Friday, March 1, 2013

AI Recap: White Guy with Guitar Problem? Done.

Is it just me, or do you hear the theme from Jaws, which they so awesomely played during the Oscars to make people stop talking? Do you see, as Jimmy Buffett likes to say, fins to the left and fins to the right? I do, because if it hadn't happened before, this show is officially about to jump that proverbial shark.

Last week, after writing my recap of the first group of male singers to perform, I questioned whether the producers—whose ability to manipulate things could make Dick Cheney feel emasculated—would ensure that no male with a chance of winning would be advanced into the top 10. In fact, I even wondered whether more talented male singers were kept out of the top 20. And after watching last night's show, my suspicions are confirmed. Or, on the outside chance that the assembled group was the best the show could muster, let's make it an all-female show next season, because apparently all of the talented guys have gone to The Voice or The X-Factor.

Entertainer/choreographer Mathenee Trico, who was cut during Vegas week last season, kicked off the evening with a strange performance of Elvis Presley's A Little Less Conversation. His phrasing was interesting, and I don't know if that's partially because of the Bahamian influences in his speech patterns, or whether he thought it might work. (It didn't.) He also tried for a lot of notes that he couldn't quite reach. Ultimately, I know that Mathenee's performance didn't outshine Chris Daughtry's performance in Season 4 (despite the screechy ending), and there's no video proof of Jon Peter Lewis' hammy version from Season 3. Keith said that Mathenee has a huge vocal range and immense power, but (using the exact words he did with the first guy to perform last week) he cautioned him not to "underestimate the power of your voice" when entertaining, because the vocal was almost "assaulting." Nicki (using the fake British accent of her "Roman" persona) called the performance "cheesy and karaoke," while Randy said the song choice made him question what kind of singer Mathenee is. (Umm, a not particularly good one, at least in this case.) Mariah always liked Mathenee, don't you know, and said the duality of his being an entertainer and a singer gave him trouble. Also, she said she didn't know this song(!) so it left her feeling disconnected. (Props to Keith for nearly bursting out laughing when she said this.)

The self-named "Turbinator," Gurpreet Singh Sarin, resplendent in a bright yellow vest and pants, was unimpressive in every way with his rendition of James Morrison's Every Hurt Like You. It was out of tune, boring, and just plain bad. Keith told Gurpreet he liked his earlier performances better, when he played the acoustic guitar and sang. Nicki—who called him "Turb"—said he should have come out with his guitar, because "today was not the day to take a chance like this." (Of course, if he came out with his acoustic guitar, I'd guarantee at least one judge would have criticized him for doing the same thing all the time, but that's the ridiculous inconsistency of this show.) She ended her critique by saying, "Honey child, hell no." (Nice respect there.) Randy said it was terrible, and Mariah expressed disappointment she didn't get to hear the softer side of his voice, then asked him if he played sitar. (Because I guess all Indian people must, right, Mariah?) All throughout the judges' feedback, Gurpreet literally begged for them to put him through. It was a little desperate, even for this show.

Vincent Powell looks a little like Cee-Loo Green in the face and looks older than 29, but maybe it's his glasses. He apparently has been a backup singer for Whitney Houston and Latoya Luckett. He sang Lenny Williams' Because I Love You, a song I've never heard before. He's really talented and has a great vocal range, but I found the performance a little too showy and overdone, kind of like Curtis' performance last week. Keith, Randy, and Mariah gave him a standing ovation. Nicki told him, "You better work with your old soul," and while she said his performance was "good old-fashioned," she also called it "sexy old-fashioned," and said that she could picture "50- or 40-year-olds throwing their panties at you." She also added (ick), "That hit me somewhere." (Add that to the list of things I never need to hear again.) Randy said that the show started with Vincent's performance and called him the whole complete package. He then did his whole "look what I know about the music business" thing, saying, "You, like Miguel and Frank Ocean, are doing the D'Angelo thing." Oh yeah, and it was the debut of "This boy is in it to win it!" Mariah simply said, "Finally." (She's clearly not being paid by the word.)

