“American Idol” Vegas Showdown: God Bleh The Child

God, I love this part of American Idol. I love spending two hours on a weeknight exalting young chanteuses like mall-brand Aphrodites and sentencing losers to an eternity in Jimmy Iovine‘s jean-jacket dungeon. That’s quality time with the TV for me.  

We saw ten ladies trill for the attention of the increasingly articulate judges on Wednesday, and five of them were booted before the night was over. So satisfying! Take your Charlotte Russe stylings and head back to Branson, losers. You can pick up that extra shift at Dave & Buster’s after all.  

Now, some general advice for the competing ten women we saw on Wednesday: Matter more. I’m blown away by anybody who seeks a career in entertainment and expects to be applauded for sheer technical skill. You also need to be special, and being special has to matter to you. Have you heard of Madonna? She mattered (and MATTERS), and it has nothing to do with a stuttering, try-too-hard rendition of “God Bless the Child” featuring “passionate” hand gestures stolen from a 1996 Toni Braxton video. She mattered because she was urgent and confrontational and there and herself, and if you’re a contestant on American Idol, I expect you to do the same — while adding some titillating high notes to the mix. It’s not desperation. Command and stagecraft are part of being entertaining. Entertain me. 

Frankly, we heard so much competent but uninspired vocalizing from the majority of these performers that I wondered if we’d wandered into an audition for Jordin Sparks‘ backup singers. I didn’t see the urgency in some of these ingenues. I know it’s controversial to grade performers based on star quality and not vocal prowess, but honestly, we have enough fine singers. What we need now are sorcerers. Sorceresses, especially. 

Spoilers ahead: I’m ranking the ten performances of Wednesday night, and after each performance I’ll say whether the judges elected the featured performer to the top five. Like Mariah Carey reading the Soundscan numbers for her album Charmbracelet, be prepared to weep.  


10. Kamaria Ousley: Kelly Clarkson’s “Mr. Know It All”

This is the truth: If I watched on Idol on mute, I might’ve guessed that Kamaria gave the best performance of the night. Seriously. Stage command? She had it. Genuine finger-wagging coolness? Convincing! Girl should’ve costarred in the “Doo Wop (That Thing)” video. It was there, the miseducated stank. I also liked Kamaria’s business-casual harlequin outfit, including the shoes that Mariah Carey slobbered at. (Tell me you also squealed when Mariah deadpanned, “I love the shoes. But be careful, because I have some of those and they broke in the front.” Is this woman Dorian Corey or what?) The makeup was applied like rubber cement, but I forgave. The real problem here was the vocal, which sounded to me like a quaky, dicey, warped twang that you don’t emit on purpose. She was hurting the whole time, and it hurt. Points also deducted for choosing this Kelly Clarkson song, because it has to be one of the simplest and least showstopping hits in her bubbly-ass oeuvre. Kamaria, I rooted for your spirit. But you buried that spirit and your vocal control in a dark place, probably where they keep the tapes of season nine. 

Judges’ Verdict: Eliminated.

9. Brandy Hotard: Travis Tritt, “Anymore” 

I remember this being pretty. WHICH IS WHAT I HATE. No more pretty! Less pretty, please! Look, Brandy, you can’t just be a cute moon-faced Ali MacGraw. You can’t just grin through a Travis Tritt song that doesn’t matter. You can’t pretend I’m going to vote for that. I bet you don’t even believe I’m going to vote for that. You really weren’t thinking at all, Brandy. And now I’m not thinking about you. :(  

Judges’ Verdict: Eliminated


8. Jenny Beth Willis: Trisha Yearwood, “Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love”

Jenny Beth Willis wore a black-and-pink cotillion gown that looked really current, if you believe time stopped in 2003 at Hot Topic. It was an Evanescence-approved “glamor” item, and it didn’t bring me to life. Nor did Jenny Beth’s totally un-momentous version of a mid-tempo Trisha Yearwood tune (kill me). She had one resonant final note, but the rest was a pink-and-black wash of congeniality and awful smiles from a student body president. I actually enjoyed her perky energy out of the gate, but I became less sympathetic once I realized her song was boring, her stage presence wasn’t engrossing, and her entire appeal amounted to “cute.” Also: Country music is worthless in 2013. Don’t aspire to be a part of it, children. 

Judges’ Verdict: Eliminated. 

 

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