Tatiana No Laughing Matter on "American Idol"
After weeks slogging through auditions and Hollywood, it's finally time to hear some actual singing and do some actual voting Tuesday night.
Show host Ryan Seacrest kicks things off with the traditional "What do they have to do to get voted through tonight?" poll of the judges. This year, judge Randy Jackson is going with "they have got to blow us away vocally," while new "Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi insists this year's Idolettes they must "be yourself -- be as great as you can be -- and just go for it." I know -- I can hardly believe it myself.
Judge Paula Abdul insists the Idolettes have got to "hit that center stage and make magic happen." And, when Seacrest orders judge Simon Cowell -- the only judge worth listening to -- to say something other than "sing well" he says each Idolette must realize the odds are stacked against them.
The four judges then praise Seacrest's new haircolor. Armed with all this insight, the first 12 Idolettes are ready to perform.
But not before Seacrest explains that this year the 36 semifinalists have been divided into three mixed groups of 12 performers. Each week, the chick who gets the most votes and the guy who gets the most votes will survive to compete and then the next highest vote getter, whether male or female, will also go through to the next round.
After three weeks, we'll be down to just 9 Idolettes, after which the judges will bring back to the competition Jamar Rogers and two more non-starters, during the Wild Card show.
Tonight, the first batch of Idolettes can sing any tune that's cleared from the Billboard hot 100, since the chart began.
Jackie Tohn appears to have come straight from her aerobics workout and does an interpretation of Mick Jagger Goes to Step Class, while singing the Elvis Presley tune "A Little Less Conversation." She's seems totally confident in her awfulness.
"Way to start season eight off!" Randy gushes.
"You can work a stage, girl!" Kara enthuses.
Guess who said this:
"Your voice wasn't perfect, but perfect is sometimes boring. You are a true performer and you make everyone fall in love with you."
Right! Paula! The "true performer" gag was the giveaway, right?
"You played the clown tonight," Simon said -- the first intelligent thing we've heard tonight.
In another first, the producers this week are unveiling the American Idol Insta-Parentanalysis. Not only will Seacrest interview each Idolette after his/her performance, he'll interview that lucky person's parents too.
Jackie's dad is "extremely proud" and mom told her to "be yourself and have the best time."
Ricky Braddy was "serving chicken fingers," Seacrest tells us, when he decided to chuck it all to go audition for "Idol."
"I just woke up and said 'this isn't me; it's not what I love'," Ricky tells us. As opposed to all the other people out there serving "chicken fingers" for whom it is their life's dream.
Ricky sings Leon Russell's "A Song for You." There is an odd disconnect between his polished vocals and his deer-caught-in-headlights face.
"This is the start of season eight right here!" Randy shouts -- again.
"I hope you feel good cause you killed that!" Kara raves.
And, in what may be "Idol's" first public acknowledgment that not getting featured during the auditions or Hollywood Week is the kiss of death for an Idolette, Paula tells Ricky, "You weren't featured in the past three weeks and I'm so proud America gets to see how talented you are."
Simon, however thinks that Ricky's voice is "very good" but he lacks "star quality" and needs to find a way to distinguish himself from the crowd. He's right -- Ricky does need to find a way to distinguish himself, and sandwiching him between Seacrest and his parents for Insta-Parentanalysis is not a good first step. Ricky's parents are walking billboards for the "Braddy Bunch." It's printed on T-shirts they decided was appropriate wear for national TV.
"Braddybunch.com!" Mother Braddy announces. Did no one involved with "American Idol" stop to think that having an Idolette appear with his/her loopy parents might be instant buzz-kill?
When perky little Alexis Grace first auditioned for the judges, Paula told her to "dirty yourself up" to which Kara added, helpfully, "go make love to your fiance."
Armed with that constructive criticism, Alexis has dyed pink bits of her blonde hair and put on a black slip and mom's pearls and red lipstick to sing Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved a Man" fairly well.
"You found the dirt!" Randy enthuses.
"The genie is out of the bottle," adds Kara, while Paula rambles about "tender age...soul, passion...what's inside of you is so large...quiet confidence," blah, blah, blah. And Simon pronounces her the night's best performance "by a mile" which is damning with faint praise.
Ted Danson and Neil Patrick Harrris are in the audience.
Brent Keith sings "Hicktown," which sounds about as good as you'd expect a song called "Hicktown" to sound. Randy says he can totally see Brent at "a chili cookoff with me and Simon." Kara and Paula pronounce it too safe. Simon disagrees calling it "not safe -- it's forgettable."
Teenager Stevie Wright got nicked by judges for singing "At Last" at some point during auditions so she chose a Taylor Swift tune "You Belong to Me" and butchers it. RanKarPau judge it "not hot" and a song that has nothing to do with who Stevie is, while Simon just calls it "terrible."
During Stevie's Insta-Parentanalysis her mom complains to Seacrest that the judges contradicted themselves with the whole young song/old song thing. Mom's right, which
brings us to the point that the addition of Kara as a judge is adding nothing to the show except compounding the whole We Can't Deliver Bad News problem that used to be confined to Randy and Paula. The problem was not that Stevie's younger-song choice did not reflect who she is as a person. The problem was Stevie butchered it.
Anoop Desai should be tossed out for picking the Monica tune "Angel of Mine" as his number. RanKarPau think it's "sharp" -- and not in the good sense. Simon asks Anoop why he picked that song. He explains it's the first R&B song he ever heard and it's all about "being grateful for the people that are behind you." Simon wonders why Anoop didn't just thank the people behind him and pick a better song. You can see his point.
Cheerleader-pretty Casey Carlson bumps, grinds, wiggles and winks her way through the Police tune "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic." RanKarPau determines that every little thing about that song was wrong; Simon does them one better and says she could not have picked a worse song.
Michael "Roughneck" Sarver sings the Gavin DeGraw tune "I Don't Want to Be" and RanKarPau likes it-ish, but Simon insists Michael's only here because "we like you -- you're a good honest guy."
Ann Marie Boskovich does the flat version of "Natural Woman" which RanKarPau does not like and Simon believes "destroyed" Ann Marie.
Stephen Fowler, who forgot the lyrics to his tune in Hollywood Week, opts for Michael Jackson's "Rock With You." RanKarPau has an opinion but Simon totally upstages them when he calls it a "terrible song with this terrible arrangement" and "corny."
Tatiana Del Toro delivers one of the evening's better performances, singing "Saving All My Love For You." But, of course, she's been cast as this year's "American Idol" freakazoid, and the judges actually get mad when, this week, she does not laugh hysterically, or weep.
"We miss the crazy!" Paula whines.
"You are a complete and utter drama queen," says Simon, though he admits her performance "wasn't bad at all -- better than I expected." Simon then accuses Tatiana of "marketing" herself.
This from the man who brought us Il Divo.
The judges continue to harass Tatiana for acting all normal tonight, then they demand she do her crazy laugh. When Tatiana declines, Randy, Kara and Paula begin to imitate Tatiana's laugh. Tatiana does not rise to the bait.
"America, please vote -- this is my dream and it's up to you to keep it alive, thank you, gracias," Tatiana tells viewers from the Insta-Parentanalysis room.
Speaking of marketing, last up is Danny "Just Lost My Wife" Gokey who, he reminds us -- yet again -- that when he auditioned for "Idol" his wife had just died:
"Going to the auditions -- it was four weeks after my wife had passed -- but I felt there was new hope on the horizon," Gokey says, adding "so there was a new excitement amidst all the tragedy."
He then sings "Hero," putting the finishing touch on the effect. Really, someone make Danny stop -- it's getting very creepy.
On the other hand, it seems to be working like gangbusters with three of four "Idol" judges.
"Yes! Yes! Yes!" Kara screeches ecstatically as her buttons are pushed. "Danny, you ARE the hero! You give us all hope!"
"That was blazing hot!" Randy enthuses, while Paula babbles about "sold-out arena!"
"Back to the real world," Simon says when the hysteria dies down.
"It was good but it wasn't fantastic...I like you," Simon tells Danny. "I'm just not buying the hype right now."
Seacrest, feeling Simon is ending the Danny episode on the wrong note, jumps in and asks Danny to please tell us about the "images" he had in his head while he was singing that song.
"I just picture people just coming out of rough situations," Danny begins. " I have to be honest. I just picture people rising above, and knowing there's a future ahead of them no matter how bad the stuff can be in their life."
I'll take Tatiana's laugh any day.
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