Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"Idols" Rock the House

After a lackluster round last week, the “American Idol” finalists came out swinging tonight. The theme was #1 billboard hits, and the contestants knew just what to do with those: go retro. Almost all the songs were from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Apart from a couple of disappointing turns from two of my favorites (Nadia and Anwar) and some really awful hairdos (Nadia and Carrie Underwood, what were you *thinking*?!), tonight showed the competition at its best. This season’s finals are going to be a tough one to call. My recap of the night:

BEST PERFORMANCE: Vonzell. Everything just fell into place—song, vocals, stage presence. Hell, she *owned* that stage.

RUNNER-UP: Bo – goes soulful, much more successfully than when he tried Edwin McCain a few weeks ago. It’s like Simon says: watching Bo, you feel like you’re watching someone who’s already made it. He rocked. He always does.

BEST VOCALS: Carrie Underwood. That girl has got serious pipes. (So does the other blonde, Jessica Sierra—but Jessica definitely went flat on one of her big notes, in an otherwise strong performance.)

WILL SOMEONE PLEEEASE GET HER OFF STAGE?: Mikala. This girl has GOT to go. Every time she opens her mouth, singing or speaking, I have an overwhelming urge to put the TV on mute.

AND YOU’RE NEXT: Constantine. It’s not that he was bad tonight (though honestly—the Partridge Family?!); it’s just that he’s clearly out of his depth, and has been for some time. As Paula put it, oh so diplomatically, it’s his showmanship (read: sex appeal) and his female fan base (emphasis on *female*) that’s keeping him alive. Not his vocal talent, which is meager at best.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Nadia. For once, she was just plain bad. Wrong song, wrong look, wrong everything. But she’ll be back. Hopefully sans mohawk—though it was a nice tribute to Cyndi Lauper.

MOST CHARMING SMILE: Tie between Anwar and young Anthony Federov. It almost made one forget their mediocre performances.


BEST SIMON QUIP: Comparing Constantine to a poodle in a leather jacket.

GENERAL COMMENTS: If you’d asked me a few weeks ago who I saw (or wanted to see) making the final four, I’d have said, without hesitation: Bo, Anwar, Nadia, and Carrie Underwood. After tonight, I’d probably still put my money on those four—but with much more hesitation. Anwar’s and Nadia’s stock fell sharply, while Vonzell’s shot up. The others remained static (i.e., unlikely either to win any new converts or to lose loyal fans), except possibly Nikko, who delivered an undeniably excellent performance. But somehow, Nikko, while he has the singing chops, just doesn’t do anything for me, and I suspect he has a similar effect on other viewers. After all, he got kicked off a while ago, before Mario Vasquez’s withdrawal reinstated him.
As for Vonzell, she’s been my underdog pick for some time now. Maybe it’s because I like the songs she chooses, though sometimes they work (like tonight) and sometimes they don’t (like when she took a valiant but shaky stab at Alicia Keys). As Randy told her once, she’s got a great instrument, and she could really be a contender if she learns to fully control it. As it is, she’s still a long shot: at the risk of sounding like a racial profiler, I think she fills the same niche as Nadia, but Nadia’s got tons more depth and control. It’s the difference between 28 and 21—give Vonzell about five more years. Tonight, though, was her night. It certainly was *not* Nadia’s.


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