Archive for the 'carly smithson' Category

Top 4: Performances

FFing through all (well, most) of the filler tonight.

David Cook, who is not my type physically but who definitely looks better the more facial hair he has, treats us all to “Hungry Like the Wolf,” which, rather infamously, is the song that Diane Downs was listening to while she shot her three children. So I don’t know how great of a choice that was. It’s a serviceable version, no bells or whistles, failing to bear the imprimatur of David Cook in the way that his much better performances have. Meh.

The transformation of Syesha Mercado‘s hair — from gorgeous and natural to glossy and weaved — is complete, folks. I’m all for showcasing a variety of coiffures, and if I were on this show you can bet I’d be begging for hair extensions (ick, I hope they didn’t just cut and dye the ones they stuck on Kat McPhee and Haley Scarnato in years past), but eh, I don’t know. Syesha’s natural hair made her unique. She sings “Proud Mary” for her first number, wearing a sensational silver minidress and strutting her stuff onstage, and I can’t really rag on her for the theatricality of it all, because hey, it’s “Proud Mary,” and this is pretty much how it’s done. But the thing about Syesha is that she hasn’t really learned to sing and dance at the same time, so her vocals suffer — bland, empty, screechy. Randy and Simon lick it up, but Simon, like me, is unimpressed.

Why, Jason Castro, why? “I Shot the Sheriff?” Seriously?

Wrapping it up with “Stand By Me” is David Archuleta. I love this song — and I love the movie — and David does a nice job. It’s hilarious how when his eyelids start to flutter, you can read Must! Keep! Eyes! Open! written all over his little scrunched-up face. Well, I liked this just fine. Archuleta just isn’t my cup of tea. He’s this season’s Clay Aiken for me — like Clay, I think he has a truly gifted, one-in-a-million voice, but I’m just never going to be interested in listening to anything he records. Eh. Oh well.

For Round Two, David Cook is giving us “Baba O’Riley” which I have to admit — I’ve never heard before. So I don’t really know if he’s doing anything unique or special to it, but I like it. I almost like everyone tonight. It must be the Benadryl I took an hour ago. Too tired to digest all these performances. I may have to review them later. Whatever. David Cook. He’s fine, the song’s fine, they’re all fine. I kind of hope he wins, though again, I’m never going to listen to anything he records, at least not if he goes down the DaughtryHinderBack route that Sony would inevitably demand of him.

Syesha comes out in a stunning cantaloupe-colored gown, and she’s singing “Change is Gonna Come.” The beginning is typical see! Syesha! act! with the dramatic faces and whatnot. And oh, her eyelids, they are glittery. But then the strangest thing happens. Somehow, at some point, Syesha actually finds an emotional connection with the song. A deep one. She drops the bullshit and just runs with it, letting whatever she’s feeling guide her, and she’s singing freely from her soul, and it’s actually really beautiful, even though I’m still not crazy about the tinny timbre of her voice. And then she ruins it by tacking on a completely unnecessary run of melisma at the end. It’s jarring, and it immediately takes both me and Syesha right out of the beautifully sad world she’d created with most of the song. Ah, the spell, she is broken, and just like that, Syesha is gone and Syesha! is back, stupid smile and all.

But there’s one more Three Faces of Eve moment before the end of the night. During the judging, she completely breaks down. We’re not talking fakety-fake smile-through-the-tears crying; we’re talking real, ugly-faced crying. It’s fantastic, because I’ve spent the last few weeks really disliking Syesha because of her determination to make us all believe that she is a singing Cylon. The moment doesn’t last long, of course; Ryan tries to comfort her onstage, and sensing that this is her cue, Syesha! overtakes Syesha again, spouting some crap about how she researched the song and found out that it was about the civil rights movement and that’s where all the feeling came from. Now, I know that Syesha has a sad backstory, and I respect her just like I respect David Cook for not using it during the Top 12 (even though I hear she exploited it for all it was worth during auditions, and I’ve FFed through half the interview segments this season, so really, what do I know?), but seriously, girl — you can get up there and just say that you were drawing on personal things in your life. You don’t have to read us your diary or anything like that, but still — these brief glances into your surprisingly present humanity are wonderful, especially since you might actually wind up winning this whole thing. At least now that I’ve seen evidence of an internal struggle going on inside her, I dislike her a whole lot less.

