American Idol: Semi-Finals.3: The Agnetha and the Ecstasy

“They’ve said goodbye to their families” (except for the spouses, parents, and siblings in the audience), “they’ve put their jobs on hold” (the drive-thru at Burger King can suffer the loss), “and they’ve abandoned their everyday lives” (until they’re sent home in shame). This is American Idol. Night is young and the music’s high.

I am not even playing this week. Not with four hours of show rushing towards me like a flash flood of bad fashion and tone-deafness. The judges are still here. And they still want the contestants to bring it. The most popular girl, guy, and next-highest vote-getter will enter the Top 12. The other nine go home, unless they’re in Thursday’s Wild Card round, in which case, they’ll probably go home then. Can I go home? Please?

Von Smith was on The View and shit, singing Dreamgirls, all screamy and gay. Then he came on Idol and was like, “Oh, Mary!!” The judges were like, “You’re loud and irritating, so stop it.” Then Von did better. Tonight he sings some Marvin Gaye in a more sedate, butch-er, fashion. The song is a little too low for him at the start, and he’s totally freaking out, trying to hold himself back. Von is better when he can yell a little. So he yells a little. This isn’t bad at all, but I think I’ve always liked him a bit, deep down in my private area. Why does he remind me of Donny Osmond all of a sudden? The judges don’t think he’s complete horrible.

Taylor Vaifanua was on during auditions. Then she changed her hairstyle for Hollywood, making herself unrecognizable, then just boring. Now she’s back with another hairstyle. I’m not getting invested. Taylor has the “one night only” vibe. She sings “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys. Look, I don’t dig these slow, R&B songs. They always sound like they’re getting ready to start, but they never do start. They’re the auditory equivalent of watching paint dry. Taylor is not helping. The judges feel they’ve been left cold. Kara wants to know what it’s like to go shopping with Taylor. Ask her again in a couple of days, Kara. She’ll have plenty of time to accompany you to the mall.

Alex Wagner-Trugman, a.k.a. Alex the Wiseass Nerd, is all kinds of skinny-geeky-adorable. I want to have his snarky, Halo-playing babies, all of whom will be named after characters from Lord of the Rings. He’ll sing “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” after explaining that he’s in a long-distance relationship. He says, during the song, “they can think of me, and I can be their boyfriend for a night.” Alex, I only need an hour. The performance…how can I describe it? There’s some spastic move-busting. Random growling. Weird faces. A mic stand getting kicked on the floor. But I liked it. The judges are like, “You’re a riot, Geek-Boy.” But nobody is taking him seriously.

Arianna Afsar, who, if we ever saw her, does not reside in my memory, is a 17-year-old girl. She…um…sings sometimes. That’s all they’ve got for us. Tonight, Arianna sings ABBA’s “The Winner Take It All.” Imagine, if you will, the winner taking it all, but what “all” is, is “a painful, excruciating death.” There’s talk-singing, random runs, and inflections where there shouldn’t be. Left hand held up to Jesus. Give her the strength, dear Lord, to not suck so much. Two good long notes at the end. Otherwise, this is painful. By way of comparison, Pierce Brosnan singing ABBA in Mamma Mia is…well, it’s music to the ears. Blissful music. Arianna has a dream, but the judges do not want to take a chance on her. They are not laying all their love on her. She won’t be making money, money, money. It’s like Waterloo. All she can do is send out an S.O.S.

Ju’Not Joyner was first seen in Hollywood, despite the show trying to remind us how he auditioned in New York (New Jersey) with his cute little kid walking around. He sings that “Hey There Delilah” song by the Plain White T’s that was all over the radio last summer. Like, on multiple stations, at the same time. Interesting choice, because one might expect Ju’Not to do some R&B thing, but instead, he ballads up some soft pop. Overall, it’s good. A little slow for me, but he introduces a sad element to the song, so points for creativity. Nice ending. The judges appreciate.

Kristen McNamara was the girl I called Blondie Blonde during Hollywood Week. She was the one who “was drama” after getting into an altercation with Fierce Girl, who herself, told Kristen to fuck off, right in front of the judges and all of America. In Hollywood, the judges were like, “You dress like a piece of shit. Why are you even alive?” So Kristen attempted a makeover.  The result: A fresher, cleaner hairstyle, and a dress from the Bree Hodge Prom Collection, with chrysanthemums for epaulets. She sings Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason,” with a much more mature, engaging voice than one might expect to emanate from her My Super Sweet 16 head. Nice! The judges are like, “You sang Kelly Clarkson once. Why are you not singing Kelly Clarkson now, you asshole?! And what’s up with that dress!?” Then they spit at her.

Nathaniel Marshall was the boy I called Gay Jughead during Hollywood Week. Gay, gay, gay. Headband-wearing, pierce-faced, vintage-store fashion-victim. Gay, gay, gay. He wept openly at several points, during the Fierce Girl episode, on stage (“I want this more than anything! It’s on my skin!!“), in the hallways. He dances and prances for the camera, and also makes kissy-faces. So — oh my God, he’s going to sing Meat Loaf! “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the End Times. He’s like some drunk lesbian chick stepping out of Bill & Ted’s phone booth doing “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” choreography. I had to watch this, like, three times to wrap my mind around it. Visually, I have been assaulted. But hear-ily, it’s not awful. Not really awful. He can sing a bit. Actual notes, not like Sanjaya or Nick Mitchell. But whoa, people. Whoa. The judges spend three hours talking about how fun he is, and twice, Randy is like, “It’s the whole Elton John ‘Physical’ headband thing,” because if there are ever two people you’d get confused about, it’s Elton John and Olivia Newton-John. Kara is like, “We need to see your serious side.” So they can berate him for not being light-hearted. Simon is moderately appalled, especially when Seacrest leads Nate over to sit on Simon’s lap. Rejected! Paula is like, “Sit on my lap!” And then Ryan tries to make Simon wear a handband and the precious moments of my life tick by, bringing me ever closer to death.

