Compared to last week's mostly stellar singers, this batch just didn't cut it, says Nicholas Fonseca, and so he has one word for them: Lame!

By Nicholas Fonseca
July 04, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Simon Cowell: A. Rapoport
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One word for the 2nd semifinals round: Lame!

I’m just going to come right out and say it now, because there’s really no reason to hold off on what we’re all feeling this morning: What the hell happened to my ”American Idol”?! Who the hell hijacked my show and replaced it with no-talent hacks singing pasty lite-FM staples like ”One Last Cry” and ”This I Promise You”?! And, pray tell, if the Roman brothers (Noel and Jesus) could make it through to the second round after their abysmal, lyric-mangling performances of two weeks ago, then why in the world couldn’t my pint-sized patootie Jasmine Arteaga make it too?!

Ugh. As you can tell, I’m mighty disgusted by last night’s episode, perhaps because last week’s was such a cut above so many other second-round ”Idol” tryouts from the past. Whereas most of last week’s singers came out of the gate belting as if their lives (not to mention their reality-TV) careers depended on impressing the bejesus out of Simon, Paula, and Randy, this week’s group seemed utterly devoid of soul.

Weren’t you yawning by the time that mortgage banker (so that explains it!) Matthew Rogers started in on his cruise-ship rendition of the most generic love song in the world? During the pretaped segment prior to his performance, Matthew said he hoped the audience would ”feel” him, but when he began bleating that puny song, the only things I ”felt” were pity and shame.

Things didn’t get much better with Briana Ramirez-Rial, which is totally unfortunate, because not only was she one of EW’s patented Early Favorites, but her resigned, no-bull attitude has been a favorite of mine ever since she gave her first eyeroll to the cameras. Briana chose the wrong song to showcase her talents — what reasonably intelligent person could watch the ultra-butch Briana singing a Norah Jones song and actually believe it? Besides, I was too busy psychoanalyzing her family life. Briana said that her dad ”taught me to be who I am” and that Simon Cowell reminds her of her mother. Whoa, kiddo. Those are two incredibly loaded statements, and I’ll leave you readers to figure out what they mean.

I suppose it was a smart idea for the producers to lump Bronx-born brothers Jesus and Noel Roman into one episode, because unless the girls and gay guys of America decide to vote based solely on appearance, we’ll never have to suffer two more godawful performances again in our lives. I mean, as Simon himself might ask, what more is there to say?

Noel slaughtered ”This I Promise You,” and Jesus massacred ”Back at One.” And when they get back home to the Bronx, something tells me a hood named Vinnie is going to be standing on their corner, bat in hand and at the ready to let them know why they’ll never be welcome in the neighborhood again. Just a thought, guys: You might want to think about NEVER SHOWING YOUR FACES WITHIN A 10-MILE RADIUS OF THE BRONX AGAIN. Yes, you really were that bad!

Kara Master tried to salvage an Anastasia song, but, well, she just couldn’t do it. It doesn’t help that Anastasia’s got a sharp voice custom-made for belting out a few big notes, something that Kara just couldn’t do given her quick minute and a half onstage. But I’ve got bigger issues with which to quibble, starting with that heinous jean skirt. What was that? Suddenly I felt like I’d been transported to Wet Seal and I was impatiently waiting for my big sister to pick out a new outfit.

And another note to Kara: The color turquoise never has, never should, and certainly never will go with denim. Trust me on this — I even asked our resident style maven, and her office is just two doors down. Another thing, Kara: When the judges offer their criticism (and, granted, there was plenty of it), you might want to at least try to pretend that you’re not totally ticked off. But when you purse your lips and shoot evil glares their way, you’re probably not getting on anybody’s good side, least of all the viewers’.

Camile Velasco blew it with her soggy rendition of ”One Last Cry,” and she certainly left the judges — who’d been calling her an heir to the Lauryn Hill throne just weeks ago — flummoxed. Camile, I might add, fell victim to a trend that’s starting to rear its ugly head during this early stage of the competition: the crying jag. Look, I’m not heartless or anything, but are the waterworks really necessary? You just shouldn’t do it if you want us to take you seriously.

As for Marisa Joy’s performance, it wasn’t the strongest of the bunch, but for crying out loud, it had a beat! It had life! It had rhythm! I actually felt my eyelids begin to stir as she dove into ”Some Kind of Wonderful”! Thank you, Marisa! Thank you for ending our long, 45-minute national nightmare by singing a song as though you actually had a pulse!

My favorite performance of the night (and that’s still stretching it), however, came courtesy of Lisa Leuschner. We were quickly reminded that Simon called Lisa ”fat” during last year’s round of auditions, at which point I simply screamed to the television, ”That’s fat?!?” Look, speaking as somebody who’s got the metabolism of a flea and legs that would make a chicken proud, I’m truly at a loss when it comes to ”Idol”’s issue with weight. If Lisa is fat, then Kelly Clarkson was ”fat.” And if Lisa is ”fat,” then Ruben Studdard? Well, there’s an entire zip code devoted to the man. After their wins, a prospective Idol’s weight shouldn’t even be an issue.

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