Wednesday, May 21, 2008

That was a surprise

Although I felt David Cook had been the stronger and more interesting singer throughout the season, I figured Archuleta, who was the strong favorite since the first competition show of the season, put it away on Tuesday night. But instead, we had what probably has to be considered the first upset, or at least surprise result, in Idol history. Even more surprising than the result, though, would have to be the 12-point margin that David Cook won by tonight. It wasn't even close, which I guess means that while Archuleta might have had a strong fan base all year, all the fans of eliminated Idols ended up choosing Cook. (That's, of course, if American Idol can be analyzed like a presidential election, which it probably can't, since presidential elections only allow you to vote once and there's no text messaging in your ballot.)

As for the typically way too long show--imagine, it's a two hour show to announce one name, and they still couldn't announce that name before 10:00--there was good and bad.

First the bad: The absolute worst was that endless, unfunny promo for the Mike Myers movie "The Love Guru." Those 10 minutes were everything that's wrong with this show: advertising over entertainment. And most amazing was the fact that in a week where they had to prepare a ton of songs--both for Tuesday and Wednesday nights--the Davids were forced to spend a couple hours watching what looks like a terrible movie and hanging out with Mike Myers. Just insane.... That Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr. bit as "The Pips" was almost as bad. It was a one-joke sketch that went on for what seemed like a half-hour and was also essentially an advertisement--since all three of those guys are in a movie together, Tropic Thunder, later this summer. Despite what Ryan said, would people actually download that for I-tunes, even if the money is going to charity? I'd donate more to charity if I never had to see that sketch again.....Jimmy Kimmel was pretty funny on "Idol Gives Back," but that appearance tonight was not impressive...That Renaldo Lapuz "You Are My Brother" thing was very funny in the auditions, not so funny with a marching band and cheerleaders...Did Jordin Sparks' last song onstage as American Idol have to be some melodyless bore? It was cute that Blake Lewis was singing along, though. And finally, we should never have to hear Amanda Overmyer sing any part of the song "Faith" ever again. That was just completely wrong.

What I liked: David Cook with ZZ Top--not bad. Brooke White with Graham Nash--also enjoyable. Seeing Matt Rogers and Mikalah Gordon again--and Mikalah's jumping up and down and screaming with David Cook's music teacher was hilarious. Also hilarious was having Jason Castro sing an encore of his best performance of the season--not usually done on the final results show, but they obviously didn't want to make Jason actually have to learn a new song.... Donna Summer and Bryan Adams were both fine, but unfortunately we had to sit through medleys from all the singers before they appeared.... I liked that they put Carly and Michael--the two contestants eliminated too early--together for a duet, but I won't be looking for it on Youtube tomorrow... Seal was good, but I wish Syesha wasn't there to slow him down...I didn't like or dislike the Jonas Brothers, but aren't they basically a less talented Hanson? George Michael was very good, but if he was the "biggest star in the world" promised by Nigel on Ryan's radio show the other day, as I read in the press, then Nigel is even more confused than I thought he was. Finally, I'm a sucker for emotional displays, so I liked to see David choked up, and the whole "Give it up for Archuleta" stuff was nice to see too.

So we've come to the end of another year of American Idol, a year which has, until this week, almost made me lose my passion for the show. By January, that passion will probably return--but we'll have to see. Until January--although I will be blogging on other things--Fingerhut out.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

That surprisingly wasn't that bad

I've never been less excited for an American Idol final than tonight. Most years I have a hard time getting through the day, and when I'm able to leave race home hoping to get home so I can watch it live at 8. Today, I had a brief conversation with some coworkers about the final, read maybe one article on the Internet about it, and when I got of work around 8, went to pick up a couple things at the grocery store before I went home. I even turned on the Nats-Phillies baseball game for a little bit. It was official: American Idol had become a chore to watch, even for me, a longtime obsessive of the show. (I'll try to provide a couple reasons for this at the end of tonight's blog.)

