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Idol Worship: Best To Worst Of Semifinals Round 2

It was another shaky week for American Idol as the second batch of Season 8 Top 12 contenders turned out to be just as disorienting as the first. Too bad, really, considering the episode's theme was this  magazine's very own Hot 100 chart. But we take back an earlier thought about the split of the three groups. Originally, we worried that each bunch was too talent-heavy. That's turning out not to be the case.

Good or bad, we had even more fun watching this week because we simultaneously taped a webisode of Jon Peter Lewis' new Idol show, American Nobody. Indeed, the season three contestant cringed with every syllable out of Paula's mouth and didn't mince words when it came to the contestants, either. As for us, we were simply left perplexed (see for yourself when the show hits the web this weekend). So with some trepidation, we present our Top 12  ranking of semifinals week two. And we have to say, that wild card round couldn't come soon enough.

1. Allison Irahetta: Allison really had the ultimate winning moment on Wednesday's show, as millions undoubtedly responded the same way we did: where did this girl come from? She can absolutely belt with the best of them, and while her social/interviewing skills could use some sharpening, Allison is one of those rare, out-of-nowhere contenders that could really shake up the competition. And to that, we say hallelujah!  

2. Adam Lambert: To put it simply: we don't know how much of Adam Lambert we can take. And if over-the-top, screamy, melodramatic performances become de rigeur on Idol, we fear for our ears once we get in that Top 12 studio audience. But compared to the rest of his semifinal mates, there's no doubt Adam's the top male contender. We've said it before, if he curbs the Broadway a bit, this contest is his to lose.    

3. Kris Allen: Another new face (and one of the finest, we might add), another so-so song. The as-yet-unknown Kris was a competent enough vocalist, but were it not for his good looks, and he might be a goner. We're pulling for him, though. Give the guy his guitar back and let's see if there's some cool in there.

4. Mishavanna Henson: The late-show surprise passed like a baton from the vivacious Mishavanna to the flamboyant Adam Lambert, both great singers in the technical sense. Sure, Mishavanna may have lacked in stage presence department, but there's no question the girl can sing. Now she just has to actually impress us.    

5. Megan Joy Corkrey: Beautiful girl with awesome tattoos and a sultry, distinct voice... were it not for her awkward Elaine from Seinfeld-like dance moves, she'd be the full package. But Megan did have some shaky moments in her attempt at Corinne Bailey Rae, and despite Simon's crush and America's penchant for forgiveness, we worry about her. Still, we think she'll get through.  

6. Jesse Langseth: While it would be nice to say Jesse could be a dark horse, because we happened to love her sass and style, her newcomer status doesn't bode well and we fear she may end up one of the forgotten. Still, we thought her twist on the timeless "Bette Davis Eyes" was a performance to remember.  

7. Kai Kalama: We actually got a little snoozy during Kai's performance, which was such a disappointment after hailing him as was one of our favorites from the San Francisco auditions. Is he too old-fashioned for Idol or simply too old?

8. Nick Mitchell: Seeing Norman Gentle dry hump the American Idol logo was one of the show's most memorable moments ever, right up there with Sanjaya's fauxhawk. We love this guy to death, he makes us laugh, and we think he should get his own Vegas show stat. But come on, it's time to exit the Idol stage, Nick and Norman. 

9. Matt Breitzke: We knew a 90s revival was eminent, but Matt's Breitzke's Daughtry-inspired take on Tonic's "If You Could Only See" was just plain dull. And really, there's only room for one burly male on any given season. Since Michael Sarver clinched that spot last week, Matt might be SOL.

10. Matt Giraud: No doubt the biggest disappointment of the night, as far as we were concerned. Though we have to give Matt points for attempting something current like Coldplay. But in butchering "Viva La Vida," Matt's whole Justin Timberlake vibe evaporated in an instant, and that was supposed to be his meal ticket. It was aggravating, but here's hoping there's a wild card spot for this guy. We know Paula loves him, that's gotta help, right? 

11. Jasmine Murray:
What happened? We had such high hopes for young Jasmine from Mississippi. We were convinced she was Top 5 material. We believed in her every step of the way. But a so-so "Love Song" that, essentially, fell apart at the end, may have sealed her fate. Such a shame.

12. Janine Vailes: We hate to say it, but there was evidently a reason little-known Janine Vailes stayed "under the radar" so long. It's called mediocrity. We couldn't agree with Randy more — the best part of hearing her sing "This Love" was the end because it meant it was over.

What do you think of the semifinals so far? Who of these hopefuls has true Idol potential and who's riding on looks and charm?

February 26, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Idol Worship: Clay Aiken Dropped?

Leave it to a homepage overhaul to alert the gossip world that Clay Aiken has been dropped. But that's apparently exactly what happened when RCA refreshed its roster on the label's official web site and the American Idol season two runner-up was nowhere to be found. A source tells Billboard Aiken was indeed dropped, but it happened a couple of months ago. An RCA representative was not immediately available for comment.

Aiken now joins a slew of second place finishers — Katharine McPhee, Diana DeGarmo, Justin Guarini, Blake Lewis and Bo Bice, among them — let go from their major label deals post-Idol. (McPhee, however, recently signed with Universal's Verve label.) Last season's David Archuleta, who's on Sony's Jive Records, remains in good standing, with his debut already certified gold, but then again, Aiken's went double platinum. Of course, 2003 was a different time and not even Idol is recession-proof.

Will Aiken land elsewhere? We'll keep you updated on what we hear.    -- Shirley Halperin

February 20, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Idol Worship: Jason Mraz On 'I'm Yours' Group Number

Idol is giving a lot of love to Jason Mraz so far this season. First, Jackie Tohn auditioned with "I'm Yours" back in January, and on Wednesday's show, they made a group number out of his chart-topping hit. So what did Mraz, who's headed to Seoul, South Korea tomorrow for the start of a two month-long world tour, think of the first 12's effort? We asked, and, after finding the footage on Youtube, he answered:

Jason Mraz: "When watching it, I felt like I woke up from a dream, disoriented, and the TV was still on, playing a movie-musical I’d never seen — a mash-up between Xanadu, Saved by the Bell, and Grease 2. But don’t get me wrong, I am honored to play a role in this festival of enthusiasm. And I’m always open to hearing new interpretations as it gives me renewal, offering new suggestions for my own live take on it. I love how the ladies held lengthy whole notes through the end choruses. I’m likely to start doing that. I’ll also ask more of my band members to start singing, because I love the group participation, although our audiences do a keen job at singing louder than we do. "

Maybe we should start a series of artist reactions — what could we call it?   -- Shirley Halperin

February 20, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Idol Worship: Jon Peter Lewis On Jackie Tohn

Perhaps the most memorable American Idol spin on "A Little Less Conversation" came courtesy of season three's Jon Peter Lewis, who got through the wild card round with his high-energy performance of the Elvis classic back in 2004. So what did he think of Jackie Tohn's jumpy stab at the song last night? We asked, and he answered: 

"Ehhhhhhh... I obviously don't own the song 'A Little Less Conversation,' nor am I even the one who made it famous, but singing it was one of the highlights of my Idol Journey and watching Jackie Tohn perform it brought back a few memories. I don't think she was terrible, but of course I'm partial to the way I did it. Plus, I'm glad it was her wearing the spandex and not me."

You can hear more of JPL's take on season 8 on his new Idol web show, American Nobody. Check it out this weekend at And who knows, maybe we'll make a special guest appearance on a future episode...

-- Shirley Halperin

February 18, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

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 | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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