American Idol Season 9 finally went live Tuesday evening with the Top 12 girls from the Top 24 hitting the stage to impress the viewing audience. And although host Ryan Seacrest hinted broadly at judge Simon Cowell’s recently announced engagement, his most pointed question to the departing judge was about his statement to the New York Post that this was going to be “girls” year (the last two American Idols have been “boys”). Simon played politics and made a few ambiguous remarks to get things started. Unfortunately, the 12 girls’ start for the season was a bit ambiguous as well.
“Unique” was the word bandied about by the American Idol judges for the entire two hours Tuesday evening as each of the contestants sang – but it was not a good “unique.” It was the something missing, take a risk, do something unexpected, show us all what makes you unique “unique”. And although the American Idol judges didn’t say it about every female contestant, they said it far too many times. And this will only ensure that the next time all the girls hit the stage to sing, there will be all kinds of musical craziness – and the girls stepping out of their comfort zones to sing songs they are probably ill-suited to sing.
Speaking of which, Paige Miles started the night off with “All Right Now,” the Free classic about a guy trying to pick up a girl. The song was all wrong, but the judges tried to be upbeat about it, giving her compliments on the verses but telling her she was lacking in the chorus. Randy Jackson said it didn’t work for him because it was a group song. Simon Cowell told her she was probably the best singer in the competition.
America might disagree. Paige’s performance was one of the worst of the night, maybe in the bottom two.
Janell Wheeler may have joined her. Singing “What About Love?”, one of the Heart comeback tunes of the 80s, Wheeler just sounded flat and lacking compared to her auditions. American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi flat-out told her that the song was “too big” for her.
There were a couple other marginal performances in the first half of the Top 24. Lacey Brown’s rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” was “depressing” and “boring,” according to Simon Cowell; “terrible,” according to Randy Jackson; and new judge Ellen DeGeneres told her she was “better than that.” Siobhan Magnus sang Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” and came away with mixed reviews. Simon Cowell called her a “funny little thing,” commenting on her unpredictability. But the only thing memorable about Siobhan’s performance was her beautiful eyes, which Simon noted on an aside to Kara DioGuardi.
But the night wasn’t a total loss, especially if you were a Beatles fan. Katelyn Epperly sang “Oh, Darling.” Lilly Scott performed “Fixing A Hole.” And Haeley Vaughn sang “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Of the three, the most “unique” rendition was that of Haeley Vaughn. Although the judges thought it was not all that great technically, Vaughn made up for it in her stage presence. Except for Simon Cowell, that is. He said it was “verging on terrible” and was a “complete and utter mess.” Ellen fired back that if it was, it was a “hot mess.”
It was definitely “unique.”
Still, in the end, Crystal Bowersox gave the audience an inspired Springsteen/Young/Etheridge-esque “Hand In My Pocket,” the Alanis Morissette hit. She brought down the house (the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood). But the “unique” quality was missing again, according to Simon Cowell, and Kara DioGuardi called the performance “coffee shop.”
Even 17-year-old Katie Stevens, who seemed to nail the anchor position song, Michael Buble’s “Feeling Good,” probably didn’t feel that good when she exited the stage. Simon Cowell called her performance “pageantry.” The other judges told her they wanted her to be 17, that the song was “too old” for her. Still, Kara told her she had “ridiculous chops.”
But there may have been a disconnect somewhere in all the performances. Many times over the seasons, the American Idol judges have said a few things after a performance that they have retracted the next night or a couple days later, especially after they see and hear the performances as they played out over television. Visual perceptions and acoustics are different on broadcasts, and the judges get a better grasp of what the audience sees and hears. It is possible that their opinions may be altered come Thursday evening on the results show.
Regardless of the verdicts of the panel of American Idol judges, it is almost a certainty that Michelle Delamor will make the next round on American Idol, because her version of Alicia Keys’ “Fallin'” may have been the best performance of the night. But Ashley Rodriquez, who sang second and was given lukewarm reviews for Leona Lewis’ “Happy,” might not, although her performance may not have been as bad as the judges seemed to perceive it (Simon pronounced it “clumsy” and said she could be in trouble).
But if the American Idol voting audience was paying attention Tuesday evening, Paige Miles, who perhaps made the worst song selection of the night, and Janell Wheeler, who has been tabloid fodder since she auditioned (she’s been linked to Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow) and who gave the worst sounding performance of the night, will be the first two Season 9 contestants going home. On a show that was — let’s face it — “boring,” these two stood out as poor even against the “boring” renditions of Lacey Brown’s “Landslide” and Siobhan Magnus’ “Wicked Game.” But it would not be too much of a shock to see any of these four booted from the competition.
So the kick-off live show for American Idol Season 9’s Top 24 left a bit to be desired. In fact, it may have put the lie to Simon Cowell’s prediction that it might be a “girls” year. Regardless, it can only be hoped that the guys pick up the pace Wednesday evening as the Top 12 “boys” hit the stage for their first performances and round out the Top 24.
“American Idol,” Fox Television