And yet when I turned on the DVR and watched the show tonight, I was surprisingly entertained. For a combination of reasons--five out of the six songs sung were new, the coronation songs weren't quite as bad as in the past, and because one of the two singers was sensational--this might have been the best final since the classic Clay-Ruben showdown in season two. (You could argue season four's Bo and Carrie might have been better, I suppose.) And speaking of Ruben, it was nice to see him, but I guess the weight-loss program he supposedly went through a while back didn't really take.

Before we got to the singing part of the show, though, we had to sit through another example of why this show is increasingly difficult to watch. There was an unconsiconable 14 minutes before anyone sang tonight, so we could sit through silly Michael Buffer intros, five minutes of commercials, the judges giving their typical "you got to sing your best" advice before the show, etc. Perhaps they could have used a few of those minutes for singing time? Let them sing a full four minute song for once? Like they'll have to do during their music career? But why would we want to see that? But at least we got to see Luke Perry, so that was nice.
And we did get Andrew Lloyd Webber back, although being incorporated into those ridiculous metaphorical clips with Jim Lampley just made everyone look ridiculous and he didn't get to say that much.

David Cook ("I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For")--So Clive Davis is back and doesn't do David Cook any favors. He gives him one of the most famous songs by the biggest rock band of the last 25 years--a soaring, spiritual song that can't be equaled, let alone improved upon. I suppose David did fine, but all I could think of was that I'd rather hear Bono singing this song. That's not David's fault, but it was just unmemorable. Oh, and Randy? It's not 2007 any more, it's 2008--although I suppose Randy's still saying the same things he said in 2007 (or 2004) to the contestants, so it's understandable he's confused.

David Archuleta ("Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me")--David Archuleta sang his face off on this one. Where was this David Archuleta most of the competition? He showed emotion, he changed his arm movements, he looked like he really wanted to win. He had a messed up note at the very beginning, and the backup singers were way too loud and almost drowned him out at one point. And granted, he got a better song--it's been covered before succesfully by George Michael in a duet with Elton John, and this was one of Clay Aiken's top performances on season two. But Archuleta made me forget about them--he was great.

And did I really see a sign that said "David A is a hot A"?

Cook ("Dream Big")--It's good that a singer was finally able to sing a coronation song that wasn't a typical overwrought ballad, but something that suited his style--or at least he was able to adapt it to his style. Having said that, it still wasn't that great a song. The whole performance sort of sounded like a mediocre Journey song. The vocals were good, but the song was kind of boring.

Archuleta ("In This Moment")--It wasn't as good as the first performance, but it was still very good. The song fit him very well, and yet it was different enough from his typical song that it didn't feel like we had heard it before. As Simon alluded to, the lyrics fit the night very well (something I usually think Simon is giving way too much credence, but for some reason the lyrics stuck out tonight). Archuleta wins round two.

Cook ("The World I Know")--I liked David Cook on the show this year, but I have a feeling I won't like whatever album he records because I don't really care for his taste in music. Our Lady Peace, Switchfoot, and tonight Collective Soul--all these bands have plenty of fans but I'm not one of them. This Collective Soul song isn't bad, I guess, and I thought David Cook gave a nice, emotional, restrained performance of it. But it didn't make me leap out of my seat and say "That guy's the American Idol!" In fact, the whole night I felt like David Cook, from his song choices to his performances, never really had that "lay it on the floor" moment that you really need to win Idol, particulaly when the other guy is singing his butt off.
As for Simon's comments about how David should have sung "Hello" or "Billie Jean," I understand what he's saying and he's probably right, but I give David points for not doing a repeat of something he'd already done in the competition--something I hate.

Archuleta ("Imagine")--But if are you going to repeat something, repeat something we haven't heard in months and do it better than you did the first time. And that's what David Archuleta did. Another fabulous performance I loved from a guy I wasn't even looking forward to listening to earlier today.

