Wednesday night was supposed to be the showcase for the 12 men among the “American Idol” semifinalists, and indeed, several did take the opportunity to put up some strong performances. But there was a lot more to check out in the two hours of singing and sniping than just the vocals.
For starters, judge Ellen DeGeneres noted that it is indeed very different being there versus watching it on television, and warned the singers that they sound worse at home than they do live, which does not in any way answer the criticism that the judges often seem to be viewing something very different than what we see at home.
I rarely find myself saying, “Wow, the judges think that person stunk, but I think he stunk even more!” It also doesn’t explain why the audience often boos the judges comments. Does it only sound really bad when you’re that close to the stage? If so, maybe try moving the judges farther back next week.
And what was with the wardrobes? Someone clearly loves showing off the chests of the men. Ryan Seacrest, Simon Cowell, most of the contestants … everyone wore shirts that would have had the FCC calling about the excess of cleavage if this had been the women’s turn to sing.
Sadly for Simon, that was not the case. The short-timer told The New York Post that the men are not as good as the women this year, perhaps looking to break the two-year winning streak the guys have had where no woman has even made the finale since Jordan Sparks won season six. Doing his part to bring down the entire gender, Simon did not like any of the guys very much Wednesday except Lee Dewyze, and one could argue that he was only doing that to be contrary since the other judges panned the hopeful’s song choice.
It’s not like Simon cares what his fellows on the bench are thinking, and it doesn’t take an Internet rumor conspiracy theorist to figure that the reason Ellen was placed on the far side of Simon is to keep the two big names from killing each other, or at least dueling at 10 paces with those red plastic Coke cups. The few times the time the camera did the wide-angle pan when Ellen spoke, Simon was aggressively looking away with why-is-she-even-here body language (look at the Michael Lynche and Tyler Grady clips, for example).
Regardless of what Simon thinks, however, the top men have strong commercial potential. For example, it’s easy to see Aaron Kelly being a huge pop star if his future isn’t on the Disney Channel, and Joe Munoz has a similar vibe going. Younger guys tend not to go very far in the competition because at some point, they lack the gravitas and believability of the older contestants, but both are pretty safe bets for the final 12 at this point.
Everyone loved Casey James, although the whole “Kara likes Casey OMG!!! Pass it on!!!!” thing is getting old already. Ryan did have a great line when he noted that Thursday night was the results show and Friday was Kara’s meeting with HR. Somewhere out there, Paula Abdul and/or Corey Clark are nodding their heads.
Michael “Take That Internet Rumors — I Wasn’t Kicked Off After All” Lynche once again had his newborn daughter take center stage in his preliminary montage. If this competition doesn’t work out for him, he can probably score a reality show for her at this point. Singing Maroon 5 was a weird choice for him, but with his personality, he’ll be around forever.
Other favorites got confusing feedback. Nobody liked Andrew Garcia’s rendition of Fall Out Boy, though they praised what he did in Hollywood with Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.” To an ordinary viewer — or, at least, to me — it sounded like he pretty much did the same thing both times, but everyone loved him anyway. Same with Alex “Not Adam” Lambert, who had the judges pleading for him to pick better songs and also begging with the voters to keep him in.
It’s hard to know what the voters will think of Todrick Hall, or as the judges view him, Todrick “The Performer” Hall. They all like his stage presence and confidence, and yet all want him to tone it down and let his voice do the story. It was another one of those “We love you — now change!” suggestions that keeps psychiatrists in business.
The rest of the men have a long way to go to catch the leaders. Jermaine Sellers did a nice mea culpa for dissing the band in Hollywood — “I looked like Boo-Boo the Fool, basically,” he noted — but the apology wasn’t enough to get the judges on his side. John Park was called unmemorable, though most everyone liked his voice.
Tyler Grady got dinged for his 1970s vibe, which … hello? Why bring him into the semifinals if you don’t like the 1970s vibe? Isn’t that pretty much his entire schtick? And late addition Tim Urban sang “Apologize” even though he couldn’t do the falsettos. And if he thought Simon was going to apologize for turning him down in the first place, he was sorely mistaken.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at .