Wednesday, July 18, 2007

America's Got Talent: Filling the Idol void

Even though it's the middle of summer, America's Got Talent would like you to sit back and pretend you're watching American Idol. It's appropriated all the conventions of that powerhouse – hordes of screaming fans waving posters, sympathetic interviews with the host after performing, and shameless mugging for the camera as the dial-in numbers are announced. Without the giant red X's, with which the judges were apparently unable to part, you might be able to fool yourself that it's still March, and that Boy Shakira is really Sanjaya with a blond wig. Hey, it's a smart strategy. Why not steal as much as you can from the biggest hit on TV?

It's now the semifinals of America's Got Talent, and, as Jerry did not fail to remind us every time he drew breath, the fate of the contestants is in our hands. Good thing, too, because this whole Boy Shakira business pretty much discredits any other votes from Sharon and Piers. Thank goodness, though, there was no Boy Shakira to fuel the madness of Sharon and Piers this week. Only half of the remaining acts got a slot on this week's show in the hope of earning our votes. Five of those will go home, but we won't find out which ones until next Tuesday.

This week's performances were:

Johnny Lonestar: He delivered a high-energy performance, for sure, galloping all around the stage and throwing his lasso around, but there wasn't much more to it than that. In fact, he seemed more interested in lip-synching to "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" than performing his rope tricks.

Julienne Irwin: She clearly got a makeover between Vegas and now, because her hair is all styled up and she looks much more grown-up than she did before. But she didn't really need the makeover, because her performance of "Bless the Broken Road" was fantastic by itself. Her voice has a lot of character for someone so young, and I'm constantly impressed by her.

Kevin James: After two very strong acts in the auditions and the callbacks, this week's performance was just disappointing. The trick involved reanimating a severed hand, making it wave at the audience… and that was it. This was the act that he called "gory" in his pre-performance interview? Last time we saw him, he cut a man in half with a chainsaw and stapled him back together! If Kevin comes back, he will desperately need to step up his game.

Robert Hatcher: His performance of "Run to You" wasn't lacking in emotion, but the judges weren't keen on the hand movements and expressions he used to sell the song. As far as I'm concerned, though, it set him apart from the other singers, which he badly needed to do, because there are roughly forty-seven singers left in the competition. And the story of Robert's rise from the sewers of Cincinnati may be compelling enough to earn him some strong support, so I wouldn't be surprised if he returned next week.

Jonny Come Lately: I really like these guys (even though I've been misspelling their name for weeks, oops), but I haven't been as impressed by their other performances, like this week's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," as I was by their first one in the auditions. And that's exactly what the Hoff told them: get that "raw energy" back. Piers, meanwhile, in a piece of criticism that I still don't get, wanted them to play something more contemporary. How much contemporary rockabilly have you heard, Piers?

Kashif: His performance of "Say Shava Shava" from Khabi Khushi Khabie Gham (according to Jerry and the closed captioning, and I'll take their words for it) didn't look so much like the nerdy guy at a party now that he's got the snappy threads and the backup dancers, but it was still as unpolished as ever. However, Kashif did inspire some of the best lines of the night from the judges: Piers said that he had the personality of "a flat pancake," while the Hoff compared the performance to "Baywatch on acid." I don't really know why; maybe David felt that he hadn't mentioned Baywatch in a while.

Butterscotch: You know how the American Idol judges are always talking about "making a song your own"? That's exactly what Butterscotch did with "Summertime": it was mellow, groovy, and, of course, full of beatbox. The best part was that she's just as good a singer as she is a beatboxer, so it's hard not to think, as David did, that she's going to win the whole competition.

Sideswipe: They were perfectly coordinated, impressively acrobatic, and extremely entertaining, but all anyone wanted to talk about was their abs. And, I mean, they've got nice abs, sure. But can we mention some other aspect of their performance, and maybe refrain from offering to rub oil all over them, Sharon? Oh, who am I kidding? If Sideswipe makes it through to next week at all, it'll be because they ripped off their shirts halfway through their routine.

Manuel Romero: I was all set to call his performance of "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" nothing special, but then Manuel proved me wrong by busting out a few lines in Spanish. Vale, aside from the lines in Spanish, it wasn't anything special. And I don't think that the Spanish and his cuteness are enough to differentiate him from the other eighty-four male singers still in the competition.

The Glamazons: They performed "Hot Stuff," the sort of song that's right up their alley. And even though the vocals were a little shaky, they turned in their best, most exciting performance so far. Honestly, if they could get Piers to offer himself up as the hot stuff they were looking for, they must have been doing something right. Go, girls!

Best of the night: Julienne Irwin, Butterscotch

Worst of the night: Kashif, Johnny Lonestar


Anonymous said...

I agree with your "best and worst of the night". i did like sidesweep, though. i agree that they all need to lay off on the hottness part! (although they are smoki'n hot!) as for the band, i thought of derek keeling's crazy little thing called love in Grease,you're the one that i want, and it helped me get though it. well, i voted for 3 people, so if none of them make it, oh well!