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American Idol Fodder

American Idol: Semifinals Round 2

Nicholas-Mitchell.jpgWhat a strange, awkward night on "American Idol." I'm still not quite sure what to make of this second round of seminfinals. From the goofy singing to poor song selection and those strange conversations between Seacrest and, well, everybody else, this will go down as one the most off-kilter episodes ever.

First off, someone really needs to stop Ryan Seacrest from staging those painfully awkward interviews. Did we really need to focus on Allison Iraheta's unfunny description of Idol School? Does America need more Ryan and Simon double entendres? And was Ryan kidding when he told Nick Mitchell that he didn't have a chance of making the finals? Yikes. For the first time ever, I actually wanted the producers to bring Brian Dunkleman back!

Also, I feel like this week's episode is proof that "Idol" needs some sort of Song Oversight Committee, a group that just sits and listens to each contestant's song choice before they go on stage. And then smacks them upside the head when they choose anything cringe-worthy. On this list would be things like Whitney Houston's entire catalogue or the song "Bette Davis Eyes" (I'm looking at you Jesse Langseth!). This group could also warn contestants when they're about to repeat a song. I mean, yes I admit Allison Iraheta's rendition of Heart's "Alone" was spectacular, but give me a break. Haven't I heard that song about a bajillion times on "Idol?" (It should have been retired after Carrie Underwood hit it out of the park in Season 4!)

Also adding to tonight's confusion was the fact that less than half of this troublesome twelve had been featured prominently this season. That includes Jasmine Murray, Matt Giraud, Adam Lambert, Matt Breitzke and Nick Mitchell. Of the rest, I'd seen only snippets of interviews for some and nothing at all from others (who are you, Kris Allen?). Out of all the contestants that made the Top 36, this is the group that had the biggest unknown factor.

Now on to the performances. First up was 17-year-old Hollywood-round frontrunner Jasmine Murray. The girl from Mississippi came into tonight with a good amount of buzz, and I figured she was going to sing something soulful. Instead she chose Sara Bareilles' hit "Love Song." As it turns out, only Ms. Bareilles can do the song any justice, and it sounded pretty boring with Jasmine. Overall, she still showed she has a decent voice, but did herself no favors by singing too low on the low notes. All the judges agreed she picked the wrong song, and Simon said he was disappointed.

Dueling piano player Matt Giraud was up next. He was originally my pick to automatically make it through to the finals, especially with the way he sang "Georgia on My Mind" during the Hollywood round. But Matt also fell prey to bad song selection tonight, picking a song only its actual performer can sing (Coldplay's "Viva La Vida"). And since he oversang it, most of the notes fell flat. The judges weren't blown away (Simon said he turned into a "wannabe performer"), and I'm guessing the audience wasn't either. He's my pick for a contestant the judges may bring back during the Wild Card Round.

Jeanine "I've Never Heard of You" Vailes sang next. This was my first time listening to the Washington, D.C. native's voice, and I was excited when I heard she was going to sing "This Love" by Maroon 5. But this song killed her chances, and made her the third out of three singers in a row to blow their chances with poor song selection. And her oversinging made it sound like she was trying too hard.

Ah, Nick Mitchell, ak.a. Norman Gentle. What do you say about a guy who wears a sparkly shirt and headband combo to EVERY performance? And what do you say when you realize he can actually sing under all that manufactured crazy? You say: "hmmm, this guy's memorable and he may actually have a shot at getting into the finals." I bet the judges are kicking themselves over letting Nick/Norman make it this far.

Up next was pink-haired Allison Iraheta, a 16-year-old girl from CA that I have only seen during the Judges Mansion episode. Her conversation with Seacrest was boring bordering on dullsville, but I was blown away by her performance of Heart's "Alone." With her rocker look, slightly raspy singing voice and almost zero pitch problems, Allison proved her might. All the judges loved her (Kara: "this girl is serious;" Randy: "you blew it out the box;" Paula: "you can sing the phonebook;" and Simon: "I'm impressed with you") and Allison suddenly became the dark horse of this competition.

Poor unknown Kris Allen took the stage soon after. The 23-year-old Arkansas native (and Hal Sparks look-alike) finally received some much-needed screen time tonight, but may have wasted it by singing Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." Clearly no one can touch MJ's vocals, so why even try? Kris came off sounding too low, with obvious pitch problems, but made up for it with enthusiastic performance skills. Simon complemented him on his personality, and said he showed confidence. He probably won't make it through.

The next five singers all brought interesting takes on their respective songs, though none seemed to completely jump out. Megan Corkrey may not garner enough support to land in tonight's top three, but I thought she was good enough to maybe win a Wild Card spot. With her tattooed arm and soulful, 1920s-style vocals, I think she's relevant and cool too, just like Paula said.

Matt Breitzke seems like a nice guy. Plus he's a family man and a welder, which is the kind of American story one-two punch that voters usually eat up. But his vocals were just OK, and his performance was corny. I was hoping to hear him inject that Tonic song with a little more oomph, but it just didn't happen. I'm not sure what America will think of him.

Jesse Langseth, another single mom (are we sensing a trend here this year?), showed off her unique vocals by singing "Bette Davis Eyes." And while she can definitely sing, it was hard to hear much range on this boring 5-note melody she picked. Kara said she took risks, but it might not have been enough. I'm betting she could be a good Wild Card pick too.

Kai Kalama and Mishavonna Henson both suffered from the same condition tonight: forgettable-itis. Kai with his old school R&B song, and Hinson with "Drops of Jupiter," both proved that it's not just about having a good voice. You need personality, charisma and charm, with a dash of fun mixed in. I don't see either of them going through, either Thursday night or in the Wild Card round.

Last was Hollywood native Adam Lambert. This is the guy that wowed the judges with his take on a Cher song, and then almost wowed them again with a rendition of "Satisfaction." It was a tad manic and over-the-top, but it was still more interesting than most of the previous singers. I'm guessing he'll take the night's top male slot.

With all that said, here's my predictions for who will make it to the finals from tonight's show:

1) Allison Iraheta: Receiving comparisons to Kelly Clarkson is high praise indeed. During the judge's Top 36 selection, Paula called her a "dark horse" and Simon told everyone to keep their eyes on her. Iraheta still needs to work on her personality, but she sang a spot-on rendition of "Alone" and blew away all her female competition tonight. I guarantee she'll take tonight's top female spot and will make it through to the finals.

2) Adam Lambert: He took a chance by singing a Cher song, and he took a chance again tonight with a Rolling Stones cover. He may have sung it strangely, but Randy was right when he called him the most current singer they've ever had. As the Dawg put it, he's a combination of "Steven Tyler meets Fall Out Boy meets Robert Pattison from Twilight." We'll probably be seeing more of Adam's spiky hair in the weeks to come.

3) Nick Mitchell, a.k.a. Norman Gentle OR Matt Breitzke OR Matt Giraud: Honestly, I don't know who will make it in this third slot. I picked these three guys for three totally different reasons. Nick/Norman is entertaining, funny and different, and in a night as utterly forgettable as tonight's show, he may be the only contestant people can remember to call for. Matt B. has a chance if my theory is correct about the audience overwhelmingly voting for singers who either have a great backstory or are blue collar workers they can relate to. Last, I picked Matt G. because he rocked out on the piano in the previous round, so he may have a loyal fan base. My best prediction out of these three: Nick/Norman will make it through.

How would you rate tonight's 12 performers? Do you agree with my predictions or is there someone else who should get a chance to return? Sound off below and be back here on Thursday for the results show! -Chris Sardelli

Posted by Chris on February 26, 2009 8:15 AM
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