears or melodrama. A shocking turn in an otherwise snoozy night.

5. Anoop Desai: Even this early in the competition, Anoop has already made a name for himself, impressing judges and viewers alike with his audition and during the Hollywood round. But this is no time to get cocky, and something about Anoop's rendition of Monica's "Angel of Mine" made us think he could use a bit of humility at this point (and an eyebrow trim — desperately). Anoop has shown versatility in his song choices, but now is when you really have to be smart about what you present and how you put it out there.

6. Michael Sarver: The roughneck's turn at Gavin Degraw's "I Don't Wanna Be" was, in a word, rough. We'll give Michael points for letting loose a bit, and take into consideration the episode's spotty mix, but overall, he got through on smile alone. A disappointing show for one of the more promising personalities. 

7. Ann Marie Boskovich: Randy's "there were moments" declaration have been more fitting for Ann Marie, who took the overachiever route and stumbled through Aretha's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." You'd think a little vocal gymnastics wouldn't hurt, but in Ann Marie's case, it most certainly did. Had she sung it straight, or even toned the drama down just a tad, she might have fared better. But we have to agree with Kara's assessment that it all felt old-fashioned.

8. Stephen Fowler: A second (or is it now third?) chance did little to raise Stephen Fowler's game. While he didn't stammer through the lyrics to Michael Jackson's "Rock With You," Stephen's performance felt stale and, dare we say, amateur. Simon called it pointless, and you'd be hard-pressed to recover from that.

9. Jackie Tohn: Charisma aside, we didn't have high hopes for Jackie's progress. And an opening slot at the semifinals may have sealed her fate.  She was cute enough in her spandex and sneaks, no doubt, but Jackie's "A Little Less Conversation" could have used a little less movement and maybe it wouldn't have come off so choppy.

10. Brent Keith: Illustrating an age-long dilemma for country contestants, Brent opted for the hoaky "Hicktown" rather than a revered classic by, say, Johnny Cash or even a softer Keith Urban hit. The result: a shaky performance that seemed never-ending. Granted, the band's weird mix was not helping his situation, but for the most part, we'd have to concur with Simon: Brent may have just blown a massive opportunity (and looked like he was ready to blow a post-judging fuse; We're scared for Wednesday.)

11. Casey Carlson: The Mandy Moore-adorable Casey made an audacious move by gender-bending The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," but with the backing band sounding like a low-rent karaoke track, it all fell apart rather quickly. The judges unanimously declared the song a horrible choice, while Randy cracked, "everything about that was wrong." Winks notwithstanding, it looks like Casey can now blow a final kiss goodbye.

12. Stevie Wright: Ouch. Autotune set to the max wouldn't have saved Stevie from butchering Taylor Swift's "You Belong To Me." Needless to say, this performance was so painful, we don't even care to relive it for another a sentence.

Did you think round one was a bit of a disaster? Who stood out and who bombed?    -- Shirley Halperin

February 18, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink


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When I was in my late teens a friend of mine, an elite athlete, gave me the most profound yet simple advice that changed the way I would view myself forever. He told me "You yourself have to think you're great because no one else is going to tell you that you are."

Posted by: tiffany silver | Jan 4, 2010 9:39:33 PM

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