Friday, February 29, 2008

There are no surprises on Idol

There's a funny post from our fellow-Idol blogger, the L.A. Times' Richard Rushfield, where in over-the-top style he laments:

Rarely in the history of competitive singing has the cruel, inexplicable hand of fate struck so mighty and unexpected a blow as it did last night when in one remorseless swoop, it removed both Alaina Whitaker and Alexandrea Lushington from our lives forevermore. ...

But on stage we saw last night that bitter shock as the room realized, with the beheading of Alaina, that on any night, anyone could go. Last week's dismissals were uniformly warranted and not unexpected, their pain thus muted (to all but Ramiele). But to lose two such promising, seemingly sure contenders at once, and so early, seems almost too cruel a blow for an "Idol" connoisseur to bear.
Leaving aside Rushfield's unique way of expressing himself, others on the blogosphere seem genuinely shocked that Alaina was cut--you could even hear Alaina wail on the show last night, "But I can sing!"

Uh... since when did being able to sing prevent someone from getting cut on Idol?

Wasn't Alaina watching the night Jennifer Hudson got the axe, leaving such vocal stalwarts as Jasmine Trias and John Stevens on stage?

Or how about when Mandisa was cut even though Ace Young and Kellie Pickler were still hanging around?

Not that Alaina's in the same class as those two, despite what she--and her mom, did anyone else notice how she was glaring the entire time?!--might think.

If nothing else, American Idol teaches us that being really good at one thing isn't enough in this 21st century world of ours. You need the sizzle as well as the steak to succeed.

And, if you're gonna depend on the whims of the voting public, you should accept there's gonna be some random/seemingly illogical decisions (maybe someone should explain to Alaina about George W. Bush/Al Gore/Florida).

But we put up with it... because sometimes the voting public sees things even brilliant experts don't, and those surprises are the sweetest. Just ask Taylor Hicks... or Barack Obama.

And honestly, I wasn't surprised when Alaina got cut--she's a decent singer, but she's not that good, and there's nothing compelling whatsoever about her.

When it comes to personality, I'm with Eileen--there's something very interesting about Kady, maybe that she's so obviously struggling between being herself and being her version of what a pop star is.

I'd much rather keep her around and see if she can pull out of her slump; like Simon, I think she has the potential to win it all, or at least be there at the end.

Whereas Alaina struck me as just another not-bad young singer.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

It's the end for Britney's ex

So, I am now 4 for 6. Not too bad.

So, we're back to the results again - girls go first this time around. Ryan tells the front row to stand up - Carly Smithson, Alaina Whitaker, Ramiele Malubay, Syesha Mercado and Kady Malloy. He calls on Carly first and tells her she is safe. Then he turns to Ramiele and tells her to sit down, she is safe too. Syesha is also safe and it's down to the girls I had chosen to go home tonight - Kady Malloy and Alaina Whitaker. I'd say between the two of them, it should probably be Kady, but let's see what America said.

America disagrees, apparently. They voted Alaina Whitaker out. She and Kady both seem stunned, like they both expected it to go the other way. But the news sets in and Alaina starts crying and says she can't sing her song again. How cheesy - they bring all the girls out to give her moral support. She keeps saying that it's going to be horrible and she's right - it's almost worse than last night.

So, it looks like "Idol Gives Back" is coming back this year - mark your calendars - it will air April 9. Brad Pitt will be involved with the show, as will Miley Cyrus, Reese Witherspoon, Mariah Carey, Snoop Dogg, Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood. Also, for the first time ever, The John Lennon-Paul McCartney songbook has been made available to "Idol" contestants and top 12 contestant will be singing Beatles song on March 11. I'm so flippin' excited about that - I had heard the news yesterday, I think, but to have it confirmed is just awesome - finally, we'll have the best music ever made on this show.

Well, we're down to our last elimination of the night. Ryan tells the front row to stand up - Luke Menard, David Hernandez, Robbie Carrico, David Cook and David Archuleta. He tells Luke and Robbie to come to the center of the stage and tells the rest of the guys to sit down, that they are safe.

Wow... Didn't see this coming. Robbie Carrico is sent home - along with his wig.

So, not too bad for me... I'm 5 out of 8.

Couple of close calls

Well, it looks like people are beginning to tune it - almost 31 million people voted this week. Seems kind of crazy to me since the theme this week was the 70s - certainly not as appealing as 60s, I don't think.

The group song today is a medley of 70s songs and it's OK - not really my cup of tea, but they sound all right. The really crazy thing for me is how fast people seem to have lost their minds over David Archuleta. It's only week 2 of real competition and already you hear girls screaming their heads off anytime he's on camera. It's really cute, but I hope it doesn't backfire on him, with people assuming he's safe and not voting for him.

Oh is that Brooke White with her hair straightened? It looks adorable - I mean I like the craziness of her curls, but she looks so cute with it straight. She should wear it that way more often.

So, we're heading into results now. The guys are up first and they show clips from last night. It's tough - the guys are so much better than the girls this season - it seems unfair hat we have to lose two of each - why not all girls this week instead?

OK, Ryan tells the back row to stand up. In the back row are Jason Yeager, Danny Noriega, Chikezie Eze, Jason Castro and Michael Johns. He then tells Michael to sit down, he is safe. Next, he tells Chikezie to site down - he is safe. Jason is next and Ryan gives me a heart attack because he tells Jason that he has bad news for him and then says the bad news is he'll have to chat with him more next week because he, too, is safe. Phew... I got scared there for a minute.

But now Jason Yeager and Danny Noriega are left and I'm terrified because I know Jason Yeager should go home, but do any of you follow I usually check the site after I've made my guesses, just to see where I stand, and according to that site, Jason Yeager is nowhere near the bottom of the list. So, if the site is right, between the two of them, it would be Danny going home, and he doesn't deserve to go just yet.

But they're wrong tonight because it's Jason Yeager who goes home first.

OK, we're moving right along - on to the girls now. He tells the back row to stand up - in the back row are Kristy Lee Cook, Amanda Overmyer, Alexandrea Lushington, Brooke White and Asia'h Epperson. Wow - none of my picks is the back row. I'm intrigued - who could it be? He tells Kristy that she's safe, then Asia'h, then Brooke, so it's between Alexandrea and Amanda.

Now do any of you follow Well, they chose Amanda Overmyer as the worst for this week, and according to, she was in the top spot for the girls, so I'll be surprised if she goes home. I kind of hope it's Alexandrea, just because her 9/11 thing really bothered me.

And it is Alexandrea Lushington that goes home next.

Night of disappointments

Kady Malloy's unknown fact is that she's been singing opera since she was 9 years old and she likes to sing it in the bathroom - then she kind of mocks Simon, saying that he'll probably roll his eyes when he finds out and say, "You sing opera better than you sing up here."

She sings Heart's "Magic Man" and I'm not sure I can accurately describe the song because it seemed completely out of tune, almost every note. It's disappointing, too, because I find her very intriguing. She really has a knack for impersonations and the opera thing is completely unexpected. But her performance was just terrible. Up until this moment, I would have said that Amanda Overmyer and Alaina Whitaker would be the two going home, but I think Kady Malloy just saved Amanda from elimination. It was really awful.

Randy says he loves that song but that she never found the pitch, from the beginning, she just never found the notes, that it didn't work. Paula says when she powered, she was great, but she lost it on the low notes. Simon tells her he's struggling as much as she's struggling, that he's very, very frustrated because everything she does on film is fantastic, but then she comes out on stage and he says this time it sounded like she was trying to impersonate Christina Aguilera singing at the back of her throat with a song he's never heard before, which has no melody. He says it just didn't go anywhere.

Asia'h Epperson closes the show tonight and the thing America doesn't know about her is the fact that she used to be a cheerleader. It's easy to believe, she's always so cheerful. She says she really loved it and that it helped prepare her for "Idol" because with cheerleading, you have to put your all into it, you have to have spirit and personality, just like being on stage.

She comes out with hair extensions and her hair straight. It looks OK, but I love her natural hair so much better. She sings Eric Carmen's "All By Myself," better known as a Celine Dion song. It starts off kind of rough, maybe too low for her. I normally love Asia'h, but much like the rest of the girls tonight, I'm disappointed by her performance. She gets better when she gets to the big notes at the end, but it's not enough for me. I feel like she could have done some other song and blown us away. Instead she chooses a song that, while it falls into the category of the 1970s, is more recognizable as sung by Celine Dion, who is unmatchable, incomparable. I think she did herself a disservice and left viewers feeling let down at the end of the show, when the last performance is usually the killer, the one we remember and talk about.

Randy is apparently giving her points for being sick and for attempting such a high degree of difficulty because he tells her she did a good job. Paula says it was great. She acknowledges that she had trouble with the low notes but that the ending is what counts on this song and she brought it home. Simon says it is one of the diva songs of all time and that you have got to be one heck of a singer to pull that off and he tells her that unfortunately, she's not. He goes on to say that she nearly did it, but the truth is, she's not that good a singer, so she shouldn't have attempted that song. He says she almost got away with it but that the song was too big for her and it showed her up and that he thinks her song choice was a silly decision.

