Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It's finally over

I blogged throughout the show tonight, so that I could watch Lost right afterwards, so most of this blog is just random thoughts on the performances.

But first, to sum up, I guess Jordin's win is pretty much no surprise and the correct choice. Overall, tonight's finale wasn't bad, although it paled in comparison to last year's. It did seem the producers were very aware, though, that this year's crop of contestants weren't a group people wanted to necessarily see a lot of in the finale--there was more time spent on the former Idols than there was on Jordin and Blake, I believe. But I think that actually made for a better show. I was a little surprised, though, they couldn't get a really big star, like with Prince last year.

First of all, one correction from last night--I said that the winner of the song contest was picked by the producers, but that was incorrect. It was actually picked via an Internet vote of the top 20--which I presume were picked by the producers. At any rate, I can't imagine there were that many people that went on the Idol site and listened to all 20 (even I can't imagine doing that), so I presume the fact that one of the writers of the winning song is the pastor at a church helped considerably. Having a congregation able to vote for you couldn't have hurt.

"I Saw Her/Him Standing There"--not much of a reaction at all.

Why exactly are we having Gwen Stefani performing from wherever she's giving a concert? Is this the American Music Awards? (And considering her tour has Akon as an opening act, 8:05 p.m. is pretty early for the feature act at a concert to already be performing. Was that even live?) I presume this was some kind of makeup for her not getting to promote her new single on the "Idol Gives Back" tour--she apparently taped an appearance but they ran out of time (imagine that!) and didn't show it--but it was still unnecessary. And that single was kind of underwhelming.

It's always great to see Kelly Clarkson again on Idol, and I like that new song (that song and the Maroon 5 song appear to be some of the early contenders for this year's "summer song"). Kind of surprised she was on the show so early--as popular as she is, I would think they'd hold her for near the end. But I suppose she was the first Idol, so maybe she went first? (And she needs the least help as far as promotion from this show anyway.)

The Idol Awards--I thought the freakshow ended in February. Do we really need to revisit this and encourage even more freaks for next year?

Then the six male Idols came out and all I could think of was "Didn't we get rid of these people?" But if the price we had to pay for seeing Smokey Robinson was sitting through the return of Sanjaya and Brandon Rogers, I guess it wasn't that bad. How old is Smokey?--because he still sounds pretty good.

Gladys Knight sounded pretty good, too, even if some of those female Idols with her didn't.

As for the Blake-Doug E. Fresh beat-box-off, I'm not really sure what to say. But it was certainly something we've never seen on Idol.

David Hasselhoff showed up--and he doesn't appear to be either crying or drunk.

Now Tony Bennett really knows the Idol credo--he makes a song his own, even if Stevie Wonder did it first.

So is Gina Glocksen a little annoyed that she sings "I'll Stand By You" and then a few weeks later, Carrie Underwood somehow ends up recording the same song and putting it out as a single? Carrie's version--with its slight countrification--is of course better than Gina was, but it does seem like she gave them the idea.

I said earlier I didn't want to acknowledge the Golden Idol Awards, but I did like that the Bush Baby guy admitted that his appearance on Idol was the best thing that ever happened to him. (Take that, Rosie O'Donnell!) And the Bush Baby picture was pretty funny.

That Clive Davis appearance was just bizarre. First of all, it felt like we were at an awards show and the president of the academy came out to bore us for a few minutes to tell us how great the movie or music industry or whatever is. And then, while he probably wasn't intending to, the way he venerated producers, songwriters, arrangers, etc. came across as demeaning the accomplishments of the actual singers from Idol (or was it some kind of dig at Kelly Clarkson, who apparently wrote most of the songs on her own for the new album, a new album that Clive Davis allegedly hated?) But then Carrie Underwood came out and thanked "the fans," and as I've written before, I always am glad to hear someone do that--especially an Idol winner, who wouldn't even exist without regular people like us.

Enjoyed the African Children's Choir--and can't wait to see that lead singer on Idol in 2016.

Does Simon Fuller have naked pictures of Joe Perry from Aerosmith? I guess if we had to see Sanjaya sing again, he picked the right song, and the guitar solo was good. But Sanjaya's pose at the end of that song--the arms outstreched, etc.--signals that he's gotten way too big for his britches. And did that girl ever stop crying, or has it been constant since March?

Green Day on American Idol? Who'd have ever thought a punk band would do that? But they were promoting a benefit album for Darfur, so I suppose it's not as surprising as it could have been. But they weren't actually there and performing live, were they? How did they get set up on the stage so quickly after the Sanjaya-Joe Perry performance?

That Taylor Hicks song wasn't bad, and he put on a pretty good performance. Has anyone heard his album?

Ruben is alive! And he sounds pretty good (although his "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" performance wasn't so hot.) He doesn't seem to have lost much weight over the years, but the duet with Jordin was pretty enjoyable.

Bette Midler? To sing "Wind Beneath Your Wings"? That just seemed kind of random and out of nowhere.

I guess a Idol tribute to Sgt. Pepper was just as random, although this is the 40th anniversary of its release this summer (and as someone wrote today, Randy did his tribute to the album with his jacket last night.) And it did get all the past Idols (save Fantasia, who's starring in "The Color Purple" on Broadway) on stage together, which was cool, although they really didn't sing together. It's sort of like a supergroup, except not quite.

