American Idol Review: Group 1 Performs

February 18, 2009 12:36 pm

First off, I’ve gotta say how much I approve of the changes the producers have made to the show format. The addition of Kara DioGuardi to the panel of judges has brought us a voice that, at times, is almost as sharp and clear as Simon’s, but without the unnecessary insults. Also, I’m really digging the fresh new approach of determining the Top 12…it feels like the show has taken on a “let’s cut to the chase” attitude, and I couldn’t agree more. The one thing I could have done without was having each contestant’s parents sit with Ryan to greet them afterwards. When Ryan asked them what they thought of their child’s performance, what did you think they were going to say?? Well, here’s what I say:

JACKIE TOHN A Little Less Conversation – Jackie’s voice occasionally sounded interesting and almost bluesy, but her styling, dancing, and personality brought the overall package down. Grade: C-

RICKY BRADDY A Song For You – This was easily the second strongest vocal performance of the night, but I tend to agree with Simon’s observation that Ricky is just “not a star.” But when I spoke to my mother on the phone, she wisely pointed out that Clay Aiken didn’t seem like a star either. I just really didn’t like his facial expressions, and that’s definitely a part of the overall package. Grade: B

ALEXIS GRACE I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) – It’s pretty obvious that Alexis will be the top female when the results are announced tonight. I love to be surprised, and this girl’s R&B delivery did it for me.
Grade: A-

BRENT KEITH Hicktown – Simon said it best: “Forgettable.” Grade: C-

STEVIE WRIGHT You Belong With Me – Ouch. This was horribly uncomfortable to watch. The best I can say is that Stevie seems like a sincerely sweet young girl and she did an amazing job of smiling through the harsh (but truthful) criticism of the judges. Grade: D-

ANOOP DESAI Angel of Mine – Hopefully, Anoop’s weak song choice and hit-n-miss delivery won’t derail his Idol journey. As Simon observed, his likability factor is incredibly strong. That, coupled with the memory of his powerful performances during the audition rounds, will make him a serious contender for third-highest vote-getter. Grade: B

CASEY CARLSON Every Little Thing He Does Is Magic – I felt like I was watching a high school talent show. She could sort of halfway sing in places, but everything else (dancing, winking, gyrating) was “atrocious” (Simon’s word). Grade: D

MICHAEL SARVER I Don’t Want To Be – Michael did a brilliant job of selecting something that lyrically summed him up his “working man” image, although I personally think the song is somewhat played-out on Idol. I wasn’t a fan of the weird faces, cheesy dancing, and so-so vocals… but if country music fans are going to rally around anyone in this group, it’ll be Michael, not Brent Keith. Grade: C

Natural Woman – I agree with Paula…Ann Marie improved from the audition rounds. Still, I don’t find her compelling enough. Grade: C

STEPHEN FOWLER Rock With You – This one put Simon in such a nasty mood that he even attacked the band’s performance. In my opinion, Stephen never should have advanced to the Top 36 after his disastrous Hollywood Week meltdown…he actually walked off the stage after forgetting the lyrics! Why did the judges forgive that?? Anyway, his horrific version of “Rock With You” has ended his journey. Note to all other contestants: Stay away from Michael Jackson songs. Grade: D

Saving All My Love For You – The judges were all lamenting the absence of the wackier Tatiana that we’ve been exposed to up until now, but I would be on the side of the person (or persons) that obviously advised her to tone things down. Still, the girl’s got problems…she couldn’t even control her emotions in the pre-taped interview, which makes me want to give her the same advice that I shouted to Brooke White last season (cue the Tom Hanks voice from A League Of Their Own): “There’s no crying in American Idol!!” Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I think Tatiana was incredibly strong during the high notes of her performance but faltered in her lower register. Which, if you think about it, is eerily symbolic of her manic personality. Grade: B

DANNY GOKEY Hero – Hands-down, best of the night. Barring some unforeseen disaster, it’s impossible to imagine him not making it all the way to the Final 5. I do have one small wish, however: Danny’s voice has a grit and growl to it that makes me long for edgier song choices. Less “Hero” and “I Hope You Dance”….more “Kiss From a Rose.” Grade: A
P.S. – Did anyone else notice the look of jealousy when the camera cut to Danny’s best friend Jamar Rogers? He did not seem happy.

Top female: ALEXIS GRACE

Next-highest votes: ANOOP DESAI
(But I wouldn’t count out Ricky Braddy or Michael Sarver)