Top 12 Guys

Well guys, here we are. Season 10. This season is brighter, shinier, sparklier, and remix-ier thanks to a much-needed shake-up on several levels. It’s got a little more pep to its step, if you will. Even Ryan’s “Thisssss is Amerrrican Idol” intro seemed more energetic and more confident that this season will rock our faces off.

If you are living under a rock and don’t know what the haps are, I’ll briefly bring you up to speed:

– There are new judges: Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez join Randy Jackson. There are only three. The majority of the new panel have actually succeeded as musical artists and have shown staying power in the biz. And consequently, with this whole American Idol experience being new to them, it brings a fresher view to us…even after nine seasons have come and gone.

– The qualifying age has been lowered to 15. Contestants were also able to initially audition through MySpace for the first time.

– A round was added to the audition process as a sort of rehearsal for the big stage. The contestants had to choose a Beatles song and sing in pairs or groups of three. Those lucky ones that made it through that had one more solo audition before the top 24 were chosen and revealed in the slowest, most dragged out way known to man.

– The powers that be have nixed the extended “Top 24” round into one neat week. Last night the top twelve guys perform; tonight is the top twelve girls’ turn. Then their ranks will be slashed by America’s vote to a top ten and the judges will put through their wild card picks.

– The stage and seating in the “Idol-Sphere” has been redone. But as last night proved, it still has the same ability to swallow contestants whole.

– We are now able to vote online (and I did!) This was a brilliant move and I love not hearing the busy tone over and over and over and over and over and over…that is when I  voted last season. Actually, I don’t think I did vote last season. Maybe for the finale. Anyhoo. Let’s move on.

– According to my sources, last night’s episode was pre-taped. None of this funny “live” business. I’m guessing that this choice has solely to do with a certain expletive-using judge and the lack of ability to “bleep” in real-time.

Then, despite myself, when the Top 12 guys stepped on stage and the familiar strains of music accompanied them, I couldn’t help but get a  little shiver of anticipation of being on the precipice of a new Idol-verse.

Clint Jun Gamboa

Through no fault of his own, the first thing I thought after hearing a recap of the former karaoke host’s rise to the top 24 was that Mr. Nigel Lythgoe’s fingerprints were all over the intro package. That end shot where they showed a video frame of Clint with his name animated on top? That’s TOTALLY a “So You Think You Can Dance” staple.

Song choice: “Superstition by Stevie Wonder

Notwithstanding Clint’s need to bounce across the stage as if he was playing hopscotch, I thought this was a solid vocal. The only problem, which I’m guessing I’ll experience all night is that the mix wasn’t super…the band was coming through too loud and it made it difficult to hear Clint’s performance with any clarity. That said, even though I want to hate him in my heart because of his attitude, I had to respect his musical wherewithal to start this season in style.

And dear Ry-Ry gave me my first quote of the night: “Look right into America’s eyes, they’ll make you feel better.”

Jovany Barreto 

My friend Amy (she’s got a great name, no?) made a comment that immediately popped into my head when he walked on stage. She said–and I quote–“And is it me, or does Jovany look like if Sylvester Stalone and Salma Hayak had a baby?” Totally true, right?!?

The square-jawed Jovany’s intro video reminded us of the fact that he took his shirt off in his audition and that he worked in a ship yard. Very important stuff, that.

Song Choice: “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain

The moment he opened his mouth, I could tell he was nervous. He showed none of the bravado that we were used to in his previous performances. And…the first casuality of the stage bites the dust.

SteTy: “Holy shipyards!” That made me laugh, obviously.

So far the judges haven’t hit their groove. SteTy and JLo are having a little trouble coming out of  cheerleader-mode to give constructive advice. And know that I want to smack myself for this, but I found myself agreeing with Randy wholeheartedly. So much so that RaJax and Jovany had to have a DTR right there about the status of their relationship. This just in, Jovany…this is a competition. Not a love fest.

Jordan Dorsey

Ugg. I really dislike this guy, though I know he has a great voice. As my mother taught me, “Pretty is as pretty does” and Jordan hasn’t really done anything to waylay my thought that he’s an arrogant diva. His intro package didn’t help him out, either. “I wanna be a legend”? Nice. Very grounded in reality.

