After writing an average of 2500 words per week for Zap2it about "American Idol" for the show's Second, Third and Fourth installments, I'm currently without a recapping venue. However, as old habits die hard, I'll post my opinions here. The end results will be shorter recaps with fewer complete sentences and more typos. Plus, no deadlines. Or at least that's my plan. Also, since I'll be TiVoing the episodes and not commenting on their every facet, I'll be able to skip Ryan Seacrest, meaningless background blather, group sings, any guest performances and any commercials trying to convince me to buy a second Ford Focus. WHEE! Enjoy. And please feel free to comment.
My Take: Horrible backing music, horrible sound mix, horrible flames in the background. Mandisa can blow, though. Anybody with less of a voice would have been engulfed entirely by the production. It looked like a freaking Viking Funeral. Mandisa's beautiful enough to overcome the inevitable "she's too big" stigma.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy calls it "hot," but that she overdid it at times. Paula says "phenomenal." Simon says she has an "unbelievable personality" and predicts a Finals berth.
Singer: KELLY PICKLER
Song: "How Far"
My Take: Let's make this simple: Kelly Pickler is Carrie Underwood with a better sob story. Nobody's gonna let Carrie Underwood win two years in a row. Also, that thing where she's always on the verge of tears because of her jailbird dad will get tired. Oops. Too late. Nerves aside, she's a darned polished product. Not spectacular on the vocals (what's with the tinny sound?), but she looks like an Idol. By that, I mean she looks like Carrie Underwood. Only not quite as good. She's cute. I won't kick her off just yet.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy calls it full of nerves, but "good." Paula calls her "unpretentious." Simon endorses her "likeability."
Singer: BECKY O'DONAHUE
Song: "Because the Night"
My Take: The "Idol" women were cast this year with aesthetics in mind, but even by those standards, Becky is just stunning. When she gets booted, she'll get a correspondent job at E! or TV Guide or something in a heartbeat. As a vocalist, she has no polish at all. She doesn't know how to breathe (this is her biggest problem) or pace herself or modulate her tone. Nothing. I think the raw materials are there, but who has the time? That come-hither look of hers will turn men on, but will it scare the women?
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy loved the performance. Mostly he thinks she's hot. Paula praises her charm and command, but she's less happy with the vocals. Simon gives her a 6.5 for vocals and a 10 for visuals.
Singer: AYLA BROWN
My Take: Go Future BC Eagle!!! On isolated notes, I like Ayla's voice a lot. On other notes? She doesn't know where she's going. She'd kick my butt. So I won't say anything more.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy is pleasantly surprised again. Paula agrees. Simon reckons she's a hard worker, but she may have a talent ceiling.
Singer: PARIS BENNETT
Song: "Midnight Train to Georgia"
My Take: She's fantastic. In every way. She knows how to work the stage. She knows how to make even the most identifiable song her own. Heck, she even knows how to dance and breathe at the same time. She seems personality-filled and likeable. How's anybody going to compete?
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy says it looks like she's been doing it all her life. She's Paula's Idol. Simon is all praise.
Singer: STEVIE SCOTT
Song: "To Where You Are"
My Take: She says she strives to be the girl version of Josh Groban. Can she please do that on her own time? I'd blame the song, but even as soporific as it is, some of the notes were just weird. By weird, I mean "wrong." Regardless, she couldn't be wronger for this competition.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy has no idea of how to deal with her and admits to daydreaming. Paula disagrees and calls her brave. Simon agrees with Randy and says she messed it up.
Singer: BRENNA GETHERS
Song: "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life"
My Take: Do I like Brenna or does she really annoy me? Definite thumbs down on the flood pants. Personality aside, she's pretty consistently flat on the low part of the song and surprisingly boring on the rest of it. On a pure vocal level, she's out of her league, so if she's going to be dull as well, she's pretty pointless.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy wasn't feeling the attitude. Paula's tepid. Simon wants her to be who she is and calls this performance "horrible." Brenna's mouth-y in the face of the criticism. Will viewers like that attitude?
Singer: HEATHER COX
Song: "When You Tell Me That You Love Me"
My Take: If Kelly Pickler is a poor man's Carrie Underwood, Heather Cox is a poor man's Kelly Pickler. Instead of a sob story, though, she's got a bit of a porn star name. She starts off really rough. Like "hide under my couch" rough. Up on the balcony, even the other constants can't feign interest. She's fetching. But so are the other gals.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy is harsh and calls it boring. Paula tries to find something nice to say. She can't. Simon calls it "forgettable" at first, but turns to "horrible" by the end.
Singer: MELISSA MCGHEE
Song: "When The Lights Go Down"
My Take: Who? She hasn't gotten much screentime so far, has she? Her voice is a bit husky and different from anything else we've heard tonight. Her range seems to be hugely limited -- she can't go high at all -- but in her comfort zone, she's not bad at all.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy says she started pitchy but worked it out. Paula calls it a shining moment for her. Simon's in the middle. He likes her voice, but finds her eyes lifeless.
Singer: LISA TUCKER
Song: "I Am Changing"
My Take: How is Lisa gonna stay out of Paris' shadow for this entire season? I think she's a great singer and great performer. Is she perhaps just a bit more noticeably calculating than Paris? It's the night's most challenging song (points for not playing it safe) and except for a few iffy notes (she goes flat at times), she just powers through like a champ.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy praises her ambition and says she worked it out. Paula thinks she's a precious little gift. Simon thinks she has the potential to be special.
Singer: KINNIK SKY
Song: "Get Here"
My Take: She comes across as a good deal older than the other women -- in appearance, in age, in demeanor. She's got the potential to have a huge voice. She hits bit, but she also misses big. Price of doing business. Fortunately, she hits big on her last note. She's a bit affected with her mannerisms. She's Jennifer Hudson-esque.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy gives her a six. Paula calls her powerful. Simon thought she was overwhelmed by the younger girls.
Singer: KATHARINE "NANNY" MCPHEE
Song: "Since I Fell For You"
My Take: Katharine's got a Rachel Ray-vibe. It's tied to both her adorable demeanor and her nervous energy. For me? That's a huge plus. I love the tone of her voice. She's not as polished in her stagecraft. There's a lurching thing that she's going to have to be trained not to do. It shouldn't be hard. The voice and the appearance need very little work.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy loved it. Paula just loves her job. Simon calls her the best of the night's four superior vocalists.
TONIGHT'S BEST: Obviously Paris, Lisa and Katharine. I get the feeling that may be a trend for the rest of the competition.
IN DANGER: Stevie, Melissa, Kinnik (perhaps not deservingly).