Some of you commenters were predicting that this would be the most competitive group of the Top 36, and I thought "Yeah, that's what I thought about the other two groups until they sucked ass." I don't know if I'd go so far as to say this group sucked ass, but it certainly failed to deliver. To me it was the most boring of the last three weeks.
We began with Von Smith, who we may remember from being a tad theatrical and screamy with his singing. He attempted to scale down the screaming with of his performance of "You’re All I Need to Get By" by Marvin Gaye. He's a cute kid in a gay-Archie-Andrews sort of way but I thought it was a poor song choice for him—it was dull, and started off too low for his register, yet he still pulled a handful of weird faces during his performance. Randy thought it was "very hot" but Simon said that Von reminded him of Clay Aiken and made it clear that whatever he really meant by that, it wasn't good. Paula assured Von, "You don't look like that." Ha ha, suck it, Clay! We're finally taking you down a peg.
Taylor Vaifanua also failed to raise my enthusiasm with her rendition of "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keyes. Again, too slow, too low, although I kind of dug her outfit—cute dress butched up a bit by shiny leggings. I agreed with Kara—I wanted to know what Taylor's personality was. "What's it like to go shopping with Taylor?" Kara asked, and then Simon and Randy picked on this comment like it was the most asinine thing ever. It wasn't genius but I knew what she meant. Paula complimented Taylor's leggings but I could tell what she was really thinking was "I hate Kara but I’m glad Simon is around to be a jerk to her so I don’t have to.” Then Simon and Ryan picked on each others' clothes as Taylor proved too dull to take us to commercial alone.
We all remember Alex Wagner Trugman as the dorky-looking kid with the blank expression and funny comments. He joked about working out so that he could fill out a shirt like Simon, and when Ryan asked him his routine, Alex said "Very short reps of low weight." I like him but my first thought during his "I Guess Why They Call It The Blues" was "No, he shouldn't be on this show." I wasn't sure if Alex’s dance moves were supposed to be funny or not but I was just overall confused between the choreography and the howling/screaming/growling going on while he sang, and the same odd frightened expression on his face that he kept on the whole time. Then he failed epically trying to bust a move with his mic stand. It was one of the few times I couldn't wait to hear what Simon said. Paula was sweet and said, "You certainly are a showman." Simon made me happy and proclaimed Alex's style "ridiculous" the performance "a bit stupid" and when the crowd booed he retorted, "May I remind you on this show we do not allow democracy." Then Ryan tried to be funny like Alex and broke a microphone. WAY TO GO RYAN.
Was anyone else surprised that Arianna Asfar was the first person ever to sing ABBA on Idol? I had high hopes for her, especially since she was undeniably cute, until she completely lost the melody of "The Winner Takes it All" around the second or third bar and never really got it back, probably because of her relentless melodic runs (make of that what you will). Then I got sick of her when she claimed that she tried to make the song "contemporary" (how?) and that she's not really cute (you are, so shut up). The judges were sick of it too so argued whether the name of ABBA is pronounced with a hard or soft A. I say "ah-ba,” as I think most Americans do .
Ju'Not Joyner was the guy with the cute little baby at his audition. He sang the Plain White T's "Hey There Delilah." I didn't think there was much wrong with his performance but it failed to make me sit up and take notice. He seemed a little sleepy while he sang, and he seems a little too mature and mellow for the average Idol voter (also I feel like he could have chosen a better outfit—not the oversized leather jacket and not the random handcuff hanging off his pants). Randy loved it but Kara wanted him to "bust it out" a bit, which I agree with. Simon demonstrated how much he cares about all his little Idol angels by letting us know he forgot already who Taylor is and can't be bothered to remember how to pronounce Ju'Not's name. He said that Ju'Not could have had "a moment" but didn't, and that's how I felt about the entire episode so far. Also Ju'Not had a cortisone shot in his butt, but I'm not sure what that has to do with anything.
Kristen McNamara, the blonde girl from Nathaniel Marshall's group during Hollywood Week, came next. She reminds me a bit of Jamie Pressly. When pressed by Ryan to discuss the audition group, she said "I love Nathanial," clearly lying through her teeth. She sang "Give me One Reason" by Tracy Chapman. I found her the strongest singer so far of the night but wasn’t in love with her. The judges all agreed that Kristen seems to have some identity issues—she should be singing Pink or Kelly Clarkson and maybe figure out her image a bit, too.
