Tuesday, April 17, 2007

American Idol Season 6: Top 7 Perform

What a week it has been! The Imus Debacle, the unthinkable tragedy at Virginia Tech... a lot of unfunny things have happened this week. And with these hard times has come a hard question... is it the right time to be funny? Is it the right time to enjoy something as light and meaningless as a cheesy televised talent show?

I say yes. We have to be funny, or the deranged Asian kid will have won. Not to be disrespectful, but in a world as dark as the one in which we live, you either have to laugh or let it consume you.

With that in mind, on with this goofy show...

Ryan Seacrest opens the show respectfully enough, acknowledging again that this has been a really crap week as far as tragedies go. God bless all of you people who were a part of that mess in Virginia; I have no idea how much pain you guys must be going through. A touch of class, Seacrest. I can't knock you for that.

I do miss the Seacrest T-shirts though. He's been dressed like he was getting married to Teri Hatcher this whole season. The judges settle in for Country Music Night. Simon chews a wheat stalk, Randy takes off his shoes, and Paula hits the corn liquor jug.

Meet the guest mentor, whom I will have NOTHING negative to say about tonight, because I love me some Martina McBride. I'm not even a country fan, but I love her work. She attempts to coach this rabble into actually meaning what they sing. Melinda actually is the only one of them that understands this, but the rest sort of nod and say uh-huh and go on pretending that they'll actually do it. Sanjaya's smile actually causes his entire head to split wide open.

Phil Stacey is going to sing Keith Urban's "Where the Black Top Ends." Martina thinks he sounds stiff and measured, and she notes what he's been doing all season which is being stiff and then throwing in about five seconds of soul at the end, which has kept him at the top end of the bottom three incessantly. During his vocal workout, he wrenches some unholy notes from somewhere down in his lower intestine, and I can only think that this might just be smoke and mirrors from the producer to give us a contrast with an actual good performance tonight. Well, he apparently took Martina's advice, and I'm not hating this performance. From the neck up, he looks like Uncle Fester, but I can buy this performance, even if he is a little self-indulgent by working the crowd. He looks a lot less wormy in this outfit. His vocal tone is right, his expressions are good, and he's working the song out perfectly. Without a doubt, this is his best performance yet. I'm pleasantly surprised. Randy thinks that Phil will have a career in country music. Out of nowhere, A&R reps from Lyric Street Records appear behind him, wearing Bucky Covington and Josh Gracin t-shirts, and snapping candid shots of Phil. Paula enjoyed it too. Tonight, Paula will officially have no other opinion, save for what she gleans from the last five seconds of Randy's comments. Simon compliments him on song choice, style choice and personality. Fans of Phil, don't get too comfortable. Vote if you want him to have another week. Simon hit the nail on the head when he said he didn't know if the best performance ever was enough to save him.

Jordin Sparks is going to sing Martina's "Broken Wing," and she sings it rather well in front of Martina, who - like the rest of the civilized universe - completely loves Jordin. Martina tells her to plant her feet, belt it out, and wow the crowd. What do you want to bet that Jordin does just that? The guy on the steel guitar is too busy reading his sheet music to actually pick the song right or on time, so hopefully Jordin won't get thrown off too much. Jordin looks resplendent tonight. The song starts off slowly...perhaps a little too slowly for my taste, but that's just one person's opinion. That's the song, though, and not Jordin's fault. I thought that Jordin might do yet another fun, upbeat number to keep her in our hearts (and speed-dials) but she chose correctly with this song. This was an admirable performance. Randy feels that she pulled it off well and calls it "da bomb." Paula likes her look and performance. For some reason, Paula looks like Eartha Kitt playing Catwoman tonight. Not the 1966 Eartha Kitt either. Simon thinks Jordin could win the whole shooting match based on that one performance alone. Ryan talks about Jordin's age, basically because he's upset that someone half his age is twice his size. I'd be happy with a Jordin win, wouldn't you?

