Tuesday, February 23, 2010

American Idol Top 24 Preview

I'm just going to skip the pretense of me apologizing for liking American Idol and stuff and get right down to business.

The Favorites

Crystal Bowersox

Why she can win: As far as talent goes, Crystal has probably been the best we've seen this season. Her rendition of "Natural Woman" in the Hollywood was one of the best vocals and she's also shown an ability to play guitar and harmonica, a key attribute in the post-instruments idol world. Also has a nice single mother doing it for her kid storyline to back her up and get votes.

Why she can't win: Crystal's general dirty hippie look and lack of pearly white teeth may make it tough to gain votes with much of America, specifically the large southern voting contingent. The Idol stylists will have their hands full trying to turn her into a pop princess. The folky style also may not have what it takes to win on the show.

Andrew Garcia

Why he can win: The judges have praised him through the roof for his "original" take on a Paula Abdul song (turning it into a lame Jason Mraz knockoff -- real original) and for his vocals which are undeniably the best among a weak class of guys this year. Like Crystal, he's also got the single parent just trying to make it work story going for him.

Why he can't win: America loves the sensitive guy strumming on his guitar when it's a super-hunk like Kris Allen, but will they vote for it when it's an overweight Hispanic guy with annoying hipster glasses? I'm gonna say no on this one.

Katie Stevens

Why she can win: Powerhouse vocals at age 16 (Get ready to hear Randy say "raw natural talent" and "you either got it or you ain't and you got it" many times in the coming weeks). A good and original sob story involving a grandma with Alzheimer's. She's got the look and youthful energy to appeal to the coveted Hannah Montana disney crowd.

Why she can't win: Being a 16 year old performing on Idol is undoubtedly nerve-racking. For every bold and fearless 16 year old contestant like Allison Iraheta, there's seemingly millions of epic fail trainwrecks like Stevie Wright from last season.


Didi Benami

Why she can win: Her "Hey Jude" performance was the best of the entire audition round and she put on a similarly great performance in the opening round of Hollywood Week (on a Kara Dioguardi song no less -- now that takes some talent). Also has a good look and another excellent sob story with her "doing it for my dead best friend" story. Plays an instrument as well and has an original vocal style.

Why she can't win: There's stiff competition among the girls this season, and it's going to be hard for anyone to separate themselves from the pack. Didn't get much TV time during group week or the final audition.

Janell Wheeler

Why she can win: America loves their country music, and Janell has basically the entire country package (ie she's a good looking blonde with above average vocals). She also showed some originality during hollywood week with her country spin on "American Boy", and the judges tend to eat that crap up with a spoon.

Why she can't win: She flopped her final audition, leaving many to wonder whether she has "what it takes" to succeed on the big stage. Doesn't have massive Carrie Underwood vocals and may not have the versatility to handle all the theme weeks.

Aaron Kelly

Why he can win: Again, America loves their country music. America also seems to love shy 16 year old boys (not that it helped me in high school), especially when they transform into talents on screen. Kelly can score a lot of votes with the southerners and 13 year old girls, which are crucial.

Why he can't win: Had a pretty rough hollywood week and forgot the words to his songs approximately 3.2 billion times. He needs to overcome his oh-so-adorable nerves to have a shot at this thing.

Casey James

Why he can win: He's a good looking dude (in case Kara hasn't pointed that out enough times for you) who can play the guitar. Seems to have pretty good blues vocals.

Why he can't win: Didn't show a whole lot of versatility and his voice may not be strong enough to handle the theme weeks. Not much personality (although good looking guys frequently get away with that on the show).

Ashley Rodriguez

Why she can win: Killer vocals and a very good look. Doesn't have much competition in the R&B and soul genres with so many folk/country singers this season.

Why she can't win: Hasn't had much TV time. Could fall into the Lil Rounds trap of being a very good singer who doesn't have the originality to "make a song her own".

Might have a chance

Todrick Hall - showed a lot of personality in his audition, but may not have the vocals to go too far.

Tyler Grady - Chicks will likely eat up his cliched Jim Morrison look, it's just a matter of singing well enough (he didn't get much TV time either).

Lilly Scott - Has a unique look and jazzy, soulful voice, but might not have the whole package that America wants to see.

Siobhan Magnus - Was impressive vocally in the brief times we saw her in Hollywood week. Needs the Idol stylists to do a lot of magic.

Lacey Brown - Is an idol veteran after making the top 50 last year, has a unique look and good voice. Needs to stand out from the crowd though, as many other singers may be co-opting her niche.

Lee DeWyze - He sucks, but America loves their Nickelback and Daughtry knockoffs.

Jermaine Sellers - Received high praise from the judges in his first audition and has some personality. Needs to stop being a jerkface before America turns on him.

Michael Lynche - Has a good voice and a newborn daughter, but there's rumors that he's been disqualified.

No chance of winning, so everyone can laugh at me when one of these people does

Haeley Vaughn - Has some talent, but most country voters won't vote for a black girl (harsh, but true) and she seems very prone for an Idol stage-fright freakout.

Alex Lambert - Must have pictures of Simon Cowell or something, since he sucked at every single step of the Hollywood rounds and has no personality, yet inexplicably was put through. Can maybe sneak into the top 12 as a vote for the worst candidate, but that's it.

