We’re a day later than you folks in the US of A, but let’s pretend that we’re watching the first [[American Idol (2009 Series)|American Idol]] live show…live.
Ryan Seacrest strides onto the stage, looking quite casual (where are the snazzy suits, do they come later in the series?). He introduces the judges, giving special attention to Kara DioGuardi (her first live show!). Paula Abdul is typically stuttery and nervous, but we’ll put that down to first night nerves. Simon wounds Seacrest’s ego by suggesting that his new haircut is eerily Cowellesque.
Tonight’s theme is an easy one to begin with: Any hit from the Billboard Hot 100 from any stage of its history.
Jackie Tohn from Silver Lake, California opens the show. She’s singing Elvis Presley’s A Little Less Conversation, but not the Junkie XL version. A smoky, bluesy rendition. Randy “Way to start season 8 off – it’s all good on the entertainment side.” Kia – “You have a big personality and you showed us that tonight.” Paula – “Jackie, you got me up dancing. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but perfect sometimes is boring. You make everyone fall in love with you.” Simon – “I thought you played the clown a bit tonight. I thought the performance was ungainly, the performance a bit gimmicky. I don’t think you did yourself any favours tonight.”
Next up is Ricky Braddy from Nashville. Randy: “This I feel is the star of season 8 right here. I think we got more talent here than we’ve ever had. Beautiful tone, nice voice.” Kara – “I hope you feel good, because you killed that. Your riffs, your interpretation…you killed that.” Paula: “With so many contestants, I’m so proud that America gets to see how talented you are. You deserve to go very far in this competition.” Simon: “My main issue with you is that I don’t think you have at the moment, any star quality. I think you’re a nice, shy guy who doesn’t believe in yourself.”
Check out this post from Jaynee on how American Idol shafted Ricky – very interesting perspective.
Third performance is from [[Alexis Grace]] taking on an old Aretha Franklin classic, I Have Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You). A really sassy, sexy version if I say so myself. Randy: “You found the dirt, you found the soul. I’m lovin’ you right now.” Kara: “The genie is out of the bottle with you. It has been a pleasure to watch you come out of your shell.” Paula: “People don’t expect that you have the ability to present so much soul, so much passion, so much confidence.” Simon: “I think you, by a mile are the best contestant we’ve got. You may be a little dark horse in this competition. One to watch.”
Blanchester, Ohio’s Brent Keith is next to perform. He’s playing a country song called Hicktown. It’s a good tune, but Brent looks a little self-conscious when performing, like he’s holding back a little. Randy: “I liked what you did. You’re like a new edge to country with the old country swagger. I think you make a very good country artist” Kara: “I think you were very safe tonight. I think you’ve got more in you than what we’ve seen tonight.” Simon: “You’ve got one shot here. You’re a nice guy, you’ve got a nice voice. What you did was not safe, it was forgettable. I don’t think you’re going to have any impact with that song altogether.”
Whoa, interviewing Brent in the red room just after, he looks majorly pissed off. Reckon he wanted to punch our Simon a little bit?
17 year old Stevie Wright – already an enemy of Mr Cowell – is singing Taylor Swift’s You Belong With Me. And she looks cute, she really does, but oh that voice is riddled with nerves and is suffering horribly. Probably the first person who clearly shouldn’t be there. Randy: “That was not hot for me – I wasn’t feeling that at all.” Kara: “We wanted you to be young, but you picked a song that has nothing to do with you, what Stevie is as an artist.” Paula: “I’m going to have to agree with these two. The low range was too low for you.” Simon: “Stevie, it was terrible. The song was OK, you were out of tune, you looked really nervous.”
Unforgiving comments from Cowell and his cohorts, but quite right. She was really nervous in her defense.
Next…Anoop Desai from Chapel Hill. Call him Anoop Dogg if you like. Angel Of Mine is the song. He’s trying hard, but it’s a mediocre performance with a few bum notes. OK, a lot of bum notes. Expect the judgement to be harsh. Randy: “I liked that man. Interesting song choice, but the whole song was a little sharp. Wasn’t your best, but I;m still a huge fan.” Kara: “It’s a hard song to sing. I’m not sure that you had the riffs or the capability to nail it the way it was supposed to be nailed.” Paula: “The great thing about you is that America has connected with you in a huge way.” Simon: “It was a little bit too grown up for you. It was a bit too serious for you. What you’ve got though…is massive likeability.”