And so this is no longer American Idol's now--we've finally come to the end of this long, frustrating season. Hopefully, they'll do a much better job picking the top 24 next year, and fix some of the problems with the show I've cited over the last few months. But these producers are pretty arrogant, even though they really don't know what they're doing (Another piece of evidence: Do you remember on the first year of Idol, they actually put the judges up in the balcony for the Tuesday night of the finals and didn't have them judge the finals? Yeah, that made a lot of sense.)

Anyway, for those who only read this blog for American Idol recaps, I'll see you in January, but I encourage you to return regularly to see my random thoughts on other television shows, sports, the media and my strange obsessions on various topics. Fingerhut out!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

This Is My Now

As much as I've complained about how last year's American Idol was so much better than this year's, I will say unequivocally that this year's finale was significantly better than last year's. Not necessarily because of the participants or the singing, but because there was only one repeat song instead of last year's inexcusable two out of three. And the singing tonight was pretty good too--not as good as the judges said it was, but still not bad. Did anyone really go all out and leave everything on the stage? Not really (Jordin crying at the end of her final song doesn't really count because she's done that at least two or three times this year), but you can't have everything....

So Randy is dressed like a doorman and Paula's reportedly broken nose isn't nearly as bad as reported--or she had the doctors take off the bandage for an hour. Paula, though, must have been drugged up, because as the night went on she increasingly became more odd in her behavior, culminating in her complete lack of restraint in shouting out "Chris!" when Chris Daughtry walked on stage to set up at the end of the show, even though that was probably supposed to be a surprise to the audience and Ryan was, at the time,talking to Randy about the competition tonight.

So we see a video of Blake and Jordin auditioning in Seattle, but one important piece of information is left out. On the Tonight Show last week, when all of the three remaining contestants appeared, Jordin said that she had first tried out for the show in Los Angeles but hadn't even gotten sent through to see Simon, Randy and Paula. This is actually one of the most incredible revelations about this show I've ever heard, and has received virtually no publicity. Basically, that's saying that the producers who see the intial contestants are apparently clueless enought that some of them eliminated the person that is favored to be named the next American Idol--and at the very least will finish number two. No wonder there were so many bad singers in the final 24 this year--maybe the good singers never advanced to actually see the three judges. I hope someone follows up on this--it really does raise some questions about how this show works.

So Blake does the chivalrous thing and lets the lady choose who goes first--and Jordin picks wisely and chooses last.

Blake Lewis ("You Give Love a Bad Name")--As I said last week, I'm not as interested when the contestants sing repeat songs. And considering the most interesting part of Blake's performance of this a few weeks ago was how risky and different it was, performing it for a second time means the best part of it is gone. Having said that, I wasn't totally on board with this the first time (not crazy about the beat-boxing, did like the rocking), but knowing what to expect, the beat-boxing didn't bother me as much but I didn't think he rocked out as well as he did the first time in the singing portion of the performance. Overall, still interesting, though.

Jordin Sparks ("Fighter")--I didn't know what this song was when Ryan announced it, and then realized quickly I had heard it before (wasn't this on a commercial? Which one was it?) But I'm still puzzled as to why of all the songs, Jordin would pick this one. Sure, it's certainly younger, as Simon requested, but it mostly consists of talking and shouting, and has virtually no melody. Don't you want to show off your singing voice in the finals of American Idol? Jordin got to hold some notes at the end and her voice sounded fine, but I wasn't didn't think this was all that special.

Blake Lewis ("She Will Be Loved")--Blake picks a Maroon 5 song for the second week in a row. And why not? I would want to do my best to be Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine if I was Blake, considering what I read in the review of the new Maroon 5 CD in the Washington Post this morning. Adam Levine has allegedly been linked romantically to Jessica Biel, Jessica Simpson, Kirsten Dunst, Lindsay Lohan and Maria Sharapova (and, while not mentioned in the article, I think Natalie Portman was also in there too.) I read that list and wept into my cereal this morning. I don't think I've ever seen anything that impressive. Adam Levine makes the Counting Crows' Adam Duritz, who scored that historic Jennifer Aniston-Courtney Cox double in the mid-1990s, look like an amateur. Wilmer Valderrama looks at Adam Levine and says, "Wow, that's remarkable." But getting back to American Idol (and despite my best efforts, I can't get that that new Maroon 5 song that they sang on the show last week out of my head), Simon was correct that it was a safe choice, but I thought Blake did a good job. He didn't beat-box, but just sang it, and while he doesn't have the strongest voice in the world, it sounds good when he uses it.

Jordin Sparks ("Broken Wing")--I'm so glad Randy was able to get in after this song that Jordin is "only 17!" Anyway, I thought Jordin started off very shaky on this song and was being drowned out by the band at times in the early part of the show. Sure, she "worked it out" on the second half, but I thought, like Blake earlier, her performance of her repeat song was better the first time we heard it.

"This Is My Now"--So AI announced a songwriting contest and everyone seemed to think we'd get a better "coronation song" this year. Why did we all think that? It's likely that the same people who were picking the coronation song in previous years were judging this year's songwriting competition. So we got the same kind of overdone pop ballad that we usually get. In fact, after hearing this one twice, it might have been worse than "Do I Make You Proud?" or "Inside My Heaven." Both those songs at least had stronger hooks. And "This Is My Now"? Yeah, I know what the title and lyric is supposed to mean, but it still sounds terrible. Couldn't the winning song at least have proper word usuage, for the sake of the children?

