Wednesday, February 21, 2007

American Idol '07: Bring on the boys

Or don't, because with a couple of exceptions, they're not very good.

But I'll get to that.

It's another season of American Idol, and that means more Randy ("Yo, dawg, it was pitchy, but you worked it out"), more Paula ("Gotta have a bottle of J.D. if you wanna be with me"), more Simon ("That was as dreadful as the hair on my concave chest"), and more Seacrest ("My parents had three children — one boy, one girl, one metro").

Mostly, though, it means more fodder for the 19Entertainment cannon. And from the looks of the top 12 male contestants, that cannon's going to get fired early and often. This could well be the weakest field in Idol history — no Taylor Hicks or Ruben Studdard in this crew, but an awful lot of Justin Guarini wannabes.

Let's run 'em down anyway, just for kicks and giggles. In order of appearance on last night's funfest:
  • Rudy Cardenas. Rudy's one of two Idol hopefuls whom I've actually seen perform live. He sings in a terrific vocal group called M-Pact. Unfortunately for Rudy, that means I know he can do better than the unremarkable cover of "Free Ride" he served up last night. I liked his performance energy, but there wasn't much fire in the vocal delivery.

  • Brandon Rogers. Based on what we've seen of him prior to last night, I think Brandon is one of the top two or three male contenders, not that that's saying much in this group. Last night, though, he chose a song not well suited to his voice, and came in with a so-so performance.

  • Sundance Head. Love the name. The singer? Not so much. I was stunned when Sundance survived Hollywood Week; I'll be even more stunned if he's not one of the first two guys eliminated, in the wake of his oddly Meat Loafesque cover of "Nights in White Satin." I can't stand singers who deliver a song as though they've never taken the time to decipher the lyrics.

  • Paul Kim. Idol loves a contestant with a shtick. Paul's is that he always performs in his bare feet. He needs some kind of hook, though, because his vocals are seriously lacking. Paul's tepid rendition of "Careless Whisper" featured weak singing at both the upper and lower ends of his tessitura. His falsetto is worse than mine, and mine stinks.

  • Chris Richardson. Well, he's no Chris Daughtry. Heck, he's not even a Chris Sligh, whom we'll discuss momentarily. Mostly, he's a good-looking kid with boy-band style and a whiny, nasal voice that wore out its welcome quickly. He'll probably stick around a while, though, because teenage girls will dig him. And they vote.

  • Nick Pedro. Seriously in need of a last name, and voice lessons. Aside from his dull onstage demeanor, he struck far too many flat notes with his breathy, atonal delivery. Nick ought to take up a new hobby, and the sooner the better.

  • Blake Lewis. The other contestant I've seen before — he used to sing in an a cappella group called Kickshaw, which also spawned the career of Dan Schumacher of The Bobs. Blake's a terrific vocal percussionist, and as he proved last night, a pretty decent singer as well. I liked both his performance energy and the resonant tone of his voice. He's a keeper, even if his hairdo makes him look like a soft-serve cone from Dairy Queen.

  • Sanjaya Malakar. This kid gets my "Why is he here?" vote this year. He can't sing a lick, his stage presence is dishwater-dull, and his '70s Teen Beat mop of hair gives me Leif Garrett flashbacks. I'm sure he's a great kid, but he needs to start prepping for another career. And a haircut.

  • Chris Sligh. Idol's tradition of having one contestant each season who looks like a clerk at a comic book shop continues. (I love the staff at my local comic book shop, by the way. But you know what I mean.) This year's edition of Elliott Yamin is Chris Sligh, a Jack Osbourne lookalike who actually appears to have some serious talent. He's already demonstrated some versatility — he auditioned with Seal's ballad "Kiss From a Rose," then hit the stage last night with an uptempo rocker.

  • Jared Cotter. A pleasant-looking young man, and probably the most forgettable vocalist among the guys. Decent enough voice — although he doesn't use it to its fullest potential — but there's nothing distinctive enough about Jared to make either him fan-worthy or sympathetic. Will likely survive the first cut, but not much further unless he busts out some big-league skills soon.

  • AJ Tabaldo. Every now and again on each Idol season, Simon will describe a contestant's performance as "bad karaoke." He didn't say that about AJ's first shot, so I will. A weak, unimpressive singer who's trying way too hard, and is way over his head in this competition.

  • Phil Stacey. Phil got off to an uncertain start, but by the end of the song, he owned it. He's obviously better suited to rock anthems than sensitive ballads, but when it comes together for him, he can bring it. Plus, the guy missed the birth of his baby to audition for Idol — you've got to give it to him for commitment.
No real standouts here, and a sort of general thread of mediocrity throughout. But I've gotta select six of these dudes to move on to the Top 12, so here are the likely suspects, alphabetically:
  • Blake.
  • Brandon.
  • Chris Richardson.
  • Chris Sligh.
  • Phil.
  • Rudy.
Tomorrow night, the ladies. Man, I hope it gets better from here.

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