We had the ladies of American Idol on last night’s live show. Now it’s the time of the gentlemen to impress us with their crazy, mad, ridiculous vocal chops, dude.
But, forewarned by our stateside Idol h8r boi, Stevie, the guys vocals aren’t a patch on the girlies (bringing us back to the foregone conclusion that it’s going to be a girl winner this year). I wonder if that’ll be a self-fulfilling prophecy? Let’s find out, beginning with…
[[Todrick Hall]], 24 is a writer, actor, all-round entertainer-type person from Arlington, Texas. For his first song of the competition, he’s singing Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone – in a rap/R&B style. He’s got wonderful self-belief and a real boyband vibe, truckloads of confidence. Or over-confidence. Because the singing – what we’re here for, readers – is awful. Really bad.
[[Ellen DeGeneres]]: You’re a great performer – you’re a dancer, so you already have that stage presence. The chorus was a little rough. The singing wasn’t the greatest, but I loved it that you took a chance with that song – that’s what we’re looking for. Randy: Loved you in Hollywood week, but I didn’t even know the song. Even though I knew the title. You never want to take a song and completely obliterate it. That’s why it was a hit in the first place. Kara: I think that you’re a strong enough singer that you don’t need to change the arrangement that much – it’ll be changed by virtue of what you bring to it. But you’re a performer, and you took a risk. You only learn by taking risks. Simon: I think you came over as a dancer trying to sing rather than a singer who can dance a little. I’m all for taking risks, but what you did was completely murder the original song. You can boo all you want, nobody would buy it.
[[Aaron Kelly]], 16, is from Sonestown, Pennsylvania. He’s a high school student, obviously. Not ringing any bells from auditions, to be truthful. Aaron’s singing Rascal Flatts’ Here Comes Goodbye. Wow! I wasn’t ready for this – a really mature, melodic performance (not difficult when you’re following Todrick). This kid has a great voice.
[[Simon Cowell]]: Bearing in mind it’s your first live show, that was quite a good performance. You look at the moment as if you’re embarrassed to be here. You’re a good singer, very likeable, very cute. I don’t think the song was as good as Angels, but I believe 100% you’ll be here next week. Kara: A competition like this is going to make you better every week. What you do naturally, you can’t teach people that. You did a great job, and I think we’re gonna see incredible things from you. Randy: The guys are right, I thought this was a big song for you. But when you started singing and hit the chorus – I’m a big fan man. 16? What a voice. Ellen: I think you’re gonna be here a long time, and you’re gonna do very well. And I love how humble you are.
[[Jermaine Sellers]], 27, is a church singer from Joliet, Illinois. He gives a fantastic monologue about representing his family, his city, his pet gerbil. And he’s singing Get Here by Oleta Adams. And if you don’t mind me saying, folks, he sounds a bit like a lady. In a good way. Okay, he’s fluffed his tuning more than a few times, but I think he’s likeable and might have some good potential.
Ellen: I’m a huge fan of yours, I love the way you look and I love that song. I felt that you were singing the song more as a performance than for the song. It was a good choice for you, but I felt you were trying too hard. [[Randy Jackson]]: I see you more as Maxwell, Ne-Yo, more kind of current. But you were trying to do too much with it vocally, dawg. Sing the melody, it works, that’s why it was a hit. Kara: I think you wanted to show what you can do. When you do those runs, make them meaningful, make it special. And again, you’re young, and it felt a little old to me. Simon: It’s the kind of song, if you’re playing piano in a cocktail bar, that song will be requested. It was so over the top, it just didn’t work. I think you’ve totally blown your opportunity with that.
[[Tim Urban]], 20, from Duncanville, Texas is the guy who got drafted in to replace Chris Golightly. He’s singing Apologize by One Republic. Argh, it’s a karaoke version. Tim’s got the looks for the important job of popstar, but the singing is miles down the road trying to catch up.
Simon: We absolutely made the right decision the first time not to put you through, based on that performance. There was just nothing to take from that, the vocals were weak, the version was weak and I don’t think your voice is good enough. [[Kara DioGuardi]]: The music overpowers you, it kind of swallows you up. You were more organic with your guitar in Hollywood week. Randy: It was such the wrong song for you. You don’t even have the falsetto. None of it worked. It was just all wrong. Ellen: You chose it because it’s a popular song that people like and know. But you couldn’t hit those high notes. You’re adorable and I think people will want to vote for you, but you need to choose the right songs and just step it up.
