Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Brooke White goes home

OK - back to the results.

Syesha and Brooke are back on the stage ... And after more than 45 million votes, it is Brooke White who goes home. Syesha is safe another week.

I almost feel bad for Brooke -- she's hysterical crying, almost immediately. It was her time to go, though. She actually got a lot further than I thought she would at the beginning of the season. I can't believe they're making her sing when she can't stop crying. Not nice at all. Well, only three weeks to go ... Can't wait to see who takes the prize.

Neil Diamond performs

The Ford commercial this week is set to "Catch the Wind" and it has an environmental message, about cleaning up the Earth -- it was OK.

Neil Diamond is singing "Pretty Amazing Grace," a song off his new album, "Home Before Dark." I really like Diamond's speaking voice and his singing voice is nice, too. It's deep, but soothing. The song is acually very nice -- kind of soft, but with a tinge of rock in it. Very nice -- who knew I'd like Neil Diamond??

Ryan mentions that there is a special guest in the audience and it turns out to be Neil Diamond's mother -- how sweet. I always think it's sweet when parents get to watch their kids succeed in the spotlight -- it's so nice to see the pride in their eyes.

Simon's first kiss

Natasha Bedingfield performs "Pocketful of Sunshine." It's OK. I'm not overly impressed, but it's a nice song and she has an interesting voice, I guess.

Ryan plays like he's going to make her go through the judges' critiques, but it was just a joke ... he then continues the joking by asking her if she would go to the prom with David Archuleta. She says she has a dress, so she'd love to go if he asks her, but then Ryan points out that she also has a boyfriend.

So, now we're back to the stupid questions section.

The first question is for the judges -- why is it always Paula who gives the contestants a break? Paula says that somebody has to. She says that she wants to keep the dreams alive because they work so hard and it's so difficult to get into the industry.

Next question is for Paula -- is she going to do any more music videos with Randy? She says they're gonna keep on dancing like there's no tomorrow.

Next question is for Simon -- she says that he always says that performances are forgettable -- so which of these two performances are more memorable: his kiss with Paula Abdul or his first kiss with her at the bottom of his garden when he was 9 years old? He asks her if it's Tara Miller and she says it is ... then they go back and forth until Ryan asks her if he was a good kisser -- she hesitates and then Simon says to bear in mind that he was only 9 years old. Paula then asks Tara if she's over the rabies and she says, yes, that she's had lot of therapy, so she's fine. Simon asks Tara if she still looks cute -- and she says that he has aged very well and that she has, too, so probably. Simon seems really taken aback that she's called and kind of happy to hear from her -- it was quite a human moment for him to be talking to his first kiss, his first real crush. It was kind of cute.

Syesha Mercado and Brooke White in the bottom two

They show a clip of the upcoming season of "So You Think You Can Dance," and I haven't been so excited for something in a very long time. That is by far, the best show on television -- better than "Idol," in my opinion, and I just can't wait for it to start -- the dancers on that show are so amazing -- just breathtaking, really.

So, back to the results ... David Cook is next. Ryan asks him what his reaction is to Paula telling him that she was looking at the next American Idol. He says the first thing he thought about was what Simon said to Carly last week, about it being the kiss of death. Paula says, "Not with me." And David responds, "I hope you're right." Ryan then says, "I've got good news -- she was right." David is safe, so that means that Syesha and Brooke are in the bottom two.

Ryan tells them to come on out. Wait -- are they doing this right now? Ryan is going through the songs they sang and what the judges said ...

Ryan asks Syesha if song choices are tough for her. She says they are, that on rehearsal days, she finds herself not knowing what to sing and since she's not familiar with some of the songs, she doesn't know which is best. Ryan then asks Brooke how she was able to come back for her second song after Simon told her the first song was a nightmare. She says she genuinely had a good time, that she's happy to be there and she just kicked into that happy, grateful mode.

Jason Castro and David Archuleta are safe

They start the show pretty quick tonight, almost immediately going into the group song, which is a tribute to Neil Diamond, this week's mentor. I have to say, it's not one of their best performances -- maybe 5 people is just not enough for a group song, I don't know. But they all seem kind of unsure of the songs and the choreography -- it was a very tentative and cautious kind of performance.

Like every week, they show a clip of last night's performances and then Ryan takes a minute to address Paula's major screw-up last night. He says the rumors are not true (my assumption is that people said she was either drunk or on drugs) and that she is part of their family and they love her.

So on to the results. Jason Castro is up first. Ryan asks him if he knows what Simon meant when he said that he wasn't the Jason they put into the competition. He says he was thinking back and the weeks he got really good comments were weeks when he did songs he already knew, or changed a song and last night, he didn't know any of the songs and he didn't change them. Ryan asks him if he's nervous right now and he says yeah, a little. Ryan stalls for a bit, but then tells him to head to the sofas, that he is safe.

David Archuleta is next and Ryan asks Paula what she meant when she told David that she wants to see him have more fun on stage. She says there's a certain zone you hit when you're a performer and she's seen him hit it many times and she just wants to see that joy. Ryan then asks David if, at this stage, he feels like he's being more careful, more cautious? David says that this week, he just wanted to have fun, that in previous weeks, he had done more mature-sounding sounds, so he wanted to enjoy this week, but that he'll work on it some more. Ryan tells him he's safe and he puts on this really surprised and shocked look, which is kind of strange, because he's never really done that before. I wonder why he's so shocked tonight.

"America," are you really sure about David Archuleta?

David Archuleta sings "America" and it feels a little bit like Kristy Lee singing "God Bless the USA," like he's obviously looking to garner as many votes as he can -- totally cheesy. But he sounded great, so I guess that's all that matters, right? I read an interview in which his dad says that he's David's musical consultant, which means, basically, that David's dad is choosing these songs; so I can't really blame David himself, but he sang the two most obvious songs -- the most well-known. It's like he thinks people vote for the songs they recognize -- he doesn't trust that people will vote for his voice, whether they know the songs or not. He could have really taken a chance tonight and sung a completely unknown song and made it special, but instead he played it safe, as usual. I just wonder if this is the guy we want to buy music from. It's getting to the end of this competition, and I think the winner should be the one we'd spend money on, the one we'd pay to see in concert, the one whose CD we'd spend money to buy, and for me, that person is so not David Archuleta - it's David Cook, and perhaps Jason Castro, if he made a CD with songs like "Hallelujah." So, when you pick up the phone to vote for David Archuleta, just ask yourself if you're really sure - are you really going to follow his career a year from now, 3 months from now, even?

Anyway, Randy loves him and tells him that for a young man, he's definitely in the zone, another good performance. Paula says this was the perfect song for him to sing, that his voice is so on point and some other gibberish I don't feel like rewinding for. Simon says that was a smart choice of song, that it was clever. He says he ticked the boxes, meaning it was absolutely the right choice, check, check, check (gesturing like he's checking off boxes on a checklist).

Last one of the night is Syesha, singing "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime." The song is not a ballad, so I'm loving it just because of that. But she does a great job with it - I think she's improved so much after getting to put some performance into her singing last week for Andrew Lloyd Webber week. It's like she really didn't think she could spice things up. But she was great last week, and this week is pretty good, too. She could manage to sneak up on the Davids without them even realizing it.

Randy tells her that she's finally realizing who she is, that she is also in the zone and this is the way he likes her. Paula says she didn't get to comment on her first song, so she says she loves hearing her vulnerable side, that it's her magic, but her second song shows a whole different side and it's her theatrical side. she said something else, too, but her thoughts are so jumbled, they're hard to decipher. Simon tells Syesha that what she demonstrated again is that she is a very good actress/singer. But he thinks she may be in trouble tonight. Syesha asks why and he says that there are only 5 of them left and it was a calculated guess. He just didn't think she had a really memorable second song like some of the other ones did.

Well, I think Syesha was pretty great this week - I'm actually going to keep her out of my bottom two. I think the judges badly want to get rid of Jason, so I think he may end up in the bottom two and I think Brooke White will join him. If we're being fair, I think Brooke will go home tomorrow, but you never know - the producers can alter the results any which way the want. But, I'm sticking to my guns - I say Brooke tomorrow.

I hate to be unfaithful, but David Cook, "All I really need is you"

OK, on to Round 2...

Jason Castro is singing "September Morn" and it's not the most interesting of songs - but I think his voice sounds great - he's really coming into his own, I think. His only weakness is the song's end - he often seems to fall out of tune just a tad right at the very end, so it's the last thing you hear and remember, which is a shame. I think tonight wasn't one of his absolute best performances, but it was solid. Plus, if you throw in his beautiful blue eyes and funky dreadlocks, he's unbeatable.

The judges disagree, though. Randy says he doesn't know what's happening to Jason tonight, but that it was just OK. He says this is a singing competition where they're trying to find the best vocals they can find, and that was just another just OK, whatever performance. Paula says he's playing it safe and he needs to get outside his comfort zone. In his defense, Jason says he was choking right before the song started, that he had something in his throat. Simon says they don't recognize him at the moment, that the last two weeks, this is not the Jason they put into the competition,there's no attempt to make the arrangement his own, he struggled through both songs, they were both forgettable and he thinks Jason is going to look back tonight and say "I don't know who this person is."