Anyway, the judges were correct that this isn't Blake's kind of song, but he did a decent job with it--he danced a little to provide some pizazz and I enjoyed it. Was Jordin better? Yes, and this is more her type of song? I didn't think she was stellar--she seemed to be a little shaky again when the song started (what is she, Phil Stacey?), but did turn it on at the end. And what was with that look Melinda had on her face during Jordin's song? She had her mouth hanging open and a sour expression like she was stunned about Jordin singing or something. Very strange.

So who's the winner? I think Blake overall probably had a better night tonight, but should we judge just on tonight or on the entire year? I guess you can judge on either, but I think Jordin probably should win based on a more consistent performance overall. More importantly, her win would probably help both of them. Does Blake want "This Is My Now" to be his first single when it sounds nothing like the record he would probably put out? Probably not, and I would imagine that many of his fans, due to his unique style, are still going to be interested in his record even if he finishes second. On the other hand, this is more of the kind of song I would think Jordin would record (actually, after watching her all season, I'm not really sure what kind of record she'd put out, which may make her intriguing or may be worrying), and I think her having the "American Idol" title might fit her a little better and help her sell records (I'm not sure why, but I think as a second place finisher in a lackluster year, people might simply forget about her by next year when her album comes out. But the real reason I think Jordin should win is that Ryan said tonight that Blake had never seen an American Idol finale (and I've read that he'd never seen the show before he tried out.) This guy is a singer/musician and he's never seen American Idol? Is he kidding? Does he live in a hole? I just find this hard to believe.

Who will win? It really could be either of them, but I'll pick Jordin.

Fingerhut out!


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Peter Angelos is still evil

First Peter Angelos tried his best to keep a baseball team out of Washington. Then he was given the television rights to the Nationals and, along with Comcast, managed to keep most of the Nationals games off television for the first two seasons of the team's existence. But with the TV dispute worked out and all the games on television this season , I was ready to not use any more energy hating Angelos anymore and just laugh at how he's run the Orioles into the ground. Then, this weekend's Nats-Orioles series happened, and I'm furious.

I sat down to watch the game Saturday night and noticed something odd on the Nationals telecast. Up in the score box in the corner of the screen, the Nationals were identified with, as is customary, the abbreviation "WSH." No problem there. But the Orioles were, strangely, not identified with "BAL" or "BLT." No, they were identified by "O's." Even more amazing, when the line score was put up at the end of each half-inning, the teams were identified as "Orioles" and "Washington."

Yes, this was the Nationals television broadcast and the graphics on the screen were essentially treating the Nationals as the opposing team--and the Orioles as the "home" team. Has this ever happened before, that the graphics on a team's own television broadcasts treat another team as the home team? I guess this is what happens when your team's own television broadcasts are owned by the owner of another team--ridiculous just on principle but even more ridiculous when stuff like this happens. Can't Bud Selig step in on this? (That's a rhetorical question--if he didn't do anything on steroids, I'm sure he can't be bothered about this.)

Last year, this also happened, and I believe I read someone at MASN saying that the orders for this graphical set-up came directly from Angelos. Whether my memory is correct or not, that really is the only explanation for this--the rest of the Nats broadcast (announcers, etc.) is geared around the Nats. They don't talk about the Orioles as a home team on the pregame show or during the game--it's only identified that way on the graphics. They don't identify the Florida Marlins as the "Marlins" on the line score, they identify them as "Florida." This is just another case of Peter Angelos still trying to keep his monopoly on baseball in the Washington area by pronouncing the Orioles the home team in both markets--and it's just another sign of his malignancy. Yes, I know this whole graphics thing isn't that important--much more crucial is that the Nats are getting less money for their TV rights than they could on the open market because he owns them. But it still rankles. I guess I should look on the bright side, though--at least he doesn't own the Nationals. That's something Orioles fans still have to deal with, for what looks like plenty of years to come.

(Oh, there is one explanation that I haven't considered. The Orioles famously dropped "Baltimore" from their uniforms a few years back in order to appeal to the Washington area and make them more of a regional team. Did they entirely drop Baltimore from their name? Are they now like the Cosmos from the old North American Soccer League? Probably not, but it would be the only somewhat defensible explanation for this outrage.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Ruining George Michael's legacy?

Channel 4 is running a promotional spot currently which has sportscaster Dan Hellie talking about how he grew up in the D.C. area, and when he heard D.C. got a baseball team he knew he had to come back and do the sportscasts in his home town. So then why were the Nationals the third story on Thursday night's WRC-Channel 4 sportscast?