Sanjaya Malakar must've thought it was Alternate Universe Night, because that's what he came dressed for. He takes a dig at the Cowell, wishing that he would sing R.E.M.'s godless "Shiny Happy People." And while that would be fun and appropriately ironic, the only persons that REALLY laughed at that joke were Sanjaya, Ryan because he was told to, and Nigel when he wrote it, but that's only because Nigel was also on the way to the bank to put a down payment on his fiftieth yacht with the money he made in the past thirty minutes. Martina wants Sanjaya to be more confident, and she thinks that if he projects more that people will like him more. That plus having a complete body transplant. And psychotherapy. Brain-washing, perhaps. He certainly tries to do Bonnie Raitt justice...as much as a thin-voiced teenager can do a raspy three-pack-a-day voice like Bonnie's justice. As it turns out, Sunny's performance is about as much injustice one could do without immediately being assessed the death penalty. This is just not right. It's possibly even a violation of one or more of the Geneva conventions. I find this to be very much a karaoke performance, even though I despise that criticism when it comes from one of the judges. There just aren't words that can tell you how much I hate this. I could hear this calibre of performance in any given bar on a Friday night. For one thing, the key is too low, and Sanjaya is just not a low-note performer. His voice drags, not quite able to hit the depth and richness that he needs, and the end becomes screechy because of that. Randy calls it karaoke, which completely validates my opinion, both of the performance and of Randy as a judge. "What are we doing up here?" he asks. Keeping ratings alive, I assume. Paula comments on Sanjaya's "adversity," and calls him loveable, which in no way makes any sort of remark about his musical performance. Simon calls it utterly horrendous, and Ryan comes storming onto the stage scolding Simon as though he had just soiled the carpet. Simon correctly points out that we're SUPPOSED to be finding the American Idol. Ryan hits Simon on the nose with a rolled up newspaper, and the judges get into a big huge hissy fit, and the other two don't exactly back up Ryan with as much fervor as you'd expect them to, because they both know that Simon is right.

Lakisha Jones is going to sing Carrie's "Jesus Take the Wheel." Martina should know how to coach this song, because the writer of this song also wrote several of Martina's hits. I went to high school with the lady who wrote this song. We wrote one together once upon a time, so I should have some insight too. Lakisha does sort of a R&B twist on it, but it's flat. Sorry, there's not room for that on a Hillary Lindsey song. Not even close. And, as my wife reminds me, it is always a horrible idea to do a song that has been made famous by a previous Idol. In fact, it's almost always a death knell. There's that vacant look in Lakisha's eyes, and oh mercy, that chorus is so out of key it's not even funny. Lakisha needs to stop screaming at us, listen to the band, and get in tune. Awful! Just awful. I think the emotion here in her face is just wholly inappropriate for this song too. Not a good performance AT ALL. Randy tries to lower the boom, but the fans are overpowering it. Randy says it had pitch problems, which is like saying the Titanic had a leak. He didn't think she treated the song properly. Paula doesn't want to agree, but she has to, because she has ears and as a human had no choice but to know it was completely off pitch. She shouted the song, and perhaps bellowed her way into the bottom three this week. Simon thinks that Lakisha and that song aren't a good match. Lakisha looks at them as though she sort of wants to cuss them out, and then Seacrest ushers her off the stage so that...

Chris Richardson can shower Martina with snot while trying to sing "Mayberry" completely through his sinuses. Oddly enough, "Mayberry" is also where the jail Chris was paroled from must've been. He sucks. Just flat sucks. Sucks worse than Lakisha. Sucks worse than Sanjaya. His vocal tone makes Kellie Pickler last year sound like Aretha Franklin. I get a deeper, richer tone from scraping my fingernails down a graphite board. With all the missed notes, off-key lines, and butchered breathing, I can't even remember what he was singing. Randy didn't find him to be emotionally connected to the song, mentions the nasal quality and the pitch problems. Paula understands what Randy is saying, because actually Paula doesn't speak anymore, she just moves her mouth and lets Randy throw his voice. Simon calls it "nondescript," "nasally tinny" and "insignificant." Dang. He stopped just short of pulling out a pistol and shooting Chris dead on the stage. Ryan addresses the crowd again, and Chris--unbelievable!--claims to have intended to sing nasally, which is very much a reason to fail to vote for him. I really hope that he meant it as a joke. Unfortunately, if he did, it completely fell flat. And if he was serious, then God help him, because no one else can. Chris is also a back-talker, sassing someone who has had years more experience than he in the recording industry, which is another reason to not vote for him. But if you want a definitive reason to NOT vote for Chris, this is it: he just used the fact that he has friends in Virginia, and correlated it with the tragedy at Virginia Tech, in order to try to garner the pity vote. You, sir, are despicable, and you deserve to go home tonight.

