OK, I realize that the last two recap intros have dealt with and dissected the Antonella Barba scrapbook scandal. You all know I come down on the side of "live and learn" and hope that the lesson Barby is enduring is one that can be internalized and heeded by millions of other young people out there before they find themselves on the receiving end of some rather unflattering publicity.
I had not intended to bring it up again, unless the story shifted to her being quietly jettisoned, a la Frenchie Davis, from the ratings juggernaut.
However, my inbox continues to fill up with emails from readers wanting to know what I think is most likely going on behind the scenes, do I think she will be kicked to the streetcorner, er, curb, etc?
So at the risk of beating a dead whorse, here is what some subtle looking around has uncovered. Draw your own conclusions…
American Idol does appear to be, at the very least, protecting Antonella from feeling the burn at the official site. While the internet boards, blogs, and gossip rags invite every comment – the worse, the more profane, the better, it would seem - the American Idol discussion boards are being quickly censored – deleting any post referring to being offended or outraged by Barba’s behavior. The posts and/or entire threads are taken down in a matter of minutes, and some visitors there have stated that leaving a posting that you think Antonella has tarnished the AI show will likely get you banned.
OK – very gallant of American Idol. And it is entirely up to them what remains on their site – that’s the beauty of ownership. I think it is actually good of them to take down the more vibrant postings – believe me, I have read enough out on other internet sites to know that the key demographic at the AI site (young kids like my daughters, 10, 13, & 14) don’t need to be exposed to the really profane vitriol being set in type.
But being a card carrying cynic, I daresay their Gestapost tactics have more to do with maintaining the image of the show and the G-PG rating of the website (which at peak times sees visitors in numbers that approach the million mark) than defending the honor of the 20 year old. Barba’s just one dispensible cog in a huge money making machine.
A little additional inquiring to a variety of celebrity news webmasters finds that their webhosts have received threats from either the Barba camp or official American Idol representatives to take down recent illicit pictures (as I said, they seem to be growing exponentially.)
That doesn’t surprise me either. The pictures are embarrassing, and in some cases pornographic.
If I had to say what I think is going on? My best guess is that even though the pictures all show Antonella cavorting, with full knowledge of being photographed, she did not sanction their widespread use, nor is she profiting from their rabbit-like multiplication in cyberspace, so American Idol is not holding her personally responsible.
Plus, let’s be honest. Her days are numbered anyway by the mere fact she cannot hold a vocal candle to contestants like Melinda Doolittle or Lakisha Jones. The producers know she is not long for their world and are leaving it to the outraged, puritanical, or simply bored-by-Barba public to do the dirty work for them.
So, there are my answers. American Idol and FOX are well within their rights to censor their own website, and Barby Girl, despite the best efforts of VFTW.com, is going to move out quickly, where she will immediately be courted by Playboy and Maxim, or end up as a correspondent for the TV Guide channel alongside Kimberley Caldwell.
Either way, her 15 minutes are far from over.
Now, how about a recap?
Since that intro went long, I’ll condense the beginning of the show for those of you who haven’t yet mastered Evelyn Woods’ speed reading course…
Dim lights, Ryan – JEANS, tie, jacket – menacing words, then T.I.A.I. (you figure it out), Idolbot, Barbie townhouse elevator, neon slinky…
As the girls did the Howdy-do tunnel run, is it very apparent that they have something over the boys besides some stellar vocal cords – they are not afraid of color. Greens, oranges, yellows... Compare that to the shot of the guys in the audience – they looked like a still from an old black and white movie.
Another person obviously in touch with his inner Crayola 64 box is Randy Jackson, decked out in an LSD flashback ; Paula looked more like a PTA mom than a Frederick’s of Hollywood stockholder tonight – the extra hair was still on hiatus and she was wearing a white blouse and blazer. No cleavage – is that at the dry cleaners too?; Simon was still wearing last night’s black sweater – no wait – I take that back – it was dark gray. Of course he changed his clothes…
Without much preamble, Ryan went straight into an intro of Gina Glockson’s video dedication – to her boyfriend Joe – her rock.
Our edgy girl switched things up again tonight by eschewing the dark colors, chains, and leather we have come to expect for a stunning (although slightly ill fitting) red satin number, perfectly matched to her hair dye. That takes talent – seriously, do you know how hard it is to get shoes to match that well?
