Even with the unvarnished lauding that Steven, JLo and Randy heaped on many undeserving performers, there were a few standouts.
The evening, overall, was poor to moderate in song choice, tone and general performance quality. I know, I know – it’s the first week, and everyone has the jitters.
Inexplicably, to their detriment, “Idol” producers moved the performers straight into the big theater without using its smaller mid-term house that usually lets the singers collect themselves before taking the big stage. That was a mistake, and the sound quality was awful, too, making the performances tough to hear.
With that in mind, I will keep my individual comments brief, save for two or three bright spots.
Clint Jun Gamboa (top photo). I generally don’t care too much for this screecher with the Elton glasses, but he did a decent job with a good arrangement.
Jovany “Ab-tacular” Barreto (second photo) “I’ll Be” is one of the most chosen and murdered songs in “Idol” history, and this was no exception. The hunky Jovany has had better days. How hunky is he? Take your pick of shirtless photos he posts online from his phone.
Jordan “Man Diva” Dorsey. Lots of show and big attitude, but flat in a lot of places. Could have been a lot better.
Tim Halpern. Possibly one of the night’s worst, with a Rob Thomas song—Thomas tweeted after the show that he hadn’t seen it—that was so painfully karaoke that I felt like I was in a back-woods Alabama bar. Adorable, to be sure, but all over the place pitch-wise.
Brett “Queer Carrot Top” Lowenstern (third photo). I have to say, Brett’s not my cup of tea as a singer, but he goes out each and every time and puts his personality out there. I’m hoping he chooses more mainstream stuff if he gets the chance, because he could really put his spin on some standards. On Tuesday, he also gave America the newest, Beiber-fied hair twitch.
James “Lambert Lite” Durbin. I know these guys are told to “be true to yourself, always,” but in this case, please, James – just take it down a few notches and show some restraint. He was off-key, and I didn’t enjoy it.
Robbie “John Travolta” Rosen. An early favorite, but the song choice of “Angel” was just awful. That is a “Solitary Song” that only Sarah Mclachlan can perform. His tone was sporadically good, which seems to support my thought that these performers needed a medium-sized hall to get their tone in gear before hitting this large, fancy, gaudy stage.
Scotty “Country-fried Barry White” McCreery (fourth photo). Why did they die his hair? I don’t get it. Again, not my cup of tea because I’m not so warm on the deep-twang country. But he did a decent, albeit unthrilling, job with his song.
Stefano Langone. Started awful and ended moderately good. But still – song choice is key, and Bruno Mars is too current and mainstream to interpret in an individual way. Stefano is a decent singer and performer, but I think he could have done himself a favor with a different song.
Paul McDonald. So divided over this performance. Perhaps because I don’t like “Maggie Mae” as a song to begin with, but the drunk-walking, scotch-brite teeth and strange intonations really had me perplexed. The judges heaped praise, but I want to see him stretch into a different area like R&B than a song like that. However, I still think he’s got a terrific voice and is unique.
Jacob “Lovely Luther” Lusk (bottom photo). Even in this stellar, stand-out performance, there were pitch problems early on. Even as well as it ended and was received, I want a singer-songwriter like past judge Kara DioGuardi to be able to pick that apart. The singers will not improve if honest feedback doesn’t come back to them. JLo’s Luther Vandross comment was spot-on the money–I’ve been thinking the same thing. Jacob delves further, intentionally or not, into his feminine side when singing, which is brave considering the machismo that has preceded him (Clay Aiken notwithstanding).
Casey “Stand-up Bass” Abrams. You have to admit the originality of this performance, even if it was a skootch odd and unwieldy. Angry even? They placed him in the last-slot “pimp spot” for good reason since he’s so good.
To sum up: judges, put on your critical hats, please. You aren’t cheerleaders – you should be analyzing singers for the national and international stage. If they are to improve over these next few months, and with us along for the ride, we need you to be more impossible to please. I don’t want another Simon Cowell – but I do want someone who folds his arms and calls vocal shenanigans when necessary.
Up next are the gals on Wednesday. Hopefully they will rise higher than the guys did.
Will Pollock is an Atlanta-based freelance writer, photographer and artist. He is founder and director of ARTvision Atlanta and writes “Emo.Intel” for EquallyWed. Pollock is also working on a number of books, including one on emotional intelligence in men. He blogs about politics, pop-culture and other nonsense, and you can follow him on Twitter.