After that, Jason Castro sings “Tambourine Man” for what seems like a grand total of six seconds. He blanks on the words. Whatever. It’s Jason, which means it’s Jack Johnson, which means that if you like that sort of thing, this was great. Simon, I think, tells Jason to “unpack [his] suitcase,” and I don’t know if that means that he thinks Jason is safe and should unpack the suitcase that he’d packed in preparation to leave this week, or if it was just Simon screwing up his words again and meaning that Jason should pack his suitcase to go home. Or maybe he said “I’d pack your suitcase.” Not that I really think Jason cares either way.

Archuleta wraps it up with a slowed-down version of “Love Me Tender” (yes, slower than the original, actually), and I don’t really remember anything about it, which probably means that the vocals were great, but that little David was boring. I do remember Randy Jackson slobbering all over it, and I remember seeing Carly Smithson in the audience at some point, the camera pointedly focusing on her non-tattooed arm.

So to recap: Cook being unpredictable by being predictable by being unpredictably boring, but then being awesome; Syesha shimmying across the stage but leaving her vocals on the other side, and then going all man vs. machine, but at least looking stunning the entire way throughout; Jason wondering what the hell he’s gotten himself into, and Archuleta still having the best voice in the competition, but still failing to make me care.

Top 6 Results

Not much to note about the opening number, really. I guess it’s funny to note how Syesha and, to a lesser extent, David A. manage to know where the camera is at all times, whereas the other contestants are either too caught up in the moment or too petrified (or relieved) that their time in this funhouse is ending. They’re all dressed a lot more casually tonight, too. Carly is back in sleeveless, Syesha looking like hot dog condiments, and Archuleta’s in an ugly T-shirt.

Lord Webber comments that “among” the top six are some very talented kids, which implies that also among them are some untalented singers, which is hilarious.

Recap: Syesha looking dynamite but not wiping that smirk off her damned face; Jason having given up a long time ago; Brooke completely losing it; Archuleta doing absolutely nothing different, but doing it competently; Carly being fun and energetic; and David C. going all Rawk Opera on us.

Time for a chat with Lord Webber, who is asked by Ryan about Brooke’s meltdown. We cut to her a few times, and the look on her face is…discomforting. There is nothing but absolute terror in her eyes. But Webber praises her rehearsal as “flawless,” which seems to ease the tension a bit. ALW manages to get another dig in at Jason, chastising him for not taking any of ALW’s sage advice and again using all his inner restraint to not take off on an old man tangent about the kids these days. Man, I cannot wait to hear what Neil Diamond has to say about this lot next week.

The commercial has the Idols doing a really awful rendition of “Tainted Love,” but the concept is cool — “Take On Me” meets Heroes, with David A. as the comic-book artist and the rest of the gang looking like the cast of The Fifth Element.

Laura Bush looks more and more like Jack Nicholson’s The Joker every day, doesn’t she?

We’ve pared down the group enough to have a bottom two instead of a bottom three. We remember how Randy described David C.’s performance as a “molten hot lava bomb,” which sounds like something I’d buy in the candy aisle of Walgreens, but not necessarily something I’d download off of iTunes. David C. is asked why he sang the song straight this week, and his answer manages to merge his love of Andrew Lloyd Webber and his desire to be unpredictable by being predictable, which makes a lot more sense coming out of his mouth than it does on this blog, I’ll tell you that. Archuleta whimpers something unintelligible, but it doesn’t matter, because both of them are safe. They are sent off to the couch with promises of working with Neil Diamond (yay!). Ryan then tells us that After The Break, we will be treated to a performance by Leona Lewis (…snore).

Rundown of Idol contestants who are now on Broadway. Tamyra Gray in Rent, Clay Aiken in Spamalot (in which he is supposed to be quite good). He has a lot of foundation on, but at least he has about a metric ton less product in his hair than he usually does, so points for that, I guess.

And here we have Leona Lewis. They’re talking all about how she’s the best artist ever in the history of the world, which is funny, because her debut album only sold 200,000 copies here in its first week–not bad, but not great for the money that Sony invested in her, and it’s widely rumored that her disappointing numbers were the last straw for Clive Davis. Well, anyway, I have to say that this is the first time I’ve seen Leona live on anything, and I’m surprised by how…real she looks. I mean, sure, she’s got the Tyra weave goin’ on, and she kind of looks like what you think Jocelyn Wildenstein would have looked like if only she’d stopped one or two surgeries in. But she’s surprisingly curvaceous, and by curvaceous I mean that she’s bottom-heavy and has cankles. She can really sing, too; not that she does much singing of the actual melody of the song — most of that’s synthed, and most of her lovely notes come in the form of Mariah-esque melisma, but whatever. Her singing style consists of a lot of thrusting her chest and stroking the microphone stand, which I’m sure Syesha is studying with the most critical of eyes. But overall, I like her more than I thought I would, even if her song really sucked.

