Based on early returns, it looks like the women are better than the men so far on “American Idol.” One thing is for sure — the men are definitely more jittery, a trend which continued on Tuesday.
I don’t think there’s been group of semifinalists who have been more petrified to be out there than the guys this season. Forget wanting to be stars, they seem happy enough when their performance is over, like they were back in 10th grade speech class. Maybe it was the late notice, as they got the word this morning that they were singing a day early thanks to Crystal Bowersox’s illness that pushed the girls back, but the nerves were once again evident.
Alex Lambert was legitimately 100 percent better than last week, but he still looked the happiest when he sang his final note. Also, if I were him and Ryan talked about how nervous I was and how I had thrown up before the previous show and looked like I was going to be sick onstage, I would have requested a more conventional motivational speech. Or punched him in the nose. The judges were all amazingly nice to him, either because they love his voice and want him to come back, or hate his nerves and don’t want him to get pity votes that keep him on. Guess it’s a win-win either way.
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Tim Urban is another guy who looks like he’s thinking, “Please don’t screw up please don’t screw up” when he takes the stage. He was much better this week because he picked a song with notes he could reach, but he and Lambert still have the least swagger of any “Idol” semifinalist singer in recent memory. Ellen DeGeneres suggested he go on “Glee” instead, showing that she’s a Fox product placement natural.
Even Lee Dewyze was nervous, and he had no reason to be. He’s ahead of the pack on all the judges’ scorecards right now, with that all-important commercial-sounding voice. No way the judges will let him go home anytime soon if they have anything to say about it.
The other issue with the guys this season is star power. Does anyone have it besides Dewyze? Maybe Michael Lynche, one of the few guys who is comfortable onstage and the only one to get a standing ovation from Randy Jackson. Or Casey James, who looks the part but needs to figure out how to look more natural and less stiff onstage. Perhaps Aaron Kelly, who alone among the younger contestants seems to have the confidence now, but he’s still got a long way to go.
And then there’s Andrew Garcia, rapidly becoming the first “Idol” contestant to peak during Hollywood week. That’s because the judges can’t stop talking about how great it was when he covered Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” lo those many weeks ago. The performance is rapidly taking on mythic proportions — it’s a wonder production company 19 Entertainment didn’t just sign him to a deal right then — but right now it’s holding Garcia back because it’s taking away from what he’d doing.
Garcia probably wants to tear his hair out every time the judges speak. So does Todrick Hall. Seriously, the judges tell everyone to make songs their own and not be a karaoke singer, and they told him last week to dance less and sing more. He did both this week, and Randy told him to “just sing a nice song … and just sing it” rather than tweak the arrangement, and Ellen and Kara wanted him to dance more. Thanks for the feedback, gang! Excuse me while my head explodes!
The judges also didn’t like Jermaine Sellers, but couldn’t really articulate why, which is extremely useless as far as giving practical advice is concerned. Simon did say he’d go to church with Sellers, and Sellers said that he knew God, so there could be some serious networking going on one of these Sundays.
And they thought John Park was mostly forgettable, which doesn’t bode well for someone who sang so early in the show and needed to get people inspired to stay up another 90 minutes so they could vote.
One final note: Ellen was moved from her aisle seat, and now sits between Randy and Kara. No idea why that happened. I enjoy her jokes on the show, but if she reads this — and I’m pretty sure she prints all my stories out and frames them in her dressing room — I really wish she would stop talking about singers having “pitch problems.” She’s supposed to be the voice of the fan, right? How many fans use the phrase “pitch problems” except in the context of making fun of the judges who do? Please, more jokes — even banana jokes — and less jargon.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman.