Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Another "much better" night

Tonight's guy performances were certainly much more encouraging than last week's bloodbath, but before we get to that, and my thoughts on the Antonella scandal,a quick comment on last week's elimination--so unexciting that I couldn't work up enough energy to blog about it last Thursday (that, and the five hours of Idol last week took a lot out of me. This week we have a much more manageable four hours.) I was correct on two--Amy Krebs and Rudy Cardenas--and almost picked a third--Nicole Tranquillo--before trying to be a little more adventurous. None of those were surprises. And then we had Paul Kim, who wasn't a huge surprise either because he was pretty bad. I thought, though, he had enough exposure early on to survive, but just like the youth vote didn't turn out for John Kerry in 2004, the Asian vote that Paul was courting as the anti-William Hung didn't turn out for Paul in 2007. The only other important piece of business from last week was the announcement of some of the "coaches" for the finals. A solid list, but it did leave me with questions about the themes for some of these coaches. Martina McBride will do country week, Diana Ross will do Motown, Tony Bennett will do standards. What about Jon Bon Jovi? Does he have enough Idol type songs to do a Bon Jovi week? And is that a good idea? And what's Gwen Stefani going to do--Broadway, because each of her albums have one song based on a show tune (If I Were a Rich Man, and that yodeling song on the Sound of Music)? And Jennifer Lopez? She can't even sing. Paula Abdul laughs at her voice. Is that week Dance Idol or something?

Now let's get to the scandal not mentioned tonight--the unbelievable explosion of pictures of the lovely Antonella Barba. I mentioned the picture of her sitting on the toilet last week, and there were also pictures of her and her friends on a beach topless and covering their breasts with their hands. There was some talk about whether she might be booted from the show for these pictures, but I thought that was pretty silly. In fact, considering all the time I spend on the toilet--my fraternity retired a toilet stall in my honor when I graduated--I found that picture quite fetching. (Having said that, even with all the time I spend on the toilet, I'm not sure I have any photos of myself on one.)

But then we got some more interesting pictues that turned up--first Antonella frolicing in a wet t-shirt at the World War II Memorial in D.C. and then someone who looks a lot like her performing a sex act (as someone on the Internet wrote today, she was "stepping up to the microphone.") The word "pornographic" is often thrown around inappropriately, but the second set of pictures would certainly qualify under that definition.

Anyway, the Fox affiliate in D.C. had a hilarious story Monday night in which they went down to the World War II Memorial, showed visitors the Antonella photos and asked them what they thought. Of course, everyone was horrified and thought the pictures were disrespectful. (Of course, with TV news you never know--they could have interviewed ten other people who said the pictures were hot but they didn't play that tape.)

So what to make of this? To paraphrase a Simon remark from a couple years ago, in another life I want to come back as the pool at the World War II Memorial. But seriously, yes, I understand why people think it was disrespectful, but won't World War II veterans understand? Isn't that what they were fighting for on D-Day and at Iwo Jima--freedom, the freedom that allows hot girls to run around in wet t-shirts? If Antonella is kicked out of the competition for this, haven't the terrorists won? A lot of people are going to say this week that because Frenchie Davis was kicked out of the competition in year two for posing on some kind of porn Website, that Antonella should suffer the same fate. But my parents always taught me that two wrongs don't make a right. Frenchie shouldn't have been kicked out back in 2003--that was a stupid decision that Nigel Lythgoe said was made because they didn't want to take the chance that she would be named American Idol and have that photo appear everywhere--it didn't fit the image or whatever. Please--as Simon always says, American Idol is a singing competition, it's not Miss America or American Idol Citizen. And Antonella will be eliminated soon if she keeps singing like she did last week.

On to the singing tonight:
Phil Stacey ("Missing You")--I thought this was pretty good--Phil has some charisma and his voice is pretty strong. Simon said there was nothing unique about his voice, and I guess I know what he means, but I'm not sure how much Phil can actually do about that. He can put a new spin on familiar songs, I suppose, so maybe he can try that. He could beat box, but that's Blake's thing. But is there really anything that unique about, say, Chris Richardson's voice?

So they keep showing Jeff Foxworthy--without identifying him--because he has a new show on Fox tonight (and for the next two nights as well, for some reason. It's a three-night premiere!) And all these shots of Jeff Foxworthy do is remind me of the time I was temping at a law firm 13 years ago and one of my co-workers, in a discussion of favorite comedians, said that her favorite stand-up comedian was Jeff Foxworthy. She wasn't Southern--apparently she just liked making fun of rednecks or something. After dropping this bombshell, she walked out of the room, at which point the guy sitting next to me made a face and said something like "What is wrong with her?" and I just shook my head. Unfortunately, though, her lack of taste didn't stop me from getting drunk and making out with her in a bar a few months later. I still carry the shame of that lapse around, and all the Foxworthy camera time is just making it worse.

