Season 4: You Don't Know My Name

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Ryan Sleazebag stands alone on the telephort chute of the Event Horizon studio and prattles some nonsense about the Ten Ladies fighting for their lives on stage or something like that. What happened to the Voiceover Guy, anyway? On with the credits.

Ryan "Sweat Until My Clothes Come Off" Sleazebag comes out with a white T-shirt with "Contact" printed vertically on the front, aiming down towards you-know-where. Whoops, looks like someone really wants to make contact with another fellow human being down there. He has a beige-yellow jacket over his deceptively innocent let's-make-contact shirt. His hair? Still the same though. Maybe he no longer uses hair gel but has his whole hairdo permanently set in that style using cement. It won't surprise me that he'll do that and then replace his entire body with plastic substitutes because he'll look more shiny and new that way, just the way Madonna sings about in Like A Virgin and of course, just the way he likes it.

Sleazebag proves why he is overpaid when he prattles some more inane things about ladies and votes and victories before bringing out the Ten Ladies in question. The Ten Ladies don't really dance that much this time around because tonight is supposed to be a Very Serious Night where everyone tries to bore me to death with typical, dull ballads. Which brings me to another rant: why is it that I keep hearing the same songs being performed season after season? Ain't No Mountain High Enough, A Broken Wing, Heatwave, The Power Of Love - give me a break. Since this show is making so much money, can they at least spend a few thousand dollars more and increase the song pool for these contestants to sing? If I have to hear Turn The Beat Around one more time, I'll beat Uncle Nigel's rear end with my high heel until he'll scream like Conty Bint in front of a karaoke machine after two glasses of beer.

Sleazebag introduces the judges. Hello, Randy "We Are Here To Pawwwty" Randy. Nice to meet you, Charmaine Miss "There She Goes" Paula. Is that a burger in your gut or are you just happy to see Sleazie, King "Queen Of The Night" Tut? Sleazebag says that the Ten Ladies have much to live up to after the Ten Guys' supposedly great night out (okay, I agree with him this time) but Randy Randy says that he is confident that the Ten Ladies will be in "game on" mode. Yes, the mode is on and the dial is set to "Bore".

Aloha kicks off the show. In her introductory clip, she talks about how chicken wings play such an important role in her life that apparently her life is barren without chicken wings. "Is that bad?" she asks with a giggle. No, it's not - here, eat a chicken wing. And another. What, you're going to say something? Too bad, here, eat one more chicken wing. Her song is Alicia Keys' You Don't Know My Name. She tries to sing in the same pitch as Alicia Keys' in that song, but while Alicia gets a rich, soulful voice going in that key, Aloha comes off like a drunk magpie chirping happily at a bird bath. She becomes stronger, vocally, when she goes into her more natural voice in the middle of the song, only to lose it again when she loses control of her breathing and starts gasping during the ad-libs. It's not a bad performance, really, but it's also an uneven one.

Randy Randy finds the performance "pitchy all over the place" and while he likes that she "switched it up", he finds her performance "very below par". Miss Paula, taking the advice of her PR officer, decides not to speak too much when her mind is playing some hallucinagen-induced happy song. She just says that she agrees with Randy Randy and inadvertently gives Aloha a backhanded advice by saying that maybe Aloha shouldn't take on a song by someone who is as talented as Alicia Keys. King Tut finds the performance "affected" and thinks that the song didn't give Aloha any chance to be original. What, they are looking for originality on this show? And here I am thinking that they are looking for a Whitney Houston or Celine Dion clone.

Aloha has been pouting unhappily all this while. Sleazebag, mindful of the bad press he has received for his method of handling the previous results show, decides to play the fairy godmother today. He approaches Aloha and tells her to hang in there and make a comeback. Yes, when Aloha gets voted out, she will make a comeback and pull off every strand of Sleazie's hair.