Sure, a week ago, the Nationals were universally seen as one of the worst teams ever put together--not really an accurate characterization when you look at the team, but when you've lost eight in a row and are hitting below .200 with runners in scoring position for the season, an understandable one. Since then, the Nats have won six of seven, and this week won three of four from the first place Braves. One would think that would be a pretty big story--it's not like the Nats are threatening to contend, but it's still exciting. And considering no other local professional team had a game today, one might think it would be the top story on the local news. But no, Dan Hellie began his sportscast with the Pistons clinching their NBA series over the Bulls. Yes, an important sports story, but isn't this the local news? I've read that many local news departments don't think there's much of a need for sports on the news anymore, since sports fans can and do watch ESPN. And it's clear that Channel 4 is moving in that direction, considering that the amount of time alloted for sports since George Michael retired from the daily sportscast a few months ago does seem to have decreased on the 11:00 news, although I haven't actually measured it. But if you're only going to have time for a few minutes of sports, wouldn't you want to spend the most time on the local teams? I'm not saying that the Pistons-Bulls game shouldn't be mentioned or highlights shouldn't be shown, but there's no reason a second round NBA series deserves higher play than the Nationals game. (I'll forgive tne NBA finals getting top billing over a pedestrian Nationals game, but even then, I would still say a Nats streak of six out of seven wins should supersede the NBA finals on the LOCAL news.)

Even worse, although it was a local story, was the second story on Thursday night's sportscast. It was about Clinton Portis having tendinitis in his knee. After all, the Redskins season is starting in about three and a half months. What might happen if Clinton Portis might have to miss minicamp? You know, there's only 10 weeks until training camp... Can he recover in time? Yes, Washington is first and foremost a Redskins town. And yes, I love Joe Gibbs and have been a Redskins fan all my life. But really, the way the local media treats the Redskins--that every new backup punter is worthy of minute examination--is just ridiculous. I actually find the Redskins more interesting now as a mostly sad and depressing soap opera (kind of like Party of Five without the hot girls). I mean, really, Clinton Portis with what is probably a minor, curable injury more than three months before the regular season starts, and that's more relevant that a Nats game. It just makes us seem like a bush-league town, than every other professional sports team is a step down from the Redskins. And I don't think most people in this area think that way.

This isn't the first time Dan or Lindsay Czarniak have done this. Czarniak led off the sportscast one night last week with the opening of OTA's at Redskins Park--I think that means "organized team activities" but I'm not sure and I really don't care. This is news, that the Redskins started the practice before actual practice begins in July? We're talking about practice? She also led off with the Spurs-Suns game one in their series a week ago Sunday, instead of the Nats blowing a game in Wrigley Field. And this isn't the first time Dan Hellie has led with NBA playoffs over Nats either. I don't understand the choice, and I don't think the sportscasters at the other stations have done it. And although George Michael last summer, unforgettably, led a sportscast one night with the news that David Patten had been injured in training camp over a Nats game (a guy who everyone knew wasn't even going to play last season, but at least it was during training camp), he's probably annoyed. George--who was, after Glenn Brenner died, without a doubt the most important sportcaster in the Washington area for the last 15 years--gets a lot of ripping on a Nats message board I read for hating the Nationals. And yet he did something that very few people noticed for the year or two before Washington got the team. He stopped showing Orioles highlights on his sportscasts like they were the home team. (He might occasionally show their highlights if there was some newsworthy reason to, but otherwise never.) It doesn't seem like anyone noticed, but I did, and I liked it a lot. Did it help bring the Nats here? I doubt it. Was it a good thing sybolically for George to do? You bet. All the other sportcasts in town at the time continued to treat the Orioles as the adopted home team during those years, and even with the Nats here, still show their highlights right after the Nats highlights (sort of the way the Washington Post treats the two teams--with the Nats getting top billing but Baltimore still getting second billing.) George never did that, either, but Dan and Lindsay have started to do that as well. Come on, Channel 4 sportscasters, didn't George Michael teach you anything?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Can't we give this year's Idol title to Elliot Yamin?

I know I wrote last night that I'd rather buy Blake's album and Jordin seems to have more of the total Idol package and is more exciting, but watching the two of them at the end of the show tonight together as the final two, it just felt wrong. I may not have been the biggest Melinda fan, but she was still the best singer consistently throughout the competition. While she may have tried as much as possible to do the same type of songs--ones which often didn't have much of an appeal to people under 40--when she was forced to branch out and sing rock or some other genre, she was good at it. Perhaps doing more of that would have kept her around to the final two. Perhaps doing a new song in the third spot last night instead of repeating one she'd done earlier would have helped. Who knows? Even Simon's begging for Melinda didn't work. In the end, I can't say that I'm surprised, but I am disappointed.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see Simon's final comments about Melinda, or her final sing-out, because my DVR stopped recording at 10 p.m. On Tuesday night shows, I add a few minutes to my DVR recording because they almost always run over a couple minutes. But a 60 minute results show during which all they need to do is announce a name? They can't get that in within 60 minutes. They need an extra couple minutes for that? This is completely insane. How about cutting the inane "Randy said you were..." crap and getting off the air in an hour, guys?

On the plus side, at least tonight's show wasn't as full of filler as it has been in previous weeks. The trips home weren't as exciting as last year, but they're somewhat entertaining. Maroon 5 was OK, and I'm thinking Paula's really active dancing during the song indicated that she really wanted a date with lead singer Adam Levine. And Elliott Yamin was really good, even thought with the curly hair and the new teeth he's barely recognizable. I'm thinking I might have to pick up that CD. And Elliot's appearance brought me back to the time when people felt really passionately about American Idol singers--last year. They keep plugging that Idols tour--are people really going to buy tickets to that this summer?

