Thursday, April 26, 2007

American Idol to America: We may be raising millions for charity, but we're still mean

Wow, I'm stunned. No, not by "the most shocking result ever" on American Idol, or whatever Ryan called it. No, I'm stunned that the show would decide that it was, as Ryan said, wrong to kick off somebody during a charity event--and yet still emotionally abuse Jordin by making her think she had been voted for a few seconds until telling her the good news that everyone was safe. They may have raised lots of money for charity tonight, but the American Idol producers are still evil hypocrites.

Oh, and another thing while I'm ranting: How exactly is this "the most shocking result" in Idol history? First of all, it's not a result--it's a decision made by the producers. It's not even unprecedented--when Corey Clark was booted from the show for the discovery of his arrest record in season two, they did the exact same thing. Even if Jordin or Melinda had been voted off, it still wouldn't have been the most shocking elimination in Idol history anyway--that title still remains with Tamyra in season one, but whatever.

By the way, I was amused that they spread the reveal of the results by doing one at a time throughout the evening and asking them to stand up before dramatically saying "You're safe." Do they really think the audience is dumb enough to think that when they asked Melinda to stand up 15 minutes into the show that she was going to be voted off? Of course not....This stuff just makes me too annoyed and angry--let me just get back to the show and provide some quick stream of consciousness thoughts on a broadcast that was way too long...

So Fox was contributing 10 cents for each vote up to 50 million and they got 70 million votes. But Ryan still announced that Fox was donating 5 million. You mean to tell me that Rupert Murdoch couldn't chip in the extra 2 mil? That's kind of funny--after all, Fox makes at least 2 million every time this show has a commercial break.

Earth, Wind and Fire 30 years after their prime, Il Divo, Rascal Flatts--this wasn't quite the assemblage of talent that we had been promised, was it? Yeah, I know some people like Rascal Flatts, but their covers of two Eagles songs on the Grammys this year was so bad they shouldn't be allowed to perform on television anymore. On the bright side, Josh Groban and the African Children's Choir was good, it was great to see Kelly Clarkson sing on Idol again, and Annie Lennox was great as always.

As for Celine Dion and Elvis, technically and visually it was really cool. But it was just so wrong.

Was Chris Richardson really wearing a hoodie under his white suit tonight? He should have been kicked off just for that.

There was a decent amount of stars in the Staying Alive video, I guess--but the guy who stood out the most was David Schwimmer. Has he been OK? Where's he been?

Glad that Ryan finally at some point tonight pointed out the actual country he and Simon were in during one of their tapes--Kenya.

Paula, it's a two-hour charity telethon and you've got to wear a dress which showed us almost all of your breasts. Interesting choice.

Loved that the Simpsons clip made a Brian Dunkleman joke, and was generally pretty amusing. The Ben Stiller clips--I'm glad they're over.

Finally, what was the deal with that Bono walk-on? What was the point of that? And had he already talked to them and then walked back to stand at the door before returning to the group in the clip? Because they sure didn't seem all that surprised or excited to see him. That was very strange--but this is American Idol so I guess it comes with the territory. Fingerhut to bed.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Idol gives back (because it feels so bad about inflicting Sanjaya on us)

When American Idol announced "Idol Gives Back," I wrote that it seemed kind of self-important. But I've tried not to make fun of it because it is for a good cause. And I think E.J. Dionne put it perfectly today on the Washington Post op-ed page:

"Is there something worse than a multimilliondollar operation patting itself on the back for weeks on end in celebration of its brilliantly inventive and groundbreaking approach to philanthropy?

Actually, there is something worse: a total indifference to human suffering."

So I'm not going to joke about Idol's noble efforts--although I still want to hear about 19 Entertainment's doantions to this effort (the show's production company). Hopefully, they're just doing it quietly. (And what's up with the Washington Post printing two articles about American Idol on its op-ed page in the last month, including Eugene Robinson's piece about Sanjaya a few weeks ago? That seems like some kind of shark-jumping moment.)

But I do have a few questions about the "Idol Gives Back" portion of the show. First, did anyone else laugh when Simon said "These are terrible conditions" and shook his head in that hut in Africa? He said it in the exact same tone of voice as he did when he was telling Sanjaya "that was horrendous" or something. It was very weird. Also, why did Ryan or Simon ever identify where in Africa they were when they were visiting and feeding these kids? At one point, Ryan named a village, but never a country. I'm not saying it matters all that much, but Africa is a big continent. Some countries are poorer than others. It would just be nice to know--and I'm curious.