Is it just me or are they trying really hard to push him out of the competition? They're so hard on him - he was good tonight - I don't understand all the criticism. It's clear that the producers want to keep the sexes even, (2 guys, 2 girls) and they need to get rid of a guy this week, so they're doing their best to slaughter him. I mean, I've said it before - I know he's not going to win the competition - David Cook and David Archuleta are both more consistent than he is, but he deserves to stay longer than both Syesha and Brooke - it's infuriating to watch the judges purposely bash him to sway the viewers to not vote for him.

Up next is David Cook, singing "All I Really Need Is You." He's wonderful. I think it's been well-documented how much I love Jason Castro and I hate to appear fickle, but David Cook is spectacular - I could listen to him sing all day and not get tired of it. He's so smart with his song choices - he knows exactly how to manipulate songs to make them highlight his talents. Plus his dedication to his family is really endearing - he's wearing an "AC" on the chest of his blazer and the guitar he used fr his first song had the same "AC" on it. For those of you who haven't followed the news, his brother, Adam, is battling cancer and I really appreciate the way he chooses to honor his brother during his performances - it's very touching.

Randy tells him he's a huge David Cook fan because, again, he rocked the house with that, it was blazin'. Paula tells him she is so proud of him, that he picked two songs that are less familiar, and he was the only one who was able to pull that off - she adds that she feels like she's already looking at the "American Idol." Simon says, "David, I'm going to be honest with you. I thought the first song was OK - I thought the second song was brilliant." He adds that he actually made that song sound like it was written this year, he changed the arrangement, he made it work for him - that it was smart, well done.

Brooke White plays the piano while singing "I Am, I Said" and I feel like that piano is her saving grace - it's like when she has to concentrate on something else, her singing sounds so much more natural, more relaxed. The times that she just stands and sings, you can tell she's really focusing and it comes off kind of tense. This performance was great, way better than her first one.

Randy says sitting behind the piano, showing all the flaws and everything and that song was the most difficult of the night to sing with all the octaves, he thinks she did a nice job. Paula says something about her vulnerability and how everyone loves who Brooke is and how it works... I don't know - do any of us really care what Paula thinks, anyway? Simon tells her he really, really hated the first song because it was kind of like a girls night out at the karaoke bar, but this is the Brooke they like, sitting behind the piano, singing a very good song. He says it wasn't incredible, but it was a million times better than the first one.

Oh, "sweet Caroline," will David Archuleta ever take a risk?

David Archuleta is next and he is singing the most predictable songs of the night - "Sweet Caroline and "America," probably two of Neil Diamond's most recognizable songs. Diamond says that David is a little uncertain about how to end "America," so they show him going over a few options. He says that David is kind of a prodigy and with a little guidance and a couple of suggestions, which he hopes David takes to heart, he thinks David will do great.

He sings "Sweet Caroline" first and while this song is way overplayed, David is obviously not old enough to have gotten sick of it yet. I am. But, I will say it's cute to see his enthusiasm - he seems to really be enjoying the song, seems to be having such a great time on the stage - I'm not sure he's been this alive up there before. And he sounds great, as he does most every week. However, the thing with David is that he hasn't really changed through this whole competition - there's been no progression, no improvement. He started off a 10 and has remained a 10. He doesn't take chances - he doesn't seem to learn anything new. Other contestants have shown growth - I wonder which one America will prefer.

Last up is Syesha Mercado. She's singing "Hello, Again" and "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime." Neil Diamond says she did very well with both songs. He says "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime" is an infectious song, that it makes people just want to clap along. He says that she did a wonderful job and she'll do great in her performance, that he was very pleased.

She sings "Hello Again" and it's very nice. What isn't that nice is her hair - she has the most beautiful curly hair and she had it straightened this week - I mean, it looks OK, but why mess with a good thing? Plus, she's barefoot again. Has she always done this? Have I just missed it? Because here she is again, wearing a nice dress, looking very beautiful, and walking around the stage with no shoes - it just looks kind of out of place. I mean, if pulled a Joss Stone thing and wore long flowy, hippie kind of dresses, I would get it, but the dresses she wears should definitely be accompanied by a nice pair of shoes. But anyway, let's get to the singing - she sounds good, but not as good as last week. Plus, this particular song is a little dull, so it didn't help her, I don't think.

So, now all the contestants come out on stage, and Ryan asks the judges to quickly give their opinion on Round 1. Randy says Jason was just OK, better than last week, but just OK; David Cook was very good, very strong, in the zone, doing his thing; Brooke, better than last week, but still karaoke for him; David Archuleta, the bomb; Syesha was strong, in the zone, not amazing, but strong.

Paula says Jason loved hearing his lower register in the first song, since we never really get to hear it. Then she says, the second song, she felt like his usual charm was missing for her, left her a little empty and that the two songs made her feel like he's not fighting hard enough to get into the top 4. OK - let's rewind just a little bit - is Paula watching a different show? We've only seen one song from each contestant ...w hat is she talking about, the second song? I had read somewhere that they take notes on the dress rehearsal and go off those notes during the live show - I guess that's what she did here and just forgot that we were only halfway through. Only Paula ... only she would make such a huge and ridiculously stupid mistake like that. To make matters worse, instead of just owning up to it, when Randy tells her to comment just on the first song, she says, "Oh my God - I thought you sang twice." Huh? Idiot. Let's move past her ... Simon says, "Jason, forgettable. David Cook, just above average. Brooke, a nightmare. David Archuleta, I thought it was amateurish, and Syesha, I thought it was old-fashioned." He then tells the contestants that they are the top 5 and he wants to see and hear the performance of a lifetime coming up.

I'm so happy "I'm alive" to hear David Cook sing

Tonight is Neil Diamond night and I really don't have any expectations - I don't have an opinion of his music one way or the other. I feel like he has some great songs and some not so great songs, and of course, tons of songs that I'm not familiar with, so I'm pretty open to tonight's show. What I'm not crazy about, though, is that this week starts the two songs per contestant thing. It makes the show drag on quite a bit, but I suppose it helps viewers to get a better idea of a contestant's consistency.

They're switching things up this week - the contestants will only be judged after they sing their second song, so the first half of the show will virtually just be performances with no commentary - from the judges, anyway.

Jason Castro is up first this week and he's singing "Forever in Blue Jeans" and "September Morn." How embarrassing - as he's singing his first song for Neil Diamond, he realizes that he doesn't know all the words, so he looks down at his sheet, where he has them written, only to find that it's the lyrics to his other song. Diamond says he thinks Jason will do great when he gets ont he stage, that he'll be more familiar with the songs, he'll feel a little more comfortable with them and he think he'll bring them both off very well.

Jason sings "Forever in Blue Jeans" first and it's a really catchy tune. Plus, he sounds pretty good, I think. He's playing his guitar and he seems pretty comfortable on stage. It doesn't seem like he's really into the music, though. It could be that Neil Diamond is just not his thing, who knows? But he seems a bit disconnected - kind of like he just wants it to be over.

Next up is David Cook, who is singing "I'm Alive" and "All I Really Need Is You." Diamond says David went to two songs that most people have never heard before and after David sings for him a little bit, Diamond tells him that he got goosebumps. He tells David that it's a good choice, a gutsy choice. He says that David has the right material, he's got the right attitude, he's got the right voice - that he'll do great, no doubt about it.

David sings "I'm Alive" and I have to say, this tune is pretty catchy, too. Maybe I'll become a Neil Diamond fan after tonight. The chorus of this song is very nice, it's one of those hooks that can get stuck in your head for hours. But, as usual, David does great - he sings well, he's got a great presence. It wasn't one of his wow performances, but it was terrific - I mean, he made me want to go to iTunes and download the whole song, and I think that says something.

Brooke White is next and she's singing "I'm a Believer" and "I Am, I Said." She plans to play the guitar with the first song and piano with the second. As she's singing "I Am, I Said" to Neil Diamond, one of the lyrics is "I'm New York City born and raised..." He stops her and says that he sings that line because he is New York City born and raised, but since she is from Arizona, that she should insert that into the song to make it her own. He adds in his interview that it's a difficult song to sing, to make genuine and she was able to do it, so he was very pleasantly surprised.

Well, I'm a huge fan of "I'm a Believer." It's a fantastic song and I brighten up every time I hear the Monkees sing it, but somehow, hearing Brooke sing it, it just seems silly. It almost comes off like she's trying to entertain a bunch of kids. I can't really explain what I mean, but it just seems wrong, hearing her sing this song - not to mention the fact that she's not singing it well. She starts off way too low for her range and she takes some liberties with the melody that don't really add anything to the song or performance. She ended stronger than she began, but overall, it was not good at all.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Carly Smithson goes home

Ryan says to Randy that he looks surprised. Randy says he is shocked, that it must be a bit of a popularity week in the vote because these two sang really good last night. Paula agrees, saying she has never seen such relaxation and joy at this stage in the competition.