Sleazebag is in the Red Room and he has to pimp someone out. Who else can it be but Cattle Underwood, the dim-witted simple farmgirl who hasn't left her house until now? Hey, I'm just buying the stories the show is selling me about Cattle. Why would they lie, right? Sleazebag asks Cattle whether the silly cow enjoyed the guys' performance yesterday, knowing that she has to step up today and be just as good. I love how Sleazebag can turn an interview into a discussion that has nothing whatsoever with the person that he is interviewing. Poor Cattle pauses to put together her thoughts before saying haltingly in that dear half-witted redneck way of hers that she enjoyed the show and she will just have to step it up this week. Sleazebag asks her whether she can gauge the mood of the judges. My, he sure knows how to ask questions that are relevant and interesting. Cattle says that she doesn't so she will just have to do her best.

What a simple, if slow, sweet little girl. All you people calling her out for not clapping at the end of other people's performances ought to be ashamed of yourselves! Her hands have become rather slow to react to her firing neurons, that's all. All those years of milking cows from dusk to dawn can do that to a poor simple farmgirl, you know.

Lindsey Cardinale tells people in her introductory clip that she wants her hometown to be famous because of her. I don't know. Her performance of Patti Loveless' I Try To Think Of Elvis is exactly what it will sound like if some silly teenaged girl decides to sneak out of the house and crash the honky-tonk bar down town to impress the grown-up cowboys as a show of rebellion. She'll put on too much make-up and sings in an affected, forcedly husky manner that brings to mind some karaoke fan having a particularly difficult time with constipation in the toilet. The cowboys will call her father to drag her home and she'll scream on her way out that she will kill herself because nobody understands her. On the bright side, I can barely hear her because the band drowns her nearly completely.

The judges think that she can do better. King Tut says that Lindsey will have to do better because he can't remember any of her performances once it's over. He's better than me. I've having a hard time remembering that she's even on the show. Every time she comes on, I go, "Huh? Who is this again?"

Fairy Godmother Sleazie assures Lindsey that she will shine (won't someone please play that dreary special Diane Warren AI song Shine in honor of Lindsey?) and she will get the votes. Go, Sleazie! Run for Presidency! Take on Oprah! Beat up Star Jones!

Next is... uh, who is this again? Jessica Sierra? Oh yes, that nanny. She says in her introductory clip that she is really a simple farmgirl who likes to line dance, play with cows and animals, and maybe even run around without underwear to scare the chickens into laying more eggs. That's why she's going to sing A Broken Wing by Martina McBride. Is it just me or has every Skinny White Chick on this show caught on to Cattle Underwood's game and is trying to do the same? If this performance is anything to go by, Jessica may become the Bo Bice to Cattle Underwood's Conty Bint because Jessica's performance is excellent. Everything about the performance is good on the ears. My only complain is that this song is a predictable ballad and in a sea of too many ballads on this show, Jessica stands out only as a better kind of predictable.

The judges love her performance, all saying that she is back in top form. Well, I wouldn't know, since this show doesn't bother to show any footage of Jessica performing during the Boot Camp now. King Tut praises Jessica for having the best female vocal performance of the season so far. I find myself agreeing with him. It is worth noting that the judges are being very careful not to come off as too enthusiastic for Jessica. If Jessica has a penis, the three judges would be giving her standing ovations. If I have to guess the reason for this, it's because she's not supposed to be the token disposable female country queen in the Top Twelve to play the Piggy Di Guano to the male equivalent of Fantasia.

Mikalah Gordon says in her introductory clip that she wants to be famous because she can't cook, clean, or walk her dog. Hmm, but is the world big enough for two Barbra Streisands? I don't know whether she is "guided" into choosing her song for her performance or if she is wise beyond her years, because for someone who is often compared to Barbra or Fran Drescher in terms of appearance and voice, she goes ahead and grabs a Billie Holliday song, God Bless The Child, for her performance. It's perfect! People jokes that she's like Barbra and so she goes ahead and Barbras herself defiantly for the audience, thus giving the finger to her detractors with style. She sits on a stool and looks really like a weary bargirl played by Minnie Driver in some movie. Mikalah needs to learn how to control her voice but her performance is, at the very worst, interesting and at the very best, excellent and mature. An uneven performance, this, but definitely one that I never expect from Mikalah. I may even have to start liking her if she keeps surprising me like this!

