Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chikezie Eze goes home

So, Ryan asks Jason how he feels and he says that he knew it was coming, he felt weird all day, that he'd never been called out so late, so he knew something was up... He actually starts to babble a bit and at the end of it, Ryan tells him he's safe. Thanks goodness. I was starting to freak out.

So, it's down to Chikezie and Syesha. Please, oh please, let it be Chikezie.

Ryan asks Simon what Chikezie's biggest hurdle would be if he stays in the competition, and he says it's that there are better performers in the competition, but he tells Chikezie that he's in the bottom because he chose the wrong song last night and it wasn't original.

So, after the highest vote this season for a single show, America has decided that Syesha is safe and it's Chikezie going home tonight!!! The dream fulfilled - yes!!! Finally, no more Chikezie. that's what happens when you ruin my favorite Beatles song.

Jason last to join the bottom three

OK - back to the results. Ramiele Malubay is next and Ryan goes over her performance last night and asks her if it was difficult to perform wit her voice failing her. She says she was quiet most of the day and that she pushed out what she could for the performance. Ryan tells her it worked because she's safe.

The last two left are Jason Castro and Kristy Lee Cook and Ryan has them both come out... I'm getting nervous now - I cant lose my man - not yet. Ryan tells Kristy that Lee Greenwood called and said that he was very proud of her and that he loved what Simon had to say about her last night. So, never mind what I said earlier about how only David Cook has gotten feedback from the actual artists. Anyway, Ryan tells Kristy that she is safe and Jason is the lats to join the bottom three. This cannot be happening...

Kimberley Locke and Idol Gives Back

It's time to watch Kimberley Locke perform. I honestly have never heard her sing - I didn't start watching until Carrie Underwood's season, so I'm kind of looking forward to watching her perform. They show a clip, kind of catching up with her - she owns a steakhouse and has lost like 40 pounds. She sings a song called, "Fall," and it's a good song - I wish it hadn't been a ballad - they tend to bore me, but since this is the first time I'm hearing her, I'm not bored - yet. But what's up with her dress - the bust area looks really funky - like they pushed her up and squeezed her in. I don't know... it's OK - still better than Blake Lewis.

Ryan talks about Idol Gives Back again and says that stars like Snoop Dogg, Reese Witherspoon, Gloria Estefan, Miley Cyrus, Daughtry, Brad Pitt, Fergie, Forest Whitaker and John Legend will appear. So, again, we get to see how the money raised last year was utilized. Here in America, money went to the Boys and Girls Club, with more than 10,000 kid joining. Also, money was given to feed people across the country, and three new mobile medical units are treating kids and administering more than 4,000 life-saving immunizations. 25,000 books were donated to impoverished communities to improve their literary skills. Then during the wildfires in California and the tornadoes in Tennessee, emergency support and shelter were provided, thanks to viewers.

Questions galore

Michael Johns is next and Ryan asks him if he felt it was his best performance so far, like the judges did and he says it was overwhelming and he was just glad he got through it. And get through it, he did, because Ryan tells him he is safe.

So, now we're on to the questions segment of the show. First question is for Chikezie - some girl in Georgia wants to know if he's single. He says he is.

Next question is for David Archuleta - a girl from Ohio wants to know why he chose to sing that song last night? He says "You're the Voice" is one of his all-time favorite songs and he thinks John Farnham is amazing, so he thought it would great to sing it. Ryan mentions how Simon didn't believe he chose it and at that point David starts to fall apart a little, giggling nervously, claiming that he did indeed pick the song himself. I hate to be cynical, but I don't believe him. I totally think his dad made him do it.

Next question is for Simon - some girl wants to know what she has to do to take Ryan Seacrest's job. Simon says, "The good news is, you don't need a lot of talent. So there's a chance for everyone."

Next question is for Brooke - a boy wants to know if she could do a duet with anyone, who would it be? She says John Mayer.

Geez... could be done with this now?

One more, Ryan says... Last question is from Texas and she asks Simon if he considers himself the most attractive person on the show and if so, why? He says "It's nt what I say, it's what other people say."

Syesha Mercado joins Chikezie in the bottom three

They couldn't have picked a better song for the Ford commercial this week - it's set to "I Want You to Want Me," one of my favorites and the commercial is actually really cute - very cool how they made the contestants come alive on posters and shirts and stuff. This is the first commercial I've really, truly enjoyed.

OK, back to the results. David Archuleta is next and Ryan asks him what he thinks of Ryan's comment last night about his performance being like a theme park show. David says he was having a lot of fun up there and maybe he got carried away. And Ryan quickly tells him he is safe and we're on to David Cook...

Ryan mentions again that he sang Chris Cornell's version of "Billie Jean" and says that he heard from Chris Cornell today and he loved David's performance. This is second time David has gotten feedback from the actual singers... I wonder why they haven't done that for the other contestants. Anyway, he, too, is safe, of course.

Syesha Mercado is next and Ryan goes over what she sang and what the judges said and tells her that America disagreed with the judges and she is in the bottom three tonight.

Chikezie is in the bottom three

So, after a recap of last night's performances, Ryan moves on to the results. He asks Chikezie to come to the stage first and after going over what he sang and what the judges said, Ryan tells him he's in the bottom three. YES!!!!!! Could it be? Could my dream really be coming true???

Anyway, Brooke White is next, and as expected, she is safe.

Carly Smithson is next and did any of you catch how she was standing, covering her stomach?? But, it turns out it's nothing after all, or so she claims. They actually do address the rumors and sh says she is not pregnant and that she actually wore a girdle last night to appear thinner than she is. I applaud them for addressing it, but I still wonder if it's true. Anyway, we'll get to watch her grow, or not, because she is safe.

Slight correction

Before I get to the show tonight, I just have to mention that I replayed last night's show and many of you commented that Ryan did tell us that David Cook would be singing Chris Cornell's version of "Billie Jean." You were all right. I replayed it and he does in fact say that, so apologies to those who took offense to my friend's assumption that David stole the arrangement.

Moving on to the show, Ryan says more than 30 million people voted this week and talks about last year's songwriting contest. He says the contest is running again this year and those of you who want to enter can do so at You have until March 31 and you must be older than 18.

The group song tonight is "Right Back Where We Started From" by Maxine Nightingale and it's OK. I honestly was focused on Jason Castro and how cute he looked trying to dance However, I did notice that Carly is wearing yet another baggy shirt. I'm dying to know if they're going to address the pregnancy rumors.

They then show us a clip of the contestants recording the full versions of the songs they sing each week for iTunes. It's a nice plug, trying to get us all to go and download their stuff. To be honest, i didn't realize you could download the contestants singing the full versions. I may have to download a few of them.

David Cook takes on "Billie Jean" and comes out a winner

Kristy Lee Cook was born January 18, 1984 in Seattle, Wash. She says her parents didn't ell her much about when she was born except for the fact that she came out smiling. She says when she was little, she was really loud, singing all the time. They show her parents and her dad is super cute. He says Kristy started singing when she was about 2 or 3. Kristy says she does remember singing this song called "Kristy" and that she loved that song because her dad used to sing it and It was her name, so that was her father/daughter song. Her dad says they used to travel a lot when she was young and she would sing in the car and wouldn't stop. He said the kids would tell her to shut up but he'd tell them to let her sing because one day, she may be something.

She sing "God Bless the USA," by Lee Greenwood and all I can say is she is one smart cookie. She picked a great song to appeal to most of the country - a nice patriotic, good old American song. I think just her song choice will keep her in this competition another week, and truth be told, I think this week, she deserves the spot. She sounds pretty terrific tonight - it's a good song for her voice. There are a couple of spots where she's a bit out of tune, just a tiny bit flat. But for the most part, it's really good. I'm a little surprised.

Huh... a thought just came to me. What if Carly Smithson really is pregnant? Wouldn't this be a great week to get rid of her without anyone making a big fuss? Kristy was actually good and Carly was already in the bottom three last week, so it wouldn't seem so far-fetched. I'm curious to see how it all pans out tomorrow.

Randy tells her it was a great song choice and other than a few pitch problems in the middle, he thinks it was a great performance from her. Paula says it was good choice, that she's seen better performances from her, but her voice is sounding much stronger, that she's growing. Simon says it was her best performance by a mile, and he says that it was the most clever song choice he's heard in years and he thinks this performance will keep her in the competition.

David Cook is last tonight, so I'm hoping that means they saved the best for last. He was born December 20, 1982. He says most of his family think he was a cute kid, but he think he had a massive skull, that it was unreal, like one of those super villains from Marvel comics or something. I would agree with him - the skull is pretty massive. He says his family was really into photos and really anything that would look funny in a photo, they'd put it on him and take a photo. He got his first guitar when he was two. His moms says he got it for Christmas and he would stand in the middle of his bed with his sunglasses and his tube socks and short shorts and strum his guitar because he was a rock star. David says music was always available to him, but not forced on him, and he just knew early on that it was something he wanted to do.

He's singing Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," and I think we can all agree that this song is a classic and I'm always afraid of people messing with classics - some songs should just be left alone. But again, in my opinion, David Cook is on fire - there's nothing he can't do. I don't have too much to say about it , really. He took on Michael Jackson and held his own, completely changed the song and it was amazing. It was just another fantastic performance - it's like he's the only one who's really thinking outside the box this season. If you missed it, you've just got to see it.

