That’s sort of an unwieldy article title, isn’t it?  I thought about the best, most concise way to name tonight’s American Idol episode and, unfortunately, that’s the best I got.  However, we are finally here.  We made it.  We weathered the storm.  Auditions are over, and tonight we get to see real live performances from the Top 36.  Only 12 contestants will perform tonight (they are Casey Carlson, Stephen Fowler, Jackie Tohn, Ricky Braddy, Anne Marie Boskovich, Brent Keith, Alexis Grace, Michael Sarver, Stevie Wright, Danny Gokey, Tatiana del Toro and Anoop Desai), and only three of them will automatically advance into the Top 12 on tomorrow night’s Results Show.  The show is reportedly live this evening, which is a change from previous seasons when the semi-finals were tape-delayed.  Who will shine?  Who will fail miserably?  We shall see.  I’ll be here for the entire two-hour marathon, hatching live thoughts onto this nest of an internet.  Follow along, comment below, sing along, just do whatever you do, just make sure to do it here on BuddyTV.

American Idol 8: First 12 of Top 36 Perform, Live Thoughts

Hey, Cindy Crawford has a line of home furnishings.  You learn something new every day.  Man, two hours of Idol.  I am mentally preparing.

Ryan Seacrest is wearing a very cozy looking sweater today.  What a nerd.  We are indeed live from Hollywood tonight.  In case you didn’t know, you can vote for your favorite singer(s) after tonight’s show.  This is Kara’s first live show, and she looks a bit nervous, though pretty adorable.  Paula is rocking the bangs tonight.  She looks like kind of a trampy cavewoman.  Simon is going with the standard black t-shirt, and compliments Ryan’s haircut. 

Ryan explains the format.  You all know this.  The theme tonight is Songs from the Billboard Hot 100, which basically means any song that was ever popular. 

Jackie Tohn – “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley

Jackie Tohn takes the stage first, and she’s singing a slowed down version of this song, a little funky.  Kind of a weird song choice, but I think she does all she can do with it. Her voice, gravelly and bluesy, is used to great, sometimes quirky effect.  She straight up screams the chorus at one point.  I think Jackie will be a love her or hate her type girl.  I kind of love her, even more now, because I thought she would gravitate towards rock stuff. 

Randy wasn’t sold on the vocals, but loved the entertainment factor.   Jackie wears some ridiculous black tights.  Kara loved the performance, as did Paula.  Simon actually likes her voice, but thought she “played the clown” tonight.  I think you’re wrong, Cowell.  Simon says that she didn’t do herself any favors, and America won’t like her. 

Jackie is really loud, and kind of annoying when she’s not singing, clearly a natural kooky performer.  Ryan has an awkward interview with Jackie’s parents.  It’s a live show, and you’re gonna throw her poor parents on in the first ten minutes?

Gordon Ramsay, you silly bastard.

Ricky Braddy – “A Song for You” by Leon Russell

Ricky Braddy is back.  Not long ago, he was serving chicken fingers, and he quit to come on Idol.  We don’t know Ricky very well.  He’s got a pronounced Southern accent. Randy loved his initial audition.  He fell apart in group day, but he had a great final Hollywood audition.

This is one of my favorite songs ever, but Ricky has decided to suck the soul out of it.  This performance belongs in a cheesy piano bar.  Now, to be fair – Ricky’s got a very good voice, and he’s pretty much dominating the vocals on the song.  He even nails some falsetto.  I’d like this performance a lot better if I didn’t know the original song.  But, I can’t enjoy it, because it is soulless. 

Randy loved the performance, he calls it “unbelievable.  “You killed that,” says Kara.  Paula says, “Paula like song.  Paula like Ricky.  Paula thirsty.”  Simon is a little more realistic, his issue being that Ricky doesn’t have star quality, the self-belief or the charisma to go far.  The judges are already getting chippy with each other.  Good times.

God, this is going to be a thing, isn’t it?  Ricky’s parents are here, wearing t-shirts that say “The Braddy Bunch.”  I like them a lot less now.  Alexis Grace will sing after the commercial.

Alexis Grace – “Never Loved a Man” by Aretha Franklin

As per the judges’ advice, Alexis dirtied up her image for the show.  Let’s see if it works.  My guess is that it won’t.  She begins a tad bit shaky.  When I said “dirty herself up” I really meant “slut her image up.”  She sings the song well, with some a sass and some soul, but her voice is a little thin. She’s comfortable on stage, and I think she made a good song choice, maximizing her talents.  She sings out of tune on a big song mid-song.  Not sure her voice is big enough for the competition, not sure if she’s unique enough to stand out, but if that’s her only performance this season, it was a good one. 