The judges adore her. They worship her. King Tut says that he is so proud of her. I'd be touched if they haven't been all but licking her boots on the stage in the previous week.

Sleazebag says that Mikalah opened her mouth so wide for the last note that everyone could... oh, never mind. I am starting to think that Sleazebag's jokes are even lamer than mine.

Celena Rae, also known as Dead Woman Walking, says that she doesn't really want fame (which explains why this is her second big-time talent show try-out) but she doesn't mind being famous because she'd then get designers to come up with great clothes for her. In keeping with the Skinny White Chicks Gone Red And Blue agenda, Celena struts out with Faith Hill's When The Lights Go Down. Unfortunately, her voice is not strong enough for this song and when she strains for the final glory notes in the chorus, the strain in her voice really shows.

The judges are indifferent. So what, really? King Tut tells Celena that there is a thin line between being a pop star and singing in a hotel and Celena crosses the line towards the latter. The audience boos and Sleazebag tells Celena that the judges are always this "tough" on people every year (unless your name is Ruben or Fantasia) so she should hang on in there. Yes, tell the Dead Woman Walking to hang on in there some more, Sleazie. Sometimes he can be really funny without intending to be so.

In the Red Room, Sleazebag asks Janay Castine how she intends to keep her cool during her performance this week. She says that she will stop worrying about the judges and just be herself on the show. The more the show portrays her in that symphatetic "nervous girl who can do better if you give her a chance" manner (also known as the Rank Sinatra Ploy), the more she will linger on and on. Won't someone put her out of her misery by sending her home?

Nadia Turner says in her introductory clip that everyone in the Top Twelve of previous seasons has a distinct look and vibe. Hey, she thinks that she will fit right in! Cool. But if she keeps doing lame songs like she did tonight with My Love by the freaking Paul McCartney and the Wings, she will have to reconsider that "vibe" bit. It's a competent performance of an utterly dull song, until the end when she tries to pull a glory note.

Randy Randy says it best when he laughs and says that it looks to him that she was just trying to hit high notes like she doesn't know if she's hitting them but she'll just keep trying and hoping anyway! The judges agree that she is not "being herself" when she put on that performance, which is why you must never, ever listen to the judges when they tell you to "take risks". When you do, they slam you for not "being yourself". King Tut however thinks that she hits the high notes well but hopes that she doesn't try that trick again. Nadia and the audience laugh.

I like how Nadia curtsies to the audience before she walks off the stage, by the way. It's a sweet thing to do.

Amoonda Ovula prattles in her introductory clip about good timing and luck. Please. All you need to look like Amoonda is a good plastic surgeon. Anyway, her song is Turn The Beat Around. Ever wondered what a drunk girl in Spring Break will sound like when she takes the stage after having puked the night away after binging on coke and alcohol? "Turn the bleat around! Goobey-woobey riddle-widdle hit the diddle-diddle kak-kak-kak yeah-yeah whatever! Bleat around! Upside down! Offkey woah! Shriek! Weee! Turn the ble-ee-eat around!" I am listening to the recording of the performance with the TV monitor switched off as I am writing this and boy, she is completely off-key at so many parts of the song! The frantic band that nearly drowns her out and the crazy lightings all make it seem as if she is at least in tune but she actually isn't most of the time. Even Carmurp from the second season sounds so much better than her on this song!

Randy Randy and Miss Paula insist that this performance is better than the previous week's so this somehow proves to them that Amoonda is not just a pretty face. Ah, a beautiful face - what a wonderful thing to have, it makes people accept mediocrity from you with so little effort on your part! King Tut pulls the "you're a great entertainer so it's okay if your singing sucks" card for Amoonda. People can entertain in so many ways other than singing - like Travis becoming naked on TV and Amoonda can follow suit one way or another - so I agree with him. Maybe Amoonda can star in Showgirls II?

