American Idol 2, March 25: Country? Rock? Or Just More Ballads?by David Bloomberg -- 03/26/2003
We begin tonight's show with Ryan Seacrest saying the thoughts and prayers of everybody at American Idol are with those who are representing our country in this difficult time - they are the true American Idols. But now their group is going to do what they do best and entertain us.
After the intro, Ryan comes back out in a cowboy hat. He says the theme for tonight is the intricate fusion between country and rock that he likes to call country-rock. How clever.
At this point, many viewers are scratching their heads saying, "What happened to disco?" Luckily, Ryan explains that after introducing the singers and judges. He says they kind of turned the tables on us because tonight's celebrity judge has a history with this sort of thing - Olivia Newton-John!
But tonight's show is "only" an hour long! What does that mean? No drawn-out filler. No clips of background information. No discussions on what went on in the house (well, okay, almost none). Nothing but singing!
Don't get too excited. Tomorrow's result show is a full hour long (but still starts at 8:30/7:30 Central). I'm sure there will be more than enough filler there to make up for it.
We begin appropriately enough with Joshua Gracin, who just last week said he was sticking with country. Good timing. He sings "Ain't Goin' Down Til the Sun Comes Up.
Randy: "Keepin' it real. Best we've seen you. It's who you are."
Paula: "True smoky Southern Comfort voice. Took the stage like a pro. Had fun."
Olivia: "Great performer."
Simon: "I don't know anything about this type of music." (I gotta feel for Simon because I'm the same way. There is a reason I'm not writing about Nashville Star.) "Hat looks great. Great." Simon shrugs. The other judges laugh.
Me: Like I said, I'm kind of in the same boat as Simon. But Joshua did have a great stage presence - he even jumped down off the stage to quickly run by the front of the audience. He did a great job with some very fast-paced lyrics, and he was obviously in his element.
Getting back to Simon, we go into a commercial that features him. I hadn't seen it before - it features a mobster wanting him to "judge" Vanilla Coke. Of course, the mobster tells him to say it's great. Kind of amusing, but it makes me wonder if Vanilla Coke is so bad they think you need to be threatened to say you like it. (Personally, I can't stand the stuff.)
Anyway, back to the music. We have Trenyce with "I Need You."
Randy: "Love the outfit. Really good. You tried to make it your own."
Paula: "Sexy. Great quality and control. Absolutely beautiful."
Olivia: "Look beautiful. You can sing in any style."
Simon: "Good. Look fabulous. Left me a bit cold. Weakest performance you've done so far."
Me: I have to go with Simon on this one. It was nice but not really up to her usual level.
Kimberley Locke is next, with "I Can't Make You Love Me."
Randy: "Reminds me of when we first saw you in Nashville. Best we've seen you. Didn't oversing. Great control. Very impressed."
Paula: "That song is haunting and you gave such an emotional, touching performance."
Olivia: "One of my favorite songs and you sang it beautifully. Wonderful rich warmth in your voice."
Simon: "This could be the American Idol theme song - "I Can't Make You Love Me." But I don't know what that's got to do with country-rock." Randy says it was originally a country song. Simon says okay, but there's no rock.
Me: I think Simon hit it on the nose, and not just for Kimberley but for several others tonight. It's a ballad - I heard neither country nor rock in it. She sang it well, though I certainly did not like it as much as Randy and Paula did. In fact, it was kind of like I felt about Trenyce's song - nice, but not great.
Corey Clark comes next with "Drift Away." He is sporting a new hairstyle and see-through shirt that looks like it was picked out for Disco week and he forgot to change it when the theme changed. He sits on a stool throughout the entire performance.
Randy: "How'd you think you did?" Corey: "Alright." Randy: "I thought it was good. I like it when you went up into your upper register."
Paula: "You were on it. Beautiful upper register. Your voice is really refreshing."
Olivia: "Sang it really well. Suited you. Would've liked it if you walked around."
Simon: "I wouldn't dip into Ryan Seacrest's wardrobe. Compared to last week, which was dreadful, I thought you did really really well."
Me: Sheesh, I'm really beginning to feel like Simon does sometimes. It just didn't thrill me. He was smart to make sure he got some high notes in there to show off. It was good. Not great. Good.
Following him is the birthday girl, Carmen Rasmusen. She sings "Wild Angels" on her 18th birthday. Hmmm. Is this a message? Is she going wild? Anyway:
Randy: "How's school? Pretty good. Couple pitch problems. Definitely who you are."
Paula: "Happy birthday. You brought it tonight. In your element. Moved well onstage - because you're a dancer!"
Olivia: "You've got a lot of power."
