American Idol 2, April 22: Big Hits and Bigger Missesby David Bloomberg -- 04/23/2003
It’s time for another night of American Idol. Oh, sure, we already had one night this week – on Monday night. But this is the real thing.
(In case you’re wondering where Sting7 is, his computer is having a disagreement with him and he’ll be back as soon as he can. For now, you’ll just have to deal with me.)
We start with Ryan Seacrest telling us how great the show is. I have to admit that I’m surprised to hear that the AI2 performers’ “God Bless the U.S.A.” is the #1 single now. For one thing, is it competing with Kelly Clarkson’s “Miss Independent”? (Although that hasn’t actually been released as a single you can purchase, as far as I can tell, and I’m not sure how that affects things.) But perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised after all. And I’m definitely not surprised that Kelly’s Thankful album is the #1 overall. In fact, if you haven’t already, you can check out my full review here.
From there we go to a joke where Ryan says they are taking the night off and 24 is starting early. Usually I just groan at his antics, but I have to admit that did give me a chuckle because of the way it was choreographed with the director – music kicking in, camera pulling back, etc. So I’m easy to get a laugh out of. Sue me.
It’s Diane Warren night! This is great, according to Ryan – except that I kind of slammed her in my review of Kelly’s CD, mentioned above. In case you haven’t read it yet (and why haven’t you – it’s linked right there!), I feel that the song Ms. Warren wrote for Kelly’s CD is the weakest track on it. In fact, I routinely now skip it to get to the songs I like. I know she’s had lots of hits, but this ain’t one of ‘em.
When Ryan asks her about judging, she says, “I can be honest.” Well, maybe she can, but I’ll give you a little preview and tell you that she shows no sign of it today. But really, how can she be? She wrote the songs and helped the performers choose them and prepare. Not exactly a great situation to prepare somebody to be objective.
Hmmm, it wasn’t my intent to take up two paragraphs slamming Ms. Warren – it just turned out that way. She a pretty good songwriter generally, if you like that type of music.
With that out of the way, we get to the performances!
Kimberley Locke, “If You Ask Me To”
Randy says Kim was the best last week (an opinion shared by many) and also says she might be the best tonight. I think he may be a bit premature in declaring that she might be the best tonight, considering she’s only the first one to sing! Paula says she’s brilliant. Diane says she’s awesome. Simon says that she got better as soon as she got rid of the weird hair. She looks cute and her voice is totally there. She is a frontrunner. As for my thoughts – Wow!. She holds some notes quite well several times and kicks some serious butt. I’m not yet ready to proclaim her the best, like Randy did.
Clay Aiken, “I Could Not Ask for More”
Randy says Clay is one of the best singers in America (so much for saying Kim was going to be the best tonight). Paula says he’s wonderful, but then actually chooses now to offer what she calls constructive criticism. Wait a minute! She says only good things about the singers who aren’t up to par, but then she criticizes Clay?! Anyway, she says that he should be true to himself as an artist. Er. What? I mean, if she’s going to offer constructive criticism, can she at least explain what the hell she’s talking about?! Sigh. Moving on, Diane says he’s great. And then comes Simon…
Simon says he thinks Clay could make a fortune in Broadway. If he were auditioning for Phantom of the Opera, Simon would hire him in an instant. (This brings out jokes about masks and, of course, Mr. Personality, from Randy.) But Simon just doesn’t see him as a great recording artist.
As for me, I am practically screaming “Hallelujah, Oh Glory” like JoAnna from Survivor when I find out that even though he had a ton of standard type ballads to choose from, he picked a different song. And he shows again that he could do it, no matter what the song type. Randy is right in saying Clay is one of the best in America (and to think he wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the Wildcard show!). Simon’s Broadway kick is getting old. I think Clay has shown he can sing anything. If he wants to do Broadway, fine. If he wants to do a pop album, that will work just fine as well. Get over it, Simon.
Trenyce, “Have You Ever”
Unlike Clay, Trenyce does not have as good a performance as she could have. I’m just not digging it. She doesn’t seem to fit with the song somehow. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s like a puzzle with two mismatched pieces – Trenyce and the rest of the song. Randy says she was a little pitchy – was that it? I dunno. Paula says she looks great, her voice is in control, and she has passion. Whatever. Diane says she’s amazing. And Simon tells her that we haven’t really seen her personality like we have with the others. An interesting point, and one I hadn’t really thought of. Even Trenyce admits she knows where he’s coming from. And for this reason – among others I’ll discuss in a bit – I don’t think she will make it much farther. (I’ll tell you just how much farther I think she’ll go near the end of the article. I’m sure you can’t wait!)
Joshua Gracin, “That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You”
Hey, where did the country accent go?! Mind you, I’m not complaining. Well, not until he tries to hit some high notes and, well, misses. Apparently, he lost his singing voice somewhere as well. Ick. He’s off-key so much that he needs a locksmith. It’s like without the accent, he can’t control his voice at all. Randy does the right thing in pointing this out – saying he is sharp the whole song and not in tune. But Paula is, well, Paula. She actually boos Randy for telling the truth (now Randy knows what it feels like when he does it to Simon). She says she’s proud that he’s capable of taking risks and being vulnerable. What the hell kind of pop-psychology crap is that? Did he take a risk? Yes. And he fell flat on his face. Sheesh.
