urx unit loader 'American Idol' Final Top 12: The first hour doesn't even matter


Tonight on American Idol, we have our final group of 12 semi-finalists performing. My early picks are Taylor Vaifanau, Lil Rounds and Scott McIntyre. I hope we finally see a week where two females advance, so that the Wild Card doesn't have to be 3 women in order to keep things even.

Von Smith, "You're All I Need to Get By," Marvin Gaye
Von interviews that he doesn't want America to think he's shouting at us. Well, then stop shouting, dummy. The song's verses are too low for him, it's fuzzy and muddled. However, he gets to open up on the chorus and the sound is definitely better. He gets in some beautiful high notes. Overall, though, this is boring. These middle-of-the-road songs are so snoozefest. Either belt out a ballad or tear it up on a rock song. Don't sing something from the Adult Easy Listening station. Von really did a nice job vocally, but it was kind of boring. Randy calls it "hot," Kara compliments Von on taking Simon's "indulgent nonsense" critique to heart, Paula says "memorable" and Simon says Von reminds him of Clay Aiken, which he admits could be either a compliment or not. And also says he sang better well.

Taylor Vaifanua, "If I Ain't Got You," Alicia Keys
She starts out with a nice, bluesy low tone. I really think Taylor is like Allison: sounds old beyond her years. At the chorus, she powers up and lets loose with a beautiful, big note. Her ending is jazzy and lovely. I don't think it was super-exciting, but it sounded beautiful. Kara says she obviously has a voice but she wants more personality (word), Paula wanted to see a riskier choice, Simon says she is forgettable from the early rounds and he thinks tonight was generic and bland, and Randy says she can sing but it was boring. See, I think Taylor was better than Von. Von was the boring one. The judges and I are really at odds this year.

Alex Wagner-Trugman, "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues," Elton John
Fantastic song choice. Fantastic. I hope he does well. Alex starts off adorably, dorkily dancing around. This kid actually has a lot of charisma. I'd like to see him take the mic out of the stand and move around a little. And then he does! (I think it and it happens!) He also manages to knock the mic stand over. Alex handles the key change well, but he keeps growling like a big weirdo. He also needs to open his mouth a little wider sometimes. He's singing through, like, clenched teeth. I did not love it. Bad karaoke. Paula calls him entertaining, Simon thinks he's a hamster trying to be a tiger, Randy thinks he was just screaming and Kara compliments him on being himself.

Arianna Afsar, "The Winner Takes it All," ABBA
Great song. Have you seen Mamma Mia? If not, you should. She looks beautiful but sounds… not that great. Yikes. She's screwing with the melody and putting in too many runs and then the last note made my ears bleed. Simon calls it terrible, Randy says wrong song, Kara thinks she's too old tonight, and Paula thinks it was old-fashioned.

Ju'not Joyner, "Hey There, Delilah," Plain White Ts
Ugh. I can't even be objective becuase I am so off-the-charts sick of this song. I thought it was gorgeous… the first 147 times I heard it. Anyway, Ju'not has chosen to make this a Quiet-Storm-R&B-slow-jam and it takes away all that is good about the song. I like it because it's fast and peppy. This is just… zzzzzzzz. He sounds fine, but this is one of the songs that has about 5 notes and so you really have to sing the sh*t out of it to make it interesting. Ju'not is not singing the sh*t out of it and part of the reason why is because he slowed it down. Yuck. Randy, Kara, Paula all like the slow-jam spin he put on it. Really? Ugh, it makes me think of music from a bad Tim Meadows sketch on SNL. Simon calls it better than he thought it was going to be, but wishes he had stripped the whole song down and calls it "safe." Um, did The Powers That Be tell them to pimp him? Am I just deaf? I hated that performance.

Nobody so far tonight has really impressed me. Nobody.

Kristen McNamara, "Gimme One Reason," by Tracy Chapman
This is like funky-synthesizer-disco version of "Gimme One Reason." Huh. I don't hate it. Also, what is with Kristen being dressed like a Betsy-Wetsy doll? Blech. Kristen has a very interesting, sexy voice. But I really want to hear her blow it up. There are a couple key changes that give the impression of excitement, but the song is staying pretty much where it started. She vamps towards the end and hits a big high note. Not bad, Kristen. Kara wants to see her do songs with a more rock edge, Paula compliments her range, Simon says the song choice was odd but she has a good voice, and Randy wonders who she is and says she almost did too much with the song.

