Thursday, February 28, 2008

Don't you just love live television?

Kady Malloy looking like she's totally ready to go home, Alaina Whitaker's name being called instead and an ensuing breakdown by Alaina--including her screaming "I can't sing!" How can you not love America Idol after a night like tonight? And then you had David Archuleta breaking down at the ouster of Alexandrea? What was going on there?

Quite an entertaining show tonight. Sure, I only got one out of four correct tonight, but I don't think we lost anyone that had any chance to actually win the competition. Sure, Simon decreed last night that Alaina was a "darkhorse" in the competition, but we all know what happens to most teenagers on this show (except I guess for Jordin Sparks)--they hit a wall after a few weeks of the finals. Jason Yeager was never very good, Alexandrea's voice wasn't that good--despite what Randy said--and Robbie was kind of boring. And I don't feel bad for him after seeing his very hot girlfriend.

The most nauseating moment of the night was Paula telling Alaina that this was only the start of what will be "her amazing career." I suppose it's possible, Paula, but you really have no idea about that. She finished 20th on American Idol, not second. I know she was trying to perk Alaina up, but she could have said something else--like "think about how much you accomplished" or "think of all the opportunities ahead now." That's why people like Simon--he doesn't tell people they're great and they're going to be a success just to be nice.

As for the rest of the show, I can't believe how bad that medley was tonight. Can they get worse? And I hope we're not going to have to watch highlights of "Idol Gives Back" on every results show until April.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Can't anyone sing a verse?

We began tonight with Paula saying that the guys last night were "fantastic." I wish I had been as drunk last night as she obviously was. At least, for the second consecutive night, Ryan did not use the "most talented ... ever" B.S. He'll probably pull that back out when we get to the final 12, though, so I shouldn't get too excited. Anyway, just like last night, a mixed bag.

Carly Smithson (Crazy for You)--This was a lot better than last week for Carly, and I was impressed by the clarity and power of her voice. But she still doesn't do a lot for me, and is it just me, or does she usually look like she isn't having much fun when singing--with all those pained and strained and funny faces. Oh, and those tattoos are gross.

Syesha Mercado (Me and Mr. Jones)--I liked the baby crying impression she did. But Randy was correct about the singing--the verses were too quiet and boring. But I did like when she belted out the chorus. Maybe she can find a song that's all chorus.

Brooke White (You're So Vain)-- After her taped piece, I was hoping she'd sing "Beauty School Dropout." No such luck. But since she kind of looks like Carly Simon and kind of sounds like Carly Simon (with a much weaker voice), this was a great choice and totally worked for her. While her voice may be one of the least powerful in the competition, she's very pleasant to listen to--and that might keep her around for a while.

Ramiele Malubay (Don't Leave Me This Way)--Ramiele picked one of those Idol standards--this song must have been done three or four times, I think--and didn't make her rendition one to remember. And showing us those Filipino dance moves just brought back memories of Sanjaya's hula last year for me. Paula says her vocals are "truly amazing" (but not last night), but I think the jury's still out on that.

Kristy Lee Cook (You're No Good)--Not bad, but nothing special. Interesting that Simon told her she might want to try country and ten seconds later she was telling Ryan she was going to sing country next week. I hope the theme isn't disco or something. (Actually, I'd presume it will be 80s. I had to think long and hard about that one.)

Amanda Overmyer (Carry On My Wayward Son)--This wasn't very good at all. Those low notes at the beginning of the song were rough, and while the chorus was better, it was still off for most of the song. One other note: Remember Randy's comment about how she needs to stick to "bluesy rock." If she's around three weeks from now, I'm sure we can count on Randy telling her she needs to switch it up and try something different.

Alaina Whitaker (Hopelessly Devoted to You)--Another singer who had a rough time on the verse at the beginning, but came on in the chorus. When she started belting the climax of the song, she was good. Why were so many people tonight having a similar problem?

Alexandrea Lushington (If You Leave Me Now)--Simon said this song was old-fashioned, but I was less concerned with that then the fact that Alexandrea seemed to really be straining to hit those notes (and not quite hitting them) at the beginning of the performance. It didn't sound good to me, although none of the judges seemed to mention it.

Kady Malloy (Magic Man)--It's too bad Kady hasn't had a theme where she could sing a Britney song. Maybe she should have done Britney's version of Satisfaction last week. Anyway, another singer with a very rough time on the quieter early verse who opened it up and improved on the chorus. Unfortunately, she didn't turn up a video of her singing in front of Fantasia, so she might be in danger.