Having said that, I got an e-mail from Genetta, my friend from work, not too long after "Idol" was over, which said, "Dude stole that arrangement from Chris Cornell." She also felt like the judges praising him for being original wasn't fair since the arrangement was not his own. So, I think it's only fair that we compare the two, don't you think?

So, what's the verdict? Is he original? Or a copycat? I have to say, they do sound rather similar. I wish it somehow made me think less of David Cook, I really do, but it just doesn't - I still think he's awesome. Even if he's not coming up with the arrangements himself, he's still entertaining and creative enough to use the alternative versions of the songs, instead of singing the same old tune, like the others do.

Randy tells him he's the most original, most bold contestant they've ever had and based on his performance tonight, he might be the one to win the whole competition. Paula says she's blown away and can't sit down (yes, she's standing). She says he's smart and brave and willing to stretch the boundaries. Simon says "David, that was brave. I mean, it could have either been insane or amazing, and I have to tell you, it was amazing."

So, I've lost track on how well I've done with the guessing so far. I think I might be 7 for 14 right now - not entirely sure. But for tomorrow, I think it can go a few ways. It could be Carly Smithson, since she wasn't great and the whole pregnancy rumor. It could be Chikezie, because I'm sick of him and maybe other people are too, or it could be Ramiele Malubay, because she's been consistently not great for a few weeks now. So, I'm going to put my cynicism aside and go with Ramiele because I think she's the fair choice. (But part of me really does think it could be Carly.) We'll see soon enough.

David Archuleta: "You're the Voice" that's quickly fading

Carly Smithson was born September 12, 1983 in Dublin, Ireland. She says she got her name from the radio. her mom then tells the story of how she still had no name for Carly when she went into labor and on the way to the hospital, a Carly Simon song came on the radio and she wrote the name on her hand and when she was born, she showed her husband her hand and said, "There's the name." Carly says she always wanted to be a pop star and her mom says that she always knew she'd be an entertainer.

She sings "Total Eclipse of the Heart," by Bonnie Tyler and how interesting that she's wearing a black dress with vertical stripes. Could they be trying to hide her baby bump? Anyway, for yet another week, I'm just not impressed with Carly. I feel like her voice sounds very strained a lot of the time - like you can tell that her voice is right on the edge of cracking - and of course, she yells through all her songs, too. Her performance was fine and she was in tune and generally, it was very nice. But, the song didn't work for her, I don't think - she would have been better off singing a simpler song or perhaps singing this song with not so much band behind her - something soft, just to give her voice a break, she's going to yell her way into laryngitis one of these weeks.

Randy says it was an interesting song choice and that he liked it but he didn't love it, he says he didn't like the note at the end, that it went a little sharp. He says it was just OK. Paula says Carly can take a song she doesn't like and make her want to go out and buy it and she says she can do no wrong tonight. Simon says something didn't quite work and he think it's because she was so tense and almost uptight during the performance. He says he didn't enjoy it as much as he thought he was going to. He says she sang parts of the song very well but he's with Randy, that something didn't quite work and that she has to lighten up a bit.

David Archuleta may have put his foot in his mouth al ittle bit. Ryan asks him about missing school and he says he's missed a couple of dances and he might miss prom. Ryan asks who he would take and David says he doesn't know if he should say and then Ryan asks if it's someone in the studio, perhaps sitting by his father> And then they get a shot of a pretty young girl, who looks so terribly embarrassed to be put on the spot like that. Hope he's not in too much trouble...

Anyway, he was born December 28, 1990 in Miami, Fla. He says he has a brother and three sisters. They show his parents and they're the first to appear really phony to me. His mom talks about how great David is and how he has a great relationship with all his siblings and how everybody loves David because he's so great. I mean, that's wonderful that they love him and think so highly of him, but they didn't really tell us anything about what he was like growing up - David told us more than they did. David says he was really close to his older sister growing up and that his mom used to make them dance together - and then they show a clip of him and his sister in traditional costumes from Honduras, I guess (that's where he's from, right?) - he in all white with a neck scarf and straw hat, she in a long white dress, and they were likely dancing traditional folklore dances. It was absolutely adorable.

He sings "You're the Voice" by John Farnham, a song I've never heard by a man I've never heard of and it's just OK. Again, it's all about song choice - this song is really, really cheesy and even his great voice can't save this number. I feel like he peaked with "Imagine" and it's just been kind of downhill since then. I don't think he's in any danger of going home - he's still a fan favorite - but I don't really understand why he chose this completely obscure song when he had a choice of so many. It was really disappointing - again.

Oh how cute... I'm totally speculating here, but right as Randy starts talking, they show David on stage and he says to someone, "Sorry." I wonder if he was apologizing to that girl, his girlfriend?, for telling the world that they were going to prom together. Anyway, in my mind, that's what he was doing and I think it's sweet.

So, Randy tells him it was a strange song choice, but that it just proves that if you can sing, you can sing whatever, that he's got mad skills and that it was still very nice. He says he didn't know the song, but it was still nice. Paula also says that they were all trying to figure out who the song was by and Simon is the one who knew it. She adds that he could sing the phone book and they'd fall in love with him. Simon says he sang it well in parts but he didn't like the performance at all, that it was actually reminiscent of a theme park performance. He says it's reminds him of one of those ghastly numbers where you've got animate creatures with you and everyone joins in together, and he doesn't think that's David at all. Wow - he goes on to say that he'd be amazed if he chose the song himself because it's not him. I wonder if he's alluding to the rumors that David's father is crazy controlling.

If that rumor is true, about how he got kicked off the "Star Search" set and whatever, then I feel really bad for David. It can't be easy to feel so much pressure from your parents about something so silly. I mean, this is not real life - winning "American Idol" should not be the measure of who he is. There are far more important things in life, like education, being a good person and things of that nature. Anyway, that's just my opinion.

"If only for one night," can I pretend Chikezie's gone home?

I've wanted to see Chikezie go ever since the first week when he copped an attitude with Simon. I came around a little bit a couple of weeks ago when he sang "She's a Woman" and it was such an incredible performance, I just couldn't help but root for him. But after he slaughtered my absolute favorite Beatles song last week, I feel like I'm done with Chikezie - he can no longer redeem himself in my eyes and I just want him to go home.

Well Ryan is talking to him before his performance and Chikezie says that he had been afraid to sing a ballad after the judges didn't like one of his performances, but that he decided to follow his heart this week and he picked a song that resonates really deeply within him. Whatever... I wonder what he'll sing - perhaps that Luther Vandross song he's already sung twice this season - once in auditions and again a few weeks back.

Anyway, he was born September 11, 1985 in Los Angeles. He says he doesn't remember when he started singing, but they show his parents and his mom says when he was 3, he would hum songs even before he knew the words. Chikezie says his parents always played Nigerian cultural music in the house, and they were always focused on faith and education.

He sings "If Only for One Night," which in 1985, was recorded by Patti LaBelle and wouldn't you know it? Luther Vandross. It's a shame the song has me longing for my bed and a good night's sleep because his voice is pretty good tonight...

Wait... is he actually touching the audience and serenading them as if he really is somebody? Oh no, no, no. That's a bad move right there... way too cocky, way too premature. See? That's my problem with Chikezie - just when I'm about to say something nice about him, just when I start thinking that perhaps I've judged him too harshly, he does something stupid that just reaffirms for me how full of himself he is and how much I want him to go home. I'm just over him... let's move on...

Randy says he didn't love it, that it was too old-school, that it wasn't hip and cool like the Chikezie he loves with all that energy, that it was just kind of boring for him. Paula disagrees and says that it was a good throwback and he did a great job with the textures of his vocals. Yeah, that's what she said, I promise. I can't tell you what she means, but it's what she said. Simon says he thinks he sang it well, but that the performance was very cheesy, putting his hand into the audience, that it's all very... and then Chikezie interrupts Simon and says, "That's who I'm singing for, I'm sorry." Idiot - just shut up and take the criticism - the judges don't even get a vote. Let America decide if they agree or not, but the second he starts arguing, he makes himself look bad. Simon quickly tells him he's not singing it for them, that he's singing it for himself along with everybody else. He then goes on to say that he has to show originality and he didn't see anything original except for someone trying to copy the original and he doesn't think that's what Chikezie should be doing. He says he misses Chikezie's personality.

Brooke White was born June 2, 1983, and she's the oldest of four children. She remembers the day the got a piano - it was their great grandmother's. Then they show her parents and her mom says that not long after they got the piano, she could hear someone playing a song and she went in and asked Brook where she learned the song and Brook told her it was a song she had heard on TV. Brooke says she taught herself to play by ear and that to this day, that's how she plays. She says she likes seeing her family in the audience that it's comforting and she misses them a lot.

She sings "Every Breath You Take" by The Police, and oh no... she just screwed up. She starts off, sings a line kind of off key, stops and just starts over. It's a tiny little blip and I hope no one makes a big deal out of it. Her voice has such a beautiful tone - it's so perfect for this kind of display... just a voice and a slight accompaniment, perhaps a guitar or a piano. She makes these performances so beautiful in a way that I doubt anyone else could. Oh, I'm actually a bit disappointed that she incorporated the band in the middle of the song. It would have been so much better had she left it just her and the piano. But still, it's a great performance, a gazillion times better than last week's mess.

