Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"Don't call me sweetheart!": American Idol

by Libby

We’ve put it off as long as we could, but tonight marks a new page in SDD history: the American Idol recap. Understand, that this is a highly toned down and edited version of my thoughts on the program, as the originals would likely get us blacklisted and/or sued.

As another disclaimer, let me just say that I can’t believe this is the #1 show in America.

We begin the show with a look at what has to be THE most bland group of contestants in this show’s history. Homogenization reigns supreme, as even the token racial diversity has been whitewashed and made into a teeth-capped, pale-face convention.

With that said, let the singing begin! (For more information on the various contestants, go here.)

Rudy Cardenas, 28, is a professional musician from North Hollywood, who, based on his performance tonight, is going to try and break into the commercial jingle business as soon as this whole Idol thing is through. Really, though, who thinks to themselves, “I bet doing a song from the Edgar Winter Group would really launch my career." No Rudy. No, it won’t. And the judges appear to agree, though Simon mentions that what they are looking for in this competition is something unique, which is news to me.

Brandon Rogers, 29, is a backup singer who obviously never understood that the reason one is a background singer is because they have an innocuous, unoriginal voice. Huh. Wonder if that will come up later. Regardless, Brandon does a passable job, most notably because he really sells his performance to the camera, and if I know 12 year old girls (and I think I DO), they won't be able to resist those soulful eyes. The judges say something about him being “pitchy” which is already my least favorite word ever.

Sundance Head, 28, works in a machine shop in Porter, Texas. First off … Sundance? Really? I get that the name Butch Head would have been weird, but if you were married to the movie, why not go with Kid? Kid Head, now THERE’S a name! Notice, I’ve just spent quite an amount of time not talking about Mr. Head’s performance. Most likely this is because I’d made it 25 years without hearing “Nights in White Satin” but now, I can never say that again. And if you were wondering, it was most definitely not worth giving that up to listen to Sundance Head. So long, Sundance. Simon was quite right when he compared your performance to someone’s father at a wedding.

Paul Kim, 25, is from San Jose, CA and had several notable things about his performance. For one, he always sings barefoot. Evidently there is a foot fetish contingent of the Idol voting audience that I was unaware of. Well played, Mr. Kim. However, one of the highlights of my evening was when he chose to perform “Careless Whisper”! It was terrible, and he was compared unfavorable to George Michael, which is honestly an accomplishment in and of itself, but, dude, still … awesome.

Chris Richardson, 22, from Chesapeake, VA reminds everyone of Justin Timberlake. Evidently, this is a good thing, which, again, news to me. (Please. Sexy Back? Awesome. -- ed) Richardson had a wealth of laughs, from working in “the restaurant industry” (see: waiter), to his totally supportive, nerdlinger, rock-out parents who you can tell are just praying for his success so he will move out of their basement. Also, kudos, Chris for picking the theme song to One Tree Hill, as the 12 year olds are crazy for the Chad Michael Murray. The judges said something to this guy, but mostly were as psyched about his parent as I was.

Nick Pedro, 25, from Taunton, MA is doomed. Seriously. He made it to the Hollywood round last year and quit. QUIT. Because he couldn’t learn the lyrics. Lame. Anyway, he sang “Now and Forever” and it sucked. Blah.

Blake Lewis, 25 (and pictured above), is from Seattle, WA, and is a musician. And by that, I mean, HUMAN BEATBOX! Awesome. Now, we didn’t get to witness any beatboxing tonight, but I am willing to keep watching. Lewis, also had a decent performance, as he actually picked something from the last 5 years to cover. Go Keane. However, he has even awesomer parents than Chris Richardson, and they just looked pleased that he wasn’t still closed up in their basement practicing his beatboxing. Or whatever it is they’re calling it these days.

Sanjaya Malakar, 17, also from Seattle, WA, just got his GED …so … congratulations! Malakar has a sob story about his sister who he always thought was better than him who got eliminated in the Hollywood round. His sister was thoughtful enough to send him this song to sing. Obviously she REALLY MISSES HIM, because after this performance, Sanjaya seems as though he’ll be seeing her again REALLY SOON. In a word, sucktastic. In other news, Randy got booed for telling this guy that Stevie Wonder is a better singer than him. Uh. Okay.

Chris Sligh, 28, is from Greenville, SC and does something. I can’t remember/don’t care what. See, I used to be a fan of this guy, being as he looks like a Jack Osbourne/Hurley from Lost cross-breed, but the whole fanatical fundie aspect really creeps me out. (For those that have no idea what I’m talking about, try searching for his Myspace or his blog.) Sligh had a decent performance, however and should be noted for sparking off what seemed like an insane lovers' spat between Seacrest and Simon. More on that later.

Jared Cotter, 25, from Long Island, NY has a very small head. He was a good singer and gave a good performance (Brian McKnight’s “One”), but I just could not get past his tiny head. My apologies.

A.J. Tabaldo, 22, from Santa Maria, CA gave a spirited performance of a song that I’ve never heard before. He did have a very theme-park-like essence about him, perhaps sort of Mickey Mouse Club, but, meh, he won’t go home this round.

Phil Stacey, 29, a sailor from Jacksonville, FL, missed the birth of his second daughter in order to audition for American Idol. Sailor, I hope you win this competition, because your daughter is going to need a lot of therapy. That said, Stacey has a strange look about him, but some decent pipes that he showcased in true Idol/Edward McCain style during the chorus.

Ugh. Finally, with the music recap out of the way I can focus on what makes Idol what it is: what seems to be the steamy, barely disguised love between Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest. Something finally popped in Seacrest’s head this episode, and he and Simon get into some weird pseudo-argument about nothing in particular, leaving both of them sulking and leaving the rest of us feeling like the uncomfortable dinner guests from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”.

Aside from that, I’m disturbed by the fact that the criticism that Cowell gives of contestants is generally spot on, and it’s a sad state of affairs in America when honest criticism is booed in favor of Abdul’s inane support and Jackson’s "dawg"-ridden double-talk.

Additionally, at the beginning of the show, Seacrest questions Cowell about the success of past contestants adding to the validity of the show. It should be noted that the contestants he mentions are Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Katherine McPhee and Jennifer Hudson. Let the record show, that only ONE of these people won Idol and that all things said, AI has a pretty pitiful track record when it comes to winners and commercial success.

So that’s it. I’ll be back tomorrow night for the women’s round, and Thursday night, when, by the grace of God, they start eliminating people.

Whom I would pick to go home: Sanjaya Malakar and Nick Pedro
Whom the 12-year-old girls of America will send home: Sundance Head and Sanjaya Malakar

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