With the ladies taking the stage this evening I thought I would bring up the subject of American Idol’s reigning queen of quirk: Paula Abdul.
While I will be always be first in line to comment about her ever increasing cleavage, the hair she surely buys by the pound, and her always irritating manner of clapping like a trained sea lion at Shamu’s house – I will also always be the first to admit that were she to be replaced, American Idol just would not be the same.
After five seasons of watching her slur her speech, boost her ta tas, abuse Simon, slide out of her chair, and split her infinitives – all done with eyes more glazed over than a freshly bathed Krispy Kreme, the viewing audience has developed a special love/pity/what the hell?!? relationship with her.
Face it, half the fun of watching each week is to see how much sense she will or will not make, how often she will smack Simon around, and how many times the cameramen have to cut away from something completely inane that she does.
Essentially, she’s like the drunk uncle who always comes for Thanksgiving – we dread his arrival, but look forward to the spectacle nonetheless.
For years, speculation about Paula and drugs, alcohol, et al has been rife. And not a season has rolled by without conjecture as to what hides in her shiny red Coke cup.
But as Paula expounds in the current issue of US Weekly, "I’ve never been drunk, I’ve never done recreational drugs."
Well, Anna Nicole didn’t stock up on recreational mind vehicles either, but she was certainly familiar with prescription items like Methadone, Valium, and assorted anti-depressants. Just because a medication originates on a doctor's scribble pad doesn't make it less lethal or behavior altering - you should have seen me a couple weeks back whacked out on Vicodin after some oral surgery. Paula and I could have hung together, no problemo.
Paula goes on to brag, "Just look at my 20-year career. Tell me someone who is into partying and or doing drugs that could have done that."
Um. Gee. You’re putting me on the spot here, Paula, but let’s see what I can come up with…
Aerosmith, ring a bell? The Rolling Stones? Elton John? George Michael? Bon Jovi? Whitney Houston? Mariah Carey? Hell, even Rush Limbaugh. Shall I go on?
The point is that many a celebrity has strayed down, or stayed on, the path littered with empties, hypodermics, rolling papers, and used up brown Walgreens bottles with child-safe lids. And they keep on keeping on. Whether by luck, rehab, or genetics worthy of cockroaches (Keith Richards, anyone?).
Personally, I would rather ‘fess up to some illicit dabbling than have the entire free world think I am an in-denial-wackjob with a big medicine cabinet - or just plain stupid.
(Besides, a quick 30 day stint in rehab seems to fix everything in celebrity land these days. We poor mortals, however, being of limited means, have to rely on a more basic, yet tried and true method of recovery from gaffes, goofs, and pharmaceutical missteps: Step 1 Please one hand on either side of neck. Step 2. Pull really hard until head pops out of ass. Step 3 Don’t screw up again.)
Perhaps Paula will start to pull it together. I mean when you go public with the denials like she has of late, she has to know the scrutiny heat is really on.
So Paula – we’ll just nod our heads for now and allow you to think we all believe you. But know that when you are on each week, the magnifying glass is out, and the Tivo remote is ready to freeze every roll of your heavy lidded eyes, and to replay every syllable of your sloppily pulled together critiques.
"The moth who finds the melon finds the corn flake always finds the melon."
"The moth who finds the melon finds the corn flake always finds the melon."Ghandi Abdul, Season 5
I rest my case. Now onto the recap…
Dressed to impress the ladies, Ryan opened the show in a white dress shirt, suit coat and JEANS, with the girls Brady Bunched out on the stairs behind him.
A quick video recap of last night’s men’s performances reconfirmed what we already know – the guys, with rare exception, didn’t exactly bring the heat – a Bic lighter maybe, but nobody truly set the stage on fire.
A quick hello to the ladies as they ran through the Howdy-do tunnel, and then Ryan welcomed the judges – Randy, once again wearing Big Ben on his wrist; Paula caught in a killer-collar-1985-time-warp accessorized with what looked like SeaBiscuit’s tail hanging out the back of her head; and Simon gray, but "happy to be here".