Asia'h Epperson (All By Myself)--I know someone mentioned she was sick, but she just totally muffed that note on the first "All by myself" line and also couldn't seem to get the first verse in tune. It did improve as it went along, but she didn't do anything to threaten Latoya London's rendition of this song as the ultimate performance of that tune on Idol. But she did look fabulous. And Simon's line about how Ryan knows his limitations? Perhaps the best line of the season.

Who's going home? This one's very tought. I'm going to have to say Kady Malloy is in big trouble, although I hope not because she's hot and funny. As for the other one, I'm going to guess and say it will be Amanda Overmyer, but I have no idea.

Fingerhut out.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

That Archuleta-Clarkson tape--It's like that Clinton-Kennedy film

Just a warning as I begin: I'm typing this blog entry while playing back my recording of tonight's Democratic debate. If the last hour is anything like the first half-hour, which consisted of a mind-numbing 15-minute discussion of health care mandates, I may pass out on my keyboard. (I know candidates need to and should put out a plan, but arguing over these details seems kind of absurd when a president would have to put any health care plan through Congress--who will likely try to make all kinds of changes.)

So Ryan started out the show by calling Simon the "king of all media"--the usurping of his nickname might make Howard Stern's show tomorrow morning--and ended it by once again failing to thank Simon like he did with everyone else, which wasn't all that funny the second time he did it last week. In between, at least he never used the "most talented top 24 ever" line, perhaps because they're now down to 20, or perhaps because media watchdog groups complained that they were committing fraud. Tonight's performances, on the whole, were probably slightly better than last week's, but still not exactly history-making.

Michael Johns (Go Your Own Way)--I like the idea of doing this song, but wasn't all that crazy about the execution. Michael's voice is lower than Lindsay Buckingham's, so I was curious how it would sound. And it was solid, but he didn't do anything special with the song at all. As Randy said, I was hoping he'd just "let go," and he didn't. I want to see these guys just "throw down," as the kids say, and too many singers, particularly in the first half of tonight's show, weren't doing that.

Jason Castro (I Just Want to Be Your Everything)--Jason said he's "not good at talking." I'm not even sure what to say about that, except that I read Jason was the lead actor on some MTV show named "Cheyenne." Yes, the show was quickly canceled, but how do you get a job acting on a TV show if you're not good at talking? As for singing, I think he's OK. I didn't think this was as bad as the judges said it was, and thought it was pretty similar to his performance last week--which I didn't think was as good as the judges thought it was.

Luke Menard (Killer Queen)--At the beginning of this song, I said to myself, "Cool, he's doing Queen." I wasn't all that excited by the end of the song. In fact, well before Simon mentioned charisma and personality, I wrote on my notepad, "Negative charisma." He sucked the life out of that song, and, as Randy said, had some pitch problems as well. And his rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the taped piece sort of sucked too, especially compared to Michael Johns a couple weeks ago.

Robbie Carrico (Hot Blooded)--Another example of a lack of charisma, as well as a failure to really "let it go" and do something exciting. No wonder Hot Britney dumped him. This wasn't bad, but just kind of boring.

Danny Noriega (Superstar)-- I wrote last week that I didn't really think I'd like Danny, but that I found his crazy dancing, etc. sort of compelling. So watching him sing a slow song like this didn't do it for me--because, despite what Paula says, I don't think his voice is all that impressive and he wasn't doing any crazy dancing. The judges's interaction with him was funny, though. I think I'm going to start using "Ish" in conversation.

David Hernandez (Papa Was A Rolling Stone)--Finally, a guy who actually sung like he really wanted to win. Simon's praise that he was "the best vocal of the night" was pretty faint praise at this point in the show, but it was accurate. Having said all that, though, I can't really see this guy having any chance of winning and I can't explain why. But maybe he'll try to prove me wrong.

Jason Yeager (Long Train Runnin')--It was a lot better than last week. It still wasn't that good. Jason said that he's "all about the heart and soul of the song." Don't think I got that from him the past two weeks. Maybe he should sing that piano duet song, "Heart and Soul."

Chikeze (I Believe in My Soul)-- It was nice that Chikeze told us the origin of his name. Maybe next week he can tell us where his last name went. Anyway, I was apparently the only person who didn't think Chikeze was terrible last week, so I was happy to see him do well tonight. He sang a song that Elliott Yamin rocked a couple years ago, and Chikeze made sure we'd remember his version too. Once again, someone who actually said, "Hey, I'm going to go all out" and it paid off.