“You done found the dirt, you done found the soul,” says Randy.  He loved it, clearly.  “The genie is out of the bottle,” remarks Kara.  She loved it too.  Paula ramble.  Paula wear star jewelry.  Paula emotional, doesn’t know why.  Simon says that she was the best of the night so far.  I liked Jackie better, but that’s just personal tastes – Alexis was probably better.

Umm, what?  I’m pretty sure we just saw Ted Danson and Neil Patrick Harris sitting together in the audience.  Sweet.  It gives me faith in the world that those two guys might be friends.  Brent Keith brings the country after the commercial.

Brent Keith – “Hicktown” by Jason Aldean

Uh-oh, we have a little production issue. Ah, the wonderful insanity of live television.  Ryan, again, shows that he is as good as a host can get at dealing with live television issues.  Brent is living paycheck to paycheck with his wife.  The fact that this song is called “Hicktown” informed me that I would not like this performance.  It’s straight up modern country, which means that I can’t stand it.  It seems like a very easy song to sing, and even then, Brent can’t really hit the low notes.  This is the very last we’ll see of Mr. Keith.  try to enjoy it while you can. 

Randy liked what he did.  He says he’s a mix between old and new country.  Kara liked him, but thought he was “a little safe.”  It wasn’t rangy enough for her, and I completely agree.  Paula mumble.  “What has happened to Bucky Covington?” snarks Simon to Paula.  Ha.  Simon thought it was boring, unoriginal and forgettable.  Totally agree with you, Cowell. 

Ryan talks to his wife, who is less cute than you would assume.  After the break, Stevie and Anoop.  Both of them should be pretty good.

Stevie Wright – “You Belong to Me” by Taylor Swift

The youngster has really good voice, and I really liked her initial audition.  I don’t like this song choice.  I’d rather she didn’t do a country song, but we’ll see what she does with it. She starts off horribly, singing out of tune, mumbling lyrics, starting late.  She picks it up a little when the song picks up, but keeps singing out of tune.  This is what you would call a “karaoke performance.”  Man, she’s going to get ripped apart by the judges.  Just a really terrible, amateur-ish performance.  I think the nerves really got to her and that, combined with a really bad song choice, added up to a very disappointing performance. 

Randy wasn’t feeling it, thought she was better than that.  Kara thinks she has an identity crisis.  She thought it had nothing to do with who Stevie is as an artist.  Paula hate song choice.  Simon calls it terrible.  “Out of tune, really nervous.”  “There is zero chance of making it to the next round,” says Simon.  Truth spoken.  That was brutal.

Anoop Desai – “Angel of Mine” by Monica

Nmoop Dog in the house.  I think he’s going to be great. One of the early favorites – we haven’t seen anything but really good stuff from Anoop.  Noop chose to go with a slow song, and I’m not sure it was the right choice.  I’ve liked his upbeat stuff, and this is probably safer than he should have been.  That being said, he shows off his solid voice.  He might be a little nervous. I want to like this performance more than I actually am, unfortunately.  Sad to say, but I think Ricky Braddy was better. 

Randy thought it was an interesting song choice, thought he was a little sharp for the whole song, never settled in.  Kara agrees with Randy, and she loves his potential, but still disappointing.  The judges love this guy, so at the very least he’ll be in the Wild Card round.  I don’t think he’s going to get voted in tomorrow.  Simon asks why he chose that song. Simon says it was a little too grown up, too serious for Anoop.  Simon hated the song choice, but also harps on his past performances.

Casey Carlson – ”Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” by The Police

Casey Carlson, who has the honor of being the best looking Idol semi-finalist this season, has chosen to sing some Police.  This could be really good or it could be a train wreck.  I remember nothing of Carlson’s singing from the audition episodes, but I’m rooting for her, mostly because she’s hot and from Minnesota, two things that typically don’t go hand in hand.  She loves Jordin Sparks too.  Hmm.

This is a hard song to sing. Ugh.  She starts singing, and I’m turned off.  She tries to sex up her performance, but that doesn’t do any good when your voice is weak and you sing out of tune.  To be fair, this was really an impossible song choice.  She picks it up a little halfway through the song, but this arrangement has really wussified the song.

Randy did not like it at all.  Thought it was weird, and completely wrong for Randy.  “Everything about that was wrong,” says Kara.  She makes a great point – you don’t go near the Police.  No matter what gender you are, just don’t try and sing The Police.  After Kara says her piece, Casey looks absolutely devastated on stage.  Aw, I actually feel bad for her.  I think Paula is using sign language.  “The singing was just atrocious, and you could not have chosen a worse song,” says Simon.  That pretty much sums it up. 

