Maybe it was all the hype about this being the best Top 24 ever. Maybe it was all the promises about things being different this year. But after watching the first two performance nights of this season's American Idol, I'm awfully let down. Maybe there's still some great talent hidden away in there — and it is possible, if the voters do the right thing in these early rounds, that we'll end up with a strong Top 12. It's just that after the boys failed to wow me on Tuesday, I wanted something more from the girls on Wednesday, and I didn't get it.
There were some good performances tucked away in there, though, among all the disappointments. Speaking of disappointments: With all the hype about Carly Smithson's former career (which might have even included working with Randy Jackson), why did Idol decide to give her the prime spot at the end of the night last night? You'd think they'd be a little more careful about how that might look.
Don't forget to vote for which girls are going home, and to see my take on the night's performances, just read more.
Kristy Lee Cook — First of all, she's been really styled up since her audition. She looks good! Her rendition of "Rescue Me" was very cutesy, though, with a lot of twitching and winking and playing to the camera. It also wasn't a song that required much from her voice, and she seemed to only give it the minimum. I know she was sick, but she still hasn't wowed me since her audition. Randy said it wasn't great, Paula said part of being a performer is making sure to never show how you really feel, and Simon said there wasn't much to remember her by.
Joanne Borgella — I was looking forward to hear her take on "Say a Little Prayer," even though it seems like a song for a soul singer (which is exactly what she said in her interview package that she's not). Parts of it were OK, but it was hard to hear her on the quieter and lower parts, and her voice didn't have much richness to it. Randy said she seemed nervous, Paula seemed to agree, and Simon thought the beginning was OK but hated the end. Of course, Randy hated the beginning and loved the end, so thats not much for poor Joanne to go on.
Alaina Whitaker — I didn't remember her from the early rounds, and she seemed very young talking to Seacrest, so I was worried about her taking the stage. I didn't need to be. Her rendition of "I Love You More Today than Yesterday" — a holdover from guys' night; are there only 20 songs from the '60s? — was energetic and fun, and she can really belt it out more than I was expecting. The judges just seemed happy to see someone look alive up there, with Simon ragging on the song but saying if she can make an awful song good, she'll be great with better material.
Amanda Overmyer — Amanda's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but I really like her, and I'm glad she took a risk on this first night. Her song was a little weird, with a lot of muttering and scatting, but I don't think that was her fault, and she seems really committed to her rock-ness (ahem, Robbie Carrico). Randy liked her bluesy rock voice, Paula called her the real deal, and Simon thought it was all over the place but praised her anyway. Also, her talking about her awkward dancing in the Top 24 video made me a fan for life.
Amy Davis — Ohhh no. At the risk of sounding like Paula, Amy is a gorgeous girl, and she had this cool swoopy hair thing going on, and I'm sure she's very nice, but this song hurt my ears. She always seemed just a little off the note, either too high or too low, and it seemed to go on for five minutes. Randy called her on the pitchiness, Paula babbled about her looks, and Simon said it was dull and cabaret.
Brooke White — Quick poll: Is Brooke's good-girl attitude cute or grating? I'm leaning cute so far, but I could see myself shifting to the other side. Her "Happy Together" was way peppy, with a cool twangy thing to her her voice; I just wish she'd moved around and really tried to sell it rather than staying put at the mic. Randy said she made him like it by the end, Paula said she knows Brooke is an original, and Simon praised her but said he doesn't want her to be so nicey-nice the whole time.
Alexandrea Lushington — So, OK. I'm of two minds on this one. On the one hand, after seeing so many nervous singers, I'm glad Alexandrea decided to really go all-out with her performance, from outfit to intro to strutting around the stage. On the other hand, I kind of wish she'd just been a little more still, because her voice is definitely unpolished and I'm not sure she was concentrating on the singing. Randy loved it, though, and Paula was glad Alexandrea thought out how to present the song. Simon came down hard, though, saying it reminded him of a bad '60s musical.
Kady Malloy — Impersonation girl! She started in a chair, because nobody's listening to me when I say that's the ultimate Idol red flag. Just don't sit down, OK? It's always bad news. She actually started out fine, but about halfway through the song seemed to go very, very wrong and pitchy and warbly and weird. Randy said it seemed like she lost concentration, Paula said she's still looking for Kady's real personality, and Simon said it's weird that Kady has so much energy impersonating others but the only thing that could impersonate her was "a pencil." Oof.
Asia'h Epperson — Can we talk about her high, high hair in the interview package? OK. She toned it down on stage, though, and I really liked her energy on "Take Another Little Piece of my Heart." Her voice isn't what I expect to come out of her, but it's very husky and deep and cool and made "heart" sound like "art." Randy was impressed that she did her thing with the song, Paula was into it, and Simon was glad to see her let go and called it his favorite of the night.
Ramiele Malubay — I wish I'd recognized this song sooner, because I spent the first half just trying to figure out what she was singing. She seemed competent enough on the verse, though, and by the time the chorus kicked in, she was definitely on. I get the whole "big big voice in teeny teeny body" thing, and it's going to get old, but I bet she'll be safe for a good long while. Randy love-loved the way she held back at first before the power notes, Paula called her a force to be reckoned with, and Simon said she outsang everyone else on stage.
Syesha Mercado — I initially had a theory that either Syesha or Asia'h, but not both, would make it to the Top 12. Now I'm starting to think there's room for both. I still think Syesha gets screechy on the power notes, but "Tobacco Road" as interesting and even got Paula drumming at the end. Randy said it wasn't his favorite but was still good, Paula applauded her for being consistent, and Simon called her one of the most talented in the competition.
Carly Smithson — As I mentioned, she got the pimp spot, and it seems like a bad idea, because what a letdown. She seemed like a lounge singer (or, worse, a hotel bar singer), and she seemed to be missing some of the bigger notes (but I've thought that about her the whole time, and the judges haven't said anything about it, so maybe I'm wrong). Randy called it "the best vocal of the Top 24," which is enough to make even a non-conspiracy theorist into one; Paula also said everything was perfect. Thankfully, Simon said he didn't get it and was let down.
My favorites: Alaina, Amanda, Asia'h, Syesha
In trouble: Kristy Lee, Joanne, Kady, Amy
Going home: Joanne, Amy
Photos courtesy of Fox