Syesha and Brooke are brought onstage — the yin and the yang; Syesha is all obnoxious winks and eyebrow waggles and babbling about how much fun she had last night because she got to pretend to be someone else, because have you heard? She’s an actress! Brooke says that she probably wouldn’t start over again if she had a second chance, and she apologizes for her habit of talking over the judges. And Brooke…is safe! She’s completely stunned; Syesha attempts to giggle it off, but you can see the what the fuck in her eyes as she takes her place on the stool. And yeah, I’m not a Syesha fan, and if takes an elimination for her to finally get the message that the voters aren’t buying the community theater routine then so be it, but if we’re going on performance alone, it’s Brooke who deserves to be on the stool, not Syesha.

Becky O’Donahue, one of the first Top 24 cuts in season 5, is shilling for Verizon now. Maybe they’ll do a segment one day about Idol alums who ended up in commercials? Oh, I also forgot to mention earlier that you can now buy Fantasia stamps if you’re so inclined. I don’t think the in-house audience is, as this news is met with only the most tepid of applause. I totally can’t wait until they have to pimp the Taylor Hicks stamp…which should be two weeks from now if we follow the schedule.

Syesha is in tears on the stool. It’s sad. But at least it’s real, instead of the coquettish bullshit. Carly’s praise is recapped, as is Jason’s “trainwreck,” in which he “learned a lot about cats.” Carly makes some very honest admissions about how throughout the competition she’s been choosing songs to showcase her technical proficiency, but she hasn’t been showing her personality, which is a nice self-aware moment. But no matter Carly’s spiritual awareness, America don’t care for Jesus Christ Superstar, and Carly hits the seal along with Syesha. Simon pipes up that the voters probably liked Brooke’s humanity and Jason’s charm, despite his awful performance. The two repeat their performances, and I’m grateful to hear Carly’s performance again. She’s royally pissed at the beginning, but she finds her grove about a third of the way through. Syesha is up next, and she immediately assumes Diva Starting Position #1, because unlike Brooke, Syesha’s greatest fear is that we will discover that she IS human, and for whatever reason, she simply cannot have that. She has forced that awful smile on her face for the first half of the song, but then she gets out into the audience and improvises more, and the condescending fake smile becomes a real, genuine smile, and it’s a very nice moment. But being completely honest, I really just don’t like her voice. She’s technically very good, but she has no soul, no depth, no warmth. It’s the shell of a much better singer’s voice, but there’s nothing on the inside. And I think the voters know this, and this, I think, is why despite some very proficient performances, she has failed to connect with her audience.

During her performance, we get a brief cut to what looks like some kind of disagreement between Carly and Ryan. Sadly, it’s far more interesting than anything Syesha is doing.

Randy calls it a “popularity vote” because both girls sang very well last night. I don’t think that Syesha sang well last night; maybe more people agreed with me than I thought. But not enough, apparently, because Carly gets the axe. Now, I know that a lot of people had their problems with Carly. You take a girl who previously had a two-million-dollar recording contract with a major record label, a girl who was promoted to the hilt but whose album still flopped so spectacularly that her story now serves as an example of how the labels can really screw things up, and then you ask America to believe that she just happened to make it through an audition process that is widely known to cast characters, not talent, and there are bound to be some problems. And a lot of people viewed Carly as rather disingenuous about the whole situation. And really, she seemed kind of desperate for a while there, didn’t she? So it’s a shame that just when she started to loosen up, people stopped caring about her. But I wish her good luck, and I hope that her prior failings — which, really, are her label’s prior failings, not hers — don’t hamper her now that she’s gotten this exposure.

Top 6: Why Not?

So Syesha Mercado opens the show with “One Rock ‘N Roll Too Many,” and she herself is rocking a gorgeously elaborate Rome-style hairdo. It even has little snake tendrils on the sides and everything. She’s wearing a skintight red dress that reveals just how disproportionally she’s actually built — from the waist up she’s all woman, but from the waist down she’s all chicken legs. But seriously, she’s a beautiful girl. Naturally, she can’t resist getting all divalicious with this week’s mentor, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Even when she’s supposed to be singing to him, she sings to the camera, because this is Her Moment, and she’s still peeved that you, the viewing audience, didn’t get that it was Her Moment during Dolly Parton week, and c’mon — didn’t she make it perfectly clear? She even darted her eyes coyly at you and smiled a wan little smile that said Here it comes! My moment! The glory note! I’m going to act like it’s a big surprise, even though every single person in this country and probably quite a few people in the developing world could have predicted that I would sing the song in exactly this fashion, and only passably well at that!