David Cook (All Right Now)--I like this guy's voice--it's distinctive and fits well with a rock sound. I don't like that creepy wink he's often giving to the camera. And he's really got to do something about that awful hairstyle. Oh, and that silly response to Simon wasn't necessary. As for his performance, it was OK but didn't wow me. It was much better, as far as rock goes, than Robbie Carrico, though.

David Archuleta (Imagine)--Other people have sung this song on this show (Ruben in the second season finale, Jennifer Hudson in the semifinals in season 3), and I've alway thought it was a bad choice for Idol because, as noble as the song's sentiments are, the music never really goes anywhere. That's why I was really impressed with David tonight, because he took the song and made it go somewhere new by adding some vocal flourishes--but didn't overdo it. It didn't bring me to tears like it apparently did to Paula (did you see that tear that had run down her face?), but maybe next week.

Two other important things about Archuleta. First, watching the reaction of all those young girls tonight to when they announced he was up next--let alone after his song--might be a sign that this competition is already over. If he's in the final two before May, I'd be shocked.

But what I really want to talk about is this video of David Archuleta singing the song from Dreamgirls in front of Kelly Clarkson when he was 11. All I could think of was that this was the American Idol equivalent of that film of Bill Clinton meeting John Kennedy at the White House when Clinton was 16 that got shown constantly during the 1992 campaign. I'm so fascinated by this I won't be able to sleep tonight.

Who's going home? The other two guys that got no screen time until last week. Neither of them did anything memorable tonight, just like neither did anything memorable last week, so I think Jason Yeager and Luke Menard are out of here.

Fingerhut out.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

No real surprises

So I got three out of four correct tonight, and seeing Colton Berry going instead of Luke is not any real surprise. Amy Davis is quite good-looking, but can't sing. In fact, I think she was even worse tonight than last night. And her looks didn't necessarily help her because there's a bunch of other female singers who are just about as attractive. Garrett Haley won't really be missed, and, as someone on the Internet wrote yesterday, they cut Josiah and left this guy in? Joanne Borgella already won one reality show--some show on Oxygen for plus-size models hosted by Mo'Nique, and no, I didn't watch it--and America doesn't allow you to win two, does it? Plus, she just wasn't good, both Tuesday and tonight. And then there was Colton, whom Simon gave great advice too--even if Paula is too much of an idiot to recognize it. He's right, Colton is not going to be a music star.

A few other notes after a grueling five hours of Idol this week: The girls sounded OK, but the guys singing together in the medley was just awful. Unfortunately, with hourlong results shows, we're going to see lots of them for the next three months.

That video of the top 24 as celebrities sought by the paparazzi--I have no words that can possibly describe how loathsome that was.

Paula Abdul's song actually is kind of catchy and not that bad. But that video? It looks like outtakes from the videos from the "Forever Your Girl" album. And watching that video did make me think that Paula Abdul is somewhat remarkable. She was a hugely successful recording artist for about three or four years in the late 80s and early 90s, one of the most famous singers in the world at the time. She pretty much disappeared for most of the 90s, and then amazingly has become probably even more famous than she ever was, at least in the U.S., for something completely different. I'm not sure what it means, but it is sort of incredible.

Is anyone going to buy a Randy Jackson album for his bass playing? Are there guest singers for every song? Does anyone have any information on this?

Finally, apparently Ryan Seacrest has been watching a lot of CNN election coverage. Just like Wolf Blitzer constantly repeats the mantra "the best political team on television"--hoping that repeating it incessantly will make it true, even though it isn't--Ryan is going to keep telling us this is the most "talented top 24 ever," hoping he'll hypnotize us into believing it. Sorry, Ryan, it's not working.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Most talented top 24? Really?

Sure, after everyone gets to sing a few more times, my perspective could change. But after being able to see all 24 singers sing a full song the last few nights, I will say that at this point, claims of this being the most "talented top 24 ever" are greatly exaggerated. Better that last year's? Of course. As good as Season 5? Don't think so. And it's probably about even with Season 4's final two dozen. It does have an advantage, though, when compared to season 4 in that we didn't get anyone truly terrible in either the guys or the girls (unlike, say, Janay Castane that year.) But just like last night, we had a few strong performances, a few not very good performances and a bunch of OK.