Jared Cotter ("Let's Get It On")--I liked Jared better than the judges did last week, but this week I basically agreed. It was OK, but kind of cheesy and over the top. Jared, though, did have one of the best responses ever to a Simon Cowell insult. Simon told him he sounded like he should have been on "The Love Boat," and Jared responded, "it would have been a great Love Boat." A comeback to Simon that's funny and not insulting. Perfect.

Then we had the best Simon-Ryan exchange of the night, with Seacrest, out of nowhere, reminiscing about all he's "done to that song" and Simon asking "What have you done?" I think all of America was glad, though, that Simon just left it there and didn't press for an answer, because none of us needed to hear it.

A.J. Tabalo ("Feeling Good")--I wasn't feeling real good about this performance, but the judges seemed to like it. All I could think about is how much his father looked like some sort of Hispanic version of Ray Romano (or a South Asian version of Ray Romano--I'm not sure.) OK voice, but for whatever reason, didn't do it fore me.

Sanjaya Malakar ("Steppin Out")--This may have been one of the worst performances I have ever seen on America Idol. I can't believe how bad that was. The judges should be punished for putting him through to the final 24. Sanjaya seemed scared just to be out on the stage. Here was the problem--and it has nothing to do with going to an "awful lunch," as Simon said. If you hear Tony Bennett sing this song (and I'm told that this was actually Fred Astaire's song before Tony Bennett sang it), he brings a confidence and swagger to it. Sanjaya brought negative swagger and confidence. Paula said he sang "on pitch," which is nice, but it's not like there's a five-octave range to this song. I'll stop beating up on the poor guy, but first say that if Sanjaya really wanted to "celebrate the great years of music," like he said, he could have honored them better by not desecrating this song.

Chris Sligh ("Trouble")--So after doing the fast song last week, the singer who said he knew how to pick the right songs in this competition picks another good one, slowing it down a little to show off his voice. And his voice was pretty impressive, especially when he kicked it up a notch at the end. I think he's going to be in this competition for a while.

Nick Pedro ("Fever")--When this first started, my reaction was what is he doing? (That, and is the drummer a contestant too?) But by the end, I thought the whole thing sort of worked--the smokiness of his voice brought something different and new to the song and it wasn't bad. Unlike Chris Sligh, though, I don't really think he'll be around that long. But he did improve from last week to this one, so who knows?

Blake Lewis ("Virtual Insanity")--Did you see the young lady in the crowd with the "Blaker Girl" t-shirt? Does this guy have fans making shirts honoring him after one week, or does he have a following from back home? And sort of a clever shirt, since Paula Abdul was once a Laker Girl. Anyway, I must disagree with Simon here--I thought Blake was really good--a strong voice, great presence. Particularly interesting about him is that he seems like a great pure pop singer (as opposed to the mostly rock, R&B and country singers in the competition). He could be interesting to watch. And I'm glad he added some scat singing in the middle to make Randy happy. The dumbest judge comment all night was Randy saying that tonight was a "return to form" for Blake. Randy, he had great form last week--you just were unhappy that he didn't beat box, because you think he's a trained monkey who must do the same thing every week to please you because change is bad. Wake up, dawg.

Brandon Rogers ("Time After Time")--Everything about Brandon's song choice tonight indicates he doesn't really watch the show. First, he sang "Time after Time," which Nadia Turner did a mediocre version of and never recovered from. More importantly, he chose a song that would fit his "dedication" instead of picking a song that he could sing well and impress America with (and then match a dedication to it.) If there's one thing I constantly repeat every year on this blog, it's that that you don't pick a song for this show because you like it or you mom likes it or you wanted to show off your personality or whatever other reason. You pick a song for one reason only--you can sing it well. As Simon kind of said, Brandon, with all due respect to your grandmother, no one except you really cares all that much about who you dedicated your song to--they want to hear you show off your vocal talent. And you didn't do that tonight, no matter how much emotion you felt.

Chris Richardson ("Geek in the Pink")--Not feeling the love the judges did on this one. Perhaps the Justin Timberlake Jr. thing is just too overwhelming for me, but I thought this was just OK.