Producers: stop trying to make the show all about Zoanette. Too much of her is too much. Watching her jump around, Ryan's conversation just with her, is all unnecessary.

My hopes for Nick Boddington to knock it out of the park quickly dissipated when he started singing a somewhat tepid version of James Morrison's Say Something Now. I love his voice but his performance was boring. Keith praised the timbre in his voice but said he was waiting to feel connected to him as a person, and encouraged Nick not to be afraid to show his heart. "Hello, Bodding," Nicki said. She told Nick she loved his voice, although she said the performance wasn't a 10, nor was it his best. Randy told Nick he knew he was "up to it" but didn't think the song was a good choice, as it didn't have any of Randy's precious "moments". Mariah claimed she heard one moment, and called him "consistent, raw, and nice." She also praised Nick for the way he was going about his career.

Josh Holiday—he who split his pants singing for his life to get into the top 20—sat behind the piano (at least for a little while) and sang an original song I'm guessing was called Better with You. (I nearly killed myself after googling every permutation of the lyrics to figure out what song he was singing, only to find out it was original.) As a song, it was a little treacly, but I like his voice and his range, although the last note was wonky with a capital "w." Keith said he wished Josh had cut loose a little more and was waiting for the moment he did. He said, "It might not be skillful to cut loose, but I don't give a rat's about skillful, I want to see your heart." Nicki said she wished Josh had stayed on the piano, because when he stood up to sing it seemed like he was trying too hard to please the judges. Randy said that singing his own song was a big risk, and he wasn't wowed. Mariah loves that Josh is a singer/songwriter but wasn't wowed either.

David Oliver Willis (cool name) took the stage with an acoustic guitar-driven, up-tempo version of Fever, which Paris Bennett sang in Season 5, top 20 contestant Nick Pedro sang in Season 6, and Syesha Mercado sang in Season 7. To coin a Randy phrase (Lord help me), I wasn't blown away, but I liked that he did something different, and I thought his voice has some great potential. Keith didn't think it was the right song to show off his voice, as Keith thought that David's "Dobie Gray/Michael Kiwanuka/Gary Clark Jr. vibe" was a good one. Nicki asked if David was married, and when he introduced his wife, she loudly shouted, "Hello, wife," and then told David he sounded like a kid who had just gotten a guitar for Christmas. (Not only doesn't the show want a white guy who plays guitar to be a possible contender this season, they don't want a black guy with a guitar either.) Randy liked David's "bluesy side" (and also dropped the Gary Clark Jr. reference), and Mariah said she was intrigued by David's back story (ok...), but had heard him "vocally a bit more" in earlier performances.

Bryant Tadeo is a perfectly pleasant-looking guy from the big island of Hawaii, who sang Billy Joel's New York State of Mind (an odd song choice, as far as I was concerned), previously performed by Kimberley Locke in Season 2 and the woefully under-appreciated Erika Van Pelt last season. His hand motions and expressions were cheesy, but I thought he had an interesting slightly higher voice that was good. Nicki said that apart from the last run, and the high note he sang at the end, she didn't like the performance at all, while Randy said he loved the beginning of the performance but kept waiting for the song to go somewhere. Mariah said he sounded "professional" (umm, wait, isn't that a good thing?), but said he got a little bit lost throughout the performance. Aloha, Bryant.

