March 16/17 -
FOnce again, here are your idols:
Fantasia Barrino; 19; High Point, NC
Diana Degarmo; 16; Snellville, GA
Camile Velasco; 18; Haiku, HI
Matt Rogers; 25; Covina, CA
La Toya London; 24; Oakland, CA
Amy Adams; 24; Bakersfield, CA
John Stevens; 16; East Amherst, NY
Jasmine Trias; 17; Mililani, HI
Jennifer Hudson; 22; Chicago
Leah LaBelle; 17; Seattle
George Huff; 23; New Orleans
Jon Peter Lewis; 24; Rexburg, ID
One by one, they'll sing. One by one they'll be judged.
One by one, we'll vote. And one by one they'll leave,
until there is only one... the next American Idol.
We bring out the upgraded live spaceship set from last
year's show, as we bring out the first of our final 12,
La Toya. Also, we find out how Fox has managed to
elongate an hourlong show into two hours, as I leave to
get a sandwich in the beginning of her hometown package,
come back, and we're on the same package. What we do
know is that La Toya's the baby girl of two brothers.
Her wedding band, All-Star Jukebox, is watching as she
sings Chaka's "Ain't Nobody". And let me tell you, I
couldn't think of any better way to start the show.
Well, I could, but that isn't allowed on TV. Of course,
it was a little shaky here and there, but she does a
great job of covering it up.
Randy: This is the night of singers. That was hot! I
love you showing your personality. This is going to be a
Paula: You are a star! I have a feeling you're going to
be around this competition for a while.
Simon: I don't know where you go from here. It's such an
amazing first performance. It was awesome. Awesome!
Wow. Simon said "awesome". Hoping to follow up on that
vibe is Amy of the ginormous Bakersfield sign. The
makeup artist gets some final hints on her face before
singing "You Make Me Feel Brand New". Here we have a
good singer overreaching her bounds to start. This was
written for a guy with a high falsetto (raises hand).
And she struggles. Whether or not that will cost her in
the end, I don't know, because the rest of the song
wasn't that bad, really. It was just a good song sung by
a good singer is all.
Randy: I thought the performance was good. It wasn't
unbelievable. You're probably a little nervous. But I
thought it was alright.
Paula: You're a goofball with a nice pretty voice. It
was a safe performance.
Simon: I thought it was boring, if I'm being honest.
And Amy caps it with a veiled beg. Not good. Moving on
to Matt Rogers, and surprisingly, this is not his first
TV appearance. The FremantleMedia hierarchy at work, we
managed to snag a clip of the former footballer on the
Louie Anderson Feud, I'm guessing second, maybe third
season. Matt was a team captain, and heading for "Before
They Were Stars"-dom. But first, he has to survive "Hard
to Handle" from Otis Redding/the Black Crowes. Ladies
and gentlemen, this year's Joshua Gracin. He's there
pitchwise to start, and he's a pro at engaging the
audience, but he's getting winded. Matt, breathing is
your friend! The sooner you learn that, the better off
you'll be. But song choice, definitely up there.
Randy: That was the best performance I saw you give. The
vocals were alright.
Paula: I love the fact that you're having fun up on
stage. I think you're going to go forward, because you
picked the right song!
Simon: With the exception of Ryan Seacrest, I don't
think I've ever met anyone who's more happy to be on TV
in my life. If I'm being honest, it was a second-rate
Tom Jones performance.
From second-rate Tom Jones, we go to third-string Lauryn
Hill, as the Filipino-Irish-Spaniard Camile who wakes up
late and snores before serving your IHOP pancakes. She
serves up "Son of a Preacher Man". Sounds like a
struggle. Looks like a struggle. If it looks like a
struggle, and it sounds like a struggle, then it's
clearly a struggle. Little bit of logic there.
Randy: I still like the sound of your voice. I think
there's "wow" in you, but I didn't hear it tonight, yo.
Paula: We loved your voice. That vibe is not coming out
tonight. It's all about having fun now.
Simon: She's not nervous, she's petrified! It's all
about self-belief. [La Toya] has it, you don't. Until
you start believing that you deserve to be there, you'll
fail in this competition.
And speaking of self-belief, the guy that can get away
with dancing is next, as Jon Peter takes the stage. The
military brat falls in with the Dobie Gray-Uncle Kracker
yarn, "Drift Away". He's got the tone down, really.
Until he starts gyrating again. And this guy's a good
singer, really. But he has the same problem that Matt
had, and that's forgetting that he has to breathe if he
wants to sing. Could be a danger if he learns that
faster than Matt does.
Randy: This was a lot better. This was more really who
you are, because you can sing. You just need to cut down
on the dancing, dude.
Paula: Hold back on the dancing, you're spoiling us.
America loves you.
Simon: Yes, you dance like your father. Jon, you are the
dark horse to win this competition.
