So after suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune in the audition rounds - complete with the vocally challenged and the costumed wackadoodles- the competition has finally begun on "American Idol."
I have to say I was underwhelmed by the generally snoozy kick-off from the 12 female semi-finalists tonight.
A few of the ladies did manage to stand out, though.
I liked Katelyn's bluesy belting of the Beatles "Oh! Darling." Haeley was a bit strident on "I Want to Hold Your Hand," but I was impressed by her ambling, Stax-style soul redo of the arrangement. I agreed with the judges that Michelle was impressive technically on "Fallin'" but felt like she'd sung the song a million times at her corporate gigs and it didn't feel electric. I didn't love Katie's version of "Feeling Good" but agree with Kara that she has a true natural vocal gift and great poise for a 17-year-old.
Many of the performances were just too low-key including Crystal's version of "Hand in My Pocket," Lacey's "Landslide," and Didi's take on "The Way I Am." (I thought there was something radiantly spunky about Didi though).
Our two locals Ashley Rodriguez of Chelsea and Siobhan Magnus of Cape Cod, both of whom impressed during the auditions, faltered a bit in their big debut. Rodriguez' "Happy," was a weird song choice that didn't show her to her best effect and drew the predictable criticism that it compared unfavorably to the Leona Lewis original. "Wicked Game," on the other hand, really showcased Siobhan's range and her ability to slide effortlessly into a dreamy head voice. But again, there wasn't much dramatic tension in the performance.
I was in the uncertain camp in advance of Ellen DeGeneres' live debut. I generally like her and think she's funny but thought she might try to be too shticky. Aside from the silly "clip" of Simon getting handsy with her during Hollywood week, I thought she acquitted herself well. Still, four judges continues to feel like too many especially since we already got a lot of "I agree with Ellen" - "I agree with Simon" in the very first show.
For anyone interested in getting a closer look at the semi-finalists, "Idol" is allowing them to have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace. (On Facebook the contestants can be found by a first initial, last name, and "AI9" suffix e.g. www.facebook.com/SMagnusAI9.)
Hopefully the 12 male semi-finalists will bring a little more sizzle to the stage tomorrow night.
My prediction is that Janell and Lacey are headed home but what do you think? Whose "Idol" journey is ending before it really has begun? Who impressed you? How did you think Ellen did in her live show debut? Do you miss Paula? Are you already mourning Simon's imminent departure? Did you like that feathery, hair clip thing-y Katelyn wore?
(As you may have suspected, I will be taking over for my esteemed colleague Joanna Weiss on the "Idol" recap/chat beat. I can't begin to fill her shoes- her feet are tiny and she liked Paula a lot more than I did- but I am a faithful "Idol" viewer and will endeavor to do my best recapping, debating, and question answering over the next few months.)
Thanks to tips from commenters Dot02116 and Rhiney I found this audio of Al Green's version of "I Want To Hold Your Hand." (It's on several different Green compilations but I couldn't find it as a single download on iTunes. In general if the Rev. is doing it, it's worth investigating. I think his version of the Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" is the cat's meow.)
I'm a big fan of cover versions in general and specifically from which artists "Idol" contestants might draw their inspiration for different arrangements. (I'm sure the backing band helps them with this too.) If you guys know, or have a hunch, what artist might be behind a particular version let me know and I will try to find them. I'm sure I'll know plenty but definitely not all so feel free to share with the whole class.
About Viewer Discretion
ContributorsMatthew Gilbert is the Globe's TV critic.
Sarah Rodman is a staff TV and music critic for the Boston Globe.
Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Glenn Yoder is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Swati Sharma is an Arts & Entertainment and Things to Do producer at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.