Sundance Head ("Mustang Sally")--Certainly return to form for Sundance. But Simon was correct in calling the praise from Randy and Paula a bit effusive. He was good, but I've certainly heard better versions of that song, starting with Wilson Pickett and the guy from the movie "The Commitments." Sure, it probably isn't fair to compare him in that way, but he certainly didn't make me forget about them. But at least he's gotten better, and that's a good thing for the competition--since his Dial Idol scores indicate he's pretty popular.

So who's going home? Sanjaya should be going home, but his Dial Idol scores were also pretty high, which makes me nervous. (Some have speculated that at this early point in the competition, with so many singers, the "Vote for the Worst" Website actually does have some influence and might help Sanjaya stick around.) But I'm going to say he gets booted, and then try to make up my mind between Jared Cotter and Brandon Rogers. I'm going to say Jared, because he went earlier in the show and was kind of forgettable. But I really have no idea.

Seacrest has dropped his signoff, so I will too. I'll just say I'm off to watch Veronica Mars.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

That was much better

After last night's mess, I think I join with the rest of America in saying that tonight's show was quite reassuring--at least we'll have enough good singers to have a competition. When you combine the two or three decent guys with the five or six good women from tonight, we should have a decent final 12 (remember, the final 12 always has some clunkers in it. Kevin Covais, anyone?).

My one concern, though, is that pretty much all of the top singers tonight had the same kind of "belt-it-out" style. That could be exciting, but it also could be repeitive and exhausting, with all of them trying to outdo the other each week with bigger and bigger performances. Then again, it's a much better problem to have then not having good singers at all.

So it looks like Simon and Ryan worked out their lovers' spat or whatever was going on last night. And I was pretty impressed with Ryan calling out Randy at the beginning of the show for telling people to take risks and then complaining when they do. How many times has Randy complained when somebody tried to be different that he liked "the old (fill in the blank)" better? Randy, do you watch the show back when you get home? Ryan, keep after him on this.

So of the first six singers tonight, four of them were virtual strangers because we the only time we had seen them was on the show last week that cut to the final 24. So not only do we not know them, but they also end up going in the early part of a two-hour show, which means that unless they are really great, no one will remember them by 10 p.m. voting time. (I can barely remember the name of Rudy Cardenas from last night--I almost wrote Nick Cardenas.)

Luckily, a couple did leave an impression. But it's still not fair. Going back to that Nigel Lythgoe interview I referred to yesterday, he said that he didn't think a lack of exposure for some contestants was a problem because Kelly Clarkson's audition wasn't shown during the first year, and neither was Bo Bice's. Yeah, OK, but everyone else that has been a winner or runner-up was showcased in the audition rounds. As for his two examples, don't use the first season of the show as an example of anything--the attention and ratings weren't anywhere near what they are now for the audition rounds. As for Bo, he caught everyone's eye by doing a killer rendition of "Whipping Post" in the semifinal round. But if he had been less impressive that first week, and saved that song for the second semi-final week, for instance, who knows what might have happened? Basically, it's putting a lot more pressure on the people that haven't been seen to knock it out of the park that first week than the people who we already know--some of whom can put in a mediocre performance and skate by on the popularity they've already gained from the audition round. For instance, that same year with Bo also included Constantine, who stunk during the semifinals, but got through to the finals because he'd been featured in the audition and Hollywood round. Nigel, don't you get this? This show makes me so mad sometimes.

I also got a kick out of the judges tonight referring to what they heard in the auditions from singers like Amy Krebs and Leslie Hunt and how they liked what they did there better, etc. Gee, it would have been nice if we could make that comparison, wouldn't it? But let me get to the singers.

Stephanie Edwards ("How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore?)--It's great to start off a night with a Prince song, and Stephanie certainly did it justice. Not only did she sing it well, but she was animated and interesting while performing it--and I wrote on my notepad, "Makes me feel a lot better" about this year of Idol. Did think it was interesting that when they did finally show five seconds of her original audition in the taped piece, Simon said he reminded her of a "30s or 40s jazz singer" and spoke about that approvingly. And yet, last night, he wanted to hear someone who represented 2007. Like I said last night, I love Simon, but this is my pet peeve with him--his whole old fashioned critique just kind of comes and goes with seemingly no rhyme or reason.

Amy Krebs ("I Can't Make You Love Me")--After one line of this song, I thought "safe," and nothing about her performance changed my mind. It was solid, but unexciting (and didn't the band sound awfully loud during this song) and certainly paled in comparison to Stephanie's performance a few minutes earlier. And it means that even though I thought Amy Krebs sounded pretty good in the 10 seconds we got to hear from her last week, she's going to struggle to get through to next week, since those 10 seconds is the only additional info we know about her (although Paula kept referring to that bluesy voice she had in the auditions that we never saw). The discussion with Amy after the song, in which she said she'd try to showcase what the judges liked, did remind me of one my favorite moments fron last year's semifinals--when Stevie Scott, after a lackluster performance, told the judges "I can bring it."

