Is that a Water Cooler post? American Idol’s opening-round recap

American Idol opens with a shot of the audience doing the Wave.  When they said that the show would be aired on a tape delay this season, I didn’t think they meant it was filmed in 1985.  Ryan Seacrest shares that Jennifer Lopez’s single is currently #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 iTunes, replacing Murray Head’s “One Night in Bangkok.”  THIS… is a-MER-ican Idol!

There are no guest mentors, replaced by Jimmy Iovane and a group of producers.  I like this idea, because the artists are working directly with people they hope will make them sound good, and if it’s the same people all the time, they don’t have to worry about the sometimes-odd, often-useless, and conflicting bits of advice they usually get from the guest stars.  There’s no particular theme this time either – pick a song from “your own musical idol” or somesuch.

01 – Lauren Alaina – the girl with two first names picks “Any Man of Mine” by Shania Twain, because she hopes to be a country diva as well.  Ladybug – “that outfit does nothing for her hips.”  Nightfly – “her low register does nothing for my ears.” She’s better on the chorus, though, and does try to put some energy into the singing, even if none of it quite reaches the rest of her.  Rough start.  I’m sad for her, because she looks like she enjoys being there and enjoyed singing.  Steven Tyler – “wished it was more kickass.” (Good point.)  JLo – “never kicked it into high gear.”  Randy – agrees, cool song, sang well but looking for contestants “to shine beyond belief.”  LB – “You never want to be boring when you go first.”  Yup.

More below…

02 – Casey Abrams – picked the Joe Cocker cover of “With a Little Help from My Friends,” which he first remembered from the credits of the Wonder Years.  I’d be mortified at my age here, but Casey has that self-deprecating charm working for him: “Cocker has that growl in his voice, and isn’t that much to look at, so… [indicates himself]”  Heheheh.  Just don’t go all sound-alike, or I’ll call Simon on the phone and rat you out.  Use YOUR voice.

And hey, he is.  I’m not sure where the monkey hooting came from, but otherwise, he’s killing it.  Very good up top notes, not screechy, in control and on key.  Superb.  JLo – “I felt it, I was watching someone,” blew her away.  RJ – “exciting, fun, you hit all the notes.”  ST – Casey is “a rainbow of talent.”  (WOW!  What does it mean??!?)  “A plethora of passion.”  I say he’s the early favorite, but don’t get cocky.

03 – Ashthon Jones – will perform “When You Tell Me You Love Me” by Diana Ross.  Continuing the theme, she looks kind of like Diana circa ’85 with her disco ‘fro.  Jim Iovane worries about her high notes (uh-oh) but is otherwise impressed in rehearsal.  And she’s off… and she’s flat.  Sweet tone, but underpowered.  And her giant hair his hiding two enormous hula hoop earrings.  This comes after last week when she wore dreamcatchers on her ears.  Next step is hubcaps with tassels.  Oh, she’s still singing?  Forgot.  That can’t be good.  RJ – points out Berry Gordy in the audience, says that he (Randy) liked it but it was safe.  ST – “There’s more in you to bring out.”  JLo – loves her, she’s awesome, sing better-known stuff.  NF – to borrow SarahK’s phrase, I nothing her.  If she sang well nobody would have cared if the song was lesser-known.  (Should have kept the blonde girl in the singoff last week.)

04 – Paul McDonald – singing Ryan (“with an R” – well excuse me, hipster man) Adams’ “Come Pick Me Up.”  Working with Don Was, who looks like Jerry Garcia, circa 1985.  He also, incidentally, had an excellent uptempo cover of “Baby I Need Your Loving” on the Wonder Years soundtrack.  (HA I can name-check too! Get on with my bad hipster self.)

Whoa, this is starting out really poor.  I can’t hear a word.  The notes are simply below his range and his voice is dropping out completely trying to reach them.  Terrible.  As he gets into it, he’s better, but he could not have been worse unless he started screeching like Roseann Barr with the National Anthem.  It’s like a bad Rod Stewart impression with his odd gyrating.  Do NOT want.  ST – “watch your pitch but I love your tone.”  JLo – noted that the audience enjoyed it, called him “so unique.  I hope America gets it.”  NF – a dancing mule is also unique, it doesn’t mean I want to see it every week.  RJ – “not the most exciting thing but I got it.”  (And after JLo said she didn’t know the artist, Randy insists that he DOES know him.  Snob.  He was into Ryan Adams way before it went mainstream on Idol, maaaaaaan.)  Hahahahaha, Ryan mocks Paul’s spazzing on stage.  This was miles off of his duet on “Blackbird,” and I miss the King of the Judges’ Table more than ever, because Simon would have rightly blown this to bits.

