“American Idol” Puts The Fate Of 12 Semifinalists In Your Hands (Sort Of)

noah | February 18, 2009 10:00 am

Last night’s American Idol finally brought us to the semifinal round, with 12 hopefuls—including this season’s Officially Chosen One, the sad-backstory-filled-yet-optimistic Danny Gokey—making their way to the Idol stage. The theme was “Hot 100 songs through the years,” although most of the contestants trotted out old Idol reliables (Mariah, Whitney, Aretha) with decidedly mixed results. Rankings and reactions after the jump!

12. Stephen Fowler. The guy who forgot his lyrics during Hollywood Week did not redeem himself, singing a terrible version of Michael Jackson’s “Rock With U” that was torpedoed even further by that song’s band being replaced by some dudes who had missed a wedding in the adjoining studio but were all warmed up and ready to go. Seriously, how bad were those backing vocals? If I were him, I’d be pissed, although not too angry since he completely botched the song as well.

11. Stevie Wright. Taylor Swift doesn’t have the best live voice, but fellow teen Stevie managed to do it one worse on “You Belong With Me,” totally botching any lower-register notes and meandering through various keys. Next time pick Melanie, girl! Oh wait, there probably won’t be a next time, since Vote For The Worst already has its sights on Tatiana.

10. Casey Carlson. The bubble-tea saleswoman did not learn from the hard lessons of Chris Sligh and sang “Every Little Thing SHe Does Is Magic,” which was full of sorta-flubbed words, slip-sliding syllables, and awkward “dance” moves. Where are the coaches in situations like these? There were so many unfortunate song choices tonight, it’s hard to think that there isn’t an Idol-wide conspiracy to clear the path to Danny Gokey going top two as quickly as possible. (Free Jamar!)

9. Brent Keith. Felt bad for him because his pre-performance package a) wasn’t cued up properly, almost forcing him to perform earlier than scheduled and b) talked about his paycheck-to-paycheck existence, but his anonymous performance of the Toby Keith ripoff “Hicktown” (it’s by Jason Aldean, in case you were wondering) was very karaoke, and exposed his complete lack of a lower register.

8. Ann Marie Boskovich. Her “Natural Woman” would have paled in comparison to Alexis Grace’s performance regardless, but her aimless runs did her few favors. (Note to hopefuls: When Randy starts off his critique with “So… how do you think you did?”? That’s never a good sign.) The Kara DioGuardi fangirl did have the best opportunity for the overemployed Ryan Seacrest to get saucy, however:

Ann Marie (sitting on the couch): “I just sat right on the hard part!” [Beat.]Ryan (irritably, to his in-ear monitors): “You know, we can hear everyone’s joke.”

Will Ryan soon be hosting Match Game ’09 on Fox? We can only hope.

7. Tatiana Del Toro. A new, reserved Tatiana picked Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You,” and her performance was just bad enough that the denizens of Idol sabotage factory Vote For The Worst are still OK with voting for her. Weird shimmying, unfortunate runs on the bridge; she hit the glory note at the end, but her idea to travel into Whitney territory was ill-advised. At least her post-performance critique generated this gem:

Kara: “… is she a character or an artist?”Tatiana: “It’s world music. It’s all genres.”

Look for Tatiana Goes Putumayo on iTunes next year!

6. Michael Sarver. Decent performances of that Gavin DeGraw song about not wanting to be anything but yourself? That’s what the middle of the pack was made for.

5. Jackie Tohn. Raspy-voiced rocker who sang “A Little Less Conversation” while looking like an extra from Breakin’ 2. Terrible song choice, but she had spunk, and I liked how she snuck a totally Long Islanded out “tawkin'” into her song.

4. Danny Gokey. Went last. In his pre-show package he said, “It was four weeks after my wife had passed, but I felt like there was new hope on the horizon.” Then he sang “Hero” by Mariah Carey. And dedicated it to “people coming out of tough situations.” Yes, Danny is American Idol‘s own hybrid of Barack Obama, Michael Bolton, and a Sunday-morning televangelist, and the producers are milking that blend for everything they can. And Kara’s in line, too; at the end of his performance, she was screaming about his awesomeness, even though his growly, phlegmy singing was sort of average, not to mention has no place on commercial radio. (Sure, the night overall was weak, but come on.) Thankfully Simon acted as a corrective, saying he didn’t believe in Danny’s hype, but at this point he’s serving as reverse-psychology for viewers. Only as high as he is on this list because everyone else was pretty terrible.

3. Anoop Desai. Has the best taste of all the contestants by far, talking about how he loved “My Prerogative” and his selection of Monica’s “Angel Of Mine” being rooted in the fact that it was (gulp) the first R & B song he heard on the radio. Handled the song admirably, with a voice that sounded in spots exactly like Robin Thicke’s did on his last album. I’m already comfortable with saying that I would definitely buy an album of his.

[Von Smith’s mouth-sized gap here]

2. Ricky Braddy. Performed a blinky and bland, but overall pretty solid, rendition of “A Song For You.” Although it probably wasn’t a good sign that, despite his parents wearing matching T-shirts declaring that they were in “The Braddy Bunch” (look, there’s even a Web site), I had a tough time remembering his name.

1. Alexis Grace. The spunky pink-haired mom from Memphis came out on stage looking like a pint-sized Christina Aguilera, and her “I Never Love A Man” had something that’s often lacking in Idol performances: A nice dollop of grit. I spent her whole audition hoping that her early-in-the-show spot wouldn’t cause her to be forgotten by voters, and at the very least I suspect she’s a shoo-in for the wild card round if Tatiana somehow makes America really remember her.

WHO I VOTED FOR: Alexis, Ricky, Anoop.

WHO’S PROBABLY GOING TO WIN: Danny, Alexis, Anoop.

REVEALING DIOGUARDISM OF THE NIGHT: To her No. 1 fan, Ann Marie: “It’s been a challenge for you to lose the demo-singer thing.” Then she said that the willowy brunette should have performed… “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles?