Life as an Extreme Sport

American Idol, Top 24 Guys, Week 1

American Idol has started back up; I actually started watching last week, during Hollywood week. Now we’re in the top 24, and it’s time to get my predicting hat on (let’s see how well theory holds up to practice). I’ll skip the long recaps at the moment, because I think the manipulations become more interesting when it’s down to the top 12. I will, however, note that we’ve had one contestant pull the dead relative card already – Jason Yeager – and I suspect that will backfire for him. And it’s also worth noting the difference between successfully sassing a judge (Danny Noriega double-snapped Simon most awesomely, and even Simon laughed at it for what it was) and just looking like an argumentative ass (Chikezie). People should remember to skip the sass and backtalk unless they’re really good at improv.

Also – I’m not fond of assigning theme weeks so early; everyone had to do a 60s song, and I really liked the free and random spirit of past season’s top 24. You never knew what you were going to get, and it was delightful for the unexpected. That said, I do think it was a way to prevent the contestants from shooting themselves in the foot by picking an obscure song. (Well, that and the fact that with the music now being available next day for iTunes download, I’m sure licensing became more tricky – I’m actually convinced this is the reason for the narrow selection.)

That said, here’s my take on it so far:
Top Three: Robbie Carrico, David Archuleta, Michael Oz
Bottom Three: Chikezie, Jason Yeager, Colton Berry
Top 6 predictions: David Cook, Robbie Carrico, David Archuleta, Danny Noriega, Jason Castro, Michael Oz
Going home: Jason Yeager, Luke Menard

Joe R over at TWoP thinks Like and Garrett are going home Thursday.

One comment

  1. Aaw, Simon’s in a good mood, Randy’s expanded his vocabulary, and Paula’s sober! It’s obviously the start of the season, and equally obviously won’t last too long. So apparently instead of letting them pick whatever songs they want, the contestants have been limited to 50 songs from the 1960s. I don’t know if I like the idea of theme weeks so soon – part of the appeal of the rapid elimination rounds is that they’re so diverse, and people have only themselves to blame for bad song choices. This seems to give more room for whining. Then again, it’s probably more likely to force the contestants to pick a known song (and thus stopping some of them from the other sort of common self destruct at this point – picking songs they love to sing karaoke to, but aren’t good contest choices… I’m thinking of Chaka Khan here). We’ll see how it goes, but I’m suspicious of the choice and the effect it will have.

    I should also note that I’ve come into the Top 24 without watching the audition rounds (save Hollywood week); I don’t have television access right now, and didn’t want to be bothered watching bad auditions (and finding bittorrents for them). So I don’t know all of the contestants.

    First up: David Hernandez, who Simon didn’t think should be here. He’s relatively clean cut, and responded well to Simon’s comments – took it as a challenge rather than an insult. It is at least a level of professionalism that might hold him well during immediate judge feedback. Let’s see what he sings… In The Midnight Hour.

    Hmm. He has a nice tone to his voice, but… he’s just sort of standing there. The audience is giving more energy and life to the song than he is. He has a bit of a scared of the camera expression, too. And ew, I didn’t like that ending at all. Eh, I’d say around a C performance. Strictly average.

    Judges say: Randy’s doing the yoyo, nice gospel intro, but fell apart at the end. (David’s father is apparently related to Jabba the Hut.) Paula goes for the it’s hard to be first excuse, but complements his vibratto. And Simon says,… it was better than he was expecting. Terrific intro, middle was a bit “rabbit in the headlights”, heh, and the end sucked. Simon noted what I did – the guy was stiff, nervous and scared.

    Points to David for owning up to it, admitting he was nervous, and no one told him anything he hadn’t been told all day. He also nicely dodged Ryan trying to get him in a verbal back and forth with Simon.

    Chikezie, which I’m probably spelling wrong. So apparently he made it to the end of Hollywood week last year, and then got tossed out on his ass. Back again this year – so, good for him for trying again. I can appreciate that in a contestant.

    He’s singing… something, in the most horribly loud tangerine suit. This is apparently More Than Yesterday. It’s very lounge lizard. He’s at least engaging with the camera, though, and has nice facial expressions/eyes. I get the distinct impression he’s modeling himself off of Barry White. He almost sounds shouty to me – at one point, his voice got soft and in the softness got much nicer.

    The judges say: Randy doesn’t like it; he’s dodging, saying it needs to be newer and fresher, it was alright. Paula says he has come a long way, looks great, lost a lot of weight – dodge, dodge, dodge. Simon says: he hated the whole thing because the suit is hideous (and at this point, Chikezie goes after Simon’s clothing and argues), the winking was hideous, the singing was bad, it was corny, cheesy, and something filmed 30 to 40 years ago. It was too old-fashioned. Haha, and then Simon pretends he never interrupts Paula. *snort*

    Aaand Chikezie hasn’t learned the cardinal rule: you will not win in an argument with Simon, and you will look like a petulant and spoiled brat when trying. He also has an awful poker face. I give him a C-.