John Park - Seems to be talented, but I'm not sure if his look (this is just a euphemism for him being Asian if you didn't catch on) will appeal to most of America.

Jose Munoz - Who?

Katelyn Epperly - Was underwhelming whenever she got screen time. Competition among the girls is way too stiff for her to slide by more than a couple of weeks.

Michelle DeLamor - Who? Has gotten basically no screen time, but there's a chance I end up regretting listing her here.

Paige Miles - Who?

Tim Urban - Was a last second replacement for a disqualified contestant. Was never even approaching being good in any of his previous auditions and wears a winter hat indoors.

My Prediction:
I'm going out on a limb slightly and sticking with Janell Wheeler as my pick to win AI9. She's shown originality, plays the guitar, and obviously has the looks. It just seems like America is due for a country winner, and she's the best country contestant they've had since Carrie.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Commercial Trends That Must Die

Super Bowl Sunday is the day all of America's best and brightest advertising executives wait for the entire year. Much time, resources, and thought is put into the advertisements, and it's often a company's best chance to get their name out there and educate eager consumers about the benefits of their product. So naturally, you would expect this day to be full of original and funny ads, showcasing the skills of the people working for these companies and not be the typical idiotic commercial fare featuring talking babies and guys not wearing pants.

Of course, if you thought that last Sunday, you were wrong. Really, really wrong. Most of the super bowl ads this year made me long for the DVR. In addition to not being funny, many were blatantly offensive (and I'm not talking about the relatively innocent Tim Tebow pro-life ad), completely lacked originality, or were just plain horrible. The deluge of ads also revealed some trends that are seen disturbingly often in commercials today. Here are the key ones that should die, preferably in some way involving fire.

Talking Babies
Made famous by the wonderful people at E-Trade, last Sunday we were subjected to another series of talking baby ads. Get it guys? THE BABIES ARE TALKING. Babies don't usually talk do they? No. That's why what we're watching right now is so incredibly funny.

Talking babies have long been a go-to joke that will appeal to the generally dumb masses (a popular TV show instantly comes to mind here). It's a lame, one-joke premise, and it's time for E-Trade to move on and stop abusing innocent children by forcing them to be in their brutal commercials.

Guys Really Like Beer -- Look at the Crazy Stuff They'll Do to Get It!
This seems to be the most popular trend in beer commercials today, and of course the Super Bowl had some more. The most textbook example of this genre of commercials was the Bud Light commercial featuring a group of people making a human bridge so the beer truck could drive into town.

These commercials are cripplingly unfunny. The joke in every single one is exactly the same, and usually involves a completely outlandish presence with a lot of bad physical humor and sight gags. The lack of humor wouldn't be bad by itself, but of course in these commercials it's all done with the disturbing subtext of alcoholism -- if running all the way across town and holding hands with people so a truck can drive over your spine, allowing you to obtain your precious, precious booze isn't addict behavior, then I don't know what is. If I were an advertising executive for a beer company (and I can only pray that one day I will be), I would prefer to focus on the taste of the beer rather than emphasize how hopelessly addicted people are to it.

White Males Have Been Repressed For Far Too Long -- It's Time for a Revolution!
This trend has been around for awhile, but it took a particularly hateful turn last Sunday. From having to hear CBS commentator Jim Nantz refer to a man as a "spineless schlub" because he had to go shopping with his girlfriend instead of watching the game (the horror, the horror!) to an insanely misogynistic Dodge Charger commercial stating that their car was "man's last stand" against things like "watching your vampire TV show" and "carrying your lip balm", it was a good day for white males seeking to release themselves from the shackles of their oppressors.

Yes, we middle class white males have it hard for far too long in this country. I'm sick of having to carry your two ounce container of lip balm, I want to watch football and drive cars! Perhaps one day, black people and women will understand the sacrifices that us middle class white men have to make on a daily basis. I mean, I have to CLEAN THE SINK AFTER I SHAVE. Do you have any idea how time consuming that is? Between that and having to eat fruit for breakfast (real fruit, not skittles), it's amazing that it's taken this long for us to stage a rebellion. Well, now it's happening, and we will finally be free and get the rights and privileges that we, as middle class white men, deserve.

Budweiser Clydesdale Commercials
Every year Budweiser attempts this act of subterfuge, where they hope to distract from their previous ten commercials that involved objectifying women and promoting rampant alcoholism by making everyone go "OOO LOOK AT THE CUTE LITTLE HORSEYS." It may work on most people, but I'm not falling for it anymore. Either make all of your commercials mawkish and sugary or don't do it at all.

GoDaddy.com/Scantily Clad Women Commercials
I think by now most people can find barely clothed women without the helpful advice from GoDaddy.com to "go to godaddy.com to see the shocking conclusion?" Wait, you mean that there are women potentially undressing on a web site? Well, I must go there immediately! This kind of PG-13 sexuality just looks hopelessly outdated in the age of the internet, not to mention that it's another example of the rampant misogyny seen in far too many commercials these days.

Doritos Commercials
This isn't really a trend, but man Doritos sucks at making commercials. While a part of me enjoys watching them brick every single attempt at humor during the Super Bowl, most of me wishes they would just give up.

I'll try to end this on a positive note, and leave you with the obvious best super bowl commercial.