The only thing that was truly distracting from her outfit was her decision to wear everything from my kitchen junk drawer around her neck. Balls, the odd fake gemstone, I swear I saw an old Duracell battery…
Her choice of Alone started out pretty solid, and she truly put her Heart into it, but in the end was no match for the memory of Ann and Nancy Wilson. And when she hit the chorus, it was the backup singers who carried the song more than she did. Her voice sounded weak against theirs.
Randy said it was a "good song choice", albeit a bit pitchy; Paula said it was "an excellent job"; Simon agreed it was a good choice of song, but that the "vocals felt forced" and that he’s "confused" about who she is – meaning edgy rocker girl, or Breakfast at Tiffany’s?
Coming back from the break, Alaina Alexander dedicated her performance 100% to her mom, her "strength" – a woman who has at times worked four jobs to provide for her children. Alaina wants to do well to be able to support her mom – I thought it was a really nice video, made even sweeter by Mom crying in the audience.
But as Simon said last night, "this is a singing competition", not a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie…
Alaina took the stage looking beautiful in a navy, empire waisted, babydoll dress, tastefully accented with paillettes (look it up people, or set your Tivo for the next season of Project Runway). She started fairly strong on Not Ready To Make Nice, but as it progressed, it became apparent that Natalie Maines won’t be losing sleep anytime soon.
She definitely seemed more confident on the stage than last week, but like Gina, her vocals were so reed-thin on the chorus that she was drowned out by the backup singers (can we vote for them because they are kicking ass tonight). And she must have forgotten her contacts because she was squinting throughout the entire song.
Randy summed it up with "not good" and "a mess"; Paula was a little kinder, only noting her "pitch problems"; but Simon likened her performance to Randy running a 100 meter dash – he would run out of steam three fourths of the way through, which is exactly what happened to her.
Next up was my girl Lakisha Jones, sending out her love to her grandmother, Ruth Morris, who we met very briefly during Lakisha’s original audition. Apparently Ruth L-U-Vs her some Ryan Seacrest – poor woman – she IS pushing 90 and must be losing some of her faculties…
Lakisha took the stage singing Midnight Train To Georgia, with wavy hair, a bright orange blouse, gold bullion around her neck, and a black mini skirt. Now, you know I always advocate for dark colors on the bottom when someone is on the large side, but the skirt was just a tad too short and tight to work as tastefully as I think Lakisha had hoped.
No matter, I was more entranced with her singing and her Taylor Hicks-esque dance moves to much care about her outfit anyway. I L-U-V HER. No dementia or fading vision here.
Randy declared. "That was hot!"; Paula kept it brief with "I loved it, I love you."; and Simon called her a "phenomenally good singer", but that she was "not as good as last week". He also encouraged her to begin acting "like a star".
I don’t agree with that. Maybe some Diva action will be warranted when it comes down to the wire, but part of her appeal is that she doesn’t seem to know just how good she is. (And for the record, I had that written in my notes long before Simon used those same words to describe Melinda – get out of my head, Simon.)
Melinda was up next, dedicating her song to her "Gayles" as in Gayle King to her Oprah Winfrey. They are her vocal coach and her stylist, without whom, she says she would be lost. They help with everything from song selection to exactly what she should wear – wouldn’t it be great if you woke up each day to a book that detailed each item of clothing you needed to put on for that day’s task?
Tuesday: Clean toilets. Wear religious sweatpants (the holey ones), stained t-shirt, and bust out new pair of rubber gloves. NO flip flops – things might splash over the rim or drip from the brush)
With the lights low, Melinda emerged wearing a dark suit, red tank, and the logo from Overstock.com around her neck. It IS all about the "O", isn’t it?
Her rendition of My Funny Valentine was flawless. Infused with emotion, it did not matter whether you knew the song or not. I will echo my own sentiment from last week’s recap: She could sing the directions off a suppository box and we would all be so enchanted, we’d grab our ankles with a smile.
Randy called her "unbelievable" (she is); Paula added "astounding" and "out of this world"; Simon summed it all up with "That was incredible." then bogarted my notes and stated, "you don’t know how good you are." (Neither does LaKisha)
I swear – it really is not a stretch, even at this early date, to predict a girl-girl showdown in the finale.
