Shocker: It’s still a girls game on American Idol. After a quick trip back to Los Angeles, the judges, Ryan Seacrest, and the Top 20 nestled into the Idol auditorium to find out who’d be staying on as part of the Top 10 finalists. Fan favorites like Kree Harrison, Angie Miller, Burnell Taylor, and Lazaro Arbos were easy fits, but as the night wore on, disappointment hit more than a few times.
Of course, most of those time were when we realized that likeable singers like Paul Jolley nabbed spots that could have gone to strong lady singers like castoff Aubrey Cleland were there not a strict five-spot-per-gender rule. Of course, if the past teaches us anything, it’s that voters probably would have kept a few too many of the ho-hum dudes and sent home girls who deserved to stay. Still, it was an exciting night on Idol.
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We got to see what it looks like behind Idol’s famous video screen door. We got to see the singers’ genuine reactions before the judges or the audience, thanks to Ryan delivering the news to them backstage, before anyone else could hear. We got to witness the adorable moment when Keith Urban let Nicki Minaj lean on him as they walked to their seats because Nicki wore impossibly high heels. We got to see Mariah Carey’s incomparable breasts peeking out from behind a mesh v-shape in her patent leather ball gown. We got to witness the cross-promotion of Carey’s new single and the movie she sang it for, Oz the Great and Powerful. But unfortunately, we still didn’t get to see much of Randy Jackson’s prized shoes, which is a shame because Seacrest once told me that Randy has a new pair for every single episode of the show.
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As the finalists were announced, they each got to perform a victory song followed by feedback, but not criticism, from their favorite judges. I know the point is that we’re not supposed to judge, but if you’re like me, the wheels in your brain were turning, you were judging each and every performance, and you’ve already got a ranking system in your head. Here’s mine:
10. Paul Jolley singing “Alone” by Heart: While he was much better than he was on Wednesday night, he’s still not the strongest of the bunch. But man, is he handsome.
9. Lazaro Arbos singing “Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel: It was a good emotional reprisal of his audition song considering he’s overcome adversity and made it to the final 10. It’s very sweet, and very much in his comfort zone, but he will need to step it up to make it past the other fantastic singers.
8. Devin Velez singing “The Power of One (Change The World)” by Isreal Houghton: Nicki clearly didn’t like that he shied away from a ballad, but he’s found a way to be a little more relevant with this upbeat song. His ballads are fantastic, but he’s got to be able to do upbeat to be a mainstream artist. And he gets a few bonus points for his adorable blue-eye-shadow-laden mama hitting on Ryan.
7. Curtis Finch singing “So High” by John Legend: Let’s just make peace with the fact that Curtis rubs me the wrong way. That feeling won’t go away, so I’m going to do my best to get past that long enough to write about his performance: I love this song, I love the effortless way in which John Legend sings it. Curtis’ vocal acrobatics prove he’s got a serious skill, but I’m not a fan of the way he pushes this smooth song. That’s why he’s so far down on this list, but still, I can admit he’s talented.
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6. Amber Holcomb singing “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan: This is where I start to get a bit confused because I love, love, love everyone I’ve ranked from sixth to first. I love them all. While Amber has an issue with sounding current, it’s hard to deny she’s got an incredible voice. And she’s not even trying. At all. It’s almost infuriating. Her voice is so good, and the girl never even breaks a sweat.
5. Janelle Arthur singing “Home” by Dierks Bentley: Janelle has never been my cup of tea, but her emotional connection really brought it home on Thursday night. She finally chose a current song and it makes her feel like she really could be a singer with a hit single on the radio right now. And with tears in her pretty little eyes, she’s a delight to watch. America loves themselves a sweet, little blonde country singer.
4. Candice Glover singing “I’m Goin’ Down" by Rose Royce: I love this girl. She’s so, so good. I like her rendition of this song better than Mary J. Blige’s cover, because it just pours out of her so naturally. She’s just strutting around that stage letting her incredible voice just flow, and after watching her go home too soon last season, it’s hard not to cheer her on a time like this.
3. Angie Miller singing “I Was Here” by Beyonce: She’s adorable and misty as she takes the stage in her sparkly pants. Despite being outside of her usual style. Beyonce’s ballad turned out to be a great choice. I like that she didn’t try to Beyonce-ify her performance. She just tried to make it as Angie as possible. It wasn’t a super clean performance, but the emotional connection was so great it almost doesn’t matter. She’s so marketable, so genuine. She belongs up there.
2. Burnell Taylor singing “Ready for Love” by India.Arie: I want a woman to win this year. I really, truly do. But if a man has to take the crown, it had better be Burnell. He. is. amazing. The intricate things he does with his voice are beautiful and his personality comes through every time he sings. He has every piece it takes to be considered the complete package. He’s going to seriously test my feminist resolve this season.
1. Kree Harrison singing “Evidence” by Susan Tedeschi: This girl rocks. Hard. She’s flawless and connected, just like she always has been. If we’re picking horses, this girl is the one to beat.