Randy says it's an interesting song choice, great song, that the front part of it was good. He actually liked that she started, realized it wasn't right and started over. But he didn't like the arrangement with the band after the bridge - he actually says he would have liked it if she had stayed without the band, that it would have been more interesting on her own, but that it was all right. Paula says it was better than last week and that her voice is recognizable and that she's consistent. Simon says he agrees with Randy, that if she had just stayed with her and the piano, it would have been much cooler, the minute the band joined in, it made it old-fashioned.

Michael Johns was born October 20, 1978 in Perth, Australia. His moms says that when he was a child, he was competitive, competitive, competitive. He always had to be best, she says. Michael says he was really competitive with his sister at card games, tat he would sometimes throw the table if he thought she was cheating. He says he thought he would be a tennis player until he was 15 and discovered music.

He sings a medley of Queen's "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions" and finally, finally, Michael Johns has made us notice him. I don't know if it was the lights that added to the excitement of his performance, but I feel like this is his absolute best so far. Great choice of song(s), and his voice sounds great - perfectly suited to his choice tonight. I am wondering a few things, though. First, why did he get to sing two songs in one and no one else? Were they all given the choice? Also, everyone criticized Amanda for having that one sound, for relying on her Janis Joplin-like sound. But so far, Michael Johns has only impressed us with Queen songs - seems a bit unfair to applaud him when we've just voted her out for basically using the same crutch. Having said all that, I think he's fantastic tonight and absolutely safe tomorrow night.

Randy tells him that finally he believes in himself and used his big old voice and that it was his best performance since he's been on the show. Paula says this was his shining moment, blah blah blah... Simon says this is the first time he's seen star potential with him because he just got it right tonight. He says it's the only memorable performance of the night so far.

Jason Castro improves, but judges think his status is "Fragile"

OK, so I just got home from work and before I start with tonight's show, I have to address something I saw on the news before I left the office. Now, I know no one out there will believe me, but I noticed this a few weeks ago and decided against writing about it, because I felt it was inappropriate - I didn't want to be the Perez Hilton of Newsday, spreading rumors without having them confirmed... But did any of you hear on the news tonight that Carly Smithson may be pregnant? I started to wonder two weeks ago when she wore this really ugly blue satiny dress and it was just really baggy on her... then last week she wore that mumu-like red top and I really started to question it. I spoke to some friends at work about it and I wasn't the only one to notice... but like I said, I didn't want to be spreading rumors, so I didn't mention it here, but now that it's on the news, what do you all think? I wonder how it will affect the tour. And did you notice how they put her in a rather snug dress tonight, perhaps to counter the speculation? Anyway, I just wanted to get that off my chest because I was so excited when I heard it - I was like, "I knew it!!!" It may still be just a rumor, but at least now I'm just repeating the rumor - I'm not actually creating it.

Another quick aside before we get to the singing... what is going on with Paula Abdul tonight? Fingerless gloves? Really? C'mon...

OK let's get to the singing... First up is Ramiele and tonight, we get to hear about the contestants' birthdays and a little bit about their childhoods. So Ramiele was born September 6, 1987 in Saudi Arabia. She says that when she was a little kid, she got into a lot of trouble. Then they show her parents and her mom says that she used to bite people when she was little, but after she turned three, she stopped and instead picked up a microphone. Ramiele says she used to take the microphone from her family when they did karaoke and would start singing. She ends the interview by saying that she has to step it up this week because she's lucky to be in the top 10 and she needs to prove that she deserves to be there.

She sings "Alone" by Heart and I immediately know it's not a good idea, for a couple of reasons. Reason No. 1... Carly already sang this song this season - I forget when - but you never want to find yourself compared directly to another competitor. Reason No. 2... Carrie Underwood sang this song a few seasons back and just killed it - I mean, it was probably the most memorable performance of that whole season. and Reason No. 3... this song kind of invites bad clothing, being an 80s song and all, and Ramiele has already proven that she cannot dress herself. Tonight is no different - she comes out wearing these high-waisted shorts (yes, I said shorts), an off-the shoulder top tucked into the shorts, and a pair of knee-length boots. It's like three different bad 80s fads thrown together - just awful.

The singing starts off bad, gets better in the chorus and then goes back to bad. The beginning is out of tune, then the first line of the chorus sounds promising, but she quickly begins to scream and doesn't quit until the end of the song, where she goes out of tune all over again. It's tough - she was my favorite girl the first week out - I thought her voice was huge, that she had so much potential, but every week, she sinks a little deeper into a hole I'm not sure she can dig out of anymore. I think she may be in danger this week.

Randy starts off by saying that he heard she was a little under the weather, but that it wasn't the right song choice for her, that it's too big of a song for her. He actually remembers and mentions that Carly did it before and that it was a rock thing, not really Ramiele's thing and that it was a little pitchy all over the place. I'd love to tell you what Paula said but she started like 5 sentences and only ended one, so the basic idea is that she wants her to stay because she thinks Ramiele can sing... Simon says it wasn't as bad as Randy said. He said the first part was OK, that the middle got a bit shrieky but the truth is that after last week, which he thought was atrocious and she survived, he think she'll get through on this performance.

It's time for Jason Castro!!! I'm so hoping he improves on last week because if he doesn't get it together, I may not be able to look at him for much longer... Have I mentioned how adorably delicious he is???

Anyway, he was born March 25, 1987... Happy birthday... in Dallas, Texas. He says when he was younger, he looked the same as now, except smaller and pudgier and cuter. He says he does remember people always telling him how cute his eyes were - he says he would get that every day. I'm sure he still gets that every day - his eyes are beautiful. He says he and his brother got some instruments when he was like 3 or 4. He got an electric guitar that had buttons and his brother got a key-tar. (keyboard with a strap like a guitar) Then they show his parents and his mom says that they were blessed with this annoying shrieking electronic-sounding guitar.

I love how they're showing the parents - it's nice to see who the contestants look like and getting to hear what they were like when they were little. The home videos and baby pictures are really cute, too.

Anyway, Jason sings Sting's "Fragile" and I'm glad to see that he's brought the guitar back out. I feel like he's more confident when he has the guitar with him and this week is no different - he appears more sure of himself, stronger in his vocals. I love that he sings in Spanish - very hot!!! His voice actually sounds a bit like Enrique Iglesias to me, at least on this song. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not, but I find it difficult to find fault with Jason, so I think he's great this week, way better than last week. He's still not the best singer in the competition, but he's better a good number of them, I think, and I hope he's safe for another week. I hope you're all voting for him... I'm at work during voting hours, so someone's going to have to cast some votes for me. They just showed him close up and my God, could he be any hotter???

Randy says it's one of his favorite songs and he says it's a good choice for Jason, but he's not really sure Jason did anything different with it vocally. He says he liked the Spanish touch, that it was all right. He says he's still waiting for that jump-out vocal performance, but that it was nice. Paula say he's staying true to who he is and agrees that he didn't do anything to make them go "wow," that he's playing it a little safe. Simon says he thinks he's had two bad weeks and he thinks it's time that he start taking this a little more seriously because he says the performance was the equivalent of someone performing outside of a subway station. He says the way he played the guitar was clumsy, everything about it was too laid back, too much in his own world and he says that he is somebody, as proven when he sang "Hallelujah," who is potentially, even maybe a winner, but he's not going to win if he keeps doing this week after week. Ouch... I'm not sure why he chose this performance to unleash like that. Last week would have seemed a better time when he sang "Michelle" and kind of made it a bit of a joke. Jason does acknowledge that he could spend more time practicing, but that he is taking the competition seriously. I don't know - I hope it's not too late for him to come back and wow us next week.

Syesha Mercado was born in Bridgeport, Conn., on January 2, 1987. Syesha's mom says that when she was like 4 years old, she would throw herself on the floor and scream and holler and kick... Syesha says she was a cry-baby and that's probably where she got her baby cry from and then does her impersonation again. She says she was on a dance team and they used to have to wear sequined outfits and had pom-poms and she got a lot of gold medals, that they used to work very hard. She says she's still a kid, that she has her mental side, her adult, professional side, but most of the time, she's just goofy.

I sure wish she'd be more goofy with her song choices. She has a way of picking the most boring songs ever. This week she sings, "If I Were Your Woman," which was recorded by Stephanie Mills in 1987, the year of Syesha's birth. I have to admit, she sounds great tonight - she's perfectly in tune and it's the first time since Hollywood week where I've felt kind of blown away by the tone of her voice, but I have to be honest... it's still boring to me. It's all about song choice - I have nothing bad to say about her singing this week - it really was flawless, amazing. But the song was so slow and dull, it's like I couldn't wait for it to be over, despite the fact that she sounded so wonderful - does that make any sense? Regardless, I think it's enough to keep her safe another week, and maybe next week she'll do a song with some life in it.

Randy says it's a good moment for Syesha because it's the best he's heard her sing, including when she auditioned. He says it was stellar, unbelievable. Paula says this is going to be what people remember as the moment where Syesha flipped it and became the dark horse in the competition, that she was fantastic. Simon says he doesn't think the end part was as good as Randy thought and that he thinks there is a limit on her vocals and that this performance kind of stretched it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

American Idol vocal coach: Chikezie, Carly almost blew it

Our L.A. Times colleague Richard Rushfield has a great interview with Debra Byrd, "American Idol's" vocal coach and arranger.