The song started off really low. And while I gotta give him credit for knowing all the lyrics (there were a LOT), everything about the performance was a little off-putting. And his dramatic ending when he dropped to his knees?Well, it just made me laugh. I don’t think that’s what he was going for. 

Song Choice: “OMG” by Usher

I’m glad the judges gave him a slice of humble pie. But when J. Lo asked him “Is this the kind of artist you want to be?” he instantly said no. And if that’s true, I have to wonder why he went this route? Not smart, Jordan. And I think this one performance will send him to an early American Idol grave. I can’t see him moving forward to the top 5.

Tim Halperin

Song Choice: “Streetcorner Symphony (Come On Over) by Rob Thomas

I don’t know if it was just my DVR or not, but I returned from commercial break halfway through Tim’s performance. I’M SO SAD THAT HE DIDN’T BRING HIS “A” GAME! I really want the Jim Halpert of the competition to go through to the next round ’cause I like his voice a lot. Based on that performance (the judges were right, it didn’t do him justice), I don’t know if it will happen.

Brett Lowenstein

It was at this point in the intro videos that I really started to miss the “here’s who I am and here’s why I picked this song” interview part. And despite a good performance from Clint Jun Gamboa, I was really starting to feel let down by this “new and improved” top 12. Brett’s intro package and the statement at the end made me cringe, if for nothing else because of the grammar.

Brett: “There’s only one life to live and you just have to be yourself and there’s so many people who can’t be theirselves. I’m embracing who I am.” Mmhmm.

Song Choice: “Light My Fire” by The Doors

Brett delivered an interesting performance. It kind of reminded me of Adam’s “Ring of Fire” performance. I know I HATED that one (and still do), but it showed the fact that he was going to do his own thing no matter what. Being unique and not blase is important. I’d rather have a strong opinion about a contestant (even if it’s bad) than feel like I don’t care one way or another. This was just not my cup ‘o tea, but I think he deserves to stick around.

And boy howdy, how ’bout that stylist that helped him tame his fiery locks? Also, I love that he existed the stage before his time. It’s things like this that remind me that these people are actual humans who aren’t hardened by the ways of television yet. 🙂 

J. Lo: “I gotta tell you all of that (tosses head) that was like more hair tossing than me and Beyonce put together in the past ten years!”

James Durbin

Song Choice: “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” by Judas Priest

FINALLY. FINALLY! James walked on stage and left no doubt about what kind of tone he wants to set. It was a superfantastic vocal and it made me reconsider hurling my remote at the screen. But seriously. SERIOUSLY. What’s up with the tail? I know he wants to set himself apart but can’t he adopt the bandana wearing instead? It’s not cool to be like a rodent.

I love that James was totally into the performance and put everything into it. So much so that he couldn’t quite contain his glee in hearing the judges glowing comments. I think he’s totally ready for this whole show biz thing.

“You were very nice and tasty with it.” – Randy about James not over using his “high” range. Still, this comment made me feel awkward. Anyone else?

Robbie Rosen

Oh, Ross Geller Robbie, I’m so glad you’re here.

Song Choice: “Angel” by Sarah McLaughlin

Okay. He made some nice changes to the melody and I love that he sang a song originally done by a female solo artist, but it felt like at times the guitar /music arrangement and he were warring with each other. It didn’t quite jive and it was a little overdone. I think he fell victim to trying to smash too many variations and vocal runs into the song. That said, I still love him.

Scotty McCreery

First thing I noticed about our good ‘ole country boy was that he had his hair dyed. So I’m superficial, so what?!