Finally, did anyone else see the box of matzah sitting on the table when Simon was at the food bank and pointed out what America's Harvest would provide for one dollar? Was that a Passover package they were making for someone? (Actually, there was a loaf of bread next to the matzah, so I guess not.) Actually, that's not a bad idea to donate leftover matzah after Passover to a food bank. I'm not sure how much the eventual recipients will appreciate it, but who knows?

As for tonight's theme of inspirational songs--I understand the sentiment, but it's a theme that doesn't necessarily lend itself to great performances. As I've written many times, Idol contestants shouldn't pick songs because of the lyrics, they should pick songs that show off their voices well--but this theme basically tells them that lyrics are more important. Oh, well, what can I do? But I will say this--when I criticize songs tonight, I'm not criticizing the sentiment in the songs, I'm criticizing things like melody and whether the song is a good pick for an Idol singer.

Chris Richardson ("Change the World")--I don't particularly like this song, but I kind of like Chris' version tonight. (Yeah, I know, I just said I liked Chris Richardson singing a song done by Eric Clapton, but Clapton is famous for being a guitarist--not a singer.) It started off a little nasally--which Chris should copyright--but he made the song a little more poppy and I think it worked for him. I still don't think he's anywhere worthy of being the American Idol, but at least he seems to be improving.

Melinda Doolittle ("There Will Come A Day")--Didn't like the song, but really liked the vocals. I've never heard this song before (and have no plans to go searching through Faith Hill videos on Youtube or anything), so I can't judge whether Melinda made it her own as Simon said. But even though I didn't care for the song, I didn't mind Melinda singing it, because it was written in the last decade, didn't have that whole "sassy" vocal thing she seems to do in every song, and gave her a chance to just sing a pop song. And she did it really well. And it's now week two of Melinda's new look, and I like that too--the stylists took a while, but they finally figured out how to make her look good.

Blake Lewis ("Imagine")--Quick Idol history check: This song has been performed by two famous Idol alums (at least that I can remember): Ruben Studdard sang it in the finals of season two and Jennifer Hudson sang it in the round of 32 in year three. And there's a reason why Jennifer Hudson ended up not getting selected that week and going into the wild-card round (back in the old days when they had those). It's not a good song for Idol. (Jennifer got really big voiced and impressive in the last 20 seconds of the song, but was otherwise boring and Simon told her she picked the wrong song.) When the judges were talking about Blake didn't "go anywhere" with the song, they were exactly right--but where can you go with the song? It doesn't go anywhere--it's the same few notes throughout most of the song. Of course, Blake usually doesn't do much with his voice anyway, so it seemed like a good song for him--but I'm not sure he can win without showing a little bit more vocal talent. He seems to be getting by as much on mood and attitude as singing, and this song--because it stripped that mood and attitude away--somewhat exposed him.

LaKisha Jones ("I Believe")--Last week, LaKisha picked a song by a former Idol winner, Carrie Underwood, and everyone judged it a mistake. This week, she picked, amazingly, a song by another former Idol winner, and it was a much bigger mistake.Paula and Randy were exactly correct--from the second the song started, even though I hadn't heard it in years, all I could think of was Fantasia's electifying performance of the song on the same stage after she won season three. What was LaKisha thinking? She could never compete with that. I was never that big a fan of Fantasia, and I have fond memories of that performance. If I try really hard, I suppose I can try to judge the performance without thinking about Fantasia, and by that measure it was OK. But I'm sure most people who saw Fantasia perform it can't do that.

Phil Stacey ("The Change")--Phil's back to country again this week, after everyone raved last week and he finished in the top three. The judges liked it, but I found it kind of boring. Having said that, I didn't get enough sleep last night and my apartment was very warm because it's 80 degrees and they don't turn on the air conditioning in my building until mid-May. So maybe I was just sleepy.

Jordin Sparks ("Never Walk Alone")--Now Jordin knows how to pick a song. She chose a song that is most commonly heard every Labor Day when Jerry Lewis sings it at the end of his telethon for muscular dystrophy. And since Jerry Lewis isn't that great a singer, Jordin doesn't have a very high bar to clear. But she cleared it with lots of room to spare. I'm not sure it's one of the best performances ever on Idol, as Randy said (and thanks Randy for once again mentioning the 17 year old thing, we didn't know), but it was really good. And I'm starting to get psyched for a possible Melinda-Jordin finale. That would kick butt. But I've probably now jinxed it.