Well, now that they've all sung, it's time to guess - who will go home tomorrow?

My official picks for elimination tomorrow are:
Jason Yeager and Luke Menard
Kady Malloy and Alaina Whitaker

Yuck and yuckier

Alaina Whitaker says the one thing we may not know about her is that she doesn't like the food on her plate to touch. She says the worst is when the juice from one food flows over to other food on her plate. She also admits that when she was younger, she used to have to use different forks for the different foods on her plate but that she's gotten much better, so she's hopeful that she'll one day get over it.

I almost can't believe she's really doing this, but she's singing Olivia Newton-John's "Hopelessly Devoted to You." It's a horrible mistake and here's why. First off, the song is so well-known from "Grease" that anyone who has ever watched the movie - and that's pretty much everyone - will be unable to keep from envisioning Olivia Newton-John swirling that piece of stationery in the kiddie pool. Besides that, Olivia Newton-John has such a distinct and beautiful voice - there's no way Alaina, just 17 years old, is going to be able to top it, or even come close to comparing. I fear this will be her downfall, quite possibly her last song on the show. And now that she's actually singing, it's confirmed. It's not good... at all. She's out of tune through most of the song, which is a shame because her voice is so powerful - it could have really been good if she had stayed in tune. Ugh... it's just really bad.

Rand tells her it wasn't the right song choice for her, that the verses were really pitchy and even when she belted, she overshot it, going a little sharp. Paula says she did a real good job, which is completely insane. It was terrible. Simon says he likes her, but that he says it's almost as if he grandmother prepared her for the performance, told her what to wear, how to do her hair, what to sing. he says everything about her very old-fashioned. He says he knows the theme is the 70s, but that there's still a way to be be current. But on a positive note, he tells her he thinks she's a dark horse, that he likes her more now than he did weeks ago, but that she has to sort herself out and become relevant.

Alexandrea Lushington's little known fact is super-duper boring. She says she used to be a poster child for the Atlanta Fire Department because her dad worked for them for like 19 years. She says she sang every year for different ceremonies and that she sang at Ground Zero a couple of months after 9/11. She said it wasn't planned, so it was a huge moment for her to have so many people watching her sing, that it was very emotional.

I have to be mean here for a minute. The Sept. 11 attacks happened like 61/2 years ago, when she was like 10 or 11. It was tragic and horrifying and it's a day that has been etched into my memory - visions of the towers falling - watching it LIVE on TV - it will never fade for me. I find her saying that her Ground Zero performance was emotional really bothersome. Was she emotional because there were tons of people there to watch her sing? If so, then that's just selfish and insensitive. Was it emotional because of the significance? In that case, I still don't buy it - at 10 or 11, she was too young to understand the magnitude of the impact that day had on history, too young to grasp the loss and grief felt here in New York and across this nation. I'm getting sidetracked here, but she totally rubbed me the wrong way in that interview.

But let's move on. She comes out dressed all funky - her top is dressed for winter, but her bottom is ready for the beach. Plus it seems kind of tacky to wear shorts for a performance. She sings Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now," a beautiful choice of song, but I feel like it doesn't suit her - plus she insists on singing these really high notes and it's like her voice totally thins out and loses its tone when she does that. Plus, she was out of tune in some spots - I don't know - I may still be annoyed by her interview, who knows? But I didn't think it was her best performance at all.

Even she seems a bit defeated and Randy asks her, "What did you think?" and she says, "It's over." He tells her the problem is that the song was so safe for her, that she's one of his favorite performers and that she should never make safe choices, that she should always challenge herself. Paula says a bunch of nothing and Simon tells her he was a big fan of hers in the early stage but he thinks she's struggling right now. He tells her that song has never been covered because it's so stuck in its time period and there's nothing she could do with the song. He also tells her she was inconsistent on the song, in tune, out of tune, that she looked uncomfortable with it and that it was boring.

Rocker chick loses her charm

The thing we would be surprised to know about Ramiele Malubay is that she used to Polynesian dance. She demonstrates some hula moves and says that she's been dancing Filipino cultural dances and Polynesian dances for about 12 years.

Finally, some disco. Now, I'm not generally a fan of disco, but how can you have a 70s theme without at least one disco song? And there are a few that I happen to love. Ramiele sings one of them, "Don't Leave Me This Way" by Thelma Houston. Now I know the song was recorded by someone else before her, but Ramiele is clearly singing the disco version made famous by Houston.

I have to say, last week, she blew me away. I actually felt like she was the only girl who could give David Archuleta a run for his money. And while I love her song choice, her performance is only so-so. For starters, the contestants have full use of the stage. She's singing a song that is meant to be danced to. Se could have performed a little, moved around the stage or something. I mean, she just finished telling us that she's been dancing for 12 years - she could have done something to make the performance really pop. Besides that, the vocal weren't what they were last week. I mean, she's still really good, but it's almost like she's taking a break tonight, maybe feeling safe after she blew them away last week. I don't know. It just wasn't what I was expecting - it was actually a bit lazy, for me.

Randy says it was rough because she was so good last week. He says it was OK vocally and that he didn't like her song choice. He says there are so many other songs that would have suited her better. Paula says her vocals are amazing, but that she agreed with Randy, it wasn't a good song choice for her. Simon says he too agrees. He says the trouble with that song is that he's heard it so many times at weddings and stuff like that. He says she was much better last week, that she showed more personality, that she stood out more. He says this was one of those performances he wouldn't really remember. He tells her he thinks she's terrific, one of the top 3 singers in the competition but that this performance wasn't one of her best.

Ryan asks about the song choice and it turns out Ramiele changed her mind like four times on what song to sing. She says she had chosen a couple of ballads but was afraid people would start calling her Lullaby instead of Malubay.

Kristy Lee Cook says she thinks America would be surprised to know that she's a tomboy. She says she enjoys being outside and getting dirty - she loves fishing and softball and athletics in general. But she says it's still nice to dress up every once in a while, even though she still can't walk in heels.

She sings the Linda Ronstadt version of "You're No Good" and I'm not crazy about the song - it's just so repetitive. I mean, how many times do you have to say "You're no good" in a song? It's just too much for me. Plus, Kristy Lee is clearly a country girl - why didn't she sing some country song instead? Maybe some Dolly Parton or something. I mean, I think she sings the song well - I just wish she had chosen another song, that's all.

Randy says its a 100% improvement from last week. He says it was a good song choice for her, but he was waiting for some breakout moment and it never came. He says it was pretty in tune and he liked it. Paula says it was a good song choice and that she did good. Simon says he couldn't even remember what she sang last week, which tells you it didn't work, but that this week, it was a huge improvement. But he says his only worry with her at the moment is that he doesn't know how to label her yet, he doesn't know what type of singer she really is. He says he has a feeling that if she were to sing some country, she'll find it easier to make a statement, which she didn't do with this song, but that she has real potential.

Amanda Overmyer says that while America already knows that she rides a Harley and is a nurse, they may not know that she's a real bookworm. She likes to read quite a bit, biographies of rock icons and things of that nature. She says she believes you can't ever be over-educated and that reading is a really good form of entertainment.

Oh no - they've turned her into a joke. She comes out wearing some crazy pants and her hair is hairsprayed all out so the blond is showing - it looks almost like the rays of the sun. She looks really awful, like a caricature of herself. I don't know why she would agree to come out so overdone, I can only hope she does a good job. She sings Kansas' "Carry On Wayward Son," a song I've never heard before. I kind of wish she had avoided the rock thing this week. I mean the verses of the song seem to be kind of soft, but unfortunately, the verses are where she falters, kind of going in and out of tune. In the chorus, she comes alive, but all the charm of last week is gone. She seemed so genuine last week and this week, for some reason, her performance seems kind of fake - maybe it's because they overdid her appearance. I don't know. I'm so bummed because I think she's awesome and she's so bad tonight, I fear it may be her last performance.

Randy says it wasn't the right song choice for her... it seems like song choice is the key tonight. It's come up in almost every critique, if not all of them. He says there was too much melody in the song - I don't get what he means at all with that, but he also mentions that the verses were pitchy, which was hard not to notice, so I can't disagree with him there. He also adds at the end that it wasn't the right look, but doesn't elaborate. Paula totally contradicts herself. During Hollywood week, the judges all suggested that she stop singing Janis Joplin, that she needed to show her versatility, but now Paula mentions how Amanda had said in an interview that she didn't plan to do Joplin again and tells her not to worry about that - that she needs to just sing what feels right. Talk about confusing. Simon says that in her interview, she came across so natural and cool, but that in her performance, everything felt contrived, from what she wore, the terrible hair, the indulgent song. He says none of it felt natural or real and that he couldn't wait for it to finish.