I have also heard talk in a couple quarters that this was the best-looking top 24 in history. At least on the female side, we may have a winner there. True, this is the first top 24 I've watched in HD, but there's a lot of depth in the beauty department.

On to the show, although I do want to say that midway through tonight, I started to think that having a theme at this point in the competition isn't that great an idea. Nigel said that the reason they did that is because when they let the singers pick their own songs, there were often problems with clearances and people had to change their songs at the last minute--so they were just picking 50 songs from the 60s and wouldn't have those problems this year. But watching 24 singers sing songs in the same genre just seemed to get a little repetitive. But I know Nigel doesn't care about my opinion....

Kristy Lee Cook ("Rescue Me")--If you haven't heard, Kristy signed a record deal with Britney Spears' label a number of years ago, although it never really amounted to much. So the whole "I raise horses" story is sweet, but does leave out a little information. The thing I really didn't understand about her story, though, is why, if she lived in Oregon, she had to go all the way to Philadelphia for her audition. She couldn't have picked a closer city and not had to sell her horse? She couldn't have taken a long drive down the coast, or a train, to San Diego? Anyway, Kristy, based on her performance tonight, probably isn't going to earn the money to buy that horse back from a recording contract she gets after Idol. The singing was decent, but the performance was just incredibly lacking in any kind of energy. Very disappointing, considering we've been reading about her and her recording contract, etc. for weeks now. One other thing: Shouldn't Paula allow the singers to bring up the fact they're sick--if that's what they want to do--instead of pre-emptively making excuses for them? If Kristy wants to play that card, fine, but let her do it. Maybe she didn't want to bring it up and look like she was making excuses. By the way, my favorite "sick" story from Idol was two seasons ago, when that guy named Sway gave a poor performance and Randy and Paula acted puzzled at why it was so bad. (The real reason, of course, was that he wasn't that good.) They were so perplexed that Ryan said to Sway, "Were you not feeling well?" and Sway said, "Maybe I was a little sick." It was hilarious.

Joanne Borgella (Say A Little Prayer)--This song was just all over the place. Randy and Paula didn't use the word, and I have really never known exactly what the word meant, but wouldn't her performance be a good example of being "pitchy"? She was up and down and not good.

Alaina Whitaker (I Love You More Today Than Yesterday)--Wow, she does look a lot like Carrie Underwood. Her speaking voice kind of sounds like her too. And she can sing well. Unlike Kristy Lee Cook, she showed energy and excitement. Combine that with a relatively powerful voice, and we've probably got a definite top 10 competitor.

Amanda Overmyer (Baby, Please Don't Go)--I'm never going to criticize someone singing a song by one of my favorite singers, Van Morrison, but....I like to see people sing songs with strong melodies on American Idol, especially in the early weeks of the show, and this song doesn't have much of one. So she didn't really do much except kind of sing the same few words over and over and do some scatting, which didn't do much for me. Having said that, she does bring something different to the competition, so I hope she stays around a while and shows what else she can do.

Amy Davis (Where the Boys Are)--Amy is a very attractive woman. She's not much of a singer, at least judging from tonight. She picked an unexciting song and seemed flat most of the song. When I looked down at my notes while writing this, I said to myself, "Oh yeah, I forgot about her." That kind of sums it up.

Brooke White (Happy Together)--She looked great (those blue eyes were beautiful in HD), and her performance was fine and fun--if nothing particularly special. Her voice is kind of thin, but she did enough to advance to next week, at the very least.

Alexandrea Lushington (Spinning Wheels)--That first name is quite a mouthful, like her parents couldn't decide whether to name her Alex or Andrea and just went with both. She sang a song which, I believe, was last sung by Bo Bice on Idol, and I agreed more with Simon than the other judges, as usual. I didn't think it was that great. Did like her stair descent at the beginning, though.

Kady Malloy (Groovy Kind of Love)--Didn't know that Phil Collins apparently covered this song and that it's really a 60s song. Or maybe they just made an exception like they did for "Jailhouse Rock." Still love the Britney impression. And the Britney impression is better than her regular singing. But I really didn't think she was that bad--she's got a powerful voice and showed it off a little on this song--and don't think she really deserved the lengthy tongue-lashing she was getting tonight from the judges. Yes, she needs more personality when she sings, but that was a bit much.