So, after 38 million votes, Carly is the next to go home. Wow!!!! I can't say I'm upset, but WOW!!! I'm kind of surprised - I thought the day would never come.

Carly joins Syesha inthe bottom two

Carly Smithson and Jason Castro are the last two up. Ryan asks Carly if she went back and forth between a couple of songs before making a decision on what to sing. She says yes, that she was going to sing "All I Ask of You," but she changed it because she though "Superstar" was more fun. Jason asks Jason if singing a popular song made it more difficult for him. He says yes, then says, "I don't know, but I really don't want to sing right now," implying that he thinks he is in the bottom two. Ryan tells Jason that he is safe. YES!!! I know he totally doesn't deserve it this week, but I don't care - I'm just so glad I get to see him one more week. So, it's Carly in the bottom two with Syesha.

Ryan mentions how Simon loved Carly last night and asks what he thinks happened. Simon says it's down to the last six and he's not surprised Brooke is safe because last night, she showed she is human. He says Jason wasn't good last night, but he was charming.

So to fill up space, they're making Carly and Syesha sing their songs again...

Syesha is in the bottom two

Ryan announces that Neil Diamond will be the mentor next week - I hope that's better than this week was.

So they're running a clip now about old "Idol" contestants who have been on Broadway. Tamyra Gray from Season 1 is currently in "Rent." And as many of us already know, Clay Aiken from Season 2 is currently in "Spamalot."

Next up is the winner of "X Factor," the British version of "Idol," Leona Lewis. She's incredibly beautiful and her voice really is extraordinary. She blows away all the contestants from this season of "Idol." There's just no comparison.

Anyway, back to the results. Syesha Mercado and Brooke White are up next. Ryan tells Syesha that she look really comfortable last night, like she was having a blast and asks her why it was almost easier for her last night. She says she doesn't know, that sometimes she gets choked up because she thinks about how America is judging her, but when she gets to be somebody else, it's more fun because she's not really being herself. Ryan then asks Brooke if, now that she has had time to think about it, she still thinks starting and stopping was the right move. She says yes, that if she had to do it over over again, obviously she wished it wouldn't have happened, but it did, so she didn't really think about it, she just went with her instinct.

Ryan then tells Brooke that she is safe tonight...incredible.
Syaesha is in the bottom two... America has never been so wrong.

Ryan asks Paula if she thinks this is right. Paula thinks this season, the fan base is enormous and that it's really the luck of the draw, but she tells Syesha not to worry because she had a brilliant performance.

No surprises yet

The Ford commercial is set to "Tainted Love," one of the most overused songs ever and it had a bit of a "Take on Me" feel, with cartoon drawings coming alive and stuff. It was OK.

So now they've got President Bush making a speech about Idol Gives Back. Maybe it's because I'm so pressed for time, but seriously, why are we listening to this right now? Can we just get to the results please?

Oh interesting - we're starting a bottom two tonight instead of bottom three. First two up are David Cook and David Archuleta. Ryan mentions that David Cook normally likes to change up the arrangements each week and he asks David why he kept it straight this week. David says that Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the most definable song writers he has ever known, met or heard of and he kept hearing things about being predictable, so he decided what could be more unpredictable than singing a song the way it was written? Ryan then asks David Archuleta if this was a tough for him in terms of preparation. He says every week is so crazy because they're always rehearsing, trying to figure out how they can make their performance the best it could be, so he was happy with it, glad with what he did. Anyway, after all of that, Ryan tells them they are bot safe.

Not looking great for Jason is reporting that Ryan Seacrest leaked the fact that Jason is the one who's going home tonight. I wonder if that's true. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

So the groups song tonight is "All I Ask of You" with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the piano. I have to say, it's not really my cup of tea - I find it kind of dull. It all sounded nice and all, but it didn't entertain me.

So after showing a recap of last night's show, Ryan sits down with Andrew Lloyd Webber and talks to him about the difference between TV and theater singing. Randy comments on how difficult this week was because of how specific the melodies are in Webber's songs. Ryan asks Webber what he thinks of Brooke's starting and stopping and he says that we all lose our way sometimes and he thinks she has a real future and that she was flawless in the dress rehearsal.

Webber clearly doesn't like Jason - I noticed last night and thought maybe he was just being kind of funny, but tonight, he comments again about how he didn't think Jason was going to listen to anything he had to say and he thought his song choice was the most curious he's ever known in his career and that he agreed with Simon last night and he didn't think Jason could have been happy with his performance, but he wanted to do it and that's that. I wonder if they're setting it up for Jason to go home - I hope not.

"Jesus Christ superstar!" Carly Smithson was actually good tonight!

Carly Smithson says she started singing, "All I Ask of You," from "Phantom of the Opera," and Webber stopped her after the second verse. He says, "That's not the song for a girl with a great big chest voice. She's a big, big singer, that girl." He says to Carly that he saw that her other choice was "Jesus Christ Superstar," and he tells her to give that song a whirl. Carly says that once she started singing that song, she just came alive, that it was more her vibe, more her personality. Webber tells her she's a completely different girl with that song, that the old Irish eyes are smiling. He then says in his interview that you've got to go for a song that suits your voice, a song that you can live in, you can inhabit, and she kind of got it. Carly says that this song has her written all over it, so she's just going to go out there and have the best fun she's ever had.

The song definitely does suit her - it has a rock feel to it and it's definitely not a ballad, thank goodness. She actually looks like she's having a good time and her dress is really nice, it has a really cool 1960s feel to it. This is one of the first times that Carly has looked like happy and comfortable onstage - she's moving around, really performing, and she sounds better than she has in a while. I still think she has a tendency to strain her voice, making it sound like she's screaming, but she only did it in a few spots tonight, so it was an improvement.

Randy says it's no surprise to him that the bigger voices so far this year are doing better tonight because these songs are hard songs to sing because of their ranges. he says he doesn't know if it was her best performance, but it was definitely good and he says he likes her outfit, too. Paula says she loves so much how it was so unexpected and she thought at first that it may have been too high of a register for Carly, but that she loved what she did in the chorus. Simon says that other than the fact that it got a little bit shouty in the middle (See? I'm not the only one who hears the yelling), it was actually one of his favorite performances of the night. I can totally agree with that, too, because it was one of the only songs that wasn't a ballad, a sad depressing love song of some kind. It was fast, it was upbeat and quite entertaining.

Last, but absolutely never least, is David Cook. He says he's singing "Music of the Night," from "Phantom of the Opera." He says he grew up doing musical theater and that Andrew Lloyd Webber is like, the dude. Webber tells David that "Music of the Night" is probably the most sensual, most sexy song he's ever written, that David's supposed to be singing to the most gorgeous girl he's ever seen in his life. He says, regrettably, he is not that person, but David has to imagine that he is. David, of course, is laughing, and Webber, sounding fake offended, says "Don't laugh - this is supposed to be a serious lesson here." David says it was a little strange having to stare longingly into Webber's eyes. Webber says if Davis can get some of that raw passion and yet that sophisticated passion that the Phantom also brings to it, he might bring this off. (My guess is he means he might just pull it off.) He says if David just comes out of himself and really allows himself to speak, maybe it will work.

I'm so glad that Davids is going to play it straight tonight and show us that he can really sing, without the guitar, without the rocker image. I've been wanting to see him just stand in front of the microphone and belt one out. I had heard that he wanted to wear a full suit tonight, but the stylists told him not to, so he's just wearing a blazer instead. I would have loved to see him in a suit. It's nice to know that he really took this week seriously and didn't try to rearrange the song into some rock version. And the great thing is that he really can sing - he sounds wonderful and confident. It's almost strange watching him sing this type of music, but that's what is so great about him - he's so versatile. It's a nice break, but I'll admit, I hope to see the rocker back next week.

Randy tells him the same thing told David Archuleta, except this time, it's totally deserved... he says if you can really sing, you can sing anything and he says that it was an amazing vocal performance, unbelievable. Another hot, molten hot, lava bomb tonight. Paula says that this song proved that he is so well-rounded as a performer and she thought it was fantastic. Simon says he made the most of the song - this is not the side of him he likes. He says he much prefers the grittier, more raw side. He says it was too rounded off, but he made the most of the song he was given.

That comment strikes me as odd...why would he say the song he was given? I thought the contestants get to choose their own song. Huh...something to ponder over, I suppose.

Anyway, now for my guesses. I've completely lost track of my track record so far, but I know it hasn't been great the past few weeks. This week, I think the bottom three will probably be Brooke, Jason and Carly. I think Jason might be in danger, but ultimately, I really think Brooke will go home because of her error tonight. It's no longer just a fluke - this is the second time she's restarted a song and it just doesn't look good, not when you're competing for a record contract. So my vote for who's going tomorrow is for Brooke.

Brooke White says "You must love me," but do we really have to?

