Tuesday, February 17, 2009

episode 8-12 (Feb. 17): Top 36, group 1 performance

A "programming note," as Brian Williams and Matt Lauer like to say. I've gotten some welcome feedback from folks I don't even know, which lets me know that people are actually reading this (and like it), which is nice. That said, obviously I'm not chronicling every episode and event, as the missing entries attest. I do have a job (music-related, which is nice), plus occasional side work (also usually music-related, also which is nice), and a wife and cat to pay attention to once in a while, _and_ a band which rehearses on Tuesday nights (meaning I'm usually watching the show on DVR, and usually don't see the whole show until past voting time). So I may not be the most comprehensive blogger ever, but I'll try to make the entries I _do_ post jam-packed with critiquey goodness.


"Two all-new hours"? Sweet Lord. Thank God I have to DVR this show on Tuesdays. So, they can choose any song from the Billboard Hot 100, ever? Ever? Any chance we'll be hearing "Over There" or "Alexander's Ragtime Band"? Probably not.

(No, it's not just you-- Paula's eyebrows have increased to twice their original area.)

Jackie Tohn plows through "A Little Less Conversation". The combination of the black shiny tights and floppy motions makes for The Jackie Tohn Workout. No denying that she's a strong, fearless performer. When she's reaching, she's got a great gritty Janis-like style that works, but she doesn't seem to know what to do with the rest of her range.

Ricky Braddy... hmm, why have we not heard him before? (Thank you for mentioning that, Paula.) Leon Russell's "A Song For You" is a good choice for his sweet, blue-eyed soul voice. (Somebody help me out: when was this song popular?) Here come Fox's microphone issues, both in Ricky's pre-song sit-down and now in the middle of the song-- "You ttchtchtchththaught me" and such. Great control over his upper register, and a really focused falsetto! (Samanatha called it "dullsville" and feigned snoring.) I say there wasn't a weak note. Randy, Kara and Paula oo'd and ah'd. Simon is with Samantha: he has a great voice but a shy demeanor. (Aghhhhhh, Kara's mic! Who's running this show?!)

Alexis Grace's idea of "dirtying" herself up is putting a streak of pink in her hair. Woo hoo. In "Never Loved a Man" , she puts on an odd accent of some sort, like a German trying to speak in an American English accent a la Heidi Klum. When the hook comes around, putting herself that low in her range, particularly at this stage, seems a bad idea. In the adjudication, recalling the "dirty yourself" audition, Kara teaches us the most important lesson of all: Never be yourself. Oh wait, that's a bad thing. I'm really confused by the judges'-- even Simon's-- effusiveness over her. A fine voice, to be sure, but it seemed really "put on".

Oh, and what was with the judges audition-round obsession with "dirtying" auditionees? Did the producers have a "dirtying" quota they wanted the judges to help them fill?

(Live TV sucks.)

Brent Keith pulses his left leg throughout "Hick Town". He's unsure on so many notes, and when he gets to the bottom of his range, it's a shame. Billy Crystal (as Fernando Lamas on SNL) once joked that "dancing is like standing, only faster"; this was some fast standing. I'm with Kara and Paula on the risk factor; this showed very little of what the judges must've seen in him. And then when Simon critiques him for being forgettable, he's suddenly cocky. Seriously? Why isn't he putting that swagger in his performance? These folks need not just vocal coach, but audition coaches as well, for all-around presentation.

I was rooting for Stevie Wright so hard. Kara refers to her as an "old soul," which is a great way to describe what we've seen of her. And then she brings out a forgettable, bubble-gummy Taylor Swift , and it's SO LOW. SO FRICKIN' LOW!!!!!! Why, Ricky Minor, why?!?! I loved her in the early rounds, but she's so incredibly unsteady. She's showing her age here, with her inabiility to control her nerves. A forgettable performance, or more accurately one I wish I hadn't seen. Samantha remarked "She's wearing something out of the '80s. I used to do that, and it looked bad then!" Damn, I really thought she was a contender. And instead she violated Rule No. 3 of auditioning:

3) Chose a song that is good for you. Unfortunately, she doesn't know what's good for her. It's not fair to throw someone to the wolves like this without some audition coaching and some help with song selection.

She also became the first victim of Ricky Minor's shoddy musical direction. I mentioned in my very first posting that I'd bring up my issues with Ricky Minor if a problem arose, and here it is in the first live episode. Transpose a song up a measly step! Work with the singer and not against them, Ricky!