So we're left with Jordin and Blake in the finals. It will at least match two singers with completely different styles, so it could be interesting. If Jordin sings "I Who Have Nothing" again, though, I might march on the American Idol studio with torches.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wow, what a mess

There was so much wrong with tonight's show, and I'm not even referring to the singing yet. Bad song choices, repeat songs, and forget about Simon's accusation about Ryan--were the judges drunk tonight? They seemed to like just about every performance in what was a pretty average night. But as I said last week, why should the last few weeks of this season be any different that the weeks that came before?

Before I get to the show, one housekeeping note. I got at least one comment wondering why I hadn't commented on Barry Gibb's see-through shirt. I must say that I was so disturbed and distracted by his horrible singing--as well as the 45 minutes I had wasted watching a content-less show--that I was restless and barely could pay attention. But I watched the clip on YouTube and that shirt was disturbingly thin.

So tonight we had the traditional "one choice from the judges, one from legendary record executive Clive Davis and one from the singers" night, except that Clive Davis was missing. Perhaps he was upset over last year's fiasco, when he picked "I Believe I Can Fly" for Katharine McPhee and Randy said it was the wrong choice for her. Randy was probably correct, and Katharine was certainly correct when she retorted "I didn't pick it," although Randy didn't appear to understand that. The whole thing might have made Clive uncomfortable, though.

Jordin Sparks ("Wishing on a Star")-- So we began tonight with the judges choices, and Simon, a reliably good picker of songs (the McPhee-"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" shidduch he made last year worked out pretty well for her) picks a song that I've never heard before, Jordin has never heard before and I would presume much of America has never heard before. (Even more strangely, when Jordin was informed of the song choice, she applauded and smiled, and yet she said later she had no idea what it was. Maybe she was drunk too.) I'll believe Simon when he says that the arrangement was too jazzy, because the song didn't seem like it really gave Jordin the opportunity to shine that it should've. Jordin did a good job, and it was well sung, but nothing particularly special.

Blake Lewis ("Roxanne")--When it was announced this was Paula's choice, I intially thought that it was a bad idea, because singing iconic, classic rock songs on American Idol usually ends up paling in comparison to the original. But I must say I enjoyed this performance--Blake gave an energetic performance on stage, and he changed the vocal just enough that I disagree with Simon and feel his cover of this song didn't sound just like an impersonation of the original. It was very good.

Melinda Doolittle ("I Believe in You and Me")--As pointed out by Ryan, Randy repeatedly talks about how hard it is to sing songs by famous singers like Whitney Houston, and criticizes singers (as does Simon) for failing to measure up to the original. So, of course, Randy picks Melinda to sing a Whitney Houston song. But to be fair, this isn't one of Whitney's famous songs (I think I've heard it a few times, but I'm not even sure) and therefore, most people have nothing to compare it too. And I'll give Randy a break, because at least he's trying to make Melinda stretch a little and do something difficult, at least as Randy would define it. But the reason this is one of Whitney's lesser-known songs is because it is kind of boring. Melinda did a fine job with it, in her make-it-look-easy, don't miss a note style, but it just didn't excite me like I hoped it would.

Jordin Sparks ("She Works Hard for the Money")--I have said a number of times on this blog that I'm convinced the producers of American Idol lucked into a hit show, because they so often do such a poor job of producing the show and, in the process, angering viewers and fans that I can't believe they knew what they were doing when the show was initially created. And the "producers' choice" tonight does nothing to dispel my impression. Why would you pick a song at this stage of the competition that is so repetitive lyrically? And Jordin didn't do a particularly good job on it, either--the choruses were fine, but I thought the verses were fairly lackluster and devoid of much passion or excitement.

Blake Lewis ("This Love")--This song was, as former Washington Nationals broadcaster would say, right in Blake's wheelhouse. I guess the producers had no interest in actually making Blake stretch his voice, try on a new style, etc., because this sounded pretty much like most of Blake's song choices over the last few months. That's kind of boring, but not Blake's fault. And he did a pretty solid job on it. I'd still like to see him actually really have to stretch his voice and sing, but I guess that won't happen--although if he makes it to next week, one of those awful coronation songs might force him to do it.

Melinda Doolittle ("Nutbush City Limits")--I suppose the producers heard Randy compare Melinda to a "young Tina Turner," and used their tremendous creativity and decided to have her sing ... a Tina Turner song! More specifically, a Tina Turner song that only hard-core Tina Turner songs have heard. Once again, it's a song right in the singer's wheelhouse (sassy, allows her to make faces and wave finger,some talk-singing included) and she does a solid job, but once again the fact that the song doesn't really go anywhere impedes Melinda from really doing anything to surprise us.

Jordin Sparks ("I Who Have Nothing")--I may be annoyed by the producers, but the singers choice portion of the show just made me angry. One of the only disappointments of last year's Idol was having two of the three songs that the finalists sang on the last Tuesday of the competition be songs they had previously sung during the season. In past years, finalists had picked one song from earlier in the year, and I could accept that as sort of a greatest hit to go with two new songs. But having two-thirds of the show essentially be a rerun made me angry, and many other viewers I talked to weren't pleased either. I watch American Idol because there aren't reruns--it's new every week (although I do watch those reruns of the first season on the weekends--but I know going in they're reruns.) So tonight, what do we get in the second to the last show of the year? Incredibly, reruns! Yes, this was arguably Jordin's best performance of the season, and she did it very well again tonight. But I don't care--I've heard it before. I want to hear a new song.

