Wednesday, March 24, 2010


When it comes to truly great vocal teachers, there are really only two masters – Barbara Cook and Miley Cyrus. One has 80 years of life experience and is an expert in song interpretation; the other can pole dance. So it was a real coup for "American Idol" to get Miley Cyrus to be the celebrity mentor this week and share the wisdom of her 17 years.

Sadly, the fact that the Top 11 contestants were by and large awful really says how bad this year’s crop is. Because if Miley Cyrus can’t coax an extraordinary performance out of them then they are obviously hopeless.

And that’s what we have this season. Crystal Bowersox and Siobhan Magnus and nine backup singers for H.R. Puffnstuf.

This week’s theme was Billboard Number One Hits, meaning they could choose any song but "Jimmy Crack Corn." And still, a number of the contestants found the theme too restrictive.

As usual, the two-hour show had more padding than Eddie Murphy’s fat suit in “The Nutty Professor”. It was 8:10 before the first song was sung. The interim was filled with grand entrances by the judges and Ryan, a mystifying standing ovation for Ryan (Standing O’s used to be reserved for bravura performances; now they go to a guy whose sole talent is reminding us that “standard text rates do apply”.), more introductions of the people already introduced, and searing questions to the judges like, “Why is tonight so important?”

Lee Dewyze started the night singing “The Letter”. He did the Joe Cocker version, but Joe Cocker after massive doses of electro convulsive therapy. I bet Miley Cyrus has no idea who Joe Cocker is. Ellen compared Lee’s performance to her favorite pen. What the hell is she doing there???

Paige Miles massacred “Against All Odds”. She sounded absolutely petrified. Thelma Houston meets Barney Fife. I’m sure Miley Cyrus has never heard of either of them.

By now it was 8:30. Six minutes of singing in a half an hour. But we did hear about Ellen's favorite pen and how it sometimes dries up but then begins working again. There's no other judge they could have found?

Tim Urban – Teen heartthrob/Judges' punching bag – gave his best "Tom Cruise in 'Risky Business'" dance routine while attemption Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. In his session with Miley Cyrus, she said, “I don’t think you’re boring at all”, to which he gushed, “Wow! That means a lot.”

More risky business. Andrew Garcia was told by preeminent musicologist Miley Cyrus to take the bold step of performing without his guitar. Yeah, like that’s the problem. Barbara Cook might have observed that he just can’t sing!

My guess is Barbara Cook in general would have given better advice but not looked as good in those short shorts as Miley Cyrus.

Aaron Kelly had laryngitis and tonsillitis and still sang better than practically anyone else. Astro Boy is the real deal.

Jesus, Kara is annoying. Even when she makes perceptive points (which she does frequently), she’s just so whiny and insufferable that I envy how Elvis would take out a loaded revolver and shoot the television. "I don't think you know who you are as an artist and I..." BAM BAM BAM!

Crystal Bowersox can do no wrong. Even though she sang an on-the-nose cover version of Janis Joplin’s “Me & Bobby McGee” the judges all plotzed. Kara whined that she needs to show more personality. BAM BAM BAM! My question: uh, WHAT personality? Crystal promises to show us a whole new side of her next week. Instead of singing Janis Joplin she'll be singing Leadbelly.

Big Mike Lynche chose Percy Sledge’s overplayed-to-death oldie, “When A Man Loves a Woman”. I love his falsetto.

Katie Stevens really benefited from fellow 17-year-old Miley Cyrus’s advice. She gave Katie some good pointers on how to stand on stage and where to go for the best fake ID.

Casey James mimicked Huey Lewis’ “Power of Love”. Ellen thought it was the best vocal of the night. Seriously. What the fuck is she doing on that show? Miley saw him as a real talent. He saw her as jailbait.

Didi Benami has a baby doll voice that makes every song, no matter how dark or sultry sound like “Munchkin Land”.

The pimp spot went Siobhan Magnus, now a member of Flock of Seagulls judging by her new do. She belted Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. She’s still my favorite. I still love her. But enough of that loud piercing final note already. Yes, it’s thrilling but save it for appropriate songs like the National Anthem or “The First Time Ever I Saw Your FAAAAAACCCCE!!!!!!!!!!!”

Paige, Tim, or Andrew is going home tonight. And Miley Cyrus is going to perform. If she’s smart she’ll ask Siobhan for a singing lesson. And a pole.


D. McEwan said...

Meanwhile, over on ABC, Lost had a kick-ass episode that was one of the best single episodes in the show's whole run, and answered mysteries and questions galore.

As for who is going home, it has to be Paige. Despite the many lousy performances this evening, Paige's was Godwaful amateur crapola. She sang second, and as soon as she stopped, there was no question who was going home. Short Of Marcel Marceau returnign from the grave to just gesture a song, you knew it wasn't humanly possible to be worse than she was. She didn't just set the bar low. She dug a trench and buried the bar. Wretched. She was so bad that she Randy Jackson was forced to express himself clearly, and say: "It was terrible."