Another break brings us back to Ryan and Antonella above the stage. She definitely went the "stand out route" in a green patterned minidress from the last Austin Powers movie, and a ring made from Jurassic Park amber. Ryan asked her, "Are you nervous this week?" to which she replied, "a little", but that she had picked a song that would "show me off better."
(I won’t touch that with a 10 foot mouse cord – waaaay too easy.)
She dedicated her performance to her brother, Vincenzo, who she misses now that they are at different schools. She got choked up in her video and it was very sweet.
Standing at the mike, her beginning to Because You Loved Me was so weak and wobbly, I almost felt sorry for her – almost – but the tacky yellow heels prevented it.
Question: Anyone else find a tad of irony in her singing a song from a movie called Up Close And Personal? Just curious.
You know, it would have been great if she had come out and completely dominated the stage with a powerhouse vocal, but this performance simply reinforced that a lion's share of why she got to this stage to begin with is that she is hot. She does not have even one fourth of the voice to take on a Celine Dion song. It was not good at all, although I will give her credit for sticking the landing on her one high note.
Randy began his critique with the kind of comment that portends bad things: "You are a drop dead gorgeous girl." He then declared the song "all wrong", "pitchy all over", "bad"; Paula did not specifically comment on the performance (as was her tact in many instances this week), instead opting for "you made leaps and bounds from last week"; Simon was merciless, but correct, "the vocals weren’t there" and "worse than last week."
I know I’m not the only one to catch Antonella rolling her eyes during the critiques. She then responded with the cocky (and totally deluded, I might add), "I’m going to listen to Paula’s criticism (uh, psst, Barby, she didn’t give you any) because Simon was wrong about Jennifer Hudson."
Love that Simon shot her down with the facts: He didn’t kick Jennifer Hudson out, America did.
I would like to add - Jennifer Hudson can sing, has class, and is holding an Oscar, Antonella. Humility would have served you much better tonight than copping an attitude with no talent to back it up.
Thank God, the innocence of Jordin Sparks was up next to clear away the cloud of ICK left behind by Antonella.
Dedicating her performance to her younger brother nearly brought her to tears in her video, unfortunately, it also made her well up on stage, resulting in a slightly weakened start to Reflection.
She looked suitably 17 with her hair pulled back from her sweet face and million dollar smile, and dressed in a teal, sleeveless dress, accessorized by Olympic logo earrings.
Her strong spots were REALLY strong – the girl has a fabulous voice – but her emotions got the best of her in many spots, her eyes glistening with tears, her vocal cords squeezed tight by her feelings, but overall, it was a beautiful, strong showing.
Bless her heart, she full on cried when she was done. Yes, I realize that turned off some of you, but the majority of viewers wanted to hug her with votes.
Randy called her "unbelievable" and said as a producer, he is "so, so impressed"; Paula said "There’s something about you that’s infectious." (Yes, there is, but it’s the kind that’s good to spread around – so pass the Jordin Virus please.); Simon called her "excellent" and praised her "massive potential".
Before Stephanie Edwards took the stage, Ryan treated us to the news that the filler in Thursday night’s bloated burrito of a results show will be Kellie Pickler. Now, I have never been a fan, I admit it. I am highly allergic to stupidity and she just makes my brain itch, but I have to say that, having caught her song, Red High Heels, while out shopping this past weekend, when in the hands of good producers, the girl really can sing well. It was a good, fun, well done country ditty.
But Stephanie Edwards could care less because she is ready to dedicate her song to her mom and dad who pushed her to audition for AI. Smart people, we parents.
Radiant in a long gold and ivory evening gown, cut up to there, and Christmas tinsel earrings, Stephanie took on a highly stylized Beyonce tune. The combination of skillful vocals with that gorgeous dress insured than many voters are now Dangerously In Love with her.
Randy said she "sang her face off" and that she proved she should be there, but he also warned her against copying someone like Beyonce too closely; Paula just thought she was "fantastic, brilliant"; Simon agreed with Paula (isn’t that a sign of the Apocalypse?!?) and called it a "terrific performance".
Up next, Leslie Hunt’s video tears were for her late Grandpa Bob. Having sworn to Ryan that she was not going to "flap around" this time, she walked out dressed in a brown tanked, retro 60’s mini (she and Barba must have shopped at the same store this week – Flashbacks ‘R Us), which would have been fine if she had also put on some Go Go boots, but she ruined the look with calf length leggings, short boots, and an odd red belt, none of which was really complimented by her decision to wear a whole set of those doorway blocking love beads around her neck.