By the way, the last time I can remember a singer repeating a song before the final was back in season one (although my memory could be faulty), when Justin Guarini sang that song "Get Here" every chance he got.

Blake Lewis ("When I Get You Alone")--Blake wins points from me just by doing a song he hasn't done before, unlike the two women. And while I've never heard this song before, after watching Robin Thicke stink up the stage a few weeks ago on Idol (he made me want to listen to his father Alan Thicke sing), Blake certainly must have improved on Thicke's original. Once again, a pretty entertaining performance, although nothing new or challenging about it. The biggest question comes from Blake's visit home: Did Sir Mix-a-lot just show up, does he live in Blake's hometown--basically, how'd he end up there?

Melinda Doolittle ("I'm A Woman")--Although she was able to add a little to the version she did in the semifinals by adding the female backup singers on the stage, this was still a rerun. Really good, but once again, I'm not interested.

Who's going home? I'm not sure. If you asked me who the best singer is, it would be Melinda. If you asked me who I liked the best when you combine all the factors (likeability, singing talent, personality, look) that go into making an American Idol, it would be Jordin. If you asked me whose album I would be most likely to buy, it would be Blake. None of this really means anything as far as the national vote goes--I just thought I'd throw it out there. Blake had a pretty good night tonight, but I still think he'll be eliminated--although I wouldn't be surprised if any of the three got the boot. Fingerhut out!


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wasting an hour of network television

I'm stunned--not by the totally unsurprising ouster of LaKisha on American Idol tonight, but by the unbelievable amount of filler on tonight's show. I mean, I like Jessica Alba too, but that Fantastic Four commercial during the show was just pathetic. The whole show was so lackluster I don't even feel like blogging about it. (As for Barry Gibb, I think he sounded better with his brothers.)

The only interesting thing tonight was near the end, when Ryan solicited entries in some kind of best undiscovered band contest? The networks announce their new fall schedules next week--is this a new version of Idol for the fall, just with bands instead of solo singers? I really hope not. The thing that has kept Idol so popular for the last few years is the 7-8 month break we get in between seasons, leaving us saturated with the show at the end of May and hungry again after the first of the year. Creating a "Band Idol" would completely ruin that. Please don't, Fox and AI. I guess we'll see next week. Fingerhut out.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

How do you mend a lackluster Idol?

Going into tonight's American Idol, I was thinking that we might have one of the strongest, most balanced final fours in the show's history. Sure, last year's final four of Hicks, McPhee, Yamin and Daughtry was better, but this year's group is certainly better overall than season three, which include Diana and Jasmine along with Fantasia and Latoya, and season four, which had Anthony Federov and Vonzell joining Carrie and Bo. Season one had Kelly, Tamyra and Justin, but also had Nikki dragging it down. Season two might have been superior--Josh Gracin wasn't that bad, and Clay, Ruben and Kim Locke were all good--but it was arguable. And then I watched tonight's show, and saw a heaping pile of mediocrity, and maybe I was wrong.

The theme was no excuse--the Bee Gees have written lots of good songs, that lots of different artists have sung, over the years, some up-tempo and others ballads. And still there was a lot of struggle. I guess a generally disappointing year for American Idol isn't going to end with a flourish. Oh, well....

Having said that, it probably still wasn't as bad as the judges made it out to be. No one was outright bad, but no one really stepped it up. And thankfully, nothing was quite as cheesy as that "How Deep Is Your Love?" video they showed when they introduced Barry Gibb.

Melinda Doolittle ("Love You Inside and Out")--There was an article in today's USA Today which went behind the scenes and followed the Idols most of the past week, from choosing their songs to picking out outfits. The article says that Melinda had originally chosen this song, but changed her mind because she felt the lyrics were too sexual and her pastor was going to be in the audience. Later, the story says that Nigel Lythgoe told her that the line "loves you inside out, backwards and forwards" was not a sexual reference and she went back to the song. Wow, if Melinda really thought that reference to backwards was referring to, well, you know--she's either got a much better imagination than I do or some serious issues. Anyway, Melinda stuck with the song, and of course, once again Melinda's voice didn't miss a note. But it was kind of boring, Simon made a good point in saying it was a background singer's version of the song--the background singers seemed to have a pretty large part in the song, for that matter--and it just wasn't the kind of performance that excited me.

Blake Lewis ("You Should Be Dancing")--Blake went into the competition saying he wasn't going to beatbox every week because it was a singing competition. And now he seems to be beatboxing every week, probably because Randy and Paula were always telling him he should be beatboxing (You should be beatboxing, yeah!) I reacted to this performance similarly to how I reacted to his performance last week--I liked some of it and didn't like some of it. Strangely, I actually liked the beatboxing in the instrumental portion of the song--it seemed to fit, as Barry Gibb said. But the beatboxing during the lyrical part of the song was annoying (the "yeah-uh-uh-uh" was horrible) and the singing in general wasn't all that great either. In the USA Today piece, Barry Gibb says he was surprised Blake didn't do "Jive Talkin." That's not a bad choice either, but this song should have been better. By the way, sfter reading a piece on the Entertainment Weekly website by a reporter at one of last week's show noting how the majority of people in the crowd seemed to be Blake backers (or Blaker Girls), I was starting to think he actually could win this thing. But I'm not sure that performance will bring in the votes. Then again, we don't know how the votes are going. Sure, Blake may have been in the bottom three a few weeks ago, but maybe he's been the top vote-getter in most weeks and he'll actually cruise to the title. Or maybe Melinda has got the thing wrapped up. I think that's the real reason American Idol doesn't show us the vote totals. If one contestant was consistently winning by 10-20 percent of the vote, no one would be interested the last few weeks because there would be no suspense.