Simon's so vain

I heard the funniest thing today. TMZ was reporting that Robbie Carrico, the wannabe rocker with the long hair is actually wearing a wig. How funny is that? I'm dying to know if it's true.

But anyway, it's girls night and I'm dreading it a little bit. I found last week to be a bit dull and I just don't think the girls have as much character as the guys do - at least not so far.

First up is Carly Smithson and the thing we don't know about her is that around the corner from the tattoo shop she owns with her husband, she works at an Irish pub. She also says she loves her house - she loves to clean and cook, but other than her home, she feels most at home on stage, so she's willing to be away from home in order to pursue her singing career.

She comes out all in black and I'm left wishing she had some color on. She almost gets lost on the stage - it's too much black for my taste. Anyway, she sings Heart's "Crazy on You," and I love it, but it could just be because I love the song. I mean, here's my thing... I think Carly has a great voice, great range, great presentation. But for some reason, I still feel like she doesn't stand out. I know lots of people will think I'm crazy, but I think the viewers were led to believe that she was untouchable the way she got more air time than anyone else, and she still hasn't blown me away. Having said that, I enjoyed her tonight.

Randy tells her the beginning was a little rough, that he liked it better toward the end. Paula says she's an amazing singer and that she did an amazing job. Simon says it was much better than last week, but that he still thinks she hasn't connected with the right song yet. He says he thinks she is an incredible singer, that none of the other girls can touch her vocally, but she hasn't chosen that one song that's going to give her that moment.

The one thing we don't know about Syesha Mercado is that she's done a lot of commercials in Miami and that she does a good impersonation of a baby crying. She does it and it's actually really good.

She sings Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones" with a twist - she changes the Mrs. to a Mr. I hate to say this, because I love Syesha, but I could fall asleep right now - it's really dull. I mean, truth be told, I've never liked the song. The first time I heard it was in the episode of "A Different World" where Walter takes Jaleesa out on their first date and they dance to it. Syesha has such a beautiful voice - I don't understand why she would choose this song to sing. It's just all wrong for her, but maybe the judges disagree.

Randy tells her it wasn't a great song choice because she has such a big voice. He says when she belts out those big notes, she sparkles on the stage, but when she sings softer, like in the verses of this song, she seems uninterested and it goes nowhere. Paula says she tends to go off on the softer notes, too, but she says she liked her interpretation. Simon says it was indulgent and that the song wasn't written for a girl, so it was silly of her to have changed the lyrics to suit her. He says it wasn't a particularly clever choice for her

Brooke White's unknown fact is that she went to beauty school. She started doing hair when she was 11 years old - she says doing hair is an art form and so when she meets people, she's constantly thinking about things she could do to their hair. But halfway through beauty school, she discovered music and dropped out to start singing.

She sings Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" and plays the guitar for part of the song. Brooke isn't one of my favorites, but I tell you what - she did a great job tonight. The low notes were a little hard on her... she probably should have sung the song in a different register, but after the first two girls, she feels like a breath of fresh air - it was really good.

Randy tells her it was a good song choice, that she didn't really add anything to it, but he still liked it. But then he mentions that he and Paula noticed the way she was looking over at the judges during her performance and he asks her whether the song was about someone on the panel, but Paula doesn't really let her answer - she goes into her critique by saying that this was a perfect song choice for her, that it suited her. Simon says he absolutely loved it. He says it was the absolute perfect song for her, and that it was one of the rare occasions where he felt the artist had genuinely chosen the song. He said it absolutely connected, that she sang it well and that it didn't sound old-fashioned.

Then Ryan comes up and says, "It's probably because you think this song about you." And how funny... Simon says, "I'll be honest with you - I actually did."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Imagine he's the next "American Idol"

The thing people may not know about David Archuleta is that when he was 11, he got to meet the finalists of the first season of "American Idol" when he was in Los Angeles to watch the season finale. He ran into them at the hotel and he got to sing for them. He says it was scary and exciting and the contestants were so positive. He says it was one of the most memorable moments of his life.

He sings John Lennon's "Imagine," and I have to say, this is the first time I've actually enjoyed someone messing with a song that shouldn't be messed with. He didn't do anything funky with it or beatbox to it - he just slowed it down a bit and changed a note or two, and it was breath-taking. I may have run out of words to describe how amazing this kid is - I'm actually tearing up a bit at this performance. He's only 17 years old and he manages to capture this song and its message - it's just perfection. What else can be said, really? I'm speechless

And the audience just loves him, the girls are going crazy - I think I actually heard some girl scream "Marry me!" I feel like the impact he's made on this season is so huge, even if he got booted this week, he'd still get a record deal. But anyway, Randy tells him that it was one of the best vocals he has ever heard on the show, that he's singing with such maturity that all that can be said is that he's doing exactly what he was born to do, that it was brilliant. Paula tells him he's ridiculous, that she just wants to squish him and dangle him from her rear view mirror. She says that song is one of the most beautiful songs ever written and his was one of the most moving performances she's ever heard. Simon says it was very, very risky to do a John Lennon song, particularly that one, but it worked. He says David's the one to beat and that there are 19 other miserable contestants sitting there tonight.

Seriously, if you missed it, you have to watch it...

So, this week's a bit tougher to decide who should go. I think Luke Menard may go this week and maybe Jason Yeager. But it could also be Chikezie - that crazy attitude will backfire on him. I just don't know... I think I'm going with Luke Menard and Jason Yeager. Even though I think Chikezie is an idiot, his singing this week will save him, I think.

He just can't help being obnoxious

Chikezie Eze is up next and he says the one thing America doesn't know about him is where his name came from. He says it's Nigerian and pronounced Chee-keh-zee-eh and it means something well created by God in Igbo, a Nigerian dialect. He says that people started mispronouncing his name when he was in kindergarten or first grade and he just let it go.

He sings Donny Hathaway's "I Believe" and I hate to admit it, but he's great. I'm reminded of what I loved so much about him during the auditions. His voice is powerful and strong and his performance is right on - he's confident on the stage and really, he just nails it. I'm actually beginning to think that maybe I reacted too quickly last week to his attitude.

Randy says "Chikezie is back, America!!" He says this is the guy they fell in love with and that it was hot. Paula says very clever to pick a song with a story about remembering his name. She says it was brilliant and fun. Simon says he looks better, sounds better, that the song choice was clever, that it was a million times better than last week.

And then it happens...Simon asks him if he watched himself last week and whether he can admit that it was horror show. He's totally giving him an opportunity here to acknowledge that he wasn't great and to express some remorse for his attitude. But what Chikezie says is, "What I saw last week was, uh, basically, I actually let you get to me, which was the part that kind of messed me up. I mean, I like my suit - I honestly do." Simon then asked him if he would wear it again and he says, "I wore it on TV - you can't wear it twice, you can't do a replay...Only you do that."

And there it is - the unnecessary attitude. Especially tonight - nobody was criticizing him. He just came off a great performance with tons of praise and he still feels the need to try and insult Simon. It was just uncalled for. He quickly realizes that it was stupid and says "I'm sorry" over and over again. And Simon sums up my feelings perfectly when he says, "Just when I'm beginning to like you again, you become obnoxious. You can't help it can you?"

David Cook's unknown fact is that he's a huge word nerd, as he calls it. He likes crossword puzzles and word searches. He says he's a geek for vocabulary and then they show a little montage of him using 50-cent words. It's kind of cute - if I didn't think he and his hair were so creepy, it would almost make me like him.

I actually don't dislike him - his voice is actually rally nice - but he's just not one of my favorites. Anyway, he decides to play his guitar tonight as he sings Free's "All Right Now." I think David Cook is the real rocker of this group, not Robbie Carrico. I mean, not really crazy about his song choice, but even with a pretty repetitive song, he still manages to sound more rock than Robbie did. I thought he was great, and the guitar added a little something, too. I really enjoyed it.

Randy tells him exactly what I just typed - that he's the real rocker of the group this year. He says he really liked it and that it was a good choice of song. Paula tells him he is the real deal, that the performance was fun and relevant and she loved it. Simon says it was solid, but that his interview didn't help him - he says the crosswords thing was boring and that he doesn't have a lot of charisma. David quickly responds by saying, "Fortunately, I don't have to win you over with my charisma. I have to win these people over," meaning the audience. I think he would have been better off keeping quiet, but you can tell that he was hurt and caught off guard by Simon's comment - he probably just reacted without thinking.

Not looking good for Jason

The thing we would be surprised to know about David Hernandez is that he was in gymnastics when he was little. He said he went to the Grand Canyon Olympics and won like 10 medals.

Tonight he sings "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," which was originally recorded by The Undisputed Truth, but made famous by The Temptations. I feel like the David Hernandez we saw during Hollywood week is back tonight - I'm not loving the crazy dramatic facial expressions - it's like he's trying to be all smooth and sexy and it comes off kind of cheesy, but his voice is really great tonight - he's in total control and I think he's safe this week, for sure.

