Kez Ban is the woman that you’ve always dreaded when you’re lumped together for group assignments. She’s the one who has to go her own way, who won’t obey the customary social graces just to close the sale. The one who -- let’s be real here -- marches to the beat of a different drummer.
On “American Idol,” she’s also the one who carried Wednesday’s episode on her way to the final round in Hollywood.
It was a surprise that she survived group day, but she deserved it. Not so much for her voice, which was marred by her being under the weather and is an acquired taste in any case, but because she was one of the few interesting storylines.
Even before her first solo, we got a taste of what was to come, as she noted that “most of these girls have different taste in music than I do” and then seemed flummoxed that she didn’t get a promised 30 seconds to warm up. She advanced anyway, saved from the inevitable difficulty in finding a group to sing with by the new rules that had the “Idol” staff make those assignments.
That was bad news for Janelle Arthur, Angela Miller and Breanna Steer, who found themselves with a fourth who didn’t just go with the flow. First, Ban said she’d fight to the death to pick “California Dreamin,’” but settled for “Be My Baby instead. “I don’t have to sing a song that makes me want to vomit -- yay!” she said.
Ban and the rest of her group mixed like beer and cranberry juice from the beginning. “Does everybody want to express their concerns, or would that just make it worse?” she said. When the others talked about how tense they were, she responded “Do we need a back massage circle?” which in virtually any other setting is the kind of statement that brings either the lawyers or the police.
“I sometimes say very, very stupid things in the moment,” she said.
When Ban then wanted to get dinner, the other three singers ultimately decided to just work on their harmonies without her and leave her to her own devices, a rare smart and logical decision on group day.
Things didn’t get better the following day. The “Idol” camera crew burst into her room at 5:45 AM, and Ban responded “You people suck.” Seriously -- who doesn’t have her back? If camera crews broke into your home before sunrise, I bet you wouldn’t be so happy either.
But when the group finally took the stage, both Arthur and Miller ignored the drama, took center stage for their solos, and looked polished and poised. Steer and Ban were more uneven, but all four advanced.
“Kez Ban, you know you’re a crazy psycho, and I love that,” Nicki Minaj said.
It was a good night for wackiness all around, as Zoanette Johnson’s gallons of personality will be back again on Thursday. Johnson survived despite being so displeased about her group’s song choice that vocal coach Michael Orland had to step in. “The only object of tomorrow is to get through and to get to the next round. Whether you’re happy or not, you’ve got to make it work for now,” he said, a phrase that should be memorized by all “Idol” hopefuls.
We learned some other things as well. For starters, nobody performing in a talent show should sing Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Ever. At this point, the Idols have butchered it so badly and so consistently that even Gotye should sing something else when possible.
Also, the United States is way behind its rivals in the “cheating by writing on hands” category. Maybe everyone on the show is a genius and has never needed to get that extra edge to pass a seventh-grade spelling test before (not that I’m confessing anything), but any good cheater knows that you use those measures subtly. You don’t stare at your arm like you’re waiting for aliens to spring out of it. You do that, and Nicki writes “they suck” about you on her own palm.
Then again, as long as you have some personality and can provide some good footage to make a two-hour episode go faster, you can apparently do almost anything you want.
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