This season, the performances are pre-recorded in front of a live studio audience as opposed to being broadcast live. The decision to do this results in a lot of internet spoilers prior to the show, so if you are one of those children who never peeked at the presents under your parent's bed, beware.
Pre-recording American Idol could benefit in a couple of ways: "leaked" info usually generates more of a buzz and perhaps now the show can avoid enraging DVR users across America by not running late. And, the matter is that even a five-second delay is just not sufficient enough to ensure against the unpredictability of judge Steven Tyler's expletives.
But Tuesday's show failed to take advantage of other benefits that pre-taping the show affords, beyond censoring Mr. Tyler.
For example, when Jennifer Lopez walked onto stage with that frizzy 80's half-ponytail, it would have been an ideal time to yell cut and force her stylists to start the scene over. In fact, if they really wanted to effectively wield the power of pre-recording, they could have reduced the show to 45 minutes by editing out the first half, since it offered disturbingly little entertainment value.
Clint Jun Gamboa, who sort of resembled Harry Potter Tuesday night, performed "Superstition;" a curious choice since there is probably an enormous sub-culture of Idol fans who would rejoice if they never heard another Stevie Wonder cover again. The judges claimed that it was "brilliant," despite Clint's obvious nerves. In reality, American Idol viewers have seen a million performances like it over the years and Gamboa's version will quickly fade into the abyss of forgotten Stevie Wonder homages.
Jovany Barreto tackled, "I'll Be," by Edwin McCain. The two newbie judges fell for it, but Randy Jackson was "keeping it real" when he said Jovany brought nothing new to the song. After Clint's performance it seemed like lack of originality may become the theme for the boys' first night. In fairness, it must be ridiculously overwhelming for these contestants to take the stage and perform in front of a live audience. The fact that they even get out there and get through the song is remarkable, let's hope that once they quell the nerves, originality will follow.
Next up was Jordan Dorsey. (Please note, the empathy expressed above does not apply to Jordan; since the awful memories of group auditions still linger.) Jordan chose Usher's "OMG," and surprisingly, he readily agreed with all three judges when they said the song didn't represent who he wanted to be as an artist. He assured America that we would see a lot better from him in the future. Not sure how much of a future Jordan has after this sad, sad performance.
Dear Jordan and Clint,
Funny how humbling that Idol stage can be, isn't it?
Moving on . . . Tim Halperin really disappointed with his rendition of Rob Thomas's "Streetcorner Symphony." His attempt to get the sympathy vote after all three judges turned up their noses was as feeble as the performance. There is a fine line these guys have to walk – be original but relevant, choose a song that people know, but don't be karaoke. Tim picked a song that many wouldn't recognize yet managed to make it sound karaoke at the same time. If America keeps Tim around there is a good chance, based on earlier performances, that he can redeem himself.
Brett Loewenstern performed "Light My Fire," by The Doors and seemed to be channeling Richard Simmons as he dashed back and forth across the stage. When he wasn't striding to and fro, Brett broke out some "hairography" – excessively swinging around his luxurious mane of copper ringlets. Unfortunately, Brett is starting to become a caricature of himself and his antics distracted from his already subdued lyrics tonight. The judges, on the other hand, liked his performance . . . go figure.
Next was James Durbin who brought some excitement to the stage with Judas Priests' "You Got Another Thing Coming." Although Steven Tyler said he likes that James didn't hold back, his screeching was a little more controlled this time and he actually gave a somewhat believable performance. The fact that, up until this point, he was the best performance of the night, just goes to show that the previous contestants really let nerves get to them. (It's easier to blame the nerves than face the possibility that this season's talent might be as unremarkable as last year's.)
Robbie Rosen has been waiting for this moment since he was seven and while he wasn't fantastic, his version of, "In The Arms of the Angel," was pleasant and he changed it up to keep things interesting. Steven Tyler said it was beautiful and Jennifer Lopez thought his interpretation improved Sarah McLachlan's version but Randy wasn't feeling it.
All the judges were in agreement though when Scotty McCreery gave his performance of, "Letters from Home," by John Michale Montgomery. It was perhaps one of the best song choices ever and Scotty was so relaxed on the stage, even managing to pull off a couple of swoon-inducing grins at the camera. It is always a great moment when an Idol contestant comes into his own on the stage and that's what Scotty did Tuesday night. Jennifer Lopez claimed that he was born to sing country music and after that performance, who could disagree?
It was tough to watch Stefano Langone struggle through "Just the Way you Are," after Scotty gave such an inspired performance. The judges were "rocking" and loving his song, apparently oblivious to the sharpness of his voice. Maybe the acoustics are more forgiving in person? Maybe they were enchanted by his dimples? Stefano probably won't be in danger however, after kissing up to the female viewers who he claims to love. All of them. Just the way they are.
Paul McDonald left legions of women wishing their name was Maggie after performing Rod Stewart's song of the same name. It was disappointing that he didn't perform a Mumford and Son's tune as he was contemplating. But "Maggie" was the first song viewers ever heard him sing and his voice is just so well suited to it. Let's hope the voters embrace the uniqueness and quirkiness that the judges (and this blogger) love so much.
Jacob Lusk took on Luther Vandross, which came as no surprise. What did come as a surprise is, that for the first time, the accolades that Jacob has been receiving started to resonate. Steven Tyler stated that it was "divine intervention" that brought Jacob to Idol (who knew the Higher Power was an Idol fan?) and that he was honored to be in his presence. There's no denying that Jacob Lusk is an amazing vocalist but as the judges have said time and again to others, there has to be an "it" factor and Jacob just doesn't have the same kind of "it" to win Idol.
If divine intervention was really in play, it had to be involved in making Casey Abrams (who was hospitalized for stomach pains earlier in the week) well enough to take the stage and perform. Despite Idol making special concessions for Crystal Bowersox last season, word on the Web suggested that Casey would be disqualified if he was not able to perform. That would have been a tragedy. His performance of "I Put a Spell on You," was delivered with conviction and passion but Casey never takes himself too seriously, which makes him so accessible as a performer. Jennifer Lopez told him he was sexy and readers will find no dispute here. He was by far, the shining star of the night.
Come Thursday, the predictions are as follows:
- Casey Abrams
- Jacob Lusk
- Paul McDonald
- Scotty McCreery
- Clint Jun Gamboa
- Stefano Langone
- James Durbin
- Brett Loewenstern
That leaves the following four: Jordan Dorsey, Robbie Rosen, Jovany Barreto and Tim Halperin. Of these four, it's likely that America will definitely say goodbye to Jovany Barreto the other is harder to predict. Robbie Rosen just doesn't seem to possess a universal appeal, Jordan Dorsey has probably alienated many viewers with his ego, and Tim Halperin just had a tough night. In the end, I suspect that, despite Jordan's double whammy of ego and poor performance, Robbie Rosen will be leaving us.
For the past nine seasons, America voted via telephone and texting. Tuesday night introduced Facebook to the mix. Fans are allowed to cast up to 50 online votes per episode.
Wednesday night, the Top 12 girls take the stage for the first time.