A video walk down memory lane showcased the girls’ Golden Ticket moments, their Hollywood Week highlights, and their time in the crappy chair that changed their lives – unfortunately, I truly do not remember half of these girls. Sure, I love Melinda Doolittle, am happy that Legs Barba jettisoned her Sko counterpart, and think LaKisha is the bomb, but as for the rest? No idea.
Stephanie Edwards drew the first performance slot this evening – a tough one considering she has had very little face time in the run up to this evening. But at 19, Stephanie has a class and cool about her that goes far beyond that of your ordinary mall crawling teenager.
Looking amazing in a blue and brown flowing dress, just enough gold jewelry, and a hairdo only someone with a truly beautiful face can carry off (seriously, most of us would look like Prison Break extras with that little hair on our heads), she owned the stage with How Come You Don’t Call Anymore. Effortless vocals, the presence of a seasoned performer, and a surprising knee-drop towards the end, made even more surprising by the ease with which she rose back up. (Ahhh, the cartilage of youth…)
Randy said "That set it off!" (meaning the evening); Paula christened her "a star"; and Simon dissed the boys by saying she was "a million times better than anything" they did last night.
In short, the girl is here to play.
A break brought us back to the Red Room where Ryan asked Melinda what she learned from watching the boys – calling them "amazing", we immediately learned that Mel is a diplomat and that if this singing thing doesn’t work out, could definitely get a gig at the UN.
Next to take the stage is Amy Krebs – another Who from Whoville – with the lights low, and one eye hidden behind her wavy locks, Amy sang I Can’t Make You Love Me, and I hated saying back to her, "No, you can’t – at least not with a performance which is the equivalent of aural oatmeal."
She looked nice in her long patterned dress, but there was absolutely nothing in her singing to make us forget Stephanie Edwards stellar go before her.
Randy called it "a middle of the road performance"; Paula struggled for something to say and finally just agreed with Randy; Simon channeled Paula for a moment with the brain cramper: "you have the personality of a candle – you’re just this ‘thing’ that sings".
Huh? I’ve owned lots of candles, Simon, even those insanely expensive Yankee kind, and not once have they ever shown much personality, much less serenaded me in the shadows.
Leslie Hunt, 24, took her shot at fame next. She’s a pretty girl, but has always seemed really miscast to me. Obviously she must be able to sing – she’s here isn’t she? – but there is nothing very compelling about her.
Backed by a pink and blue amoeba screensaver, Leslie walked out in her Victoria’s Secret thigh high love mistress boots and a simple black, empire waisted dress to sing You Make Me feel Like A Natural Woman.
She looked good, but I honestly could not focus on her singing as she was bouncing and moving and bobbling around so much. She was trying so hard to sell, you would have thought she was hawking tuna flavored toothpaste on a NY streetcorner on the Apprentice. Really, it’s great! See how happy I am! Woo hoo!
But no one was buying – not even the judges.
Randy said he had been "hoping for greatness" and that she was "just OK"; Paula cautioned her about the songs she picks and lamely added, "I think you did a great job."; Simon immediately said "No, it wasn’t great" and added that she looked "embarrassed", "ungainly", and " a bit all over the place."
Sabrina Sloan was up next – I remember her hair more than her singing because, well, they never showed much beyond her naturally curly locks in the audition phase. But Sabrina is a professional singer (didn’t know that – bad AI producers, bad, bad) so I was eager to hear what she could do besides keep Pantene in business.
Dressed in JEANS, heels, and a sheer, lacy, yet demure tunic, Sabrina came out to tackle Aretha Franklin’s Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, and she was amazing. A strong, powerhouse voice, she has the kind of talent that makes it look so easy, you wonder why we all can’t do it. I mean , I have vocal cords too, right? And while I can sing well enough to insure that the Alley Cat Mafia won’t be ordering a hit on me, if I even tried to reach some of Sabrina’s notes, I would seriously have to start watching my back around the litterbox.
