Top 12 Guys
This was a phenomenal show! These guys did amazing!
There are about a million thing buzzing through my head right now, so I apologize if I get into tangents & if this blog goes on forever. I'll try my best to explain things in detail from what I remember, and to the best of my ability....(I wrote this at 3am, so don't mind my grammatical errors)
I'll write a second post when (if) I remember more....
BEFORE THE SHOW
Last season I attended a number of American Idol shows, including 2 semi-final rounds. Needless to say, I'm familiar with the routine...however, Idol decided to change things up.
For those familiar with the semi-final format, it is generally a small stage with a small audience (about 75 people) and the red room (otherwise known as the Coca-Cola Room). I had a gut feeling when I heard OCA issued more tickets on Thursday, & invited the press, that this would be no ordinary semi-final. I was right. The stage you will see on Tuesday is the stage you will see all season long...and it is legit! (but more on that later).
If you have ever attended a show (which I imagine most of you haven't), you know that arriving early is key (though really guarantees nothing). They cattle you in & certain rows in the outside holding area relate to certain sections in the studio. However, Idol has gone all fancy & now passes out tickets as you enter the studio grounds.
I should note that Scott McIntyre & his fiancee were in the audience. They came and sat right in front of us in the holding area. (Why they made him sit in the holding section with the audience members I have no idea). I would have sparked a conversation but there were people standing between us. I also met some friends of Tim Halperin. Nice guys!
We were told before we entered the studio that the set was still being built. They also noted that they didn't realize until today that those seated in the balcony section would have a poor view (anyone who sits in Section X gets a voucher to come back to another taping w/ guaranteed better seats).
Walking into the studio, I had no idea what to expect but let me tell you, my mouth dropped. Besides the fact that they truly were still building the set (putting panels on the stage, wiring the band's instruments & the judges mics, mopping the stage...) it looks awesome. Pure chaos but awesome.
Let's start with the stage. From my angle, it seems smaller than last season. There is only a small space between the main stage & the judges tables, with two steps that connect. The judges have a circular area surrounding them but it is small. The only steps leading to the floor are by the middle of the stage. The screen at the back of the stage is smaller, a modern rectangular shape. It still opens up in the middle, but not very wide from what I saw.
(Facing the stage) the band is to the left, slightly hidden but visible. To the right of the stage are 12 white stools, where the boys sat. Directly above & behind them, were 12 silver stools, where the girls sat. On both sides of the stage they have balcony seats (I assume these are the "on stage" seats the guy told us about). Then directly behind the stage (where the band was last year) is an entire seating area (Section X).
Section X: Apparently, they didn't realize until today that those seated in the balcony cannot (or barely) see the stage. Most can only see the judges. If you go to a taping & are seated in Section X, you will receive a voucher to come to another taping & get a guaranteed, stage visible seat.) Oh, they are also not allowed to stand during the taping...in case the fall???
Directly in front of the stage (the former pit area) is the floor seating. 6 rows, split into 4 (or 5) sections. That is right...No more pit. No more swaybots. There are also 3 random seats on either side of the judges table. The family section is to the right of Steven Tyler, directly in front. In the back you have the normal arena type seating but it also has a balcony now. There is a large screen in the back so those in the front balcony can still watch the show. Nigel said it holds about 700 people (I believe the studio held about 450 last year).
Also, there are two pillars on either side of the room, parallel to the judge's table, with the American Idol emblem rotating. The whole stage & balconies are decorated with light up panels. Right above the front balcony is a massive "American Idol" sign. You will not mistake this show for another. Ha.
Seating is literally 360. You'll see at the top of the show. Ryan has the cameras do a 360 around the room. Debbie made us do the wave twice. Once for fun, a second time for Nigel.
I was fortunate to have priority tickets, so we got floor seats, 4th row. We probably sat there for 45 minutes while they finished putting together the stage before Chris, the new MC for commercial time & crowd pumping, come out (I miss Corey, he was much funnier). He kept asking where all the rowdy people were. There was a 'Single Ladies' dance competition, oldest person & youngest person got t-shirts, he made the cheerleaders do cheers, got people dancing....