So who's at the bottom this week? LaKisha should be there, I think Phil will return there, and let's say Chris--because Blake was in the bottom three last week and his fans will rally this week. Who's going home? I'm going to say LaKisha, but I hope I'm wrong and it's Phil.

As for tomorrow night, if Ryan's big tease about the shocking moment or whatever is the rumored duet between Celine Dion and Elvis (Natalie and Nat King Cole style), that's shocking in how sad it is. But Kelly Clarkson is back on the Idol stage tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to that. Fingerhut out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Our very long national nightmare is over

I think every year at some point during American Idol, I use the line "our long national nightmare is over" after a results show--but the nightmare was never as big as it was this year. Sanjaya should have been eliminated during the round of 24, and yet ended up lasting until the final seven. But as I've said a number of times in the last few weeks, every year there is a contestant that inexplicably stays around much longer than they should--usually because of their appeal to young girls--but eventually is voted out well before the competition really gets serious. And that happened once again tonight.

Ironically, Sanjaya became the most discussed person on the show because he had a little charisma among a group of contestants that are mostly charisma-challenged. And of course because of the Vote for the Worst/Howard Stern "Vote for Sanjaya" campaign.I've been a Howard fan for 15 years, but I thought this whole crusade he was on was just stupid. He had started to say in recent weeks that he wanted to ruin the show, and I wasn't exactly sure why. He's been a fan of it since the first season and talked about it incessantly for years, and Simon, Randy and Paula have appeared on his show multiple times. It seemed like it was just some kind of stunt to get Howard some publicity now that he's on satellite radio--and it certainly worked--but I'm glad it's over. I'm sure he did have an effect--certainly more of an effect than Vote for the Worst did on its own, but in the end, it probably motivated more people to vote for everyone else this week. The ratings are down somewhat this year from last year, and yet Ryan said they had the highest ever vote totals for the round of seven. That can't be a coincidence.

I'm sure tomorrow morning Howard and the guy from Vote for the Worst will be accusing the Idol producers of disregarding the vote and just getting rid of Sanjaya because they felt like it. This puts Idol producers in a catch-22. Howard would say this whenever Sanjaya would have been voted off, and Howard probably wouldn't believe the numbers if they provided them. But I will say this--Idol could probably only be helped by releasing the actual vote totals and being transparent. If somehow that's a result of this whole Sanjaya thing, it actually might have helped the show.

I doubt AI producers will do that, though, because they're too arrogant. They don't care. And the whole show can take itself too seriously at times (Idol Gives Back, anyone?) But when it comes right down to it, in the long run that's not as important as the fact that American Idol, for all its faults and cheesiness at times, is just an entertaining, enjoyable show that millions of people enjoy because they can come home after a tough day at work and just enjoy without thinking too hard. And what's so wrong with that? That's why the threats to "ruin" the show left me so cold. (And looking back at this last paragraph, I'm probably taking all this too seriously and need to lighten up--but I just wanted to say that.)

As for the rest of the show: I'm willing to believe that Simon really didn't hear what Chris said about Virginia Tech, but that video they showed (with Chris in the inset and Simon in the foreground) raised more questions for me than it answered. Anyone else have the same reaction?

That song Fergie sang wasn't very good, but at least she didn't sing "Fergilicious" or "Glamorous" (which we did hear in the commercial immediately following her song). I find those songs incredibly annoying, and yet every time I hear them I can't get them out of my head for days.

Can they stop pulling that "pick which group is the top 3 and go stand by it" trick? It's cruel to the person that they make do it, and like Bo two years ago, for the second time someone has refused to act as their trained monkey and pick a side. Good for Melinda. I wish the producers could be punished for their idiocy, though.

And I'm willing to put up with a lot of filler on the results show--group sings, Martina McBride's daughter being interviewed (Martina's song was pretty boring, too), etc. But basically doing a five minute commercial for Shrek using the Idols--that's where I draw the line. And I couldn't really understand what Antonio Banderas was saying, but didn't he say the movie was coming out in June, after they put up something on the screen that said May?

But I shouldn't be so angry--it's been a good night. We don't have Sanjaya to kick around anymore.


