The First ‘Idol’ Performances Reviewed — One by One

And here’s one that failed to impress: Judge Ellen

So Simon seems to think that 2010 is the “Year of the Girl.” After watching this week’s performances, I’d have to agree.

This opinion is not based sheerly on who has the most talent, mind you. (Since when has talent been the most important component of a recording career anyway?) It’s based on the idea that “Idol” keeps us interested with its diversity.

Look at the past Idols. They represent every genre from gospel (Ruuuuuuben!) to country (Carrie Underwood). Heck, there’s even a “Soul Patrol” helmed by Taylor Hicks. What’s missing among these R&B divas and rocker guys is something that’s very current — the quirky indie/acoustic/songwriter kind of gal. I would say that at least half of the girls competing this year could fall into that category — and we’re due to have a new genre represented.
How were the first live performances? Pretty shaky overall, quite honestly. Whether it was due to bad song choices or nerves, the Idols failed to impress and no one stood out blatantly as a shoe-in.
Also failing to impress this week was Ellen, who needs to expand her commentary beyond “You’re better than that.”
PAIGE MILES — “Alright Now” by Free
Though Paige has the best voice out of all the girls according to Simon, I had a difficult time remembering who she was at all. This could be a case of screen time really affecting the outcome, as no one wants to vote for someone they don’t know, amazing voice or not. Going first probably wasn’t much of a help, either. The song choice was a little out there for me, definitely not what I was expecting from someone who so clearly fits the R&B diva mold. But maybe that’s why she picked it.
ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ — “Happy” by Leona Lewis
While I think Ashley’s R&B voice is impressive but not my thing, there was nothing about her performance that was impressive. Randy commented that you will always be compared to the original artists on these big songs and I couldn’t agree more. Please, no Whitney, Mariah or Celine, for the love of Seacrest! You can add to that list Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and anyone else whom Simon Cowell has had a hand in discovering (Leona Lewis — hello?).
JANELL WHEELER — “What About Love?” by Heart 
This was another example of someone singing a big song, only Wheeler doesn’t really have a big voice. Don’t get me wrong; she’s actually one of my favorites and I loved what she did with “American Boy” during Hollywood Week. But I hated this performance. She needs to stay away from the power ballads, as it was a little karaoke. Kara wants her to do songs they wouldn’t expect from her. For the record, I personally would never have expected to hear her do Heart at all; however, I think it would’ve been more interesting if she’d taken her guitar and done the same song, only slower and gentler. 
LILLY SCOTT — “Fixing a Hole” by the Beatles
While Simon doesn’t feel Scott’s star power, I have to disagree. To me, she’s one of the frontrunners. Unlike many of the other girls, she is authentically herself without any affectations, musically or personality-wise. Many of her fellow songstresses seem to be trying to fit some sort of predetermined commercial mold instead of just being who they are. Scott, with her platinum hair and quirky voice, isn’t trying to be the indie pop queen; she just is an indie pop queen.
KATELYN EPPERLY — “Oh Darling” by the Beatles 
I was surprised at how much I liked this performance. The rasp in her voice was perfect for this tune and while it could’ve been risky to do a song by the Beatles, it helped that she wasn’t a man. I think a little too much hoopla was made over her “makeover.” Giver her a break; she’s 19 and on TV. Can’t you let her have fun with hair and makeup? With a full quarter of the ladies performing Beatles tunes, it makes me wonder if they are stealing each other’s ideas. In Epperly’s case it didn’t matter though. One of my favorites of the week.
HAELEY VAUGHN — “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by, who else?, the Beatles
I’m not sure if it was her newly pierced nose, her lisp or the fact that she seemed on the verge of giggles the whole time, but this just did not work for me. In the beginning, the arrangement seemed very similar to the one featured in the “Across the Universe” film from a couple of years ago … And then it morphed into something more like a wounded possum. I don’t know why the judges were surprised; she has been screaming since day one. Her spot in the Top 24 should’ve gone to Angela Martin. 