Brooke White is up next and she is singing "You Must Love Me," from the film "Evita." She sings a bit of it for him and he says, "I don't think that girl had a clue about what she was singing about." So he stops her and tells her that it's well worth thinking about what the song is really about. He tells her the background behind the song. He says that she (Evita) is dying and she knows it, but she's saying, you must love me, please. And Brooke says that he looks into her eyes and she got it. And so she sings it again and Webber says that he was quite pleased because she was singing as if she meant it. He then says, "This is the question. Is that girl (did he forget her name?) going to be able to keep that up? I don't know. But if she can, I think she's got something there that perhaps hasn't been seen before."

So, she starts and immediately forgets the lyrics. She stops, apologizes and asks the band to start over. This is crazy - this isn't the first time she's screwed up and started over. I mean, on the one hand, you feel for her and you give her credit for starting over, but at the same time, you can't do that. There's an expression - I'm sure you've all heard it - "The show must go on." That means, no matter what, you just keep going... If you fall, you get up and keep going, if your pants rip, you keep back from the audience and you keep going, and if you forget the words, for goodness sake, you just keep going. I'm not sure people are going to feel that sympathetic toward her this time around - this may really hurt her, I think. Simply because even if she's fantastic, all people will remember is the fact that she screwed up and started over. I mean, her second attempt was pretty good, certainly not as good as the Madonna version, but it was good, enjoyable... but I have to be honest...all I'm taking from this performance is that she forgot the words and had to start over.

Randy tells her that it wasn't great, but what he did like is that she listened to Andrew Lloyd Webber, that the most important they could all learn from tonight, is that you have to believe what you're singing, and he says he kind of got that, the vulnerability in her, but vocally, it was kind of tough. Paula pauses for a moment and then says, "You must never start and stop." She some thing else that I didn't get, but then says that what she loved was that Brooke didn't overact. Simon says this is why he loves live TV, it was all so dramatic, the beginning. But he says the trouble is that it completely threw her because she became so tense trying to remember the song that her voice was straining in the middle of it all and it actually became quite uncomfortable. So, he says it's tricky one - that she's going to be very disappointed when she watches it back.

Ryan asks Brooke what happened and she says she lost the lyric, the first time its happened to her on the show. Ryan then mentions what Paula said about not stopping and asks Simon what he would have done and Simon actually says he would have done the same thing Brooke did, that it was actually a brave thing to do - that it's her opportunity, why not?

I'll give my opinion on why not. Because she'll never win that way. David Archuleta forgot the words three times in one song, but he kept going. Starting over, in my opinion, is very amateurish and she will never win this competition if she continues to do that.

Speaking of David Archuleta, he's up next, but before he starts, they have a group of girls go on stage to hug him - I'm sure it was meant to come across as cute, but it was all kind of silly and seemed out of place and weird.

Webber says that "Think of Me," a song from "Phantom of the Opera," was written for a diva, written for a girl and he couldn't wait to hear how he was going to sing it, because he simply could not imagine how a boy could sing that song. David starts singing and they cut to his interview, and he says that singing the song to Webber in a different way from how he composed it was nerve-wracking. Webber says David wrong-footed him completely (not sure what that means) because he never thought he'd hear "think of Me" sung like that. He says David has his own idea about where he wants to take the song and that's so rare that they should all be saying, "Bravo." Webber then tells Archuleta that he has two piece of advice for him. One is, "Open your eyes" and the other is, "Open your eyes." Webber says little David has a real musical soul but that he must keep his eyes open - that he can't watch someone who has his eyes closed all the time.

David sounds great, like he always does. I almost feel like there's not a lot to say about him anymore. There's nothing to critique, nothing to mock. But, there's not a whole lot of positive to say either. He sounds terrific, but he sounds the same every week, so there's nothing new to look forward to with him. With David Cook, you never know what you're going to get. With David Archuleta, you know exactly what you're going to get, down to the last note, and while his singing is beautiful, the novelty has worn off and no matter how great he sounds, it's just not impressive anymore - he needs to try something new...I'm surprised none of the judges have mentioned that to him yet.

It doesn't look like they will this week either...Randy tells him, as he has several times before, that when you can sing, you can sing anything. he says he knew this would be a big night for him and he even put his own personality into it. He says it was the bomb, that he's the one to beat. Paula says it was absolutely perfect, that he took a well-known song and turned it into a pop ballad. Simon says he thought it was pleasant, but one of his weakest performances so far. He says it's not of those performances you're ever going to remember - it's absolutely going to get him through to next week, but it was all a bit forgettable.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Is Jason Castro just a "Memory?" I hope not

It's Andrew Lloyd Webber night and I'm so not enthused - I am not a fan of musicals or Broadway plays in general. I find that by intermission, I'm usually ready to go home. However, the few songs of his that I've heard happen to be beautiful, so I am a bit curious to see what the contestants will choose tonight.

This week is a bit different and totally nerve-wracking, I would think... Andrew Lloyd Webber is actually in the audience tonight to hear how the contestants do - Ugh... I would be shaking in my boots...

Anyway, Syesha Mercado is up first - she's singing "One Rock and Roll Too Many," which is from "Starlight Express." She says that when she found out they were doing Andrew Lloyd Webber, she was like, "Yay! Finally something where I can show some personality and be theatrical." Webber tells her to have a laugh with it and she asks him if she can be animated and stuff, noting that it's "American Idol," not musical theater. He makes her do it once with a straight face and once with an animated face and I have to say, the only difference I noted was that she cocked one of her eyebrows and tossed her head a bit - not really what I call animated, but whatever. He tells her to do it that way, though. He then says that he thinks she can bring the house down, be very funny, very witty and be a completely different ingredient to the rest of the program.

Well, with the exception of her hair, which doesn't look the best it's ever looked, she looks beautiful - the dress is gorgeous and fits her perfectly. Is she barefoot? Oh no... that totally takes away from the whole look - how can you wear such a pretty dress and have your hair all fixed and then not even bother to put on a pair of shoes...tsk tsk. Total no-no in my book. But let's talk about her voice for a minute - she sounds good, better than she has in the past and she actually gets Ricky Miner, the bandleader, involved, dancing with him for a bit. I have to admit that while I've been bored to tears by her the past month or so, this week was semi-interesting. For once, she didn't sing a ballad and for once, she used the stage, moving around, really performing. It was pretty good and may actually keep her out of the bottom three this week.

Randy tells her that this may surprise her, but tonight, he feels that not only is this her element, but he thinks she could be a huge Broadway star. He says it was her best performance to date. Paula says it isn't surprising because this is a part of Syesha's love, that it's her happy place. Simon says it was very sexy, the whole kind of Michelle Pfeiffer, lying on the piano thing. He agrees with Randy, that it was one of her strongest performances so far, that she showed masses of personality, which we haven't seen before and that she is definitely more comfortable in this area.

Jason Castro is next and I must say, I much prefer when he just sits there and looks pretty. There's something about the way he speaks that makes him come off kind of goofy. Ryan asks him what reaction he had in the moment when he heard they'd be doing Andrew Lloyd Webber. He answers with, "Well, um, I saw the list of, you know, all the work and I recognized it all. I'm embarrassed to say I had never seen any of the musicals so I was, you know, I got kind of nervous, and I was like ugh, and uh, and uh, yeah, it was kind of ugh up until now."

Webber says he never thought he'd see a man singing "Memory" with dreadlocks - that it was a little bit of a jolt for him. He tells Jason that the song is sung in the musical, "Cats," by an extremely ancient old glamour puss and then says in the interview that Jason kind of understood it, he thinks. Then they show Jason saying, "I didn't even know it was about...I didn't know a cat was singing it." Oh, why are pretty boys always so dense? Anyway, Webber tells Jason that he really has to let himself go in a way that he probably hasn't before. Back to his interview, Webber says he thinks Jason is making a very brave choice by singing this song and he's not sure he would have done it. He says he wouldn't be surprised if Jason ignored every single thing he told him and as a result, does it rather better than he could have, just because he's him.

Well, as always Jason looks great - he's all dressed up with a nice blazer. And he starts off really great, I think. But then something happens in the bridge... I'm not really sure what, but it sounds like he's off beat, or not really with the music. He picks it up again pretty quick, but the second half isn't as good as the beginning. It's definitely not his best performance, but I wouldn't say it's his worst either.

Randy tells him that vocally, it was a little bit of a train wreck. He says that with the dreads singing that kind of song, that it's just not the kind of song for him, that's it's not his thing. He says it's too much melody for him. Paula says that people are so used to hearing this song by a female power balladeer, but that she thinks it was a wise choice for him to do this song because it allows him to put his influence into it and it further identifies his unique being. She then compares it to Joe Cocker singing "You Are So Beautiful." Randy disagrees but says that Jason is a beautiful guy... see? I'm not the only who thinks so. Even Randy can see it. Anyway, Simon says it felt to him and he's sure to Jason as well, like the longest two minutes of his life. He says it came over like a young guy being forced by his parents to sing a song at wedding that he didn't want to sing. He says he was miserable throughout and that it's not his style of music, that it was a struggle.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Kristy Lee Cook goes home

Ryan says Andrew Lloyd Webber will bet he mentor next week. I hope it's not a boring show.