It's a must-read; among the interesting things she reveals:

Byrd shared the back story of what has been perhaps the most celebrated performance of the season: Chikezie's rendition of "She's a Woman."

"What you did not see was the agony of him trying to choose the song. He had chosen 'Help!' and we worked on it and he began changing the arrangement. He changed the chords. And I said, 'You can't do that to a Beatles song, my dear. Sorry.' And I said, 'You're going to have to do one of two things. You're going to have to surrender to what the song is or you're going to have to pick another song.' " Late in the game, with only a tiny amount of time left before the Tuesday show, Chikezie "slept on it, thought about it overnight and came in and said, 'OK, I've changed my song.' "

Byrd continues, "When he first sang the song 'She's a Woman,' I couldn't feel it. I said, because part of it is finding it, 'Is it an R&B vibe? Is it a rock vibe?' How do you see yourself singing it?' And he got very excited and he said, 'Oh, OK! I want a banjo and I want a fiddle!' And I was like, OK, now I can hear it. And as soon as he said banjo and fiddle, then I could hear it."
Man, if Chikezie had wound up singing Help!, it'd have been all over for him--he barely made it out of the Hollywood round, and was, in my opinion, really teetering on the edge.

It just shows how close the line between success and failure can be on Idol--if Byrd for some reason had been too tired or busy that week to spend the extra time with Chikezie, he might already be off the show.

He should buy her a car or something if he winds up winning... just like Katharine McPhee owes Simon big-time for making the finals two years ago.

There's another part of the interview, where Byrd talks about Carly Smithson:
On last week's other major sensation, Smithson's "Come Together," Byrd revealed that although she had performed this frequently before, the rehearsal time also brought some critical changes. After practicing it a few times, Byrd and Smithson felt that despite the singer's comfort and history with the material, something still wasn't clicking. It was at this point that Byrd wondered, "With her band was she singing 'Come Together' in Paul McCartney's key?"

"She sang it and I said, 'No, no, no. Let's try another key.' We changed it to a higher key. And you know she was very happy because it changed her vibe. She didn't sound like a guy anymore. She sounded sexy like Tina Turner."
Ha, that's a great last line.

It's interesting, some people think contestants like Carly/David Cook/etc. have an unfair advantage, because of their extensive experience performing in public.

But really, this shows that if they're stubborn and don't listen, the contestants are actually at a disadvantage--after all, there's probably a reason they haven't made it big before Idol, and things like poor song choice and bad habits are likely at the heart of it.

Even though I don't like Carly, I'm glad she doesn't feel like she's above getting help (unlike some previous contestants, who not only rejected what Byrd had to say, but bragged about it on-air).

And it all highlights the best part of Idol--these are non-fully-formed young musicians, who we get to watch get better from week to week.

Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Amanda Overmyer goes home

The bottom three is all women this week - no major surprise - the guys are way better this season... I'm a little surprised that Carly is there, but I'm sure Ryan will send her to safety first.

And as expected, he does. Carly is sent back to safety, joining the top 10, and oh Lord - is she crying???

Ryan asks Simon is America's got it right so far? And Simon says, "Two weeks running, yes."

It's official. We have a new Sanjaya, ladies and gentlemen. Kristy Lee Cook is safe again, if you can believe it and it's Amanda Overmyer who goes home... Insane - just completely insane - I mean, what do we have to do to get rid of Kristy?

Amanda Overmyer last to join the bottom three

Back to the results... Syesha Mercado is next and she joins the top 10.

It's down to Amanda Overmyer and Chikezie Eze. After the nationwide vote, Ryan tells Chikezie that he is safe this week and it's Amanda who is in the bottom three.

I'm a little surprised, but not really. I think after a while, Amanda's singing style is just too limiting. It's a shame - I think she's very entertaining.

Kellie Pickler and Idol Gives Back

It's time for Kellie Pickler. I have to admit, I think she's so stupidly adorable... It's too bad that sitcom deal never panned out - I totally would have watched her on TV - I think she's really funny.

However, hasn't she kind of worn out that "Red High Heels" song? Someone please tell me - didn't she come back last season and sing that song? I, for one, am a little tired of this song, but she's still more entertaining than Blake Lewis, so I'll stick it out. I actually love her dress, too. She looks beautiful.

Idol Gives Back returns April 9, but what about the 76 million dollars we gave last year? Ryan says a portion went to Angola to fight malaria. They show a clip of Fantasia Barrino and Elliott Yamin in Angola, giving out bed nets. Nobody said anything about having to hear Fantasia sing... I can't handle it... fast forward...
Next, hey go to the hospital and they show Elliott a newborn and tells him that it is a tradition to name children after visitors and that the newborn had been named Elliott. He looks pretty touched and starts crying.

More than 3,000 children die of malaria every day and the money donated last year helped distribute over 8 million nets across Africa, to help save some lives.

Bunch of stupid questions

Jason Castro is up next and he is quickly told that he's in the top 10. Ramiele Malubay walks on stage next and literally overnight, she's become one of my biggest annoyances. She just started this weird whiny thing last night and I ignored it because I thought perhaps it was an isolated incident, but here she is again tonight, playing this baby-voice whiny brat and it's really aggravating. Ryan asks her if she regrets not sticking to a ballad last night and she says in a very slow, very child-like voice, "A little bit." Ugh... and somehow, she makes it into the top 10... crazy.

Another break from results... We're doing the calls from viewers things again. So boring... First question is for Simon - "Why do you spend so much money on cars and nothing on clothes?" He responds by saying that that was a very rude question because it implies that he looks terrible. But he answers by saying that the reason is because unlike other people on the show, he actually doesn't have an ego. Whatever.

Next question is kind of boring - something about whether Simon would consider filming a sequel to the kiss scene thing they did a couple of years back. He says yes he would because Paula is actually a very good kisser. Yuck.

Next question is for Ramiele - what was the last song she downloaded on her iPod? Se says R. Kelly's "I'm a Flirt."

Next question is for Michael Johns - is his experience on "Idol" everything he thought it would be? He says it's everything and more - a lot more stressful.

Thank goodness that's over - this question sequence thing is so stupid...

Kristy Lee Cook joins Carly in the bottom three

David Archuleta is up next and after going over what he sang and whatever, he is the ext to join the top 10 and the traveling tour.

Michael Johns follows and he looks a bit scared. Ryan asks him if he still feels good about his choice to sing "A Day in the Life" and he says absolutely, that's it's one of his favorites and he wouldn't change a thing. Ryan then tells him he is in the top 10 and he actually falls to his knees in relief and excitement. I'm actually happy for him - I hope he comes back next week and gives that wow performance we've been waiting for.

We're taking a break from results right now to watch a behind-the-scenes thing about the filming of the Ford commercial, which this week is set to "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" about filming a video of some kind of UFO sighting. It's OK - not one of my favorites.

Back to the results... David Cook is next and Ryan reminds him of how Simon told him last night that he looked kind of smug and asks him, "How do you react to that?" and he says simply, "I don't." It's a great answer, but one that could make him appear even more smug. But it doesn't matter, because he's in the top 10.

Kristy Lee Cook is next and when asked how she thinks she did last night, she says she thinks it was her strongest performance. But we all disagreed because she joins Carly Smithson in the bottom three.

Carly Smithson is in the bottom three

So it looks like they're going to have mentors this season, after all. I had heard that they were moving away from them, focusing more on the contestants. Glad to hear they'll be having guests again - I always enjoyed them. This season, the mentors will be Dolly Parton, Mariah Carey, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Neil Diamond. Not a bad bunch.

The group song this week is another Beatles medley, but it's not as good as last week's. What's going on? They show Brooke White and Ramiele Malubay singing, but you can only hear Brooke - I wonder if something is wrong with Ramiele's microphone... Well, there is one aspect of this medley that I really enjoy - the part where they sing "Because." It's a capella and very pretty. But other than that, it's just not like last week's medley, which was spectacular.

OK, after clips from last night, we're on to the results. Brooke White is up first. And she is the first to join the top 10.

Carly Smithson is next and after the vote, she is the first one in our bottom three. can this really be happening? Can one of my dreams be coming true? I'm so tired of her, I wouldn't mind if she left, but to be fair, she doesn't deserve to go yet, and honestly, I'm actually very surprised to see her in the bottom three. The judges seem a bit surprised too - Paula says America definitely got it wrong. Randy agrees, but says "Blackbird" wasn't the best choice. He adds that she's one of the best singers.

Ramiele Malubay "should have known better" than to dress herself... they have stylists

Chikezie's most memorable moment was from Hollywood week, the first time he got compliments from all three judges.

Why is this happening to me? And why at 3:48am? Chikezie is going to sing my No.1 favorite Beatles song, "I've Just Seen a Face" and I just don't know if I have the energy to properly bash him when he ruins it. Chikezie may have earned a reprieve last week because his performance was so good, but this song is just not meant for him. I would rather have not heard this song tonight than to have to hear it from him.