Country night is over for this year

Take a relatively unexciting group of American Idol singers and follow Latin Night with County Night. Wow, the producers are just asking for viewers to lose interest, aren't they? OK, to be fair, while I'm not much of a fan of Country Night because I'm not a big fan of that genre of music and because the show it produces usually ends up somwhere between mediocre and lackluster (which was the case again tonight), I don't have any problem with Country Night being a yearly regular. While it may not play to many of the contestants' strengths, it is a very important genre of music and there have been a a number of Idols who have gone on to make solidly successful (and in the case of Carrie Underwood, hugely successful) country albums. Contrast this to Latin Night, which covers a genre of music that isn't particularly influential (really, does anyone watch the Latin Grammys?) and in which no past Idol contestant has ever recorded an album (not to mention apparently only includes Gloria Estefan and Carlos Santana, according to last week's song choices.)

Defending Country Night still doesn't mean I necessarily enjoyed it, of course. Martina McBride was a solid but unexciting guest coach, and I'm not sure, once again, the pecking order of the singers changed much tonight. And since there seems to be no other American Idol issues of interest this year outside of the Sanjaya phenomenon, I guess I should get right to the rundown.

Phil Stacey ("Where the Blacktop Ends")--Phil always seems to be better at the end of songs than at the beginning, and Martina McBride noticed it too in her comments. Maybe Phil should do something like the Smothers Brothers used to do. For those who don't remember them, part of their act was getting into arguments in the middle of playing a song and never finishing it. So one night I saw them on some talk show come out and sing for about 30 seconds. They explained that everyone always complained that they never finished a song, so that's what they had just done. Maybe Phil should just come out and sing the last 30 seconds of his song and he would kill. Because even though the judges loved him tonight, I thought the "soulful" parts near the end, as Martina described them, were better than the first part of the tune. It still was probably one of Phil's better performances, but I won't be watching it back on Youtube or anything. Oh, and Phil (and this goes for the other singers, too), if you want to walk into the audience, fine--although it annoys me. But really, you have 90 seconds or so to impress America and you want to spend a portion of it concentrating on shaking hands with people in the audience instead of on your vocals? Sing, don't socialize.

Jordin Sparks ("Broken Wing")--A couple people have asked me over the past week who I thought was going to win Idol this year, and I told them Jordin--she's young, pretty, vibrant and has a really good voice.With Simon's comments tonight that "for the first time," he can see her as the American Idol, I guess that prediction is looking even better. I liked how, as Paula said, Jordin took her time before getting to the big notes tonight, just singing the song. Now if we could just get Randy to stop mentioning that she's 17....Quick Moment in Idol History: And if my memory serves me, I believe Diana DeGarmo sang this song in season three and held the last note for about 30 seconds. That led to Paula proclaiming it a historic night or something like that. Personally, I found a note held that long to be creepy and weird. I'm glad Jordin only held her last note for about 10 secons.

Sanjaya Malakar ("Let's Give Them Something To Talk About")--I think I'm falling under Sanjaya's spell. After this performance ended, I said to myself, "Well, that wasn't that bad. He did seem to project a little more. At least he walked around the stage a little. And his 'big finish' where he actually tried to sing a little was OK." Maybe that shmatte on his head hypnotized me. Even with that positive spin, though, he still was the seventh out of seven by far.

But I do want to say this about Simon's comment that Sanjaya's performance was "as bad as anything we see at the beginning of American Idol." First of all, that's just patently untrue. But if Simon really believes that, then how did Sanjaya make the final 24? Were his performances in the Hollywood round (of which we saw virtually nothing) so much better than anything he has done since? This guy was chosen one of the 12 best guys and you're telling me he can't sing? So what were you listening to when you chose him? Simon, Paula and Randy--if Sanjaya does somehow win this thing (which I still think is extremely unlikely), you have a lot to answer for.

LaKisha Jones ("Jesus Take the Wheel")--For the second time we have an Idol contestant singing a hit song from a previous Idol winner (Lisa Tucker did a Kelly Clarkson song last year), and for the second time the singer was roundly criticized. I didn't think LaKisha quite deserved the lashing she got from the judges tonight--they said she shouted the song, but the chorus of this song is kind of shouty. But as Simon said, LaKisha hasn't really wowed anyone for a while now, and she didn't stand out tonight either. But I did think she looked really good tonight, for what it's worth.