Asia'h Epperson (Piece of My Heart)--We've heard the story about her dad enough already. What I want to know is, what's the deal with the apostrophe and "h" at the end of her name? Why is it there? As for her singing, I liked it--lots of energy, good voice, made it her own. In fact, the way Asia'a sings it, the song is apparently called "Piece of My Art."

Ramiele Maluby (You Don't Have to Say You Love Me)--Nadia Turner still did the classic Idol rendition of this in season four, and this wasn't as good as that. It was solid, but I'm not sure it was deserving of the lavish praise it got from the judges. But what do I know?

Syesha Mercado (Tobacco Road)--Not crazy about the song choice--as I said earlier, I like to hear a song with more of a strong melody--but liked its subject. My hopme for four years--Tobacco Road! Anyway, I did like Syesha. She struggled a little bit about two-thirds of the way through, but she worked it out and was a presence on stage. And she's got some pipes. By the way, she was previously on a record-setting television show. She was a singer on the reality show "The One," a reality show that aired on ABC a couple summers ago. It tied a record by only airing once and then being immediately canceled because of unbelievably low ratings. I watched the one episode to air because I love to check out American Idol copycats and can report that this show was awful. The twist was that all the singers went to "academy" each week between shows, working with all these various tutors to make them better singers and performers. That was nice, but like all Idol copycats it failed because there was no judge who was willing to take on the Simon role and tell people they sucked.

Carly Smithson (Don't know and too lazy to look it up)--Wow, what a surprise that Carly would get the first girls' pimp spot. You could see that coming three weeks ago. And I must say, I don't really get the love for her. Yes, she has a strong voice. But there's something about her that isn't warm and welcoming about her. There's nothing as a listener I want to latch onto about her and like--she always seems like she's having such difficulty singing. When you watched a Kelly Clarkson or a Fantasia or a Ruben, they made it look like they were having fun and the whole thing looked effortless. Carly just looked like she was in pain for half the song. I'm not sure if others get that same vibe from her (please leave comments with your thoughts!), but I also think she may not be the favorite that everyone thinks she is. She's already received so much publicity about having a record deal and yet selling less than 400 copies of her record, I just don't see America rising up and voting for her every week. I guess we'll see. And by the way, although it was good to see that Carly did talk about having a recording contract, saying that the record company "went out of business" makes it sound like it was some fly-by-night operation. It was a pretty well known label, MCA Records, which technically isn't around anymore, but was absorbed by another record company. It's not like they just disappeared and all their artists were release from their contracts or something. I doubt that will win Carly many points.

So who's going home? I think Amy Davis is one, because she was so forgettable and didn't get much screen time before tonight. The other one could be Joanne Borgella, could be Kristy Lee Cook. But Kristy probably got too much screen time the last few weeks to go out this early, so I'll say Borgella.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I'm ready for some Idol

I wrote in my last blog entry that I wasn't really feeling the same excitement for Idol this year as in the past. Well, I guess my excitement is back--at about 7:15 tonight, I was looking at the time going, "I hope I can get out of here in the next half-hour, because I am psyched to watch the top 24." But it had also been a really long day at work too.

Anyway, a few observations before we go singer by singer. First, apparently Simon noticed that Paula seemed entirely too sane and normal during the audition phase of the show, so he decided to do something about it. Asking her what color each singer was put her so over the edge, by 9:30 I'm not sure Paula even knew where she was anymore. She may be crying by the end of tomorrow night. This year could be really fun.

Second, the jury is still out on whether "this year's talent is the best yet," as Ryan said to open the show tonight. (Don't you love how Ryan said "people are saying" that, when the person who has said that the most is Ryan himself?) True, there wasn't anyone really awful tonight, as there often is in the final 24 shows, but otherwise it was pretty typical--a few standouts, a few who were OK but boring, and a bunch who were good but nothing particularly special. Plus, did anyone else wonder how talented this group could be if three of them made it to Hollywood last year but couldn't even make the top 24 in such a weak year? Can someone really improve their singing that much in a year? Who knew that Paula and Randy's "go home and work" actually meant something?

