It'll be good when they winnow down the women, because they seem so much more similar than the men. Blondes with great teeth -- just how many of them are there? Once again, our plucky contestants struggle through tunes that were hits when their parents were children, one good-time-great-oldies 1960s groaner after another.
The night's promised extra drama was that there was consumption or something goin' round the studio, and that these gals would be gamely crawling out of their death beds to be here. Didn't see much evidence of it, and I think contestants do themselves no favors being so free with excuses on Day 1.
* Kristy Lee opened with a forgettable version of "Rescue Me."
* It was "Say a Little Prayer" for Joanne, the former plus-size model. There was something off in her voice that I couldn't put my finger on -- it was as if her vocals had a bad auditory "aftertaste." Judges also seemed to sense this, but were no more articulate.
*Aliana -- one of the toothy blondes. Not much of an impression but will likely survive this week because others were worse.
* Amanda. The biker-nurse is this season's freak performer, and I mean that in the best way. AI has a long glorious history of seeing the oddballs who defy the show's purpose -- to find a bland marketing entity -- so the stars could align for Amanda. Her nun's-habit black-and-white hairdo needs a shake-up, but I gave props for back-combed rat's nest. "Baby, Please Don't Go"; the patchwork jeans and push-up bra; the blues-mumbling: She looked like she tumbled out of some 1970s Sunset Boulevard dive, and I mean that in a good way, too.
* Not so Amy, who turned in a pageant performance of "Where the Boys Are." She could be going there very soon.
* Brooke, of the lovely mermaid hair, burbled through "Happy Together." For me, karaoke-ish and I'm getting a weird Dyan Cannon vibe from her.
* Alexandréa, or "Alex Andrea" did as funky a version of "Spinning Wheels" as one can when touring with Up With People.
* Kady had me snoozing through "Groovy Kind of Love." Her dull delivery made groovy kind of love sound like a bad thing.
*Asia'h took a pretty big chunk out of "Piece of My Heart," and gets the prize for biggest hoop earrings of the night (and there was some competition).
* Tiny Ramiele tackled a huge song, "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," Dusty Springfield's signature heartbreaker. Ramiele acquitted herself well on vocals, and though like most of these young'uns she doesn't have the real-life woe to really wring the misery out, at least she didn't smile through it. (Beaming joyfully through sad songs is a perennial misstep.)
* "Tobacco Road" made its second appearance on American Idol (that bald-headed dude Phil Stacey did it last year) so Syesha didn't get extra points for picking an oddball song. Still, it's always a risk with voters to perform a lesser-known and not-exactly-catchy tune. On the upside, she can sing, and she has an awesome smile.
* Carly, the sorta Irish girl closed out, and suddenly, suddenly her earlier and yet-to-be-mentioned-until-now $2 million recording contract with MCA was disclosed. (Thank you Internet and blogosphere that unearthed all this recently.) With that awkwardness out of the way -- though I still can't help thinking it's not fair the producers picked a gal who's had a shot vs. the world's saddest Brit-pop teen who lived in his car -- Carly channeled mid-career Cher in Vegas on "The Shadow of Your Smile," complete with weird facial contortions. Didn't do it for me, dawg.
Cute girls who can't sing very well historically haven't had the easy ride some of the cute guys who can't sing get. So, my predictions for first-round of bus tickets back to nowhere: Amy, Kady and Joanne.
Best bit of Simon wisdom: "When you're somebody else, you're fantastic."