Sigh. Can you tell that my patience with Syesha is wearing a bit thin? She comes out, snapping her fingers, and I spot an engagement ring on her finger, which reminds me that the girl actually has a life outside of this show…and kind of a sad backstory, actually; she basically raised her younger siblings while her father battled addiction. But then I remember how her father really didn’t want to talk about his addiction to Idol during auditions, but how Syesha was more than happy to babble on about it, and that tiny arrhythmia of sympathy blips right off the screen. Oh, Syesha. It’s so complicated between you and me.

So she starts singing, and she’s completely off the beat, and there’s some awkwardness as she misses a word or two. But she’s having the time of her life, I’ll give you that, because this is Broadway week and she finally gets to display all her acting!, only this week she gets to call it “personality.” And judging from this performance, Syesha’s “personality” consists of pretending that Rickey Minor is a stage pole at Thee Dollhouse. Unfortunately, while Syesha is channeling the ghost of Kat McPhee‘s late-season desperation, she is neglecting the actual notes of the song. Half of it is off-pitch, her voice isn’t actually all that powerful, and her last glory note is particularly painful. I’m telling you. Go listen to it again, as opposed to watching it. The judges lick it up, telling Syesha that this is her forte and that she is far more comfortable fully embracing this kind of completely rehearsed, affected air than trying to pretend she’s someone else. Syesha is elated.

Jason Castro will be singing “Memory.” What, no “Jellicle Cats?” Incidentally, the first time I heard that song, I thought I heard “Jellico Cats,” and because I am a big ol’ Star Trek geek, my mind immediately conjured up a very strange image of Ronny Cox skulking across the 1707-D bridge in a tie-dyed leotard. Dude, don’t look at me like that, okay? Anyway, Lord Webber has about zero patience for Jason, as he makes clear when he snits to the camera about how he won’t be surprised if Jason walks right out of the rehearsal and ignores everything that Webber told him. It’s a very The Man versus Free Love vibe; you can almost hear the silent “ya damned hippie!” that Webber wants to tack onto the end of every sentence. I love it. Anyway, either Jason did completely disregard everything Lord Webby had to say to him, or Webber gave him some awful advice, because this performance is just not good. Many of the verses are simply too low for him, and the higher notes are so wispy that they make Jack Johnson sound like Pavarotti in comparison. Eh, whatever. The judges are not impressed, and in his usual way, Jason seems not to care one ounce. Which is kind of what makes him cool.

Next up is Brooke White, whose very in-style maxi dress I greatly admire until I notice that the pattern is not an abstract black-and-white motif, but butterflies. Butterflies. Because Brooke is sweetness and sunshine and light, have you not noticed? I hope that if she makes it to next week, she comes out dressed in a Rainbow Brite costume. Just in case the viewers at home haven’t gotten it yet. Then she can whimper another performance, and Murky, Lurky, and Paula can all tiptoe around how brittle she seems, and Brooke’s lower lip will quiver as her sprites flock onto the stage to comfort her, and then she can mount her magical unicorn and ride off the stage. Sigh. I really like Brooke, I do. Of all the singers left, she’s probably the one whose album I’m most likely to buy. And I doubt that she’s really as emotionally fragile as she comes off; honestly, I think her thinness and her frazzled hair magnify that perception.

So anyway, she’s singing “You Must Love Me,” and during rehearsals with Webber it’s obvious that she’s completely missing the point of the song. So he takes her hand in his and explains to her that this song is basically a dying woman’s last plea for love, which when you think about it, pretty accurately describes Brooke’s position in this competition right now. Brooke knows that, of course, and it overcomes her to the point that she can’t get more than three lines into the song without stopping abruptly. She did this once before, but this time it’s extra weird, possibly because now she has the entire band stopping with her, too. She whispers “I’m sorry” so dramatically that for a moment I actually thought she was going to run off the stage. She eventually picks it up again. but she’s lost whatever magic she might have had, and while the performance is certainly better than the last few she’s laid down, it’s not phenomenal. The judges concur.

I barely even notice David Archuleta anymore. Not because he’s a bad singer, although I do think he receives more praise than he deserves. But it’s just always the same with him. He’s never going to sing something that doesn’t sound like the backing music for one of those Sarah McLaughlin ASPCA commercials. But actually, his take on “Think of Me” isn’t awful, and the judges are back to pegging him as the one to beat. Sweet kid, but yawn.

