The Space Between

I don’t know about you (and I could totally be alone on this), but I left tonight’s show feeling unsettled, more than a little indignant, and all in all kinda wishing for last year’s contestants to be magically transported onto the television screen. Sigh. Remember Allison’s edgy and rockin’ performances? Remember Kris Allen’s brilliance? Remember Adam Lambert’s over-the-top-but-still-interesting-and-entertaining-ness? Yeah. Me too. Double sigh.

But, as I recently heard from a source that probably wouldn’t be deemed credible so I won’t repeat it here,  the hardest thing about moving forward is not looking back. So let’s gird up our strength, people. Let’s move forward.

I can almost see the brainstorming meetings at American Idol Headquarters. Listen in with me, if you will…

Exec. #1: Did you see all the changes that So You Think You Can Dance is making to their format? We’ve been doing the same thing for NINE SEASONS. Sure, we have the judges save, but that’s so last year. What can we do on the fly to spice the show up?

Exec. #2: Well, we could dress Ryan as a hippie. That would certainly be unexpected. Or maybe we can talk the judges into creating drama out of nothing for the cameras…oh…we already did that. Riiight.

Stagehand in the corner, quietly disposing of empty Starbucks cups (speaking softly): You guys could take the audience back stage.

Exec. #1 and Exec. #2 whip around their heads around to eye the Stagehand appraisingly.

Exec. #2: You know, that could TOTALLY WORK!

Exec. #1: Yeah! Stagehand guy! What would you show the audience??

Stagehand (now gaining confidence): Well, you could show them backstage and throw some chairs and folding tables and wooden scaffolds so it feels like they’re getting an uncensored look at American Idol that they’ve never seen before! And you could interview the contestants after they are judged! And you could make them feel like there’s nowhere to hide and follow them around with a camera both on and off stage!

Exec. #1 and Exec. #2: Dude. You’ve totally earned yourself a promotion!

Seriously! I know we saw another side of Idol tonight. And I’ll admit, I was taken in with the scripted unscripted vibe. But it also made me feel a little weird, I’m not gonna lie. Let’s move on, though, ’cause there’s lots to say about this week and I’m just gettin’ started.

Siobhan Magnus – “Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan

I’ll be the first admit that this girl has some serious pipes (maybe it’s all that glass blowing that has shored up her lung strength). She’s had some stellar performances, but here’s a few things that I think Siobhan can do to redeem herself after this week’s shaky performance:

1.  Sing a soft ballad that doesn’t require her to sing her throat off. The screaming is getting really old and even though I HATED it when Adam would scream in his performances, the dude knew how to scream. Siobhan doesn’t have a firm grasp on it yet.

2.  Stop dressing like she got dressed in the dark with someone holding a gun to her head. Seriously. I liked several parts of her outfit pieces, but together they looked like a train wreck.

3.  Begin to work on a tone that doesn’t sound so nasally. When her voice is pure, it’s amazing. When she pushes, it comes through her nose, a lot like when my Dad would make me laugh at the dinner table and I would shoot that night’s beverage of choice out of my own nose.

This was not the worst performance of the night, but I think Siobhan can really wow us, so I was disappointed.

Casey James – “Hold On (I’m Comin’)” by Sam and Dave

 

Have I mentioned that Casey is wicked awesome on the guitar? He can totally jam! I liked this performance overall, but can I just say that his perma-smile was a little disconcerting? Casey, many rockers don’t smile at all. It’s, like, a thing. Not that I recommend you stop smiling all together, but maybe not after every single word, phrase or breath in the song?

A few small observations:

  • My friend Ruthie nailed it…the intro video with Usha’ made a big deal about the fact that Casey didn’t know all the words to his song when he met with the mentor. I’m concerned about why Casey couldn’t remember the 4 repeated words throughout the song. Did Crystal accidentally bean him with her guitar? Did Big Mike squeeze him a little too hard? Did Siobhan scream a note at him and his mind broke? I mean, c’mon. “Hold on, I’m comin’.” There’s not even a “g” on the end of “coming”!
  • My friend Noelle called Casey on the fact that the range of the song was pretty small. The same notes in small intervals didn’t really do much to make Casey shine.
  • Casey totally pulled a “Crystal” when he said he had something planned for next week. Maybe this is the next big thing! Who can tease us with the most shocking thing to happen next week? That person does deserve to get the votes. Unless it’s Katie Stevens.
  • WHY DO WE NOT KNOW WHAT IS IN THE PRE-SHOW RITUAL BOX? Didn’t Casey say he would tell us if he made the Top 10? Sniff. Sniff. I think someone’s pants are on fire. And I’m also not letting Ryan off the hook on this one. He failed us.

