March 7, 2013 by Susan Miller
Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when that’s all they’ve given you? In the producer’s obsessive quest to finally break the reign of white guys with guitars, they have whittled down the male hopefuls to 10 odd, middling, mostly confused boys. It should make the ladies look stronger, but instead just drags the whole season down to their level. I’m getting season 9 flashbacks, guys. I’m starting to freak out.
Elijah Liu: “Stay” – Apparently this is a super trendy Rihanna song right now, but I thought he just chose another Bruno Mars ballad and was a little bit annoyed with him for trying to get votes by tricking us into thinking he was Bruno Mars. The look is the same, the voice is the same, the song sounds the same. Turns out it’s a Rihanna song, thus proving that I know absolutely nothing. Still, the kid looks like he’s 12 (he’s 18?!?!!) and his voice fades to a whisper on the choruses. He reminds me of what Chris Columbus said about directing the kids in the first two Harry Potter movies. He had to do quick camera cuts to hide the fact that they were children, and therefore, not very good actors yet. Elijah’s still a child, and though he may look the part of Bruno Mars, I can’t see him owning “Lazy Song” with any authenticity.
Cortez Shaw: “Locked Out of Heaven” – Cortez is so pretty. He’s one of the two guys I actually like this year and he DID do a Bruno Mars song and it made me very nervous because he is not a Bruno Mars doppelganger, and I think Idol is still enough of a family show that he should think twice about singing the lyrics “your sex takes me to paradise” while competing for America’s votes. So. I hope he makes it through on last week’s “Titanium” weirdness (it’s a Sia song!) and the fact that he’s soooo good-looking and the fact that all the boys are stinkers. The judges basically told him it was the wrong song (because all uptempo songs on this show are wrong) and questioned his styling. I figure if he keeps his face he can pretty much wear whatever he wants. Also, the dancing! He’s awesome(ly beautiful).
Charlie Askew: “Mama” – This is where the show took a very dark turn. Charlie sang this angry Genesis song that I had never heard, and did it in a tie-dye tank top and a ponytail which highlighted his very muscular arms and strange feather earring. It was a mixed look and a very bad vocal and an overall completely strange and hard to watch performance. Fine. Except, not so fine, because now the judges have to tell him about all of the many, many bad decisions he made with this performance while he very obviously melted down on stage, in front of a live audience and millions of viewers at home. Mariah (God bless her) did her best to send him out with some kind words and Ryan proved yet again how good he is under pressure, but the whole incident changed the vibe of the rest of the night. I hope this is the end of the road for him. I don’t know how much more he can take. (Sidenote: I will miss how Keith says Charlie’s name. It instantly transports me to the magical land of Willy Wonka. Keith is so dreamy.)
Nick Boddington: “Iris” – So Nick had the unfortunate task of following Charlie. He wisely took a popular song with a strong chorus and stripped away the distractions to highlight the lyric. Unfortunately, every time Nick got to the chorus: “And I don’t want the world to see me/’Cause I don’t think that they’d understand/When everything’s made to be broken/I just want you to know who I am” all I could think about was poor Charlie. If only Charlie and Nick had switched songs, and then Nick dropped the Genesis song and sang another Grace Potter ballad instead. Sigh. It’s the missed opportunities that hurt the most. Also, Nick switched up the melody and made the song kind of unrecognizable. Ordinarily he’d be in trouble, but with this group of duds, who can you really send through over him?
Burnell Taylor: “I’m Here” – Burnell made the strange decision to sing his audition song again. We all loved it the first time, but he wanted people to get the opportunity to hear the full song, and vote on that. I get that, but I’m also concerned about it. Burnell has a very distinctive voice and style and I worry about his range in pop music. By singing the same song twice this early in the competition, it makes me wonder if he’s already run out of material. Speaking of material, dude was rocking a backwards flowered baseball cap and acid wash jean jacket. I know they don’t get a stylist until next week, but come on. Surely that wasn’t the only thing in his closet, right? He looked like a character on Kids Incorporated. Anyway, worries aside, he sounded great and I hope he sails through. Oh, and the lyrics to this song would’ve also been a better fit for Charlie (“And I’m thankful for every day that I’m given/both the easy and hard ones I’m livin’/but most of all I’m thankful for loving who I really am/I’m beautiful/yes, I’m beautiful,and I’m here.”)
Paul Jolley: “Just a Fool” – Oh boy. For all of Charlie’s venting about hiding who he wants to be and Burnell standing up and saying who he is, poor Paul is just begging for crowds of adoring fans to tell him who to be. When Keith asked him what kind of artist he wanted to be, he said “pop/country, like the male version of what Taylor Swift is doing right now… if that’s what you guys want me to be.” Yikes. Paul had no connection to the song, over sang the chorus (which is quite a feat with a Christina Aguilera song) and went all theatrical in the eyes the whole way through. The problem with Paul is that he has absolutely no trace of artist in him. He’s like most students who graduate with their MFA in creative writing. They might have a nice, strong voice, but they have absolutely nothing to say. Veto.
Lazaro Arbos: “Feeling Good” – Much like Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Feeling Good” is the kiss of death. Adam Lambert did the definitive version in season 8 and it has been pure kryptonite ever since. I was so disappointed in Nicki, the voice of the people, for not calling him out on the song choice. It’s indulgent and incredibly karaoke and was completely out of his range. At least she told him to switch up his style. He’ll probably make it through, because, y’know, the guys stink, and so I’ll be stuck writing the very same thing about him next week.
Curtis Finch Jr.: “I Believe I Can Fly” – Confession: I love this song. I know it’s ruined for a lot of people because of the inherent ickiness of R. Kelly, and because of the cliche lyrics and the super saccharine nature of it. But I love it. I mean, it made me buy the Space Jam soundtrack. And keep it all these years. So it’s a pretty ingrained obsession by now. That being said, it’s an easy song for someone like Curtis to make a moment out of. Was it worthy of the unanimous standing ovation by the judges? Absolutely not. They’d had a pretty rough night by that point though, so I sort of understand. He’ll go through and keep singing the same type of thing and get 7th or 8th and a record deal at a minor label. Ho-hum.
Devin Velez: “Somos Novios (It’s Impossible)” – The judges praised Devin last week for singing in Spanish, so now he’s just going to do that every time and smile like it’s a new cool trick that he’s gifting us with. Ugh. Remember when Blake Lewis did that weird beat-box, half techno music number and everyone loved his originality and then he did it again and Simon was like, uh, dude, you ruined it? That’s how I feel about Devin. He’s verrrrry proud of himself and he wears that weird bow tie and gives off a very Minkus from Boy Meets World vibe. Again, he’ll go through, and be super proud of himself and I will continue to tune him out. He used to have real emotion, right? I vaguely remember liking him at some point. The live audience thing sure goes to these kid’s heads quick.
Vincent Powell: “End of the Road” – I find it very brave for Vincent to sing a song with that title on an episode where 50% of the boys will be sent home. I mean, come on! You’re just asking for it. Vincent also took the applause and judges praise from last week and let it go straight to his head resulting in this squeaky, rambling, rushed mess. Boys II Men took that shit seriously, Vincent. Respect the emotion.
Honestly, the whole night was a wreck from start to finish, with a tiny bright spot of Burnell buried in the middle. My top 5 would be Burnell (by a mile) followed by Nick, Cortez and Curtis. Can I yield the fifth spot to poor David Leathers Jr. who got cut in the last round for the second year in a row? I’d much rather see him again than have to listen to Devin sing another note.