Third, I was all ready to start foaming at the mouth about how unfair it was that there were four guys who we didn't see at all during the audition period, while we spent about a half hour watching Carly Smithson cry. I'm less upset now, after watching most of those guys make horrible song choices and give the most performances of the night. All these guys should have known they needed to do something to stand out, and they did the absolute opposite. I don't feel nearly as bad about it as I did a few hours ago. Oh, and by the way, the argument--proffered by Ryan on the show and by producer Nigel Lythgoe in a conference call last week--that these guys shouldn't worry about not being seen in the auditions because Kelly Clarkson didn't get any camera time is just a joke. To compare the first season of this show, when many people started watching the show after the auditions and there were only a couple audition shows, to today, when every minute of this show is chronicled obsessively throughout the media and we get eight hours of audition shows, is just an insult to my, and everyone else's, intelligence.

Finally, after that whole Ryan/Simon thing at the end of the show (when Ryan refused to thank Simon, etc.), could the two of them just have sex already? This is worse than Sam and Diane on Cheers.

So for the first time ever on a top 24 theme, we get a theme--60s Week. It was never explained, of course, how a song released in 1957, "Jailhouse Rock," qualified for this theme, but what would American Idol be like without such unexplainable mysteries?

David Hernandez (Til the Midnight Hour)--I liked this guy's version of "Love the One You're With" during Hollywood Week, and I thought his song tonight was fine but nothing great. It came across as a little too "white bread" soul to me, although since I presume from his name he's Hispanic, maybe the proper term would be, what, too "whole grain bread"?

Chikeze (More Today Than Yesterday)--So Chikeze dropped his Eze, and I have no idea why. His name is much more melodic and memorable with the two consecutive "Ezes." I think this may cost him. As for the singing, I was impressed that he took a pop song (best known recently as the song Fish sang to Dyan Cannon on Ally McBeal) and made it into a old-time R&B song. And I thought it was pretty cool. Vocally, it could have been a little stronger, but I liked the whole retro feel to it--even if Simon didn't.And isn't retro kind of in these days? Isn't Amy Winehosue big and pretty retro? I guess the whole drug thing makes her current.

David Cook (Happy Together)--The guy really needs to do something with his hair--a shaved head might be his best option--but I really enjoyed his performance. It had a certain style to it, he showed some vocal power, and he appeared, to my surprise, to be a contender.

Quick commercial note: I like Julianna Margulies and I'm glad to see her back on TV, but if that show lasts much longer than the NCAA basketball tournament, I'd be shocked.

Jason Yeager (Moon River)--So we didn't see Jason sing at all during the auditions for unexplained reasons--and then the first thing we see in his taped piece is.. his audition! Any reason why we couldn't have seen that three weeks ago, Nigel? Of course, it's not going to matter. He apparently thought the theme was "standards" and sang Moon River. Sure, it's a classic song, but it's not a song you want to sing on 60s night on American Idol. And not only did he pick the wrong song, but he didn't even sing it with much excitement or originality. Jason, have you ever watched the show? Simon called him a "dependable old dog." That's probably a better compliment than he deserved.

Robbie Carrico ("One Is the Loneliest Number")--So this guy apparently dated Britney Spears about seven or eight years ago, when she was still hot and still sane. I hope we get to hear about that from Robbie. Unfortunately, his dating history is a little more exciting than his singing. He was OK, but I just felt like he was missing that something that separates a competent singer from something special (like Michael Johns later in the show). But maybe he'll kick it up a notch next week, since he certainly did enough to stick around another week.

David Archuleta ("Better Shop Around")--OK, he does have a really good voice and gave a fine performance, but he's already a little too precious for my taste. And with that tearing up after the judges comments, is he trying to emulate Melinda Doolittle? He shouldn't be that stunned by good comments from the judges--apparently, the guy won the Arsenio Hall version of Star Search a few years back.
But here's the issue I want to throw out: When Robbie Carrico sang, Simon questioned whether he was an "authentic" rocker. I'm not really sure. But what about David Archuleta? Is he "authentic" as an R&B singer, as Elliott Yamin was? I'm not sure about that. I'm not sure I really care all that much--but for some reason Simon only brings that up for rock singers. (By the way, I am also interested in whether David Archuleta is a more "authentic" safety than Redskins bust Adam Archuleta.)

Danny Noriega ("Jailhouse Rock")--I think Danny is a little too, um, dramatic or flamboyant for my taste. Having said that, there was something compelling about his performance--he certainly wasn't boring, even if his singing was without much distinction. I think "grotesque" was a little harsh. And I'm sure he's a better singer than his uncle Manuel was.

Luke Menard--(Have no idea what he was singing)--The second of our mystery men bores America with a slow, unexciting song. Simon sums it up better than I could: "No one's going to remember you." As for Paula's comments about how the judges have heard many better auditions from him? That's nice, Paula, but the viewers have seen none of those. So we can only judge the lifeless performance we saw. I wonder if Paula watches the audition shows.