Randy tells him this is the David Hernandez they fell in love with, that it was hot. Paula says his voice is so pure it pierces right through the heart. Not sure what that means, but it's clear she means it as a compliment, so we'll assume it's good. She says what's great about it is that his personality really came out this week and that it was just perfect. Simon tells him, "David, this may surprise you, but in my opinion, that was the best vocal of the night so far." He then tells him that what he likes about him is that he takes criticism well, that rather than sulking, he treats it as a challenge.

Jason Yeager is up next and he says the thing America doesn't know about him is that he plays multiple instruments. He taught himself to play the piano, the drums and the guitar. That's pretty cool - he should play an instrument tonight. If he had played one last week, perhaps the performance wouldn't have been so boring.

But he doesn't. He sings "Long Train Runnin'" by the Doobie Brothers and it looks like we may never get to see him play an instrument because I'm not sure he'll be back next week. It's not that the performance - it's actually quite entertaining. Although, I happen to love this song, so it could just be that I'm enjoying the song and not really paying attention. But the truth is, he's not really singing a whole lot - the verses almost sound like he's just speaking the words and the chorus is really just like one long note, so I feel like he's not really challenging himself - not really showing off what he can do. I will say I like it better than last week... I'm just not sure it's going to be enough to compete with the other guys.

Randy says that to him, the 70s is one of the greatest times in music, ever, so many amazing songs, and that this particular song was not a singer's song, and that it was very pitchy and kind of karaoke. Paula says it was fun to see this side of him, but that the song doesn't have that many notes in it and it didn't show his vocal range. Simon says the simple truth is that last week was boring and this week was awkward and ordinary. He also says that what he did at the end - he did some weird things with his arms - made him look like he was drunk at a party or something. He says he's a good singer who can't perform very well and that he's disappointed.

Gotta love the flamboyance

The one thing America doesn't know about Luke Menard is that he's part of an a cappella group called Chapter Six and that they've been touring for the past six years. He says being part of an a cappella group is not like singing with a band - he says you have to be flawless and he loves the challenge of not missing a note.

He sings "Killer Queen" by Queen and I think it's a mistake. Here's why. This song is kind of funky and maybe not as well-known to many viewers, so it's hard to get into a performance when the song is unfamiliar. I know this song was a big hit for Queen back in the day - Wikipedia says so - but I don't think it's a song that has the same staying power that "Bohemian Rhapsody" does - or "We Are the Champions." I just think that since his performance last week wasn't great, he should have come out this week and really knocked us out with a more viewer-friendly song. But I'm talking strategy here - I'm not talking about his actual vocals. His singing is actually really good - only a couple of tiny problem spots - way better than last week. But I still think the song choice may sink him.

Randy tells him that in degree of difficulty, he definitely chose a tough song and that he likes him better this week than last week. He says there were a couple of pitch problems, but all in all, it was pretty good. Paula says he picked the perfect song and that it was a really great week for him. Simon says he thinks the performance was a mistake because they're always going to be judged with the original and the trouble is that Freddie Mercury had charisma and personality and Luke didn't, so he suffered by comparison.

Robbie Carrico is up next and the thing we would be surprised to know about him is that he loves to drag race cars. I actually went to a track to watch some drag racing when I was in Florida a couple of years ago. It's actually really cool to watch, especially knowing that it's being done in the safest way possible and not on some residential street somewhere.

Robbie sings Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" and really, there was nothing special about it. I feel bad because I feel like Robbie's falling into the cracks - there's nothing about his personality that stands out, like Danny Noriega, and there's nothing about his singing that stands out, like David Archuleta. He's just stuck in the background and those people don't usually last too long. Plus, I still don't buy this whole rock thing - his hair looks awful. If he insists on keeping it long, he should always keep it covered up. But even his hair looks out of place on him - it's just weird to me. I feel like if he came in with a different persona, he could maybe be interesting, but right now, he just kind of bores me - he's filler.

Randy tells him he's not sure rock is really his thing - he says the performance didn't have enough oomph to really be like a rock voice but that he didn't a pretty good job. He says he kept waiting to be wowed and nothing came out. Paula says he played it safe this week and that when you play it safe, you sometimes lose your character and personality. They start talking about how rock is an attitude and not something you should have to prove, so Robbie agrees and wonders aloud why he feels like he has to keep proving it. Simon tells him not to be so defensive - that they're just opinions and he says he actually thinks the vocal was OK tonight.

The thing we don't know about Danny Noriega is that he used to be in a punk rock band when he was in 9th grade, which is only like 3 or 4 years ago. He says they played one show but that they weren't very good and that they broke up soon after, realizing that they stunk.

He sings "Superstar," which I think is by the Carpenters, but Paula makes a comment about how she liked the way he chose the Carpenters take on the song, so my guess is that it may originally be by someone else, but I don't know who that someone else could be. If anyone knows, please shoot me a message. I happen to love Danny's voice, but more than that, I'm still so amazed at how pretty he is - especially tonight - they keep zooming in on his face really close and his skin is just flawless. I think he sounds great, too, but I think slow songs are boring, in general, so I would have liked a more up-tempo song. I'm sure he was just trying to steer clear of what he did last week since the judges seemed to dislike it so much.

Randy says he's a fan of his, but that he didn't like the slow vibrato and that he was thinking too much during the performance. Seriously? Are we really critiquing people on the speed of their vibrato now? C'mon - that's a bit much, I think. Paula tells him he has great vocal skill and she agrees with Randy, that he can't overthink it - that he has to just perform. Simon tells him that this was better than last week, even though it wasn't a fantastic vocal. He says he thinks Danny was trying so hard - that he was over-concentrating. But he tells him that what he likes about him is that he stands out in a crowd and he's interesting. He also tells him he looks terrific on camera, too.

Then Ryan comes out and mentions that Danny appeared to be nodding at the criticism and asks him if he agreed with the judges. He says yes and acknowledges that last week was a disaster, even though he gave Simon a kind of flamboyant head shake last week. And then Simon says "So you agreed with me?" And Danny replies, "Ish... kind of." The exchange is not translating well in text, but it was actually really funny.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Right on, and a little off

I feel so overwhelmed by "American Idol" sometimes - I feel like it's everywhere. Everyone watches it, everyone's talking about it, it's hard to catch a break sometimes. So imagine my surprise this weekend when I came across someone who doesn't watch it.

I was talking to a new friend of mine, Jared K., the other night - by the way, Jared, in case you're reading, say hi to Christine and the babies for me - and he seemed to be really in tune with Newsday and what we do in the paper. He had some favorite columnists, knew many reporters by name and made sure to let me know that he was a subscriber - he even mentioned that he reads the Flash! pages every day (the section I work on). I was totally grateful for the support, but it was crazy, because he talked about Newsday much like most people talk about "Idol." It was a new experience for me and it got even crazier when "Idol" came up.

He had no idea who David Archuleta was, couldn't comment on Jason Castro and his guitar and oddly enough, he didn't seem any worse off for not knowing. But it shook me - all this time, I thought everyone watched as religiously as I do - after all, how else do you get 30 million votes every week? But apparently, there is a whole chunk of the population who has better things to do than to watch mindless television for hours at a time, multiple times a week.

However, I'm not in that chunk, so let's get to tonight's show. We're down to 10 guys and already going in tonight, I have a feeling I know who will go home this week - Jason Yeager and Chikezie Eze. I just don't think there's much they can do to redeem themselves, but let's see if I change my mind after tonight.

This week's theme is the 1970s and that gives me such hope that next week will be the '80s, which would be so awesome. We also get to hear something that we may not already know about the contestants. First up is Michael Johns. Th thing we may not know about him is the fact that he's a bit of a jock - he's a tennis player and apparently is very good - he's either placed or won in a bunch of tournaments. He says tennis is a good way to take his mind off everything that's going on.

He sings Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" and while I love this song, I feel like something is off. I don't know if the song doesn't suit him or maybe he's not giving it the effort he should, but I feel like I'm waiting for that power moment and it's not coming. I mean, it's still good - I like his voice and I think he's pretty sexy, but he was better last week and even better still during Hollywood week. I don't know what that means - is he progressively slipping? I hope not - He has more to offer, I think, but tonight, it wasn't his best.

Randy says he liked it, but also says that he was waiting for him to let go but he didn't quite go there, but overall, he liked it. Paula says he's consistent and charismatic and that he's already there (already where? I suppose only Paula knows). Simon says it was OK - that it was by far his weakest performance, that his song choice was weak and that he's coasting along right now. They're all right - he was good, just not as good as we've seen he can be.

This is what I like about Michael Johns - he knows how to work the viewers. When Ryan asks him if he thinks it was the right song choice, instead of being disrespectful or getting an attitude, he respectfully disagrees by saying, "To sing a Fleetwood Mac song has been a dream for me, so absolutely, for me personally, yes, it was the right song." Good move on his part.