05 – Pia Zadora Toscano – singing “All By Myself” by Celine Dion (aw crap.)  Eric Carmen, I’m sorry dude.  She’s dressed in this mid-thigh dress with an odd drape and train coming down the back.  NF – Celine would wear that.  LB – nah, she goes in for those pantsuits.  NF – good point. She’s 6′ 8″ so maybe ALL dresses look like that on her.

But despite my snark and my fear of all Celine Dion’s works… I really like this.  Good arrangement, she hit the high showy notes, was on tune the whole way.  Really really good.  Thank you for rescuing Eric Carmen’s song from Celine, Pia.  JLo – … [literally lost for words for ten seconds. What does it all mean???!?]  RJ – took on a really big singer, hot dope cool performance.  ST – “It was the sum total of all your work thus far, you slammed it, beautiful.”  NF – we’re in real trouble if Steven Tyler is the coherent one in this judges’ panel.

(Aside… BK bacon-cheeseburger and Arby’s adverts on Ash Wednesday is dirty pool.  I has a sad.)

06 – James Durbin – doing Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.”  I think it’s a good choice for him, he can belt out that “EVAH HELP MEEEEEE” bit to his heart’s content.  I like the arrangement he’s doing.  Hey, he lost his “tail,” improvement.  Heh, serves me right, he hit the power spot in control, didn’t go all Lambert-y.  Only a couple of shaky moments.  Nice falsetto at the end.  RJ – “This man can SING!”  ST – “Any review anyone could give, you just sang it.”  [oh, it’s gonna be a FUN year!]  JLo – “not just a screamer, very melodic voice.”  We both agree here at Chez Nightfly.  Top marks.

So, that’s three thhphphh performances and three good ones.  What’s next?

07 – Haley Reinhart – will sing an unrecorded Patsy Cline song, “Blue For Me,” done by Leann Rimes. [LB – “Y’know, the one who cheated on her husband.”]  Her dislike of this choice is not helped by the unscheduled, near Idol-bubble worthy shot of Haley’s right bobbin.  Luckily the terrible yodeling is distracting America from that.  ST and JLo liked, RJ called it “sleepy.”  No way anyone slept through the yodeling and the cleavage shot, Randy, but I take your point.  It was very boring.  Haley – “I wanted to be different like y’all wanted.”  JLo – “you’ve got a sexy, sensual voice.”  (“Her voice was sultry.” Go to 7:50 if the clip doesn’t start there.)

08 – Jacob Lusk – hello makeover!  He looks like an NBA draftee instead of someone’s sweet oddball kid brother.  Definitely an improvement.  Singing R Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”  Cue the gospel backup singers in three… two… one… Hey, don’t look so scared, kid!  The singing is pretty good, pitchy in spots.  The hand-flapping is very distracting, but somehow it helps him get into the song.  ST – “pure magic, I can’t even judge it.”  [NF – I can.  It wasn’t that good.  He showed emotion in spades but the vocals weren’t up to snuff.  You can do better, Jacob.]  JLo – “it is hard to judge, you make us feel so much because you feel so much.” RJ – “talent is unbelievable this year… hey we picked the talent… YAY US!”  [No, really, he pretty much said this.]  “You have a signature sound – went sharp in the middle but you pulled it out.”  A signature sound, great, but how about signature singing?  Middle of the pack for me, but I will root for him because of the way he pours himself out on the stage.  If he gets the vocals down too he’ll go far.

09 – Thia Megia – a point of contention here at Chez Nightfly.  I think she’s somewhat overmatched and felt badly that they cut Birthday Girl to keep her; but Ladybug really likes Thia.  The proof of the song is in the singing… and she’ll sing Michael Jackson’s “Smile.”  [Flashback: RJ – “You remind me so much of him.” NF – “Pale and effeminate?”]  Jim Iovane informs Thia that this was originally a Charlie Chaplin song.  Thia – “Charlie Chapman?”  LB – “Hello fifteen.”

