Thursday, January 31, 2008

Delusions of grandeur

Julie Dubela, of New Hampshire, the girl who had been on some show "American Juniors," is really annoying. She comes off like an incredibly spoiled girl who has been told her whole life that she's great. She comes in and the judges actually comment on her confidence. She sings and while it's not horrible, she's doing weird things with her arms and kind of over-performing the song. The judges stop her and Simon tells her that he wants it without all the weird acting. Randy says it looks like she rehearsed in front of a coach or a mirror, which she admits to - the mirror, she says. I'm a little confused because Simon tells her that he doesn't want the acting and when she says that she's just acting like herself, he says, "That's the problem." So are you telling her to be herself, which she says she's being or telling her to be someone else, which you've already criticized her for? I don't know - I think she's kind of bratty, anyway, so I don't care one way or the other, really.

They all tell her no and she breaks out in another song, some song about a butterfly. Simon tells her to go to LA and become an actress. She starts getting an attitude and he tells her to assume that the cameras are not on and goes on to say it was not a good audition. The cameras flashes to her looking to see if the cameras are on or not. He catches her and says, "No, it's not on." He then tells her that she wasn't good enough and that she doesn't need to play it up anymore, that it's over. She finally walks out and Simon says, "Over-indulged." And I couldn't agree more.

Like the teenager that she is, she goes outside and says that she was asked to sing at a Red Sox game, but she turned it down in order to audition and then as she leaves, they play footage of her as a 12-year-old on that show she was on, and she should be embarrassed, really. Even though I didn't hate her audition, I have to say she was way better when she was 12.

The last guy, Brandon Black, of Pompano Beach, Fla., is an idiot and I don't even have the energy left to write anything about him. I'm sure you can catch a video of him making a fool out of himself on YouTube, though.

Girls are on a roll

Talk about good things coming in small packages... Ramiele Malubay, 19, of Miramar, Fla., is just this tiny little thing - she's stunning, but because she's so little, she falls under that cute category. But she opens her mouth and it's like, "What?" Her voice is so big, so powerful, you would never guess it was her singing.

Paula likes it, as does Simon, but it wouldn't be Simon if he didn't throw in a little jab here an dthere - he tells her he doesn't think she's a contemporary singer, that she's more like a hotel singer. Randy says forget him and asks Paula one more time what she thinks. She says she thinks Ramiele is phenomenal and Randy says he was impressed that her voice was so strong coming from such a small person.

And all of a sudden, her size becomes an issue. Simon challenges Randy and asks if he would still like her if she were tall. Randy seems kind of surprised at the question and of course, says yes, he would. All the nonsense aside, Simon says no, but that doesn't matter because Randy and Paula say yes, so she's through to the next round.

Syesha Mercado is another super likable girl. And another girl you want to root for and see succeed. Her father has struggled with drugs and alcohol most of her life and she says that her past was not that happy. MOst people would let that hold them back, but this girl is such a bright light - she has such a positive attitude and she says her life has never been happier. She doesn't really elaborate, but she says a lot of good things have been happening for her. She does mention that her dad has just graduated from a rhab program, so I'm sure that's enough to bring anyone joy. Her dad is there with her and he tells her how proud he is of her and it's quite touching - she turns to him and tell him that she's proud of him.

And besides her story, she really has the full package. Not only does she gave a great personality, but she's beautiful - her skin is flawless, and of course, the last piece of puzzle - she can sing, too.

The audition was only so-so, but it's because I think she sang in a key that was just a bit too high for her, so when she went for the high notes, it sounded a bit strained. But her voice is really nice - I enjoyed it, certainly enough to see more of her in Hollywood.

Randy is clearly taken by how pretty she is, because he says she's one of the best they've seen in Florida. Paula and Simon say yes too and she's on to the next round. I hope her lucky streak continues because I would hate to see her lose her optimism.

Double the love

At first, it seems like plus-sized best friends Corliss Smith and Brittany Wescott, of Jacksonville, Fla., showed up at the auditions to find a man - they sit on a few laps and even talk about it with Paula when they get in the room to audition. Normally, this would annoy me, but these girls are just contagious - they're so full of life and so happy, I find myself hoping they do well.

Corliss goes first - she had said Ryan Seacrest was too skinny for her and that she wanted Randy, so Simon makes her sing directly to him. I'm not crazy about her song choice, but her voice is pretty - a little thin, though. Randy says it's very nice, but before they can say much about it, Brittany takes her turn.

Just a quick aside: Is Randy really wearing red shoes??? What's that about?

Anyway, Brittany sings to Simon and I think her voice is a bit better than her friend's. Now let me say this - neither girl can outsing Melinda Doolittle or LaKisha Jones from last season, but like I said, their personalities are so infectious, you can't help but like them.

And it appears they cast their spell on the judges, too, because both girls get a ticket to Hollywood. And as a bonus, the judges get a round of hugs and kisses from them both.

Oh boy - how fickle am I? I have a new favorite and her name is Suzanne Toon. She's 21 and lives in Clearwater, Fla. She went to a performing arts school and performed in musicals, but she had to take a break from it because she got pregnant when she was 18. The baby's father stuck around for a while, but he chose to leave and so she is alone raising her daughter. She starts crying in her interview and says she's sick of struggling - that she wants to give her daughter more than what she had and more than she can give her now.

And Suzanne can sing. Paula tells her there's a sexiness to her voice and Simon says she becomes more attractive when she sings. Not that she's not already attractive - I'm not crazy about the way she did her hair all in spiral curls, but she has beautiful eyes. I'm not sure she got more attractive as she sang, but whatever gets her through to HOllywood works for me. And she does get through, so I'm looking forward to seeing more of her.

People like her is why this show is great - it provides opportunities to people who would otherwise not have them and it's wonderful to see how the show really impacts the lives of people who are struggling financially, or who are ready to give up on their dreams.

Vive le difference!!

I can't even tell you how much I want Ghaleb Emachach to be good. He's originally from Venezuela, but he's living in Miami. If he's any good, he's exactly what "American Idol" needs. He says he's a musician and he plays mostly gypsy music - totally different from anyone we've seen on this show ever. Up to this point, I can't tell if he's being highlighted just to be mocked or if he makes it through, but I'm praying, I'm wishing that he's good. I'm even willing to overlook the fact that he's wearing man sandals, which is completely unacceptable.

I wonder if contestants are allowed to audition with instruments. My understanding is that this season, they would be able to perform with instruments, but I wonder if they allow it during auditions, because I feel like he made a mistake by not playing the guitar. But again, maybe that wasn't an option. His voice is actually quite nice - I really like it, but I have to admit, his accent is very thick - it's a bit distracting and I think it takes away from the overall performance. He would have done better to sing in Spanish.

Oh well - I guess this is not going to be the season for innovative new sounds, not that this guy would have definitely provided that, but I feel like he's the closest I've seen to someone who could offer something fresh to liven up this show, because for me, it's getting old - the same old auditions, the same old sound, the same old cookie-cutter contestants.

Simon's a bit harsh, I think - he tells Ghaleb that he would like him if he were drunk - I don't think it was all that bad, really. Paula hits the nail right on the head - she tells him that his voice is very good but that the problem is that he still has a very strong accent that it is hard to ignore. Simon interrupts her and she gets up la-la-la-ing to herself, trying to ignore Simon.

Wait!!! Randy says yes, so it's all up to Paula. Is it possible that he'll make it through? Will we actually have some variety this season??? It's almost too much to hope for! Paula just stares into space for a minute and then walks toward Ghaleb and says, "Welcome to Hollywood," and gives him a hug. I can't believe it! Finally, something new to look forward to!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A bit of a disappointment

You know, I totally appreciate the throwback to "Miami Vice" in the opening sequence tonight, but I have to wonder - what percentage of "American Idol's" viewership is actually old enough to remember the show? I suppose the young kids would still get it because of the movie with Colin Farrell, which was based on the show, but still.

Shannon McGough is immediately likable for me. She's 18 and works at her parents' meat market. She's very pretty and her sequined beret says that she's got her own style, her own personality and isn't afraid to show it. And if that wasn't enough, she also can belch louder than anyone I've ever known. I'm not sure why she would tell people about that - she actually wonders aloud about that herself - but I guess it's just one more thing to set her apart from the rest.

She's going to sing Janis Joplin and I'm immediately afraid - it's a difficult sound to mimic, so unless she plans to sing the song her own way, I'm thinking this may not go well.

Wow - saying it woudn't go well turns out to be an understatement - her singing is like a mix of raspy screaming and this trying way too hard to be sexy sound. I personally don't like it at all, which is a disappointment because she's so likable otherwise, and if the judges give her a ticket to Hollywood, I may have to boycott the rest of the season.

Well they tell her it was bad - Simon even tells her he couldn't understand a word of it, that she sounded like the Hungarian Janis Joplin. She asks to sing another song and Simon says "Never!" But she does it anyway and the weird thing about her is if she didn't force her voice so much to sound a way that it shouldn't, her voice maybe wouldn't be so bad.

She tells the judges that she's never had anyone tell her she sings bad before and Randy's like, "Really???" He tells her that she can't hear the melody and that he thinks she's almost tone deaf. She looks devastated and if she hadn't been so bad, I would feel really bad for her. And the funniest thing is when she tells her mom, her mom is completely shocked, but I guess that's what moms do - they support us and love us and think we're great no matter what.

Former boy-bander turned rocker Robbie Carrico, from Melbourne, Fla., has a nice voice, but to me, there's nothing special about it or him, really. They don't say too much about him or give us too much in terms of his background, so I can go either way about him. Plus the song he sings has almost no melody - it's actually a bit dull. But Simon says yes, as to Randy and Paula, so he's through to Hollywood.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Don't mess with my Bon Jovi

For those of you who read this blog last year, you know how I feel about people messing with Bon Jovi music. For those who are new to my "Idol" rants, you can check it out here.

Anyway, the long and short of it is this: Bon Jovi songs should not be altered in any way. They are classics and I do not approve of weird, new versions of their songs.

So, as far as David Cook goes, I don't like it. He slows down "Livin' on a Prayer" to such an extent, it almost sounds like a ballad. OK, I admit, his voice is fantastic, but he started on the wrong foot with me - it's going to be an uphill battle for him to get in my good graces. And I'm sure he'll be around for a while - his voice was that good.

And yes, he's through. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do - just as long as he leaves my Bon Jovi alone.

OK, Johnny Escamilla is clearly an example of a young kid who thought it would be fun to try out for "American Idol" and see if he could get on TV. He couldn't possibly think that showing up in a shimmery shirt and singing the world's most annoying song would get him into the finals. Simon tells him that from the shirt, to the singing to the dancing, it was everything he hates. They all say no, and he leaves.

And finally, we're up to the last audition of the night. Leo Marlowe, of Charlotte, Iowa, says he a pretty popular guy - Simon asks him if he's well-liked and he says his mom tells him that she raised the perfect homecoming queen - too bad it wasn't a girl. I thought that was cute. He does seem like a genuinely nice person - someone America might like to root for. And he can sing. His voice is a bit husky and soft, but it's powerful at the same time.

Simon says what he likes about him is how open he is, not defensive like many others they've seen. They all say yes and he's in. And it's so sweet - he starts crying. He's one of my favorites, I think.

And that's it for tonight. Tomorrow's another day and they'll be in Miami.

Making Daddy proud

I'm rooting for Angelica Puente for so many reasons. For starters, she's just 17 and it seems like she's known a lot of pain for a girl her age. She lives with her grandmother - she had a falling out with her dad and moved out. She says her dad was really strict, but doesn't go into much detail about what caused her to leave her family home. I like her because I can relate to her, and I think lots of other people will, too. She's stuck in a battle of wills with her dad - who hasn't been there? Her dad is strict, but it's only because he wants the very best for her - she's just too young to understand. But underneath it all, you can see that she's just a little girl, wishing for her father's approval, for his love. And it's her father who pays for her trip to audition. So, not only is she pursuing her own dream, but she's finally doing something she thinks her father can be proud of, so I hope she does well, even if only to give her that joy of making her dad happy.

She decides to sing Celine Dion, which is usually a kiss of death. It's a bit loud for my taste, but that could be nerves on her part, and she's not holding notes very long, which makes the song sound a bit choppy, but her voice is actually very good - nice vibrato, nice tone.

Randy says it sounds like she's copying Celine Dion and Paula says her voice is promising, but that there was no performance. Randy says yes, as does Paula. So, she's basically in, but Simon tells her that with a bit of effort, she could be really good. He tells her to stop listening to other artists and decide who she is, because it's not a sound-alike competition. That's nice, because he didn't have to say anything - she was already in.

And they show her calling her dad to tell him, which I was really excited about. It wasn't quite what I was hoping for, but he does say that she's always been his "American Idol."

The old switcheroo

There are some really interesting people coming from the Nebraska area. We've seen a farmer from Iowa, an arm-wrestling woman from Missouri and now we've a goth chick who used to be a wrestler.

Her name is Sarah Whitaker, and she's from Council Bluffs, Iowa, and she used to wrestle under the stage name of Lady Morgue, who has a British accent. She says she likes to be the villain and then demonstrates her trademark laugh, which sounded to me like my birds-in-nature alarm clock.

Anyway, she's kind of ridiculous, as is her singing, and Simon quickly cuts her off. He tells her that she's just really strange and that he can't picture her at the end of the season singing that song. They all say no, and she leaves.

But then it gets weird... Ryan comes in and asks them why they said no and if they're hearing clearly. I don't quite get why he's in there kind of defending this girl, but it quickly becomes this stupid argument about how Ryan's not a judge. So, Paula and Ryan decide to switch jobs for like 5 minutes. And then one of the funniest lines of the show... Ryan sits down in Paula's chair and says, "How can I pretend to be overpaid for doing no work?"

So, now we've got three male judges and Samantha Sidley, 22, of Los Angeles, walks in. She's adorable, although lacking in confidence. They ask her if she thinks she can win the competition and she says, "I don't know." While I find that really refreshing, I can see how it doesn't look great to the judges. They push her a bit and she finally says she thinks she could win because she has a good voice - clearly she needs help in the selling herself department.

She sings Norah Jones and I think she's doing all right. She has that soothing sound like Norah does, but I wonder if that's her sound, or if she's just mimicking Norah Jones for that song. New judge Ryan says he likes her voice but that she needs to work on her self-confidence. He also points out that she kept moving on the mark they put on the ground so people know where to stand. Paula hears that and comes back in saying that it doesn't matter if she moved around and then Simon says he wants Paul back. So, that's the end of Ryan's judging days. Before leaving, though, he tells Samantha that if it doesn't go her way, he wants her to know he would have said yes.

Paula says her voice was good but that her showmanship needs improvement. They all say yes, and she's through to Hollywood.

Don't Forget the Lyrics!!

I pray that Jason Rich, 21, the guy from Stout, Iowa, can sing, because he's so deliciously adorable, I'd love to watch him for weeks to come. He works on a farm part-time for his girlfriend's father and he says all you can see is rolling hills and it's just beautiful. He seems really down-to-earth, realistic, but hopeful. I like him - simple guy just reaching for the stars.

He starts off really good, but for some reason, stops after the first line. I guess he thought he screwed up - I thought it sounded fine. It turns out he can't remember the words, which is such a shame, because from what he can get out, his voice sounds like it could be good enough for Hollywood week. He goes a third time, gets a little farther and then stops again. Fourth time he goes for it and makes it all the way through.

This could be tough because even if his voice is good, they have to worry about him choking on live TV in the coming weeks. Randy says he has a pretty good voice and Simon says it was OK. Paula hasn't arrived yet - forgot to mention that - her flight was delayed. Jason makes it through to Hollywood, but I think it's just because Randy and Simon want to see if he can get past the nerves. Which is really nice and I think lots of girls in America are grateful that he's getting a second chance.

Arm-wrestler Rachael Wicker, 23, from Richmond, Mo., has a spunky personality that I kind of like. She says Simon's all talk and that she wants to take him down, but he says he won't arm wrestle her because he knows he won't win. What's really cool about her is that she carries herself kind of like a tomboy - she says she's grown up around a lot of boys - but when she starts singing, she's all woman. Her voice is sweet and feminine and has that real nice country sound that I like so much. Simon makes some comment about her sounding like she's at the end of a career that didn't work out - I really don't understand what he meant by it, so I can't really explain it any further than that. Randy says yes, Simon says no and of course, Paula sends her through to Hollywood.

A little "Idol" excitement

Tonight should be interesting. The auditions are in Omaha, Neb. I don't think they've ever done it before and it seems like such an unlikely place - I hope they're able to find some voices there.

I hate to laugh at people because of their weight - I've gained and lost enough weight myself to make a whole other person, but they showed this girl, very heavy-set, wearing a T-shirt that says "I beat anorexia," and that cracked me up. Not just because of the joke itself, but because the girl was comfortable enough with her weight to make the joke in the first place. Hilarious.

I feel bad for Chris Bernheisel, the guy from Fremont, Neb., who brought the judges gifts. He seems to really be sincere in his crazy love for the show and I imagine that after waiting for seven seasons, getting the chance to audition must be a big thrill. But he's so over-the-top. He comes in with stuffed animals and a photo album and he starts crying even before singing. And of course, he makes the fatal mistake - he sings Kelly Clarkson. You can't compare to Kelly Clarkson - she's not on the same level as Celine Dion or Whitney Houston, but her voice is so unique and she's a product of the show. Just a big mistake, especially since, as expected, he can't sing.

And then to top it off, he starts dancing... no joke. And he does a handstand and everything. They cut him off shortly after that and Simon tells him that the singing just wasn't good enough. Chris then asks to audition for some red carpet thing and Simon tells him to call his local Fox station and tell them that they want to see him on TV for the finale and if they don't believe him, to tell them to call Simon. Of course, the kid freaks out - like jumping up and own - crazy. If he wasn't so darn wholesome, I'd swear he was on something.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Aretha was robbed

You know what? Aretha Codner, of Buffalo, got a raw deal. Never mind the fact that her dress was not as supportive as it should have been. I thought her voice was really good - it got funky toward the end, but for the most part, it was good. She was right when she said they let through people who were not as good as she was - I can think of a few myself. I'm wondering if maybe it sounded different live, but on TV, I thought it sounded fine. Or maybe they felt her figure would be too much - perhaps a bit distracting - for the American public. Because I honestly don't know why they said no to her. And she was mad, too. Simon told her she can't sing and she was like, "I can sing - I'm not even going to hear that." After they all tell her no, she says, "I almost don't even believe this because I really can sing." I'm with her. I don't know the extent of her talent, but I think she definitely deserved a spot in Hollywood.

Joshua Boson, of Beaufort, S.C., is the joke of tonight's episode, it seems. It takes a while to decipher what he's trying to sing and really, I mean, let's be honest, it wasn't even singing. But again, the theatrics come out - he's waving his arms all around and stomping his feet. He finishes and the judges just kind of look at him - it's like even they don't find these reject auditions funny anymore. But the crazy starts after the singing. When the judges tell him it wasn't good enough, he tells them that they shouldn't be looking in Charleston, then, because that's what they were gonna get. He tries to convince them by telling them that he's never had any voice training. When he still gets no support, he says the show is fake and rigged, because he can sing. But that he knew he was going to get cut. Simon starts getting annoyed and tells Joshua that he is rude and deluded. Then as they start voting and commenting, he storms out and tells Ryan that they said there was no talent in South Carolina. I mean, maybe they did say that, but since that wasn't aired, this guys looks like a liar. He keeps rambling on, saying that his talent is too big for the competition to hold and that he didn't want to be the next American Idol - he wants to be the World Idol. He said some other stuff too about the joke being on the judges or something like that, but I've lost interest, so enough about him.

Wait a minute... how is this possible? Oliver Highman is back and he brings his wife and new baby with him. If I'm not mistaken, they were in Charleston for two days - my assumption is that those days were consecutive. So, if she went into labor on Day 1, how is she out of the hospital, with the baby, by Day 2? I thought women had to stay at least a couple of days for observation. Very strange indeed.

But anyway, they let him audition, and I'm actually surprised that's it's not that great. I mean, it's not bad, but they've been following him through this whole episode - I thought that meant he'd be great. Anyway, they say no to him, but he brings in his new daughter to meet the judges. Very sweet ending - would have been sweeter if he'd made it through, but we can't have everything, I suppose.

I feel a pull on my heartstrings

Amy Catherine Flynn, of Knoxville, Tenn., the 16-year-old dance-team captain who preaches about abstinence is so cute, I just want to squeeze her. And the speech she gives Simon is just too funny. It goes something like this: Let's say you've been with your like, boyfriend or girlfriend for like a really long time and you think, like, it's time to have sex, which is, like, so not cool... Like, if you think you're gonna marry them, then like why not wait like another 5 or 6 years?" I'm not mocking her message - I think it was sweet in its innocence. It was her teenage speak that made it funny for me. But let's move on... she decides to sing a Christina Aguilera song, which could be bad news for her. Well, I can't say her voice is bad - it just has no depth. She doesn't project well, so her voice sounds very quiet and very thin. But she's adorable, so who knows what the judges will say. Paula tells her that her voice is very pure and says yes. Simon says the song was too big for her, which it was, and goes on to tell her that lots of people may find her annoying. She did make a lot of childish pouty faces, but c'mon - she's 16! He keeps going and tells her that she's not as good as she thinks she is - this is the third time he's said that in the past four episodes - but then says yes to her anyway - which he also did with the other two girls he said this to (I think). Maybe he's just messing with these girls... Anyway, Randy says yes, too, and she's through to Hollywood.

Oh... back to Oliver Highman and his wife in labor real quick - they've made it to a hospital and it looks like she's been admitted and is now in a room.

London Weidberg, of Charleston, is a beautiful woman. She's blonde and blue-eyed, slim and just very pretty. But beyond that, she's a strong woman. She lost her father to cancer three years ago, when she was only 21 years old. She says that while her dad was sick, she put music on hold, because she felt like every day could have been his last day. She says his death made her realize that life is short and that we only have so long to seize every opportunity. Her attitude is so refreshing, so positive. I can say with absolute certainty that I would be unable to carry on if I lost my father - it would so devastate me - it pains me even now, just thinking about it. To see this young woman, still so young, not only moving on, but being so full of life, so full of positive energy, is really inspiring.

She sings a Billie Holiday song and it's hard for me to judge her voice, because I really didn't care for her song choice. Her voice sounds good, I think, but I feel like it may have been better suited for a different kind of song. Randy tells her it wasn't the best audition but that she has a nice tone to her voice. Paula says the tone of her voice is engaging. Simon says that it was good, but that there are thousands of girls who sound just like her. In the end, they all say yes, so we'll see what else she can do in the coming weeks.

The "Idol" dating game

It seems "American Idol" may be the next Crystal Ortiz of Raleigh, N.C., and Randy Stark of Abilene, Texas, met on the Idol message boards, started dating, and decided to try out together. I feel bad for Crystal because she didn't really get to sing much - Randy sang his verse, which was awful, but when it was time for her to go, the judges cut them off. They were, of course, rejected, but as the judges tell them, at least they found love.

Brother/sister team Jeffery and Michelle Lampkin, of South Carolina, are hilarious. They have great energy, they're amusing and overall, kind of silly. I was fully expecting them to be terrible, just another duo to laugh at, but their voices were very good. It's hard to sing with harmony and while it wasn't perfect, it really was pretty good. The judges think Jeffery is better than his sister, but I wonder if that's just because he was louder. There were parts where Michelle could be heard clearly, and I was impressed, but for the most part, Jeffery's voice is so powerful, it drowns her out. But we'll get to see what she sounds like alone in the coming weeks because they both get a golden ticket to Hollywood.

So, I forgot to mention the guy who was supposed to sing first, Oliver Highman. He had to leave abruptly because his wife went into labor. It slipped my mind because I figured he was out, but they're showing him again now on the way to the hospital, so maybe he does get a chance to audition after all. They're having a girl and they plan to name her Emma Grace. I forgot if they mentioned where they're from, but apparently Charleston is unfamiliar to them because he's driving around with Mapquest directions and he's lost. I'm surprised his wife is so calm - I think I'd be panicking.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Slow start in Charleston

So before getting started tonight, I just want to say what great sports the people of Long Beach are. I was afraid I would get comments from people telling me I'm an idiot or worse after I wrote about the things I don't like about the city. But with the exception of one person who apparently believes my issues stem from my inability to buy property there, everyone who commented was respectful and kind. In fact, most of you just wanted to make sure I knew that there are indeed three ways to get there, four if you go by boat. So, thank you for taking my post with a grain of salt. I meant no disrespect.

But let's get back to "American Idol" shall we? We're in Charleston, S.C., tonight, and I, for one, am super excited to hear that sexy Southern drawl for a whole hour.

I'm a bit confused by the first guy up, whose name is Ray Henderson, but he goes by Rashard. Most people use nicknames to shorten their names up, not lengthen them - maybe it stands for something. Anyway, he says he sounds like Clay Aiken - I have a feeling he's mistaken, but let's keep an open mind and unpause the TiVo. Well, to be honest, I don't think his voice is bad at all - definitely no Clay Aiken, but really not that bad. The thing that might hold him back is his theatrics - he's down on one knee and gesturing all funny. Randy nails it right on the head - he says it was just over the top - Paula agrees with me and says it was very theatrical. And they all say no.

I hope that Charleston isn't going to be one dramatic singer after the other. Deanna Prevatte, who comes from Albemarle, N.C., the same town as Kellie Pickler, is a spitfire. She's a waitress and she's just full of character. She says she likes Kellie Pickler's song, but that she'd probably knock someone down with a baseball bat if she thought she was going to lose him instead of strutting around in high heels. And then she tells Simon about the cheap Sunday crowd at her restaurant and how it's an all-you-can-eat situation, but not a buffet, so the waitresses are run into the ground, and then the customers leave her like a dollar - she's cute and entertaining. In fact, the only negative thing I have to say up to this point is that she's wearing this cute camisole-like top, but the straps keep falling down - it's very distracting. But anyway, her singing doesn't start off that bad. The first line is actually good, but then she gets louder and louder and the next thing you know, she's down on both knees, pointing at the judges and screaming her song, with her straps halfway down her arms.

Simon calls her a tiger and says that her performance was a bit angry - they all say no and Simon tells her if he ever came into her restaurant, he would only have one helping. It's meant to be a joke, but she kind of just stares at him angrily as she walks out.

So, on to the first commercial break with no real talent yet.

Take two for Carly

I know that Alberto, the hippie guy who lives in his own imagination, who has longer nails than most women and carries a Barbie doll around on a stick, is perfect for mocking. I realize that for most people, he was the funniest audition, worth writing about. But for me, it was all a little ridiculous and so I'm going to blow right past him.

So 16-year-old David Archuleta is boooring. His story is interesting - he had vocal paralysis and he had trouble talking for a while - but the way he tells it is really dull and by the end of it, I'm left not really caring. But I tell you what - his voice is actually kind of nice. It's smooth and soft and quite pleasant. He blew it a little by forgetting the words, but then he really gets going and by the end, it's really, really good. He even has Randy helping him out with a little background. He makes it through, with a yes from all three judges. I don't think he'll make it past Hollywood, but you never know... Hollywood week is always surprising.

The last audition is saved for Carly Smithson, who is originally from Ireland and whose husband has like a gazillion tattoos. She tried out for Season 5 and made it through to Hollywood, but her visa didn't come through in time and she was disqualified, so now she's back to try out again. She's very good - a little too many notes for my taste, but that's what people used to say about Mozart, so who am I to judge?

Well, right off the bat, Simon tells her it wasn't as good as two years ago and her eyes just about bug out of her head. But she gets a yes from all three judges, and she's finally going to Hollywood.

And that's it for San Diego - 31 people made it through and tomorrow, we move on to Charleston, S.C.

I hate to be disloyal, but...

I'm starting to get a little tired, so I was thinking I'd skip the next couple of people and just watch the show a bit, without having to type. But this Samantha Musa chick shows up with her sister all obsessed with Simon and I'm intrigued. She actually thinks he's hot and is very excited to meet him. Her sister actually gets to sit in on the audition, in Simon's chair wih him, and I'm half expecting her to be awful, since the whole bit has been kind of ridiculous so far, but she's really, really great, and so the audition takes a turn for me. I can put aside her weird taste in men for a minute, because I want to hear more. She sings Aretha Franklin, but she has this very cool kind of country sound. Very interesting take on the song - not at all what I expected. And as she goes on, it's not just the country thing that I like - her voice is very clear, and you can tell that if she wants to, she can put some real power behind it. I like her - probably one of my favorites so far. And she makes it through. The obsession with Simon is really weird though. I hope she gets over that before the finals.

Just another reason I hate Long Beach. No, not Long Beach, Calif., which would make sense, since the audition is in California. I mean Long Beach, NY. Besides the fact that there's only like two ways to get there, that there's never any parking, that the cops there are ticket-happy and that it's really, really far from my house, it turns out that Blake Boshnack is from Long Beach.

I'm not going to be terribly mean to him, mostly because he's a fellow Long Islander, but also because it's actually kind of sweet that he and his mom share this dream to be on the show, and it's actually really touching to see a mom so willing to take her son across the country to pursue it. But, I have to say... you've tried out 10 times - they've said no 10 times - the time you showed up in a Statue of Liberty costume, they barely even let you sing. At what point do you start to get the message that this is not going to happen for you?

It turns out even 11 rejections won't do it. Even though they say no, he leaves saying he plans to continue trying out. Oh boy.

Birds of a feather... go crazy together

So Monique Gibson and Christopher Baker go to the auditions together and they both think they can make it to the top. Monique is up first and the first thing Simon tells her is that it looks like three different people helped her get dressed. I didn't think her outfit was that bad - the little bootie things she has on are horrible, but besides that and the fact that, overall, the outfit isn't very flattering to her figure, I thought she looked OK.

Oh boy - she's going to sing Whitney Houston's "I Believe In Miracles." She must believe in miracles if she really thinks she's going to be able to sing that song anywhere near as good as Whitney Houston. Simon even tries to give her an out by saying, "You really think you can sing that song?" But she says she thinks she can and so they tell her to go on. She doesn't even get past the first line before Randy starts laughing. After the second line, with Randy still laughing, she pauses a little, kind of annoyed, but clearly doesn't accept that he's laughing because she's bad, and she continues to sing.

They tell her it's not going to happen, and she keeps smiling, not really accepting it, and she even tries two other songs, saying, "There's gotta be something." and they're like, "No, there's nothing." When it hits her that they're telling her no, the smile disappears and is quickly replaced with tears. She tells them she went through so much trying to get there and she knows she can sing. Simon tells her there's nothing wrong with leaving the room knowing she can't sing, but she won't listen to that. She insists that she can sing and that perhaps she picked the wrong song. She leaves the room crying and says in her interview that she's hurt and she just hopes her friend makes it.

That's right - it's not over yet.

Christopher Baker is next, and he, too, is crazy enough to believe he can sing Whitney Houston - he chooses "The Greatest Love of All." I feel like I should say something complimentary here - but I really just can't. He was really out of tune for most of it, and the worst part is that he was practically yelling the song. They try to get him to stop, but he keeps going - I wonder if maybe he just couldn't hear them over his yelling. Simon asks him if that sounded good to him and Christopher responds, "Yes it did, sir." Well, he's very polite - I'll give him that.

Simon tells him that not a single note was in tune, and Christopher's response is to break into another song. This one is so bad, Paula can't keep from laughing. Simon then tells him that no one would ever pay to hear him sing and he says he understands and that he'll sing in a different tone. He tries again, this time softer, and it's better, in my opinion, but still a little out of tune. They tell him no again, and he starts another song. They finally get security to take him out.

And then, of course, the two friends, reunited and freshly rejected, do the obligatory cursing out of the camera and they add in a little bit of theirs ABCs. Nutty.

Let's call this her "Glitter" moment

Wow... ok. Valerie Reyes has disaster written all over her. Let me tell you why...

She loves Mariah Carey.

Now, before I get anyone upset with me, I am not bashing Mariah Carey. She has a beautiful voice, one of the best, probably, and has proven that she can sell millions of records. However, here's my problem with people who love Mariah Carey. They think they can sing like Mariah Carey. They think they can sing all the runs, high and low, just like Mariah and sadly, no one in the world, except maybe Christina Aguilera can sing those crazy runs like Mariah Carey can.

I was actually a little surprised that Valerie didn't choose a Mariah song for her audition - she does Phil Collins instead. But it's like she doesn't realize it - she sings the song as if she was channeling Mariah anyway - she attempts to add silly little runs to the song and it sounds like the same note, just shaky... she tries to make her voice gravelly in spots and it sounds like her voice is cracking instead. But the piece de resistance - she tries to hit the super high notes that only Mariah can hit and she sounds like a wounded animal. It's almost funny how obviously she tried to copy Mariah - I'm sure somewhere in the world, Mariah is terribly flattered. Whatever.

But Randy brings up a good point. He tells her she's terrible, which she was, but that's not it. He also says that she actually has a good tone to her voice and that if she stopped trying to sing like Mariah and instead tried to focus on a melody, she might actually be a good singer. I think he's right - it's not like she was out of tune - she was just making weird noises from trying to mimic a style that really only one or two people in the world can pull off. Anyway, they tell her no and she actually seems surprised, and it's not until her interview afterward that she realizes that she's going to be on the rejects show.

A little deja vu

Many of you may not agree, and it's possible that it's just on my mind, but Michael Johns, who is originally from Australia, at first glance, reminds me of Heath Ledger. Not a lot - he's not as handsome - but like the first two seconds that they show him, I saw a resemblance - maybe it was just the shape of his face, I don't know. And it made me sad all over again. I was at work this afternoon, sitting at my desk, when an alert flashed on my screen saying Heath Ledger was dead. It was stunning to me, so unbelievable, I'm still having a hard time believing it's true. He wasn't in the party scene, wasn't a troublemaker. He'd never been arrested or been caught with drugs. It was so unexpected, so shocking, so very sad. When Anna Nicole Smith died, I think there was a feeling of, "OK - that's too bad." But there was no shock - she had been troubled for so long. But Heath Ledger was so talented, just on the brink of really becoming a superstar with his role as The Joker in the next Batman movie - it's just terrible. It wasn't his time.

But I'm getting sidetracked - it's just so ironic that this guy would be on TV tonight, on the very day that Ledger died. Anyway, his voice is really strong, clear tone and everything. I'm not crazy about all the runs - it's too busy for my taste, but he does have a certain something. The judges love him - they tell him he has a soulful sound, and they let him through to Hollywood.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Off to a good start

So this is the first time "American Idol" has held auditions in San Diego, so there's no telling what will come up in tonight's episode. Could be a city of untapped talent or could be an hour of just crazy duds.

First up is Tetiana Ostapowych, 24, of Venice, Calif., who walks in all confident, doesn't seem very nervous. She says she's so excited, but really seems very calm and collected. She says she's going to sing "Someone to Watch Over Me," and does a very good job, I think. I will say that she sounds like a lot of other singers - and I wonder if they plan to add anyone really different to this year's group of finalists. This girl is cute and she can sing, but there's nothing that really sets her apart from anyone else - at least not from what they're showing us. Simon tells her that she's not as good as she thinks she is. He even goes on to say that he doesn't think she's ever going to be great. But he says yes to her anyway, as do Paula and Randy, so we'll be seeing more of her soon enough.

Those of you who have read this blog in the past and have noticed that I tend to fall for the sappy life stories should already know that I love single father Perrie Cataldo, who traveled from Arizona. They did this cute little intro with his son, Avian, saying that his papi is the next American Idol. And we quickly learn that the little boy's mother died in 2005 - they don't say how she died, but he does say that she was mixed up in the wrong crowd. But he talks about how he's matured since her passing, and how he wants to provide his son with the childhood he never had. It wasn't a crazy tear-jerker story, but it was moving to see a young man dedicated to raising his son, so I hope he makes it through.

Here's my take on Perrie. His voice is good - his tone is good. You could hear how nervous he was, which threw him off key a bit and it seemed a little like he was trying too hard to copy Boys II Men, instead of singing in his own voice, his own style. But I think he can improve - I think he could surprise people if he's given the chance.

I'm a little taken aback that Simon didn't nitpick him - instead he tells him that he has a really really good voice and all three judges say yes. Welcome to Hollywood, baby!!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Top Idol moments so far

Here are my favorite contestants and top moments from Philadelphia and Dallas. I've gotta say, Dallas in particularly was highly entertaining--don't know about you, but I'm cautiously optimistic that Idol won't be as much of a chore to watch this year.

-Drew Poppelreiter, farm boy
Unlike Simon apparently, I've always liked George Strait--Drew's voice was compelling, a pleasure to listen to. And, like Kellie Pickler, he was just authentic enough to not come across as hokey; plus his family seemed really nice.

-Kady Milloy, impressions girl
It doesn't hurt that she's easy on the eyes, but her Unchained Melody was pretty good. From a singing standpoint I wouldn't agree with Simon that she was super-talented, but I do think as a package she's the perfect AI contestant and is likely to be there at the end.

-Chris Watson, dreads
Nice, calm, soft-spoken but confident guy who lives and breathes music and can really sing--there's one every year, and I agree with Simon that chicks will dig him. I always like it when the contestants show up with their families like Chris did, it's affirmation that they're not crazy.

-Kristy Lee Cook, cage fighter
I mean, how can you not like her?! She lives in a log cabin, sells horses, can defend herself, is totally sincere--how long until she and Drew get together in Hollywood? All that, and she can sing; I think she's one of the darkhorses to win it all, there's something about her that makes you root for her to make it.

-Brooke White, never seen an R-rated movie
Just one of those people you like--has a nice purity to her voice, maybe from all that clean living. Not sure I see her as an Idol finalist, but thought it was hilarious how she just kept brushing the hair of that crazy Princess Leah chick while making shocked expressions at the stuff coming out of her mouth. Too bad Brooke's married, otherwise she could make a great duo with Dallas' never-been-kissed boy.

-Nina Shaw, tall, leggy woman
She's one of those no-nonsense, mature, talented singers Idol produces every year; I think Randy nailed it when he said she was throwback, but in that retro cool way. Unfortunately, I don't think she'll win and she may not even make it out of Top 12 women. It really isn't just a singing competition; the ones who are well-adjusted and real adults make us smile, but don't drive us to redial a billion times.

-Beth Stalker, Michigan mother
Idol's producers aptly ran her after the crazy Paula-stalker guy; I liked her old-fashioned Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered--we've seen Frank Sinatrish guys, why not a classics-singing woman?

-Colton Swon, country boy with the belt buckle
I agree with Simon that he's one of a dozen, but I just found him likeable, even with the silly hair. This year's Bucky, I guess; look forward to hearing more.

-Pia 'Zpia' Easley, mohawak girl
I think she could be a real darkhorse in the competition--she's interesting, has good confidence but no arrogance, and of course can sing. Plus, how can you not like someone with a nickname of Zpia?!

-Maybe the funniest thing a contestant has ever said on Idol
In Dallas, when one of the transsexual contestants said: "Here's a picture of me as a guy; here's me as a girl--so I just want to show you guys that I'm ver-sa-tile."

Ha! You really can't argue with that logic... except would he be Top 12 guys, or Top 12 girls?