Melinda Doolittle looks nice tonight, and she gets all cute on us while answering whatever that question was about psycho fans. Melinda rocks. And she's from the same area that Martina is from. She blew Martina away, the same way she's been slaying us all this year. Lakisha should be just off-stage taking notes, because THIS is how it's done. Again, Melinda interprets the song for us, and she shows us how versatile she is. Soul sistah can sing some country, y'all! So many times while she's performing, I find myself stopping typing and just listening and enjoying myself. Great song choice, great performance, impeccable vocal, and how could you not like this girl? How? Randy calls it a solid performance by their "resident pro." Paula parrots Randy. Again. Do we still need her at this stage of the competition? Simon calls it fantastic, and Melinda fulfills his request to not look surprised. She smiles and takes it graciously. Simon compares her to Tina Turner, and come to think of it, I would like to hear her take on "Proud Mary."

Blake Lewis is going to do Tim McGraw's "When the Stars Go Blue," and Martina was JUST talking to Tim, probably at one of those parties where country stars talk to each other about stuff like that, and he wanted someone to do the song. (I can't say too much about those parties. I get invited to them from time to time.) Unfortunately, 311 has not as yet done a cover of this song, so Blake is going to have to do his own interpretation of the song. This is not a horrid performance, but it's also not a really great one either. There are points in the song where Blake's voice runs thin and flat, and then there are places where he sounds really silky and nice. Fortunately there's more of the latter, but overall, I'm not terribly impressed by this song. Obviously, Blake isn't meant to be a country star, and I'm sure he'll sail through, given the fact that several others have really blown it tonight. Randy thinks he picked the right song and liked the performance. Paula liked what Randy said too, and so she chooses to adopt it as though it were her own judgment. Simon thought it was average. Somehow Simon segues into well-wishing the people in Virginia Tech, forgetting that Chris was the one that mentioned it, but yet being as heart-felt as his cold, soulless shell will allow him to be. (I hear Simon's actually a nice guy in real life. Go figure.)

Now for the recap, and my final thoughts. Who will go home tonight? Who knows? (I do. Chris.) Bottom three: Chris, Lakisha, and Phil. I still don't think Sanjaya will go home or be in danger of it yet. Go figure. Nobody really likes Phil.

See ya tomorrow to find out!


At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shame on Simon Cowell. Did you see the face he made and the eyes roll when Chris said something about the Virginia Tech tragedy? Just for that, I hope Sanjaya wins and Simon stays true to his word and quits. What a pompous ass Simon continues to be.

At 8:19 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

I have to admit that I rolled my eyes too. I feel, and I'm sure Simon understood this too, that Chris used this as a way to garner sympathy (since he is from Virginia) and sway votes to his side. It was a rather pathetic display, I thought, especially given that it was placed in the middle of an even more pathetic display regarding his nasal tone.

At 8:51 PM, Anonymous TamTam said...

Hi J.D.,

LOVE your recaps. You are spot on. Just wondered if you have an opinion on what I think is the new Carrie look. Last night on the CMT show she looked like she raided Haley's closet. I still think Carrie is a great singer but...Is she getting a little too big for her tight britches? What think ya?

At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Tony said...

I didnt even know that there were Ryan Seacrest t-shirts sold! LOL

At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Preston said...

Chris Richardson was unbelievably bad tonight. I am horrified.

It's the Melinda show right now, with Jordin and Blake filling up the supporting cast. Everyone else doesn't have a chance.

At 7:41 AM, Anonymous smarmydharma said...

