Last night’s show ended with a cliffhanger: We didn’t know, as it faded out, whether Jennifer Lopez would be able to continue judging, or whether the strain of eliminating good kids was just too much. As the show returned tonight, we got the dramatic payoff: Ryan Seacrest saying, “She took a short break.” That was it! That was all we got! Not even just, “She took a break.” A short break. Fuck this show.
But anyway, this is the part of the season where they finish announcing the top 24 singers. I started with this in the last column, but here’s the rest of the list, with commentary.
Karen Rodriguez. New York girl who stays perky and self-assured at all times, even when she’s facing the indignity of being introduced as “MySpace’s Karen Rodriguez.” From what we’ve seen, she’s a really good singer. But she’s also a massive Jennifer Lopez fan, which means her taste is questionable at best. If anyone on this show is going to bust out a heartfelt acoustic rendition of “Waiting for Tonight,” it’s going to be this girl. Actually, that might be awesome.
Robbie Rosen. A nice-looking kid whose singing style is unbelievably treacly and obnoxious. He’s one of these guys who smiles constantly when he’s onstage, no matter what he’s singing, and who keeps his eyebrows in a permanent inverted U-shape. These guys always bother me. Rosen is absolutely destined to bore the fuck out of me on this show.
Tatynisa Williams. This girl flubbed the words to “I Hope You Dance” to vaguely amusing effect last week. Beyond that, I have no idea who she even is.
Tim Halperin. Another of these inverted-eyebrows guys. J.Lo basically told him to stop smiling so goddamn much onstage, so he basically transformed himself into the OneRepublic guy during his final audition. But at least he shaved the godawful under-the-chin beard he had when he auditioned.
Julie Zorrilla. The molten-hot rich girl from Colombia who, it turns out, is a perfectly Starbucksy singer. I like her, but I think I might just like her because she’s incredibly hot and I’m shallow. In any case, she has a completely excellent freakout when she finds out she’s through to the show; it involves actually physically lifting up Ryan Seacrest and then falling down.
Scotty McCreery. The deep-voiced kid country singer who keeps wanting to sing the same Josh Turner song over and over. He has an awesome voice and an amusing tendency to fuck up in ridiculous ways. He, like Tatynisa Williams, forgot the words to “I Hope You Dance” and got snarky subtitles across the bottom of the screen when he tried to ad-lib substitutes. But only McCreery got a subtitle that still throws me into deep-chuckle mode when I think of it: “Nuts of wonder.” This guy beasts the living fuck out of Turner’s “Long Black Train” during his final audition; they show practically the whole thing. He probably deserves to make it onto the show just on the strength of that. But when they put him through, they cut fellow country singer John Wayne Schulz, which is weak, since that guy seems awesome in the little pieces we’ve seen of him.
Jovanny Barretto. This is the guy who likes taking off his shirt. He sings really well in Spanish, which means it’s sort of a shame that we don’t have Simon Cowell around anymore; he’d be good for at least one “I didn’t understand a word you just said” reaction. We do get Seacrest clowing Jovanny for wearing a suit that still has the tag attached, but that just makes good fiscal sense to me. If he hadn’t made it onto the show, he could at least return the damn suit and get some money back. Not all of us are getting that “American Top 40” money, Seacrest.
Lauren Turner. I have no memory of ever having seen this girl on TV before.
Rachel Zevita. This girl dresses like the chick from Evanescence if she went back in time to play a widow in a 1940s movie. I don’t really understand this look, but it sort of works! She seems like a good singer? I guess? But she also seems like an over-dramatic whirlwind of a human being. There’s a great moment where she’s waiting in painful anticipation to hear if she made it onto TV, and Steven Tyler offered the cryptic verdict: “You’re coming through.” It took a full second for her to figure out what he was saying.
Kendra Chantelle. This girl looks like a California stoner chick, which I like. But she has zero apparent sense of rhythm, and she pulls this super-lame trick where she teases Seacrest with the news that she made it onto the show, the same way the judges always pretend someone didn’t make it through when the did. “I’m sorry . . . but you’re going to be seeing a lot more of us this year!” Which, can we talk about that for a second? That needs to stop. It could not be any more played out than it already is.