Felicia Barton wasn’t supposed to be in the Top 36. But after some shenanigans with Joanna Pacitti (who is never mentioned by name), Felicia was called back in. Now she’s good enough, you see. So she was all surprised or whatever, at being validated by this asstarded show. Tonight, she’s singing “No One” by Alicia Keys. They’re trying to hurt me with all this Alicia Keys. Felicia looks like a million bucks, dressed in black, with a leather jacket and nice new hair-do. Wow. Good voice. Very good. I’m actually enjoying this. And she looks very comfortable on stage. Confident and professional. I applaud a little. The judges are pleased, to different degrees. Personally, I’m thrilled that Pacitti is gone. I’d take another round of Tatiana over her.

Scott MacIntyre is the blind guy. We all know who he is. We all know he’s great. We all know he’s getting into the Top 12. But for the sake of storytelling, he sings “Mandolin Rain” by Bruce Hornsby (and the Range). It’s nothing that would knock you over, but he has a very easy-listening kind of voice. Unoffensive. And people, he is blind! Are you not amazed that a blind man can sing — with his voice? Daredevil can’t even sing. So clearly, Scott is better than Daredevil. The audience woos and the judges heart him. Kara calls him brave or whatever, because of how he fought ninjas and Bionic Sasquatch while performing his song. Kara gets her first shut up from me: Shut up, Kara. Then Scott, straight up, asks Ryan to give him a high-five. He’s blind, he can sing, and he’s funny! Kidding aside, I like him. The show just needs to stop acting like there has never been a blind man on the face of the planet before. Because I’m sure there at at least two.

Kendall Beard is a perky blonde girl, so she immediately irritates me in the way that perky blondes do. (To all the perky blondes reading this: Deal.) She auditioned in Puerto Rico. Don’t know why. Don’t care. She sings some Martina McBride country song, pretty obviously going for the Carrie Underwood position in the Top 12. With no other country girls, the move might work. Kendall has a decent voice, especially for singing that junk. If she gets the Red State vote, we’ll be stuck with her for another two months. The judges like her well enough, which doesn’t help, although Simon is like, “Whatever, country music is for losers.”

Jorge Nuñez auditioned in Puerto Rico, but he’s actually from there, so suck it, Kendall Beard. I called him Menudo Wig for most of his appearances, because of his hair looking like…well, like that. The judges gave him crap about his accent, because how dare he live and audition in a foreign place and not conform to their American standards? Dicks. Jorge sings “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me,” and sure, there’s a vague trace of an accent. But you know what? Julio Iglesias had an accent, and he made a fucking fortune. Also, he looked like a corpse. If you sing it, they will come. Jorge’s pretty good. It’s hard not to make the expected Ricky Martin comparisons, but there is a similar tone to his and Jorge’s voices. The judges like him enough that he cries a little and loses the capacity to speak English. Awww. And with that, he becomes a person and will probably get into the Top 12.

Commercials. I really want to see A Haunting in Connecticut, but I’m afraid I might wet myself.

Lil Rounds, married mother of three whose house was destroyed, tornado-style, has been a Top 12 shoe-in since the beginning. She is, without a doubt, awesome. And we’ve been gradually discovering that without the show having to pimp her family tragedy or turn her into a “character.” See, Idol? It can be done. She sings some Mary J. Blige, and, for the record, I don’t give a hoot about Mary J. Blige. Never even heard the song. But Lil fucking kicks its musical ass. She performs the hell out of this thing. She makes me pay attention. That’s something, folks. That is something. It’s like she’s been doing this forever. Like those first 11 schmoes were a very long opening act. Wow. She is totally in for the long haul. Simon says it best: Brilliant.

You know what else is brilliant? Deleting this stuff from my DVR box before more of my shows get eaten. Capacity limits, don’tcha know.

Tomorrow: results. Thursday: Wild Card.


Back to the season guide.


    1. Jorge won me over for providing the first “real” moment on the show this season. I do hope he makes it, and then makes the top 10 so he can tour.

      Lil Rounds, I mean, duh. I already predict Lil and Gokey in the final 4, if not final 2. She is very good, and preferrable to the grating Fantasia.

      Alex Wagner-Trugman was a puzzler. It’s like, after the judges comments started sinking in, you saw all the joy fade from his face, as he realized what he was imagining did not come across on stage. Like that episode of FAMILY GUY where Peter and Lois sang all stoned, and imagined lyrical rainbows, instead of the cacaphonic reality.

      Ju’Not Joyner surprised with an actual creative version of that extremely marginal “Delilah” song that assaulted the airwaves last year (did they REALLY rhymne “city” and “pretty”? Try harder, please and thank you). I was actually impressed that he changed it up FOR THE BETTER. Points for Ju’Not, since this week also marks the first time The Show started pronouncing his name right (Frenching up the “J”, instead of pronouncing it like that movie about the pregnant teeanger that was mostly overrated).

      Nathaniel is 12 kinds of annoying with his seemingly (?) obliviousness to his own internal (and external) drama. Keep it on your skin and off my television, Olivia Elton John.

      Von Smith was, for once, controlled. For that, my ear and throat doctor can rest this week. But he looked like her was ITCHING to EXPLODE with song. Like when a noble vampire tastes blood, but refuses to feed…. Von hears notes and must resist urge to scream-sing.

      My predicts: Lil, Scott and Jorge.

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