Michael “Big Mike” Lynche – “I Am Ready For Love” by India.Arie


Picture me standing dramatically and clapping loudly, but slowly, until I’m clapping like a fool. That’s pretty much how I felt when I heard Big Mike would be singing this song. I love this song. Now, I did find a bit of irony in the fact that India.arie is also known for a song called “I Am Not My Hair”, but I was quickly drawn into Big Mike’s performance and he did the song justice. Did I mention that I love that song? This was my favorite performance of him ever. And yes, that includes Hollywood week when (did you know?) Mike became a daddy. Also, not to be too dramatic, but I think this was the best song of the night, even if it DID freak me out that he was sitting behind the judges. I don’t like it when the Idoloonies venture from the stage.

Just as a sidebar, I canNOT believe that Ryan tossed the floor over to Usher to comment on Big Mike’s performance! That seems incredibly unfair and also, who can hear what Usher is saying when his shades are screaming so loud?

Other favorites of mine from India.Arie:

I Am Not My Hair

Always in My Head

Strength, Courage & Wisdom

Promises

Didi Benami – “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffins 

I don’t know how much more emphatically I can state that I love Didi’s voice. I love it. And I really liked her performance, even though I could see where the judges were coming from. Here’s a few things I’d like to say because it’s my blog and I can:

  • I think if Didi would have been in one of her awesome “urban chic” outfits instead of a full length beaded lounge singer/Vanna White dress, it would have made the song seem more exciting and edgy. I’m being serious. And don’t tell me that wardrobe doesn’t matter ’cause that’s all Usha’ and Siobhan talked about!
  • The arrangement of the song was pretty good until the end came and left me wondering what the heck just happened. Did anyone else follow? I was kinda confused.
  • After the scathing comments from the judges, Ryan came on stage and offered her a GIFT. He asked her to explain why the song was so emotional for her. All she had to do was explain the significance and tear up and she would have smoothed over her performance and given America a reason to root for her. But what did she do? She avoided the question, acted a little angst-y and chastised Ryan for asking her the question. DIDI! Get your head in the game! Sigh.
  • Who thinks that Ryan has a crush on Didi? I didn’t at first, but now I’m kinda sorta seeing the signs.

Tim Urban – “Sweet Love” by Anita Baker

Oh boy. Where do I even start? So much to say. Let’s go bullet points ’cause a flow chart would take too long.  Plus, bullet points seem to be workin’ for me tonight:

  • I love that when Usha’ asked Tim if he’d ever been in love, Tim offered up a half-hearted, non-committal “Yeah.” Um, dude. No, you haven’t. Don’t try and act like you have! You are barely old enough to drive a car and game nights with your family does not equip you with enough emotion to fool us that you have been in love. Checking “yes” to a note passed to you in the 4th grade saying “Do you want to go out? Yes or No?” does not really mean love. I’m being serious.
  • The song was well sung. I thought he stayed in key, he infused emotion with the dynamics, and his body language on stage was working for him. But he had super darty eyes, like someone concentrating so hard on not screwing up that he wasn’t conveying the song with his eyes. What does that look like? It’s one part deer-in-the-headlights and one part vacant.
  • Teflon Tim. Cute. I get it. He does have a pretty great personality, which is why I like him better than Katie Stevens (for instance). Here’s what I do not consider cute. Tim attempted to live up to his name by exaggerating his “teflon-ness” and laughing during a judge’s critique. This was not a genuine laugh. This was an “I should laugh and let people know that I really am Teflon Tim.” I probably would have let it go, but he started to move his shoulders up and down while laughing which just confirmed to me the lack of spontaneity in the move. Hey, Tim? You probably also wouldn’t be good at pretending to be asleep with someone watching you. Just a heads up.
  • Best quote of the night was from Ellen during Tim’s critique. It’s here for your amusement: “…you were walking like you were sneaking into a bedroom. You kept walking, it’s like, we can see you. You’re headed right towards us. Don’t try to be so sneaky.”

Andrew Garcia – “Forever” by Chris Brown

Okay, Andrew. This has the potential of being a good performance. But what’s with the beehive on top of your head? A small bird could get lost in that fro. I found it a teensy bit funny that Andrew decided to sing a song that’s all about dancing in a club with his feet firmly perched on a stool rung and nary a move throughout the whole performance. I think the song was well done, but I think it could have been even better if he slowed the tempo down just a bit. And THANK GOODNESS we had a Andrew’s mama interlude, ’cause after the intro video with her sitting like a statue, it was nice to see she was alive, well, and full of personality. I hope he continues down this path, but it might be a little too late to recover. Only time will tell.