Leslie Hunt ("Natural Woman")--For some reason, we saw Leslie throughout December and January singing a snippet of "Baby, I Love You" on AI promos on Fox, and then we never saw her audition on the actual show. Very strange. I thought she was OK, if unremarkable (Kelly Clarkson kicked butt on this song in year one, and Leslie was nowhere near that.) As for Simon's comments about her looking uncomfortable, Leslie just strikes me as sort of a spaz and that's her personality. (Wait, didn't Tiger Woods get in trouble for using that word because it has some offensive connotation? I'm sorry, I apologize, but I don't know any other word that sums up what I'm trying to say.)

Sabrina Sloan ("I've never Loved A Man Like I've Loved You")--Another female we had never seen sing before, but she made sure to be memorable. I'd like to hear her sing a song with a little stronger melody before I crown her a great singer, but she was very good.

Antonella Barba ("Don't Want To Miss A Thing")--They eliminated the promising sounding Marissa Rhodes for this? Even I could tell that was pitchy. Will her fan base pull her through? Actually, does she even really have a fan base? There is a lot of buzz and talk about her on the Internet and in offices around the country, but that could be people who don't like her because they think her and her friend were bitchy, etc. We'll see. But Simon's right, her looks can't hurt. In fact, by the middle of the song, I actually thought her singing wasn't that bad simply because I had been staring at her for so long all I could think about was how attractive she was. But then I snapped out of it and realized that was pretty bad--you could barely hear her over the music in parts. Some advice for Antonella if she does make it through to next week--the jeans looked fine, but really, a short skirt and high heels would also really be a good choice if you want guys to pick up the phone. Also, if you're interested in, um, this kind of thing, there are lots of pictures of Antonella on the Internet, including one of her sitting on the toilet. Like I said, I'm just providing that info for those who want it, but a Google search should be able to turn those up in a few seconds.

Jordin Sparks (I think it's called "Give Me One Reason")--Don't really like the song, but liked the performance. Her voice sounded great--she actually did make the song her own--and it looks like she'll be a contender.

Nicole Tranquillo (A Chaka Khan song I don't know)--Another one we hadn't seen at all who had an impressive 10 second appearance last Wednesday. The judges savaged her, but I didn't think it was that bad, although it was kind of an odd choice of song with all that shouting and stuff. As for the judges saying it wasn't really her, I have no idea who she is since this was the first chance I got to know her. (Sorry to keep harping on that.)

Haley Scarnato ("It's All Coming Back to Me Now")--Meatloaf and Katharine McPhee peformed this song together on last season's finale, and I thought it was one of the highlights of the night. Interestingly, I heard an interview with Meatloaf this summer in which he said that he thought Katharine was terrible because she didn't understand what he was trying to do with all the acting out of the song, etc. Of course, Meatloaf's voice sounded pretty ragged on that song, so he might want to stop complaining about Katharine's performance. Anyway, the word that comes to mind about this performance is "competent." She did a decent job, but nothing memorable. Simon said it was old fashioned, I just thought it was kind of bland. But she sure is a cutie.

Melinda Doolittle ("Since You Been Gone")--That was a powerhouse vocal. She was really great.And she seems like a pretty likable, down to earth, person, which will serve her well throughout the competition.

Alaina Alexander ("Brass in Pocket")--I guess the proof of how influential Idol now is in the music business is that the show now seems to able to clear a lot more songs for use in the show than it used to be able to do. Last night, we had Keane, and tonight we got some Pretenders. Or Chrissie Hynde just figured, "What's the big deal about someone possibly screwing up my song on Idol? I have to suffer through Rush Limbaugh using one of my songs as his theme music." Anyway, Alaina is attractive, but not all that great a singer. This was kind of all over the place, although at least she has good taste in music. As for Simon's comments, I don't even want to think about Ryan dating her.

Gina Glocksen ("All By Myself")--Good, but not as good as Gina thought she was. Simon was right, she didn't quite hit that note. But here's my question. Gina Glocksen has the streaks of red in her hair, and she's got a tongue piercing, both of which I suppose is intended to show the world how wild and crazy she is. And then she sings an Eric Carmen/Celine Dion song? Wow, Gina, you're really punk, huh? Oh, and if she had asked a student of Idol history like Chris Sligh, he could have told her that it's not always a good idea to sing a song that was already part of a memorable performance on Idol--Latoya London announced herself to the country with "All By Myself" in season three.