Now that gender is no longer a factor in who stays and who goes, let’s hope voters can see the great disparity between the incredibly talented women and the fairly talented men on this show.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Fox]
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I should probably start crocheting little potholders and scarves and baby booties that say “the girls on Season 12 of American Idol are uh-mazing” because I seem to reiterate my case week after week. But hey, friends. The ladies of Season 12 are amazing.
Case and point, Miss Angie Miller (who until recently was going by the less-cutesy Angela Miller). She bravely took on Season 11’s piano man Colton Dixon’s song, “Never Gone” and between her return to the grand piano and her ability to make it all her own, Angie got right back into that sweet spot that shocked everyone during the girls’ Hollywood solo night. She’s vulnerable and passionate on stage; it’s impossible to not connect with her every word. Keith says she’s a true artist and nothing could be truer. If you’re the type of Idol viewer who votes and you haven’t voted for Angie, you are doing something wrong. She. is. incredible.
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On the flip side of Angie’s beautiful performance is the return of Zoanette Johnson, who won over a few fans with her unconventional rendition of “Circle of Life” last week. She chose “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” a song that would be the kiss of death for almost any contestant as it’s impossible to do it with the fervor of Tina Turner and without sounding dated. And while Zoanette is always a little off (that’s her thing, after all) this performance was nothing short of terrible. She’s got a voice on her, but it’s not trained at all. After seeing what a lovely person she is with the other contestants, I want to like her, but she’s not polished enough for this competition. I truly believe if she let someone (that’s right, if she allowed someone) to act as her vocal coach, she might be able to rein it in and become something special and perhaps that’s why the judges have kept her around, but there are simply too many phenomenal singers to wait for one of the women to play catch-up.
On the good side is Breanna Steer who takes on “Flaws and All” by Beyonce, and while she delivers a flawless performance, she sounds a little too much like a Beyonce impersonator instead of Breanna, the hot new singer we can’t wait to hear more from. Of course, Randy’s on her case about “moments” (WHERE R THE MOMENTS, GRL?), but it’s more than that. She’s yet to differentiate herself from the artists she’s covering, and there are too many good singers for us to not understand her perspective at this point in the competition.
As for the girl Nicki Minaj has referred to as our baby Beyonce, Aubrey Cleland, she misstepped a tad this week as well, singing “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie. She’s got a strong, sweet voice. She’s gorgeous. She’s got great style. But she never, ever moves around the stage or commands the space. It’s clear that she’s young and a little unaware of what to do when she’s up there. (Season 11’s Hollie Cavanaugh part deux, anyone?) But, for this point in the competition, she’s great and clearly has vocal talent above many of her peers (especially when you lump in the guys).
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Call me crazy, but I don’t get Janelle Arthur. She sings “If I Can Dream” by Elvis, yet another dated song that’s not helping her to feel like a genuine singer with any real perspective. It feels like a high class karaoke contest and not someone who I could see compelling anyone to buy a ticket to a show or an album on iTunes. To make matters worse, the girl isn’t even flawless; she goes off pitch multiple times during the Elvis tune and yet the judge simply sing her praises at the end. Well, I’m sorry, I’m not buying into Nicki’s little living marshmallow that she wants to eat.
Another woman making me feel crazy is Tenna Tores, whose tone during “Lost” by Faith Hill is far too shrill for my tastes. She does have the ability to draw viewers in, but I cannot get into the quality of her voice. Perhaps there’s something going missing between the stage in Vegas and my perception on the other side of the television, but it’s simply not working. All I could think about was when the song would end and how much her friends must have paid her to wear a dress that made it look like she has huge orange breasts with oversized blue triangle nipples. The judges generally love her though, so maybe she’ll make it through and I’ll understand why they find her so compelling.
Last minute favorite Amber Holcolm is starting to worry me. Much like her last performance of “My Funny Valentine” this week’s “I Beleive in You and Me” by Whitney Houston was impossibly dated. Underneath that, Amber has a fantastic voice and her effortless rendition of a Whitney song is not something to be ignored. She’s clearly got amazing talent, but she needs guidance. Hopefully, voters agree with Randy, who gives her his first “in it to win it!” of the competition, and they vote for her to continue on. Maybe Jimmy Iovine can mentor some sense into her.
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And if Angie Miller is my number one, Kree Harrison is my 1.5, and this is coming from a life-long country music hater. Kree sings “Stronger” by Faith Hill (who is the accidental sponsor of our first live show, apparently) and where Janelle is good at playing “sweetheart,” Kree swells with a sense of genuine sweetness (oh, and she’s an incredible singer too). Her voice is stronger and she feels like someone who truly feels what she is singing, whereas Janelle feels like someone who knows what she should be doing to be perceived well. And it’s this genuine nature (one might suppose) that enraptures Nicki enough to nickname Kree her “wife.” Hey girl, just go with it. (It means they like you, they really like you.)