So the judges are in agreement that this is a singing
competition and not a dancing one. Good. And did I hear
the words "dark horse?" You remember the last dark
horse, right (See Nilsen, Kurt, the reigning World
Idol)? Next up, High Point's Fantasia. She's got a large
family, and all of them are watching her sing Stevie's
"Signed, Sealed, Delivered." Definitely one of the
edgier performances of the night. She injects herself
into this one and it just shows. Really good stuff
Randy: You brought it down tonight, man. That was HOT!
You're like a young Aretha.
Paula: You own the stage. You brought it.
Simon: Fantasia, you're the real thing.
Don't know if that was a Coke plug or an honest
assessment, but she'll take it. And we'll take omelet
chef George from N'walin with the newly shaven
moustache. The vertical hold boy and Idol fan of the
season takes on "Dock of the Bay", another Otis
favorite. Playing to the camera and justifying it with a
stellar tone, he gets my vote for best performance of
Randy: You're like a seasoned veteran already. The best
we've seen you yet. Paula: You're infectious! The best
Simon: I don't think you are aware of how good you
really are. Very very good.
Agreed. Next on the list, Jennifer from the south side
of Chi-town. Her sister agrees with Simon and me that
the pink dress from the wild card show wasn't happening.
She sings Aretha's "Baby I Love You". She has the
attitude and the inflection, but one thing she doesn't
have at times is the pitch. Could be a problem later,
especially if there's a split on the judges' table,
because, as you know, America listens to the judges.
Well, two of them, anyway.
Randy: I love that performance. This is the best top 12,
I don't care what anyone says.
Paula: You are unbelievable. Another amazing
performance, and I like this one better because it's a
little more subdued.
Simon: Bad choice of song. I think we're beginning to
hear a lot of oversinging. It's going to become boring.
You're very good, but I thought I heard a lot of
Again, I have to agree. Okay, no more oversinging.
Instead, we have undersinging, courtesy of John Stevens.
The incredibly tall baby of the family, he goes for
another Stevie tune, "Lately". He injects the Rat Pack
into it. Definitely going from strength to strength, but
I'm starting to think that he's a one-trick pony. This
is going to get boring fast. Sorry, Conan.
Randy: So the first test, soul week... For me, it didn't
pass. I was bored to tears.
Paula: You gave a classy performance.
Simon: John, I'm going to agree... with... Paula. No
question or doubt, you are the real, unique artist. This
guy is middle America, and I'm glad you're here because
Another judge fight ensues and this one's split. And if
you're taking count at home, this is water glass spill
#2. Next up, Leah from Seattle, whose parents defected
from Bulgaria. Hopefully she won't defect from a good
performance of "Keep Me Hanging On." Unfortunately, she
does. Nice voice, but weak and breathy with no control.
She doesn't own the performance like she should, and if
she's around next week, I'll be surprised.
Randy: Wasn't your best performance and you know it.
Paula: This is a time where you can't give up hope.
You're a little bit under on your pitch.
Simon: Leah, I'd pack your suitcase. I think she's going
to go tonight.
I think she's going to go tonight as well. Hula girl and
surfer chick Jasmine's next. She's good at ripping
tides, but can that flower in her hair bring her luck on
"Inseparable"? I'd like to say so. She's strong despite
her age. A little flat here and there, but she picked a
good song and rode it out as such. I liked it.
Randy: At 17, you started out a little rocky. You can
really sing. This is what this competition is about.
Paula: My favorite performance tonight. Such a mature
voice and a beautiful spirit.
Simon: Jasmine, it was just superb. You are in the
minority of people who could really really be good in
the future as well.
One more idol to go, and that's Diana from Snellville,
"where everybody's somebody". Words to live by, but will
be somebody on the Idol stage with "Think"? You have to
admire her attitude and song choice. Even if it started
out rocky, she grew into it and made it her own. I
honestly can't wait to see where she goes from here,
because she's definitely got potential.
Randy: That was incredible. That was dope, dude. I don't
care who says what, this was the best top 12 ever, Mr.
Paula: It's effortless. Such a pure tone to your voice.
Simon: Diana, you are like a big doll, aren't you? I
didn't feel touched. You have a good voice.
And with that, it looks like the season that almost
wasn't is again. But it's early, room for growth all
around, and every vote matters. We'll count'em up...
well, we won't. Fox has professional beancounters for
that. But we'll tell you what they add up to tomorrow.
And because apparently Fox has all the time in the world
to burn, we'll throw in a free Clay Aiken performance.