Janay in her introductory clip says that she learns two things on this show. One, sleep is not an excuse. Huh? And two, she says that the show must go on - she will make it go on. So out she comes in a midriff-baring tight top and tighter pants that scream "Lolita Awards - Ebony Category". She's, what, seventeen? What's this with her singing Blu Cantrell's Hit 'Em Up Style? When a seventeen-year old sings about her man cheating on her so she and her girlfriends "Paula and Mikalah" get together and take him to the cleaners, it makes her look older and sadder beyond her years. It makes her "sleep is not an excuse" twittering come off as even more seedy than it actually is. But I do like Janay's voice - there is a soulful, husky richness to it that is actually very well-suited to this song. But that is as long as I don't look at her face. Her eyes were like a deer's looking at a fast-approaching truck. She has become better in controlling her nerves so that she doesn't actually tremble onstage like she did in the previous week, but tremors of nervousness are evident at so many points in her song. The performance isn't as bad as the judges made it to be, but it is easy to believe that it is because watching her on stage makes me feel uncomfortable along with her.

Randy Randy thinks that the performance wasn't good. The audience boos. Trachea Boi actually jumps out of his seat to call out to Randy Randy in protest. And here I am thinking that he is sweet on Celena Rae, hmmph. Randy Randy laughs and says that even his Dawg Pound is booing at him. He stands by his words though. Miss Paula says that Janay didn't seem focused on her performance. King Tut says that Janay sang like she was watching a horror movie but jokes that it must be because she had to look at Randy Randy. He says that she would be great in two or three years but right now she is like "a little doll who's been programmed to look like a pop star". Janay thinks that he's wrong. Ooh.

And now, Cattle Underwood. The uneducated poor farmgirl says in her introductory clip that people think that she is a simple farmgirl - gee, I wonder why, could it be because the show and she hammer that fact down my throat every freaking week? - but she's fine with that. She'd rather be called "innocent" than other things that she could be called. Okay, what other things can she be called? Any ex-boyfriends out there willing to dish the dirt? This is a bizarre introductory clip because Cattle sounds so defensive. What is she getting so defensive about, anyway? Back to Cattle, she sings Faith Hill's version of the Janis Joplin song Piece Of My Heart. The simple farmgirl wants to a man all that she has as a woman! She wants to touched like a woman can be touched! Like Faith Hill, Cattle takes a song with melancholic undertones to it and turns it into a banal love song about wanting to have wild sex in every possible manner a woman can have sex with a man. It's actually a solid performance, albeit an unexciting one, because like so many others in this episode, this song is a predictable choice from her and she performs it without much innovation.

Randy Randy says that it's hard for someone to do Janis justice but he is just okay with the performance. Miss Paula once more says that she agrees with him. She says that Cattle didn't show any versatility by, I suppose, singing something that can be interchangeable with the song she performed in the previous week. King Tut thinks that her performance was "what a local cover band would do" because "it didn't look comfortable up there". He thinks that she has "lost some star quality" tonight and says that he is disappointed with her because he really likes her. But King Tut, she was singing about wanting you to touch her in every way a woman can be touched!

Finally, Vonzell Solomon comes up to close the show. In her introductory clip, she finds it crazy that she can't go anywhere nowadays without people going "Lights! Camera! Action!" I didn't know she is a superstar now. Her song is Alicia Keys' If I Ain't Got You. Eh, she starts out too low and completely loses control when she starts scaling the high notes. She doesn't support those notes so she ends up sounding like she's shouting. When she starts ad-libbing to what seems like a chorus of alley cats in the background, the whole thing sounds like an overproduced mess. She tries to do too many vocal acrobatics in her performance and she lets this derail her performance.

Randy Randy gives Vonzell props for "ambition" but doesn't have much good to say about the performance. Miss Paula actually is moved to tell Vonzell to "focus" on "watching your pitch and holding your center to stay on pitch". Oh dear, when Miss Paula is giving Vonzell advice on pitching... King Tut reads my mind by calling Vonzell's performance "overcooked". It would be great if it was just her and the piano, he thinks, and adds that she oversang the song towards the end. Sometimes less is better, he tells her.

"Good advice! Good advice for Vonzell!" Sleazie chimes in as he walks to Vonzell's side. Okay, he is really laying on that Fairy Godmother schtick a little too heavily now. Good thing, therefore, that he has run out of time to say anything more. He quickly recaps the show, thanks the usual suspects, and then he's out of there. Am so am I.

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