LACEY BROWN — “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac 
Brown seems to be vying for that indie pop princess role we spoke of earlier but she is falling miserably short. At least, that’s what I think was happening. This performance came off very … strange. I think that she was trying to make the song her own by toying with the melody, but she just couldn’t seem to hit the notes perfectly. Kara said that her vibe was more Sixpence None the Richer or the Sundays, and I couldn’t agree more. But I give her credit for trying something different. These judges sure do waver a lot between “stay true to yourself” and “sing something totally unexpected."
MICHELLE DELAMOR — “Fallin’” by Alicia Keys
Delamor seemed to have more reverb on her mic than the other girls. This performance was just OK for me, dawg. I forgot her the second she was done. She has a good voice and she is very pretty but I don’t feel that she has the “it” factor. She was so pleasant while receiving her critiques that the phrase “pageant queen” came to mind.
DIDI BENABI — “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson 
I really love this girl, but I have to agree with Simon’s comment that all the girls sound like they are trying to imitate the same singers. Come to think of it, they all kind of sound like Megan Joy from last season if Megan Joy had been a good singer. While Benabi is one of my favorites, I can hardly tell her apart from Janell Wheeler. I’ll forgive her, though, because I love this song. 
SIOBHAN MAGNUS — “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak
Dark horse is right! Where did this girl come from? (I mean besides from the Cape Cod glass blowing place.) First there was that Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” during Hollywood Week and now this — a totally different vibe, complete with a flower in the hair. While Kara defined her as “quirky,” I’d say “socially awkward.” Still, I’m curious to see what kind of song she pulls out of her bag next. 
CRYSTAL BOWERSOX — “Hand in My Pocket” by Alanis Morissette 
Bowersox is a natural. Out of all the girls, I have to say that she seemed the most at home on stage. The thing is, though, that she seems a little above it all. She is talented and she knows she’s talented. It is all well and good to be confident on stage but I don’t see a whole lot of modesty there. The fact that she didn’t think “Idol” was for her until she needed a bigger paycheck for her son turns me off a little. I don’t think it’s enough to cost her votes right now but she may need to play up the gratefulness and tone down the entitlement. 
KATIE STEVENS — “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble
The judges were right on with their critiques on this one. The song was just too old for this 17 year old. Her voice was fine but I didn’t think it was spectacular. She seems like a very sweet girl and all but I’m just not drinking the Katie Stevens Kool AId. Maybe she’ll young it up next week and make me remember her.
TODRICK HALL — “SInce U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
This was some sort of crazy ’80s Bobby Brown spin on Kelly Clarkson, complete with voiceover. Uh, it did not work for me, dawg. As much as I didn’t like it, though, I have to say that I was once again annoyed by Kara and Randy contradicting themselves. While they are constantly telling people to be creative, they berated Hall for changing the song too much. Make up your mind, judges! Ellen’s take was that “the singing wasn’t the best but you’re such a great performer.” Yup. That just screams “winner of ‘American Idol’” to me! 
AARON KELLY — “Here Comes Goodbye” by Rascal Flatts 
Kelly is the David Archuleta of this season. He has the same amazing voice, “aw shucks” modesty and questionable sexuality. At first I thought he was going to be more of a Josh Groban type but when I heard him sing Rascal Flatts I knew that he could just as easily do country. He just needs to rough himself up a bit. Grow a beard, chew some Skoal. I love his voice and I think he’ll be around for a long time (if he doesn’t forget the words again.)
JERMAINE SELLERS — “Get Here” by Oleta Adams
The thing I remember most about Jermaine from the past month is the fact that he threw the band under the bus during Hollywood Week. Not good. He, like Haeley Vaughn, incorporates a lot of unnecessary runs, though he has a little more control over his voice than she does. I’m not a fan. I think singers like him are a dime a dozen and I there’s a definite chance that he may get the boot tomorrow, regardless of what Ellen says.
TIM URBAN — “Apologize” by One Republic
This was just awful for so many reasons. It was just the wrong song … for anyone. But it was especially the wrong song for Urban. The high notes were painful and the judges said so as Tim looked on with dewy eyes. “Idol” told us Tim’s “story” — how he initially didn’t make the Top 24 and then was called in after the fact. Uh, great story, “Idol,” but way to sidestep the whole drama behind it. (Initially the spot went to Chris Golightly.) It seemed a little cruel to cut him, bring him back and then slam him brutally. Lucky for him he’s a cute guy.