Now, that being said, Leslie really did so much better than last week, I have to give her credit for paying attention to everything she did wrong then and correcting it. She returned to her smooth sound, infusing Feeling Good with some good feeling jazz, and really sounded quite nice. She still completely lacks that elusive "it" factor, but if she leaves Thursday night (which I think may well be the case), she will have left on a good note – several in fact.
Randy lauded her "nice beginning" but warned it was on the "pitchy side"; Paula was again nonspecific with "you’re being you"; Simon broke it down to "you’ve just been wacked by 3 or 4 bigger voices" and that she was "not very memorable."
WELL, HALEY SCARNATO WAS DETERMINED TO BE AS MEMORABLE AS POSSIBLE. (I’M SHOUTING BECAUSE THIS WAS HER STRATEGY TONIGHT – BE AS BIG AS POSSIBLE!!) AFTER DEDICATING HER SONG TO HER FIANCE, BOBBY, SHE STORMED THE STAGE WITH WHITNEY HOUSTON’S QUEEN OF THE NIGHT.
SHE BROUGHT HIGH ENERGY IN HER TIGHT BLACK PANTS, BOOTS AND BOTANICAL GARDEN HALTER TOP – EVEN THE FLOWERS SEEMED TO BE SHOUTING.
Ok, I have to stop that. My throat is sore and your ears must hurt.
She definitely brought a sense of youth, fun, and upbeatedness (yes, I believe my Spellcheck is going to have a stroke over that one). It was a far cry from her mellow, almost sleep inducing showing last week. Personally, I found myself carried along and smiling – even though her vocals are no match for Whitney Houston’s. And I have to give her credit for not doing the obvious on "drop to your knees" and dropping to her knees.
Randy didn’t like it so much, citing "more background vocals than lead vocals"; Paula stayed out of it again choosing to look backwards with "you were leaps and bounds better than last week" (yes, because she was LEAPING AND BOUNDING AROUND!), and I can't believe I just noticed this - there must some extra hair going on tonight - is she wearing bird perches in her ears? I swear those hoops with the horizontal bars were big enough for parrots to sit inside - Paula is a quacker, Paula is a quacker; Simon gave her "an A for effort", but said it was a "bit manic verging on insane at one point".
I actually think that tonight’s excessive personality, coupled with going second to last, will insure she sticks around another week.
Last, but for anyone who heard her in week one, certainly not least – Sabrina Sloan dedicated her performance to her Grammy – 86, hilarious, and a wearer of "fierce hats".
The music started and what do you know?, another Whitney song, All The Man That I Need – only this time I didn’t inwardly cringe at what would have been another musical blood letting in a lesser vocalist’s throat – Sabrina can sing, and then some.
Opting for understatement in basic black (but honestly, who needs – oh, I don’t know - a loud green minidress and yellow heels when they can belt?), Sabrina kept the focus on her considerable talent – dressed in dark pants, a black halter top and Grammy’s church fans hanging from her ears.
She also pulled her hair back from her face, and she really is a beautiful, beautiful girl – I don’t think I realized it until now, hidden as she was behind all those curls.
As for her singing, all I wrote down was "WOW" – I was too caught up in her talent to take notes.
Randy likes her "big old voice"; Paula called her a "fantastic, big contender"; and while Simon cautioned her to not "confuse power with shouting", he also stated that she "will be back next week" and that she is " a great singer."
So that’s it – another ladies' night that really can be summed up in their clothing choices: Guys: Dull, blah, dark, boring. Girls: Bright, energetic, and lively. (Not that I relish the thought of Chris Sligh performing in some Liberace-Elton-John neon spangled, feather boa-ed jumpsuit…great..now I'm going to have nightmares.).
Who goes home depends largely on the power of VoteForTheWorst.com – if they truly wield as much as they say, then Antonella may just squeak through another week. I would definitely say that Alaina is on the bubble due to singing so early, and Leslie, simply because she just reeks of the "eh" factor.
Tune in Thursday night – remember Pickler’s coming! – you bring the sal-mon, I’ll pick up some caalamaaari, and I’ll meet you right back here, ok?