    David Cook apparently seems too comfy to Ryan, which surprised David. He did a really nice a capella Bon Jovi cover, and my impression in Hollywood week was that he’s one to watch.

    He’s singing So Happy Together – nice beginning. Slow, soulful, nice smile, good interaction with the camera. His voice has some nice range going on as well, although he’s getting a bit lost in the chorus. Hrm. Second verse, he’s really reminding me of…someone. Someone contemporary, and I can’t place my finger on it – anyone?

    Not a knockout performance, but a good, solid one; I liked it – he’s not going anywhere. I’ll give him a B+. Room for improvement, but still good.

    Judges say: Randy thought it was a bit weird, but then he made it into a rock joint and was impressed; likes the rock edge, said he sounds like he belongs in Alice in Chains (mmm Faith No More, maybe?). Paula enjoyed it, especially since it was a new and fresh take. Simon says, it was a bit shouty, but good. Weird song to choose, never heard it sung like that before, but it was almost believable. Yeah, matches my impression.

    Jason Yeager – huh. Guy has a bit of a … Michael Buble-y vibe for me, based on audition rounds. Aaw, role model for his son, too – sweet. Was he the single father? Ooooh dear, apparently I tagged the Michael Buble-y vibe, he’s doing Moon River. He sounds nervous; kind of wobbly. A few of those notes, though, are pretty – too bad his voice isn’t under control/he can’t keep his nerves calm.

    Who sang the Fivel song, Somewhere Out There? That’s what his voice would be like, if he could control the nerves. Really lovely end to the song – that’s where he finally hit his stride. Too bad; I don’t see this one lasting long. Solid C.

    Judges said: Randy said it was a tougher song to sing than people would think, but it was pitchy and the concentration kept slipping. Paula said it was good advice by Randy; simple songs can often be hardest to sing. (Oh dear, Jason pulled out the dead grandmother card when talking about why it’s sentimental to him.) Simon says: it was cruise ship, David came across as much older than 28, and a lot of young people aren’t going to get it. Paula notes that this right, BUT that’s the problem with covering the 60s. Simon calls him a dependable sheep dog; reliable, but not exciting. Randy and Paula took some exception there, and suddenly we’re making John Cusack references and talking about how many puppies Simon’s raised…

    Jason actually agrees with the judges; he’s had vocal coaches tell him the same thing, especially regarding the cruise ship vibe. I can appreciate his willingness to own it, as well as his willingness to say what Simon says is criticism and what you should take it as. So, personality wise, I’ll give him an A.

    Robbie Carrico, who was in a band already; Boyz n Girlz or something like that – they toured with Britney Spears back in the day. Robbie mentions this in his intro package, so they’re not trying to hide the professional background many of these folks have. Apparently after his Brit tour, he realized he wanted to do rock, not pop. Interesting. I think he wants to be this season’s Daughtry. I liked his cover of the Fuel song in Hollywood week – he was right, it did sound nice with piano rather than guitar.

    Robbie’s singing One, oh dear. I am very attached to this song, Three Dog Night’s version and especially Aimee Mann’s version. …he’s taking his fashion advice from Bret Michaels, apparently, which is…not a good thing. His voice has decent range, and he’s definitely trying for the Daughtry thing, sans eyeliner (I’m guessing no wardrobe coaches yet). You know, it wasn’t a bad performance, but it wasn’t really standout, either. Hmm. I’ll give him a B-.

    Judges: Randy liked it, Paula thought it was authentic and he hit the pocket rather than going over the top. Simon said it was the only performance seen so far that was current/made sense; he thought it was good, but is struggling with the authenticity. Still wobbly on the rock rather than pop singer thing.

    Ryan wants to know why the question of the authenticity – Simon’s just not sure, Randy and Paula buy it, Ryan compares him to Timberlake and the guy looks like he’s swallowed a lemon.

    David Archuleta – an early frontrunner, I think. He has a nice voice, and seems really grounded for a 17 year old. Offhand, I’ll be really surprised if he’s not in the Top 12. He’s singing Shop Around and… I can’t believe this kid isn’t already signed. His voice is amazing, mature, and he’s got great stage presence and charisma. Definitely has the singing, the look, and that elusive X factor – in fact, as of now, he’s the only one with the clear X factor going for him. I think he might also be, by far, the best teen singer they’ve ever had. And damn, nice notes on that finish.

    This guy gets an A+, don’t pass go, straight to the top 12.