Katie Stevens – “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin

 

So. I guess it’s Katie’s choice to keep her extremely lackluster, non-young looking hair if she wants to. I personally think it’s a bad choice, but whatever. I couldn’t help but wish that I was listening to Allison Iraheta sing this song. Her whole being contained more stage presence and electricity that she infused into her performances than Katie could dream of in a million years. I think Katie has a good voice but her stage presence and “entertainer” skills need to catch up to the voice. Let us not forget that Allison was JUST AS YOUNG as Katie is now, but was able to sidestep the “sing a younger song” comment.

Lee Dewyse – “Treat Her Like a Lady” by The Cornelius Brothers

Is it just me or was this performance a major David Cook flashback? I thought Lee did a GREAT job and I’m glad to see that he’s progressing and hanging in there with all of the Idol craziness. I do like that the greatness doesn’t go to his head, though. For instance, his response to the judges’ glowing comments about his performance? He put his guitar pick in his mouth and scared me half to death that he was going to choke on it!

Also, in talking with my friend, Katie, she thinks that Lee looks like a combination of her cousin and Elijah Wood. I gotta say, she’s not wrong:

Elijah Wood

Crystal Bowersox – “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight

I really enjoyed this performance of Crystal’s. I get what Simon was saying about how the American Idol process could suck the individuality out of a person (though I’m surprised that he admitted it), but it was nice to see Crystal behind the piano and actually smiling in a performance when she stepped out onto stage without the cover of playing an instrument (other than her voice, of course). I really loved her rendition and it makes me appreciate her talent even more. Also, I totally agree with whichever judge told her to lose the background vocals- it totally changed the experience of the song! And how great was it when Crystal slyly directed a “Tell Gladys I said ‘Hi'” comment towards Randy?

Aaron Kelly – (and I can’t believe I’m going to type this)” Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers

Oh, NO. No. No. No. No, he didn’t! The nerve of this kid to sing this song, done so brilliantly by our reigning American Idol Kris Allen, a mere YEAR after Kris graced the stage and prompted me to scurry to iTunes to download his version.  It’s upsetting, that’s what it is. I feel indignation mixed in with a touch of rage. Something sacred has been disturbed here and I’m not even kidding.

In rehearsals, Aaron sounded much better than his performance tonight, and I will admit to a few glimmers of a good voice, but he really shouldn’t have attempted this. It would be like me taking on a movie role that was tailored for Julia Roberts…just STOP THE MADNESS!

I’ve been largely silent on the Usha’, Usha’, Usha’ situation, but let me take this moment to say a few things:

  • Topics discussed during Usher’s critiques – fashion, love, connecting with the audience, connecting with the audience, connecting with the audience, (being super impressed with Lee. Yay!), and connecting with the audience.
  • I don’t think Usher quite comprehends the fact that he is not a drummer and therefore NOT allowed to wear sunglasses indoors. It doesn’t make you look hip or jive. It makes you look odd. Can you even see the stage behind those thing? We allllll get it. You’re cool. You know it. Fine.
  • I know Ryan was trying to draw out the show by a lengthy interview with Usher himself, but must we really be subjected to the self-important ramblings about the new CD?  Oh, yes, Usher is verrrry multi-faceted and his music will leave an indelible impression on this world long after he’s gone…or not. I like a peppy song as much as the next girl, but let’s not fool ourselves about the lasting legacy of Usher. 

Entirely too opinionated for my own good…Haddock out!

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7 thoughts on “The Space Between

  1. Brooke Hamilton says:

    Ahhhhh, worth the wait. And right on–as usual! But really, you didn’t see the whole Ryan creeping on Didi thing earlier. I am telling you, the last four weeks I have had the icks every time he is by her. I think it is beyond a crush–it has entered stalking territory. This season is just chalk full of potential HR nightmares.
    I DO love Didi, but I did NOT like the song last night–I guess that is our differing point of view.
    And the backstage thing with Siobhan was VERY awkward. Like I wish I had a shovel so I could dig a hole and hide in it for awhile to not have to see this, awkward.

  2. mom says:

    Great job as usual!! I totally called it about Lee/David Cook similarities…..I also am wistful for the contestants of old. I don’t think this group really ‘get’s it – be original people!!
    Love ya,
    Mom

  3. Brandi P says:

    I have been wondering about the Ryan/Didi thing myself for several weeks! I thought I must be imagining it! LOL! He’s constantly touching her and last night he was rubbing her hand while holding it. Weird!

  4. Dad says:

    Hey M,

    Great post…as usual!

    Something you (and your commentators) noticed that I didn’t: The Ryan/Didi thing. I will be watching for it now!

    Something I noticed that perhaps you didn’t: Simon’s comment on Tim…”It doesn’t matter what we say, they are voting for you…so, “good job”! 🙂 I think Simon is one savvy dude! That was his sly way of telling America they’re messed up and he’s right about Tim! I agree with Simon!

    ILY, D

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