OK, before I get to my pick, two theories on what's wrong with Idol. First is something that's partly out of the show's control: It's simply gotten too big. A portion of this is the fault of the show, and its apparent refusal to turn down any opportunity to incorporate advertising into the show--so that ads for ITunes recordings of the songs sometime seem more important than the singers performing the songs on the show. But part of it is due to our insane media culture these days, which beats everything good--and bad--into the ground with such force that you quickly tire of it. I started watching American Idol because it was the fun little show that could--a show produced for about 100 bucks that first summer that happened to have a great concept, good chemistry between the judges and Kelly Clarkson. And for those first few years, all the so-called experts would say that Idol wouldn't remain popular when the season started and it would just become more and more popular each year as more and more people discovered it. They realized it was a great way to put aside the problems and troubles in your own life--and forget about the sometimes upsetting news headlines--for a couple hours a week and just enjoy yourself with a entertaining television show. But sometimes a couple years ago, American Idol somehow became the news headlines. You can barely turn on the TV, check the Internet, pick up a magazine without seeing obsessive discussion of Idol. The crush of attention is just oppressive, and drained the fun out of the show.

My other theory--the last two years may have had some talented singers, but none of them had either of the qualities that helped to make Idol exciting in its first five years. All of those seasons had singers who either were giving people something different than what they were getting from the music industry at the time, or, to quote Simon talking about Clay Aiken, didn't "look like a pop star but you can sing."
In season one, while she's become more of a rock/pop artist, Kelly Clarkson came to prominence being a white woman singing soul songs, a niche that wasn't being filled by anyone else at the time in the music biz--although now we have Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone and Duffy doing the same kind of thing (and in the case of the first and perhaps the third, doing it better.) In season two, both Ruben and Clay, and even Kimberly Locke, didn't look like pop stars. In season three, it's hard to describe Fantasia, but she was certainly different. Carrie Underwood was a pretty typical country artist in season four, but Bo Bice was giving us true southern rock--something which hasn't been on the charts since the Black Crowes were selling records in the early 1998s. And in season five, Taylor Hicks was certainly different from what the music industry is providing, and Elliot Yamin didn't look like a pop start. But last year, Jordin was a pretty typical pop singer, and LaKisha and Melinda were typical belters. As for Blake, you could make an argument he was different, but he was really just a modern rock singer with a boom box gimmick--not something anyone was necessarily clamoring for. And this season no one was particularly unique--except for the stoner thing Jason Castro was doing and I'm not sure there's a market for singers who forget the words. Brooke is a pretty typical female singer-songwriter, Archuleta is a teen-type pop artist, Cook is a rock singer,and Syesha is a belter. If Michael Johns had sung more blues songs instead of rock songs, he might have inherited this mantle, but he really only did it once and then went back to rock and got eliminated. Does this make any sense? Leave a comment with your opinion.

I'll stop rambling now and give you my prediction. David Archuleta will be the next American Idol.

Fingerhut out.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Have Paula, Ryan and Randy really never heard the word humdinger?

Sure, some of Simon's expressions are occasionally a little odd or cryptic, but the word "humdinger"? I'm familar with that word, Paula. You're the one that sounded pretty dumb questioning it.

I guess this long disquistion on the word "humdinger" is just a way to avoid getting to the show because I really don't have much to say. I'm glad we got the best final two we could have expected, and the show wasn't even that bad tonight because the "going home" clips are always enjoyable. There's still something special about watching someone realize that in just a couple months, they've become pretty famous--even though a year from now most of those people won't be interested anymore.