Simon: "Genre suited you. Thought the song was absolutely appalling but you looked and sounded good." At this point Carmen inquired to make sure she got it right - he hated the song but liked her performance? Yes.
Me: She sounded good but again, it's a genre that's difficult for me to judge.
Rickey Smith is up next, singing… well, I don't really know what he sang, as Ryan just described it as "Larry Gatlin's hit."
Randy: "You can definitely sing. Good job. Don't know if I like that song on you, though."
Paula: "You surprise me every week. I got chills. Best performance yet. You sound like mellow sweet honey."
Olivia: "Beautiful. Pitch immaculate."
Simon: "I'm just not excited this week. Sweet and nice but so what? Just good."
Me: This is another song that makes me think, "Huh? Country-Rock?" In fact, I actually turned on the show at this point because I wasn't home until halfway through (obviously I taped it). I had no idea what the genre was. I was still trying to figure out how this was disco or if they had changed it to love songs. That said, he did a great job on it - it's just that it was another ballad.
Kimberly Caldwell followed that with "Anymore."
Randy: "Brilliant tonight. Unbelievable fire."
Paula: (Standing ovation) "Vocal muscle. Confident enough to change your look."
Olivia: "Beautiful. Great stage presence. Richness in your voice."
Simon: "I was totally unimpressed… until now. Best performance."
Me: It was an interesting song for her to tackle. It showed her voice but she didn't overdo it as she had previously. I don't know if it was her best performance so far, but it's definitely in the top two.
Ruben Studdard followed her with "Sweet Home Alabama." Now this is country-rock. As they say at the beginning of the song, "Turn it up!"
Randy: (Standing ovation) "Doing your thing."
Paula: "You could run for governor and win!"
Olivia: "Great singer. Made me feel all warm inside."
Simon: "Are you drunk tonight, Paula? Excellent. Infectious. On a roll. Brilliant."
Me: Unlike some of the other contestants tonight, Ruben actually did a song in the genre. He didn't limit himself to a slow ballad - he showed that he can rock it. I think he also showed good stage presence that another ballad would not have allowed. On another note, I felt that the backing vocals were way too loud - half the time I could barely hear him over them. That's not his fault, of course, but I thought it deserved mention.
What poor schmo has to follow Ruben? It's Julia DeMato, singing "Breathe."
Randy: "All things considered, some pitch problems but best performance yet."
Paula: "Teeny bit pitchy. Enjoyed it so much more this week."
Olivia: "Sang really well. Gorgeous."
Simon: "Good. The difference between you and Ruben is you look as if you're trying too hard. But probably your best performance."
Me: I agree - best performance yet. But will it be enough to save her? She looked more confident on stage tonight, and even after her song, talking to Ryan. Even I noticed the pitch problems, though, which doesn't bode well.
Remember I mentioned above that they show almost nothing going on in the house tonight? Here it is. As mentioned already, it's Carmen's birthday. So we see the others preparing a "surprise" party while she is studying away. She walks in. Surprise! Lots of fun for all and cake smashed in various faces.
Moving on, we have one more singer - Clay Aiken with "Someone Else's Star."
Unfortunately, because of that stupid piece on the birthday, we're apparently running out of time. So the comments from Randy, Paula, and Olivia are limited to them giving him a standing ovation for a second.
Simon: "Sweet but it sounded identical to last week. Very good."
Me: I presume what Simon is saying is that it didn't sound very country-rock, and I have to agree. I have already heard from people who know the song that he sang the hell out of it - perhaps better than the original. Indeed, when I heard him I was thinking, "Just give him a contract now." Definitely great, just not sure where it fell in the genre - like so many of the others tonight. Overall, though, I didn't think it was particularly fair to Clay that he wasn't allowed to get comments - which would obviously have been very positive - from the first three judges.
Ryan Seacrest closes the show tonight by saying the lesson has been that Simon doesn't understand country music. Well, neither do I - and I still need somebody to explain to me how some of these were "country-rock." Ah well.
Now it's time for handicapping how well they did. Frankly, I could almost use a dart board, but I'll give it a shot:
Mind you, I don't think anybody did horribly today, however it was difficult for me to judge (as I think I've made pretty clear by now!). In case I haven't beaten this point to death, it would have helped if some of those who sang more ballads had instead actually stuck to the category and shown some ability to stretch themselves.
I think that both Corey and Julia and in the most danger. Because Julia still seems to have a hardcore group of fans, I think they will push her above him in the rankings and Corey will be the one to leave this week. Remember - Wednesday night is an hour-long show, starting at 8:30/7:30 Central (yes, right in the middle of Survivor).
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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