[[Joe Muñoz]] is 20 years old, from Huntington Park, California and he’s a student. But dammit, he’s singing a Jason Mraz song, You And I, which is not such a great thing. Fair dues to Joe, he does a reasonably good job of singing the song – we’re kindly overlooking first night nerves here.
Ellen: You start singing and you can see it in your eyes. Great stage presence, I liked it. Randy: Not quite the perfect song choice. But you’ve got a great voice, and I love the sound of it. Singing Jason Mraz is tough, because he’s such a stylised artist, but you did a good job of it. Kara: When you started singing, you were up front and center. When you got to the chorus, you had some issues, but tonight when it comes to singing, you’ve been the best. Simon: I kind of agree. With this show, you have to get out of the bubble. Based on that performance, I don’t believe that you’re the kind of artist who can sell records all over the world. I think it was an OK, safe, forgettable performance. In 10 seconds time, we’re gonna forget that performance.
[[Tyler Grady]], 20, is a college student from Nazareth, Pennsylvania. His retro style is drawing favourable comments, and he certainly stands out from the crowd stylistically. Singing American Woman in a satisfyingly bluesy style, the song breaks out the riffage. The voice isn’t quite as strong as we’d have liked to hear, but we remain hopeful…
Simon: Plus side – people are gonna remember that performance, partly for the wrong reasons. You come over a lot as somebody who’s gone to ‘pretend to be a rock star’ school. It’s all a bit cliched, it doesn’t feel natural. I don’t think you’re spending enough time concentrating on your vocals. Kara: It’s like Jim Morrison’s all up in your room. And it’s playing too true to it as opposed to adding something original to it. You have a frontman personality, but you’ve gotta do something more than the whole 70’s vibe. Bring it into this decade. Randy: Who are you gonna be right now? It definitely was all about style over substance, and you’ve done that every time we’ve seen you. It’s about time to change the game and say I’m Tyler, this is what I’m bringing to the 70’s in 2010. Ellen: You’ve got the poses, you’re copying the poses, but you’re lacking the charisma and the excitement – you’re going through the motions without being that person. You gotta work on the singing and get into that performance.
[[Lee Dewyze]], 23, from Chicago, Illinois had some impressive times in the Hollywood round. He chooses to sing Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol for us tonight. He’s making it double-difficult tonight by trying to play guitar and changing the melody slightly as well. This leads inevitably to tuning issues. So, it’s not particularly good.
Ellen: That was a really good song choice, except when you started screaming it. But I love the tone of your voice. You’ve got a distinctive sound. Randy: Ah, dawg. I didn’t like the song for you. I’m a fan of the voice, but you’re more of a harder rocker for me, and that’s more of a pop-fusion kind of rock song. Kara: This song has a really small range, so you tried to change it up, but you almost made it unrecognisable in parts. Simon: I thought this was the best performance – this guy is a naturally good singer, and I fought for you to be here. Do what David Cook did – take a song and turn it into you.
College student [[John Park]], 21, from Northbrook, Illinois is the guy who Shania Twain dumped a truckload of double-entendres on. She liked his bottom end. John sings God Bless The Child, but it’s all a tad dull full of awful histrionics that totally ruin the song.
Simon: You have got to have an incredible voice to take on that song. And you haven’t. It came over as very flat, and interestingly zero emotion. It was kind of a pointless performance, it was like a copycat Michael Buble. Kara: I actually agree. You have a really big voice in there, and there was no connection. I can’t figure out where you go in terms of today’s music industry. Randy: It made you feel old and all out of sorts. You’ve definitely got a voice there, but it just doesn’t suit this kind of thing. Ellen: I don’t know why you chose that song. If it was a different song, people would see who you are. We wanna know who you are, what kind of music you sing best.
[[Michael Lynche]] with an ‘e’ or without an ‘e’? Big Mike, 26, a personal trainer from St Petersburg, Florida sings Maroon 5’s This Love. He’s playing his own guitar. I don’t know what it is, but I do love this big lunk. Not a world-beating performance, but leaps ahead of many other male contestants tonight, and he’s ten times more comfortable on stage too.