Song Choice: “Letters from Home” John Michael Montgomery

Hmm. I’m sorry, how long is it between Hollywood and the actual competition? Because I know it’s not medically possible but somehow Scotty aged 20 years between now and then. He was seriously channeling an old time-y country artist in spirit and style. Also, I got a neck crick because I felt like I needed to tilt my head to watch him. Much like my dislike for “real” coffee (if it doesn’t have chocolate, whipped cream, sprinkles to mask the flavor, what’s the point?) I also have a strong dislike of “real” country music. I know I’m in a minority here and I’m all for variety, but I just didn’t enjoy this. Not because I don’t think Scotty’s talented at the whole deep-voice-twang thing, just because I don’t like that music. Nevertheless, he did infuse his personality into it and I found myself glad he’s here.

Stefano Langone

Song Choice: “Just The Way You Are” by Bruno Mars

Whew. This is a tough song to sing and it seemed a wee bit on the pitchy side at times. I like his tone and the fact that he chose such a current song, but mostly I was disappointed that he didn’t make more of the high notes. They really could have been magical and I know he could have pulled it off! I’m also sorry to say that I don’t think he connected with the audience as much as he could have…there was too much head tilting and eyes closing to make effective eye contact.

Still, even though Ryan broke man-code in calling him out and asking who the song was meant for Stefano handled himself with the poise and diplomacy of a season veteran in replying that it was for “all the ladies out there.” Well played, Stefano. Well played.

Paul McDonald

Song Choice: “Maggie May”  by Rod Stewart

Paul stepped on stage and with a “What’s up TV land?” started his cool and quirkified performance. While I’d say his style is kind of like a drunken, flailing sailor hopped up on cough syrups walking across the stage, I gotta say…I liked it. I like that he’s different and well-defined and smiley and well, the fact that he looks like Bradley Cooper doesn’t hurt matters any. I like the infusion of different that he brings and I hope America is evolved enough to put him through. I wish I could have understood the lyrics better. I don’t know if that’s because of the mix or because of his stylizations. Still, I hope he hangs around!

Jacob Lusk

Ryan cracked me up with his”understated contestant” comment. If nothing else, I like Jacob’s enthusiasm and his full commitment to whatever song he’s singing. His vibrato? Well, I think we all know how I feel about that.

“A House Is Not a Home” Luther Vandross

A suited up Jacob looked every inch the spa concierge that he was. And he managed to put some personality into what I felt was a boring song choice. His vocal was commendable but I just didn’t feel like it was very current. SteTy was buying it, though. And I think Jacob will move into the top 5.

Casey Abrams

Song Choice: “I Put a Spell On You” by Nina Simone

Casey, Casey. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1. For not letting your ailment get the better of you.

2. For giving a jaunty performance and being every bit as good vocally as I’ve seen before.

3. For channeling your fellow contestant James with the controlled screaming.

4. For having a “melodic sensibility” that makes me excited to download your stuff.

5. For always verbally sparring with Ryan in a way that makes me grin.

6. For not letting the stylist take away your “Fiddler on the Roof” look.

RaJax was right…he transformed himself into the spirit of the song.

And that’s it. The hour and a half seemed to fly right by, although the ups and downs with performances made me really grateful that America will only have the opportunity to put through five of them.

I have to admit that I always forget what it’s like to go to shorter song arrangements after the full song performances at the end of the previous season. I have an idea for Fox to dominate all the ratings! They should show a few contestants each night of the week and let them sing a full song…ahem. No? Yeah. I don’t have that kind of time either.

I also have one question rattling around in my brain like a tennis shoe in a dryer. Why is it that Hollywood Week produces so many better performances than the actual season? Is it that the contestants get too nervous and can’t perform at the same level? Is it the limitations of the producers and their list of song choices? Is it something else? I can’t quite nail it down, but that doesn’t keep me from being a bit let down. Any thoughts out there?

Here’s who I want in the top 5

Casey Abrams

Robbie Rosen

James Durbin

Paul McDonald

Tim Halperin

Here’s who I think will be in the top 5

Casey Abrams

James Durbin

Scotty McCreery

Jacob Lusk

Brett Lowenstein

Fingers crossed that your favorite makes it! (After all, I’m an equal opportunity blogger).

Haddock out!

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One thought on “Top 12 Guys

  1. Jennifer says:

    ur really pushing it w/ the Bradley Cooper comparsion. I beg to differ…though I agree w/ the music stuff 🙂

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