So, Ryan is going to send someone back to safety and that person is Syesha. WHAT??!!! That is so beyond ridiculous. This show is totally rigged - I can't even take it anymore.

So after 36 million votes, Ryan says the person staying on the show is Brooke

Kristy Lee Cook is the next to go home. Completely undeserved - completely unfair. She has improved so much. I mean, I knew she wouldn't win, but she deserved to stay beyond Syesha and Carly. Crazy

Kristy, Syesha and Brooke in the bottom three

Interesting... Ryan now tels David and Syesha to switch sides, which means Jason is probably safe, because, again, wherever David is, has to be the safe spot. So, now Ryan says that one group is safe and the other is the bottom three. David Archuleta is already safe and as expected, Ryan asks David to join the group he thinks is safe. He chooses to just sit down in the middle of the stage. Ryan then makes an obvious hint at which group is the safe group, but it goes over David's head, so Ryan has the safe group move toward him instead. The safe group, of course, is David Cook, Carly Smithson (complete baloney) and Jason Castro.

So our bottom three tonight is Kristy Lee Cook, Syesha Mercado and Brooke White.

Mariah Carey and David Archuleta is safe

So Mariah Carey performs "Bye Bye" from her new album that came out today. I wish I could say that it's great and that she's awesome, but all I can say is that it's a typical Mariah Carey performance - beautiful voice with a song I don't like. What else can I say? I'm not a fan.

Back to the results. Last up is David Archuleta and Ryan asks him if he is getting more comfortable on the stage each week. He says yes - that it was amazing how comfortable he felt last night and he felt great. Ryan asks if he's having fun and he says yes, that he's never been happier in his life. Ryan tells him that America voted and he is safe.

Another round of the stupid questions

Ah, the stupid questions are back. Hasn't anyone told them how stupid this segment is? The first question is for Kristy Lee Cook - was she able to buy her horse back, the one she sold to audition for "Idol?" Kristy says no, that the guy who bought her horse does not want to sell it back to her. She says it's very sad, but that the horse is in a good home.

Next question is for the judges - Saturday is National Record Store Day - what was the first record you remember buying? Randy says the first few were Led Zeppelin, Beatles and James Brown. Paula says Jackson 5, Earth, Wind and Fire and Carole King. Simon says he was 10 years old and it was Paula Abdul's "Straight Up."

Next question is for Paula - What song of yours best describes your relationship with Simon and why? She says "Let me tell you something Simon. Straight up, I'll never be forever your girl."

Next question is for Simon - what is the difference between a karaoke performance, a theme park performance and a piano bar performance? He says in a nutshell, all the ones she described are horrible, so those are not the ones they want to hear on the show.

Last question is for David Cook - Are you single? He says yes.

Elliott Yamin and more sorting through contestants

The Ford commercial is set to "I Want to Break Free" and it has them all depicted as puppets and then they break free to drive off in Fords. Very cheesy.

So they're taking a break now to have Elliot Yamin sing "Free." He looks so much better since he's had his teeth fixed, but I'm not sure I'm crazy about the beard. The song is OK, nothing spectacular, but not horrible. He pulls a David Cook at the end, though, putting a message on his hand that says "We Miss You Mom." That's right - his mom died not too long ago, right? That's very sweet. He says this is the first time he's been on a stage without her in the audience - that must have been very hard for him. I hope I'm old and gray before I lose my parents - I can't imagine going through that kind of loss so young.

So, it's back to the results again.

Syesha Mercado is next and Ryan tells her to join Jason and Carly on his left.

Brooke White comes out next and Ryan asks her if it was hard to get through her song last night. She says it was hard, that she knew Mariah Carey week would be difficult but she put everything she had into it and she felt it. Ryan then tells her to join David and Kristy Lee on his right.

Playing games with the results

The group song this week sing is "One Sweet Day," the song Mariah Carey did with Boys II Men. It's very good - they actually gave Jason a pretty long solo, which he did very well. Carly's solo was nothing but yelling - why am I even surprised anymore?

Next up Ryan reminds us the there is only one week left to vote in the song-writing competition. And then he plays highlights from last night.

And it's quickly on to the results. Jason Castro is first - that means he's safe - awesome! Anyway, Ryan asks him if he's ever been to a luau, referring to Randy's comment from last night and he says he hasn't, that he hasn't been to the beach and he's trying to get there. Ryan doesn't tell him he's safe yet - just asks him to start a group to his left.

David Cook is next. Ryan asks him if it was tough to sing "Always Be My Baby". David says no, that there were a lot of things that happened this week and it all came to a head at that moment. He says the fact that he put so much of himself into that performance and the fact that it went oer as well as it did was a little overwhelming. I'm sure he's talking about his brother visiting - it was very touching. Ryan tells him to start a group over to his right. That sucks. That means that Jason is probably in the bottom three, because surely David Cook is safe.

Carly Smithson is next and Ryan asks her if she thinks she held back last night. She says no, that she really enjoyed herself and actually turns to tell Simon that as far as the season goes, she thinks Simon has been a bit hard on her. Simon responds by saying that he has been hard on her because he thinks she is potentially great and he just wants to give her that extra push sometimes. After the vote, Ryan tells Carly to head to her left and join Jason.

Kristy Lee Cook is next and Ryan asks hr what her reaction is to the critiques last night. She says that most of the time, she agrees with the judges, but Simon can be a ?? sometimes. It sounded like she said butthead, but would she really say that on TV? I played it back a few times, but I just can't make out what she says. Ryan then tells her to join David to his right.

"I don't want to cry"... I hope you all voted for Jason Castro (or David Cook)

Mariah Carey says she was surprised that David Cook chose "Always Be My Baby" because she didn't know what he was going to do with it. David says he thinks he's taking another step outside the box with this song, that it's obviously a huge pop hit. Mariah says David did something really different and that it made her really proud as a songwriter to see that the song could stand the test of time and also a male perspective. She tells David that it sounded really pretty and haunting the way he was singing with his voice and not resolving it (No clue what she's talking about). She says she thinks it could be a big hit for him, not from a selfish point of view, but from a selfish point of view of wanting to hear it, as a listener.

What can be said about David Cook? First off, I have to say that he's looking almost hot tonight - I'm loving the facial hair and the hair is still way improved, but besides that... Is there any new word out there that can accurately describe his creativity, his vision, his talent? He's so gifted that he's too good for "American Idol." He will no doubt go on to ridiculous success. I mean, I happen to love Mariah's version of this song - it's one of the two or three songs of hers that I like - and I never imagined, ever, that this song could be sung by a man, let alone a rocker-type. And Mariah was right - he does make the song sound kind of haunting, but in a good way - he totally connected with the song, perhaps the lyrics - that it was if he wrote the song himself. He's amazing - if you missed it, you've just gotta see it.

Randy tells him that more than almost anyone else on the show right now, he's ready to make an album, that he's a hot recording artist. He stands up and says, "I've never stood up yet this season - that was the most brilliant performance yet." Paula says that the song could be on a movie soundtrack right now, and who knows? maybe it will. Simon says it was like coming out of karaoke hell into a breath of fresh air because that was original, it was daring, it stood out by a mile and this a sign of a great potential artist - someone who takes risks.

So People magazine had reported that David's brother, the one who is battling brain cancer, was cleared to travel to be in the audience tonight, and they showed him a couple of times. No mention was made of him, but David is crying right now and I have a feeling it's because his brother, who may not live much longer, just got to watch his absolute brightest moment on the show so far.

Mariah Carey says that Jason doing "I Don't Want to Cry" is really interesting and different. She says that with Jason, it's about expressing a song and singing to get that song into people's hearts. Jason says she offered some tips for the melody and he loved it. She says she's looking forward to seeing his performance, seeing if he chose to use any of her ideas, but if not, hopefully he'll do great, because she thinks he's really unique and she enjoyed working with him.

Of course, I love it - I like the funky beat he added to the song, he made it kind of mellow and laid-back. The actual singing wasn't his best, but really, I have to be honest, it's not really his singing I'm into. I'd be just as enthusiastic if he just sat there and looked pretty. Having said that, though, I still think he was in the top three or four. Even though he doesn't have the best voice in the bunch, he's interesting, he holds people's attention and I think that counts for something. Syesha has a beautiful voice, but I think she's so dull, I could tune her out. But Jason's getting better, he's making good song choices and I think he's 100% safe this week.

Randy says he didn't really love it, that he felt like he was in a weird beach luau and someone's playing some music in the distance. He says it was weird for him - he didn't get it. Paula says she'd love to be at that luau listening all night long. She says he's getting so confident and it's just lovely to hear him. Simon says, "Jason, I'm going to have to agree with... Paula." He says it wasn't the best vocal but it identified with him, that it was a cool version. He adds that the guys completely won the night.

Ah... who should go tomorrow? I think the bottom three will be Syesha, Carly and Brooke. I think Brooke will be safe because she has some fantastic performances in her past, so people will be likely to give her another shot. Between Carly and Syesha, to be honest, I don't really care who goes - I'd like to see them both go, but having flipped a coin, I say tomorrow night, it's Syesha who goes home.