Have I mentioned that I love Jason Castro? He's so attractive but in an understated way - he's the kind of cute guy who has no idea he's cute. And he seems to have a great sense of humor. When he's asked about the one thing America may be surprised to know about him, he says "So one thing, I think, maybe some people would be surprised to know is that I, I really hate doing interviews." So cute. And then they show a montage of all his interview screw-ups and he finally says that he loves music and everything that has to do with music and how he's surprised by all the non-music things he's had to do like taking pictures, and talking. He's very funny, but I'm left wondering if people will notice that he never actually answered the question - we still didn't get to hear about the one thing we would be surprised to know about him... but that's OK - I still think he's yummy and I plan to completely overlook the fact that he's a decade younger than I am - it's not gross, is it?

He sings "I Just Want to Be Your Everything" by Andy Gibb. He also plays the guitar again. I know I'm completely biased here - I'm totally smitten with this kid - but I think he's fascinating to watch - his facial expressions and the way he moves. I do notice that there's a spot or two that don't sound fantastic, but he's so intriguing to me - he reminds me of that universal guy that's always just out of reach, who's a little too cool, a little too care-free, a little too bohemian to ever seem real. His singing is good, I think, but I do wonder what would happen if he put the guitar down. I wonder if maybe it's become his crutch. I think a ballad from him might be interesting to see - maybe next week.

Randy says that the guitar mixed with the vocals is a great act, but vocally, it was just OK. Paula says she liked the performance and the song choice, but that next week, she wants to see him without the guitar. Simon says the song was horrible because it didn't suit his voice and that he actually looked uncomfortable with the song. He says he didn't do himself any favors with the song choice.

I think he's being a bit harsh - it really wasn't all that bad - they keep saying it's a singing competition, but is it really? Can we honestly say that Taylor Hicks had the best voice out of the bunch the year he won? No way - he won because people loved his personality, so in my opinion, it's about way more than singing and I think Jason has character, which is better. People will forget about the nice tone of a voice, but they won't forget someone who made them laugh, or someone whose smile lights up a room - those are things you can't duplicate. So, I hope America picks up the phone and votes for him, just so I can see him a few more times.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chikezie better go home next week

I'm 2 for 2 so far. Not bad for the first results show.

Wait... did Ryan just say that Paula was going to dance after the commercial break? I know she has that new song out, but would they really let her promote it on the show? Well, why not? I suppose any kind of attention to the show is good news for them.

Well, they're taking a break from the eliminations in order to show Paula Abdul's new video for "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow." I'm not crazy about the song, but the video is not bad at all. That's one thing you can't take away from Paula - she can certainly dance and she's a great choreographer.

OK, so we're back to the girls now. He asks Joanne Borgella and Amanda Overmyer to come over. Oh, they fixed Amanda's hair - they put extensions or something. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. It looks great, just not sure it suits her.

Anyway, he tells the girls sitting on the couch that they are all safe, so it's between Amanda and Joanne. After going through their performances, he tells Amanda that she is safe.

Joanne Borgella is the second girl to go home tonight.

OK, so now we're back to the guys. Ryan calls up Chikezie Eze and Colton Berry, the guy who took my adorable dork's spot on the show. I won't mind seeing either one go, but I guessed that it would be Chikezie, so I'm hoping it's him so I can be 4 for 4.

But it's not. Colton Berry is the second guy to go home. I'm a little surprised - his performance was pretty good, I thought. And Chikezie has such an attitude - I hope he goes next week.

No big surprises

So it looks like this season of "American Idol" is not as popular as it used to be. It may be too early to say, but Ryan says 28 million people voted this week - I could be wrong, but I remember more than 30 million people voting last season.

Anyway, the show kicks off with the first group song of the season. They sing a medley of songs from the 1960s and it's OK, but the best part was watching Luke Menard redeem himself. He only sang alone for a second or two, but it was enough to see that he can sing in tune. The outfits were a bit cheesy, especially Joanne Borgella, who looked like she was wearing an outfit out of the 1920s, not the 60s. Overall, it was cute, but not terribly exciting.

So, we're starting off the guys tonight. After showing clips from last night and allowing me to fall a little deeper in love with Jason Castro, Ryan calls up Garrett Haley. He talks to him for a quick minute, but tells him that tonight he has to say goodbye to him.

So, first one to go is Garrett Haley - no big surprise there. And they make him sing again - I've always hated that. After dashing someone's hopes and dreams, you make them perform live? Seems kind of cruel.

Anyway, let's keep it moving. Next up are the girls. Ryan calls up Kristy Lee Cook first and for a second, I wonder if maybe she's the one who's going, but then I think that they can't let them go in the same way, which they don't. Kristy Lee is safe for tonight.

He says the girl leaving tonight is Amy Davis. Again, no big surprise.

Ramiele stole the show

Ramiele Malubay is one of my favorites coming into tonight. She's such a cute little thing with this huge voice that just knocks you over. But then something happens in her interview. After Randy tells her how she has such a big voice for such a little girl, she says, "That's exactly what I wanted them to think." Instead of being flattered and humbled by their praise, she acts like she planned it all herself to go the way it went. And then at the end of her interview, she says she's excited to show everybody what she can do. I can't say she annoyed me like Chikezie did last night, but it took a bit of my enthusiasm away. I'm not a fan of arrogance - it's such an ugly trait, I think.

And what happened to her hair? It was so cute at her audition and during Hollywood week. Now it's all choppy looking and streaked with blond and pushed all to one side - not crazy about it at all...

She sings Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," and I hate to admit it, but she's flawless. It kills me how beautifully she sings. I think it's very possible that we may be looking at our next "American Idol." Of course, I'm speaking way too soon, but among the women, there's no competition - she's just that good. She starts the song very soft and sultry, but then she hits the chorus and it's like a crescendo until she unleashes the power of her voice. It was just amazing.

Randy says he loved how she started it slow and let it build up. He says she could have made it fancy with a bunch of runs, but she kept it single while still making it her own, that it was very classy, like a pro. Paula says she is a force to be reckoned with, that there's such a range to her voice. Simon says she outsung every single person tonight.

Syesha Mercado is next and she talks about how she lost her voice during Hollywood week and how she somehow managed to give the performance of a lifetime during her last audition, even though her voice was still hoarse. She says she called her mother after that audition and told her she had just sung from her soul and adds that she hopes all her performances can be like that one.

She sings "Tobacco Road," which I think is originally by Bobbie Gentry, but I'm not sure because it looks like it's been sung by a whole bunch of people. She sings it really well, and I'm so glad she didn't sing a ballad. I knew coming into tonight that many of the girls would sing slower songs, so anytime there's a break from that, I welcome it. I felt like she screamed a bit through some of the song, but not so much that it made the song unpleasant. It was good, I think, but not great.

Randy tells her she definitely can sing, that she has a big old powerful voice. He says there were a couple of pitchy things in there, but all in all, he really like dit. Paula tells her it was joyful and fun. Simon says it wasn't her best, best perofrmance, but that it didn't matter because she's probably one of the most talented girls in the competition.

Last up is Carly Smithson, and I have to admit to a little bias against her. Not because of anything she's done, but more because of how Fox has shoved her down our throats for the past few weeks. We've had to watch her auditions several times already and listen to the story about her visa problems a good dozen times. I'd say she's had more air time than any other contestant so far, and I think that sometimes that's not a good thing. I've only heard her sing a couple of times and I'm already kind of sick of her.

And here we go again - another clip of her audition...ugh. She should ask for royalties on that clip given how many times it's aired already. Here's something interesting. She talks about how she was signed to a major record deal when she was 15 and put out her first record when she was 17. She says the record company imploded and she was kind of left. Now, I could be mistaken, but the story I had heard about her on the Internet was that she put out her album, it didn't sell and she was dropped from her label. She's making it sound like the company went under. I wonder which story is true - I suppose the truth is somewhere in the middle - it always is.

Anyway, she sings "The Shadow of Your Smile," which was from "The Sandpiper." It's really dull and while her voice is nice, she's singing really loud, almost yelling through most of it. She was way better in her auditions - this was a horrible end to an incredubly boring night of mostly mediocre singing.

Randy says that she has the best vocals of the Top 24 and I'm left wondering if perhaps they've already struck a deal with this girl - why are they giving her such exaggerated praise? She's not as gos as Ramiele, or David Archuleta, or even David Cook or Michael Johns, for that matter. I have a feeling she's going to be another Chris Richardson for me - someone the judges just love and I cannot figure out why, someone I'm dying to see kicked off the show, who somehow still survives. Let me just clarify - this woman can sing - her voice is wonderful, just not as fantastic as the judges seem to think, that's all.