Thank goodness, singing.  The intro is terrific.  Sweet, in control, on key.  Upbeat section is still good but I think it wasn’t the best arrangement.  Really good overall.  Once again my Ladybug proves her chops in the talent evaluation department.  RJ – agrees with me.  ST – seconded.  He thanks her, and I like that he did.  JLo ‘ “your strength is the beauty of your voice.”  Thia – “I felt a lot more better at the beginning.”  Grammar notwithstanding, she’s changing my mind as far as staying in the competition.  Well done.

At the judges’ table – ST to Ryan – “These are the glasses I need to see what you’re saying.” HAHAHAHA.  I need those because my handwriting is now a nightmare.  Or a righthare.  Or maybe it’s my landuntying that’s bad.  At this point I can only guess.  Anyway I bring it up because I can’t read the title of the next song, and I’m not even sure I had it right even if legible.

10 – Stefano Langone – will do Stevie Wonder’s “Man of Many Wishes.”  At least I think that’s what’s it’s called.  I’m worried anyway because Stevie is really hard to sing well.  Stefano actually sounds a lot like Stevie here, reminds me of him in the tone, though I doubt any other mortal could get away with Stevie’s phrasing.  This is good.  He rocked it out.  ST loved the arrangement.  JLo says he sounded great, and RJ says he started rocky but “slayed it.”

11 – Karen Rodriguez – an adorable shot of her in a junior talent show, singing in Spanish.  Her musical idol is Selina, and she will sing a song they never identified by name.  Oh boy, watch the low notes…  She got the second one after muffing the first.  But snoresville.  Even at the big moment, over-contained.  Iovane told her not to over-sing but she went too far the other way.  JLo – “You look so beautiful!” [Oh noes, it’s the Paula Abdul Memorial “Pretty” Compliment!  She’s in real trouble.]  “You seemed nervous.”  RJ – “Sleepy, didn’t come off well.”  ST – “You can sing so much better, work it next week.”  My inner Simon – “There may not be a next week for you.  Sowry!”

12 – Scott McCreery – he’s sad to miss his baseball season.  He will instead sing “The River” by Garth Brooks.  Says he hopes to do it justice.  Don Was says that country greats all tell stories, and “Scott seems to be able to do that naturally.”  He is doing real well to start here.  It’s one singer I won’t have to fret over about low notes, except that there may be too many of them.  And his backup singers are louder than he is right now, and that can’t be good, but he sounded fine solo… was that a mixing problem or was Scott too quiet?  Good finish, he was much more audible there at the end.  I enjoyed it a lot but there was no “wow” moment where he just made a huge pointless run or hit a power note just to prove he could, so it may fly under the radar.  RJ – “If it ain’t broke don’t even dream about fixing it! This is exactly where you belong.” ST – “You did the Garth justice.” He also quoted a couple of lines from Elton John’s “Roy Rogers.” Love that song.  JLo – “You opened up as an artist, really connected, congratulations.”

13 – I mean, 36 [huh?] – Naima Adedapo – she chose “Umbrella” by Rhianna, and only afterwards does she discover that one of the production team worked on the original release.  This is a hard song to sing, to, with all the abrupt starts and stops and stretching the word ‘umbrella’ out to eight syllables.  She busts a move [1989!].  The dancing’s fly, but… NF – “Is this just me or is she way off?” LB – “I’m trying to figure that out.”  Just a confusing mess, though entertaining.

ST – “Very pitchy but you brought flavor no-one else has.”  JLo – “I liked the moves, work on the control.” Said she didn’t really care that it was off-key.  RJ – “well, listen… *I* care about the pitchiness… gotta keep your breath, you chopped off the notes – but loved the reggae!”  Naima said that she struggled a bit finding moments to draw her breath, and the adrenaline made it tough.  Anyhow, dial “36” instead of “13” because “13 is unlucky” according to Ryan.  But you make 14, Ryan!

Top 3: Casey, Pia, James
Bottom 3: Haley, Ashthon, Karen

I think that Paul was dreadful but he’ll skate.  He wasn’t boring AND bad, just regular bad.  Naima and (hopefully) Lauren showed enough energy to overcome subpar vocals.  LB thinks that Lauren is in more trouble than Ashthon because she went first and was immediately blown off stage by Casey.  We’ll see later tonight!

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