Tuesday, February 16, 2010

'American Idol\' Unveils Seven

Early notable contestants Casey James (he of the shirtless Denver audition), Michael "Big Mike" Lynche (the hulking guy who skipped the birth of his child in favor of a stay at Hollywood Week) and Didi Benami (who sang Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" in memory of her deceased best friend) all made the top 24. Joining them are dancer-turned-singer Todrick Hall, curly-haired Duffy-ite Katelyn Epperly, high-schooler Aaron Kelly and singer-songwriter Lee Dewyze The fates of early favorites like 17-year-old Katie Stevens (tipped by Kara DioGuardi as a possible champ), Andrew Garcia (the acoustic impressario of "Straight Up" renown) and Crystal Bowersox (she of the blonde dreads and the soulful growl) were left up in the air until Wednesday's show, when the rest of the top 24 will be announced. With the reality-show circus of the audition rounds and the manufactured drama of group day behind us, one could not be faulted in thinking Tuesday's episode would focus, finally, on the music. Yet the show oddly skipped over nearly the entire round of tunes — as contestants sang for the first time with a backing band — in favor of 10- or 15-second flashes of a chosen few contestants. The result was an overall disjointed viewing experience, denying us true insight into everyone's performances and leaving us frustratingly detached from the tension of the elimination. For all the actual music "Idol" producers aired, the show rightfully should have lasted as long as a network sitcom rather than the two-hour snoozefest Fox offered up as entertainment. What little we did see veered from the enticing to the forgettable. Casey James did his cowboy-cool singer-songwriter thing with a cover of Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" and 19-year-old Siobhan Magnus came out of her shell of shyness during a lively version of Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City." Crystal Bowersox hauled out the harmonica for a powerful take on Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy." Coming off his funky rejiggering of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up," Andrew Garcia stuck with the female artists as he busted out Adele's "Chasing Pavements" competently, if considerably less memorably. Meanwhile Alex Lambert flubbed a ukulele-driven channeling — a la Jason Castro — of Jason Mraz, and both Jermaine Sellers and Thaddeus Johnson found themselves struggling to stay on the same page with the band. Mom-rocker Mary Powers' rendition of Katy Perry's "Hot n Cold" had Simon saying, by way of the most backhanded of compliments, "I think she's interesting because she's old." As all this action zipped by at a frenzied pace, the contestants bided their time in one of three holding rooms and the judges traded photos of them in an attempt to cull their choices. One of the rooms, we were teased all episode, would be eliminated. To begin, judges visited room one, which housed Casey James, Lilly Scott, Katie Stevens and Siobhan Magnus. After a not particularly convincing bit of you-might-be-going-home misdirection, Ellen DeGeneres announced, "Ya'll are going through!"



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