Anyway, Paula agrees with Randy and says she's a lucky coin in the pocket, that she's reliable, blah blah blah. Yes! Finally a voice of reason. Simon says he's on his own again and that he just didn't get it. He says there's so much hype about her, so much expectation. He says the song was way too old-fashioned for her, he even criticizes the way she used the microphone. He says everything about the performance was a let-down.

Now for who goes home... I think the girsl will be tougher because there were so many just so-so performances. With the guys, they were all so good, the ones who slipped were so obvious. I would have to say it would come down to Joanne Borgella, Amy Davis and Kady Malloy. Kady probably won't go yet because people may like how she impersonates Britney and may want to give her anotjher shot, so I say it will be Amy Davis and Joanne Borgella.

So my official picks for elimination tomorrow are:
Chikezie Eze and Garrett Haley
Amy Davis and Joanne Borgella.

Geez, doesn't she have a piece of your heart, too?

We've seen very little of Alexandrea Lushington. I fell in love with her during her audition - it took only a few notes for me to be mesmerized by her voice, especially since she is so young. But then she disappeared, and by the time they showed her again, I had completely forgotten who she was. So, I feel like I'm starting all over again with her.

I don't like her song choice. She sings "Spinning Wheel" by Blood, Sweat & Tears, and while I like the song, I feel like she could have chosen a song that would better suit her voice. She has the kind of voice that could have knocked out an Aretha Franklin song or something like that. I mean, this song has a funky sound to it and she sings it well, although her voice loses its strength in the higher range. It was a good performance, but I'm not in love with her like I was after those first few notes of "Funny Valentine" in her audition.

Randy says she blew the doors off that song, that it was hot. Paula says a bunch of stuff that didn't make a lot of sense, and then Simon says he didn't get it. He says he didn't think the vocals were great. I have to agree with him, especially when she went into the high notes - it sounded odd, almost like a man singing falsetto. I don't know - she won't go home this week, but she needs to more in order to make it to the Top 12, I think.

Kady Malloy is another one I'm not really sure of - I love, love her Britney Spears impersonation - it's dead on. But her voice is very blah. A lovely, pretty blah, but a blah all the same. What I mean by that is that most of the girls sound the same to me - they all have nice vibrato and a nice, clear tone to their voices, but very few of them have shown anything original, with the exception of Amanda Overmyer. The guys, on the other hand, have so many different sounds, so many different personalities. The girls have to do something to stand out, or else they'll be cast aside, so I'm wondering what Kady will do to make her stand out. I wonder if there's anything she can do - there are so many pretty blondes this year, it's hard to keep them all straight, to be honest.

She sings "Groovy Kind of Love," which I know as a Phil Collins song, but which was sung in the 1960s by both Diane & Annita and also The Mindbenders. I love this song - it's just beautiful, so maybe that's why I notice every single time she goes off key, which is a lot - I lost count. I have to be honest... it wasn't bad enough for me to say it was bad. It was, well... blah. Her voice is nice and the clarity is wonderful, but again, if I closed my eyes, I could picture any other pretty blonde in her place and that says something.

Randy says he loves her Britney impression, but that her performance was just OK, that it was so controlled and restrained. Paula says she needs to have more fun and Simon agrees with Paula. He says that when she does the Britney impersonation, she's brilliant, but when she does Kady, the lights go off. He said it was like watching two different people. He says she came across as 80, not 18, and that she needs to lighten up.

Asia'h Epperson is coming next and I so admire her strength and optimism. She was so full of joy during her audition despite having lost her father just two days before it. I can't imagine being able to carry a tune in such grief, let alone doing it all with a smile on my face. She is amazing to me, really an inspiration, and I wish great things for her.

She sings Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart," which is really interesting, because she's not a rocker, so I guess she plans to give it her own twist.

She's just infectious - I just caught myself smiling at the TV, simply because she came out all smiles and the first verse was so good. I'm glad she left her hair curly - I didn't like the clip of her with her straight straightened - it frames her face better when its curly, I think. She looks great on the stage, totally comfortable, not nervous at all. Her voice is wonderful, kind of smoky, but not too masculine. She hits every note perfectly, not even a hint of nerves in her voice. She just nailed it - a terrific performance all around. Best one tonight, in my opinion.

Randy tells her he loves it and that he was impressed. Paula tells her you could tell that she had fun up there and that she had some really good moments. Simon says it was his favorite of the night, that she let go, she's fun, she's likable, she has a great voice, she doesn't take herself too seriously, that she's what it's all about.

She rocked it out

Amanda Overmyer, the rocker nurse, is one of the women I've been looking forward to. She stands out from the rest and I'm hoping she's able to do something beyond Janis Joplin. She talks about her big car accident and how she was struck by a semi-truck. She says that it's become a joke in her family, with them saying that if a semi can't take her down, then nothing will. She also goes on to say that she plans to not sing Janis Joplin anymore because Simon told her during Hollywood week that she shouldn't have to pale in comparison.

So tonight, she comes out, with her hair toned down a bit. It looks like the stylists took a bit of the blond out of her hair, and she's wearing these really cool patchwork jeans. She looks great - and she sounds even better. She sings "Baby Please Don't Go," which I believe is by Muddy Waters, and it's a totally wild and crazy song. She, of course, does a phenomenal job with it. I mean, I'm not crazy about the song, especially the scatting, but she's just such an authentic rocker chick, her voice is so original, especially among these 12, that she's one of my favorites so far.

Randy says he loved it... and as a side note, comments on her pants, saying he could rock a pair like that. Paula says she loves everything she does because she's authentic and Simon says he really likes her becasue he genuinely thinks she's authentic and she stands out in the crowd. He says it wasn't her best performance - he thinks she forgot the words in the middle of the song, doesn't realize she was scatting. She kind of laughs at him and says, "C'mon, haven't you ever heard the song before?" The funny thing is if anyone else had something like that to Simon, it would have annoyed me, but she does it in just a sweet, light-hearted way that you don't take it badly. He tells her that he wants her to stay for a long time, that she was a bit all over the place at times, which Randy and Paula say is the song, but he goes on to say again that he likes her.

Best part of the performance, though, is after it, when she's talking to Ryan. He says he hopes the semi-truck driver who hit her is out there somewhere voting for her and she responds to the camera, "Yeah, sorry for pullin' out in front of you, dude, like seriously, I didn't mean to." She's hilarious and so likable. I love her - can't wait to see what she does next week.

Amy Davis, the girl whose grandmother or great-grandmother is Japanese, is up next. She sings "Where the Boys Are," which I think is by Connie Francis. Forgive me, but I've never heard this song, so I don't know if the way she's singing it is the way it was meant to be sung, but all I can say is that she's boring me, and I wonder if it's the song or her. I mean, the singing wasn't horrendous, but you could hear the nerves in her voice - she was a bit shaky in spots and was off-key a couple of times.
I don't know - I wasn't impressed.

Randy says it wasn't great, that there were a lot of pitch problems. Paula says the nerves got the best of her and that the song wasn't engaging. Simon tells her she looks great, but she didn't sound great, that she was boring, that it was a bit cabaret, the arrangement was boring, and that it seemed to go on for like 10 minutes.

Up next is Brooke White, the nanny who has necer seen an R-rated movie. I like her, but I agree a bit with Simon - she's maybe too much of a good girl. It would be nice to see her loosen up a little bit, but for now, she's sweet.

What? Again? This is the second time one of the girls decided to sing the same song one of the guys did last night. She sing The Turtles' "So Happy Together," which David Cook did. Her voice is nice, but nothing about it stands out, at least not in my opinion. And what's worse - her outfit is pretty bland, too. She's wearing a gray sweater and jeans - blah. Oh no... and the last part of her song, she stops singing words - she was just singing "Ba ba ba ba..." I don't know. It wans't a great performance - not one of the worst, but definitely nowhere near the best.

Randy says it started out a little rough, but by the end she worked it out. Paula's lost her mind on this one - she tells her that this competition is about originality and that's what she loves about her, that she has her own thing going on. I could not disagree any more than I do. I don't believe there's anything original about Brooke, except her super-duper nice persona, which doesn't translate to music. I mean, she just fades into the background, as far as I'm concerned. Simon tells her it was very her, but not his cup of tea.

What a disappointment

The girls are up tonight and after the guys did so well last night, I just can't imagine that the girls will be better. Ryan says that the flu has hit the Top 24, but he didn't mention it last night when the guys sang. Is it really possible that all 12 guys are healthy? Or is he perhaps preparing us for bad performances? Let's find out.

First up is Kristy Lee Cook, the horse trainer, who sold her best horse to travel to Philadelphia to audition. I liked her a lot in her audition, but when she again relied on "Amazing Grace" during Hollywood week, I felt like she had cheated a little bit, so I'm not sure how I feel about her going into tonight.

Huh... she chooses Fontella Bass' "Rescue Me." It's really weird, because she doesn't have a soulful voice - she should have tried a more country song. I don't know - her voice is OK, but I'm kind of bored by it. It's just not the right song for her. Not a great start tonight.