-This year's William Hung (but better)
The guy everyone's talking about is Renaldo Lapuz (the guy in white), who closed out Dallas. That song he wrote, We're Brothers Forever, is surprisingly catchy--the remix below is great, it even synchs up Paula's wild dancing at the end.

And just another indication of how wide a net American Idol casts, here's Sports Illustrated writer Peter King's take on AI:

Broke a lifetime streak last week. Started watching American Idol the other night, and loved it. Never thought I would, but the show is a riot. And when I walked into the Packer locker room Friday, Koren Robinson was signing that Renaldo Lapuz You Are My Brother song. "Can't get it out of my head,'' he said.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Is it the end of time yet?

Good Lord. It would have been nice if they had ended on a good note, but it looks like they saved this weird angel/bird guy for the last audition. He doesn't speak English very well, so unless he plans to sing in his own language, I can't imagine he's going to be very good. He sings his own composition and I don't know even know what to say about it. It's like he didn't think they'd let him sing very long so he only wrote enough for like half a verse, and then he was just winging it with the lyrics. It went something like this: "I am your brother, your best friend forever..." Then there was something about "Brothers till the end of time, together or not, you're always in my heart..."

People like this guy just don't make sense to me and really, by the end of a 2-hour show, it's not even amusing. I'm so grateful that the next few weeks are only one-hour shows. I just can't take much more nonsense - I'd like to get to some talent, already.

Farmer boy

whoa... what's with all the cross-dressers in Texas? Anyway.....

I love Drew Poppelreiter, the 24-year-old Mississippi farmer. He's adorable and of course, I love the accent. He looks way younger than 24, but that's part of his charm, I think. He sings pretty well and they let him through. I'm afraid he won't make it past Hollywood week, but he's just so sugary sweet, I'm gonna start saying my prayers now that he improves and makes it through to the top 24 - because I think once he gets there, America will just fall in love with him.

Seriously? I don't get men who wear eyeliner - it's not cute. And this kid, Kyle Reinneck, is actually going to sing Kelly Clarkson. If you're coming on the show, proclaiming to be a hard-core rocker, don't sing a woman's song, dummy. If they let him through, I may have to stop watching. Oh boy... I'm losing my patience - he's just bad.


I was really considering just blowing right past the fact that some girl - forgot her name already - is married to the cutest boy ever, but I can't. He's just that cute. Angela Reilly is the girl's name and she actually sounds depressed about the fact that she just got married - her husband Chad is a professional model and he comes walking in, looking all delicious and cheering her on. I don't know what she has to sound all depressed about - I'd kind of like to slap her silly a little bit, but she's all the way in Texas. Anyway she says her husband helped her pick out her songs and he says she should sing "Baby Love" first. So she does. All I can say is love must be deaf as well as blind. Or maybe her audition was just so the world could see how hot her husband is, but her singing is way over the top and just too much. It's not good at all. Oh how funny - Simon's thinking the same thing I just did - he says, "They say love is deaf, right?" Looks like we're on the same page with this one. They let her sing another song - probably just so they can look at Chad a while longer - and it's just as bad as the first one. Thankfully, they tell her no. But I thank her for letting us all gawk at her man, even if just for a few minutes. Yummy.

A joke and a half

I was so hoping to skip over Kady Malloy, the girl who can do the vocal impersonations. She was just kind of blah for me... but this is the girl Simon tells is the best one they've seen so far in the whole competition, so I should probably say something about her - she did a really good impersonation of Britney Spears - Carrie Underwood wasn't as good. But her singing voice was pretty good - I don't know if I'd say it was the best I've heard so far, but it was OK. She's through to Hollywood and I wonder if it's because of her voice or simply because Simon thinks she's cute. Only time will tell...

So Douglas Davidson is a joke - he looks like a joke, sounds like a joke and basically came on the show just to be a joke. So I can't even feel bad for him - he got what he wanted - he got on TV and people are talking about what a joke he is - mission accomplished. He comes on talking about how his dad hates him because he sings so well and how Christina Aguilera says you can permenently damage your voice if you don't know what you're doing and some other nonsense I don't remember. He gets in the room with the judges and starts warming up, making all kinds of weird noises. He eventually says, "I guess I'll start my audition now," and decides to sing Bon Jovi. As expected, it's awful - it sounds kind of like he's choking on his own voice. They tell him to stop and he continues to sing - they eventually have to get security to escort him out. Just terrible, but again - I applaud him because his intention was to be a joke and he carried it all through flawlessly.

A little confused

Brandon Green intrigues me. I'm a total sucker for a Southern drawl - I can't get enough of it - so I was really enthralled just listening to him talk. Never mind the fact that he's talking about a collection of peeled fingernails, which really is disgusting and completely unnecessary to mention to anyone out loud. But I like him - he's cute in this kind of nonchalant, lazy way. I can't describe what I mean, exactly, but there's something about him I like. His singing is pretty good too - nothing spectacular that would knock your socks off, but good enough where I'd want to see what else he can do - in Hollywood. Randy and Paula agree and they send him through to the next round.

I really wanted Kayla Hatfield to be good - her story was touching - she was in a bad car accident and lost one of her eyes, I think. But she chooses to sing Janis Joplin, which is nearly impossible to do well. In my opinion, the only people to have succeeded in singing as good as Janis Joplin were Janis herself and Melissa Etheridge. No one else has ever come close. So, I was disappointed with her performance, but not because it was bad, per se. It just wasn't what it needed to be. So you can imagine my surprise and confusion when Simon is the first one to give her a yes. Paula says no and it comes down to Randy. Of course, he says yes, too, and another dream is fulfilled in Dallas. I don't think she'll go very far, but it's nice to see her get the opportunity.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Holy @#$%^& - talk about a shocker

After the commercial break, they show a Kelly Clarkson wanna-be, who's really not very good - they were actually kind of mean to her, but she took it better than most people have in the past.

Then they show a montage of awful singers and then this cute little blonde girl walks in. She's 16 and says that she gets compared to Carrie Underwood a lot and even comments that while she sings country, she can sing so many different styles. Alaina Whitaker is her name and she's got this real Texas sounding drawl - not crazy southern or anything but you really can't imagine she'll be any good. I really was waiting for the next disaster. And then she opens her mouth and I actually said out out loud, "Holy @#$%!!" She blew me away - not because she was that great, really, even though she was very good, but because her singing voice just didn't match her speaking voice - I expected her voice to be kind of tinny and it wasn't at all - I just did not see it coming. Her voice is deep and sultry - definitely not the voice of a 16-year-old.

Simon tells her it was good but that she's not as good as she thinks she is. He may be right, but she's still good enough to make it through to Hollywood, and for right now, that's all that matters.

Bruce Dickson, the 19-year-old virgin, is adorable and even though the producers of the show are playing Richard Marx in the background, trying to make his story seem ridiculous in some way, I think it's admirable. Not too many people in the world still have the kind of reverence for sex like this guy seems to, so I have a lot of respect for the fact that he's pretty open about it. The fact that he's never kissed a girl is strange just because he's a good-looking guy. I'd think some girl would just grab him at some point, but maybe girls aren't that aggressive in Texas, who knows? Overall, it's endearing that he wants his first kiss to be on his wedding day - I'm not sure how realistic that is, but if it's what he wants to do, I think it's awesome - he's still a teenager - it's so hard to abstain when you're young and your hormones are going crazy all over the place. I give him a lot of credit. But this is "American Idol" and really, all I want to know is - can you sing??? And I think he can - I'm kind of surprised that they say no to him. I thought his voice was strong and had a real nice tone to it. BUt they told him to come back next year - I hope he does. He really is adorable...

A true inspiration

So, they're hitting Dallas, the hometown of Kelly Clarkson, the show's first winner. It seems weird that in 7 seasons, they've only held auditions there the one time, but they're back now, so let's see what that city has to offer.

They kind of downplayed the whole baby being born on audition day thing and being named Idol in honor of that. I remember when that happened - it was all over the news - I thought they'd do something more than just give it a quick mention, but it's still early, so who knows? Maybe it will come up again later.

