The Beatdown

A brokenhearted savior revs up Monsters Inc. at Hermanís for old timeís sake.

Next up was Judd, whose criticism was a little less caustic. "I think it was over the top, honey," she told Storey. "I'm not sure who is down in there. I feel like it was performance art. Uh, I felt like I was watching a video and you're just about ten feet from me. I didn't feel like you were right here with me."

Finally, Leshem, the poor man's Simon Cowell, offered this: "As Franz Kafka said, 'Hopefulness is infinite, but not for you.' Truly, truly a very bad idea for you to even attempt to sing this song. It's caterwauling at its worst."

If the trio's comments got to Storey, she didn't show it. She should've been pissed, maybe launched a few F-bombs. Watching Storey take the panel's criticism was cringe-worthy, like watching someone slam her hand in a car door -- on purpose. God knows, I would have given those CBS censors a workout to rival the one they had on Super Bowl Sunday. But Storey didn't. The cherubic smile never left her face.

Arsenio Hall, the show's host, tried to do some damage control. "I've had enough of this," he said awkwardly, looking as though he were clad in a steak-lined suit in a cage full of rabid pit bulls. "Let's see what those words from our judges add up to in stars." Even after Hall advised Storey of her score -- four stars out of a possible fifteen -- her countenance hardly registered a blip on the aw-shucks meter. Hall was struck by her stoic demeanor. "And she's polite, too," he said. "That makes my stomach hurt even worse."

When I wrote about Storey, I said she wouldn't "give a rat's ass what I think." But apparently she did: Music scenesters say she wrote a song about yours truly that included the refrain "Why do you have to be so mean?" When I showed up at her CD-release party the following week, though, she hugged me. Unbelievable. It reminded me of that picture of the pope shaking hands with the guy who'd tried to do him in.

So Storey's reaction -- or lack thereof -- to the Star Search squad wasn't surprising. But her performance that night absolutely sucker-punched me. Forget slack-jawed; I'm now suffering from a severe case of TMJ. While the judges' assessments of her delivery were as overwrought as Storey's take on the song, their reactions were on point. Storey had about as much business singing that cut as she had being on that show in the first place. When Lyte said it sounded like Storey was in a fight with herself, she was right. Storey's phrasing sounded like Alana Davis channeling Joan Osborne channeling Nina Simone. It was unintelligible, and it only got worse with each excessive accentuation.

And that's too bad, because if Storey had picked a different tune or given "Summertime" a more straightforward presentation, she would have blown away her competition. Blown away those tribunal hacks, too. Storey's an accomplished songwriter and vocalist with impressive range and control -- but those talents weren't on display in this show.

Fortunately, Star Search is a joke. Storey is not. And in due time, the industry will find her -- just as her fans have.

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