While top 10 finalist Breanna Steer's family was affected by Hurricane Isaac, Burnell Taylor's family was affected by Hurricane Katrina. Oh, and he's lost 40 pounds since his audition. He looked like Jaleel White's Steve Urkel character from the television show Family Matters, complete with bow tie. Burnell sang John Legend's This Time, and while I like his voice and his intonation, I found his performance to be a pale imitation of Legend's, even with some of the same vocal tone. Nicki gave him a standing ovation. Keith reminded us that Burnell had blown the judges away in his audition when he sang I'm Here from the Broadway musical The Color Purple, and said that Burnell is here to stay. Nicki said she would pay to see Burnell sing today. She praised him for losing weight, saying it was "the spirit of Katrina he was able to get off his shoulders," and that she "knows what it's like when your family is counting on you." She called his performance the best of the night. Randy did the whole Louisiana thing again, also praised Burnell for losing weight, and said he did justice to the song.

I had heard some of the news coverage about Lazaro Arbos, how his stutter is so bad but it mostly disappears when he sings. I was moved when he said that he works in an ice cream shop because "it's the only job where I don't have to do smart people things like talk." He sang Keith Urban's Tonight I Wanna Cry, which top 10 contestant Paul Jolley sang last week. (And it makes me wonder just how many song choices they really do have.) Lazaro's voice has a gorgeous tone but he had some issues with breath control, which I'm guessing was a combination of nerves and the stuttering. Keith told him that "his spirit burns through the vocals." Nicki spoke Spanish to him (she asked what's up with him), and praised him for "always giving us Lazaro," saying that he played it safe in a good way. Randy said that while there were some notes that weren't perfect, "every time you hit the chorus, you found the sweet spot in your voice." Mariah said that at the start of the performance she saw Lazaro start to well up, and she worried she'd become an emotional mess. (Because it's all about how Mariah feels, don't you know.) She praised the purity and simplicity of his voice.

Explain this to me, though: they praised Burnell for "overcoming the obstacle" of losing 40 pounds, and they gave Lazaro no props for singing through a stutter? This kid's job prospects are limited, as is his confidence, but it's less worthy of mention than Burnell's inability to find clothes in his size? I find this show so befuddling sometimes.

Cortez Shaw closed the show by mangling David Guetta and Sia's Titanium. Seriously, he hit some notes that I worried might send my dog into a frenzy. He definitely has star quality but honestly, that's about it. Keith called the song choice a bold and brave move, and said that there were a lot of spots where his voice went wrong, but said he found "redemption" in the last high note. Nicki asked, "Is it hot in here, or just me?" Randy mentioned Cortez's pitch issues but said the last notes were great, and called him a "current, very interesting" artist. (Why have all the people deemed "marketable" not had strong voices?) Mariah babbled but said, "Nothing's gonna be perfect." (That's okay only if you're one of the pre-chosen ones.)

Judges' decisions were next. Ryan asked Mariah, "Did you have any clashes?" Apparently the word "clashes" isn't in Mariah's dictionary because she just gave him a blank stare until he rephrased his question. Oh, and Randy told one of the contestants, "It's been tough on us as judges." Cry me a river, Dawg. (Oh, and as an aside, I have hated the way every contestant has to hug all four judges after every decision. I kind of liked when the contestants weren't allowed to approach the judges' table.)

David, his wife and his guitar were sent packing, and it was aloha time for Bryant. Unsurprisingly, Vincent made it through. Mathenee was sent back to the Bahamas, then Lazaro and Cortez(!) made it through. Josh was too good looking to be in the top 10, so he was sent home, and the much lighter Burnell was sent packing. Which left us with Gurpreet and Nick. I couldn't imagine they'd let Gurpreet go through, and they didn't, so Nick has one more shot at redemption.

Our top 10 guys are:

Paul "Theatrical" Jolley
Devin "En Español También" Velez
Elijah "Nicki's Baby Daddy" Liu
Charlie "Awkward Turtle" Askew
Curtis "Second Coming of Jacob Lusk?" Finch Jr.
Vincent "Cee-Lo" Powell
Nick "No Chance" Boddington
Lazaro "Better Cut Him Quick or He Could Win This Thing" Arbos
Burnell "Urkel" Taylor
Cortez "Dog Whistler" Shaw

I just don't know if I'm going to be able to make it through the season, but we'll see...

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