Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Idol's Top 16: The Guys

Now that we’re in the final week of Idol semifinals, the obvious question is: who will make that Top 12? The men of Idol, called out in the first week for not “bringing it” as much as the women, have stepped it up the past two weeks and rocked some amazing performances. I have no doubt that they’re a stronger group overall than the women…which makes choosing the Top 6 guys a ridiculously difficult task.

I kind of like that it’s so hard, though (even if it means that likely my first minor heartbreak will come on Thursday). Last night’s performances were full of surprising song choices and strong vocals. I heart the ‘80s. With a fiery passion. So here’s the breakdown:

David Cook, I will tell you how to win my heart (even though you claim that you haven’t got a clue): sing “Hello” by Lionel Richie exactly like that. It’s no secret that Rocker Boy won my heart way back in the audition round, but his performance last night was the first one that proved to everyone that, without a doubt, he’s one of the Top 3 male performers in the competition.

Last night he out sang every single one of the guys, Archie included. He got a haircut, shaved that soul patch, avoided the minor pitch problems that have colored his past performances and upped his charisma factor by a power of 10.

Hello to you too, Rocker Boy.

What I’ve really been impressed with, however, is how successfully David Cook has arranged the songs that he’s chosen. He’s been able to bring the songs into the “now” without overdoing it, and tweak them to fit his own vocal style. I think he’s one of the contestants with the most solid grip on what his strengths and weaknesses are as a singer, which is a huge plus. Hopefully I’ll never hear Randy tell him that “that wasn’t the song for you, dawg.”

Simon is right: Rocker Boy isn’t afraid to take some risks, and when they pay off, they pay off big. My jaw dropped watching him last night: he turned a syrupy ballad into a powerful, electric guitar-backed emo rock song.

David Cook secured himself a place in the Top 12, and I agree with my friend Dave: he stole some thunder from Archie.

Paula, in one of the only coherent comments she made all night, commented that David Archuleta’s performance of “Another Day in Paradise” proved that he wasn’t a hologram. I thought his performance was great when has he not been great, let’s be honest) but seemed a touch choreographed and superficial. He was also *shockgasp* a bit pitchy on a few of the notes. He’s still one of the only performers however, to give me chills when he hits those power notes. His voice is so clear and strong and pointed (seriously, it cuts right through your heart) that I’m wondering if the docs who fixed his vocal chords didn’t work some magical voodoo on him while he was anesthetized.

Archie continues to be confident and polished beyond his years, which is actually starting to weird me out a little. Precociousness has always seemed mildly creepy to me, and while he’s not on the level of the “I Am Sam” era Dakota Fanning, it’s still mildly unsettling. He was definitely dethroned this week. I hope this Rocker Boy – Little Pop Phenom throwdown continues well into the Top 12.

Jason Castro will also get through, though I’m still not completely sold on him. Simon said that Jason got better every week, whereas I think the exact opposite is true. I’ve liked his performances less and less every week. That’s not to say that I’ve ever disliked them – he’s enjoyable to listen to (please note that I said listen) and he’s definitely got his own angle on the contest (very chill and folksy).

He’s never wowed me, though. Everything he does is sort of blandly good. His stoner persona doesn’t help with that, and the goofy, slightly worrying faces he makes while he performs doesn’t either (it makes him less bland but not in a good way at all). I just don’t get why everyone is falling all over themselves to praise him. Still, because everyone who’s not me is, I’m pretty sure that he’s safe.

So that’s Archie, Rocker Boy and Jason Castro who are through to next week. There’s only one guy who definitely WON’T get through – Luke Menard.

I honestly don’t know how Luke Menard, with his fashionably floppy hair and piercing eyes and chiseled jaw and manly stubble and beautiful smile, made it this…oh wait. I do. Please re-read that first sentence. I feel bad for Luke, because I actually think he’s gotten better every week. He’s just not good enough. Also, he’s boring and forgettable. Because of all that, he’s history.

Why are you still here?

Three of the other four guys will also make the Top 12 – Chikezie, Michael Johns, David Hernandez and Danny Noriega – will go on to the big stage. I’m finding it nearly impossible to predict which one of them will go home.

Because I know what an Australian accent and pretty smile can do to a girl (hang on, trying not to swoon at the thought), I’m going to bet that Michael Johns is staying, despite the fact that he falls apart vocally a little more each week. I was never a huge fan of his, but last night he lost me for good. Horrible song choice. Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” is one of my favorite ‘80s songs. Michael Johns butchered the hell out of it. His voice was just one thousand kinds of wrong for it. He couldn’t hit the important notes and just made it sound awkward and disjointed. Also, I think he was doing his best impression of a “real rock and roll star”: stumbling around the stage in a faux drunken stupor, wondering why the lights were so bright and how it came to be that all of these people were staring at him. None of my criticism matters, however, because America loves him.

I’m going to go against the general consensus of the blogging world and say that I think Chikezie is also safe. Yes, he went back to his Hollywood Week song (“All The Woman I Need”) for last night’s performance. I would’ve liked to see something different. Still, I thought he gave a very solid performance. I like his voice a lot; it could use a bit more polish, but he’s so much more fun for me to listen to than, say, Jason Castro.

Listening to Simon critique him, however, made me realize that I don’t understand where the Brit is coming from most of the time. I mean, I do: he’s judging the commercial viability of the performer more than anything else. Simon judges whether the performance he just saw would sell records. It’s a very impersonal judgment, but it’s also a judgment that’s hard to relate to if you’re the average person watching at home. I trust his opinion but it often bewilders me. It’s the fact that I think most of America views performances like Randy and Paula (more personally) that makes me think that Chikezie will go through to next week.

Simon Cowell doesn't care what you think. Really, he doesn't.

That leaves me to choose between Danny Noriega and David Hernandez. Has Danny Noriega’s larger-than-life personality, which I think helps overshadow the fact that he’s one of the weaker singers left, finally worn thin? Has America finally realized that, despite being a really good singer, David Hernandez is kind of forgettable? I’m having a hard time deciding which scenario is more likely to be true.

I wasn’t a huge fan of David Hernandez’s song choice. He’s so much better on up tempo songs. However, his voice is beautiful and I love listening to him sing. I wish there wasn’t a question that he’d make it through, because he’s more than earned a spot in the Top 12. I could care less that he used to be a male stripper. That has less than zero to do with his vocal ability. I wonder how much America will care, though. I want to have faith that, as a whole, we’re bigger people than that, but…

Danny Noriega has more personality than the other seven men combined. He’s snarky and sassy and gives the greatest reaction shots I’ve ever seen on a reality show…but how has this blinded America to the fact that he’s given three middling performances in a row? “Tainted Love” is the sort of song that would seem to fit his personality and style perfectly. But the performance was not good at all. It was uneven and didn’t do a good job of showcasing his voice.

So, Luke is definitely out. I’m hoping that Danny will go with him, because I think Chikezie and David Hernandez have far greater potential to wow me on the big stage.


danielletbd said...

I don't think Danny Noriega is snarky or sassy; I think he's bitchy and arrogant, which is ironic really because he's not all that talented. I also think he's angry-- to the point where I worry he'll show up on the Idol stage with a weapon of some sort and take Ryan and the other contestants hostage.

DC said...

hahaha "why are you still here?"

You're definitely mastering the Internetz one liner :)

Even if Danny doesn't like Christmas, he is really, really entertaining up there.