Michael Sarver – “I Don’t Wanna Be” by Gavin DeGraw

Michael, we all know, is the roughneck on the oil rig.  He’s a nice guy, but I was never particularly impressed with him during the auditions.  And, he’s singing a Gavin DeGraw song.  My hopes are not high.  He is predictably a little bit awkward.  Here’s the thing – Michael’s not a very good singer, but he’s a smart one.  This was a good choice of songs, and he generally maximizes his modest abilities.  Still – the performance was not impressive, eminently forgettable.

Randy thought there were good parts, thought it started out rough (it did), and was hoping for some more soul from Michael.  Kara didn’t think it was her best performance, but I disagree – I think that absolutely was his best performance.  Paula like Oil Rig Guy.  “This is a tricky one, Michael,” says Simon.  Simon didn’t think it was a great vocal, but Simon would like to see Michael stick around, because he likes him. 

Anne Marie Boskovich – “Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin

I like Anne.  She’s got a really solid voice, cute girl, and she could very well make the Top 12.  Tough song choice. She starts off OK, voice maybe a little weak from nerves, but she gets it going after the first couple notes.  She wears a tight, short dress.  Anne sings in tune, which is a nice change of pace. Maybe spoke too soon – she mucks up one big note.  I don’t know what to think of this.  Really old-fashioned song.  I don’t think the voting audience will respond terribly well, but I thought she did pretty good. 

Randy didn’t like the song choice, and thought she fell a little below what the song required.  Kara agrees with Randy, thought to see that big of a song, she absolutely had to kill it.  Anne talks back to Kara, and it’s kind of funny.  Paula think Anne improve.  Simon uses the hotel singer analogy, says that her voice isn’t good enough to sing that song.  He’s probably right.

Stephen Fowler- “Rock With You” by Michael Jackson

Stephen, aka the Guy Who Angrily Forgets His Lyrics, sings next.  I actually have high hopes for Stephen, who I remember being pretty good during the auditions, aside from the lyric-forgetting part.  Stephen was pissed about forgetting his words, and he wants to redeem himself.  Singing MJ is never easy, let’s hope he kills it. The song starts awkwardly, and I realize that this is a weird song to choose. He’s nervous, goes flat on some of the high notes.  He should have sang a harder-hitting song, or a way softer song.  This is too in-between.  The big note he hits near the end of the tune is executed weakly.  Not very good.

Randy didn’t like the song choice, not close to what he should’ve been singing.  Kara liked it all right, and wanted him to do a lot better.  I can’t take anymore of you Paula.  “I actually wish you had forgotten the lyrics,” says Simon.  He hated the arrangement, hated the song choice.  Another disappointment.

Tatiana Del Toro – “Saving All My Love For You” by Whitney Houston

I have never rooted for someone to crash and burn this hard since Sanjaya Malakar was in my life.  Please suck.  Tatiana has big arms.  She starts the song off very delicately, but really gets into it during the chorus.  Here’s where Tatiana has an advantage – whereas the other young girls struggle with nerves, Tatiana’s extreme arrogance and narcissism work to her advantage.  As much as I hate to say it, she’s singing pretty darn well tonight.  And she’s not just belting out the song, she’s singing it, as i said, delicately.  She gives the over-dramatic “O-face” after she finishes.  Not great, but pretty good.  The last note was mediocre.

Randy thought it was OK, pretty good.  Kara thought it was very reserved, but she has no idea where she fits in the industry.  “I fit everywhere,” says Tatiana.  Umm – that’s what she said?  Paula throws out the word “demure,” which was probably the word of the day on Paula’s desk calendar.  “You are an absolute drama queen,” Simon states bluntly.  Tatiana speaks some rubbish about marketing.  Simon thought it wasn’t bad.  This was just weird.  I don’t know what to think. 

Danny Gokey – “Hero” by Mariah Carey

Well, here we are, the last performance of the night.  Danny Gokey is one of the early favorites in this competition, and with all the mediocre performances tonight, Danny could very easily secure a spot in the Top 12 with a solid performance tonight.  I don’t like this song choice – Mariah Carey, really?  At least it’s not the Enrique Iglesias version.  Still, a really cheesy song choice.  Danny is just a solid singer.  He sings in tune, his voice is strong, and he’s able to add just a little twinge of soul to his performances.  Even though I don’t like the song, Danny sang it well, especially the bridge, where he really unleashed his voice. Very good performance. 

Paula and Kara applaud like a couple of drunken wenches.   Randy calls him the redeemer of the night, Kara calls him a hero, Paula doesn’t understand English.  Simon keeps everyone in check, says it was a good performance, but not spectacular.  Again, Simon is correct. 

That’s it for tonight.  Later, we’ll have a Episode in Review with pictures, early tomorrow morning we will publish the performance rankings and tomorrow mid-morning, we’ll have out first John vs. Oscar Podcast of the season, where my colleague John Kubicek and I predict who will make it into the Top 12.  Until then, Mahalo.

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