Randy declared her "the one to beat"; Paula gave her a standing ovation; Simon called her "the best so far". I hope she sticks around for a while – the girl has talent.
But the next girl up has legs – Antonella Barba – whose video recap included Sko footage which made me throw up in my mouth a little. Antonella has not been shy about showing off her considerable physical assets up to now, but tonight decided to go for covered up in JEANS, FM pumps, and a high necked red top. With her hair pulled back, the only concession she made to sexy was that the top had two small holes cut out on the shoulders.
Not exactly what legions of horny young male viewers were hoping for, Antonella. But then, considering the racy pictures currently making the internet rounds, it may explain her wanting to appear almost nunlike this evening. (More on those pics Thursday night.)
Personally, I was happy to see her cover things up a tad and hoped it meant she was truly trying to showcase her singing talent. Unfortunately, what we discovered when she launched into Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, is that she doesn’t really have any.
It was horrendous from the first note to the last. Basically it was a hot dog of a performance – stuffed with all the worst possible bits, including the squeal – and she even had a tail hanging out the back of her outfit.
I actually said to my husband, "If she had only come out half naked like usual, she could afford to sing this bad."
Randy called it "pitchy" and "bland"; Paula resorted to commenting on her "amazingly beautiful" looks; and Simon even started his critique with "well the good news is you’re attractive".
That’s great, but this isn’t America’s Next Top Model.
Methinks Sko may have her best friend back by the week’s end.
Another break brought us back to 17 year old Jordin Sparks. I have liked her from her first audition – she is a doll, has a great smile, is articulate, and very poised for one so young. And unlike Diana DeGarmo, Smurfette Bennett, and Lisa Tucker before her – she is not overly saccharine.
When she began to sing Give Me One Reason, if someone had told me she is 25, I would not have argued for a second. My God, the girl has a big voice, tons of confidence, and performs like a pro. With her hair on full alert, hula hoops dancing in her earlobes, she rocked out in JEANS and a black and white graphic tunic top. (For the not quite fashion savvy – tunic length tops are the latest fad and much appreciated by anyone with thighs a tad thicker than they would like them to be).
Randy said she has an "unbelievable natural talent"; Paula approved of her song selection and said it was "fun"; and Simon complimented her "big change", saying "it was good".
No – it was great. I love this girl. She may not make it to the end, but I am going to enjoy watching her shine each week that she is here.
More commercials and we returned to yet another contestant whom no one knows. Nicole Tranquillo, 20, is a voice major in college, so again I was hopeful for a solid performance. What we got, set against Chris Daughtry’s old flaming red screensaver, was a girl dressed in JEANS and a sequined tank who sang with conviction but very few syllables.
I honestly could not make out anything she was singing. Her voice went up, down, sideways, slantways, crossways – it was the Willy Wonkavator of vocal performances.
Randy called it "rough" and said it really wasn't working for him; Paula disagreed saying the performance was "out of this world" – who better to judge that?; Simon called it "indulgent", "aggressive" and "fake".
Start packing Nicole. It doesn’t look too promising.
Next? Haley Scarnato, once again dressed all in black, yet much less hoochified than in previous encounters. (Although she was wearing a manhole cover as a necklace.) Haley is a gorgeous girl with a killer smile, so I think she will stick around for a couple weeks longer, but not based entirely on her singing.
She sang It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, sounded fine, held the bigger notes, but honestly? She could not hold a singing candle next to Celine Dion, and if you cannot make us forget the original, don’t attempt it.
Randy called it "nothing special"; Paula (who incidentally was wearing cheese graters for earrings) said it was a "nice job"; but Simon called it "a shame" and that it was only " a reasonably good hotel performance".
Finally, my girl Melinda Doolittle was up. I like her so very much because she is truly humbled by the opportunity and not the least bit arrogant about her talent. You just want to hug her.
Charging the stage, she looked wonderful in JEANS, a leather jacket, a gold leopard print cami, and a couple sets of school janitors’ keyrings in her ears.