    Judges: Randy thinks he’s ready to go, sang it very mature, loved it. Paula thought it was a brave and bold choice of song; she forgets his age (RUN DAVID!); notes his confidence. Simon says “when you’ve got it, you’ve got it, and David, that was by a comfortable mile the best performance of the night so far.”

    I can’t disagree with that.

    He’s quite shocked by the praise, and very humble – he’s going to have to be careful that the humbleness (which comes across as very genuine, unlike Sanjaya) doesn’t bite him. He acknowledged the audience, too, very nice – everyone appears to be very charmed by him. I can’t blame them. Ryan’s harassing the poor guy, hah – and it’s funny.
    Ryan: you can only vote for him, you can’t adopt him.
    David: I’m 17!
    Ryan: Yep, and the ladies love you.
    David: *blush*
    Ryan: AND YOU LOVE IT!

    Danny Noriega – aah, the other teenager. He’s 18, flaming gay and not afraid of it. He tried to hide it last year, and hide who he was (“I tried to create an image, I wasn’t being myself”)… and opted to just be himself this time. And it was a good choice; he’s got a lovely voice. However, I’m a bit concerned that his flamingness/theatrical touches will bite him.

    He’s singing Jailhouse Rock, and my initial reaction is oooh, nononono, he’s too young! But you know what? His voice actually sounds really nice on this – it’s a much richer and deeper voice than you’d think (and I’d actually really like to hear this kid sing some Johnny Cash…). He went for hipster, sped up Elvis a bit, and… it wasn’t bad. I’d give him a solid B performance, too – but a good choice, I think, because it’s going to stand out based on the fun it was.

    Judges: Randy says Danny knows how to have a good time, interesting song choice and the vocals were okay, but there was a good time/performance. It was kinda hot. Paula thinks it was a safe song, and focused on performance, but that’s not a bad thing. Simon says he doesn’t understand Paula, and says the performance was verging on the grotesque; hideous performance, don’t take on Elvis without doing it well. Thought the song was destroyed – but he apologized for it (so, that’s new for Simon). Paula is getting really defensive about Simon’s comments. Now the judges are… getting catty; Randy said he wasn’t trying to be Elvis but himself, which is a good choice for anyone trying to do.

    Danny looks teary and a bit puzzled; Ryan asks for his opinion and Danny got all neck snappy with Simon, “Some people weren’t liking it” and he owns up that it was a song choice thing, and he thought it would be fun. I like that he took attitude in such a playful way with Simon, and it looked like Simon actually appreciated it, too. I can’t imagine this kid not sticking around – he’s too funny, and a kind of fabulous that’s just too awesome to put away.

    Luke Menard is up; this guy looks like Matthew McCaughnnahy or however you spell it bred with Luke Perry. It’s actually not a bad look.

    I don’t recognize this song, and the stage presence, hiding behind a mic stand, it a strange choice. It is a slower song, though, so… I guess it’s a sensible thing? This is apparently Everybody’s Talkin At Me from Midnight Cowboy, which.. might be bad that I didn’t recognize it, or might just mean it’s been a long time. It was pretty, but… I doubt I’ll remember it in 5 minutes. A C-.

    Judges: It wasn’t great for Randy, too pitchy and sharp. Paula agrees with Randy in that it was not a good song choice for him and that she’s glad she heard earlier auditions (ie if this was what he tried out with, they wouldn’t have taken him – ouch, hard to get from Paula). Simon picks on Paula, and then Simon tells him that it was a forgettable performance and no one will remember it. So, uhm, Simon and I are on the same wavelength with the Top 12 guys, and that’s kind of scary when it happens so consistently.

    Luke’s up with Ryan and admits that he might be overthinking things, and disagrees politely with the judges (that it was forgettable) and thanks that it’s the viewers now. He seems very polite, and had absolutely no idea how to react to Simon saying “no one is going to admit to being forgettable.”

    Colton Berry, who knocked out the science nerd in that they were up against each other for the final spot (although I’m sure not literally took science nerd’s place; I suspect David Hernandez did that). Apparently he sings the Teletubbies song to calm down, which… shows the age gap, I guess. He’s singing Suspicious Minds and… it doesn’t sound at all like it and if I didn’t know the lyrics by heart I wouldn’t have recognized it. Which is not a good thing. His voice is okay, but it’s really not impressing me like it did in Hollywood. And the looking like Ellen thing, now that he pointed it out, is kind of distracting.

    I feel like he’s holding back – which might be because he was told to contain his theatre background. But… there’s containing, and then there’s flattening yourself. This, to my mind, was actually one of the worst performances of the evening. C-.

    Judges: Randy thought it started rough, but by the end he found his way with it. Paula thought it was nice to see a different side of him, it wasn’t his best performance but he gave it an eager attempt. Simon thought it was okay, not quite as bad as the other Elvis song, but the point of the show is to find a recording artist, but Simon got nothing from it; no relevance to the current music industry, maybe musical theatre. He’s not coming across like a recording artist – which, I think, is a good point.