Chris Richardson ("Mayberry")--Throughout this song, all I could think was that Chris' performance was nice and pleasant, but far from the caliber of what an "American Idol" should be giving us. As Simon said, it was fairly unexciting and nondescript. As for Chris telling Simon that "nasally" is a singing style...I suppose it could be. But I've been wracking my brain trying to think of a successful one and haven't come up with a name yet. Would you call the guy from the Violent Femmes singing "Blister in the Sun" nasally? No, that's probably better described as sneering or something. Well, maybe they can have a "Nasally" theme night next year....After the nasally comment, Chris then gave a shoutout to Virginia Tech, which, since Chris is from Chesapeake, Va., I'm sure was heartfelt. Coming so quickly on the heels of his bizarre "nasally" comments, it seemed Simon thought it was a cynical ploy for sympathy and cocked his eyebrow and rolled his eyes in a scoffing manner, for those who may not have caught the brief camera shot of Cowell's reaction. Someone must have told Simon about this, because that's the best explanation for his out of place, tacked-on expression of sympathy for the Va. Tech tragedy after Blake's performance. Personally, Simon, I don't care if you express sympathy for the Va. Tech tragedy or not--I've always liked your honest reactions, even if they might not be popular and make you look cruel--but there's no need to be so transparent about it.

Melinda Doolittle ("Trouble Is a Woman")--So here's a surprise. I expected that Melinda would pick an old country song, something by Patsy Cline or the Carter sisters or something, and she goes and picks a new song. Or at least she says it's a new song and we have to take her word for it, because even Martina McBride hasn't heard of it. Hmmm.... Anyway, this song, while new, was right in Melinda's wheelhouse--a sassy number with too much speak-singing and not enough real singing (or real melody, for that matter). It didn't wow me, but it was good--and she looked younger than usual too.

Blake Lewis ("When the Stars Go Blue")--Blake said this was a song by Tim McGraw, but I had no idea this was a country song until he said that. He rccorded it last year, but the Coors and Bono did a duet of this song a couple years prior to that and no one would call either of them country. According to a quick Google search, the song was originally written by Ryan Adams, one of those artists who crosses lots of genres, so I suppose it's kosher. Of course, when Blake sang it, it had barely any country tinge to it at all--once again, it became a "Blake Song" and sounded like everything else Blake sings. That's not necessarily a bad thing--I like Blake's sound and thought he sounded very good on this. But I'd still like to see him stretch a little and do something different. Eventually, like Chris Daughtry, the sameness of many of his performances can catch up to him.

Bottom three? Phil will definitely be there. I think Chris Richardson deserves to be there. And while LaKisha could end up there, I think her fans will rally after the harsh critique and Sanjaya will end up there--quieting the Sanjaya is going to win talk for at least a week. And I think Phil, because he went first and everyone forgot about him by the end of the show, combined with the fact that he's been in the bottom three for most of the finals, will combine to make him the next bootee.

Fingerhut out!


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I'll miss the legs, but not the singing....

The title of the post pretty much sums up my feelings on Haley--and as occasionally happens on American Idol,although not often enough, the person who sang the worst the previous night was voted out.

There was not much else to say about tonight's way-too-long show. It's funny--the producers could barely seem to fit everything in the last few weeks with a half-hour and actually requested that Fox give them a full hour for the next few weeks for the results show. I actually read a quote from one of the producers saying that they really wanted the full hour because that allowed them to really produce a show. And yet tonight seemed stuffed with much more than a half-hour of filler. Ryan asking people on the street what they thought? (OK, it was kind of amusing.) Akon shows up to sing because? A comedy bit involving Tony Bennett--did he feel bad for foisting drunk Michael Buble on us last week? Outtakes from the Jennifer Lopez speech to the singers? Someone actually telling us that Jennifer Lopez was "down to earth"? That was a whole lot funnier than the Tony Bennett comedy bit. To be fair, although Jennifer Lopez still isn't much of a singer, that song she sang was kind of catchy and the performance wasn't bad. And it was nice to see that Haley got to sing a full song, even if still wasn't very good.

Finally,and unrelated to Ameican Idol--but I couldn't let this pass--on this day when the Duke lacrosse players were proclaimed "innocent," I can't believe I just watched Jesse Jackson on CNN say that, well, they apparently didn't "molest" the woman, but "they did pay to watch a woman take off her clothes" and that's bad and "the first step toward domestic violence." Yeah, Jesse, you wouldn't want to say you were wrong or rushed to judgement or something--you still got to try to take some kind of moral high ground. At least Anderson Cooper responded with "Well, then we might as well lock up every man in America--I have strip clubs a few blocks from my apartment."

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Latin Night--why oh why must Idol torture me so?