LaKisha Jones ("Stayin' Alive")--Barry Gibb and his brothers have sold like 800 billion records. So when he tells you to sing a particular part of a song higher, and to follow the melody--and it's a song he and his brothers made into one of the best selling songs ever--I would think it might be a good idea to listen to him and take his advice. But I'm not LaKisha. What is wrong with her? She's done this before with Tony Bennett and others, and she continues to do it--even though her choice to shun the advice never turns out well. Tonight, I thought the first verse of the song was good, and then she got into that chorus, it never really went anywhere and the rest of the performance went downhill from there. I just don't get LaKisha, and then she went it did it again on the next performance....

Jordin Sparks ("To Love Somebody")--Jordin seems to be getting more attractive as the weeks go by. Unfortunately, her singing seems to have plateaued a little the last couple weeks. Actually, this was pretty good, and I liked how she tried to make it her own, but I was hoping to be blown away and wasn't. Another USA Today anecdote: the producers originally told Jordin she couldn't sing this song because Barry Gibb was going to sing it on the results show, but the next day they said it was OK. Some people on the Internet are already saying this proves Jordin is the producers' choice for a winner. Actually, I think that was exactly the right choice--why would you take one of the best songs by your guest judge and not let people sing it on the show? But the fact that Jordin has the last, or pimp, spot two out of the last three weeks on the show? That does seem a little suspicious and not really fair.

Melinda (How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?")--Simon was correct--the second half of Melinda's performance was excellent. But the first part was kind of boring. I don't have much more to say other than I can't believe is that concerned that one line in the song says "How can a loser ever win?" Wow, if I had heard that lyric come out of her mouth, I definitely would have spent two hours tonight voting for the other three singers.

Blake ("This Is Where I Came In")--The reason this never was a hit for the Bee Gees, as Barry Gibb had hoped, is because it wasn't a particularly good song. I wrote down "weird" in my notes during this performance and was glad to see Simon agree. From his outfit (did that sweater only have one sleeve? Was it actually all one big shirt that was supposed to look like a sweater with one sleeve? Is that hip now?) to the song choice to the singing/beatboxing, it just didn't add up to much more than a "Huh?" Bad night for Blake with a theme that one would think would be right in his wheelhouse.

LaKisha ("Run to Me")--Sure, she cracked on that last night, but much more problematic was once again disregarding Barry Gibb's advice. He was correct--if she did the soaring chorus the first time, it would have made the song more exciting, and I suppose she could have repeated that the second time with a slight variation. But no, she's LaKisha, so she did it her way, and it took until the second chorus for the song to really get going. It was better than her first performance, and not bad overall, but could have been better.

Jordin ("Women in Love")--I think we know who Barry Gibb's favorite is--he said Jordin is going to be "one of the greatest female recording artists" around. High praise for a 17-year-old...sorry, I morphed into Randy for a few seconds. This was fine, but once again nothing special or memorable. I didn't think it was as bad as the judges said it was, but I don't have all that much desire to hear it again.

Who's going home? I guess we'll get a bottom two tomorrow with only four left, and I suppose I'm not exactly going out on a limb by picking LaKisha and Blake to be there--although in previous years, the final four results show has brought us the surprise departures of Tamyra, Latoya and Chris Daughtry. I don't think that will happen this year, and I think it will be LaKisha going home.

And did you hear? Seacrest brought back his sign-off tonight! Seacrest out is in, and Fingerhut is out.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The people get it right tonight

Phil was very good Tuesday night on American Idol, but I think pretty much everyone would agree that he and Chris were certainly numbers 5 and 6 if you were ranking the American Idol singers on their overall performances throughout the competition. Which is why I was glad to see them go tonight and leave the final four of Jordin, Melinda, Blake and LaKisha--which considering all the inferior singing we've heard this winter and spring, is a pretty solid group that all conceivably have a chance to win if they really sing well over the next few weeks.

Other than that, wow, another big time waster tonight. Wow, I'm so glad we got to see "highlights" of "Idol Gives Back." It's been so long, a full week, since we saw that interminable Ben Stiller bit, and I couldn't wait to see it again and relive those memories. Having said that, it was nice to see that Ruben Stubbard is still alive and Idol was able to find him.

A couple other notes--Was Ryan's reference to Simon's "puppet" a reference to, um, "little Simon"? And I'm not sure why everyone was laughing so hard when Ryan said Simon's relationship with his girlfriend was "very serious," but if anyone knows, please enlighten me.