Unbelievable - he slowed it down. Nothing could ruin this song more than slowing it down. It's one of the Beatles' great, kind of bouncy up-tempo songs. It's meant to be a happy song about someone falling in love, someone who's so jubilant he wants the whole world to know he's just met the one. It's a song just bursting with joy and excitement and Chikezie makes it so slow and gloomy, you'd never know what the song was about if you didn't listen closely to the lyrics. I'm disgusted.

Seriously? As if it weren't enough that he's already ruined the best song ever, he's now turned it into some kind of hootenanny. I mean, the song does have a slight country sound to it, which is why I thought Kristy Lee could probably sing it well, but not like this. I'm so upset by this arrangement, the truth is I can't even tell you if he's singing it well or not. It's just a poor fit all around. If Kristy Lee hadn't been so bad tonight, I'd be right back to wishing he'd go home.

Randy said there were some good parts and some bad parts. He said he liked it when it went to the fast part, but he didn't quite get the slow part. he said it was a very weird, strange arrangement with the harmonica. He says maybe it would be a good country song but that it was strange. Paula says he's showing who he is. Huh? Is she really implying that he's a harmonica-playing country singer? Because I completely disagree with that - I'm sure Chikezie would disagree with that too. She's just lost her mind. Simon says it started out OK and then he played the harmonica, which was literally atrocious and then it turned into "Achy-Breaky Heart" at the end. He says it wasn't as good as last week, that it was kind of gimmicky.

Ramiele Malubay's most memorable moment has been making new friends. She says the contestants have become close because they're stuck with one another, but that it's a good kind of stuck.

She sings "I Should Have Known Better" and all I can say is that yes, she should have. She should have known that the pants she put on were so big that they went all the way up to her chest. She should have known that the ivory hat she put on didn't match the pale yellow shirt that's being swallowed up by the huge pants and Lord knows she should have known not to sing a song called "I Should Have Known Better" because it's just inviting all kinds of snarky comments, much like the ones I just dished out. In all seriousness, I realize that her pants are supposed to look like that, but in my opinion, she's way too short to pull off that look - it just makes her look smaller and kind of stocky. The hat is just unnecessary and it really just doesn't go with anything.

Maybe she realizes how stupid she looks because her singing isn't that great, either. She does have a few moments here and there that are very nice, but overall, she's fallen into the just OK group and she may find herself in the bottom three tomorrow night, although no one deserves to go home like Kristy Lee Cook does.

Randy says he's not jumping up and down but what he loved about the performance was that she showed the confidence that he knows is in there. He says it was all right. Paula says it was better than last week, but that she wants her to go back to ballads because that's where she really shows her range. Simon said it sounded like Chikezie was on harmonica. He says he likes her, that she has a fantastic personality, but the track sounded terrible, very amateurish and that she chose a very mediocre song and didn't show the best of her ability.

So, I think it's pretty obvious, I think Kristy Lee Cook should go home, although I think Ramiele and Chikezie may be in the bottom three with her.

Carly Smithson's so vain she thinks "Blackbird" is about her

Carly Smithson is next and she says her most memorable moment was last week when Simon says she reminded him of Kelly Clarkson, a compliment he threw her way once before in her original audition two years ago.

Oh no. In thinking about these two Beatles weeks, I had hopes for two songs. I wanted to hear someone sing "Blackbird," (preferably Jason Castro) and I wanted to hear Kristy Lee Cook sing "I've Just Seen a Face." They are my two absolute favorite Beatles songs and I wanted to hear them sung by the people I felt best suited them. But here we are and I'm going to get to hear "Blackbird," but instead of Jason singing it, I'm going to have to listen to Carly yell her way through it, I'm sure.

Well, I hate it. It starts out with a bit of promise - she's singing in a lower register, but she still doesn't achieve the softness the song really requires. And then, forget it. The second verse, she takes up an octave and the yelling begins. I just don't understand why she thinks she has to scream and yell in order for her voice to sound powerful. She's doing herself such a disservice, I think. Just like I've heard people complain that Amanda is a one-trick pony, that's how I feel about Carly. She screams through all of her songs - she doesn't know how to be soft, or soothing. But again, her voice is very pretty and she can carry the tune - I just rarely like her interpretation of these songs. And tonight, especially given that this song is so dear to my heart, I'm just disappointed and a little angry because Jason could have done it better. Even David's rock version would have been better, I think. Of course, this is just my opinion - and I'm not criticizing her voice - I don't think there's any debate - her voice is beautiful. I just don't enjoy her performances.

Randy says it was very nice, very controlled, very emotive and comes up with a new word - cooliosis. I don't know - he likes it, though. Paula likes it too - I didn't feel like listening to why.. and Simon tells her that he doesn't think she chose the right song. He actually says, "So, Beatles songs, week two and you choose a song about a blackbird. I don't think that was a smart thing to do." He says it was indulgent and he didn't like the song at all. Carly explains that she chose it because of the lyrics and relates it how all the contestants have been trying to break into the industry and have been broken but now that they've hit "American Idol," they're free. They're both ridiculous. Simon is wrong and Carly is being silly to compare her situation to what the song is really about. "Blackbird" is certainly not about a blackbird. The song was written in 1968 in reaction to the civil rights struggle here in the United States. It's been said that Paul McCartney envisioned a black woman as he wrote it, but made the subject a blackbird so that it would be more universal.

And she actually got the number 7 tattooed on her finger to remember her experience on season 7 of the show... idiot.

OK - time for Jason Castro... He says his most memorable moment was a couple of weeks ago when he sang "Hallelujah." He says it's a real special song but the most memorable part of it was at the end when he didn't sing the last note very well at all. He says it was a bad last note but nobody cared.

He sings "Michelle" and I'm not sure this is the best song for him - the song requires a very fluid sound, kind of like one word running into the next and his singing doesn't fit that too well and tonight, he comes off sounding a bit choppy, I think. I hate to say it because he's such a joy to look at, but I feel like tonight, he comes off a bit too simple. All the other singers are doing runs and changing the melodies and whatever, and he's just singing the melody as is, nothing special added. But never mind all that, because he looks so good. I love the sleeves on his shirt rolled up and the jeans fit him so nicely. And he's just so good-looking - he could be singing the alphabet right now, and I think the girls would still be screaming their heads off. He's just dreamy - the eyes, the dreadlocks, the smile. He's totally swoon-worthy - that's all there is to it.

Randy tells hims it was a good choice, but he doesn't know if he really, really got it, that it was just all right. Jason agrees and says it was just all right for him too, that this week came really fast, that he didn't have a lot of time to prepare. Paula says he has a very distinct charm, but that he get a little disconnected when he's away from his guitar and that it was a little awkward. Simon says it's a strange night and that they maybe shouldn't have done Beatles another week, but he says where Jason is lucky is that this is a TV show and not a radio show because his face sold that performance. He says he likes Jason a lot and that he's very charming and he's not obnoxious and he has a goofiness that makes it work, because if he were listening to the performance just on the radio, it would be off.

Syesha Mercado's most memorable moment was being in the bottom three last week. She says she needed that kick in the butt, that it gave her the inspiration to do her next song...

She sings "Yesterday," and it's a great improvement from last week. I think she comes off a bit dull simply because it's yet another ballad, but on a night when many of the contestants have been just OK, she comes off sounding great. I don't like when they change the genders in a song to make it fit - everybody knows what the words are - just sing them as they are. That's my opinion, anyway. I also don't like how she's behind the music a bit just to prolong some notes. But again, it's way better than last week, it's actually probably one of her best performances, so I'll focus on the positive... she looks beautiful in that dress (although I like her curls - not crazy about the straightened look).

Randy says it was very, very, very good. Paula says something about her vulnerability and that she needs to connect more with her audience. I hate how hard Paula is to follow - she can't seem to finish a complete thought - it's very frustrating. Anyway, Simon says it was probably her best performance so far. It wasn't incredible, but she chose the best song and that she sang it very well and that this performance should keep her in the competition.

"A day in the life" of boring, I mean, Michael Johns

Michael Johns is next and his most memorable moment was during Hollywood week when he sang "Bohemian Rhapsody." He says it was really risky for him but that he was really proud of how he delivered it with emotion, that it was magic.

He sings "A Day in the Life" and once again, I'm left wishing there were more. It wasn't bad - nowhere near bad - but it wasn't great - it just kind of sat there in mediocrity, with nothing special to grab hold of. It could have been a great song for him, too, but not when he's cutting more than half the song out. The great thing about this song is how it builds and builds like a crescendo into the chorus - and when you chop up the song, you just don't get that same experience. But besides the arrangement, his singing is just OK. I feel like his most memorable moment was indeed that moment during Hollywood week - I think that performance is the reason he made it into the top 24 and I think the judges, and America, keep waiting for him to duplicate the magic of that performance. He hasn't done it yet and I'm beginning to wonder if he can. It's such a disappointment, too, because he's so handsome - I'd certainly rather watch him than Chikezie any day, so I'm still holding out hope that he can pull it together and deliver something great sometime soon.

Randy says it wasn't his best performance, that he still hasn't chosen the right song. Paula says she caught some of the dress rehearsal and that he was phenomenal then, but that he lost a connection a little bit during this performance. She says that maybe it's because they're all wearing ear monitors this week and that it takes some getting used to because they're hearing themselves and are worried about how they're sounding. Simon says the ear monitor doesn't make any difference whatsoever because the long and short of it was that it was a mess. He says the song went all over the place, that it didn't work in a minute and a half and he didn't hit the right notes.