Oh boy - I think tonight might be the night I shed my first "Idol" tears. They're laying the sob stories on real thick this year and the first girl up, Jessica Brown, the former drug addict, is truly inspiring. She was a meth addict and is now a stay-at-home mom of two little girls. I've been blessed in life and thankfully, have never struggled with drugs or alcohol, but I can just imagine how difficult it must be to get out from under an addiction like that and the fact that she was able to do it and find success in her life again is wonderful.

Her voice is really pretty - I wonder if they'll think it's not unique enough though. I'd like to see her through just based on her story - she says she'd like to inspire people to stay off drugs and I think it would be great if she could. Simon says she made the song interesting and she makes it through. It's nice to see her whole family waiting outside for her - I can just imagine how they've suffered along with her and her addiction - it's really touching to watch someone who's just turned it all around. I look forward to seeing more of her. What's really cool to me, too, is how she's a mom, but she's still her own woman - she showing her little girls what it is to follow a dream and I think that's great.

The next guy up, Paul Stafford, is just a sweetheart. He's a park attendant and I think he's trying out just for the fun of it because you can tell he's probably not going to be very good. He's a member of the Roller Coaster enthusiasts or something like that and he's just a sweet, likable guy. The trend continues and they're nice to him when they tell him no. Simon even comments about what a nice guy he was after he leaves the room.

I have to say, I'm really enjoying the newfound respect the judges have for the contestants. They've been really nice to just about everyone and the couple of people Simon was rude to last night comepletely deserved it.

'American Idol' ratings take a dip

from the AP . . .

Fox’s “American Idol” returned as the nation’s most popular TV series, but with 4 million fewer viewers than the 2007 season premiere.

Tuesday’s debut was seen by an estimated 33.2 million viewers, down 11 percent from the 37.4 million who watched the first show, according to preliminary ratings by Nielsen Media Research.

That still ranks as the most-watched show of the TV season, excluding sports. The previous high was the 25.4 million who saw the season premiere of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” on CBS in the fall. More people were watching Fox in those two hours than the combined audience for ABC, CBS, NBC and the CW.

It was a noticeably nicer “American Idol” after producers were criticized last year for meanness during the audition rounds of the talent contest.

Yet the ratings will be watched closely for signs of further erosion. There was a very slight decline in viewership last season compared to 2006.

Coming to the end... finally

Someone needs to tell me... why would anyone believe that dressing up as Princess Leia with fishnet stockings would get you through on "American Idol?" I seriously want a response. It's like 2 in the morning right now and maybe I'm exhausted, maybe I'm bored, but I can definitely say that I'm tired of this show and its complete nonsense. I find it hard to believe that with all the thousands of auditions that they saw in Philadelphia, the bunch I've seen so far tonight is the most interesting of them all.

Christina Tolisano of Connecticut can actually sing pretty well. Well, it starts out OK, anyway. Then she makes some weird noises and then starts kind of yelling. They tell her she's strange and say no. She freaks out and spews some garbage about how the show needs something different and they're not allowing it and I don't know what else - I lost interest before she even sang.

The final audition is Brooke White, a nanny from California. She's never seen a rated R movie - weird. She doesn't drink or smoke, either, which is cool - I'm a big supporter of that. But there are some great movies out there that just happen to be R-rated. Very weird.

Her voice is pretty, though - kins of simplistic, but very clean and soft. They like her and she's through to Hollywood.

Getting bored, and boring

It's really late and I just don't have the energy for the stupidity of Milo and his "No Sex Allowed" song or whatever it's called - I'm too annoyed and tired to even rewind to make sure I got that title right.

Thank God for Kristy Lee Cook. She's adorable - gorgeous, really. And she's a cage fighter, apparently. She loves horses and camping and sold one of her horses to be able to audition. If she can carry a tune at all, I'm sure she'll make it through - she's got a great look - easy to sell.

No big shocker - beauty queen with the pretty voice makes it through.

Now we're on to this guy named Paul something and I'm wondering how the crazy stalker got past security. He gives Paula this really creepy stare and then sings a song about stalking her and trying on her underwear. It's kind of gross and I'm glad when Simon tells him he's creepy and has him escorted out.

They're clearly just trying to make for stupid TV at this point. Some guy who dressed up as a belly dancer of Princess Leia or something was told he could come back and sing if he waxed his chest, so now he's back and cleanly waxed. He's gross and pointless and I'm glad that Simon stops him before the rest of his behind comes out of his outfit.

A note to Angela Martin

Dear Angela,

Please sing like an angel. Please have a voice that will carry your wishes to heaven. Because you deserve a break.

OK - that's it for now - but "American Idol" has topped itself with the sob stories and this one has got me rooting for this woman, big time. Angela Martin had a baby while still in high school, who has Retts syndrome. Her daughter can't walk or talk but she has the love of not only her mother, but what seems like a huge community, too. Angela says that "American Idol" is not about the fame for her - that it's about getting the best care for her daughter, and hearing the sincerity in her voice has me hoping and praying that she blows the judges away.

Well, she has the voice for this competition - not sure she can win, but I sure want to watch her try. Let me rephrase - I can't wait to watch her try, because she makes it through.

And the Oscar goes to...

Totally psyched about the short little snippet they showed of Jose Candelaria, the New Jersey guy who sings the Spanish version of "Unbreak My Heart" and who makes it through despite not singing one word in English - I'm all about the diversity and I love that they could appreciate his voice without understanding his words.

Moving on, the producers want us to think there's something special about Temptress Brown the 16-year-old female football player. But I don't see it - she's either going to be ridiculously good or embarrassingly bad and I'd like to just get to it as fast as possible, personally.

Oh great - talk about pulling at your heartstrings. I love my mother - more than anyone in the world, maybe more than life. Seeing that girl's mother suffering, not being able to breathe, but cheering her on anyway, just busting with pride, breaks my heart. And of course, I'm left hoping that this girl can sing. But she's planning to sing a song Jennifer Hudson sang - that can't be good news.

It's not good news at all. She's so bad, I forgot all about her mom and how much I wanted her to be good. But, following a new trend, Simon is very nice to her - they all are - while telling her no. And she cries. I feel bad for her, but the memory of her voice is still ringing in my ears, so I'm back to wanting this spot to be over.

But now that it is and we've moved on to the Allentown girl, Alexis Cohen, I'm wishing we could get Temptress back - this chick is just weird. My sister works in Allentown - I'm sure it has its charm, though I couldn't find it - but I'm guessing the fine people of Allentown are pretty annoyed now that they're forever linked to this crazy girl. She says she's been compared to Janis Joplin and Pat Benatar - my guess is that she's going to scream out her song, thinking that she's a hard rocker.

Well - it's definitely not what I expected - and I can't say I'm disgusted by it. But it's clearly not good enough to make it through. They were actually pretty nice to her and she takes it pretty well, which is what makes the next sequence so odd.

She comes out and says, "Well Simon didn't like me but he's a big fat bad word - very, very bad words." Ryan Seacrest is looking at her like she's lost her mind, but she totally doesn't notice - she goes on to say that Simon is egotistical, curses a bit, says she's going to leave with her dignity and then walks by the camera saying, "Why do I feel like giving the camera the finger?" over and over again, before actually turning around and doing it.

Mind you, no one was mean to her or mocked her in any way - they were perfectly nice to her, even a bit complimentary, in my opinion.

She goes on and on and on, says something about it being illegal to moon people (huh?)and about how she'll one day be victorious through her actressing and something else - it was just really weird and kind of reminiscent of that weird guy from last season, the gay guy with the lisp and the feather boa who told everyone to shut up. Clearly, Alexis wanted air time - and she got it.

My first love

James Lewis, the 22-year-old tour guide from Philadelphia, gets the first audible chuckle out of me. I had a feeling it might be entertaining when he said his specialty was anything low. He's completely impossible to understand - I have no idea what he's saying except, "Let my pipple go." Yes, I know the line is, "Let my people go," but what he's saying is pipple - I promise. I feel kind of bad for him because Paula and Randy are both hysterical laughing and he looks so clueless as to why they're laughing at him.