JOE MUNOZ — “You and I” by Jason Mraz
Munoz kind of reminds me of a hispanic Archuleta. I think it’s the metrosexual scarf and the Monchichi face. I have always liked this song but I don’t think I’d choose to sing it on “American Idol.” It’s a little … dull. His voice was very shaky and it was difficult to tell if it was nerves or a natural vibrato. The judges seemed to really like it overall, though Simon thought it was forgettable. I’d have to agree.
TYLER GRADY — ” American Woman” by the Guess Who
Is this guy a joke? Seriously, what’s up with the whole ’70s thing? You know there’s a problem when the judges are talking more about your clothes than your voice. I’d really like to hear this guy do something current so we can get more of an untainted idea of who he is as a singer. I can’t imagine that he will stay around very long, though I’d like to see some more of his “poses.” 
LEE DEWYZE — “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol
I was not nearly as impressed with this guy as the judges seemed to be. In fact, I don’t remember seeing or hearing him prior to Wednesday night. He just doesn’t seem to have star quality to me, regardless of what Simon thinks. Randy thinks that Dewyze should sing something more like Kings of Leon because that’s more “his vibe.” I’m still trying to figure out why some people are supposed to play into their “vibe” and some are supposed to play against it. (Guess that’s why I’m not a judge on “American Idol.”) 
JOHN PARK — “God Bless the Child” 
This was such a strange song choice for “Idol.” I mean, it’s not even Standards Week! Even worse, I don’t think Park pulled it off very well. There were a lot of runs but they had no soul behind them. I remember Park being much stronger during the audition rounds so I’m hoping that this is just nerves. If he makes it through, he’s going to have to figure out what kind of artist he is and pick songs that are appropriate. As a sidenote, I didn’t really want to hear about his parents’ money problems. Downer!
MICHAEL LYNCHE — “This Love” by Maroon 5
Is Michael Lynche the best singer on “American Idol?” No. Is he the most likable contestant on “American Idol?” Maybe. The thing I love about this guy is the contradictions. He’s a black guy with soul singing white guy music with a guitar. Not only that, but he’s a personal trainer sensitive enough to show his artistic side. It doesn’t hurt that Seacrest refers to him as “Big Mike.” Everyone knows that if you have a nickname, you automatically make it through to the next round.
ALEX LAMBERT — “Wonderful World” by James Morrison
Ha, Mary Powers! Alex Lambert’s first “Idol” performance may have been semi-disastrous but at least he made it to the Top 24! I don’t think he looked as uncomfortable as Simon said he did, though. It was pretty good for someone who has only sung in coffee shops. He may have been nervous, but at least it showed on his face instead of in his voice, like some of the other guys. It is a singing competition, after all, not a vamping competition (Tyler Grady). Even Barbra Streisand has stage fright.
CASEY JAMES — “Heaven” by Bryan Adams
Finally I feel like we’re seeing a little more out of Casey James. And I don’t mean more of his torso. I mean more of his talent. The whole guitar-and-stool vibe was a great idea. It was hard to tell whether the judges really liked his voice or if they just enjoy making fun of Kara’s crush on him. I’m curious to see what he’ll perform next. May I suggest Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive?”
ANDREW GARCIA — “Sugar We’re Going Down” by Fallout Boy
Like Simon, this was the performance I was most looking forward to. As the judges explained, Garcia’s take on “Straight Up” during Hollywood Week earned him a lot of points with fans and judges alike and I was curious to see what he’d do next. But this song was half over before I even realized what song it was. That being said, I didn’t mind it and I do like Garcia, whether he’s covering Paula Abdul or not.
Well, “Idol” fans, it looks like you’ve got your television schedule mapped out for the next few weeks. That’s right, two girls and two guys from the Top 24 will be eliminated Thursday night. The schedule will then repeat for the next two weeks, with four contestants leaving each Thursday until the Top 12 — six girls and six boys — are announced on March 11.