--- Chico's Idol Chart after one round (or: Dammit, this
1 - George
2 - La Toya (narrowly)
3 - Fantasia
4 - Jasmine
5 - Jon Peter (once he gets the dancing out of his
system... or at least not try so hard)
6 - Diana
7 - Matt
8 - Jennifer
9 - John
10 - Amy
11 - Camile
12 - Leah
Well, since Chico did a
chart, I will have to do a chart of my own -
Gordon's Idol Chart after one round (or: This wasn't as
hard as Chico's)
1 - LaToya
2 - George
3 - Matt
4 - Diana
5 - Fantasia
6 - Jon Peter
7 - Jennifer
8 - Amy
9 - Jasmine
10 - John
11 - Camile
12 - Leah
That's my opinion - and
I can't wait to see the hate e-mail that I get. In terms
of chaos theory, the first person who will go will be a
female who doesn't have a strong fan base who got
blasted by the judges. All fingers are pointing to Leah,
but could her fan base rescue her?
We'll find out as we start the 60 minute (and
space-filler o'licious) show of American Idol - and
we'll start if with Ryan thanking everyone for making
American Idol Tuesday the highest rated night ever for
FOX - and we have over 18 million votes. But with the
voting, there is a dark side, according to Mr. Seacrest.
"Someone's going to take the Gary Coleman ride to
Nowheresville - and it's all your fault." Ouch.
After Ryan introduces us to the judges, contestants and
live recap of the voiceovers, we talk to the potential
contestants. John Stevens has no clue how to get Randy
to like him - and Randy says to raise his game, which
gets the audience to boo him. Jennifer says that her
fashion consultant is coming for Simon, and George, who
looks considerably younger, says that he shaved off his
moustache because he wants to win.
Jon Peter Lewis talks about being dressed up like a
banana - which we see him in as we waste some time with
their first music video - Fame. Now this was one of the
ideas that they brought from American Juniors - and that
idea should have stayed there. That was terrible and I
dread the fact that we have to see 10 more of these
We do get their first group montage - which is equally
awful. From John Stevens mangling the first line and
screwing up the choreography to no one being even and on
pitch, the singers were just not on point tonight. The
women were just as bad and this is not a good start in
terms of the singing. Blech. In terms of ratings, this
was better than the Fame medley (which isn't that hard)
but worse than the Star Search finale (which wasn't that
wonderful). Hopefully they will get better when they
have more experience - and less singers involved.
We get more space filler as we see a montage of them
enjoying the house - and it was cute as they act all
silly. It's these moments that are fun because you can
actually car about the contestants. These are the things
that will have us liking the people - not shots of
singers arguing with each other, which will only turn
people off and stop them from voting.
Mr. Seacrest goes over to talk to Jason Bateman, who
plugs his own show on FOX - Arrested Development' -
right up next. Who else is in the house? Clay Aiken, who
sings "Solitaire" live to the throng of the screaming
audience. He sings it very Broadway-esque, which is his
style, as we get an abridged version of the song. The
song itself is nice and you can see how Clay came that
close to winning the whole. Is it just me, or is he
positioning himself to be a young Barry Manilow? He
admits that he was a little nervous, but the thought of
selling 2.4 million albums makes him feel better.
The contestants have questions to ask Clay. Matt asks
how to deal with Stress and Simon - and Clay tells him
to keep focused on being in on the Grand Finale - and
not allow outside factors - ie. Simon - to take over.
Fantasia asks how things have changed - he says that
they have, since not many things go on in North Carolina
- and he's grateful to have the opportunity to make
these things happen.
But there will be one less person to make things happen
as we get to the bottom three calling. Diana...is safe.
La Toya...is safe. Jon Peter...is safe. Leah...is not
safe and she goes down to the bottom three. John Stevens
is...safe (yik). Adding to the Yik factor is Simon
playing with Paula's hair in the background - and Paula
doesn't realize it. YIK! Fantasia is...also safe. YIIIK!
Not Yik is George Huff...and he is also safe. Matt...is
safe. Jasmine is....safe. Amy is...not safe (well, she
had to be, there were only three people left - and she
is in the bottom three. Joining her is...Jennifer Hudson
as Camille is safe.
Ryan asks the three people on what it's like. Jennifer
says she's just happy to be here, Amy says that she's
acting like she's calm and Leah says that she has no
words. What do the judges think? Randy says that he's
shocked that Jennifer is there, Paula says that Jen and
Amy need to do a better song selection, while Simon says
that he isn't surprised - and he says that is does sound
different on TV than it does live and that everyone has
to realize that.
Going back to the singers, the lady who is safe is...Amy
Adams, as she goes back to her seat. Leah and Jennifer
sing one last round of songs, and based on the
performances, I don't see how Leah got more votes then
Jennifer. It turns out that she didn't - Leah is the
first person eliminated from American Idol. She thanks
her mom and her friends, and then she leaves.
I think that Paula may have done Leah a bit of injustice
by selecting her as a wild card performer. I think with
one or two more years, Leah could have been a powerful
contender - but I think she came out too early and she
paid the price for it, as she was just blown away by the
more mature voices.
Thus ends the first week of the finals. Chico will be
back on Tuesday as we get to the second week.