Sunday, March 08, 2009

American Idol Wild Card Round: The Passion of Tatiana del Toro

The top 12 13 is set, and I hate only a few of them, so let's chalk this top-36 crapshoot + wild card round experiment up to experience and move on. I think I'm ready to take back most of the positive things I said about the format last time, because at least when they chose to eliminate the lowest four each week until they were left with 12 finalists, it was the viewers at home who were making the decisions. This season, the path to 12 13 was full of homerism, with the producers and judges manipulating everything in their power (performance order, comments, dubious choices for the wild card round) to get their personal favourites and pet projects into the finals by hook or by crook. Danny Gokey, Adam Lambert, and Lil Rounds were given the show-closing spots while plenty of others were left to die midway through everlasting two-hour broadcasts, ensuring that they'd be forgotten by the time people had the chance to vote. Scott MacIntyre drew huge praise from the judges that was based not on the quality of the performance he actually gave, but on the quality and style of performances that they hoped he'd do in the future. Similarly, Matt Giraud got out of jail free after blowing his big chance by stupidly choosing to sing Coldplay, and was brought back for the Wild Card because the judges liked the talent he'd shown previously. Plenty of other contestants made dumb song choices too, and were appropriately penalized by the voters. Why the preferential treatment? Why are some stupid song choices forgivable and not others?

Simon Cowell made a comment about "casting" for the finals, i.e. wanting to pick an interesting variety of people instead of twelve copies of the same singer. I mean, everybody knows that this is what they do but I was still surprised to hear him admit it, live on the air. How else to explain the inclusion of the horrible Megan Joy Corkrey, who might be the laziest singer to ever make the finals of AI? At the end of every phrase she sings is a fugly half-spoken warble that isn't even remotely in tune. "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" never works on AI, it wasn't good when Katherine McPhee sang it (both times!), and it wasn't good here. Megan doesn't break new ground for AI, she's just a drugged-up Brooke White.

"Casting" is what put the completely unremarkable Jasmine Murray into the finals. She was awful in her semifinal performance and there were probably ten people more deserving of a second chance. On one hand, we hear that the show needs "current" personalities like Megan, and on the other hand, the producers collectively panic at the thought of an entire season without a cute, young, black R&B diva to pick up where Jordin Sparks left off.

The treatment that Tatiana del Toro received was inexcusable, bordering on nasty. Yes, her sudden change of accent was completely O_o and everybody knows she's kind of crazy. The judges already knew all this months ago, so why string her along only to belittle her every chance they get? They put her through several rounds of Hollywood cuts, into the top 36, and into the wild card round after she did a damn good job in the semis -- since it's clear that there was never any intention of picking her for the finals, was there any point to any of this other than a shameless ratings ploy?

Since when has performing a song for a second time been some kind of major detriment? We've seen repeat performances countless times on past seasons. But more to the point: how many times in the past three weeks have we heard criticism along the lines of "you tried to do something different, but this isn't the person we fell in love with during Hollywood Week." The current semifinal format is "one strike, you're out", so why wouldn't somebody go with a safe choice that had worked for them in the recent past? Tatiana argued that with only one day's worth of preparation, she would not have been able to learn a new song and sing it any better than the one she'd sang for her first performance ("Saving All My Love For You"). Sure, other contestants had the same prep time and managed to do it, but some of them had made terrible song choices to begin with, which is a mistake that Tatiana, to her credit, had not made. Not to mention that Anoop Desai also repeated a song (albeit from Hollywood week) and was not criticized for it.

The good: Anoop's priceless reaction when he was given the surprise 13th spot, everyone getting up in arms at when Simon compared Matt Giraud to Taylor Hicks (the kiss of death?), making this a one hour show and not stretching out this mess for two hours.

I won't hazard any detailed predictions right now, seeing how we've barely seen anything from most of the finalists, but I think I can see the Danny Gokey/Lil Rounds final coming down the pipe.

My personal feelings aside, right at this minute I can envision Lil Rounds, Danny Gokey, Megan Joy Corkrey, and Allison Iraheta actually selling records (and maybe Kris Allen -- I think he's more versatile than most people realize, search his Hollywood Week version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" if you need evidence). As for the rest, forget it.

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