Colton Berry ("Suspicious Minds")--So for some reason Colton takes a song that Elvis made into a classic, and the Fine Young Cannibals did a great cover of 20 years later, and thinks he can compete with them. Even a fine singer like Chris Daughtry was kind of disappointing when he took this song on--and it ended up the week he was eliminated from the competition that week (although his "A Little Less Conversation" was probably the weaker song that week.) Colton's performance was kind of karaoke, as the judges said. As for Simon's general argument that too many performances were not "current" enough, I know what he means and yet I'm not sure I see why, for instance, Jason Castro's performance was so much more current than Colton Berry's

Garrett Haley ("Breaking Up Is Hard to Do")--Our third mystery man may be the most boring contestant in American Idol history. I almost dozed off during his taped package. Then he started singing. It was competent but completely unexciting. I might have to apologize to producer Nigel Lythgoe for something I wrote last month after the first audition show. He had said, in answer to a question about why the program doesn't show the auditions of the entire final 24, that all he's concerned about is storytelling--and he's not going to show someone if they're "boring as hell." My retort to that is if someone is really "boring as hell," how did they make the final 24? Well, now we know. Somehow, Garrett Haley made the final 24. But his boringness did bring out Simon's best line of the night: "You need some fresh air."

Jason Castro (Is the title "Daydream"?)--The only one of our mystery men who stands out a little, because he plays the guitar and isn't completely sleep-inducing. I wasn't nearly as enamored with it as the judges, but it wasn't bad vocally. What I don't understand is how Jason's performance was so much more "current" than, for example, Colton Berry's. I think I understand what Simon means when he uses that term--could you hear it on the radio today--and I know you wouldn't hear Colton Berry on the radio? But would you really hear anything that sounds like Jason Castro's performance on the radio? Or David Archuleta's? I don't think so.

Michael Johns ("Light My Fire")--But I could imagine hearing Michael Johns on the radio a lot. Simply put, this guy rocks. He deserved the pimp spot for the first show of the season. He's definitely an early favorite. And he could probably break David Archuleta over his knee. (Just so Hillary Clinton doesn't bust me, I want to say that last line is an homage to a line Duke Chronicle sportwriter Kris Olsen wrote when Duke was recruiting Chris Webber. Comparing him to another prized recruit who also didn't end up a Blue Devil but went to Indiana, he wrote, "Chris Webber could break Alan Henderson over his knee.")

So who's going home? I think Luke Menard has got to be one. As for the second, I think Jason Yeager will probably survive by getting the senior vote for singing "Moon River." So my choice is between Colton Berry and Garrett Haley, and the unbelievable non-charisma of Garrett Haley will send him home.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Finally, a top 24

Repeatedly tonight, Ryan said that this season the talent is "the best it's ever been." Really? After watching tonight's Idol reveal of the final 24, I can't say I felt all that much excitement. Perhaps it's because I don't think we'd ever seen four of the guys before, and there were another three or four of the girls who we hadn't seen since their audition and were all blond and hard to tell apart.

Plus, after last year's debacle, I don't even think it's worth analyzing the top 24 until we see them in front of an audience. Sanjaya and Antonella somehow made it to this point last year, and they were horrible once they actually had to sing on the show. But a couple people who have caught my eye include Michael Johns (he's got the white soul thing mixed with a little rocker thing and he just sounds good), Syesha Mercado (don't know why exactly, but I think she'll be a contender) and David Hernandez (I liked his version of "Love the One You're With.") I don't quite get the David Achuleta thing (he's fine, but not that great), and I cannot believe how much they're pimping Carly Smithson. All that crying comes across as annoying, especially because it's been so heavily reported that she actually had a record deal--but only sold 300 reecords. (By the way, the use of the term pimping is my tribute to David Shuster. Hope MSNBC stops caving to Hillary and brings you back one of these days.)

As for Simon's bizarre speech telling Kyle, the guy in the tie, that he wishes they would have kept him: What's wrong with you? That guy was the next Kevin Covais waiting to happen? On Tuesday night, Simon used a phrase to describe someone else--a phrase he's often used: Something like "That has nothing to do with what's happening the music industry now." How is Kyle representing something happening in the music industry now? He's a glee club singer. He'd be the male Diana DeGarmo with an inferior voice. Simon, you're usually right, but sometimes you don't make complete sense. (And I don't mean to dump on Kyle, he's got a nice voice and seems like an interesting guy, but he has no chance of winning American Idol.)