Simon says he sang through his nose. He changed his style again after saying he was going country all the way. And worst of all, he’s a Marine and he just did a Bronze Ice hairstyle commercial, and eventually he has to go back to the base and face that! (He’s being funny, incidentally. And he’s referring to one of the “embedded” commercials, where some of the contestants plug a product in a little clip – I hadn’t mentioned it before, but it showed a hairstylist working on the hair of all of them. Yes, it was that exciting, which is why I hadn’t mentioned it.) When Joshua is done with the judges, Ryan asks if there is anything he’s like to say to Simon. Josh says no, he’s respectful of his elders and Simon is definitely elder. Simon takes it well and laughs. But will the voters take it as being pissy?
Carmen Rasmusen, “Love Will Lead You Back”
In the intro for this performance, Diane says is a “challenging song.” Uh oh. As much as I’d liked Carmen earlier in the competition, I don’t think she’s up to anything “challenging.” I’m even more worried when Carmen says the song is a chance to show off her range. I get a mental image of the robot from Lost in Space shouting, “Warning! Warning!”
It’s not as bad as I feared – better than Josh, but that’s not saying much. Better than her performance last week. But that’s not saying much, either. However, I just do not like her voice in this song. I’ve noted before that she has an interesting and somewhat unique sound. That means she needs to pick songs that work well with it. This one doesn’t. She seems to be a nice enough girl, but that doesn’t mean she should win American Idol. Essentially, this is what Randy says in noting that she is not even close to the best singer. She gets this “Oh My God!” face when he says it and I have to wonder – does she really think she is?
Paula, of course, says something meaningless like, “you’ve come back and redeemed yourself.” Diane says it’s the best she’s heard Carmen. Randy interjects and asks if that’s good enough though.
Simon says he agrees with all of them. It’s better than last week, but she can’t win this; still, she’s done well to get this far. (Uh oh, I can just see the Carmen supporters deciding to take him up on the challenge after he’s thrown down that gauntlet.) Carmen gets all wide-eyed like it’s a big shock. Hello? Has she listened to herself and the others?
To make it worse, Ryan asks her afterwards if she can win and she says yes, she can. It’s about coming back and getting stronger, and that’s what she’s doing. Um, no. It’s about being the best. And that’s not what she’s been doing. I mean, I understand that she just couldn’t say, “No, I can’t win. I might as well just drop out now.” But she didn’t have to appear so danged shocked. It’s reality. That said, I don’t think she’s going this week. (See below for more details.)
Ruben Studdard, “Music of My Heart”
Ruben says he’s picked a song that’s different from everything else he’s done. At first, I don’t get it – I mean, it’s another ballad. How is that different? But slowly it dawns on me – he’s talking about singing in a higher register rather than the Barry White type of voice. I didn’t notice right away that this is what he meant because he’s still kicking serious butt with this song. All of the judges agree, not surprisingly. Randy says he’s up there with Clay, one of the best in America. (Again, so much for picking Kim as the best after the first performance.) Paula says he proved Simon wrong by showing his upper register. Diane says he’s great. Simon takes issue with Paula and says that he recommended Ruben show something a little different, and he did – which means he was right, not wrong. (Gotta agree with Simon there. He never said Ruben can’t sing something different. He just said he wants to see him try. Ruben tried and succeeded.) Simon continues that earlier it was a walk for Ruben and Clay, but now they’d better watch out for Kimberley!
So, now it’s time for my ranking. This week was tough. Well, the bottom three weren’t. But the top three definitely are. I once again am having trouble deciding who should go where, but I refuse to wimp out and call it a tie. So here is what I have to say:
Yes, I thought Kimberley did quite well. I think she caught up to the bar that had existed before tonight. But then I think Ruben and Clay went and pushed that bar a bit higher by showing their versatility and strength.
I said earlier that I thought Trenyce would not last much longer. So, how much longer do I think she’ll last? Twenty-four hours. I predict she will be gone with this results show.
Wait! I hear you yelling at your screens – I put her above both Carmen and Joshua, why would I predict she’ll leave? The answer lies not in talent or ability, but in fan support. I discussed in my article on the mind of the voter how so many people vote based on who they like rather than who has more talent. Well, I think this will be a perfect case of it. Both Josh and Carmen have huge fan bases that doesn't seem to care how poorly they do on any given night. I don't think Trenyce has anything to match that. Add to that the fact that both Carmen and Joshua had such bad performances that their fans know they are vulnerable. Heck, even Ryan appeared to know, as he gave Josh the “vote for your favorites” plug he has recently reserved for Carmen. Those fans will call in double-time to save both. Trenyce won’t stand a chance, I’m afraid.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of Foxes On Idol, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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