Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hollywood Week!

Last night was my first experience with Hollywood Week on American Idol. I was told to expect group sings (and group cuts), drama, fights and tears. But those crafty Idol producers, eager to cram in a new twist in a seven seasons-old formula wherever they can, changed things up.

Out went the group sing, in came the instruments. For the first time, contestants had the option of accompanying themselves during their second visit in front of the judges. It seemed to me that this option was thrown out to bait the contestants to eff up. Because really, in a singing competition, can you think of a scenario where playing the keyboard or the guitar as well would really strengthen your audition? True, Brooke White and Josiah Leming earned accolades from the judges for their mad keyboard/vocal combo skills, but most everyone else who experiments at such ends up failing at life.

Seriously, put it down.

The kid playing the drums? Really? I didn't even bother to remember his name because his performance was such a jaw-dropper that my brain hit the "delete from memory" button as soon as he was finished. Still, there was an upside to those who chose to "prove" that they were double threats: my schadenfreude.

My gleeful "their pain is my pleasure" demeanor quickly turned sour when the montage of the lyric forgetters started. Seriously folks, you get up onstage for the biggest performance of your life and you forget the words to the song you've been singing over-and-over for who knows how long? I understand that you're nervous but there is absolutely no excuse for that. You are weak and have made yourself easily dismissible. Congratulations.

The "brutal" part starts on the third day, where the people who earned a "no" on their first return trip in front of the judges get to stand up in lines of 10 and get 15 seconds to do-or-die. Project Runway-like, after they all sing Randy calls a few of them to step forward and then sends one of the rows packing. They do this over and over again (though we only get to hear a few people actually open their mouths and sing) until I am mildly bored.

The very last audition of Hollywood Week, however, illustrates the thing that makes me seriously question the integrity of the competition. For all the accusations that the show is rigged/tilted/set up/etc, I'd like to believe that they're genuinely looking for the best singer, because it's a hell of a lot easier to make over your body than it is to make over your voice. I also would like to believe that while sob stories are ways to humanize the contestants and flesh out their personalities, they aren't in any way determining factors in who moves on and who doesn't. If all of the above is true, do you explain Josiah Leming? Yes, he lives in his car. Yes, life is tough when you decide that you don't like mommy and daddy's rules so, with lack of foresight, you run of to be a "grownup" on your own. He seemed to make it past auditions on his sob story and "aw shucks" demeanor alone. Then he sat down in front of the piano and weakly warbled the first couple lines of Mika's "Grace Kelly," I declared aloud that he was toast. Sure, it was a bold and unusual song choice. Sure, it was a decent performance. But the guy is torturous to watch. His vibrato makes me want to press my hands up against my ears and hide under the table until it's over.

After it was over, Simon declared "this is the one I'm going to remember" without a trace of sarcasm. I mean, Simon is British and British humor makes a sport out of sounding sincere when really you're being mocked mercilessly...but I couldn't detect even a glimmer of that in Simon's reaction. I feel like my world is all askew. Even the beyond-snarky American Idol reviewer from Television Without Pity is over the moon for him. Who fed the world crazy pills? I'm also half-tempted to ask Josiah for lessons on how to hoodwink people into thinking you're amazing when really you are simply ordinary. Step One: moving into my car.

Here, for the curious, are my favorites (I know I run the risk of having my little heart crushed by mean old Simon by picking favorites before they choose the Top 24, but I am nothing if not a brave little toaster):

David Hernandez: His performance made me all tingly. For propriety's sake, that is all I will say. He is the first person who literally made me stop everything I was doing and thinking and just listen. He's got the voice, he's got the looks, he's smart enough to come on sans instrument AND he already has some stage presence. All in all, he makes my heart go pitter-pat.

David Cook: I love the Daughtry-with-crazy hair dude. I dig his vibe, I dig his rock-ish voice, and I love how he showed his range by auditioning with "Livin' On A Prayer" and then switched gears completely to belt out the ballad-iest of ballads, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You." He needs a bit more stage presence (it remains to be seen if Simon's prediction that he "would be vulnerable without his guitar" proves true) but he was my favorite of all the initial auditions and continues to be one of my front-runners.

Carly Smithson: She seems like a walking oxymoron on the outside: a sweet girl covered in tattoos. I judge great voices in their ability to render me motionless...and I’m the kind of person who is always going, going, going. She was the second person to make me stop short, close my eyes and just listen. She's my number one female pick, by far.

Asia'h Epperson: Yes, she has a sob story. It's incredibly sad. Her ability to power her way through "How Do I Live?" 48 hours after the death of her father (and sound absolutely amazing doing it) made me adore her. Coming back and kicking the crap out of the second round made me love her (though let's be honest, her outfit should be fugged).

Chris Hansen may be watching me right now.

David Archuleta: My roommate and I are going to start the "Inappropriate Fans of Archuleta" fan club for this kid. He's 16 and we're absolutely in love with him. He makes me wish I were a little sophomore-in-high-school teenybopper again (well, almost. Nothing could actually make me want that to happen) so I could have, like, a huge crush on him and stick a photo of him up in my locker. He is beyond adorable and the voice that comes out of him is nothing short of remarkable. I want to comment more on his mad vocal skills but he keeps breaking out in that beautiful smile of his and I forget...wait, what?

Bring on the heartbreak and elation of tomorrow (in a room where it looks like each contestant is going to have to sit and defend their doctoral thesis).


Proud To Be A Pedo said...

I already friended him on Myspace. His fanbase are calling themselves, "The ArchAngels". Get it? Soon he's going to upset you as my number one on my Top 8.

I'm not using my real name because that picture you put of Chris Hansen is scaring me.

danielletbd said...

I was going to tell you to befriend the David Archuleta FanSite on MySpace, but something tells me you already have...