Jordan Dorsey. Tall guy with a sort of weirdly intense and confident R. Kelly vibe about him. I don’t especially like this guy, but then I probably wouldn’t like R. Kelly during the audition rounds of this show either. That bizarre sweaty swagger could push someone toward genius, but it’s always going to make people look like assholes, and this guy does look like an asshole.
Lauren Alaina. Brassy 16-year-old country chick with a propensity for some truly regrettable sparkly outfits. The show made a big deal out of her early on since someone clearly decided that she was their best chance at Taylor Swift money. It’s more likely that she turns into Kellie Pickler, but Kellie Pickler isn’t a bad person to be. I’ll probably end up liking her, since I inevitably like every single country contestant on this show. But I’d have a much easier time liking her if she stopped with the incredible amount of quease-inducing drooling she does over Steven Tyler. That has to stop. Also, her take on “Hello Goodbye” last night was yeesh.
Stefano Langone. Boring guy who was in a car accident. This guy’s been on TV a bunch already, but I have no memory of him ever doing anything. He makes no impression.
Jacob Lusk. Insanely, absurdly talented oversinger who can seriously blast everyone else on this show singlehandedly. Ryan says that his “God Bless the Child” was “the single best performance ever on Idol“, which is way overstating things, but yeah, this guy can sing, and he’s my immediate favorite guy on the show. Bonus points because he seems like he might actually be completely insane, which always makes things more fun. He’s way, way over the top in a way that would get pretty irritating if I was actually listening to any records that he might’ve made, but this guy is going to wreck shit on this show.
Pia Toscana. Another very pretty girl! Attractive female contestants seem to be having an easier-than-ever time of it in the Jennifer Lopez/Steven Tyler era. I know, I’m as shocked as you are. The show has really put her on display in the two group-sing episodes, and I have to say, she just blazed the hell out of Bruno Mars’ “Grenade.” She seems like a really good singer! I’m guessing she’ll do really well even without any sort of tearjerking backstory, and I am just fine with that.
James Durbin. Fuck yeah! This guy! The one with Tourette’s! During Hollywood week, he’s swapped out his deeply awful mohawk for a selection of bandannas that’s nearly as bad, somehow. He also seems to love hitting screechy, huge Adam Lambert notes, which means he was always going to make it onto the live show. In his final audition, he sings “A Change Is Gonna Come” like he’s Vince Neil, which is so weird! In all honesty, this guy can really sing, and he’s overcome a lot. I hope he does well, especially since that might mean he can finally afford diapers. You ever been around parents who don’t change their kids’ diapers often enough? It’s a bad scene.
Casey Abrams. This guy is such a weirdo! He impressed a lot of people at his Austin audition, but I didn’t see that episode. I did see a clip of him playing a melodica and then scatting, which is not my idea of “impressive.” And on tonight’s show, he sang the song Jessica Rabbit sang in Roger Rabbit while playing a stand-up bass. It was just fundamentally nuts. I don’t think I’ll much like this guy as the show progresses (see: scatting), but it is vaguely fun to have a total wild card around.
Thea Megia. Incredibly boring adult-contemporary teenager. She squeaks onto the show ahead of some girl who keeps trying out and getting bounced, which just seems mean as fuck.
Brett Loewenstern. This guy made it! Holy shit! Can’t believe it! Brett is the rat-faced kid who I’ve come to really like over the course of the Hollywood shows; he’s a sweet kid with a nice raspy-high voice. And I can’t believe he squeaked past Jacee Badeaux, who I’d assumed was a mortal lock. Badeaux is like some lab-created hybrid of Justin Bieber (cute apple-cheeked blonde kid) and Susan Boyle (socially uncomfortable angelic shut-in type who turns out to be really good at singing on TV). This kid had juggernaut written all over him, but no, Brett won the last spot. And he won it even though he sang an original song during the last audition, and 16-year-olds simply do not write good songs.