Oh, and Fox: fix your goddam microphones. Seriously. (And your tapes.) And your logistics with bringing people up to the sit-down, with the approach and the hugging and saying hi to the parents and more of the hugging... what a cinematographic mess, and a waste of air time.

Anoop Desai. He killed "My Prerogative" in Hollywood, and now he's killed "Angel of Mine". (Note on jargon: killed = good.) Perfect song choice, and great connection. (Sam feigned snoring in reaction to the tempo, but I was rapt.) He's like butter, and he just gets stronger every time we see him. Randy and Kara heard a general sharpness, but I didn't hear it-- maybe in it's in the bridge, which is harmonically weird ("every breath that I take," etc.). I'm with Paula that he's McKnight-smooth and makes a mutual connection with the viewers. Anoop refers to Ricky Minor and the band for "making us all sound good," even though we're going to find quite the opposite tonight.

Casey Carlson, who we were promised would "rock the Police," makes a bad, bad, bad choice with "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" (It's occuring to me how lucky Anglophiles are that "he" and "she" rhyme interchangeably. "Her" and "him"... not so much.) "from the staaaaaaaaart" is tremendously underwhelming; this is a belting song (belted by a tenor too) that must be WAILED, and a mezzo can't pull that . Ricky Minor and the band provides a shockingly milquetoast calypso-tinged arrangement (kudos to the drummer, though!). She fast-stands as well. (Sam called the karaoke; Randy agreed.) Simon says she shouldn't have been "allowed" to sing that song. Which begs the question: who's decision is it, btw? In an ordinary auditioning situation, of course, it's the auditionee's choice, as the auditioners are probably strangers, but here? Hmm.

I'm all set to worship Michael Sarver... and then he sings "I Don't Wanna Be". Noooooooooo!!!!! Why go to such a low part of your range?! Why, Michael, why?!?! He's not the aw-shucks charmer we met in the previous rounds; he's stiff in the limelight and makes awkward runs. Paula notices the unconscious shell game he's playing with the mic (I do the same in performance, and watching someone else do it is pretty uncomfortable). Simon is surprisingly kind; I love this guy to pieces, but he didn't convince me he's worth voting for.

Anne Marie Boscovitch presumes to sing "Natural Woman". Usually, picking an Aretha Franklin tune is bad foreshadowing, but she's got a clear voice that's s different enough from Aretha's to avoid comparison, but still top quality. I can sense doom coming up on the chorus... and it's good! Whew. But her run on the bridge is odd. She's trying to add this bitchiness to her voice that doesn't fit; she can hit the high notes, so why add that tone? (Maybe she's more familiar with the Carole King version.) She's strong a-cappella, but wilts with a band behind her.

Fowler inexplicable presents Michael Jackson's evergreen semi-rockin' "Rock With You". It's bad enough that the band sounds like karaoke-- God, that awful, awful string patch-- but it's such a boring song in this context! (Simon later agrees on the karaoke. Samantha says "It's like a bad wedding band!") Why, why, why? He's got those killer high belted notes, and choses a song that just kinda sits in the low and middle of his range. What a wasted opportunity. (Kara agrees.) I disagree with Paula's application of Only One Artist theory here, but I understand where she's coming from .

Tatiana Del Toro says she "fought through every round to get here"; I think she fought herself and her own tear ducts. She may have no emotional control normally, but GOD LORD does she sing the hell out of "Saving All My Love For you". She's got the demeanor of a giggly (that's an understatement) teenager, but she's got a shockingly experienced-sounding voice. Kara wonders who she "is"; I'm sure the television audience feels the same. She is shockingly poised on live television; I will assume that this _is_ the real Tatiana, because if she's giddy normally, then she should get more giggly in front of camera in front of a live studio audience, being broadcast to a live nationwide audience, no? I'm using the word "shockingly" shockingly often. (I see that the "I hate Tatiana" groups are already popping up on Facebook. Really, people.)

Gokey. "Hero" (Sam: "Ugghhhhh." Me: "Hmmmmmm."). Nice choice! The song goes low, but he's got such a killer breathy tone it works. Like a cross between Lionel Richie and Joe Cocker, he powers through this song like he owns it. Which he does. Mariah Carey no longer owns this song; it's that simple. I rarely disagree with Simon, but here it is; this was flawless. (Kara needs to stop eating her mic. Seriously.)

Alright, Rickey Minor, you'll transpose for Michael John, but not for the contestants? Really now.

Tomorrow: The Top 3 out of these 12, in addition to potentially all of the the remain 9, will become part of the Final 12 three weeks from now. Or something like that.

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