Ok, let's get to it: last night was your standard-issue, first-performance night for our top 12 ladies. If you've been around the block a few times with American Idol, you know that we're supposed to learn who you want to be as an artist from these ladies tonight. AI veterans know you'll come away from this night with the following information:
1) there are 1, 2, or 3 standouts in the group
2) there's a larger group of confused girls who are suffering from the classic American Idol identity crisis
3) you're not sure how 1 or 2 of these ladies even got this far, and woe the ones who were cut to make room for them
4) you're so underwhelmed by most of the performances, you had to eat a late-night Snickers bar just to feel satisfied...(or maybe that's just me).
Whatever you're feeling today, here's what I saw and heard last night:
|Rihanna's not worried|
TA-TYNISA - who knew you had a hyphen in your name? But I digress. What a bummer way to kick off the season for the ladies. No one will accuse Rihanna of being an incredible singer, with the prevalence of Auto-Tune in all her songs, but damn, T-T makes RiRi sound amazing! Sure, you were cute strutting around in your zebra-print tutu and all, but T-T is clearly out of her league. J Lo told her she "brought it home." Well, unless she lives under a rock, I have to disagree.
|That's one fancy banana!|
NAIMA - her name means "exotic flower", but she was looking more "fancy banana"to me. What did we learn about Naima last night? She made her own dress. She really can sing. I have to admit I enjoyed her swinging version of "Summertime" and felt a huge sense of relief when she hit that last high note. And I wish Randy would quit bringing up Fantasia's version of the same song from 8 seasons ago. Sigh. Anyway, I like Naima and want her to stick around, but if she doesn't, maybe she can be a disgruntled Project Runway contestant, or a Carmen Miranda impersonator. Don't forget to add the bag of fruit to your head.
|She is not a Hilton sister|
KENDRA - I thought her performance of "Impossible" was excellent - every note was perfect, she was sultry and sophisticated (even in skin-tight leather pants), and the fact that she looks like Paris Hilton's younger sister Nicki didn't even bother me. I'm afraid this girl, who is clearly very talented, is going to fly under the radar and be forgotten. I hope she got the votes she deserves.
|Girl on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown|
RACHEL - there was so much that was just wrong here, I don't know where to begin. What do we know about Rachel? She's very serious about her singing. She wants this very. badly. But here's what I saw and heard: a poor girl who is trying too hard, verging on desperate, singing a song that has nothing to do with her as a singing talent. As Michael noted, "that girl's never been on a date." Fiona Apple's "Criminal" never sounded so... sad and unrecognizable before this. Rachel just doesn't have that "it" factor. Frowning at the camera and the judges doesn't help, either. Buh-bye, Rachel.
|That's one smart girl|
|This girl's got IT|
LAUREN T - girlfriend knows how to break it down onstage. I was so busy enjoying her performance, her sass, her strut...Lauren was too busy making me a fan to take notes on her. Her version of "Seven Day Fool" was just plain hot. It makes me sad that she received almost no coverage during Hollywood Week and hopes it doesn't hurt her chances, because Lauren, for me, was definitely one of the standouts last night.
|Diva in Training|
ASHTON - do you even need American Idol? You are clearly a diva and a legend already, in your own mind. I appreciate confidence onstage, but to me, there was a lot of R&B screaming going on up in this joint. I'm pretty sure only Randy knew that was a Monica song, and I'm pretty sure Monica hasn't had a hit since 1996? Come on, girl - you're hot, you can sing, but please pick a song that makes us believe there's talent and brains under that awesome head of hair! Like the judges said, aim higher. Why sing Monica when you could sing Diana Ross?
|She'd make a great Disney princess|
JULIE - I'm going to keep this short and sweet, because you are sweet. You belong on the princess float parading down Main Street at DisneyWorld. Your voice is thin and powerless. But 6-year old girls will still love you. Your version of Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" was the worst of the night for me.
|Separated at birth?|
HALEY - here's the thing. You look just like Mariah, circa 1996, during the "Vision of Love" era. And you could probably sound a lot like her, too. But can we just take Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" off the list of AI songs? It's so overdone, no one can really perform it, and for Haley, it just left me confused. I know this girl can sing because I watched Hollywood Week, but if you were basing your vote off last night's performance, it probably left you feeling a little eh about the whole thing. If you get to stay, I hope you'll give us something better next week!
|Big fan of the feathers|
THIA - for a 15-year old, this girl has remarkable poise and composure onstage. Her version of Irene Cara's "Out Here on My Own" was haunting and beautiful, and was well-served by the spare musical accompaniment and single-spotlight effect. But here's the thing: I like my Idols with some personality, some spunk. I'm not sure Thia has either of those things, she's just a damned good singer. So I'm hoping she'll show us more of who she is as a person as the weeks go by. This little girl is definitely sticking around.
|You were born this way, baby|
LAUREN - it's Cowgirl Barbie! Idol clearly wants us to love you because you got more air-time than any other contestant, leading up to last night's performance. And you know what? They don't have to work so hard. We DO love you! Unlike Thia, the other baby-girl in this competition, you have personality spilling out of your (usual) bustier! Your performance of "Turn on the Radio" was one of my favorites - your throaty, country voice reminds me of a young Bonnie Raitt. You could be on country radio right now with that voice. Keep doing what you do. Like J Lo said, you're a natural. And I'm lovin' it.
|This chick consistently rocks 5 inch heels|
PIA - her choice of "I'll Stand by You" was restrained, beautiful, and she didn't go crazy on the vocal gymnastics, which would have been flat-out annoying. One of the three best of the night for me. It seems a little early in the season for a standing ovation, however, so I take exception to that. But she should breeze through.
And lastly, because I forgot him yesterday...
|Keep your day job|
That's my recap for today. If I'm being thorough, I should at least say who I think will make it through to next week. But let me preface it with this: these are the people I want to see next week, not necessarily the ones who I think will get the votes. I'm going to be selfish here.
BOYS: JAMES, SCOTTY, PAUL, JACOB, and CASEY
GIRLS: LAUREN T, KENDRA, THIA, LAUREN A, and PIA
WILD CARDS: I don't know how many the judges will have, but I hope they save HALEY, KAREN, and ROBBIE (for my mom's sake).
What did YOU hear last night?!