Randy tells her it wasn't her best performance, that she had some pitch problems, which I honestly didn't notice. He said it was a little rough around the edges. Paula says that's OK since she's sick and the first one out. Simon says the song didn't suit her, that it's a song really designed for someone who's going to belt out a song. He says her performance was robotic and that she didn't make an impression.

Next up is Joanne Borgella, the plus-sized model from New Jersey. She sings Dionne Warwick's "I Say a Little Prayer" and it starts out really rough - it's a little low for her range and it makes her voice sound very thin. It's really not good at all - she actually goes out of tune a bit in some spots. It's hard to come up with anything to say even, because her performance didn't lend itself to any commentary - it was bland, maybe a touch of boring. I had a feeling the girls would pale in comparison to the guys, but I didn't think the difference would be so marked.

Anyway, Randy says the first part was weird but that she worked it out toward the end. He says her voice sounded shaky and unsure. Paula says she liked it but she didn't love it. Simon says he didn't like it at all. He says that this is the part of the show where they have to come out and nail it and what she did was a very average cabaret version of the song.

Alaina Whitaker is next and I haven't really formed an opinion of her yet and I'm not sure if that's because there are so many strong personalities out there that she gets lost in the shuffle, or if perhaps she just hasn't shown us too much of her own personality. Either way, I find that she's a bit forgettable.

She sings Spiral Starecase's "More Today Than Yesterday." Didn't we hear this yesterday? We did - I think Chikezie Eze sang it... Well she sings it much better than he did. She was actually very good, kind of a breath of fresh air after the first two performances, which were kind of disappointments. She has a very clear tone to her voice and seemed to be very comfortable on stage. I can't say she blew me away, but I enjoyed it.

Randy says that this season is all about the young ones, because here she is, just 16, and while it started out a bit rough, she sang with such conviction and confidence that once she got started, she had it going on. Paula says she nailed it and Simon says he think she's very good, that it's the first time tonight that he hasn't seen any nerves. He says she'll sail through to next week after that performance.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

He lights my fire

I'm hoping they saved the best for last, as they usually do. Michael Johns, the cutie Australian is up next and after his "Bohemian Rhapsody" during Hollywood week, I kind of look forward to anything he wants to sing.

I'm a little disappointed that he's chosen "Light My Fire" by the Doors - I was hoping he'd choose something perhaps a bit more obscure, that he could really put his own stamp on, but still, it's not a bad song choice at all, just not what I was hoping for.

I like the extra touch of wearing a scarf... it looks really good on him - and not everyone could pull it off. His voice is great, as expected, and he does a great job with the song.

Randy tells him that he loved him the first day he saw him, that he feels like he's watching a true legend rock performer, that he was the bomb. Paula says it was great ending to the show. Simon says he's the most consistent contestant they've had, that he's loved every one of his auditions. He says it wasn't as good as "Bohemian Rhapsody" but he has a natural charisma of a lead singer.

So, now for the tough part - who should go home? Well, I think Garrett Haley is a shoo-in. No one knows him from a hole in the wall and his performance was boring. I think in terms of performance, Luke Menard should go, too, but I'm not sure it's his time yet. I think it may be Chikezie Eze, who very conspicuously dropped his last name - and picked up an attitude. So that's it... My vote is for Garrett Haley and Chikezie Eze

The dreadlocks won me over

OK, so here's my chance to be open-minded. Colton Berry is up next and I'm going to do what I can to get over this horrible bias I have against him for taking my adorable dork's spot. Granted, he independently annoyed me earlier tonight, but it's still early enough that I can turn it around, that I can maybe root for him at some point.

But then he starts talking about singing the teletubbies theme song when he's nervous. What 18-year-old even admits to knowing the Teletubbies theme song, let alone to singing it out loud? OK... I'm being too quick again... it's just so easy to dislike him.

Oh yeah... he sings Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds." You can't get much better than that in song choice (especially since the Beatles are not yet in the mix). You know who he reminds me of? A good portion of you will likley have no idea who I'm talking about, but when he smiles, he reminds me a little bit of a very young Luis Miguel, an extremely famous Mexican singer. Not a lot - Luis Miguel is quite handsome - but just a tiny, tiny bit. But anyway, back to the singing, I must admit, it's very good. OK - that's it. That's all I'm willing to give up tonight.

Randy says it was pretty good. Paula says it was nice to hear a different side of him - she says it wasn't his best performance but that he made an eager and fun attempt. Simon said it was OK, but that he wasn't listening to a recording artist, that he didn't represent himself and that it was all a waste of time.

Garrett Haley is a bit of a mystery and I have to admit, I have no interest in him at all. He's a bit like a modern-day Leif Garrett, and just by the looks of him, you can tell already that he won't be selling any records. I realize I'm getting meaner, but it's 2am and my patience tends to thin as I get tired. And really, I just can't imagine that he'll be so good that I'll change my mind on it.

I was right... He takes one of my favorite songs, Neil Sedakas's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" and just slaughters it. He actually slows it down and ,makes it ballad - I mean, what could he have been thinking??? I mean, his voice is lovely - I don't want to take away from that. And the song choice would have worked for him, if he had done it at the right speed. It's just so dull. I'll be completely floored if he makes it through to next week.

Randy says it's a great song but that he didn't do anything with it. Paula tells him to take chances and Simon reiterates that it was boring and that he looked terrified and that he's very pale. Not sure why that's relevant, but whatever.

Jason Castro is interesting and kind of stunning with his beautiful bright eyes (are they blue or green?), flawless skin and funky dreadlocks. I mean, he's got a different energy than the rest of the contestants - kind of sexy, but not in an obvious way like Luke Menard. Just a very cool, good-looking guy.

He's the first to play an instrument - he plays the guitar while he sings Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream" and he's got something - I don't know what, but he makes you want to watch him. I found myself totally engaged, I completely forgot to listen to the lyrics of the song so I could look up the title - I had to rewind my TiVo. I think I fell in love a little bit - he's delicious, I think.

Randy tells him he loved the guitar, and that it was all right. Paula says he blew her away, that his take on the song was so minimal, effortless and really joyful. Simon says it was in the top 2 performances of the night. He says that he, like David, just has it. He's great with the camera, great song. He makes the song sound current, he has charisma and agrees with Paula and says that it was indeed effortless.

Coming down a bit too hard

Robbie Carrico is up next and he talks about how he was in boy/girl pop group and how they toured with Britney Spears in 2000. But now he wants to do rock, and there's something about him that I find very bland. I don't dislike him, but there's nothing really there to really grab hold of, nothing to relate to, nothing to root for.

He sings "One Is the Loneliest Number" by Three Dog Night. It's OK, but again, there's nothing about him that's fantastic. Plus, he wants to be a rocker, but he doesn't seem to really fit the part. I don't know - I'm very confused by him.

Randy says it was nice and Paula tell him he picked the perfect song and that he's authentic. Simon says it's the only performance that they've seen tonight that makes any sense, meaning that the performance was current. He kind of hits on my thoughts by wondering if he's really comfortable being a rocker or is he meant to be a pop singer. Robbie says he can sing anything but he loves rock and this is him.

David Archuleta is a bit of a dork, but I love it. He seems to be so genuinely excited about everything and so genuinely flattered when people tell him he's great. I'm hoping he won't turn into Melinda Doolittle, who always looked shocked when they praised her, to the point where you start to question the sincerity.

He sings "You Better Shop Around" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (I think) and as expected, it's awesome. It's not as good as "Heaven," which he sang in Hollywood, but it's still pretty fantastic. He's a perfect mix of a man and a little boy. His voice is so mature, the voice of a man, but he's so cute and so boyish, that it's crazy to hear such a big voice come out of his body.

And he has this crazy nervous energy - he keeps giggling and breathing heavy, which makes him seem even younger than he is. I love him... can't wait to see more of him.
Randy tells him he was brilliant and that he has a gift because he sanf the song so mature for someone who's 17 years old. Paula says it was a bold choice for him and that he did a great job and Simon says, "When you got it, you got it." He tells him it was the best performance of the night so far.

Danny Noriega is next and he's another one I love. I still think he looks like a really pretty girl - his features are flawless - gorgeous, almond shaped eyes, full lips, nice cheekbones - he's incredibly beautiful, and somewhat feminine, but he starts singing and his voice is perfectly masculine. Although listening to him talk about his swagger was somewhat not masculine, but you know what, whether masculine or feminine, gay or straight, subdued or flamboyant, I could care less. He can sing and I like watching him. He sings Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock," and for the most part, it's awesome - he falls behind the music in a couple of spots, but he's so entertaining that you barely notice.