LaKisha Jones ("And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going")--I haven't seen Dremgirls, so I can't judge this against Jennifer Hudson. But it was pretty impressive. What I liked about it, and the other stuff we've seen from her, is that LaKisha is really exciting. She seems like she's going to jump off the stage and out of your TV screen sometimes--not in a scary way, but in a fun way. I would like to see her sing a softer song one of these weeks and see how she does with that before crowning her the champion, though.

So who goes home? Another tough one. I think Amy Krebs will be one. I'm tempted to say Nicole Tranquillo, but that's too easy. So let's say Haley Scarnato.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Maybe the ladies will be better

Ryan started off tonight by telling us this season had the "best talent yet!" Is there some kind of quantitative measurement Ryan used to make that claim that he can provide for us, because after tonight, it does not appear to be true. I did think the judges were a little too harsh tonight--most of the performances the judges strongly disliked I found more strange than terrible. The problem was there was little that was particularly special or memorable. On the bright side: it was the first week and everybody is nervous--yeah, I know, that's not much of a bright side....

So we start off tonight with one of my favorite Idol idiocies: the montage of "how we got here." Yeah, why don't we review what we just spent the past five weeks watching? There wasn't even any singing in the "how we got here" montage, although they did redeem that decision by actually showing a clip of everyone's original audition in their biography clips tonight. That was something I don't remember ever being done before, and it was nice. Why they couldn't, of course, show those clips during the 10 hours of audition shows (they knew who the top 40 were weeks before the audition show even air) is beyond me, but I don't produce the show.

Speaking of producing the show, I saw a couple interviews with AI producer Nigel Lythgoe over the past few days, and he answered this complaint by saying that he views Idol as three separate shows: the auditions, the Hollywood round and the semifinals/finals, and he tries to make the best show he can for each. That means he doesn't care if viewers see someone on an audition show and then never see them in the Hollywood round--in his mind, they're two separate programs. This is ridiculous--does Nigel Lythgoe watch TV? Does he talk to the viewers? Yes, the audition shows, judging from the ratings, do attract more viewers than the Hollywood round and the semifinals, go up as the finals begin, and then take another jump in the final weeks and for the finale. But the ratings are still huge for all "three parts" of the show. The 18-49 ratings for the auditions shows this year were in the 13-15 range, and in past years the lowest they ever go for the semifinals, if I recall correctly, are a 9-10--bigger than anything else on television these days except maybe an occasional episode of Grey's Anatomy. That means that more than two-thirds of the viewers of Idol watch all three parts of the show. That's your fan base, Nigel--do you not have any respect for them? Most of these people, like me, only watch the audition shows so that we'll be familiar with these people once we get to the semifinals. (In fact, who are these people who only watch the auditions and then tune out for the rest of the year? Are they just sadists who only love bad singing?) Anyway, that's enough of my Nigel rant for today, but I'll have a little more tomorrow. Let's get to the singers.

Rudy Cardenas ("Free Ride")--Rudy said in his taped introduction that "it doesn't matter to me if I have Simon on my side or not." With an attitude like that, Rudy, you're not going to go very far. Have you watched the show before? It's always better to have Simon on your side, whatever Randy or Paula might say. Yes, I've heard people say that Simon wasn't on Taylor Hicks' side last year, but that isn't totally true. Yes, he didn't vote for him on the first audition, but during the competition last year, he praised Taylor when he deserved it (his soul performances) and ripped him when he didn't (his awful crazy dancing numbers).
Having said that, I thought Simon was a little harsh on Rudy tonight by calling him not unique. I thought seeing a Hispanic guy with a smooth voice singing a raggedy rock song like "Free Ride"--a song that I would have only thought I would have seen performed on Idol if Bo Bice returned--was certainly unique and sort of strange. I didn't think it was that bad, but it wasn't memorable, either. And I was glad to see that Rudy did say after the song that he hoped to change Simon's attitude--he learned something between taping the intro and his first song of the semis.

Brandon Rogers ("Rock With You")--Brandon is considered one of the early favorites, but he didn't really solidify that position tonight. I thought he sounded fine, very smooth, but his performance was lacking a little excitement. I suppose we'll be hearing the judges talking a lot after every performance of his about how he's no longer a backup singer and he needs to step out and shine, blah, blah, so I'll start steeling myself for that.