Wow - Ryan just totally sold Michael out. I can't believe it. He immediately asks Paula to talk about the ear monitor thing and what that means and as she starts to explain how it takes getting used to and whatever, Ryan interrupts to point out that Michael is not even wearing one. So Paula then says that he has no excuse, that's he's a phenomenal performer and he needs to step up his game. Then after all that, Ryan asks Michael why he chose the song. It turns out he chose it to honor his friend who died a year ago because it was his friend's favorite song.

Something just happened and I'm very curious to know what brought it on... As Ryan is giving out Michael's phone information, Michael looks over at something and says kind of sarcastically, it seems, "That's nice" and kind of looks a bit upset for a minute. I wonder what he was reacting to. I could be misreading it all together - maybe he was responding to something and saying "That's nice" in a very sincere way, but it didn't seem that way to me. Did anyone else catch it?

Brooke White's most memorable moment was last week when she sang, "Let It Be." She says the moment was bigger than she could have imagined and that's why she was so emotional.

Tonight, she sings "Here Comes the Sun" and before I say anything about that, I have to mention her dress. Now, normally, anyone who knows anything about me knows how much I love yellow. It's my favorite color and I adore just about anything that has any kind of yellow it in - except this dress. It looks like petals were ripped off a flower and sewn together - it's way too baggy, too... just not cute at all.

Anyway, back to the song... it's all wrong for her - she should have chosen "Yesterday" or maybe "Blackbird," something more mellow. Plus, as she gets up from the stairs, she does this very awkward walk and a sort of spin and actually whoops a little. She ends up in the middle of the stage and is she dancing? I'm not really sure. She reminds me of a "Friends" episode where Phoebe is trying to seduce Chandler and she tells him, "Maybe I'll dance for you" and does this really awkward, wanna-be sexy wiggling that of course, is very funny. And if I thought for a second that this was meant to be funny, too, then it wouldn't be quite so sad. She just looks terribly uncomfortable and while her voice sounds just as good as previous weeks, the performance as a whole is kind of a let-down. Especially since she's had like three great weeks in a row.

Randy says it was really awkward (no way) and that he didn't think she was ever really connected to the song. Paula says you can't help but smile when you watch Brooke and that she loves the yellow dress for the sun. Simon says that he just knew when she was choosing that song that she would be wearing yellow and the lighting would be yellow. He says the performance was terrible, from the horrible dancing to the absolute lack of conviction, it was wet (huh?) and forgettable. He says it's all about the song choice.

David Cook's most memorable moment was last week. He says it was the epitome of what he wanted to do when he started playing music - to have that rock concert feel, with the lights and the smoke and the audience. He says it was euphoric and then to be praised by the judges was just icing on the cake.

He sings "Day Tripper," and I'm kind of nervous, because he says he found a version sung by Whitesnake. Now, I love "Here I Go Again," who doesn't? But the idea of a Whitesnake version of a Beatles song is just a little bit frightening. But as always, he's awesome - I don't know why I worry. David has a way of just completely taking ownership of a song, completely transforming it without changing a note. And his voice is fantastic - he's always on - never a bad note, never out of tune. He's just such a breath of fresh air every week - he's fresh, innovative and entirely entertaining. And did anyone notice how confident he seems this week? He's even making these faces that I assume are supposed to be sexy at the camera. It's kind of creepy and cool at the same time. Creepy, because despite his great talent, I still don't think he's all that attractive, but cool because I don't think he's had the confidence to play to the camera too much so far, at least not in the same way. The only thing I thought was a little strange about his performance tonight was that contraption he used in the middle of the song to make that weird noise. It seemed kind of gratuitous to me, totally unnecessary. I don't think it took away from his performance, but I don't really feel like it added anything either.

Randy says he keeps it interesting every week, that he doesn't know if it was his best performance, but that it was another solid look for David Cook. Paula starts off with her usual mutterings, but then says something so ridiculously stupid, I actually found myself paying attention. She says, "You can probably get a Geico commercial now. Geico commercials are next." Huh? What? And nobody explained it - it just was put out there and left to marinate in its own stupidity. Why is she even on the show? She contributes nothing. But anyway, Simon tells David that it wasn't as good as he thinks it was. He says David looked a bit smug throughout the performance and that the weird noise in the middle was just stupid. Of course, the crowd is booing like crazy and so Simon says, "Just an opinion." He goes on to say that he's lost his element of surprise, that it was a bit predictable and that he didn't like that version.

David Archuleta has a "Long and winding road" to get back in my heart

It's funny how the Beatles stir up such sentiment in me, such nostalgia - especially since I wasn't alive during any of it. In fact, the Beatles were long broken up by the time I was born. But I think that's the key to the magic of their music. It transcends generations - I believe my children will grow up listening to the Beatles and I hope their children will, as well. Their music is timeless and revolutionary - it was such a large part of my childhood and it continues to be a source of great joy in my life. I'm just so excited that we get to hear a new generation explore this great era of music for another week - I'm hoping everyone does well, not just for their sakes, but for mine - I hope to thoroughly enjoy the next two hours.

Amanda Overmyer is up first and it looks like this week, we get to hear about the contestant's most memorable moment on "Idol" so far. Amanda's most memorable moment was playing on the big stage last week - she liked connecting with audience and feeding off their energy.

She sings "Back in the USSR," not really one of my favorite songs, but I can see why she chose it. It's got that rocker feeling to it, as close to it as the Beatles ever got, anyway. Well, it's not as good as last week, but it's still pretty good. She's a little behind the music in some spots and this week I find her very hard to understand - this is a song I don't know all the words to, so I was really listening for the lyrics and all I understood was "Back in the USSR." Having said that, though, I still find her very entertaining - I have yet to be bored by her. She picks great uptempo songs and really makes use of the stage, she moves around, gets into the performance. I am curious to see if she can take on a slow song at some point, but for right now, I love her choices, love her performances.

Randy says it's the perfect song choice for her, but that the beginning was a little pitchy. He says by the end, she was really good, but he only gave her a 7 out of 10 on that. Paula said she agrees with Randy - that in the beginning, it was a bit pitchy and she was a little ahead of the beat, but that she is authentic and unique. Simon says it was predictable, a bit of a mess in parts - that it's the same thing week after week after week. He tells her that she needs to switch it up because she may otherwise be in danger of becoming a bit boring.

Kristy Lee Cook is up next and her most memorable moment on "Idol" has been being the last man standing at almost every elimination. She says it's been very stressful being on stage with someone else, not knowing which one is going home. Well, maybe after this week, she won't ever have to go through that again. We can only hope.

She sings "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," a great song, but I'm not sure she can pull it off - the original has a very cool, mellow kind of vibe to it - her voice just isn't mellow, I don't think. Well, it only takes one line to confirm the fact that she's not going to do well with the song. She starts off a little bit out of tune and the vibrato in her voice doesn't even sound like vibrato - it sounds like nerves. She's actually in and out of tune throughout the entire performance and again, she's not really doing much up there - she walks around a bit and then does this weird thing with picking up her leg and stuff. It just wasn't good - I don't understand why she's still here this week, but I will be stunned if she's still here next week. But on a positive note, I do like her dress - not really with the cowboy boots, though.

Randy says it was an interesting arrangement, but that it felt kind of boring and safe and he wasn't sure if she was singing the melody or the chorus right. Paula says she looks gorgeous, the best she's ever looked, but that it was a little safe. Simon says he thinks she may need hypnosis because the problem is that she's not a good performer. He says the last two seconds were OK, but that it's like musical wallpaper, in that you notice it, but you can't remember it. He says that week after week, she's making no impact, apart from when she was terrible last week. But he does acknowledge that she was better this week. I actually disagree - her voice this week was completely off. While last week's arrangement was horrendous, her voice was actually very good - much better than tonight.

Kristy makes a pretty funny statement afterward about how she did the best she could with the Beatles, since it wasn't really her thing, but she hopes to stay through next week because as she says to Simon, "I can blow you out of your socks and you know it." I don't think any comment is necessary on that, so let's just move on... she did look appropriately embarrassed, though.

David Archuleta's most memorable moments include singing "Imagine," and of course, forgetting the words to "We Can Work It Out" last week with like 30 million people watching. Is it just me or has his whole innocent giggly thing gotten a bit old? Don't get me wrong, I'm still a fan, but I don't find it as endearing as I once did. If he keep it up another few weeks, I may eventually have to turn on him - we'll see.

He chooses "The Long and Winding Road" and thankfully, his past couple of weeks of yuck are over. He sounds great tonight, although I have to say, I feel like the past two weeks have taken a toll, in the sense that he's lost some steam - he's no longer on a roll. So, I feel like tonight, he's starting all over again. He sounds great - it's a terrific start, but he's going to have to do it again next week for me to start getting excited about him again. I mean, who's to say that he won't crack under the pressure again? I think we forget how young he is, plus there are reports all over the Web that his dad is crazy controlling and making him cry and stuff. I'm just not convinced that he has the staying power necessary to win this thing. Putting all that aside, though, when he's on, he does sing beautifully - there's a clarity to his voice that I really enjoy. And he picked a song that really suited him this week.