Then we got to Nathaniel Marshall, who apparently hated Nancy Lewis, the only person from his Hollywood Week group not to make it through the round, to talk shit about her on live TV. I hate Nathaniel's look so much and was so irritated by his drama queen ways that I figured that at least if I didn't like his performance, it would be "something," especially since he was going to do Meatloaf's "I Would Do Anything For Love." "This will be a great big sweaty mess," I thought, but even this performance was pretty tame—I guess the bar has been raised thanks to Adam Lambert in terms of over-the-top-ness. The only thing that I could really think about is how much I hate skinny jeans and/or deep-v'necks on men. The judges didn't seem to be impressed and even Nathaniel's grandma doesn't seem to think her grandson is the bomb: "I’m used to Nathan's music." Simon was more entertained by Paula remembering what people sang than anything else. Nathaniel tried to make up for the quasi-boring performance by reminding us repeatedly that he is "fun." Then Ryan dragged Nathaniel over to Simon so they can "get more comfortable" and tried to make Simon wear Nathaniel's headband. I try not to read too much into this stuff but it struck me as very "Touch this gay! Touch it!"
Felicia Barton was the chick who was originally cut from the competition but was brought back when Joanna Pacitti was disqualified. She sang "No One" by Alicia Keyes, which I thought was a good choice for her—the bass and beat of the song made her seem more contemporary than most other singers this evening. She's a pretty girl and while not amazing she seemed to prove that she deserved to belong at the very least in the top 36. Paula hopes she comes back again and while I don't think she's a lock for the top twelve she's the first of the evening who I could see or would like to see in it.
Then we got to Scott MacIntyre, who performed "Mandolin Rain" by Bruce Hornsby. "That guy is creepy looking," my husband said, walking into the room during the performance. "He's blind," I explained. "Oh," said the Mister, adding, "He's not very good." I thought this was a fair commentary from an impartial viewer but then he went on with "Does he know where he is? Does he know what's going on?" OK, enough comedy jokes about the blind. I thought Scott gave us a nice performance but he certainly wasn't one of the best. And if he were to find a niche for himself, what would it be? Dan Fogelberg? But the judges just couldn't help themselves. According to Kara, Scott "move mountains when you step on that stage" and Simon even felt proud that Scott believes in himself. I'm pretty certain Scott wouldn't get nearly the level of feedback he does if he wasn't blind. I feel like a jerk saying that, especially since Scott seems like a nice guy (he teased Ryan for his doomed high-five from the audition process) but as a singer and performer, he ain't nothing special. The thing that irritates me is that Scott seems like he actually doesn't need this stupid show in order to believe in himself. I think he should, however, pursue a career in a Simon and Garfunkle cover band. Ryan said "Someday I'll describe my friend Simon for you," and I wish Scott had whacked him over the head with his cane in response.
Kendall Beard is a cute little blonde in the Carrie Underwood vein. She sang Martina McBride's "This One's For the Girls." She looked sunny and happy and delivered an OK performance although she didn't hit all her notes precisely. Simon read my thoughts when he said that Kendall might have a chance due to her fan base. I wouldn't mind seeing her dad do his "alligator dance" again.
Jorge Nuñez, a Puerto Rican (can I say that?) contestant came next, and we learned about his issues with pronunciation and bad dancing. For some reason, between his persona, accent and looks, he reminds me of a contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race, which is way more fun than Idol, and not just because one of the catchphrases is "Don't fuck it up." Anyway, I thought Jorge was pretty good but his type of performance was nothing new or special for Idol. Paula was immensely proud of Jorge for working on his accent and then asked him to speak so we could all hear it, which Simon found incredibly patronizing—which it was, but I don't know why it's any more patronizing than kissing Scott's ass. The girl judges didn't care though—they decided they loved Jorge, who was so emotional that he couldn't think or speak in English, which was kind of cute. Frankly if we're going to have one guy make it through based on his incredible journey from somewhere to here, I'd rather have Jorge than Scott.
We wrapped things up with Lil Rounds who sang Mary J Blige's "Be Without You." On the one hand it sucked to have to wait two hours to hear our first serious contestant of the night, but on the other it wouldn't be nice for the other singers to follow her. Lady knows what she's doing, is confident, has a strong voice and seems mature. The crowd erupted and even Simon loved her. Randy was proud of Lil for keeping her swagger on, which makes no sense: not the swagger part, because I know what that means, but because it didn't seem like a very swaggerific performance. Oh well. Go Lil. She's the only singer tonight who should be a slam-dunk in the top twelve. Others could be Jorge, Scott, Kendall or Felicia, MAYBE Nathaniel but I doubt it.
I can has be done with the top 36 now?
—Per Ryan and Simon's top-of-the-show discussion, I wouldn’t mind a week of Simon choosing the songs.
—My hero of the night was the guy who walked Scott onto the stage. He enjoyed all the fun of being on American Idol without all the crappy talking/singing stuff.