Sundance Head ("Nights in White Satin")--Another performance that falls into my category of more strange than bad. His vocals weren't great, but they were OK. Very odd song choice. And Simon was right, it was a very "old-fashioned" performance. I wrote in my notes that it had an "old time feel." I kind of liked that, though--isn't retro kind of in? I'm kind of intrigued as to what's next.

Paul Kim ("Careless Whisper")--So Paul said he wanted everyone to be "shocked and surprised" by his song choices, and he picks "Careless Whisper." Great song, but it's anything but shocking and surprising. Picking a George Michael song like "I Want Your Sex" might have been surprising, picking "Nights in White Satin" like Sundance did would have been surprising, but picking "Careless Whisper" was pretty unsurprising. I was watching the reruns of the first season (airing in syndication) and someone sang it on the show back then.
Unfortunately, Paul didn't exactly shock and surprise me with his singing either. The first verse was terrible, although he did improve in the chorus. But that high note was horrible.
And Simon took the words right out of my mouth--"put your shoes on." You know what wins American Idol--singing, not a gimmick. (And if I have to listen to Paula botch another foot odor joke directed at Simon because he keeps going barefoot, I'm not going to be happy...)

Chris Richardson ("I Don't Want to Be")--So this guy looks like Justin Timberlake, sings kind of like Justin Timberlake and even uses a bunch of Justin Timberlake's mannerisms when he's performing. If this guy goes much farther, Justin might have grounds for a lawsuit or something. Then again, considering Justin is apparently deciding whether he should date Jessica Biel or Scarlett Johansson (while Katharine McPhee is quoted talking about how hot he is in Entertainment Weekly), I think he's got better things to do.
This performance wasn't bad, kind of lively, but I think Simon was right in that his voice did sound "small" at times and wasn't particularly overwhelming. But he looks like Justin Timberlake, so he'll stick around for a while.

Nick Pedro (Don't know the song, but it sounded kind of familar)--All I can say is that was really boring. But I was curious what made him tear up at the end of his taped piece. He was talking about dropping out of the competition, and then he said something about how he "almost had the easiest life" and then something unintelligible. Was he implying that he would have won last year or something if he hadn't dropped out? Is he crazy? Anyway, it's never a good sign when you taped intro is more interesting than your song.

Blake Lewis ("Somewhere Only We Know")--Blake was exactly correct--this is a singing competition and he should be singing, not beat-boxing (Randy, saying that Blake should try to work that in every week, once again proves himself to be an idiot--kind of like how he kept saying Ace should always do his falsetto last year). And Blake did a really good job. I thought he struggled a bit on the high note, but otherwise he was solid. And the guy from Keane really sings the hell out of this song, so to even get close is pretty good. Plus, Blake, with his look and hairstyle, kind of reminds me of Morrissey, and that's always good.
One other thing: Simon said that Black was the first guy who "sounded like 2007." This is the worst criticism that Simon gives, because then he'll go praise someone else for singing a 40 year old Streisand song that doesn't sound modern at all. I wish he'd explain this more.

Sanjaya Malakar (A really boring Stevie Wonder song)--Sanjayah said that his beautiful sister picked out this song for him. I guess that means that even if she had made the semifinals, she would have been eliminated quickly because she doesn't know how to pick out the right songs. Simon once again stole my line, noting that the line in the song "I don't want to bore you with this" seemed to be the theme of the performance. If there was a melody to that song, I didn't hear Sanjaya sing it. On the other hand, I would like to see him stick around a few weeks so we get to see that beautiful sister of his in the audience. One question, though: if he gets eliminated Thursday night, will he continue to smile?

Chris Sligh (I have no idea what song this was)--Everyone, including me, already likes Chris Sligh because he's funny, and I liked him even more when he talked in his taped piece about how important song choice and strategy is (he knows how the show works.) And while I don't know what that song was he sang, I thought he did a solid job of it--it was uptempo and fun. Then he had to go and mouth off to Simon. For a guy with so much knowledge of the show, one would think he wouldn't go there--that's a pet peeve of many viewers. And he didn't just mouth off, he really launched a personal attack, implicitly criticizing Il Divo (the pop-opera group Simon created) and the Teletubbies. I had no idea Simon had anything to do with the Teletubbies, or that the Teletubbies recorded a record, but I'm told Simon was involved in that recording. Simon looked uncomfortable, much of the viewing audience was feeling uncomfortable, and I suppose it was good television but not necessarily good in the long run for Mr. Sligh. I think, though, he's got enough fans that he's not going anywhere for a while.