Way back in season three of American Idol, the producers landed Gloria Estefan as a guest judge--the biggest guest judge they had gotten up to that point--and decided to have "Latin Night." I still wake up occasionally in the middle of the night sweating profusely after having a nightmare about that show. For two years, the producers were smart enough not to try that again--but I guess having Jennifer Lopez as a "guest mentor" was just too much to resist (although as I said at the time of the first Latin Night: No one watches American Idol because of a particular guest judge, so it's silly to build a show around one by doing a theme that doesn't serve the singers well. But Nigel and company don't listen to me, and we had another unexciting hour tonight in a year filled with them. And to be honest, I didn't even really understand what were the qualifications for a song for Latin Night. Did the song have to have a connection to Santana or Gloria Estefan, because it seemed like more than half of the songs tonight did? And while I suppose Santana is Latin-flavored and has some Latin-style percussion, it has nothing in common with a Marc Anthony or Estefan song but they were all considered Latin. I always though Santana was more rock than Latin--even if he did sing a song called "Oye Como Va." But I'm easily confused.

By the way, it's kind of remarkable how similar season three is to this season. You had a handful of talented singers that year (Fantasia, LaToya and some people would say Jennifer Hudson, too, back then, and Melinda, Jordin and LaKisha this year), a lack of much talent on the guys' side (George Huff was the only memorable one that year, and Blake may be the only memorable guy this year), a whole lot of mediocrity (no need to get into details) and one guy who stayed way longer than he should have and left the country up in arms (John Stevens then and, of course, Sanjaya this year).

Finally, those people who are worried about Sanjaya should calm down. He was not even in the top 3 last week--only somewhere between fourth and sixth place. I still don't see any strong evidence that he's going to win--especially when you consider that many of the people voting for the other seven constestants are unlikely to peel off and vote for Sanjaya when their favorite gets voted off in future weeks.
This all could change, but that's my analysis right now of the Sanjaya situation.

Melinda Doolittle ("Sway")--Wow, what a surprise. Melinda picked an old song, as I've been complaining about for weeks. But this week, Simon zinged her for it. Simon called it "cabaret," and he was correct--because this sounds exactly like a song you'd hear in a cabaret. I thought this was fine, but nothing special. It didn't really give Melinda a chance to show off her voice until the very end. I did like Melinda's comeback to Simon, though--that he finally got the chance to say something bad. More personality from Melinda is a good thing for her.

LaKisha Jones ("Conga")--I've disliked this song since it was released more than 20 yers ago, although my dislike has gone from white-hot hatred as a teenager to more of an "Eh" nowadays (And no, I have no idea why I dislike this song so much--I always did.) Having said that, LaKisha's performance was like Melinda's--fine, but nothing special. Simon is right--it's not a "singer's song" and doesn't give a singer a chance to show much off. I was glad to see that J.Lo was giving LaKisha tips on moving and dancing--because she can't give her much advice on singing. LaKisha is one of at least three singers on the show who can sing rings around J.Lo.

Chris Richardson ("Smooth")--Another song I've never really liked, probably because this song was so overplayed a few years ago when it was released that it was impossible to listen to the radio for more than 10 minutes and not hear it. I haven't been a big fan of Chris, but tonight, like last week, he was once again pretty good. His voice still isn't strong enough for him to be a serious contender, but he's doing a good job with what he has. As for Simon's comment that this felt more contemporary than the first two performances: Of course, Simon. This song was released in, what, 1999 or 2000? Conga is from the mid-80s and Melinda's song is probably from a couple decades before that--although I'm not even really sure.

Haley Scarnato ("Turn the Beat Around")--This song has been done on both Latin Night and Disco Night, multiple times I believe. Sadly for Haley, it's been done better by everyone else that sung it. Remember Carmen Rasmussen, the Sanjaya of season two? I recall her version of this being surprisingly good. Haley's wasn't. That real fast, speaking part of the song? I could barely hear her or understand what she was saying. But her legs did look fabulous.

Phil Stacey ("Maria, Maria")--Not much to say--it was OK, but kind of boring. Seemed to get stronger as he went along, as he always does, until that voice crack at the end.

Jordin Sparks ("Rhythm is Gonna Get You")--Jordin gets the question this week, and says that "80s music" would be a good theme. Make her a producer! That would certainly be better than Latin Night. Anyway, Jordin looked great tonight, and I thought she put on a solid, if not spectacular performance. Once again, it wasn't a song that really allows someone to show off their voice (seems to be a common theme among all the songs tonight--maybe why Latin Night is a bad idea), but she tried to do so anyway in parts and came across as young and fun. Oh, and if Randy marvels one more time at how Jordin is only 17--has he said that every week this year--I'm going to throw something at my TV.