CASEY, IN OR OUT
The taping was suppose to start at 5pm, but it didn't till after 6pm.
Ryan Seacrest finally came out, as well as 11 of the boys. I counted & noticed Casey was missing. Noooooo! Not a huge fan of him, but I would hate to see someone forced out of the competition for health issues. The boys started lining up for some shots for the elimination episode, when Casey finally came out. My sigh of relief was actually a loud, verbal..."CASEY!" To which caught his attention and everyone cheered. I realized during this time that not many people knew about his hospital stay (surprisingly, not everyone keeps up-to-date tabs on idol...who knew?)
The boys did a few group takes, then individual takes for Thursdays show. Those dramatic shots of them all serious. Casey's face in the group shot cracks me up. Apparently, Clint does not have a serious/mean face?
I think at this point the nerves weren't too extreme. The boys seemed comfortable when they walked out, mostly all smiles. They were taking it all in though. This was their first show, first real audience. A lot of people yelling out names, "Paul!" "Brett!" "James!" and the boys trying to find who said it and waving with big grins. Reading signs in the audience and chuckling. Too adorable.
Eventually we taped the opening of the show where Ryan talks all dramatically and the boys are lined up on stage. The judges come out (lots of cheers) and cue Ryan's famous phrase: "This IS American Idol!"
Ryan starts the show introducing the judges. He gives Steven Tyler his own "bleep sign" on a stick to use in case he has the need to drop some F-words, "In case you find a duck..." Randy talks about how it feels like Jennifer & Steven have been doing this forever & it all just works great. At one point in the show Ryan talks about Jennifer's video premiering on Thursday's show. But the show isn't about the judges, it's about the contestants (and for the first time in awhile, I feel like this is a true statement!)
I am really hoping they give us more than the 30 second clips we saw today. It basically stated their name, showed a quick piece for their audition & Hollywood, a comment from a judge (usually Jennifer's) and a quick line from the contestant. I was hoping for a little bit more to get to them a bit, beyond what we have seen.
Ryan said the theme was...whatever they wanted? So broad.
I am assuming that the idea for the semi-final performances was to keep it simple & straightforward. There were NO instruments used by the contestants & no instruments joining them on stage (the band stayed put...a very small band). There were no unique entrances. They all started from the same spot and for the most part, stayed center stage. Very few took advantage and moved around beyond 3 steps. Hoping for more once the Top whatever starts.
They didn't announce the song or artist it was sung by, so it all just takes you by surprise when the music starts.
Important note: What you hear live in the studio and what you hear on TV never sound the same. Your TV has a direct feed from the mic, to counter balance the music. In the studio the music is often so loud, that the vocals are hard to hear. So it makes it difficult to critique sometimes. Also depending on where you sit in the audience can effect what you hear.
There is always a hesitation on whether or not you are allowed to stand during performances. We were even hesitant to clap because Debbie told us we shouldn't because nobody claps on beat & it messes up the contestant. We clapped anyways. Nobody really stood during performances. :/
Nigel: "If you don't agree with the judges, let them know! (He wants opposition).
Randy is trying to be the mean one still…and he used pitchy at least twice.
No F-Bombs from Steven Tyler. He did use his bleep sign at least once.
I don't want to like Clint. He seems...well, my vibe from him is indifferent. His song choice, "Superstition" (I had an inkling this might bother some Siobhan fans) is well over sung on idol, but I have to say it was a great way to start the show & he did good. I was impressed! The judges loved him, their responses were vague. He has great stage presence & a lot of confidence. He moves around some & really got the crowd going. [Of course, there was Nigel in the back waving his hands up in the air & clapping, trying to get everyone into it.]
Jovany was one I was still trying to figure out. I very much enjoyed his performance, "I'll Be." I was swaying along (with my hands in my lap) and it kind of caught me in the moment. It was good but not a stand out performance. The ladies love him. Kept yelling for him to take off his shirt. The judges enjoyed it. (Randy may have said pitchy, but I don't remember).