Randy says he brought the hotness back to his game, but he does mention that he thinks he played it a little safe and that next time, he should take some liberties. Paula says a some nonsense about how exciting and wonderful he is, something about purity and rising above adversity. I don't know, but she ends by saying he's wonderful. Simon says last week he was a mess, but that this week he was amazing. And oh boy, here comes the whole "Oh garsh, look at how cute and humble I am" act. I mean, maybe it's not an act, but I almost hope it is, because if that's really who he is all the time, he's just way too annoying to be around.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ranking American Idol's top 11

After week 1 of the American Idol marathon finals (remember, this thing goes through the end of May!), below is who one rabid fan likes.

I've gotta say I'm really enjoying this year; like Eileen, I'm jazzed about some of the competitors who are actually getting better and growing week-to-week.

Unlike last year, when it was pretty obvious early on that Jordin, Blake and Melinda were the class of the competition, I think a number of people have a shot at winning it all this season (assuming Archuleta's army sees some deserters at some point).

Note: Our L.A. Times colleague Richard Rushfield has pulled together his own rankings.

They differ pretty significantly from mine... all I can say is only one of us correctly predicted Jordin to win at the start of the Finals round last year (okay, I said either Jordin or Sanjaya....)

-Chikezie: His charisma and happiness really bubbled out this week, he's like a mini-Ruben in that it's hard not to smile when he's having a good time. Plus, like Ruben, he can sing!

-David Cook: He's so creative and down-to-earth; everyone compares him to Daughtry, but I think he's more like Blake Lewis in that you tune in every week wondering if he can keep walking that fine line between interesting and cringe-inducing.

-Brooke White: I had doubts about whether she was too adult, too unhip for this show; her big-time image makeover and savvy at picking songs mean there's no longer anything getting in the way of her great voice.

-Jason Castro: How can you not root for him? He's so obviously a nice, slightly nerdy guy, who's just really into music. There's some steel in him, too.

-David Archuleta: Even though I'm a big fan, I'm glad he stumbled this week--it makes him more human, and also this way if he wins he'll have shown he can overcome, it won't just be a foregone coronation.

And that's about it. I'm pretty sure the next Idol will be one of these five.

The other contestants for me range from I wish they would step it up because I like them (Ramiele Malubay, Syesha Mercado, Kristy Lee Cook); to ehh, whatever (Amanda Overmyer) to there's something about them I really don't like--generally smugness/fakery (Carly Smithson, Michael Johns).

If I had to put money on it, I think Archuleta will win this year, because of his rabid fan base (it reminds me of Taylor's Soul Patrol in how they got together early and seem to be staying solid).

If I go with who I hope wins and think has a realistic shot at an upset, I'm saying Chikezie. There's just something about him that I think makes him a band-wagon contestant--I could see him building momentum and inspiring a national craze, with people walking around wearing "I'm with Chikezie" t-shirts.

Or something like that.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

David Hernandez goes home...seriously

So Ryan asks Randy if these three deserve to be in the bottom this week and Randy says it's tough because none of them were very good last night. He says it probably is the right bottom three. Paula says she's never seen a stronger bottom three and that it's difficult because they're all good, but yes, America got it right. Simon says he thinks America got it absolutely spot on.

So, Ryan says he can send one of them back to safety right now and that person is... Syesha. She's coming back next week. phew... I almost picked her last night to go home...

So, it's down to Kristy and David and after 29 million votes, Kristy Lee Cook is safe and David Hernandez goes home tonight. I'm in absolute shock right now... I mean, he should have next week or the week after... not tonight. Unbelievable.

David Hernandez last to join the bottom three

So, next up is 14-time Grammy winner David Foster, performing the Beatles' "Something" with Katharine McPhee. As much as I hate her and as sick of her as I am, she sings the song beautifully. That's all I have to say about that... let's get on with it already... who's going home???

OK here we go... Ryan asks the last four contestants to stand up - David Archuleta, Brooke White, David Hernandez and Ramiele Malubay. He actually brings them to the center of the stage. He starts with David Archuleta and despite his complete screw-up last night, he is safe. Brooke White is next and she, too, is safe. That leaves just Ramiele and David and between the two of them, David should be in the bottom three, I think. And he is. And we get to listen to his mess of a song again... Yipee!!

A bunch of boredom

So, they're doing something new this year - taking calls from viewers. The first call comes in from a 12-year-old Pennsylvania girl and she asks Jason Castro, who looks terribly embarrassed to be chosen first, "If you could be one judge for a day, who would it be?" Jason at first says he'd pick Paula, since she's the most unlike him, but then he says he'd wear some of Randy's shoes with a V-neck like Simon, kind of like a hybrid.

The next question is from some guy in North Carolina, who says he's auditioned for the show 6 times and he wants to know from the judges what it takes to make it. Simon asks, "You've auditioned 6 times? Get another job?"

Wow... we're still doing this? What a complete waste of time... The next question is for Simon and Ryan - the guy wants to know why they don't just duke it out on stage... Ryan answers, "I say load in the mud, I'm ready."

There's another question, too, but I'm so bored with this, I'm fast-forwarding past it... sorry.

Kristy Lee Cook is next in the bottom three

Tonight is the first Ford commercial for the group and it has a political theme to it - very ironic, considering our governor just resigned today amid a crazy sex scandal. It's OK - a little dull.

They're playing some tape now of how much "American Idol" has changed their lives and just like that, they're back to the results. They're probably trying to get the bottom three out of the way so Katharine McPhee can perform. I hope she's better than Blake was last week, because he was a disaster.

Anyway, Ryan tells Chikezie Eze, Amanda Overmyer, Kristy Lee Cook and David Cook to stand up. Chikezie is first and after more than 29 million votes, he is safe. Amanda is next and she is also safe. David Cook is next and there's no question - he is safe, too. So, looks like Kristy Lee Cook is the second person in the bottom three and oh no, we have to listen to that horrible arrangement again. Oh how funny - she actually says to the audience, "Sorry you gotta hear it again." I still think her voice sounds great with this song - it's just that the song should never be country.

Syesha is in the bottom three

So, we're watching a recap of last night now and I feel like every time I see it, it gets better to me. I half-paid attention while at work and thought it was mediocre, got home last night to blog and thought it was pretty good and now watching the recap, I feel like they were really great. Can't wait for it happen again next week.

So, let's start saving some people... Randy tells Carly Smithson, Michael Johns, Jason Castro and Syesha Mercado to stand up. He goes over Carly's song choice and what the judges said and then tells her she is safe... Michael is next - he does the same thing with him and he, too, is safe... Jason is up now and he's looking delicious, as always, with those gorgeous blue eyes of his... and I'm not the only one who thinks so. I was talking to my friend, Kim, at work today and she, too, thinks there's just something about him that's very sexy - so at least I'm not alone in this. But he, too, is safe and I hope he picks a great song next week - can't wait!!!

Syesha is next and she is obviously in the bottom three - he's probably going to pick four people at a time and one of the group is in the bottom three. No big surprise on this one - she is in fact, in the bottom three. And they make her sing her song now, just in case she's leaving, I suppose - or could it be for extra filler for this hour of nonsense?

Beatles lovefest continues next week!!!!!

So looks like Fox is working overtime to promote "Horton Hears a Who" tonight. Not only did the show start with a cute little clip of the characters watching "American Idol," but Jim Carrey is actually in the audience dressed as Horton, the character he voices in the film.

But great news!!! Apparently, they got so many calls and e-mails that they've decided to change next week's theme. Instead of whatever they had planned, they've decided to do more from the Lennon-McCartney songbook. So, tonight's group song is a medley from the songbook - it's wonderful. It's so nice to hear such beautiful songs and watching Jason Castro shake his cute little behind was completely entertaining.

It looks like they didn't go over the choreography too well because some people are dancing, some aren't... it looks a little messy, but who cares when it sounds so good?

Oh geez... will Sanjaya ever go away? They show him in the audience cheering along with his sister... His 15 minutes are long over... why do people insist on having him around?

"We Can Work It Out," but David Archuleta doesn't

Michael Johns is originally from Australia, but he's been living in America for 10 years now and he lived in Georgia for about 6 years and he's been in Los Angeles for 4 years. He says when you're a musician, you have to find a way to make ends meet, so he's done everything from hard labor to tennis coaching on the side. Other than that, he's done everything he can to keep music in his life.

He sings "Across the Universe" and I'm not sure what to say about it, to be honest. I think Michael Johns is great - I love his voice, and he's really entertaining to watch. But his performance tonight was neither terrible nor spectacular. I can't think of anything to criticize or poke fun at, but at the same time, I can't think of anything to gush about either. And I suppose if he were anyone else, that would be OK, but he's Michael Johns, who has a certain sexiness about him, who has impressed us all in the past, whom we keep waiting to be impressed by again. But it's been a few weeks since he's knocked me over and I'm beginning to wonder if he's got anything left in there. I'm going to hope that next week he comes out and just blows us away - I mean, isn't that what we're all waiting for? He's not in any danger this week, I don't think, but he will be soon if he doesn't do something different next time around.