    Up with Ryan, Simon clarifies looking for “current” – then slams all the artists hairstyles. Colton didn’t seem to know what to do with it all.

    Garrett Haley who does bear a striking resemblance to Lief Garret. They acknowledge he didn’t have a lot of face time in the audition rounds – and maybe instead of trying to fix it now, they should just give people more face time, eh?

    This guy is from somewhere in the heartland, and has this weird… accent? I really hope that he doesn’t sound like me (because my reaction is wanting to ask if he’s from Canada or a Brit expat of many years, which is what I get all the time). He’s singing Breaking Up Is Hard to Do. In the 80s, he would have been in RATT or Poison or Mr. Big – just has that sort of look.

    I don’t… really know what to make of this performance. It’s very mellow. Seems too old for him, for one. Secondly, what he’s wearing just doesn’t match the tempo/vibe of the song, which brings some cognitive dissonance to it. It’s not that his voice is bad, it’s just… I can’t place my finger on it. It’s a higher pitched Elliot Yamin, I think, where you want to like him, but just can’t bring yourself to. I like the parsed down version of the song but,… yeah. I don’t know. I can’t even figure out what grade to give it.

    Judges: Randy loves the song, but Garrett didn’t do anything with it, or make it his own. Paula suggests talking to Ricky Minor to change up the tempo, which brings the performance down and encourages chances. Simon agrees, and thinks he looked terrified to boot. And Simon suddenly developed a Cardiff accent? He’s obviously picking up the weird accent thing from Garrett and it’s fucking with him… Again, it’s a matter of not being relevant, young, current. But the judges tried to take the comments more negatively than Simon meant and that pissed Simon off. Aaah, the friendliness never lasts an entire episode, does it?

    Up with Ryan, Ryan actually understands Simon’s point and agrees. Garrett says it’s constructive criticism, he sees Simon’s point, and that he’ll take the advice since that’s what it’s for. Another contestant with a genuinely nice personality.

    Jason Castro – pretty blue eyes. Major dreds. Heh. He’s also the first person to perform with an instrument, which ought to be interesting; looks like he’s going to play guitar. It also sounds like he’s a genuine novice – said he’s only sung in public some five times prior to trying out for American Idol. He’s performing What A Day for a Daydream.

    It’s a very commercial associated song for me, so it’s weird to not see an obvious advertisement. He’s got a really nice voice, though – managing to be on key the entire time, managing the changes in pitch, and is actually all over the place with hitting notes. Kind of nice. Kind of surprisingly nice, actually. I’ll give him a B and some shock.

    Judges: Randy liked the guitar, said he chose some interesting melody arrangements; didn’t blow him away but it was “a’ight”. Paula was blown away; liked the joyfulness and the minimal take on it. Simon says it was in the top two performances of the night, so high praise. Kind of. Simon says he’s got that X factor, too – just wishes that the band hadn’t accompanied him, should have just been Jason and his guitar.

    Up with Ryan, he admits to a shock and awe, and that it’s nervewracking up there. And, the kid is cutely awkward and seems very genuine and nice. And damn, no singing training? Okay, he deserves every ounce of praise, especially compared to those who have a lot more experience.

    Michael Oz (who is apparently actually Michael Johns, but I like Michael Oz better). He’s been in the US for 10 years, addressing people’s confusion about the Aussie accent. This guy sang Bohemian Rhapsody in Hollywood round and blew it out of the fucking park. This guy is phenomenal, and I have great hopes for him. And he’s easy on the eyes, too.

    He’s singing Light My Fire and sounds very similar to Jim Morrison. And he most certainly sounds an incredible bit like Michael Hutchence, so I hope he gets to cover an INXS song later. It was a good performance. Nothing new, no novel take, just a solid performance. Easy to give him an A.

    Judges: HAH! Randy just called him a Michael Hutchence, too. The judges and I are on the same page, aiy! That scares me. Paula loved it speechless, and Simon said he’s the most consistent contestant, and he’s loved everything Michael has done, and the guy has the natural charisma of a lead singer – he has it. That X factor thang.

    Up with Ryan, he shows a significant comfort talking on the stage. Definitely sticking around – he’s got Top 12 written all over him.

    Okay, here’s my take:

    Top Three: Robbie Carrico, David Archuleta, Michael Oz
    Bottom Three: Chikezie, Jason Yeager, Colton Berry
    Top 6 predictions: David Cook, Robbie Carrico, David Archuleta, Danny Noriega, Jason Castro, Michael Oz
    Going home: Jason Yeager, Luke Menard

    Joe R over at TWoP thinks Like and Garrett are going home Thursday.

Comments are closed.