Nathaniel Marshall, "I Would Do Anything For Love," Meatloaf
Nathaniel is dressed like something out of Mad Max. Or Flashdance. Or The Warriors. Or the "Beat It" video. And his vocals are complete karaoke. I really dislike this. It's amateur hour. His last big note goes horribly sharp. Good god in heaven. Simon says "verging on excrutiating," Randy says more of the same, Kara tells him to act like he wants to be taken seriously, and Paula calls it "the Boy George version of the song." Snerk. Well done, Paula.

There is then a weird homoerotic interlude where Ryan and Nathaniel try to put Nathaniel's head band on Simon's head.

Felicia Barton, "No One," Alicia Keys
This is the girl who was originally eliminated but was brought in to replace Joanna Pacitti. Felicia has a really interesting voice, I can't put my finger on who she reminds me of. Vocally, this is pretty good despite a voice-crack on one note. Overall, this might be the best so far, which tonight really IS NOT saying much. She has a very powerful last note that sounds nice. Paula calls it unbelievable, Simon says not to be so copycat, Randy says "hot," and Kara likes her presence and attitude.

Scott McIntyre, "Mandolin Rain," Bruce Hornsby
Great song. GREAT song. Scott is rocking the Anthony Fedorov ™ stool. I bet he wishes he could be playing the keyboard. Vocally, the chorus is quite good. I like hearing him on the belting notes. The bridge is where he really lets loose and it's nice! I like seeing him lose control a little. That was nice. Best tonight, sorry Felicia. Randy says not perfect but parts were really, really great, Kara likes his passion and heart, Paula says we're blessed by him, and Simon says Scott is growing on him and he likes that Scott is starting to believe in himself. He also thinks Scott will be remembered and should sail through to the next round.

Ryan Seacrest calls him "Scotty the Body." Oh dear. Please don't call him that, Ryan. Keep your slimy paws away from wholesome Scott.

Kendall Beard, "This One's for the Girl," Martina McBride
Martina is a bold choice. She has a helluva voice. I hope Kendall can handle it. She looks delightful in a yellow dress, by the way. Holy cow, I don't remember this girl having this voice. It's so mature and has such a great tone. She handles the high notes on "you're beautiful" really well. I dig this quite a bit and I was not expecting to. She doesn't NAIL it. There are some flat and sharp parts, but overall I dug it. Kara likes her big personality and says the song choice was good but there were some note issues, Paula loves her outfit, Simon thought the end got shrilly, and Randy says it wasn't her be
st performance, but it told us who she is and what she's all about. Which means Idol has a little box to smush her into, which they love. So well done, Kendall.

Jorge Nunez, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me," Elton John
Another good song choice. Love me some Elton. Wow, the looks he's giving us through the camera… quite the Latin Heartthrob. Goodness. [fans self] His pronunciation is still a little weird, but it's way better than it was at his initial audition. This is a little Ricky Ricardo. Heh heh. The passion really comes through, the vocals are strong and his last big note is very nice. Paula is proud of him, Simon calls him a very, very good singer and he likes the accent because it makes him different, Randy says not perfect but really, really good, and Kara tells him he was born to sing.

Lil Rounds, "Be Without You," Mary J. Blige
She looks great in a black dress with a yellow bosom area, just for the record. She has a very strong voice. I wish she had picked something that shows off her voice a little more, but this is definitely the type of artist she would probably try to be, so that's good. And she has a big, tonsil-exposing last note, which historically the voters love. That was very strong. Simon says brilliant but advises her to show some variety and not copycat Mary J. Blige, Randy R&B flavorful current and full of swagger, Kara says, "You were a powerhouse when we met you and you still a powerhouse. Girlllll!" All that's missing is a snap and a head shake. Interesting that she doesn't speak that way to, say, Kendall or Kristen. Paula says they are going to see her for many more "lil rounds." Heh heh, nice Paula.

Recap: Von covering the "easy listening" portion of the evening, Taylor disappointing me, Alex being really scary with his growls, in retrospect, Arianna have some SERIOUS problems with ABBA, Ju'not putting me to sleep by sucking all the fun out of a fun song, Kristen wearing her Cabbage Patch Doll best and sounding okay, Nathaniel making me want to get physical, physical, Felicia coming back with a vengeance, Scott being so earnest it makes me want to barf and sounding great, Kendall doing Martina proud, Jorge romancing us all through the screen, and Lil Rounds being the best of the night.

Who is through? I think Lil Rounds and Scott McIntyre are shoo-ins for the best female and best male. As for the gender-neutral spot? Man, I don't know. I think it's between Felicia, Jorge and Kendall. If I had to pick one… I'd say Kendall. Pretty blonde girls who sing country are popular on this show. What do you guys think?