Could Syesha Mercado be "Vanishing" tomorrow night?

I'm wondering what Syesha Mercado did to piss off Mariah Carey, because so far, she's hugged the contestants upon meeting them, but with Syesha, for some reason, she stands very still and Syesha, feeling nervous, probably, makes no move to hug Mariah. It all looks kind of awkward. But anyway, Mariah says Syesha made a really good choice with the song, "Vanishing." She says she was a teenager writing this song that ended up still being one of her favorite songs. She gives Syesha some tips and Syesha says that Mariah really took her time to show her that she could make the song her own so she feels confident. Mariah tells her she was amazing. And finally, at the end, Syesha gets her Mariah Carey hug and kisses on the cheek. Mariah says she thinks Syesha was very cool and composed and that she did a great job.

She sounds pretty good, but there are a couple of parts where she falls a little flat, but more importantly, I feel like she's doing the same thing every week - ballad after ballad after ballad. For me, it's gotten to the point where there's nothing left to say. I could post the exact same words about her every week, that's how little she changes - she takes on songs that are too big for her, but never really puts her own spin on anything, never really shows her personality. How will anyone be able to sell her? She has no appeal, nothing special that would make people run out and buy her music. That's my opinion, anyway.

Randy says that for the last couple of week he's been saying that she always picks the toughest song and that tonight, it's probably the toughest song again, and he likes that she's bold. He says he was afraid when he heard she would be singing that song, but he think she did a good job, all things considered. He says there were some pitchy moments, but that it was pretty good. Paula says she's extremely smart because she picked a song that not many people know and she won't be compared as much, and that tonight was an unbelievably magical night for her. Simon tells her that technically, it was very, very good indeed, but having said that, he's not sure he would have chosen a song that not many people know about, so she runs a risk.

Brooke White is singing "Hero," and Mariah Carey says she initially wrote the song for Gloria Estefan. She says she loved Brooke, that she was really genuine as a person. Brooke says Mariah told her to just sing how you're feeling in the moment, to just be in the moment and be real. Mariah says she thinks it's a good choice for and she hopes people will listen to it like something brand new that's coming from her heart.

She's on the piano this week and she starts out really great, but something happens somewhere in the middle that freaks her out because they show a close-up of her and she's kind of shaking and she starts to speed up the song, probably trying to get it over with. So, the end was way too fast, I think. But overall, I think her voice sounded good - a couple of moments where she went out of tune a bit, but nothing major.

Randy says he liked the fact that she brought a whole singer/songwriter to the thing, that it was kind of cool (in case you're stumped on what he means, don't ask me, because I have no idea) and he was really digging it... until the bridge. He also says that at the end, he could see that she was starting to lose a little confidence, but he appreciates the singer/songwriter look and he thought it was pretty good. Paula says every ounce of her is totally authentic and that it's a beautiful thing. She says she sounded really good, with the exception of a few bad notes, but she should never let that speed her up, because she said she felt like the song kept getting faster. Simon says he didn't think she had much choice other than to do what she did. Having said that, he says it was a bit like ordering a hamburger and only get the bun. IN order words, the vital ingredient, the bit in the middle, was missing, because he doesn't think her voice is strong enough to carry that song.

Mariah Carey says she really enjoyed Kristy Lee Cook doing "Forever" because a lot of people don't know that song and she really delivered it well. She even tells Kristy Lee that she got goosebumps listening to her sing it. Of course, Kristy Lee is beside herself, and says, "I can't believe I gave Mariah Carey goosebumps. Like, that's amazing." Mariah seems pretty taken with Kristy Lee because she tells her that she likes the way she sings the better than her own version. Kristy Lee says she's going to try get connected with the song and that she'll give it her best.

I have to say, the vocal coach they have on the show totally needs to get a raise. He or she took Kristy Lee, who was a total disaster for the first four or five weeks and completely turned her around. She sounds great tonight - I don't know if I'd say her interpretation is better than Mariah Carey's version - but I feel like she improves every week. She looks beautiful tonight, too.

Randy says he didn't think it was amazing, that there were a couple of pitchy notes in the first part, but she stepped it toward the end. Paula says she's blown away and that the way the arrangement was done, she could have a hit with it in the country/western world. Simon starts by saying, "Well, you probably weren't jumping for joy, were you, when you heard it was Mariah Carey week? Kristy Lee responds by saying, "I was just happy I gave her chills..." Simon interrupts and says, "Really? OK - you didn't give me chills." He says he thinks she managed with what she could, that it was a little bit whiny at times, but that the theme was never going to be an advantage for her, so she was quite smart, but it just wasn't great.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Without you," Carly Smithson, we might actually hear some good singing

It's Mariah Carey night and I have to admit, I'm not really looking forward to it. I only like maybe two or three of her songs and while I can acknowledge that she has a beautiful voice, I think her persona is kind of trashy - I liked her better when she was married to Tommy Mottola, before she got all hip-hop. But her appeal to millions can't be denied, so I realize that having her on "Idol" is a huge deal.

David Archuleta is up first and he says meeting Mariah Carey was really scary because he doesn't think he's worthy of being in her presence. Mariah says that David is doing "When You Believe" and she says it was really moving. She tells him he should try to use his falsetto for a few seconds and he says her advice was really helpful because it was stuff he hadn't thought about because he didn't think he'd be able to do it. She tells him not be afraid because whatever he does is going to be real and authentic. She says she's proud of him and where he seems to be at as a person and his singing is just beautiful.

As usual, he sounds great, but I feel like he's getting kind of dull and predictable. He sings a ballad every week and it's been a while since he's changed a song or really made it his own. I understand that the young girls think he's dreamy and that moms and grandmothers out there think he's adorable, but he's so one-dimensional, such a one-trick pony that I just don't think he should win this season. He's shown very little originality and while his voice is beautiful, we all know that it takes much more than just that to win this competition.

Randy tells him he was a little worried about tonight having boys singing girl songs, and he picked one of the toughest ones, but he says if you can sing, you can sing anything, and he tells David that he can sing anything and that it was the bomb. Paula says it must be great to have Mariah hear his interpretation of the song and that he made her proud. Simon agrees and says he would have bet $1 million that David was going to pick that song. He says it was very, very good and that he set the benchmark. He says the boys will have an easier time tonight than the girls because they won't be compared to Mariah, but he sang it very well.

Carly Smithson is next and Mariah Carey actually tells her that she's been waiting to meet her, that she's been loving watching her. Yuck. She says Carly is doing "Without You" and that it's a classic and she's more than doing it justice - that she's doing an amazing job. Carly says she tried to forget that Mariah was there but she's just so cute, like a big sunshine ray. Mariah says Carly has a really powerful voice and she made really wise decisions in terms of the notes she went to to complement her range. She tells Carly to just be herself and be confident about what she's doing and she'll do amazing.

She starts out really well, singing in a regular tone, no yelling, and she actually looks really nice tonight. Oh wait... she's hit the chorus and guess what? The yelling has begun. I was really starting to get excited, thinking that perhaps she had realized that she would sound better if she just sung instead of straining her voice and screaming. But no, she still thinks she has to have this huge powerful voice and if it came naturally, then that would be great, but she should work with what she has instead of straining to be something else. I know I might be alone on this, but I'm just sick of her.

Randy says he likes that she challenged herself with this big song because she has the big vocals, but he says she has to trust herself in the lower range because he thinks the first part was a little not quite loosey goosey for him, but that it was pretty good. Paula says she liked that Carly showed some vocal restraint at the beginning and then swelled and soared. Simon says he really wanted to hear her sing this song, even before Mariah week, and he says now is the difficult part because there is now a direct comparison - could she pull it off - and he says he doesn't think she did. He says he thinks she's capable of it, but that she's overthinking everything, that she's wound up, and holding herself back at the end and he thinks it was an OK version.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Michael Johns goes home

Next up is Bono plugging his site,saying it's dedicated to changing the world. Then Hillary Clinton pops up urging people to donate, followed by John McCain and Barack Obama.

Back to the results. Ryan asks Randy if he's surprised by the bottom three - Randy says it is a surprising bottom three, but that it's about showing who you are at this point. Ryan then asks Paula if America got it right and Paula says she thinks America got it partly right. Then Ryan goes to Simon and asks him if he thinks America is listening to him and Simon says he thinks he's finally made a connection, that it took a while, but yes, people are listening now.

Ryan goes through the performances of the bottom three and what the judges said about them and tells Syesha and Carly that they are safe. It is Michael Johns who goes home and I, along with the studio audience am dumbstruck.

Syesha, Carly and Michael all in the bottom three

The Ford commercial tonight is set to "I Just Want to Celebrate" and it's just the contestants throwing paint around with a car skidding through it all and at the end, all the paint they threw around looks like the earth. It was OK - still not my favorite.

Back to the results... Next up is Jason Castro. Ryan asks him if his performance was his first experience with a ukulele. Jason says yes, he just bought it like a week ago. After the vote, Jason is safe. YES!