"Sanjaya's smile actually causes his entire head to split wide open."...kinda like Grover from Sesame Street...

Thank you for your well-crafted, insightful recaps/blog(s) that make me laugh until I cry.

Melinda is already a pro and obvious winner this year however, seeing Jordin come in first would be okay given that Melinda will land a contract no matter what the outcome of the finale is.

Lakisha is getting on my nerves.

At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only thing worse than the right-wing comments that seem to be creeping out of you more and more lately, is the number of plugs for yourself and your "industry knowledge" in this recent blog.

At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Lorraine said...

AT first, I too was pissed at Chris Richardson for doing that.... but... then I thought, give him the benefit of the doubt. He is a VA Beach native type... and they didn't give him the pimp spot this week.. which it seems he should have gotten so he'd have a chance to say something about it seeing as he has friends out there and all.... then he could have sung afterward and been judged by viewers on his singing... as it is now, I'm sure the statement will have a backlash on him of people thinking just as most of us did, "you slime! how dare you try for the pity vote!"

I love melinda's off the shoulders outfit... that and her hair cut this week really seemed to point out that yes, she does indeed have a neck... and yea.... girl can blow!

Lakisha's singing.... first time I've actually watched her and not her cleavage, so kudos to her for covering the girls tonight.... however, it made me realize, her face contorts almost reminiscent of Jessica Simpson, although not as bad.... but still not easy to watch.

Sanjaya is still there because of a movement I've heard whispers about.... it keeps voting for the resident idiot to make sure he thinks he's all that... I kinda feel bad for the kid cuz he keeps making it through, and I see that ego building.... but then he opens his mouth and I take solace in the fact that even if he manages to win on being an idiot, he will go the way of most former idols, and fade out fast.... (no offense to fans of the formers, but the only ones I ever hear about are Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Pickler, and Daughtry)

Blake... I think he will go far cuz he's a cutie... better looking then Phil (though thank you Phil for finally losing those distracting hats! cue ball can be cute and sexy if you work it right!) But blake has something unique, that most find interesting to watch... that beatbox thing... I know I find it new, different, and interesting.... And he does fairly well without it..... I see blake as a possible 3rd place... maybe he gets bumped to 2nd with a stellar performance and a weak one from Jordin....

and yea.... I love me some Martina too.... *S*

At 10:31 AM, Blogger J.D. said...

Anonymous said...

The only thing worse than the right-wing comments that seem to be creeping out of you more and more lately, is the number of plugs for yourself and your "industry knowledge" in this recent blog.

Yet, somehow, you seem to be my most loyal reader, oh nameless one. Which is more unfortunate?

At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Cleo said...


This is going to be a first.

I am going to criticize something you wrote.

I agree with you that we have to be funny. But mere hours after the tragedy at VA Tech, I found your line "[Simon] stopped just short of pulling out a pistol and shooting Chris dead on the stage" in very bad taste. I'm not saying that you (or anyone) shouldn't have said that (or anything). I'm just saying that I think your timing was awful.

I also think Chris was sincere when he gave the shoutout to VA Tech. He is, after all, from VA, of college age, and likely has friends there. I thought I saw tears welling in his eyes right after he said it and I don't think they were fake, nor from self-pity... Although, to be quite honest, and to allot you a bit of credit, some of the viewers at home might have had tears in their eyes at about the same time due to his "singing".


At 3:34 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

I can't really apologize for that line. For one thing, it wasn't written with the VT thing in mind, anyway. For another thing, I live in a city where at least that many people get shot to death or otherwise murdered each year. If I refrained from saying something every time a tragedy happened, I'd never be able to say anything.

Besides, you missed the statement at the beginning of the whole thing: It's only appropriate to continue on and try to lighten our hearts during the dark times. The best way to honor those who have died is to continue on and enjoy life while we have it.

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Cleo said...


No apology necessary. I don't believe your intentions were bad; and I do find 99% of your post lighthearted and funny; I just didn't think that 1% was, particularly one day after the deadliest massacre in modern U.S. history. Would I have bothered to point it out if it wasn't just two days after said tragedy? Probably not. I guess I have some lightening up to do.



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