Singing Since You’ve Been Gone, she had the audience on their feet, swept along by her infectious energy and amazingly effortless vocals. Seriously, the girl could sing a UNIX computer manual, and we would all be clapping along.
Randy declared she "blew it out the box" and "that was the bomb"; Paula called it a "big, big performance"; and Simon awarded probably the most sincere compliment of his life with "you’re an incredible singer and a fantastic person. I really hope you do well."
If my two hours of voting have anything to do with it, Simon, she’ll do just fine.
Incidentally, I think it is safe to say the boys all suffered group shrinkage during her performance.
Alaina Alexander, another pretty, but forgettable girl, was next, and I did not envy her having to follow Melinda. She looked great in her JEANS, green satin tank and tight vest, but completely shit the bed by choosing The Pretenders Brass In Pocket. A song with the words "got rhythm I can’t miss a beat, got new skank it’s so reet"?
Only Chrissy Hynde can pull that off.
Alaina’s vocals were weak, the performance was middling, and she was so breathy for most of it, I could not understand the words (not that ‘skank so reet’ rolls off anyone’s tongue).
Randy said it "wasn’t great" (it wasn’t); Paula fell back on the canned "didn’t make it your own" response; Simon was completely blunt and said that while she is not a bad singer, she was "reliant on her looks tonight."
Rocker girl Gina Glocksen, who surprised me during Hollywood Week by slipping into heels and a little black dress, had another surprise up her tattooed sleeves tonight – a ballad. In fact, one of the cornier ballads of all time – Eric Carmen’s All By Myself, which typically gets dragged out and wailed on at least once per AI season.
Dressed in JEANS (I have to give the boys credit – the guys are usually the ones endangering the denim herds of the world, but these girls singlehandedly kept the nation’s cotton growers in business tonight), a cropped leather jacket, and a red swoosh in her hair, Gina had good control, her voice was strong.
It did not, however, come close to making me forget Latoya London’s version from several seasons back, and when she went to climb to that high note – the one the song hinges on – her foot slipped and she got stuck one rung below where she should have been.
Randy declared "big girl, big voice, big song" (just what every girl wants to hear, Randy); Paula said it was the right song to sing tonight; Simon noted that she showed a different side, but agreed with me that she did not hit the high note. No worries, she was close enough to the end to insure plenty of votes.
Finally, my other early favorite, LaKisha Jones. Humble, yet gifted with a bombastic voice – she makes me smile.
LaKisha is truly a big girl, but she looked gorgeous when she took the stage dressed in a daring, low cut, red satin and gold dress with gold strappy heels, and began singing the penultimate Dreamgirls number, And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.
I have to admit, having seen the original on Broadway back when God was a child, I am a bit of a Dreamgirls snob – and quite frankly you would be too if your first run in with the musical included the original Effie – Jennifer Holliday. Everyone has been raving about Jennifer Hudson’s version of this song in the movie, and it has been getting heavy play on radio stations, but Jennifer #2 does not come close to Jennifer #1 (think not – head to iTunes and listen for yourself), and as much as I love LaKisha, she did not come close to Jennifer #2.
That’s not to say it was bad – it wasn’t. In fact, if we ranked the female performances, she would slide in right behind Melinda.
Randy gave her the "I’m not worthy" bow; Paula bequeathed another standing ovation; and Simon summed it up with "I’m tempted to tell the other 23 to book their plane tickets home."
If I had to guess, I would say Antonella, Alaina, Nicole, Amy, and Leslie should start folding their clothes tomorrow. While Legs may slide through – it will owe to the fact that she received so much face time up to now, and the fact that in addition to Sundance Head, Antonella has been adopted by VoteForTheWorst.com; and if Alaina makes it, it will only be because Amy and Leslie went before her tonight, rendering them that much more forgettable.
So, who’s your female favorite? Are you cheering for sparky Jordin? Backing up Melinda, the new lead singer? Or committed to helping Sabrina become recognized for more than her Pantene locks?
We’ll find out Thursday night when four of these kids have their golden tickets revoked and replaced with pink slips.