Kristy Lee Cook is next and he goes over what she sang and how the judges loved it. Then he tells her she is safe.

So it looks the remaining three are the bottom three - Carly Smithson, Syesha Mercado and Michael Johns.

Plea for donations and Jordin Sparks

Next up is a video that Forest Whitaker and his wife made while on their trip to Angola. He talks about how 100,000 children were orphaned during a civil war in the country - one in 10 children have lost either one or both of their parents. They show a family living in a tiny shack and three kids share a foam-like pad to sleep on. It's very sad and touching, and I'm sure it will persuade more people to donate.

Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown perform "No Air" and she looks beautiful, but the song is not my cup of tea at all. But aer her performance, she's presented with a platinum album to represent more than 1,000,000 downloads of her single, "No Air," (I guess people like it). Then she gets a gold record to represent 500,000 sales of her CD and finally, another platinum record to represent 1,000,000 downloads of her single, "Tattoo."

No bottom three yet

As if 21/2 hours last night wasn't enough, the first thing we're subjected to tonight is a recap of last night's events. And it turns out you can still donate if you want to.

Tonight's group song is "Shout to the Lord," which I believe they sang last night, too. It's actually a very nice song, very spiritual.

Then they play this very silly video of stars lip-synching to "I'm a Believer," by the Monkees. I have to say, it's been nothing but filler so far. Boring...

Finally... the results...Ryan says 31 million votes came in this week. Brooke White is up first. Ryan mentions that she was emotional after her performance and he asks her what was going on. She says her sister is getting married on Saturday and she probably won't be able to be there, but hen corrects herself and says that she doesn't want to be presumptuous - maybe she will be there. And then she says, "Let's find out," kind of mimicking Ryan - and he tells that since she's being such a good host, why doesn't she just read the last line on his card, which he hands to her and she reads with relief that she is safe.

David Cook is next and Ryan asks him if he had to bite his tongue when Simon called him pompous. David says that no, he was thinking about how earlier in the season, Simon had called him arrogant and smug and now pompous, so he was wondering what other word could be used. Then Ryan tels him that America voted and he is safe.

David Archuleta is next - do we even need to go over what happens? We know he's safe. Ryan asks him if it was tricky playing the piano and David says it was pretty new performing in front of so many people with it, but he's glad he went for it. Ryan says it worked out because he is safe.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

American Idol Gives Back: Mariah Carey (and Jesus)

26 performance and backstage photos from Idol Gives Back: are all here

Mariah Carey takes to the stage, the woman who recently passed Elvis and now has the most #1 songs all time, with 18. I'm not a huge Mariah fan, so to quote Randy, it's just okay for me.

And--that's it. It's 10:05 EST, so they're running a bit late; then the Idol contestants come up on stage, all dressed in white--they're singing Shout To the Lord.

See, this drives me nuts--most of the people in Africa the show is intended to help aren't Christian, a lot of people watching this show in the U.S. aren't--so why would they close with a song about Jesus Christ?

It's a bit ridiculous, actually. The backbone of aid efforts in Africa often times are religious organizations (Christian, but also Muslim and Jewish and Hindu), who have done a tremendous amount of good. But many of the big organizations--Bono's, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID--have nothing to do with any religion.

And, if you've ever read books like Harvard professor Caroline Ekins' Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya, or know anything about the history of South Africa, or the Congo, or pretty much any other country in Africa, you're probably blushing right now.

Because the history of Christianity in Africa has been, at best, a mixed bag. The church has just as often supported slavery, racism, war and human rights abuses as it's supported things to be proud of.

So I'm not sure what FOX was thinking; tonight's show is about donating money to help fight poverty in Africa and the U.S.

But I guess taking a page from President Bush and his faith-based charity programs, FOX feels like you have to praise Jesus to do that?

I really have no problem with the song--but at least put it in the middle, in context; let's not cap off the entire night with it.

Oh, another thing I just thought of and am adding after the show has ended--Chikezie's parents are from Nigeria!

Why not have him talk at some point about his heritage, his family?! It'd have been nice to hear a personal perspective, break up the parade of celebrities a bit.

Really, this show drives me nuts sometimes; on balance, it was a great night and the money Idol raises will do a lot of good; plus they've brought a lot of attention to an issue that is too easy to ignore on a day-to-day basis.

But then they do something stupid or overlook something obvious that just makes you wonder who's really running things over at FOX.

At any rate... you can donate at 1-877-436-5243 or

And your regular blogger Eileen will be back tomorrow night!

AP photo of Mariah Carey

American Idol Gives Back: Brad Pitt, Daughtry

Tyra Banks as we come back, she gets a surprisingly loud hand from the audience. Ugh, now the smarmy David Spade--he's talking about New Orleans, I keep waiting for a joke, but there isn't one.

Just Brad Pitt; they've done a pretty comprehensive job looking at the situation in New orleans, this one's focused on the rebuilding job. Pitt's wearing a Payne Stewartish golf cap... the group that's focused on, Make It Right, is rebuilding homes in a non-generic manner.

He shows up 'live' at the Kodak, gets a big standing ovation. For being Brad Pitt, I guess. Some mike problems, the tech who comes on stage to fix his mike gets off a great line, "I just needed a reason to touch him."

He introduces Daughtry--last year's biggest selling band--who went to Uganda. Chris is singing What About Now, no narration just scenes of daily life in Uganada.

Again, I wonder why Idol doesn't take 30 seconds and at least show Uganda on a map; here's Wikipedia's Uganda entry; and the entry on Forest Whitaker's film about Idi Amin, The Last King of Scotland.

Africa's no different than Europe--there are a ton of countries and ethnic groups, all with very different histories, languages, customs, etc. Because Idol doesn't present any context, they're making it all run together, as if all of Africa suffers from the same problems for the same reason, and just funding aid organizations will help everyone equally.

A lot of Uganda's problems, for example, stem from the fact that Idi Amin was a crazy dictator who killed up to half a million people and drove a lot of the talented people out of the country. Imagine if that happened to the U.S.--yeah, we'd probably still be pretty messed up 30 years later.

Sudan, on the other hand, is still in the middle of a vicious war between North and South; South Africa is fighting the effects of apartheid and AIDs/HIV; Egypt has overpopulation problems and religious issues; Angola just ended a bloody civil war that for a couple of decades was funded by the U.S. on one side and the U.S.S.R./Cuba on the other... but you wouldn't know any of this from Idol.

You can donate at 1-877-436-5243 or

American Idol Gives Back: Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, Robin Williams

Some kids from High School Musical 3?! as we come back from break, then back to Miley Cyrus, doing See You Again.

Okay, this is my new favorite performance from the night--it's just entertaining as all heck, it's more like a mini-drama than anything else. Then she and her dad Billy Ray Cyrus go back to where he's from, in Kentucky, to show the level of poverty in Appalachia.

Wow, Miley says 50% of the kids are below the poverty line; they meet a family that, as she says, live in "very difficult conditions". Wikipedia tells us about 12% of the U.S. lives under the poverty line, which is set at $21,200 for a family of four.

As Billy Ray says, what they witnessed in this home was "hope"--which is the hallmark of Americans. No matter how bad it is, we always think we will one day do better. The great thing about this country is, generally, we do.

Robin Williams shows up, Ryan pretends he's the winner of Russian Idol. He makes fun of Russia for a looooong time, which is ironic given most of this show is about making poor people in other parts of the world less foreign, and more connected to us.

He's wearing a ridiculous black and yellow outfit, at some point starts "singing" some fake Russian song. Really, it's hilarious how xenophobic his entire thing is, given the theme of the show.

It actually makes me wonder what the real Russian Idol winner would be like... really, FOX should've just shown us clips from American Idol competitions in other countries, it'd have been a lot more interesting.

And would have at least fit in with their we're one world, all in this together theme; while Williams' act just seems like something stale from 20 years ago when we were all up in arms about the Evil Empire.

Rob Schneider takes us to break.

You can donate at 1-877-436-5243 or

Getty Images photo of Miley Cyrus

American Idol Gives Back: Reese Witherspoon, Alicia Keyes

Keith Urban brings us back from break, then Reese Witherspoon talks about the Children's Defense Fund, she went to New Orleans to check out their educational programs.

The Freedom School program tries to break the cycle of poverty and violence; as Rob Lowe's Sam Seaborn character on the West Wing once said:

Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes. We need gigantic revolutionary changes. Schools should be palaces. Competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be getting six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge for its citizens, just like national defense. That is my position. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet.
Man, what did we do before googling/wikipedia?!

Seasons of Love from the Idol contestants, one of those group sings that are sometimes surprisingly good. It's not bad in this case; the song's not great, it comes across as a bit ponderous, self-indulgent Simon would call it. They're flanked by choirs; Ryan says you can download it on iTunes, the net proceeds will go to charity.

Dane Cook introduces Alicia Keyes journeying across Africa. Wow, the cinematography is great on this clip; it's totally movie-quality. Keyes has the perfect voice for the narration, it's compelling and strong, yet compassionate.