Carly Smithson was going to do “All I Ask of You” until Andrew Lloyd Webber slapped some sense into her and handed her “Jesus Christ Superstar” as he waxed poetic about her “big chest voice.” Hmphf. Also, I never though I’d use the words “Andrew Lloyd Webber,” “waxed,” and “chest” in the same sentence. This is a fun performance; Carly has taken the judges’ advice to heart and has reprogrammed herself, replacing her fatal seriousness with more lightheartedness. And the lightheartedness works, because she really does have a strong voice, and the balance between the two prevents everything from getting too campy (take notes, Mercado). She’s wearing a pretty paisley tee-shirt dress; I would have belted it, myself, because she does have a nice figure that for some reason she’s always draping in maternity clothes and empire waists. The dress she wore at last week’s results show was a step in the right direction, even if it did come from Forever 21. No, it did. I saw it there last week.

But the dress is only half the story, because…what is wrong with Carly’s legs? I mean, I’m only assuming that something is wrong with them, because I don’t think we’ve ever seen them. Have we? She’s always wearing long pants or opaque tights from what I can remember. What’s she trying to hide? More ugly tattoos? Varicose veins? A wooden peg? She has decent legs; she should show them off. If LaKisha can come onstage and wear a denim miniskirt and look great (and get Simon to tell her that she looks great), then so can Carly.

The singing. Again, I like the performance. Fun Carly is definitely more enjoyable to watch than This Is My Last Chance and It’s All Too Palpable Carly. She does get a little strident and shouty at times, but she avoids going way out of her range on the chorus by improvising a little counterpoint, and it works very well, at least in the parts where the backup singers aren’t overpowering her. The judges are happy, if not thrilled, and Fun Carly is giddy; she runs off to the side of the stage and comes back holding a camp-counselor-blue tee-shirt bearing the words “SIMON LIKES ME (this week).” Well, okay, maybe she hasn’t gotten all the desperation out of her system.

David Cook wraps up the show, and I honestly can’t remember anything about his Webber rehearsal. He sings “Music of the Night,” and it’s pretty good, I guess. I’m torn on him. I do think he’s the most creative of the contestants this season, but a good half of that has just been the result of some very astute iTunes browsing (to which he freely admits), so I’m not sure how much credit I can give him for that. The only song he’s done that I’ve flat-out adored was “Little Sparrow”; everything else has been just too Nickelback for my tastes, and we all know how I feel about that. I do think he’s stepped further out of that box than Daughtry, though, so that’s another check in the “pro” column. But then there was the “give back” nonsense on his palm a few weeks ago, which was just silly. But then I’m completely impressed by the way he’s handled the situation with his brother, whom he’s steadfastly refused to pimp out for sympathy votes. So to summarize, when it comes to David Cook, my pendulum is still swinging. And please don’t run any further with that metaphor than the context of this blog entry. I guess the judges are pleased; Simon says something about liking David’s grittier side, which I’m not sure he has in the first place, but eh, what are you gonna do. Also, doesn’t it seem like David Cook sings last just about every other show? He’s never gone first, at least not since the Top 12. That’s very kind of TPTB, making sure that Cook never gets the death spot. How thoughtful of them.

Recap: Syesha relying on at least two of the three gifts that God gave her; Jason punching the clock so he can go back to his dorm room and watch old Jay and Silent Bob skits; Brooke demolecularizing before our very eyes; David A. disproving the Heisenberg uncertainty principle by allowing us to gauge exactly both how technically proficient and how snore-inducing he is at any given moment; Carly beating us senseless with how much fun she likes to have now, but at least doing it while singing really well; and David C. doing something different, kind of. We’ll be saying goodbye to either Jason or Brooke tomorrow, and even though I’d rather it be Syesha, I must say I relish the thought of her vamping through a Neil Diamond song. Muahahahaha.


August 2017
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What the kids are sayin’



"I hate them all. The judges, TPTB, the blatant manipulation, the songs, the contestants, everything. I'm a die-hard Cook fan, but for the love of god, at least try to look like you're enjoying yourself up there! Please? Syesha was awesome but she ruined it by being completely shameless and disgusting. Yes, being on American Idol is exactly like the civil rights movement, except for the part where you're fighting to make the world a better place."



"All I can say after the disgusting display tonight of favoritism towards the mediocrity that is David A. - good luck trying to market and make money off of that kid, American Idol. (Not to mention good luck dealing with his father.) All the teeny boppers may buy up his American Idol coronation single, but they will quickly forget about him before the album comes out. And I shudder to think of a David A. album - song after song of unrelenting sameness and heavy breathing. Why they are pimping him for the win is beyond me."



"This show was simply a hot buttered mess tonight. And Jason "needs to be arrested for what he did to I Shot the Sheriff. But I hope he stays. He amuses me. "