And it's too bad, because it means tour audiences are going to have to listen to Tim Urban and Andrew Garcia.

But man, Lost was great!

And I didn't know there was a different song called Big Girls Don't Cry. Too bad. I'd much rather have heard the Four Seasons song.

Anonymous said...

Agree, agree, agree, especially about why Ellen? and shoot Karen!

Dave S said...


Vote Ellen off!

JD said...

OK, I'm going to just come out and say it: I think Siobhan is overrated, and not just a little. Why the judges continue to gush over her baffles me. Does anyone REALLY think that her rendition of "Think" a few weeks ago wouldn't have gotten the big thumbs down if it had been anyone else but that quirky kid form Cape Cod? And "Paint It Black"?? Yikes. But she DOES know how to screech...loudly. Again, bad for everyone else, good for her. I'm confused.

But, then again, I have no problem with Kara.

Yes, Crystal has gotten predictable, but she's dead on every time. I bet she wishes she hadn't let Miley use a Sharpie on her guitar. That won't ever come off now. Casey's in the same boat as Crystal (though not nearly as cool and collected). I wish someone would just come out and tell him that he's the guitar player/sometime vocalist in someone else's band. He's not the American Idol. He's the American Idol's sideman.

Why didn't anyone take the opportunity to tell Paige that "You coming back next week is against all odds"? Maybe because Tim and his Peter Brady "awe-shucks" smile (which makes ME want to shoot my tv) were every bit as awful. And then there was Andrew who doesn't seem to know what phrasing is. He sounds like a marching band version on every song: making every part of the melody square as square can be, and making every note sound like it's being forced out of his gullet.

And Didi...stick with the opposite of what you did last night.

Anonymous said...

I thought Big Mike absolutely slayed it so I was puzzled buy the judges reaction. Maybe it played better on TV than in the theater. And I like Siobahn but I think she needs to let her freak flag fly, sing a song by Bjork or something.

Kevin said...

Siobhan inspires racism.

Meaning, I listen to her and think, "Only white people could possibly like this girl"

She's screechy as hell. Totally nothing special. White people is the reason why real talent like Melinda Doolittle and Jennifer Hudson get voted off.


Maybe X-Factor will be better.

Phil said...

Ken, thanks for your honest opinion of Ellen. I agree, even though I don't watch this show.

I used to have a girlfriend who was a devoted fan of Ellen. When I told her I didn't think Ellen was particularly funny or attractive, the ex accused me of being anti-Lesbian! (Not true.)

That's the problem: Since Ellen "came out," in some people's eyes she's entered a kind of protected class. ("Love me, love my sexual orientation.")

I just don't think she's funny or worth watching, so I change the channel whenever her image appears on my TV.

To quote Jack Paar: "I have never seen a bad television program, because I refuse to. God gave me a mind, and a wrist that turns things off."

Mike from Canada said...

Is it just me, or did anyone else think that Andrew Garcia resembled Kim Jong-Il last night?


Anonymous said...

I'm a Siobhan fan too, but I agree with you Ken about the big note. It tends to lose it's novelity and uniqueness if you inject it into *every* performance. She's still the most interesting personality of the bunch, which is why I think she'll suceed. The music business is about two things: good record and personality/charisma.

Ian said...

But I've noticed... the worse the show, the funnier your review.

Am I the only one not taken by Crystal Bowersox? She's very good at what she does, but she's limited in what she can do within that street busker/hippie girl persona... ten bucks says we'll never hear her cover "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" even if they do "Wham! Tribute Night" - which doesn't seem entirely beyond the realm of possibility, given that they made Miley Cyrus a "mentor." It was a given from day one that Bowersox would cover at least one Joplin hit - no surprise there. Also, no matter how much they try to clean her up, she still looks like she just wandered out of an Oakland BART station after a rough night. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

My money's on Paige to go tonight.

A. Buck Short said...

Qu: What do you get when you combine Didi Benami with Mylie Cyrus voice coaching?

A: Alvin and the Chipmunks’ cover of Achy Breaky Heart?

I don’t watch the show, so please... please tell me that the kid’s name is pronounced DEE DEE Ben-eh-MEE-nee. Please. Because I just can’t seem to stop saying that.

Now I feel I can still ask this reunion question, because I was frequently tardy in high school too. You know those online, people search Classmates, My Life…Interpol? services some e-acquaintance had e-nudged you into dropping your name into? The ones that say:

“Hey Buck! You over there, Buck! Five friends have just spent the better part of a month doing almost nothing but trying to get in touch with you. 1 is in Sarasota, FL; 1 is in Pocatello, ID; 2 are on Guam; and 3 are in a federal correctional facility in Minnesota. Send us $6.95 for a one year membership or just $3.95 for a 3-month trial offer, and we’ll tell you who the hell they are.”

Yeh, those guys. Well I know you’re a worldly crew, so I’ll ask. Has anybody…anybody…ever mastercarded in the $3.95 and discovered that any of those lookieloos were anybody they really actually knew – or at least wanted to? Or perhaps a bill collector or process server? I’m curious. Just not $3.95 curious.