Following Kree, as if by some cruel twist, is little Adriana Latonio from Anchorage, Alaska. Sorry, people of Alaska, but this year is not going to be your year to make it to the top 10. Adriana’s performance of “Stand Up” by Destiny’s Child is dated, pageant-like, and she lets the song completely wrestle her. She clearly knows that the judges liked her big notes two weeks ago, so she’s brought them back in full effect here, but there’s nothing engaging about it. She’s a classic victim of “well, I’ve got the voice, so I should win” syndrome. The thing about getting people to buy records and find any reason to engage with artists is that sheer vocal ability isn’t enough. You have to be the total package, or you may as well waltz on home.
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And that’s where my other favorite (yes, I can have three; Ryan Seacrest’s voiceover said so) comes in: Candice Glover (above), you are MY GIRL. Not only did she sing John Legend’s wonderful tune “Ordinary People” but she absolutely killed it. She’s fantastic. Tender. Beautiful. Genuine. Basically, I love her and she is perfect. I am a little worried because Randy invokes the concept of the wild card, saying he’s going to need it for her. Does that mean voters aren’t engaging with this fantastic, talented singer? What more do they want? A solid gold Seacrest riding one of Daenerys' dragons? Candice is a total package, folks. Let’s not waste this opportunity to reward her for it.
Of course, Wednesday night will deliver the boys, who will undoubtedly appeal to all the lusty moms out there and their boy crazy daughters. Thursday will come and we’ll see far too many talented ladies go home while the guys undeservedly rake in the votes to overtake them. I’m not generally and advocate of forging ballots, but Seacrest, is there something you can do to make sure America doesn’t screw the pooch on this one?
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Michael Becker/FOX; FOX]
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Built from comic book auteur Frank Miller’s (Sin City) rock solid foundations 300 is based on his vision on the 1962 film The 300 Spartans filtered through the same tough-as-nails pulp sensibility that populates most of his comics work. Leaving such leaden wannabe sword-and-sandal epics like Troy and Alexander in the historical dust 300 reworks the real-life legendary tale of the Battle of Thermopylae in which a battalion of 300 elite Spartan soldiers heroically hold the line to protect ancient Greece from the invading Persian hordes. The story focuses on the Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) who must not only lead his small cadre of troops--each one honored since childhood into a razor-sharp battle-relishing warrior—into a battle they are unlikely to survive but he must also fight for the fate of Greece and its democratic ideals. As the bizarre seemingly endless marauding legions of the tyrant Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) descend upon the Hot Gates—a narrow passageway into Greece that Leonidas’ miniscule band can most ably defend—the soldiers take up arms without the usual post-modern anti-war hand-wringing that most war epics indulge in. These soldiers are both bred for battle and fighting a good fight and the film focuses squarely on the highly charged action. Meanwhile in a new plotline created specifically for the movie his equally noble and faithful queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) takes up arms in a more symbolic way as she also tries to keep democracy alive by taking on the political warlords of Sparta to secure relief for her husband’s troops. Butler has become a familiar and welcome on-screen presence in such films as The Phantom of the Opera and Reign of Fire but there has been little on his mainstream movie resume to suggest the kind of bravura fire he brings to the role of Leonidas. This is the stuff of an actor announcing himself to the audience in a major way akin to Daniel Craig’s star-making turn as James Bond. In a big bold performance that could have gone awry in any number of ways Butler plays even the highest pitched notes like a concerto perfectly capturing the king’s bravado bombast cunning compassion and passion each step of the way. Headey is his ideal match imbuing the queen with more steel and nobility in a handful of scenes than most actresses can summon to carry entire films. Fans of Lost and Brazilian cinema will be hard-pressed to even recognize Santoro whose earnest pretty handsomeness is radically transformed into Xerxes’ exotic borderline freakish form personifying a terrifying yet seductive force of corruption and evil that spreads like a cancer across the earth. And don’t forget to add in the most impressive array of rock-hard abs on cinematic display since well ever (think Brad Pitt in Troy times 300). Even bolstered by canny casting choices and their washboard stomachs helmer Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) is the true undisputable star of 300 establishing himself firmly as a director whose work demands to be watched. With a kinetic sensibility that’s akin to Quentin Tarantino and John Woo and using CGI technology to its utmost effects both subtle and dynamic Snyder creates a compelling fully formed world that the audience is eager to explore. Snyder doesn’t literally match Miller’s signature artwork as meticulously as director Robert Rodriguez did with Sin City. Instead Snyder captures Miller’s essence be it raw brutality majestic size and scope the exotic and otherworldly carnal physicality or hideous deformity--even seemingly antiquated and potentially off-putting techniques like the repeated use of slow-motion are put to fresh effect making every blow and cut seem crucial. Yet even in the visual glorification of some of the most bloody and violent conflicts ever put to film Snyder infuses the tale—which ultimately is one big glorious testosterone-soaked fight sequence—with the sense of honor and sacrifice which characterizes the most noble of war efforts. Yes war can be hell but this is a case where some like it hot.