I don't know why I'm feeling so sentimental - but I really am almost tearing up right now - he looks so hurt and so confused. I can't lie - I thought his singing was funny, but no one deserves to be laughed at so obviously. I'm hoping someone later on in the show will snap me back to reality and will help me see the humor in some of this, but right now, I'm just feeling so badly for these people - this guy especially.

Obviously, they say no to him, but thank goodness - Paula and Randy actually apologize for laughing at him. That makes me feel good - maybe they really are trying to make this season better. They got so much slack for being so mean last season - maybe they're trying to keep it together this time around.

OK - so my TiVo says I'm only 20 minutes into this 2-hour extravaganza. I feel like I've been watching forever already.

But wait... I've just heard my fist love of this season. Junot Joyner, 25, of Bowie, MD. He sings some Elton John song and I just love his voice - it's soulful and smoky, but clear at the same time. Oh, just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I want to hear him again. And I will - Hollywood week, because he makes it through.

Yuka and his sexy face... and some girl

Oh no. I'm so upset right now because they're showing Yuka, the guy who moved to America from Egypt just two years ago. It's obvious that the producers have chosen him as the first person to mock this season and it's so bothersome to me that they would make fun of someone who clearly doesn't have a grasp of the language yet and who is really just a fan of music and the show. Ugh... and he's going to sing the Bee Gees - it's just not right. I'm all for laughing at someone else's expense, especially someone who is clearly awful and just wants to be on TV, but there's something just downright mean about laughing at a guy who's sincere about his attempt to try out.

OK... I have to stop. He just said some girl told him he had a sexy face and that he wants to love a girl all the way from her hair to her nipple. Maybe it's OK to laugh at him... just a little bit.

Of course, as expected, it was not great. It wasn't the worst audition ever, but it wasn't up to par. He's just a sweet guy - I'm glad they didn't make him feel bad in telling him no. I guess I've grown cynical - I was really expecting Simon to ridicule him in some way.

Next up is Melanie Nyema, 26, of Los Angeles. Apparently, she was a back-up singer for Taylor Hicks - talk about a great success. Her voice is pretty good, but she's nowhere near the caliber of Melinda Doolittle from last season - now there was a back-up singer who deserved the spotlight. She's kind of blah in my opinion, but she makes it through to Hollywood.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A winner right off the bat

So, we're back for another season of "American Idol." Another season of crazy bad auditions, a few shining moments and ultimately, what we hope will be a new star. It hasn't worked out that way lately - Taylor Hicks was recently dropped from his label as was Katharine McPhee and Ruben Studdard. Is it possible that people are getting tired of "American Idol" and its predictable format? Is America getting sick of Simon Cowell and his terribly mean comments? I, for one, am hoping that this season is a little bit different. There have been rumors for months that this season will do away with the mentors of seasons past and will focus more on spotlighting the contestants - but is that what American wants? I guess we'll just have to wait and see...

As for the auditions, let's get them started and over with already. I was watching an episode of "Intervention" last night and there was a girl on there named Joy, who auditioned in Atlanta and she didn't make it through. If that's any indication of the talent this season, I think we're in for a treat because she had a beautiful voice - I was shocked she didn't make it past the judges.

Anyway, so this week the judges are in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.
First up is Joey Catalano, 19, the New Jersey guy who has lost like 200 pounds. I have to admit, I'm immediately drawn to him. Losing that much weight is liberating, life-altering and something to be proud of. I want him to sing well just because a guy who's worked so hard deserves a break, I think. And a break is what he gets. Te judges all love him - I thought he was just OK, but he's through to the next round. I doubt he's the best talent they'll find, but for now, he's the first winner of the season.

Monday, January 14, 2008

American Idol show schedule

Here's what to expect for the first part of the "American Idol" season (all shows start at 8 p.m. on Fox/5):

Jan. 15: Philadelphia auditions (two hours)

Jan. 16: Dallas auditions (two hours)

Jan. 22-23, 29-30, Feb. 5-6: National auditions continue.

Feb. 12: Hollywood round, part one (two hours)

Feb. 13: Hollywood round, part two. Top 24 revealed.

Feb. 19: Top 12 men perform (two hours)

Feb. 20: Top 12 women perform (two hours)

Feb. 21: First live results show; two men and two women leave.

Feb. 26: Top 10 male vocalists perform

Feb. 27: Top 10 Female vocalists perform.

Feb. 28: Two men and two women eliminated

March 4: Top 8 male vocalists perform

March 5: Top 8 female vocalists perform

March 6: Top 12 finalists revealed

March 11: Finalists' first performance show (two hours)

March 12: First finalist voted off (90 minutes)

Paula: Idol's been weak, but no longer

Even die-hard fans will admit last season's American Idol wasn't that good--at times I actually felt bad for all the new people jumping on the bandwagon, since I didn't want them to think the relatively uninteresting pool of top 12 contestants was reflective of how great the show has been in past years.

In some ways, AI was a victim of its own success--people are now too aware of how big a deal the show is, which means you get a lot more self-promoting-types trying out, instead of real diamonds in the rough.

Now, it turns out even Paula Abdul realized the show's been on a downward trend.

"I think we have all the makings for the best season we've ever had," Abdul says, having watched auditions in San Diego, Dallas, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Miami, Omaha and Charleston, S.C.

"What's really interesting is that the last three years, I didn't remember a lot of the kids. This season, it started off a little shaky, but we began seeing some amazing people and getting hopeful. It really is anyone's game this time, with equal male and female talent." ...

As exciting as the final stretch typically is - particularly with unexpected factors like last season's "How did he get so far?" run by Sanjaya Malakar - Abdul admits that early on, "it becomes unbelievably tedious, especially when we only put one of 30 kids through [to the competition in Hollywood], but that's when Simon kicks into full gear of playing pranks and being obnoxious.
Check out the full preview interview with Paula here.

And let's hope she's right about this year's crop of contestants.

Photo of Paula Abdul by Sam Jones/FOX

Thursday, January 10, 2008

'Idol' buzz: Phil Stacey's first single and more

Phil Stacey's Rascally single

Season 6 finalist Phil Stacey's first single, "If You Didn't Love Me," was sent to country radio stations last Tuesday, and has been posted by his fans on YouTube, below.

According to's Popwatch blog, the track was co-written by Rascal Flatts' lead singer Gary LeVox and produced by Wayne Kirkpatrick, who writes songs for Little Big Town, among others. Stacey's first album, the site says, is scheduled to drop in April. Also due to release an album (on Brash Records) the same month is Stacey's fellow finalist Chris Sligh.

JPL WORKING ON SECOND ALBUM. Jon Peter Lewis is also in the recording studio. reports that the Season 3 finalist will release his second album this spring. JPL, as he was known on 'Idol,' is writing or co-writing several tracks on the as-yet-untitled CD, a follow-up to 'Stories From Hollywood,' a limited independent release.

SIERRA'S WOES GO ON. Meanwhile, the saga of fallen idol Jessica Sierra continues. The Season 4 semifinalist spent New Year's Eve in the hospital after a "serious pregnancy scare," according to The incarcerated Florida resident was rushed to Brandon Regional Hospital suffering from what the Web site describes as "severe bleeding." She and the baby, whose father Sierra has not identified, are reportedly doing fine.

Last Monday, Sierra pleaded no contest to charges of disorderly intoxication and obstruction of an officer and was sentenced to spend the next year in drug rehabilitation. According to Tampa Bay TV station WTSP-TV, she will fly to Los Angeles and undergo rehab at The Pasadena Recovery Center under the supervision of Dr. Drew Pinsky. It's the same facility where Sierra taped the VH1 reality show "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew," which premiered on Thursday.

The judge has reportedly forbidden Sierra from doing interviews to promote the show. If she does not comply with the conditions of her sentence, she will be remanded to jail to serve a one-year term.

-- Ronnie Gill

Season 7 audition photos

Click the pic below for shots from around the country as people audition for Season 7 of "American Idol."