“My dear. I’m afraid this can’t be an actually reunion, because that would have meant there had been some sort of a union to begin with.”

Craig said...

I love Tim Urban. Not for his singing, which is awful, but for his shocked expression each week when he finds out he's not the one being kicked off. Priceless. He seems even more shocked than I am that he's still around. I guess those well-timed swimsuit photos have bought him a couple of extra weeks of popularity with teen girl voters.

Pierre said...

Having 17 year old Miley Cyrus as a mentor was a big mistake. A mentor should be somebody with ability and many years of experience.

Anonymous said...

So Ken, does this mean you are not going to see Miley Cyrus's new "grown up" movie called "The Last Song" ?

Tom Quigley said...

Came to three conclusions after last night's show:

(1) Wish Paula were still on it -- at least we'd have one judge for whom we could both feel sympathy and laugh at simultaneously...

(2) If this is what we've got to choose from for the top 11, the pickin's for talented contestants is getting mighty slim no matter how many thousands audition for it...

(3) Miley Cyrus has got great legs...

wv: jaxola -- what they call it when deejays get paid under the table in food from Jack In The Box...

gih said...

Well, all of them are a good stage performers. We'll just wait for the judges to select the best one among the others.

Mary Stella said...

Leading off with my word verification because it's perfect for this topic: sangst -- what we felt after watching American Idol last night.

When it comes to Casey, Kara judges with her vajajay. Love the commenter who said he's someone's sideman. That someone is likely with the house band of a bowling alley in Poughkeepsie.

There are only two reasons that Tim will make it to the Top 10. He has a fan base of tween girls with unlimited texting plans and Paige gave the worst performance of this and the last three seasons.

Frankly, a line of claymation raisins could sing Heard it Through the Grapevine better than Andrew Garcia. Oh wait. They already did.

Somebody gene-spliced Sanjaya, Adam Lambert, and Cyndi Lauper and Siobhan is the result. Which brainiac suggested she should begin next week's song with her trademark scream just to change things up? I like Siobhan but am not willing to explode my ear drums.

By the time Ellen finished her story for Lee, I wanted to take her favorite pen and puncture her larynx.

Someone please tell the contestants that the point of performance night is not to have fun. It's to perform and sing like you have more ability than the neighborhood drunk on karaoke night.

All night long they showed promos for Glee. Lea Michele showed us all what none of this year's A.I. top 12 possess.

Ken, I hope you're right in your predictions of Paige, Tim and Andrew all being the lowest, most likely-to-be-voted off singers. I picked them for my bottom three in the A.I. pool.

jackscribe said...

I couldn't make it through the two hours But I'm sure Andrew will be taking his final bow tonight. Maybe he can use the free time to complete the neck tattoo.

As an overview, you must wonder if this is the best talent available in the USA. Kinda scary.

Mike in SLO said...

Love your recaps, Ken, and hating this season. They really do suck eggs!

I agree with JD and Kevin. Siobhan is overrated, mainly because I hate how she spells her name.

I also agree with Phil and I'm as Gay as Ellen. She's not funny, especially since Idol, and she does get a pass from a lot of people because she's gay. A gay guy would never get away with it, though. There's this gay double standard in Hollywood. It's okay if you're a girl, but if you're a guy best to stay in the closet.

And yes, Mike from Canada, he looked exactly like Kim Jong Il last night. Was it SNL or Mad TV that used to do the Kim Jong Il talk show sketch????

DwWashburn said...

My wife loves this show. I was using the laptop last night while she was watching it. I noticed that the judges are completely clueless. I must have heard it a half dozen times in the show. They would say to the contestants "You sound like you're at karaoke night". HELLO!?! That's all the show is.

I finally had to walk out of the room. I told my wife I was tired of my ears getting raped.

te said...

I love Tim Urban...for his shocked expression each week when he finds out he's not the one being kicked off. Priceless. He seems even more shocked than I am that he's still around.

There's your solution: next season, he replaces Ellen on the panel.

AP said...

Ken, you deserve a HUGE medal for just watching this dreck! Think Miley would remember the Ted Mack Amateur Hour? Of course not, but that's all this show is with 1000 more lights! As Howard Stern wisely said "Anybody can judge karaoke". Because that's all this is.
Remember the days when singers could sing ... and they actually sang GOOD songs? And that brings me to another question: what the hell happened to good songwriters?
When Ryan Seacrest ("Mr. No Personality") gets a standing "O", it's time to say goodnight and read a good book. Or listen to Sinatra or Ella. Now THOSE were singers!

Anonymous said...

Friday question: Have you thought about writing and producing a web series?


Tiago said...

Andrew Garcia is a Kim Il Sung lookalike. Hair, Spectacles, Shirt.

Tiago said...

Kim Jong Il actually.

Anonymous said...

Tim Urban is this years Sanjaya. All he needs is to do weird things with his hair and he'll make it to at least the top 7 for sure.

Mike said...

Pay up, Ian.

James said...

Siobhan looked like Gozer from the end of Ghostbusters