Jared Cotter ("Back at One")--If I didn't have a calendar, I could tell it was mid-February just by hearing someone covering a Brian McKnight song--it happens a couple times every year in the AI semifinals. But, unlike the judges, I thought Jared, who we hadn't seen sing at all before tonight (had we?) actually was pretty solid. I hope he's not voted out because of his lack of exposure, because I think he has some potential. He's got a nice voice.

A.J. Tabaldo (Luther Vandross song)--Ah, it's so nice to see Paula back dancing during the performances, isn't it--another sign mid-February has arrived. I thought A.J. started out weak, but by the middle of the song, I said to myself, "You know, this guy isn't bad." But come on, the guy has tried out for American Idol five times--how good can he be? If he was really anything special, wouldn't he have made it one of those first four times....

Phil Stacey ("Could Not Ask for More")--The judges were correct, the beginning of this was horrible. You couldn't even hear him over the music. But he did get better over the course of the song, although I'm not convinced yet he's anything special, as Simon said.
And for you Idol conspiracy theorists out there, Phil was placed in what is referred to as the "pimp spot" for week one. The AI conspiracy theorists believe that the producers try to place the candidates they favor in that final spot to "pimp" extra votes, since their performance is most fresh in the mind of viewers when it is time for voting. Last year on week one, the pimp spots, as I was reminded of today, went to Katharine and Taylor. Just some food for thought.

I could rant about the whole Ryan-Simon fight, but I don't really want to, especially about Ryan specifically not thanking Simon at the end of the show. We all know that Simon is correct, and that people at home do want to see him be honest with the contestants and not patronize him. The only people who don't seem to know this are Ryan, Paula and Randy. So before the prediction, I'll just say I'm glad Britney has decided to enter rehab and hope she gets the help she needs. Remember, Britney (like she's reading this blog), people liked you when you were dancing around in sexy videos. No one wants to see you throwing up in limos and forgetting your underwear. That's just sad.

Back to Idol. I'm not going to cheat and check Dial Idol, but make my own guess of the bottom two guys and then check that great site. It's complicated on a night like tonight, because some singers who might not have had the best performances (Sundance, for example) already have built up fan bases that will probably be sufficient to get them support, while the reverse may be true in other cases. So I'll say Nick Pedro will go, because he was the worst of the night and I don't believe he has much of a fan base, and Rudy Cardenas, because he was just OK and went so early in the evening that everyone had forgotten him by 10:00. But I think just about anyone except Chris and Blake, and maybe Phil, could be on the chopping block. Fingerhut out....


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Finally, the final 24

So we have our final 24, and since I either can't remember or have never seen about half of them, it's hard to talk about the show tonight in any great detail. I was kind of puzzled how the last two females were Antonella and Marisa Rhodes, considering Antonella had been pretty good throughout and Marisa (had we seen her before?) sounded very good in the clips they showed. Same with the two guys, since it seemed there were quite a few unremarkable vocalists we heard in the new clips of the final performances (the performances we didn't get to hear last night.)

And of course, there were plenty of people who were featured in the audition shows but just kind of disappeared before we even got to tonight's show. Kellie Pickler '07 was never heard from again after making it to round two of Hollywood, and the girl who all the judges said was great--who came in with her two friends dressed in those pink waitress outfits or whatever they were--evaporated too.

A few quick observations on who did make it and the brief snippets of performances we did hear: Melinda Doolittle sounded very good, and fellow backup singer (was he a backup singer) did too. I was glad to see Haley Scarnato make it, since I thought she was pretty good but for some reason Simon dismissed her quickly. Glad to see the very funny Chris Sligh make it, even if his vocals allegedly weren't up to par. The anti-Hung, Paul Kim, says he's going to perform barefoot every week. That's going to get old fast. But forget "Anti-Hung" as a nickname, maybe we should nickname him Tony Franklin, after the Eagles kicker who kicked barefoot for no apparent reason.

Jordin Sparks is the second child of a professional athlete to make the final 24 in the last three years, after Niko Smith two years ago. Of course, Giants defensive back Philippi Sparks isn't a hall of famer like Ozzie Smith, but it's still interesting. That guy A.J.--he's tried out five times? I guess I'm happy that he finally made it, but isn't that kind of creepy?

I thought I recognized Leslie Hunt, and after looking on a message board, I learned that she apparently is the girl that appeared in the commercials in the weeks before the show premiered. Why she was never shown during the 11 hourse of auditions shows other than a brief two second snippet in a montage in the "rest of the best" show is beyond me, but as I say every week, I don't produce the show.

