If Fox ever gets the idea of airing "Celebrity Name That Tune," put all of your money on whoever is up against Simon Cowell. As accurate as many of his assessments have been over the years, his taste - as determined by what he pegs as good or even great songs - has always been dubious.
If Fox ever gets the idea of airing “Celebrity Name That Tune,” put all of your money on whoever is up against Simon Cowell. As accurate as many of his assessments have been over the years, his taste – as determined by what he pegs as good or even great songs – has always been dubious.He’s keen on frothy, disco-inspired pop and overwrought, melodramatic ballads and understands rock music music only in the context of current commercial appeal. Sound like Pearl Jam, it’s dated; imitate Maroon 5, you’re contemporary. Never in the six previous seasons, however, has Cowell fessed up to his musical ignorance in the manner he did Wednesday when the dozen female semi-finalists paraded their talents for the first time. He had never heard “More Today Than Yesterday,” the single, catchy hit from Spiral Staircase, and doubly discounted the tune after he was told who had a hit with it. Apparently, Cowell is also unfamiliar with the fact that the decade was littered with one-hit wonders. Amy Davis’ dull reading of “Where the Boys Are” was criticized for lacking the Patsy Cline touch. Would Connie Francis, who had the hit, take exception to to that comment? The true mystery, though, came after Amanda Overmyer – the Rocker Nurse, for those of who who prefer nicknames – did a hybrid of the Amboy Dukes’ and Them’s version of Big Joe Williams’ blues classic “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” a song recorded by at least 40 rock and blues acts. (Just a quick gander at y iTunes library revealed more than a dozen versions, from Aerosmith to Bob Dylan to Mose Allison). He seemed equally confused by the concept of scat singing. Add to that, not one mention was made of the incomparable Dusty Springfield when the tiny tiger Ramiele Malubay delightfully rendered “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.” She held her own up against the Springfield version, but the judges accepted it on its own terms without the smudged rear-view mirror they use for viewing so many of the other perfs. Could it be he is also unfamiliar with the oeuvre of his homeland’s greatest female singer? Say it isn’t so. OK, so why harp on Cowell so much and not dissect the girls’ performance? Simple answer: A lack of stand-out, better-thatn-the-rest performances. (The one thing that did stand out actually was how attractive this class is with the exception of the professionally groomed Carly Smithson). The better ones: The expertly controlled Mulabay proved the best singer; Syesha Mercado displayed a new side of her talent, but braked when the band revved the throttle. Alaina Whitaker, who turns 17 today, delivered the sort of out-of-nowhere performance that made ’60s-’70s variety shows must-see TV. She’s an appealing performer to watch and if she can stay lit up while standing next to Ryan Seacrest, instead of giving off the don’t-come-near-me vibe of a runway model confronting Tyra Banks, she could go far . Overmyer was praised for her “authenticity.” Translation: Her personality beams in each performance and her hair, jewelry and “trousers” suit the song selection. Alexandrea Lushington thrilled Randy and disgusted Simon and it was easy to see why both men were correct: Her performance exhibited command of material and the stage, but it could have been an imitation of a showcase by Sammy Davis Jr.’s niece on the “Dinah Shore Show” in 1971. Finally, Asia’h Epperson and the band wisely returned “Piece of My Heart” to the original by Aretha Franklin’s sister Erma to make it more about singing and thereby eliminated the Janis Joplin screaming element. Mediocre, but good enough to stay: Plus-size model Joanne Borgella, who saved herself on the back end of “I Say a Little Prayer”; Brooke White, whose non-descript “Happy Together” received some faint praise from the judges; Kady Malloy’s well-sung if monotonous slooooow version of “Groovy Kind of Love”; and Carly Smithson, who demonstrated vocal control but no sparks on “Shadow of Your Smile.” Cowell, seemingly aware that the former teen flop is the most buzzed-about contestant this season, called it a let-down, indicating that at least he would be holding her to a higher standard. Please let that be true. Prediction for the bottom two: Kristy Lee Cook for an uneventful “Rescue Me” and Amy Davis, who may be no more than this season’s Antonella Barba. I won’t be surprised if White and Malloy wind up there either.