IDOL IN VEGAS: If boredom could kill

ImageThey should have let Kez Ban stay, if only to sign a Top 20 duet with Charlie Askew. THAT would wrest us from the catatonia induced by a godawful “Sudden Death” round for the first ten of 20 American Idol male finalists.

Either the conspiracy theorists are right — judges have deliberately cut out the more talented male contestants — or it’s just the roll of the dice in Las Vegas. The day’s burning question: Why are the Divas all in the male round?

Starting with Paul Jolley, whose overwrought performance knocked out all the nuance of Keith Urban’s “Tonight I Wanna Cry”.  Very frustrating. He has a great voice but has yet to learn the first thing about restraint. All that throbbing buried the lyrics. That wounded puppy look just doesn’t work. Betcha if he tries it with Nicki, she’d zap him here, there and everywhere just to teach him to stay away.

The second singer proves that they’ve roped in as many versions of Ken for Nicki to butcher while Mariah weeps like some pious Madonna. Hail, Nicki!

Nobody’s going to miss Johnny Keyser – see those youtube clips where His Cockiness falls flat beside the hilarious Heejun. Cowboy Ken sings “I Won’t Give Up” with the same dynamics from start to finish: all volume and emotion from Hades ‘ icy depths. A review of his performance shows I owe cowboys an apology. Denims are all he has in common with them.

I love gays, too, but the only important thing to take home from J’Da’s “Rumor Has It” is Keith Urban’s masterful way of saying, “you sucked”.  Diplomacy and then a smooth stiletto thrust. J’Da stopped mid-grin.  But if she appears in a musical with Sasha Baron Cohen, I’m lining up.

I started giggling at Chris Watson’s second line and went out for Coke on the fourth. Nuff said. Bandanas and studs and shiny stuff don’t make for authenticity.

Delfin Velez appeared mid-way and saved Idol from an exodus of its audience. There are few singers who can make a voice crack sound “organic” –Idol’s favorite jargon these days. It gives that final dab of realness to a very genuine performance: crisp, clean, musical story-telling that gains power as he slides into Spanish lyrics. (He also gave the best Idol cover ever of “What A Wonderful World” in Hollywood.)

Any dude who has to keep reminding us that he’s a hit with the ladies is… well, okay, may the tweens smother you in molasses, Elijah Liu! There’s no timbre in his voice, He does make nice goo-goo eyes, though not in the league of Stephano the boxer.  

You’d think Charlie Askew (above) singing about missing his wife would sound ludicrous. As Urban says, he makes it work. It’s almost criminally insane but those eyes and the contrast between bravura and sweetness   tell you this strange, strange kid gets what “Rocket Man” is all about. After all, he’s already channeled heartache into a powerhouse cover of “Somebody that I Used to Know”.  Plus, he made Urban say that zinger – lovechild of Freddy Mercury and Woodstock. Charlie will forever live on the brink – he sees too much truth and blurts out what would make most people uncomfortable. But that could be a plus in the age of the girl with the dragon tattoo.

Urban should vet every guy (or gal) out there who wants to do his songs. Jimmy Smith (ugh, what a boring name) strips “Raining on Sunday” of every layer of sensuousness and languor. Oh, Dude, why are you smiling like a cheerleader atop a pyramid in a song about cuddling under the covers all afternoon?

Curtis Finch goes last. And leaves me cold. Sure, he can make a gazillion runs. But he is just too sinister and it’s not the color of his skin. Jacob Lusk, in 2011, was a diva but also a friend you could giggle with. And he had compassion, whereas Finch’s little eyes…. Ah, that’s just my imagination. Just don’t like all that caterwauling, whether by men or women. I want singers who live their songs, not brutes who bludgeon us into submission and then lick their lips as they announce us saved.

Finch goes through, of course. Idol still needs fireworks. Still, he’s not going far. The voters will hate him.

Velez was a clear winner. Charlie  – aaah, they need some quirky ones in there, too, and he does have real talent. (I want him to sing “Joanna” from Sweeney Todd on musicals night thought he’s more liable to choose the barber’s song.) Elijah can still slay those imaginary ladies. And  Jolley might just get some redemption if he stops sniveling and starts singing his heart out.

ImageFor the gals, these ones go on:

Angela Miller: If she doesn’t watch it, she’ll become a caricature. This isn’t Glee, baby. Don’t cover the diamond with cheap glitter.

Kree Harrison *above): Will probably bring out her songs at the right time. Somewhere along the way, she’ll have to ditch the polo shirts. When guys like Phillip Phillips stick to their guns, it’s called integrity. When gals do it (like Kelly Clarkson), they are called “difficult” at the least. That’s Hollywood.

Teena Torres: I don’t know. Great voice, great reading of a song. But the spark just isn’t there. And this IS American Idol.

Amber Holcomb should throw away the standards and just go for sexy  R&B. Or sexy rock. Or sexy anything. Or the tweens will kill her. Fast.

Adriana Latonia seems to be miles ahead of Jessica Sanchez in the character department. But she needs edge. And she needs to stop singing those videoke staples and borrowing mom’s gowns.

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