OH, bollocks! The Sky+ fuzzed up and missed part of the show. We return to the show in time for:
[[Michael Sarver]]‘s performance – a really upbeat, funky rendition of I Don’t Want To Be by Gavin DeGraw. Good vocals, and a fun performance. The studio audience was stoked by the end of it. Randy: “It started out a little rough, pitch wise. I’m not sure if it was the wrong song choice for you, but I’m not sure you performed it that well.” Kara: “The thing is, I don’t think that was your best performance. I’ve seen you do better.” Paula: “I thought you did a real good job. What gets a little confusing to me is that you change your mic back and forth.” Simon: “We put you here primarily because we like you. I’m not going to lie to you and say this was the best vocal. I think if you get through, it’s because people like you. I hope America does pick up the phone and give you another chance.”
Ann Marie Boskovich from Nashville is our next contestant singing the old standby, Natural Woman. She’s a good-looking girl, and carries the tune well. Not much movement in the performance, but a strong vocal. Randy: “This song for me, was not the right choice for you. I thought that you fell sub-par below that.” Kara: “It’s been a challenge for you to come out and lose the demo singer thing. It feels a bit old-fashioned. I want to hear Love Song by Sarah Barielles or something that’s skewed a bit more fun or girly.” Paula: “Compared to Hollywood week and your first audition, I think you did better. I think you played it safer during the early auditions.” Simon: “The simple truth is, your voice is just not good enough for that song. In the real world, I just don’t think it was good enough.”
Stephen Fowler, from Cleveland didn’t expect to get further than Hollywood. He’s singing Rock With You by Michael Jackson. The voice is smooth, but he still hits the high notes. And I love his look. Nice version, in my humble… Randy: “When we saw you the first time, I never thought you’d have chosen that song. It’s not the joint for you to be singing.” Kara: “I got more from you at the piano when you forgot the lyrics. That song doesn’t give you any room to interpret.” Paula: “It’s such a rare opportunity to get a second chance like you did. It would have served you so much better to have come out here and proved you could sing that David Cook song.” Simon: “I actually wish you had forgotten the lyrics. It was such a pointless performance, to be honest with you. The whole thing was just attrocious.”
Here comes the truly awful Tatiana Del Toro, a contestant who literally gives me nightmares. She’s butchering Whitney Houston’s musical corpse live in front of a studio audience tonight, then fake weeping over the body. Randy: “When I heard you were singing this song I was like ‘Oh no’, but there were some moments where I thought she actually can sing.” Kara: “It’s like a rollercoaster ride with you. Tonight, it’s like a very reserved Tatiana. But who are you in the industry? Where do you fit?” Paula: “I think you probably are the most talked about contestant on the show so far. I’m not used to this demure Tatiana. You had beautiful moments, then you had pitchy moments.” Simon: “You are a complete and utter drama queen. You are desperate to be famous. Surprisingly it wasn’t bad at all. Do the weird laughing.”
She is a good singer, but she’s totally disgraced herself in the auditions. Never gonna be an Idol.
Finally, here comes [[Danny Gokey]], singing [[Mariah Carey|Mariah]]’s Hero. Actually, I’m not that impressed. The verses are mediocre, but he pulls it out of the bag on the bridge, with a gravelly-voiced spin that’s quite nice. Crowd, not heeding my words, goes totally wild. Randy: “The redeemer of the night right there. That was blazing not.” Kara: “You were incredible. You give us all hope. You were great.” Simon: “It was good. It wasn’t fantastic. The end part was good, but the arrangement was a bit heavy-handed. I like you…I’m just not buying the hype right now.”
By now, you’ll know that Alexis Grace, Michael Sarver and Danny Gokey get through this round. I’m not so sure Danny was the strongest – I’d have swapped him for Ricky Braddy to be honest.
Anoop Desai and Stevie Wright were, unfortunately the worst performers of the night. Yes, even worse than Miss Del Toro, who might have got through if she’d stifled those damned theatrics at audition time.
Tell me – who did you love or hate in tonight’s show?