American Idol Semi-Finals 1: Is Tatiana’s Psycho Streak Gone? Plus Danny Gokey’s Endless Hype


Sharyn Jackson is your American Idol host for season eight. This week: Oooh, yay, the first round of semi-finals!

The taped shows are over, and the singing is coming to us live. Kara’s nervous she’ll lose another boob, and Ryan likens the judges’ panel to The View, because there is always a plus-sized black person. Everyone rambles about being all you can be, or being yourself or whatever.

Here’s how it’s going to go: 36 made it out of the judges’ mansion last week. They’ve been divvied up into groups of 12. Each week, three of the 12 will make it to finals based on audience votes: the top man, the top woman, and the next highest vote-getter. In the fourth week, contestants who were already kicked off will be brought back as wild cards for one last chance. And now, the play-by-play.

1. Jackie Tohn

The scratchy-voiced rocker who brought down the windows of Chelsea Piers during auditions is wearing something out of Suzanne Sugarbaker’s closet in her video. She kicks things off with a manic chicken-walk to “A Little Less Conversation,” but she’s not nearly as interesting as she was during Hollywood. Randy picks up on that, saying it was just alright on the vocals but good on the entertainment side. Kara agrees. Paula says something nice. Simon tells her she played a clown. At “gimmicky” he gets booed. But he rightly says she probably blew it. And her spandex aerobics pants suck. This all ends with a lengthy interview with Jackie’s parents, in which Jackie sneaks in a few more notes. Shame on you, Miss Tohn.

2. Ricky Braddy

We haven’t met this hick yet, but he apparently did a good enough rendition of an Alicia Keys song in Hollywood to get him here. He takes the mania down a notch with a soulful slow song and comes across much smarter in music than he does in speech. His parents are also smart, branding their boy in “Braddy Bunch” T-shirts, which we see at the family couch party after the performance. Randy, Kara, and Paula rave about him, and Simon says he has a good voice but not enough charisma.

3. Alexis Grace

This 21-year-old mama went from squeaky clean in her audition to pink-layered hair and she’s way more tolerable now than when she was toting around her infant. Cute is so not hot, and I’m glad she picked up on this by the first episode. She does a great job on an Aretha number. Simon says she’s the best of the night. She’s only the third, but still. At the family circle, her dad is completely embarrassed that his daughter is now a sexpot.

4. Brent Keith

Malfunction! His tape doesn’t work, so Ryan tries to recreate it by winging an interview. Brent sort of shits himself, and luckily the tape comes back and we find out that Brent’s audition is the one where Kara went down on Paula. He is apparently a country singer, and he does something really boring and twangy. Kara says he played it safe, although Randy says he’d like to hang with Brent at a chili cookoff. Paula says she can see him as a country artist, and that’s probably because he sang a country song. Simon says he was forgettable, but Brent counters that country fans won’t forget him. Yeah, but who cares what country fans think? Bye, Brent.

5. Stevie Wright

Her smile is a bit too big and Simon has a vendetta against her for singing “old” songs even though she is 17, but as long as she is here, I keep hope that they are actually about to say “Stevie Nicks” every time they announce her. Unfortunately, that won’t happen much longer, because she is flat and warbly on a Taylor Swift song. I can’t wait to hear what the judges have to say! They’re all polite but Simon basically gives her a farewell speech. Afterward, her stage mom, who clearly picked the song, tries to defend the choice.

6. Anoop Desai

“Anoop Dawg” has been an early favorite despite his desperate need for an eyebrow trim. On Monika’s “Angel of Mine” he proves all those early fans dead wrong–except for Paula, who is in denial and for whom Anoop is some sort of standing ovation-hemorrhoid. She says she doesn’t care if he is sharp or not, because he’s like Brian McKnight. Cause he‘s contemporary. The judges basically beg the audience to give this South Asian contender another chance, because it’s really time for an Indian-American Idol.

7. Casey Carlson

This girl is too skinny and her thick shampoo-commercial hair makes her look like a bobblehead. Casey gender-flips “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” like a reject for a staff position on Royal Caribbean. Her precocious smiles and winks make her a better candidate for that Grease reality show–What was that called? Who Wants to Be in Grease? Randy says the performance was “weirdly karaoke.” He and Kara rewrite the number into “Everything About That Was Wrong.” Paula says she’s pretty, and that’s the kiss of death. Simon tells her she shouldn’t have been allowed to sing that song. No one tells her she shouldn’t have added three-feet of hair to the top of her head either.

8. Michael Sarver

The oil “roughneck” (is that a real word?)/beefy family man just oozes Christian rock market. Oh look, there’s a cross on the back of his shirt. He sings Gavin DeGraw and it’s fine. The judges are a little disappointed, but Paula points out that Bo Bice, Elliot Yamin, and one other past nobody sang that song, so he probably has a shot at not winning American Idol.

9. Ann Marie Boskovich

In her audition, the judges made this Winnie Cooper lookalike leave and come back slightly hotter. She took off her shirt and got a pass to Hollywood. From the first notes of her performance, she reminds every future Idol contestant not to sing “Natural Woman” unless you are a direct descendant of Aretha Franklin or Kelly Clarkson. Got that?!? Ted Danson loved it, though. (Really. He’s in the audience.) Randy’s criticism garners boos. Kara tells her to sing Sara Bareilles’s “Love Song.” Or something like that. “Something that’s not as good?” asks Ann Marie. Ha! In the family circle, Ann Marie gets a hemorrhoid of her own: she avoids all of Ryan’s questions because she just sat down on a big piece of wood. Literally.

10. Stephen Fowler

One of the Hollywood contestants who forgot all his words was allowed to continue anyway even though the judges promised to kick off those who flubbed their lyrics. So we don’t exactly know why he’s here, and tonight’s cheesy and off-key performance of “Rock With You” doesn’t exactly help his case. He says he is not comfortable without his piano, even though he sucked on his piano in Hollywood. The judges bash him.

11. Tatiana Del Toro

The world’s most annoying contestant is up and there’s more footage of her Hollywood drama, fighting with other contestants. Thankfully they don’t play the maniacal laughter clip, but Ryan does try to imitate her. She dares to sing Whitney’s “I’m Saving All My Love For You” and it’s pretty good minus a few off notes. For all of this girl’s insanity, you have to admit she’s got a voice. I don’t know what to do with this. Neither do the judges. Kara tries to stifle laughter at first, and then gives up and just makes fun of her. Paula tells her it’s good that people are talking about Tatiana, no matter what they are saying. That’s probably true. Simon says she’s desperate for fame, but he also liked the song, and asks her to do the laugh. She can’t! Is the psycho-streak gone?

12. Danny Gokey

The ultimate sob story lost the black half of his cookie at the judges’ mansion (Jamar). He sings “Hero” by Mariah Carey and this and every song out of this boy turns into something about how his wife died and he’s making it through hard times. Standing O’s and cheering all around. Paula says “Two words–sold-out arenas.” Whether or not that counts as two words, Simon brings us “back to planet Earth” and tries not to let the hype go too far to Danny’s head. Ryan makes some sort of penis joke, I think. And that’s the way you end a show.

You had two hours to vote, America! Here are my predictions and/or wishes:

Top boy: Danny Gokey

Top girl: Tatiana Del Toro

Third place: Anoop Desai

Possible Wild Cards for Round 4: Jackie Tohn, Alexis Grace

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