Alaina Alexander is quite cute, but her voice tonight didn't wow me. On the other hand, although we had never seen them before, Nicole Tranquillo and Amy Krebs sounded very good in their clips.

What does it all add up to? Will it be a wide-open competition with lots of talent but no clear standout, like last year? Will it be like seasons 1 and two, with one or two transcendant talents that everyone looks forward to hearing every week but lacking in many other serious contenders? I guess we'll start to find that out next Tuesday.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hooray for Hollywood Week

Finally, after four weeks of auditions, we've arrived at Hollywood Week. Unfortunately, they compressed one of the more interesting portions of the season into just one hour--but more on that in a minute.

Some random thoughts first:
Unfortunately, the show started out with the woman I'd already given the nickname "The Great Jewish Hope" being eliminated immediately--although I think there may be another contender for this title that I need to study more before revealing. I thought Jory was good, but what do I know? She cerrtainly was better than Perla (a.k.a. Shakira Junior), but Ms. Meneses got through to the second round before rightfully being eliminated. (And by singing that same Shakira song that she also sang in the auditions--which saved her after the first song she sang at her audition wasn't good enough. Couldn't they tell at that point she was a one-trick pony?)

Then there was Baylie "Commercial with a Capital C" Brown. She's very cute, and has a better voice than I remember from the auditions. But--maybe because I'm not a big country music fan--I found her singing (what we saw of it when she wasn't forgetting her words) very boring. So I wasn't particularly upset to see her go. I will say though, that the threesome of her, Antonella and her friend was perhaps the most attractive group of women we've ever seen during Hollywood Week perform together. Only one is left, but I'll just say that if Antonella performs in short skirts every week, she's going to be getting a lot of votes from males around the country.

Glad to see Chris Sligh made it, and the beat box guy seems fairly entertaining as well. I was sad to see "Fidel" go and the Indian guy's sister (sorry, I don't remember her name.) And did you catch Robyn Troup being eliminated? I didn't recognize her, but I did recognize her name--she was the girl chosen to perform with Justin Timberlake at the Grammys in that ridiculous American Idol ripoff/waste of time Sunday night. (We spent 10 minutes on that, but the Police only did one song?) As a consolation, I guess it is good that the Grammys is recognizing that American Idol is one of the best things the recording industry has going for it right now--although that's better shown by honoring Carrie Underwood (And she actually thanked Idol!) with the best new artist trophy than it was by some silly stunt.

So tomorrow we have what is the strangest use of an hour all season during American Idol. We'll spend the better part of an hour watching the 40 remaining contestants take an elevator, sit in a chair and hear the judges tell them if they made to the final 24.Maybe we'll see some highlights from the auditions. Then we'll see some people cry from joy and others from sadness and anger. Why couldn't we have seen another half hour from Hollywood Week (like those final performances than Ryan promoted but we never saw) and then stuff this section into a half hour? I have no idea. Of course, I'm still going to watch--after all, the final 24 will be revealed--so as usual, I guess the American Idol producers don't care what I think.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

More of the same in San Antonio

I once again didn't blog the Wednesday audition show, but there were so few good singers shown from the L.A. tryouts (even though apparently 40 people went to Hollywood)that I really didn't have much to say. And I don't really have that much to say about tonight's show--some good singers, some bad singers, and can we please get to Hollywood already?

I guess my main puzzlement from tonight was why they were so tough on Haley Scarnato--even though they eventually did let her go through. She had a good voice, she was cute--isn't that usually the criteria? Haven't they allowed much lesser voices through in the past couple weeks? I understand what they mean when they say she wasn't all that original, but they heard her sing for 20 seconds. Kelly Clarkson wasn't all that original in the early going and blossomed into something special once she got to the final 10. Carrie Underwood was never particularly original--she was just a good singer. But Haley got through, so I'll stop complaining.

Having said that, Bailey Brown sure was cute, but her country singing didn't excite me all that much. But considering Simon said she was "commercial with a capital C" and every final 12 needs at least one country singer, we might be seeing her for a while.

Really liked the guy at the end who sang "Cupid"--Jimmy McNeal--but didn't he actually start by singing a verse of "Another Saturday Night"?

And finally, I love the people, like the girl in the first half of the show tonight, who go off on on the judges and ask them how come they're qualified to judge her. Well, actually, it really doesn't matter whether they're qualified to judge her or if they're good singers. The fact is, they're the judges on the show you're trying to get on--so if they don't like you, you're out of luck, no matter what their qualifications. Why don't some people understand this? It's mystifying.

Only one more audition show to go. Fingerhut out.