As I said, I'm not chomping at the bit waiting to see the debut of the final 24, but maybe they'll surprise me. And remember, get lots of rest this weekend. There's five hours of American Idol next week--two on Tuesday, two on Wednesday and one on Thursday. Sure, there's not much else on with the writer's strike just ending, but that's still exhausting. I'm going to bed.


A brief Hollywood comment

I had to work late tonight, so I don't have time to write a full blog post on tonight's 2-hour marathon Idol. Plus, I'm still recovering from the amazing revelation by Jim Fassel that his interview with Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato includes the Terrible Twosome asking Fassel how he would seat the players on the plane when traveling to away games. (Really, check out the D.C. Sports Bog.)I guess now we do have sort of an answer for the question, "What could Dan Snyder possibly talk about in a 20-hour interview with a prospective coach?"

Anyway, back to Idol. So the producers responded to some audience dissatisfaction, had the audition shows spend more time on the good singers than in past years, and it was a positive development. Tonight, we had what I feel is one of the most entertaining nights of the Idol year, the Hollywood round. The producers extended the show to two hours, after cutting it back to one the last couple of years. That's good. They let the singers use instruments for their first Hollywood audition. I'm not how good an idea that is (I don't think they're going to be permitted to use instruments once they get to the final 24, so what's the point?), but I'll cut the producers some slack because it at least gave the Hollywood round a fresh look.

But to me, and I think many others (except, apparently, my friend John), the highlight of the Hollywood round was when they paired up the singers into groups of three and made them learn the song overnight and perform it the next day. It always provided great drama (Will some groups be able to work together? Will the one member of the group who decided to go to sleep early pay for it the next day? Will the group that went out partying somehow do OK anyway?) But for some reason, we had no groups this year. The Idol producers took one of the highlights of the whole show and ELIMINATED it. And the show just wasn't as entertaining as past years--it was really just a more elaborate audition show. I'm mystified. As I've said over and over on this blog, the American Idol producers have managed to convince me that they're the luckiest guys in the world--they somehow figured out a great concept for a show but have absolutely no idea what they're doing.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Finally, we're done with all that

What a week--Sunday was the Super Bowl, Tuesday was Super Tuesday and tonight was the Duke-Carolina game. I'm exhausted. So I'll make tonight's Idol wrapup brief.

Tonight's show was pretty entertaining, but I don't have much to say about it. My favorite part was obviously the blonde who had dated the twin guys. As the guys talked about how bad she was to the cameras, she actually asked Simon "Is this Opposite Day?" when they told her she wasn't any good. What is she, six? And I also enjoyed Simon's new response to auditioners who tell them they love him--"I know." And the Dolly Parton sequence was enjoyable, although I doubt that girl will make it past the first day in Hollywood.

Otherwise, I didn't understand the love for the plus-side model who once sang at Madison Square Garden. Wasn't she basically doing a Celine Dion impression?

As for Tuesday night, I still don't really understand why that guy is sleeping in his car--because he's just a free spirit? Is that basically the explanation?--but he wasn't bad. And the guy was was two places ahead of Carrie Underwood said people tell him all the time he has star quality? I wish they'd have someone standing by during those interviews to say, "Really? Who told you that? Can we interview him or her?"

Finally, the girl who auditioned two days after her father died and then made it to Hollywood was sad and touching, but did anyone else find it a little, um, disturbing? Yeah, I know she said that her father "would have wanted her to try out for American Idol" and everyone says that, and it was probably true to an extent. But how anyone could be told that their father died tragically while they were waiting in line to audition for Idol and then stay in line for two days is beyond me. But I guess everyone is different.

So Tuesday night is a two-hour show, which I'm not crazy about because it leaves less time for blogging. But it is the Hollywood round, which is usually one of the most entertaining Idol programs of the year. And this year, apparently they're allowed to play instruments! It actually looks fresh and exciting. I'm already getting pumped up.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Hey, it's Super Tuesday

Due to my boredom--as described in my last post--with the endless auditions, and the fact that I spent most of the evening watching election coverage, my brief thoughts on Tuesday's night's show (and hopefully my thoughts on Wednesday's shos) will appear Wednesday evening/Thursday morning.