Randy tells him it wasn't his best performance, that he was waiting for something big to happen. he says he could have taken a little liberty and changed a couple of notes. he was OK for him, a little sleepy, but it was all right. Paula disagrees and says it takes an inner strength and an inner confidence to be able to stand center stage and do nothing but sing. Simon agrees with Randy and says he should have done... and then stops to ask what the Irish girl's name is. Seriously? The show's been on now for like 2 months now and he honestly can't remember the name of a contestant he praises each week? Ridiculous. Anyway, he says Carly did something brilliant with her song and that's what he should have done. He says it was a little bit monotonous, that it was solid, it was good, but now is the point where he has to let himself go because he's a big fan of his but he's frustrated because he still hasn't heard what he's capable of doing.

Kristy Lee Cook is from Selma, Ore., a really small town with maybe 500 people. She says if you blink your eyes, you're already through the town. She says the "Idol" experience is totally opposite of what she's used to. She says making the top 12 in her town is like a news flash.

She's singing "Eight Days a Week," and she's changing it up to make it a country song. Oh.... my.... God. It sounds like a polka - I heard like maybe one line and had to pause it... I'm not sure I can go on - I feel humiliated for her. And to be honest, I'm kind of annoyed because she has butchered a classic. I feel like it's OK to change a song to suit your voice or your style, but I think you always have to maintain a certain respect for the original song. I think she completely disrespected this song - turned it into a joke. I mean, maybe country fans out there will love it, I don't know. But I just think it's terrible. They just showed her up close and it looks like she's looking at the judges and she looks worried. I wonder if they hate it and she knows it.

To be fair, her voice sounds great - she's totally suited to this kind of music, but it's just unfortunate because this may be her best performance so far this season (I think it is, anyway) and it's totally overshadowed by this horrible arrangement.

Randy says he actually liked the arrangement and the idea of the song, but he says vocally, she kept trying to force some runs and it would have been cool if she had left it as a country jig. He says he's kind of torn - that half of him likes it, the other half didn't. Paula says she didn't enjoy it, that she shouldn't take what they say too much to heart, that she should be to infuse her own thing - she says she didn't get it. Simon says it was horrendous, that she sounded like Dolly Parton on helium. He says it was a very brave but probably foolish thing to do because that song just doesn't work in that style - that it was like being at some ghastly country fair or something.

David Archuleta is from Murray, Utah, which is right outside of Salt Lake City and he's a junior at Murray High. He says he's the second oldest - he has one brother and three sisters. His mom is from Honduras and his father grew up in Utah. He says his mom likes listening to salsa and merengue and his dad is a jazz musician, so he likes jazz. He says he didn't like jazz when he was little and he didn't like the older music, like from the 60s and stuff, so when he found out this week's theme, he was a little nervous because he wasn't familiar with the songs.

He chooses "We Can Work It Out" because he recognized it as a Stevie Wonder song and my guess is he's chosen to sing that arrangement because what he's singing is certainly not the version the Beatles sung.

Whoa... did he just forget the words? Well, look how the mighty have fallen. I don't mean for that to come out mean because I actually really like David Archuleta, but I think he needed something like this to happen. I think he needed to completely bomb, which is what he's doing right now - it only gets worse after the forgotten lyrics. He needs to see that it's OK to screw up, it's OK to not be perfect. He needs to fall off the horse, so he can get back on it next week.

Having said that, I feel so bad for him - this is by far his worst performance, and honestly, one of the worst tonight - the arrangement is weird...

Holy cow... he just did it again - he forgot the words again... he's just falling apart.

Anyway, the arrangement is weird, he looks uncomfortable and nervous and his voice is just nothing at like what we've heard it to be in the past. Something like this to a 17-year-old can be devastating. I hope he can come back strong next week.

Unbelievable... three times... it's not as noticeable this time, but he definitely slurs a couple of words that he's clearly forgotten. What a shame... but tomorrow is another day and even though tonight is a complete disaster, I am sure his fans will vote like crazy to keep him safe. He's not going anywhere any time soon.

Randy tell him he's a fan of his, but that this week, it was not on point, this kind of vibe is not his vibe, that it felt very forced and that it really didn't work. Paula says it wasn't his best week, but he's a front runner. She tells him to never let it show on his face that he forgot the lyrics, but it's OK, that they all love him. Simon says there are 12 people in the competition trying to win, so he's going to treat everyone fairly. He then tells Davis that it was a mess - he stumbled over the lyrics, that he shouldn't have done the Stevie Wonder version, that it was all over the place and at this point in the competition, he expects incredible performances and this wasn't, that it was his weakest performance so far.

Boy, this week is tough to pick just one person to go home. Last week, I only got 2 out 4, bringing my total to 7 out 12. Clearly, my guessing is getting worse, so let's go through this for a minute. Syesha Mercado was not great and she hasn't been great since maybe the first week, so she's on my list. Ramiele Malubay was terrible today, very cheesy and very dull. David Hernandez was pretty bad, too. Kristy Lee Cook sounded great, but her arrangement was so bad, it completely overshadowed anything good she may have done. David may have been bad tonight, but he was wonderful last week, so I think he's got another week left in him... Syesha hasn't impressed me since the first week, but she also hasn't disgusted me either, so I think she may be OK, too. Ramiele has been disappointing, but since we've seen what she can do, I think America will give her another chance - plus I think Randy saying she may not make it to next week will get her fans calling in like crazy to save her. So, even though I think Kristy Lee Cook actually improved this week, the arrangement was just awful - plus she was in the bottom two last week, so my vote is for Kristy Lee Cook - I think she goes home tomorrow.

David Hernandez "Saw Her Standing There" covering her ears

Brooke White is originally from Mesa, Ariz., a large suburb outside of Phoenix. She moved to Los Angeles so she could work on music. She was a nanny to twin girls and she says it was a wonderful job and she misses them. She says everything has changed since "American Idol," but that it's an exciting change and she's just grateful to be there.

She sings "Let It Be," and this week, she's playing the piano. She, much like David Cook, has been getting better and better, so the expectation for tonight is much higher than it would have been like three weeks ago. I actually like her style - she's kind of earthy, very simple. She's toned down every song she's chosen to a very simple melody, with a slight accompaniment, and it works for her. Tonight is no different - I'm not blown away like I was last week, but she's still in my favorites list. This was a tough song because the chorus is very repetitive and with every "Let it be," you have to make it different and interesting and she managed to do it, I think.

Randy tells her he doesn't think it was her strongest performance but what he likes about her is that she has all this conviction and she gave a very heartfelt performance. Paula says this is her niche, picking song where America can feel her heart, blah blah blah. Simon says he thought it was, again, one of the best performances of the night. He thought it was a brilliant choice of song, that she's done it three weeks running now and actually, it's believable and great.

David Hernandez is from Glendale, Ariz., hometown of the "amazing" Jordin Sparks. He says he got fired from his job as a server at Pizza Bistro on his day off and he's also a student as Arizona State University - he's majoring in broadcast journalism. he says a typical day is waking up at 10 or 11am and going to school and then going to work at the Pizza Bistro (I thought he was an "exotic dancer" at a gay club. Funny how he doesn't mention that job at all). He says he doesn't miss that routine so much.

He sings "I Saw Her Standing There" and he's moving all around the audience and I hate to say it, but he actually moves like an exotic dancer. I wish he would just say something about it so people would stop talking about it already. I mean, he had the perfect opportunity when asked about his job. But anyway, it doesn't really matter because tonight, his moves are way better than his voice. It's like he's another person - where's the big voice? Where's the talent? I don't know if it's the song choice or what, but this is a huge disappointment for me. He may be in danger for tomorrow, because this performance wouldn't have even gotten him past the first audition if he'd sung it then. I will say this, though... he looks really nice tonight - I like the vest and tie, very nice. Especially the way the shirt is untucked, kind of messy looking - it's sexy. He should have picked a better song, though. Bad, bad choice...

Randy says that with this song, which is really simple, he says it was overdone, he was trying to do too much with it, so he was lost from the beginning. Paula agrees and says he overdid it a little - too many runs. Simon says, "David... no, no, no." He says it was corny verging on desperate and that it just wasn't a strong performance.

Amanda Overmyer is from Mulberry, Ind., a small, rural town outside of Lafayette. She's a nurse and she likes to ride her Harley - everyone in her family rides, so she says it's a good way for them to get together. She says now it's all new territory to her - it might be a photo shot, it might be interviews.

She sings "You Can't Do That" and she looks great - not as good as last week, but still way better than that week where they made her look like a cartoon. I kind of wish she'd take the blond out of her hair, but she's wearing simple striped pants with a tank top and a colored scarf, simple and comfortable, like last week. Last week, her make-up was a bit more subdued, it reminded me of Ally Sheedy in "The Breakfast Club," after Molly Ringwald cleans her up - so it was refreshing. But the eyeliner is back this week... oh well, can't have it all, I suppose.

But putting that aside, her performance is fantastic. I feel like she pulled a David Cook on this a little bit - she rocked up the song without destroying it - she made a few subtle changes and it was great. I would say it was her best performance so far - no mistakes, no pitch problems, great use of the stage... just wonderful, really.

Randy says she took a Beatles son and took it to a Southern bar and rocked it out. He says he loved it, that it was very cool. Paula says she looks fantastic, that she's smiling, having fun. She says she's blown away. Simon tells her it wasn't as good as last week and that she slurred a lot of the words and he didn't understand them. He also says it's a good thing she's in the competition because she's like a breath of fresh air when she comes on, but if he's comparing week on week, it's not as good as last week.