After the show was "over," Jovany had to redo his performance. One of the shots was soft, and they couldn't use any other camera footage because it was the one that ran across the stage. So he redid it and...it was a lot better than the original. The boys were off stage & the judges gone. Nigel & Debbie sat in the judges seat and NIGEL started up the entire studio in swaybot action! (except for me & Clara). Then he got this huge standing ovation (I think everyone was super excited they could finally go home after 4 hours). They are going to show the 2nd performance with the judge's original critique. Personally, I think it is unfair.
OMG....that is really all I have to say. Ha. Well, I never expected anyone to sing Usher & honestly, I couldn't stop laughing because all I could think about was Big Mike at the Idols Tour. His vocals were not bad. His dancing, um, woah?! Pelvic thrust? Maybe. It was quite an entertaining performance. Oh, yes...and he strips off his jacket. I actually enjoyed it. The judges were like, "umm, what? This is not you" Jennifer asked him if this was the kind of artists he wanted to be, "No." Then why the song? "It was offered to me." Say what??? I'm not surprised but I felt awful for him. They never said he was bad vocally but they knew this was not him, and they were disappointed.
Tim was the only contestant that got a sit down with Ryan before his performance. He talked about how, despite it being a competition, everyone is real supportive of each other & they are all like brothers. He point to the boys & they all show him love (Cue the collective "AWWW"). Jacob & Tim have been roommates since day 1 & they are like best buds, (and again... "AWWW"). Unfortunately, Tim's performance "Come On Over" was just alright. The judges collectively agreed it was a poor song choice & it didn't show America what he was capable of doing. Randy mentions how outstanding he was on the piano [during Hollywood.] Vocals were on track but was it good enough to get through?
Personally, "Light My Fire" was not my favorite Brett performance. He was kind of awkward on stage but apparently, it works for him. Nerves were evident. He started with the mic stand then tore it off, attempted to move around and almost knocked it over, it then collapsed down. Ha. But he remained focused and his vocals were great. He likes to whip his hair around [I want to see him sing "Whip My Hair"!], Nigel counted 14 whips. Brett doesn't realize he does it. Judges loved him. I can't remember specific comments. He walks off the stage before Ryan goes to commercial, then after realizing his error runs back and hugs Ryan. Commercial. (Someone always does it)
Faux Hawk. Scarf hanging from his butt (this he apparently asked for Christmas....?) I wanted to go rip it off. Sings some Judas Priest. Screams some. Randy says he noticed he contained his high notes, not to over do it. This was a first on Idol. Ryan & Randy make a joke that Clay Aiken a Judas Priest song once...oh no, it was Rueben. Cue cheesy laughter. I really couldn't hear much of the vocals, the music was drowning him out. But to be real here, I am not a fan...the judges, however, love & adore him. "This is what it is about." Oh, he jumps a lot, gets on his knees & I saw his stomach.
Aladdin, I mean Robbie, was SO GOOD! I loved it. I know, "Arms of an Angel," really? But it was just so beautiful. The falsetto...wow. He changed it up just slightly. He actually got about 3 lines & had to restart because there was feedback on the mic. Poor guy was nervous. It was quite evident, so the start, stop, restart seemed to shack him up a bit. Steven & Jennifer loved it. Jennifer said he made it a story. Randy called it pitchy & that he seemed like he wasn't all in it. Robbie disagreed, said he "had fun with it." ("fun" the idol bloggers' favorite post performance word).
I guess Robbie's grandma was not pleased with Randy's feedback, so Randy insisted that it was the ghost of the former occupant of the chair. Ryan: "I don't know who you speak of." Ouch. (wait, Simon who?)
"Baby lock them doors..." I held my breath hoping he wouldn't sing that song or a Turner song. Whew. "Letters to Home" was a perfect choice for him. He sat on a stool and it was so good. So good. He goes for a higher note at the end. Caused quite the applause. Rave reviews from the judges. Steven commented that he is glad he is not trying to cross over genres (yes, Scotty on pop radio...um, no). Apparently, Scotty, after they picked him for Top 24, said that he would not have picked himself. Jennifer, "This is why!" Points to the crowd, "You were made for this, for country music."
