I've struggled with Idol the past couple weeks. What seemed like a season full of promise has left us with two weeks of not overly awe-inspiring performances. Right now, I'm not sure I can picture any of these kids winning or pursuing a terrifically successful career. I worry that this could be the season that produces another Taylor Hicks rather than a Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. Don't get me wrong -- I love me some Taylor Hicks, but let's also be honest in recognizing that his career has not exactly been ablaze outside of his appearance as the Teen Angel in Grease. It's hard to get jazzed about a season full of Taylors, though, especially when none of the contestants seems to even have Taylor's stage presence.
So I settled in to watch last night's Top 10 men perform with extremely lowered expectations. For the most part it was a moderately entertaining evening, but not exactly something to fuel a pithy blog post. Even sadder than my ennui is the seeming ennui amongst the judges. There they sit looking bored, disappointed, and the only way they seem to find any entertainment is to give the contestants as much conflicting advice as they can. "Make it your own." "Don't mess with a classic." "Play your guitar." "Don't play your guitar." As frustrated as I am, I can only imagine how hard it is on the kids who are so eagerly bending over backwards to please the Furious Four.
Here are my rankings of last night's performers:
1. Mike Lynche -- He started things off pretty powerfully with James Brown's "It's a Man's World." This was a vast improvement over last week's Maroon 5 cover, although my sis felt frustrated by what she perceived to be the judges painting Big Mike into an R&B corner. They seem to want another Ruben, and Mike seems willing to give up his originality by giving them a new velvet teddy bear ... with ginormous muscles!
2. Casey James -- Kara's boy toy took on one of those Idol staples that I wish could be retired -- Gavin DeGraw's "I Don't Wanna Be." Casey feels like a member of the cast of Kids Incorporated -- scrubbed and clean and wholesome but trying to rock out nonetheless. Yes, Casey played an electric guitar (GASP!) but there just wasn't the same swagger and grit that has been there when this song has been performed by, say, a Bo Bice. I want Casey to come out and truly rock out with his . . . well, rock out. I think it's in him.
3. Andrew Garcia -- Poor Andrew. He turned the world on with his smile -- or rather his amazing acoustic version of "Straight Up." Since then, though, his career has pretty much followed the trajectory of Mary Tyler Moore's post Mary Richards tv career -- one disappointment after another. I still like the guy, but I am still waiting for him to knock my socks off the way he did during Hollywood week.
4. Todrick Hall -- The judges were pretty harsh on Todrick's slow jam take on "What's Love Got to Do With It?" I have to admit that I kind of enjoyed it. I've never been a huge fan of that song (GASP! Can we still be friends?!?!), so hearing a new spin on it was kind of refreshing to me. I found it funny that Todrick was criticized for not doing a "current" song...but that the same critique was not offered later in the night to Aaron Kelly or Jermaine Sellers who did songs even older than this one. I almost want to call shenanigans, but I'll restrain myself . . . for now.
5. Lee Dewyze -- Lee is perhaps the most polarizing contestant this year Chez Mel. I like the guy. (Okay, does he remind anyone else of a grown up Trevor Einhorn, the young actor who played Freddie Crane on Frasier and popped up a couple seasons ago on The Office as a high school kid Michael turns away at a job fair because he doesn't have the right image for Dunder Mifflin? Am I alone on this one?) Anyway, my sis hates the guy largely based on his "rape" (her words, not mine) of "Chasing Cars" last week. He's one of the few (if not the only) guy this year, though, that I listen to and think, "Yeah, I would buy this guy's CD." While I wasn't overly crazy of Lee's "Lips of an Angel," I like his voice, I like his vibe, and I'd like to see more of him.
6. Ad, er, Alan, er Alber, no Alex(!) Lambert -- First off, I really wish Alex would cut his hair. That little mullet thing is really hideous and distracts me from detecting any discernible talent. When I don't look at the screen, I hear what is a pretty decent voice. Yes, there are some pitch issues, but the actual quality of his voice is really pleasing. His choice of John Legend's "Everybody Knows" was a good one, and I appreciated that he played it relatively simply. Just please, cut the damn hair.
7. Aaron Kelly -- Aaron is cute. Aaron is boring. Aaron sang "My Girl." Please, please let Aaron go away. He is more Kevin Covais/John Stevens than David Archeleta.
8. Tim Urban -- Tim is cute. Tim is boring. Tim sang "Come On Get High." He clearly had not done so. It would have made for a better performance, I'm sure. Ellen was right, though, in telling Tim he should act. His tolerable voice would be a delight on Glee. Not so much on American Idol.
9. John Park -- Poor John. He seems like a nice guy. He just also seems really over his head here. He's just not very good and lacks the personality that would maybe allow him to stay around longer. I suspect last night was the last time we'll see John. So I guess we're still waiting for an Asian Idol.
10. Jermaine Sellers -- Where do I even start with this guy? Do I start with the Malcolm X meets Bobby Brown styling? Maybe I mention the cojones of tackling "What's Going On?" and having the nerve to riddle it with runs and crap like that? No, I think I'll start with Jermaine's assertion that he will NOT be going home because he "knows God." Jermaine, sweetie, take a look around you. Our world here is fucked up. I really seriously hope that God has more important things to worry about than making sure that an arrogant douchebag moves on in a singing competition. Maybe once He gets shit taken care of in Chile, Haiti, America, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Darfur . . shall I go on? Maybe THEN he'll pay attention to your desire to win a karaoke contest. Until then, give the Almighty a rest.
As I finish writing this, the girls are performing and, outside of my girl Crystal, it's not looking too hot. More on THAT, though, tomorrow.