I can make this short and sweet, or long and drawn-out.
I am selecting short and sweet, not normally my style.
On the Wednesday, February 25, 2009, episode of “American Idol” two clear front-runners emerged. One of them, Adam Lambert from Hollywood, has been out front the entire competition.
The other, Allison Iraheto, a 16-year-old nearly inarticulate redhead from Los Angeles, blew the socks off the other female competitors. While Allison was not that interesting in her interview segment, the judges heaped praise on her rendition of “Alone” by Heart, saying things like, “You just blew it out of the box. So now we’ve got real singing going on tonight” from Randy Jackson. Or, from Kara, “You don’t even know how good you are.” Paula said, “I think you can sing the telephone book. Congratulations, you did an incredible job.” Simon weighed in with “The competition just started right now.” Clad in a black sparkly strapless dress with a gray belt, the teen-ager reminded of Kelly Clarkson or Pink or any number of other singers who can belt it out, and her remark, tellingly, was, “I don’t even remember what happened.”
So, who will the third contestant to “get through” be? I don’t know, but I would guess it will be either Megan Joy Corkrey (the girl with one tattooed arm), a 23-year-old Utah native who selected the perfect song by Corinne Bailey Rae, which complimented her interesting and unusual vocal quality; Matt Giraud, the talented 23-year-old piano bar Kalamazoo, Michigan native, who sang a Coldplay song from Viva La Vida, this year’s album of the year at the Grammies; or Kris Allen, also 23, from Conway, Arkansas, who sang Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.”
The third winner will be the one who (m) the audience voters “like” best. Megan is very likeable, much like Brooke White on another season of “American Idol.” She has a daughter, Ryder, who is 8 years old, and the judges reacted well to Megan’s performance with comments like, “You did everything right” (Paula) to “You look gorgeous, but you oversang at the end.” (I agree with this assessment). Simon pronounced her “relevant, current,” comparing her to Duffy or Amy Winehouse, but said, “I just wish the vocals were a little bit better.” (Again, I agree.) Kara DioGuardi called her “a package artist’ with a smoky jazz quality. If I were a betting woman, I’d bet on Megan Joy Corkrey, save for one factor.
Most of the voters seem to be teen-aged girls. Kris Allen is a very cute 23-year-old Conway, Arkansas boy and he did a credible job with his song. Normally, he hides behind a guitar, but, this night, in a totally nondescript outfit consisting of a tee shirt and hair that seemed noticeably darker than when he auditioned previously, he received remarks like,” You showed confidence and personality. It’s very easy to forget someone like you.” Randy said, “Nice jump off, baby.” Only Kara felt that “This was just the wrong song…completely wrong.” Paula said, I’m gonna’ disagree (with Kara) completely. You nailed it.”
So, the vote is split on Kris Allen’s performance this night, but I wonder if teen-aged girls would rather vote for a cute boy than a cute girl?
I could go through the rest of the contestants and parse their performances, but suffice it to say that my original pronouncement that Jasmine Murray (age 17) looked a lot better than she was capable of singing, unfortunately, turned out to be true with her rendition of “Love Song” by Sarah Morellis. Jeanine Vailes (age 28) sang a Maroon5 song while wearing short hot pants. It was off-key and the song was pretty monotonous. That remark summed up a lot of the selections, but not all. Jesse Langseth, age 26, from Minneapolis, Minnesota sang “Bette Davis Eyes” and did “okay” but Randy nailed it when he commented on the “five-note range” that this song and several others displayed, compared to Adam Lambert’s high notes on the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” Kai Kalama, singing “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” had pitch issues and his performance was panned as “corny, old-fashioned. Nothing distinct. Nothing original. Nothing memorable” (Simon) to Randy’s “Too safe.’ [His hair looked like the Arab guy from “Lost” had been electrocuted in a rainstorm; it was wild and out-of-control, but his singing was neither.]
I really must comment on the Jerry Lewis/Richard Simmons-like split personality of Nick Mitchell/Norman Gentle. He sang, “I’m not going” from “Dreamgirls” while wearing white tails, Bermuda shorts, dark socks and tennis shoes. Ryan Seacrest commented, “That is the first time a contestant has gone to second base with our logo,” a reference to Norman/Nick’s shtick, where he hugged the “American Idol” logo and screeched his way through to the end of a very off-key, albeit humorous, performance. Nick/Norman belongs in a revamp of a Jerry Lewis comedy, not in a singing competition. Simon said it best when he commented, “I pray you do not go through to the next round.” Everyone agreed that Norman/Nick’s performance was funny, but, unless we are going to go the Sanjaya Hairdo-of-the-Night route, being funny usually doesn’t get you through to the twelve best singers in the competition. Comments: “Most atrocious horrific comedy. That was funny. At least we remember you. You wear the same shirt, like Simon, every week. You’re fun. You’re memorable.” He was compared to Olivia Newton-John, although I think Jerry Lewis and Richard Simmons are closer. If all of America is dying to laugh at someone for a few more weeks, then Norman/Nick can keep shrieking his way along, but it is quite obvious that he isn’t that great a singer. However, he could give lessons on how to become less inhibited.
Matt Breitzke, age 28, from Bixby, Oklahoma: “If You Could Only See” by Tonic. Breathy. Weird shirt with embroidery. Sweating bullets. No dancing ability whatsoever. Comments: “Boring. Didn’t suit you. An uncomfortable performance. I really like you, but I absolutely hated that song.” (Simon) It didn’t show you to be the great Matt we saw in Hollywood.” (Randy). “Not edgy enough. Fell really flat.” (Kara) Not going to be a welder joining the oil rig guy from elimination one (Michael Sarver), from the looks of it.
Mishavonna Hensen, age 18, from Irvine, California sang “Drops of Jupiter,” another song that was bad, because showed little or no singing range. She wore an odd balloon-skirted outfit and Simon commented, “You act like a 50-year-old.”
I would point out that “American Idol” seems to “save the best for last.” They did last week, with Danny Gokey, and they did this week, with Adam Lambert. Lambert is a pro. He struts around like the spirit of Elvis has inhabited his body. Some comments: “I don’t’ even have words. You’re in a league of your own.” (Paula) “Brilliant at times, but excruciatingly bad at times. Love it or hate it.” (Simon) “I loved it! One of the most current,” said Randy, citing “My Chemical Romance ” and Robert Tyler and the vampire from “Twilight” as some of the groups or individuals that Adam’s singing summons. Randy said, “Dude, it was the bomb!” Kara commented on the range that Adam showed, which was, indeed, a pleasant change from a night of mostly monotone songs.
Stay tuned for tomorrow night’s results.