Robin Thicke? I don't get it. As for Bon Jovi, the song wasn't bad, but they had to sing a power ballad? Would it have killed them to have rocked a little bit? And was the trivia question tonight really about something that had happened ten minutes earlier (where the Idols went in the Ford commercial?) You mean the questions like "Who sang last on last year's Idol finale?" weren't easy enough?


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

American Idol is slippery when wet

I can't say I thought, when I first heard Bon Jovi in high school, that one day they would be some sort of semi-elder statesmen of rock, but I guess that's happened, now that Jon Bon Jovi has been a mentor on American Idol (along with that keyboard player, who I'd never heard of. Where was Richie Sambora?). And Bon Jovi songs are actually not a bad choice for an American Idol theme. Jon Bon Jovi's voice isn't particularly overwhelming, so the songs, purely from a vocal aspect, aren't that tough to sing--and they're modern. (And most importantly, they're not Latin or country.)As for Bon Jovi, he wasn't a bad mentor--his predictions on who would do well and who wouldn't, while delivered fairly gently, were pretty accurate.

Before we get to the songs, it was once again, in this post-Sanjaya era, a pretty quiet week for Idol. Other than people arguing over whether "Idol Gives Back" was a good idea, the only thing that was even talked about in any way was Simon's comment in an interview that he spends most of the performances messing with Paula--because it is hard to hear with the crowd--and really listens carefully during the dress rehearsal instead. I suppose this has some implication for the show, but I'm not sure I care.

Phil Stacey ("Blaze of Glory")--Despite Phil doing the hated walk through the audience--on a song that cries out for standing at the mike and wailing--Phil picked the perfect song for him and he was really good. I think that was certainly his best performance of the season. Simon said that "he didn't hear any authenticity," which I didn't really understand. Was he supposed to sing it country-style because that's what he's done the last two weeks? Anyway, if Phil gets eliminated, he can still say he went out in a blaze of glory.

Oh, by the way, it was nice to see Antonella again in the crowd at the beginning of the show. Wow, that whole thing seems so long ago....

Jordin Sparks ("Livin' on a Prayer")--This was not good at all. I'm not sure why Jordin picked this song--although to her credit it was a little more risky for her than the songs the other two women chose. But it was the wrong song. Simon said she was shrieking, but I didn't get that. I thought the big problem was that Jordin needed to sing the song with reckless abandon, and instead seemed to sing the verses very mechanically and with restraint.

LaKisha Jones ("This Ain't A Love Song")--So LaKisha has seen Bon Jovi on Oprah but never heard their music. Wow. I wonder what other bands she's never heard before. I'm thinking she's never heard R.E.M, might have heard Pearl Jam and probably heard U2--but I'm just guessing at some random 80s and 90s bands that came to mind and were all better than Bon Jovi. So she did start slow (why does someone as loud as LaKisha still sometimes get drowned out by the band at times), but finished with a flourish. I just wish I hadn't been watching the show by myself. When LaKisha finished her performance, I said to myself that I would bet anyone a million dollars that Randy woud say "LaKisha is back." And he said it TWICE. Of course, anyone who had ever seen the show before would have never taken that bet, so I suppose I would have had to be watching the show with a refugee from Darfur for that bet to pay off, and a Darfur refugee wouldn't have any money...Then again, there are all those snobs that don't watch American Idol, so I probably could have taken them for a ride. Oh well, a lost opportunity...

Blake Lewis ("You Give Love a Bad Name")--Simon said that half the audience would like Blake's version of this song and half would hate it. Actually, I hated half the song and loved the other half of the song. I disliked Blake doing the pantomime and sound effects of putting a record on a turntable (Hey Blake, in the mid-1980s, a lot of people listened to stuff on casettes--it wasn't just albums), I hated making the first part of the song into a pseudo-reggae, 311/Sublime type song, and I didn't like the beatboxing. And yet I loved when he just rocked out and sang the song in the middle and at the end. That part was great--why couldn't he have done that the whole time? Having said that, it certainly was interesting and memorable.

Chris Richardson ("Wanted: Dead or Alive")--After listening to Chris sing it for Bon Jovi, this actually didn't turn out nearly as bad as I had feared. But it still wasn't very good. It was a really bad song for Chris, and he sounded kind of whiny. It wasn't terrible, but I doubt it was good enough to keep him out of the bottom two tonight.

Melinda Doolittle ("Have A Nice Day")--I wondered if Melinda would go the way of Jordin tonight, but she found her sassy-style song and did a good job tonight. This isn't one of Bon Jovi's better songs (I wish someone had done "It's My Life," which this song sort of sounds like but not anywhere near as good), but I loved how she did those dismissive looks when she sang the "Have a Nice Day" line. And for two straight weeks, Melinda has sung songs written in the last ten years and done them well. Maybe she's reading this blog.

And before we get to who's going home, what was up with the Bushes turning up to thank American Idol? My mouth hung open through that entire segment in shock. Are Bush's poll numbers that bad that he desperately is trying to associate himself with American Idol? I'm speechless. And do you think W. watches Idol? Could someone at the White House briefing tomorrow ask Tony Snow who his favorite contestant is?

Okay, it's tough to judge who is going home because we've got to add last week's votes to this week's votes. I'll say Chris will be one, Phil another and LaKisha the third because of her poor performance last week. And because based on overall performance throughout the last few months, let's say Chris and Phil will go home. But I have no idea. Fingerhut out.