Blake Lewis ("Need to Know")--Blake takes the risk of choosing a song by J.Lo's husband and does a good enough job that she doesn't say anything disparaging about him in the video clip. Always a good sign. And I thought Blake was good, although maybe not quite as good as the judges. For instance, Simon said this was the best performance of the night, while complaining earlier that Phil's performance had no originality. What exactly was the originality here? He sang it pretty much like the record--sang it well, but still sang it like the record. And I'm sure Simon wasn't talking about Blake's dancing, because he really needs a second dance movie. Can he do something else besides that put one leg over the other and twirl thing?

Sanjaya Malakar ("Besame Mucho")--It now seems like the show is playing along with the Sanjaya phenomenon, possibly as a "if you can't beat them, join them" ploy or possibly as a reverse psychology thing (thinking that if we just treat him as a regular contestant who isn't that bad, the novelty of his badness will wear off and people will stop voting for him.) And Sanjaya once again was arguably the most interesting contestant tonight--singing the majority of his song in Spanish, changing his look once again with the new hairstyle and the somewhat scary facial hair. And you know, after carefully listening to his performance, I kind of agree with Simon--it wasn't that bad. He was on key the whole time, and mumbled parts of the middle of the song, but it was better than Haley tonight. If, as I have said in previous weeks, Sanjaya just let loose and "sung his face off," as Randy has said in the past, he might have a good performance in him. Oh what am I saying....

Bottom three should include Haley, Phil and and someone else. I think we'll have our first real surprise and LaKisha will end up in the bottom three, but quickly be sent back to the couch. And I think this might be Haley's week to go. Fingerhut out!


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Gina goes, but did Buble forget the words?

Watching Gina Glocksen's farewell video tonight on American Idol, I was struck that Gina making it to the top nine was a fairly good illustration of how lackluster this year's crop of Idols is compared to last year. They showed a clip of Gina saying that this was the third time she had tried out for Idol, and the second time she had made it to the Hollywood round. That means that she wasn't remarkable enough to impress anyone the first time she tried out, and still wasn't all that great the next year. (Yeah, I know, she forgot her words on the last day last year, but that doesn't seem to stop the judges when they really like someone.) And yet she made it pretty far this year.

To be fair, she certainly wasn't the worst last night, and probably should have stayed around a couple more weeks, but she wasn't going to win--so it's not that upsetting to have her go. (As Simon said last night, there are three women who are much better singers than she is.) The most interesting things about tonight's show were that Michael Buble appeared to forget the words to his song at one point, and Haley Scarnato had on one of the shortest skirts I have ever seen. I think she thought she was going tonight, and if she had, she was certainly prepared to go out looking great.

And finally, in response to a commenter on my last post who is complaining that my libido is affecting my analysis--while I have praised Haley, and Antonella before her, effusively for their looks and outfits, I don't think I've ever praised them much more than a "that wasn't bad" for their actual singing. But maybe I'm mistaken.


A classic Idol?

Earlier tonight at the Passover seder, I said tonight's American Idol would probably be pretty boring--not because of Tony Bennett or the fact they were singing standards or "American classics," but because it wouldn't really tell us much about the female frontrunners because it really wouldn't make them stretch much. They'd all do fine, and we wouldn't know much more about the ability of Melinda and LaKisha to sing different styles of music than we did last week. And I think I was correct about that. But the show wasn't bad tonight, because just about everybody gave at least a solid performance. I suppose that if you're able to sing a classic song, that's always a benefit because you're actually singing a song good enough to stand the test of time.

And for our weekly news about Sanjaya update: If you didn't hear yet, the young woman who was on that hunger strike has ended it, apparently at the suggestion of her doctor. But I believe she said a friend of hers is still keeping his going. Hey, whatever you think of Sanjaya, he has made what could have been a very boring Idol season a little more interesting.

Blake Lewis ("Mack the Knife")--I like how Tony Bennett told Blake that this song was "pre-rap." Personally, I was scared Blake would transform this into a moody, 80s style dirge like he's done with his last two or three songs. But he didn't do that, and he was pretty good. He actually sang an entire song tonight--instead of the talking and singing he'd been doing recently--and he was pretty good. I did get a little queasy and clautrophobic from that below-the-stage close up camera angle we got for the majority of the song. But that's not Blake's fault--at least I hope.

Loved the sign that little girl was holding that said "Simon is always right." It's good to see that they're learning young.