Ellen: You have so much personality, it’s just bursting out of you. I love that you’re always smiling and infectious in that way, that was a great song choice. There were some pitch problems, but it doesn’t matter. Randy: You like being this kind of gregarious, fun character. But I got a bone to pick. When you picked us up in Hollywood, that hurt! Kara: It’s true, it was a little depressing in here until you got up and did your thing. If we’d had a lot of great performances, we’d probably be more critical about it, because there were some problems with it, but it wasn’t outrageously great. Simon: What they’re really saying in a roundabout way is that you’re the support act before the main act. You’re a big guy, big heart, but everything you delivered so little on that performance. When you get up there, you’ve got to nail a song, you’ve got to make people listen to you as an artist, because you didn’t.
High school student [[Alex Lambert]], 19, from North Richland Hills, Texas, is one of the survivors of Mary Powers’ group at Hollywood. He’s singing James Morrison’s Wonderful World. Can I talk about the mullet? He’s got a bloody mullet! Stop the band, this guy has a mullet. Who in 2010 sells music with a mullet? Erm…back to the voice…has moments of brightness, but I hate the song, and I’m ‘meh’ about the performance.
Simon: I don’t know who was happier for that to end, you or me. Because it was the most uncomfortable performance of the night. You were staring into the camera because you were told to do it. You’ve got a good voice, naturally a good voice. But if you can’t get your nerves together on a night like this… Kara: I wanna give him a hug right now. You sound so much like James Morrison and that’s a problem, but it’s also a huge compliment. Your tone is crazy, you’re giving your all and switching up melodies. You have great potential, you really do. Randy: Do with conviction. You got a great tone, just try to pull it all together. Ellen: I like you too. I like that you’re holding onto the mullet and you’re not gonna let it go. I think you’re adorable and you got a great voice. You’re like a banana that’s not quite ripe enough.
[[Casey James]], 27, from Fort Worth, Texas. Yes, the guy who took his shirt off for Kara at auditions. I have high hopes for this guy, but he’s singing Heaven by Bryan Adams. He’s got a great, country-style voice, but it doesn’t quite work for me on this song, which is a personal favourite of mine. Can I be picky about his phrasing of some of the lyrics – he sings them so fast, he runs all the words together.
Kara: I don’t recognize you with your shirt on. I think you got a little pitchy at one point. Ellen: It was hard for me to hear. I could feel Kara undressing you with her eyes. Randy: I actually really like you, it was a great song choice for you, I like your voice, the whole swagger you got. I like you too, not in that way. Kara: You are eye candy, but you’re ear candy as well. Simon: One thing I do understand is that we both were cursed with good looks. Somehow you have to manage the talent thing as well. You chose the right song, it came over as honest, very sincere. Obviously the cougar here likes you, but I do think this was the best performance from you since you’ve been in the competition.
[[Andrew Garcia]] is our final contestant of the night.He’s 24 years old, from Moreno Valley in California. Nice song choice – Sugar, You’re Going Down by Fall Out Boy. He kicks it off acoustically, and stays there. No raucous chorus and distorted guitars here.
Simon: I was looking forward to hearing you, but I was disappointed by that. It was too serious, too indulgent. When you did the Paula song back in Hollywood week, that made you stand out as original, quirky and interesting. Tonight, it was very muso, very serious. Kara: I think he took the risk, but it was a really strange rendition of that song. It isn’t meant to be played acoustically. I love that you take chances, and Straight Up bought you a lot of time with us. Randy: The arrangement was really strange for me. But I’m a fan of you. I remember what you did in Hollywood as if it was yesterday. Ellen: I think doing a Paula song is going to carry you, because people really talked about it. When you shined was when you turned to your wife and opened up and started smiling. I think you’re gonna stick around. We like you.
Well, it was a mixed bag, but not quite as bad as I’d been expecting. If I’m honest here, I’ve tuned into Idol shows in previous years and the contestants were just as shaky – and not only in the first week. There’s a bit of grumbling about the finalists, but it’s only the first week, there’s plenty of room for improvement, and the people who I was interested in seemed to deliver to my satisfaction.
Okay, it wasn’t the best performing I’ve ever seen on TV, but I’ve still got high hopes for Idol this year. Not the worst start.