Finally, I've read a bunch of articles in the last couple weeks providing ways to fix American Idol, in the wake of its big ratings decline. For instance, in Entertainment Weekly this week, one of their critics gave seven ways to fix the show. The first, tone down the product placement, is an excellent one, but one we probably won't be seeing (and to be fair, Idol has always been kind of a leader in product placement. Didn't they have that Coke room by the second season?) Then there's the idea that's really good but completely irrelevant: Stop the medleys at the beginning of the results show. I agree they're bad, but I can't imagine anyone is out there going, "If they just get rid of that two minute medley on Wednesday's show, I'll watch the show again." And then there's two ideas that I don't think will help. First, he suggests replacing Randy and Paula as judges. Yes, they can sometimes be dead wood, but getting rid of them would be altering the entire spirit of the show. Talking about Paula's strange behavior and making fun of Randy's vocabulary is as integral to the show as people singing. Plus, you couldn't have three really critical judges--the show would be too mean. Just make Simon the first judge to give his remarks and that will shake up the show, as it did for an episode a few seasons ago.

Then, the writer, Mark Harris, mentions something that Simon has also suggested: Getting more current, fresher mentors. This isn't a bad idea, I'm just not sure how much difference it would make. Wasn't one of the most memorable episodes of the show season two's Neil Sedaka night? Neil Diamond night could have been pretty cool, if the singers had sung well. Wasn't Gwen Stefani night pretty weak? And if we have hip-hop night with Kanye West, is that really going to work for some of the singers--or for a good chunk of the audience? Does anyone really want to see a Nickelback night?

The simple answer for improving the show is getting better contestants. I'm not totally sure how to do that, but I'll try to have some thoughts next week. Fingerhut out.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The fix is in (although I can't really blame them)

So why did they have so much trouble fitting in 10 songs and judges' comments two weeks ago, but tonight's nine songs with judges' comments seemed like no problem--and was filled with plenty of breezy conversation before about why a judge or a singer picked a particular song? I don't know, but thinking about a subject like that, or whether the producers could have made it any more obvious tonight that they don't want Syesha in the final, is a lot more interesting than any of the performances were tonight. Nothing terrible--although my sister tells me that if I knew that Chris Brown song, Archuleta's performance would have been pretty bad--but nothing memorable or special, even if it is the "CLOSEST RACE THE SHOW HAS EVER SEEN" according to Ryan. I'm not sure I believe that--weren't Ruben and Clay separated by less than one percent of the vote? (Yeah, yeah, maybe this is the tightest three-way race ever....)

The show began tonight with a glimpse of celebrities in the audience which included someone that appeared to be Lloyd from "Entourage." Yeah, he's funny on the show, but he qualifies as a celebrity in the Idol audience now? This season really is driving people away.

So tonight is the judges' choice show (my co-worker Barbara's favorite week). In past years, it has also included a choice by Clive Davis, along with a contestants' choice, but once again Clive Davis is missing and the arrogant idiots that produce the show get a choice. But I'll deal with that later.

David Archuleta ("And So It Goes")--Sort of a random song choice by Paula--an OK song, I guess, but probably not in the top 15 or 20 of good Billy Joel songs and I don't think I've heard it in more than a decade. And I actually thought it was really good, as good as Archuleta has been since early in the competition--although the long a capella made me think he was going to go all Bo Bice, final three a capella performance on me. Why was David so good? I'm going to speculate, with little evidence, that it was because of the absence of David's dad from preparations this week. If you didn't hear, David's reportedly overbearing stage dad was banned from backstage and being with his son during rehearsals, etc., not because he was obnoxious but because he urged David to add a line from Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls" to his performance of "Stand By Me" last week, since the Kingston song samples "Stand By Me." I forgot to mention it in my blog last week, but I kind of liked that--it made David seem more hip to current music than he had seemed all year, but Idol didn't like it because they had to unexpectedly pay extra for the right to that song. Yeah, it's a shame that they only made $9.9 million instead of $10 million last week. Anyway, what I liked about David's song was that--despite Simon's statement that it was predictable--it really wasn't. It didn't have the same vocal runs in the same places that so many of his songs had the last few weeks. He just sang the melody for the most part and it was good.

Syesha "MLK" Mercado ("If I Ain't Got You")--I have to agree with Simon that it wasn't a real good choice, since it's a well known song with a lot of vocal runs that Syesha isn't going to sing better than Alicia Keys did. Syesha did a good job, but it was the typical Syesha performance--vocally solid, but with nothing exciting that made it unique or drew me in emotionally.