This kid is just adorable. Singing "Just The Way You Are," he sounded pretty close to the original. Not a lot of 'making the music your own' type issue. He goes for some high notes, makes a good attempt, but there were some rough ones. Randy pointed that out and Stefano's reply, "There just so high!" Randy's response killed me, "I know. But Ya know...that's not what it's about. The performance was just great!" (Um, really?) Ryan asked him if there was a special lady who the song was for. "Yes...it's for all the ladies. I love you just the way you are." All the Top 12 girls cheer.
I am a little biased here because Paul is my favorite and if you haven't checked out his band The Grand Magnolias...then what are you waiting for. First of all, he has a smile that lights up the whole room, and he smiles a lot. Decked out in an all black suit, he repeated his audition song, "Maggia Mae." (Which I have no problem with since we only saw about 10 seconds of it). He waves to everyone & as the music starts, gives a shout out to the TV people. He is so quirky (and that is the term they use to describe him)! He moves all over the stage, since to the audience, does his quirky moves, and his vocals are stellar. Huge standing ovation & applause, takes a while for everyone to sit down. Jennifer commented on his smile and that she loves how much he just enjoys being on stage & doing what he loves to do. Randy says they have never seen anyone like him, that his voice is so unique, and he can't wait to see what will happen on idol.
The guy brought tears to Steven & Jennifer's eyes...I was on the verge. His performance of "House Is Not A Home" brought people to their feet. The contestants were practically flying out of their chairs. It was powerful and moving. Standing ovation, all over the studio. Wow. I mean, wow. Jennifer, "We may no longer have Luther Vandross with us, but now we have you." Ryan asks him how he fells after that, "I feel so good inside."
Poor guy was definitely out of it as you watched him. He went backstage a few times, but no worries, his health issues did NOT effect his performance. He put a spell on the audience (ha). He's almost an aggressive singer. Stares down this girl in the front row & the camera. Takes full control of the stage. He owns it. The audience was cheering the whole time. Another huge applaud & standing ovation from the audience. Of course, the judges loved him. Can't recall specifics. Ryan asked, "Who were you singing, too?" Casey looks at the girl, "I dunno. Some girl." Ryan does mention that Casey was sick and then backs away. For some reason, Casey sticks his butt towards Ryan...
I should note that during Paul, Jacob & Casey's standing ovations...I don't know if they judges were as well. (Also, the balcony people aren't allowed to stand)
I'm telling you, these guys are full of personality. Full of talent. I mean, wow. I can't wait to see them take over the stage. Honestly, I have NO guesses who will make it through. Even the so-so performances were still good!
I am an observer. I learned a lot about the Season 9 contestants by watching them at the semi final tapings. The thing I loved about semi-finals was the intimate feel. Only 75 people in the audience, you had opportunity to chat & interact with the contestants. Not so much when there are 700 people. Maybe a little bit if you are up front...but not the same anymore. :(
Unfortunately, all the contestants were on the other side of the room, so they were harder to watch. The girls were constantly on their feet as the boys performed, dancing, clapping & singing along. The boys, too. Paul & Jordan were always rocking it out with everyone. Lauren seems like a goof (in a 16 year old kind of way). Most of the time the girls were pretty reserved, though Naima seems like a lot of fun.
The boys really liked interacting with the audience as much as they could. It was almost shocking to them that they already had fans.
I LOVE the judges. There were some great critiques, honest critiques. I was so glad that Jennifer straight up questioned Jordan's song choice. They really want the best for them & want them to reach their full potential. They are straight to the point. For once the focus remains on the contestants. They never ran away during 'commercial breaks.' They chatted with the audience instead.
Ryan is his normal self. When he is not reading the prompter, he spews off random quotes from E News/Red Carpet & KISS FM, and causally chats with the audience.
Nigel was all over the set. Picking on Debbie...Debbie picking on him. [Debbie is the stage manager] Picking on Ryan, Ryan picking on him....Nigel is very pleased with this season. No doubts about it.
It was a good thing they were not live yet. They have a lot of sound kinks to work out. Man oh man...so many redos for things, no wonder the taping took 3 hours. (yep.)