Keyes gets off a great line, if AIDs/HIV got half the attention the media gives to celebrity dramas, this problem would be halfway solved. I disagree with the whole it's the media's fault aspect of it, but truly, it's amazing how much time we spend on things that don't matter and that we know 2 years from now we won't care one whit about.

So--take 10 minutes to read wikipedia's entry on HIV/AIDs in Africa. There are a bunch of charts and graphs, it may only take 5. :-)

You can donate at 1-877-436-5243 or

American Idol Gives Back: Gloria Estefan, Sarah Silverman, Forest Whitaker, Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Ellen Degeneres, one of my favorite TV personalities, urges us to give. Then--Gloria Estefan! We know from past seasons that she's a big Idol fan; it's amazing how liquid her hips still are, after all this time. She sings Get on Your Feet, of course.

Sarah Silverman... hmm, wonder if Matt Damon's lurking. I don't like her at all; she pretends to be an Idol judge critiquing Queen Gloria. One reason I'm not a big fan is her act is built on being tone deaf... but sometimes I don't think it's an act, she really is a bit oblivious.

Forest Whitaker is in Angola, ExxonMobil's logo flashes on the bottom left. Ha! The role of American oil companies in perpetuating African poverty isn't something that can be airbrushed over with a donation; generally the money they pay corrupt governments (some human rights groups call it kickbacks) in return for the right to drill for oil--no questions asked--helps keep repressive regimes in power.

Whitaker tells us what a big difference a malaria net and some pills can make in cutting the death rate.

Wow, it's British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who actually acts like he's parodying himself. It's a bit odd... but the UK's got a pretty good record in terms of helping Africa, he says they're giving the equivalent of $200 million to help fight poverty, which Ryan echoes. Total is up to $22 million says Ryan.

You can donate at 1-877-436-5243 or

American Idol Gives Back: Celine Dion, Jimmy Kimmel, Carrie Underwood

Celine Dion, in a clip from South Africa... it's hard for me to see her without thinking about the Saturday Night live skits.

Jimmy Kimmel, who claims he's been asked to introduce Simon Cowell. He gets off a good joke, about how he's undone all the good feelings we've had for the British. Well, him and those redcoats.

Per usual, Kimmel makes me laugh, but it also feels like he's cheapening the whole thing with his crude jokes. At least they're all directed at Simon. Yeah, from Bono with HIV/AIDs orphans to Kimmel and his jokes about Simon's nipples... that's American pop culture in a nutshell for you. Cowell's laughing though, turning red.

Cowell came to New York for his video segment, talks to the people who run the blue Mobile Medical vans in the city that Idol's donations are helping support. I'm a Simon fan, because I think he's usually kind to nice people and caustic with jerks. He sits with a family that's dependant on the clinic for their care, it's a wonderful segment--we get a really good sense for how the donation is making a difference, and it's not overproduced.

Then Simon live, says the New York charity simply saves lives, and thanks everyone for donating. I hope Ryan doesn't ruin this... Simon does get in a jab at Kimmel, says he loves Jay Leno.

Then he transitions to Carrie Underwood, performing at the Kodak. It's pretty amazing how much Underwood has grown since she was on Idol, when really, she could very easily have been cut early in the final round.

She's in a shimmery yellowish pinkish gown, singing Praying for Time. She's never been my thing, sings it well enough but it doesn't hold my attention.

Whoopi Goldberg takes us to break, energetically encouraging us to give.

By the way, Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs, who I blogged a lot about last year and is the pre-eminent American authority on fighting poverty in Africa (in addition to being Bono's good friend), just released a new book last month.

It's called Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet. You can check it out at Amazon; here's the Publisher's Weekly blurb:

In this sobering but optimistic manifesto, development economist Sachs (The End of Poverty) argues that the crises facing humanity are daunting—but solutions to them are readily at hand. Sachs focuses on four challenges for the coming decades: heading off global warming and environmental destruction; stabilizing the world's population; ending extreme poverty; and breaking the political logjams that hinder global cooperation on these issues. The author analyses economic data, demographic trends and climate science to create a lucid, accessible and suitably grim exposition of looming problems, but his forte is elaborating concrete, pragmatic, low-cost remedies complete with benchmarks and budgets. Sachs's entire agenda would cost less than 3% of the world's annual income, and he notes that a mere two days' worth of Pentagon spending would fund a comprehensive antimalaria program for Africa, saving countless lives.

You can donate at 1-877-436-5243 or

American Idol Gives Back: Annie Lennox

David and Victoria Beckham back from break, very earnest-looking as well as they urge us to donate.

Ryan's randomly talking to people as they call in to donate, he does this bit where he's running from contestant to contestant, grabbing their phone. Up to nearly $18 million, swelled by some previous corporate donors.

Bono in Africa again, talking to more kids. They share 'memory boxes' from the parents they've lost to HIV/AIDs, keepsakes.

Annie Lennox, in a overly-produced segment where she asks a family of kids who have lost most of their relatives to AIDs over and over again do you have a father, do you have a mother, do you have an uncle, etc. They keep saying no.

There's all sorts of dramatic music and effects and camerawork and lighting; I think it's a bit too much, their stories are so stark and emotional I don't think it needs to be 'sold'.

Lennox is sobbing at the end of the piece, the issue obviously means a lot to her. We're back in the U.S., at the taped segments at Kodak, Lennox singing Many Rivers to Cross. It's stark and the most powerful performance of the night so far.

As I mentioned while blogging this same show last year, it bothers me when Idol brings its slick production values to the topic of poverty. It detracts from the seriousness of the issue; makes it fit all too neatly into the Idol world of soft lighting, quick cuts and blockbuster ratings.

I'm glad the issue is getting all this attention; I just wish the Idol producers would for just one night turn the images over to real documentary filmmakers, like the Maysles, Errol Morris, or even Ken Burns, who won't always go for the gaudy visual when telling their stories.

Kiefer Sutherland sends us to commercial in a brief 'please donate' clip.

You can donate at 1-877-436-5243 or

American Idol Gives Back: Eli and Peyton Manning

Adam Sandler does the spot back from break, it seems like it was shot via webcam or something.

Ah, I just figured it out--they are live at their usual stage, all the contestants are spread out on stage answering phones (and using Apple laptops... so hard to tell). But the musical performances were for the most part all taped, from the Kodak Theater.

Except Ryan's pretending he's tossing it to the stars there, as if they were really standing by this very second (which they're not).

Anyway, Eli Manning! And his bro, Peyton--checking back on New Orleans, two and a half years later. The Mannings are good people, come across as very genuine in the clips. They talk to a bunch of kids, about how Katrina's affected them; some of the money Idol raises has been going to help rebuild the city.

I think Peyton's going to go into politics when his playing days are over; he's got that look, and earnestness.

You can donate at 1-877-436-5234.

American Idol Gives Back: Fergie, John Legend, Heart

Julianne Moore asks us to give, wishes everybody luck. Then Fergie and John Legend, she's singing Finally.

I like her generally, she has a heck of a voice and is always fun to watch. Has this neat miniskirt, in purple and white, a bit flower-like, on over all black. She then kicks to what she calls her idols, Heart, who rip into Barracuda.

Whoah, here comes Fergie striding back out--divested of her mini-skirt--she totally fits in. The only weird thing is seeing the camera pan out over the crowd, everyone's seated in these plush red chairs, I think it's the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Really, they should have a few hundred kids crammed in down front; Fergie does a couple of cartwheels, it's all pretty cool and definitely kicks up the energy level of the crowd a notch.

Now it's the WWE's John Cena asking us to give.

You can donate at 1-877-436-5234.

Getty Images photo of Fergie

American Idol Gives Back: Jonas Brothers, Billy Crystal, Miley Cyrus, Bono

The Jonas Brothers tell us to give, with shrieks from fans in the background.

"Recently-retired from the New York Yankees" Billy Crystal does a bit, then introduces--Miley Cyrus!

Whoo-hooo, the kids go nuts; she's got on a jacket with a super-sparkly collar, and an eye-catching top underneath. Crystal pretends she's some up-and-coming talent. They don't have any chemistry, both are pretty stiff as they run through some gags pretending each doesn't know who the other is.

She only gets 'excited' and treats him like a celeb when he tells her he did a voice on Monsters, Inc.

So then she sings, Good and Broken Chains--hope all the contestants are taking notes, she looks and acts like a star. I don't think her voice is that great, but her performance is fun to watch.

The Top 12 are shown answering phones. Now here's the interesting thing... I know this show was taped on Sunday--heck, we posted photos from it on Monday.

So are they really answering phones, or is this all staged?!

Maybe some of the performances were taped, others are live. At any rate, we go to something we know is taped, Bono in Africa. Man, this is heartbreaking; a little orphan named Sophia who has AIDs looks into the camera and says she'd like America to keep helping her. Bono says she's 14--she seriously looks like she's 8.

Bono then talks to one of the volunteers, who said three of her kids died of HIV.... The footage is really touching, and vibrant despite the sadness of the subject matter.

You can donate at 1-877-436-5234.