Phil Stacey ("Night and Day")--Tony Bennett said that Phil was one of the "better singers I've heard," and didn't mean just among the Idol singers. He must have sounded much better in rehearsal, because I wasn't particularly impressed here. He did sound pretty good by the end of the song, but he reverted to past form and once again started the song pretty badly--and the performance was generally kind of boring. Paula, of course, compared him to a young Frank Sinatra. I usually wouldn't dignify this kind of ridiculous comment with a response, but... I kind of know what she means. There were about five seconds in the middle of the song where he did kind of sound like Sinatra. Unfortunately, there were about 85 other seconds of the song during which he sounded nothing like Sinatra.

Melinda Doolittle ("I Got Rhythm")--I figured out what was bothering me about Melinda. I don't know what her actual age is, but she is without a doubt the oldest Idol contestant ever. Her song selections, her style--everything about her comes across as if she's a 40 year old. And isn't Idol about finding fresh, young talent? Anyway, Melinda's voice was great again, but this is the same kind of thing she's been doing for weeks. I want to see something new. Next week is Jennifer Lopez week, so I presume they'll do Latino music (It'll be a long week). I'm sure Melinda will find a way to do a show tune in Spanish, though, so we'll probably have to wait a while to see her try a different genre. As for Simon saying that he doesn't know if he'll ever be able to criticize her, don't disappoint us like that, Mr. Cowell.

Chris Richardson ("Don't Get Around Much Anymore")--This was surprisingly good, and Randy was correct--he sang it well and did bring a modern style to it. But if you're singing standards, can't you wear something a little nicer than torn jeans?

Jordin Sparks ("On A Clear Day")--She looked good, sounded even better, and I was much happier with Jordin this week than with that mess she gave us last week. Even better than Jordin's performance, perhaps, was seeing Simon try to hold in the laughter as Paula raved about her being "a magnet of joy." Fabulous entertainment. And actually, after praising the sign in the audience about Simon always being right, I don't think he was correct in criticizing Jordin for not making her song modern like Chris Richardson's was. Simon, did Melinda make her song modern? I don't think so.

Gina Glocksen ("Smile")--This song always reminds me of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, because it's the theme song for that event. And the version the band plays during that telethon has a quicker tempo and is peppier than the version of this song Gina sung tonight. Does anyone know--is Gina's tempo the correct tempo, or are there parts of this song that are faster. Anyway, she did OK, but nothing special or memorable. And Paula, we go through this every year--LET SIMON TALK! And Paula, you're wrong--the show is not about singers competing against themselves for personal bests, they're competing against each other to win a record contract.

Sanjaya Malakar ("Cheek to Cheek")--It seems the show is now trying to be in on the joke with Sanjaya now, what with the way Ryan was almost winking at the camera while introducing him. And you know what? This wasn't that bad. Sanjaya at times actually tried to sing the song and didn't embarass himself. It was far better than that version of "Steppin Out" he did a few weeks ago, which will go down as one of the worst performances in Idol history. In fact, if Sanjaya hadn't wandered around the audience and started dancing with Paula, it could have been even better, because his vocals faltered significantly at that point. In fact, he turns in a couple more half-decent performances and his chances of getting voted off probably increase, so it's all good.

Haley Scarnato ("Ain't Misbehavin")--So Haley was one of the singers who got the question from the Internet tonight. I can't believe anyone would ask Haley something as boring as when she's more nervous, before the song or before hearing the judges' comments. I would think most people, if they got the chance to question Haley, would want to know: Were you born with those legs looking so good, or do you do a special kind of workout to keep them in such good shape? Once again, she looked fabulous, much more fabulous than her singing. To be fair, though, her singing was OK, just nothing great. But why didn't Randy and Paula do much judging here? She wasn't that bad.

LaKisha Jones ("Stormy Weather")--She did fine--the judges said LaKisha was back but I'm not sure she really went anywhere. I was kind of struck by how loud the band was--LaKisha is a loud singer and yet sometimes she almost got drowned out by the horns. The most interesting thing about this performance, though, is that she put that "Ain't no sunshine" coda at the end of the song, after Tony Bennett told her to leave it off. This follows her disregarding Lulu's suggestion for song choice and, I believe, Diana Ross's suggestion on whether she should use a mike stand. What's the deal? Why doesn't LaKisha take the coaches' advice? Does this tell us something about her personality?

So who's in the bottom three? I think Phil will certainly be there, and Haley will probably be back again too. Sanjaya is probably safe another week, so I'd have to guess that Gina may be the third. And Phil should go home this week. Fingerhut out!