Randy tells him it was pretty good, that the song choice didn't allow him to do his thing, but that he loved the performance. Paula tells him she loves listening to how his voice goes in and out of these colors....huh? Simon tells Paula he doens't understand a word of what she just said and asks her, "What color was that?" He then tells Danny that the performance was verging on grotesque. He says if he's going to take on Elvis, at least do it well. He tells him it was hideous, awful and if people tuned in during his performance, they would not believe the show contained some of the most talented kids in America. I think he's being way too hard on him - his performance was not bad at all and his voice is better than most. I'm not sure why Simon is picking on him, but he's wrong this time.

And I feel so bad for Danny, because he's having a hard time taking it all in. You can see he wants to cry and is doing all he can do keep it together. When Ryan is calling out his phone number, he can't even bring himself to smile for the camera. It wasn't fair for Simon to be so mean - I hope this doesn't get Danny down - he did a great job - not his best, but certainly way above average.

So, finally, the debut of Luke Menard, an incredibly good-looking guy from Indiana. He auditioned last season and didn't make it and I have to be honest, I don't really know what he said during his interview - I was so taken by how gorgeous he is.

He sings "Everybody's Talkin'" by Harry Nilsson and it starts out pretty good, but he has a hard time staying in tune - he's not off-key completely, just slightly off the note he's supposed to be on... he's probably really nervous, which we've seen in past seasons in the first show. The problem is that this season, no one has screwed up due to nerves, so his pitch problems are that much more noticeable. But have I mentioned how yummy he is?

Randy tells him it was very pitchy, almost consistenly sharp the whole time, tells him it wasn't great. Paula says it wasn't the best song choice and Simon says he was forgettable. Now, I need to disagree there - I may not remember what he sang by tomorrow or how well he sang it, but I can safely say that I will certainly remember Luke Menard.

Why a ballad? Why?

Colton Berry is annoying - they interview him briefly, since we haven't seen much of him and he starts by saying that he looks like Ellen DeGeneres, which he does a little, but not nearly enough to mention it on live TV and then when Ryan mentions how the judges were hard on him for being too theatrical, he says he's been working on it, but that he has a background in theater, so he's been drawing on that. Frgive me for being an old fart, but he's 18 - he's not old enough to have a background in anything. Has he even finished high school? I'll admit, I was prepared to dislike him because he got the last spot instead of Kyle, my adorable dork, but now he's giving me ample reason to find him irritating.

Anyway, next up is David Cook. Thank goodness, the stylists on the show did something with his hair - it's still not ideal, but wow, what an improvement from the last time we saw him.

Ohhhhh... David Cook is the guy who slaughtered Bon Jovi during his audition - I had completely forgotten. But you know what? I'm willing to let it slide, because I like how he tries to stay grounded. He makes a comment about how he's glad that Simon said no to him during Hollywood week, because he says if Simon had said yes, he would have had way too much of a comfort level. It's like he can admit getting carried away with the praise. I found that endearing, and while I don't find him physically appealing nor do I think he has a real shot at winning, I'm beginning to like him.

My first thought as he starts singing The Turtles' "So Happy Together" is NNNOOOOOOO!!! He's singing it like a ballad and while his voice sounds good, this song was meant to be faster. Here he goes again, messing with a song that should never be messed with. Maybe I shouldn't have let the Bon Jovi thing go so quickly.

But I freaked too soon... what a sigh of relief... he speeds it up and sings it extremely well - he even adds a rock flavor to it. I still love the original, but I really enjoyed his performance. He looks totally at home on stage - he doesn't seem nervous at all and he just kind of owns the space. I loved it - it was great.

Randy had the same reaction I had when he first started singing - "NO!" - but he says that while the beginning was a little weird for him, he worked it out and made a rock joint out of it - that it was crazy. Paula says he rocked it, made something original. Simon said it was good - that he shouted the song a bit in the middle - but that he'd never heard the song sung like that and that he almost made it believable.

Jason Yeager is up next and I think it's really cool that his son has been with him kind of the whole way through this process. It may be hard on his son, though, listening to all the criticism. For example, I'm sure it would be difficult for him to hear that I can't stop staring at the ridiculous streak of blond hair his dad insists on keeping in his otherwise brown hair. It's so silly, I don't even know what to say about it. I thought maybe he would have wised up after seeing himself on TV, but apparently, he must actually believe it's chic. Who knows?

But all joking aside, watching your dad be at the mercy of the judges must be nerve-wracking, especially for such a young kid, who probably still looks at his dad as if he's Superman. I do love how Jason is doing the show to show his son that you can achieve your dreams - it's quite touching, because so few of us, in my opinion, really get that chance to reach for the stars.

Jason sings "Moon River," which I believe is from "Breakfast at Tiffany's," and I almost feel bad for him. He sings it well, but here's my problem with it. We haven't seen that much of Jason - just a glimpse, really, during Hollywood week. This is the first chance he has to show America who he is, and he's singing a ballad - what could be more boring?

Randy tells him he did a good job, but that he needs to maintain his concentration. Paula says she loves that song because she did her first ballet recital to that song. And then Jason says that he dedicates that song to his grandmother, who taught him that song when he was little. Simon asks him (did he call him David?) how old he is and when he answers 28, Simon tells him he came off as much older with that song. He tells him it was very cruise ship and that many young people watching the show won't get it.

I like how Jason admits to the fact that he's had some vocal coaches tell him to avoid being too cabaret... he acknowledges that what Simon said is true, and I like when people can accept criticism. It shows their willingness to improve and more importantly, it shows humility. He's setting a good exmaple for his son, I think.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Put the ego away, please

They keep saying that this season has the best talent ever. I'll admit that this group seems to be a bit more polished than past seasons, but it's so early in the game, it seems premature to be saying that this season's cast is better than all the rest. After all, past winners have gone on to major success - we don't know what will become of this year's winner yet.

But anyway, let's get started with our Top 12 guys. Tonight's theme is the 1960s and first up is David Hernandez. I thought he was great during Hollywood week and have been looking forward to his performance tonight. However, in his interview, he talks about how when he sings, it comes from the soul and there's nothing cheesier than people who overly romanticize their love of music. I mean, I can understand that he has a passion for it, but by mentioning his soul, he somehow turns something sincere into something cliche and lame. He also talks about how he comes from a single parent home and how he lived in low-income housing, so singing is an escape for him.

He sings "In the Midnight Hour" by Wilson Pickett and it starts out really good, although I'm not crazy abouut his facial expressions. He looks kind of pained. But the beginning is slow and totally highlights his voice, but probably knowing how boring ballads can be, he speeds it up after a little bit and really does a great job with the song. It's definitely a great start to the competition.

Randy tells him he likes how he started with the whole gospel vibe but that he lost it just a little toward the end, but that is was really good. Paula tells him he has a really good voice and that he colors up his vocals or something like that. I'm not really sure what she means or where she's going with her commentary, but she liked him, I got that much out of it. Simon tells him it was better than he thought it was going to be, but that he seemed stiff and that he needed to loosen up a bit.

Next up is Chikezie Eze, who made it all the way to the end of Hollywood week last season before being cut. He says he went home and worked hard to improve. And after being complimented during Hollywood week this season, he says, "Finally, someone recognizes my... the work I put in." I feel like he wanted to say that finally someone recognized his talent. A bit of an ego - and way too early, I think.

Wow - he comes out in a bright orange suit - seriously. Orange pants, orange blazer and a white shirt. I mean, it's not horrendous, but it's not stylish or cute - at least not in my opinion. Anyway, he sings Spiral Starecase's "More Today Than Yesterday" and it's just OK. I remember liking him more during his audition. I think I so loved his name that I didn't pay much attention to his voice, because I think he sings this song a little too low for his range and while he recovers a bit during the chorus, the verses are rough and I don't know - it didn't blow me away.

Randy says it was pretty good, but that he didn't make the song new and fresh and that he was kind of an old-fashioned singer. Paula tells him he's come a long way and that he looks great (apparently he's lost a lot of weight) and that he's a throwback to great R&B. Simon starts off by calling him Chikoozie and tells him he hated the whole performance. He says the suit is hideous and Chikezie interrupts him and says, "White, gray and black... c'mon dude... who's your stylist? Charlie Chaplin?" And in that moment, I go from liking Chikezie to thinking that he's kind of an idiot.

Let me explain...It's the first week of competition and he's already showing that he can't handle criticism. And the viewing public doesn't know him well enough for him to be trading barbs with Simon - not yet anyway. I think it's a bad move on his part to start talking back the first night. And Simon continues to tell him that his wink was hideous, his 'woo' was hideous, that he was old-fashioned, corny, cheesy and that his performance could have been something they filmed 40 years ago.

Chikezie makes it worse by trying to explain that since it was 60s night, he was trying to take a song of one genre and sing it in another genre of the same era. I don't know what he means, really. I think he's just being kind of a show-off, trying to show America that he doesn't take crap from anyone and truthfully, it just rubbed me the wrong way. On the first night out, these guys should be humble and accept the criticism - especially a guy that didn't even make it last season - just listen and learn.

It's a shame, really - I was hoping he would do well, but instead, I'm left hoping he leaves Thursday.