David Cook ("First Time I Ever Saw Your Face")--It was a strange choice by Simon--giving a song sung by a legendary female singer to a male--but I agree with him that I'd rather see the singers challenged with a curveball than thrown a fastball down the middle. I didn't like the high-pitched stuff early in the song, but did like the high notes at the end. Overall, good but not great.

David Archuleta ("With You")--I'm either too old or not hip enough to know much of Chris Brown's work (although I am familiar with his bad acting on "The O.C." a couple years ago), so I don't know how this compares to the original. What I do know is that I was glad David tried a young, fresh song like this, but he looked very uncomfortable doing it, especially in the first half of the song before he settled down a little.

Syesha "John Lewis" Mercado ("Fever")--I have no idea why Syesha picked this song. I suppose she thought it would be sexy, but her performance wasn't. It's such an old song, and has been covered by so many people, it's almost like a cliche. And Syesha did absolutely nothing new with it. I'm falling asleep just remembering it.

David Cook ("Dare You to Move")--David seems to be a devotee of "lack of melody rock," which I don't really care for all that much and will be the reason I don't think I'll be all that interested in his album. But you never know. As for this performance, it was predictable and boring, if fine vocally.

So now we get to the producers' choices, where Nigel Lythgoe and his gang of evil dummies take over. Considering that the NBA is the only thing that brings out more conspiracy theories these days than American Idol, having the producers choose a song means they're just asking for criticism. Placing producers' choice last on the show--so it is the final impression the viewers receive--raises even more questions. And then when they pick such an unknown, melody-free song for the singer they'd rather not have one of the final two (Syesha, because a David-David final would be much more interesting), they might as well just tell us who to vote for. It would be less subtle.

David Archuleta ("Longer")--Nigel and the gang aren't interested in challenging anybody. They gave David the most treacly ballad they could find, and he sang it pretty well.

Syesha "Malcolm X" Mercado ("Hit Me Up")--A song from the movie "Happy Feet"? Really? I suppose the producers "thought" this song would show Syesha's "personality," but why, at this point in the competition, would you give any contestant a song with virtually no melody and hardly any lyrics, for that matter? Syesha did what she could with it, but there really wasn't anything to do with it.

David Cook ("I Don't Want to Miss A Thing")--So they gave the other David a treacly ballad, but done by a rock band, and David gives a good performance but doesn't break any new ground. I was most amazed that Simon called this "one of the greatest songs of all time." What? I know the writer, Diane Warren, was in the audience, but really Simon? That's not even one of the best Aerosmith songs of all time. This show is apparently driving everyone crazy.

Syesha is out tomorrow night, and we'll be a day closer to the end of the most boring Idol season ever. Hallelujah. Fingerhut out.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Have you ever seen someone so happy to go home on American Idol?

Wow, I think Jason Castro would have cried if he had to stay another week. But he did give us one of the classic quotes of all time: "There were three songs next week. I don't know what I would have done." How exactly is this guy going to handle the tour? Other than Jason's very rabid and excited fans, I think everyone was happy with this elimination.

I don't have much else to say--I didn't care for that Maroon 5 song, but I enjoyed Bo Bice and he probably showed more energy and charisma than anyone on the Idol stage has the last couple weeks. And I can't even remember what happened for the first half-hour of the show, except for that "visit" to that "Love" show in Vegas. Don't we have enough commercials on this show without making five minutes of the actual show into one?

As for some of your comments: I'll take everyone's word for it that Simon was referring to the similarity between the hair of Jason and Bob Marley. But, Amy, I don't think I'm incorrect about Syesha at all. She compared her situation to the civil rights movement twice, and then she sort of did it again tonight when she talked about how the song related to the present day and possibly having a black or female president--and then also how it related to her situation. And many others heard the same thing. I'm not saying this is a reason to vote against Syesha. Her generally mediocre singing is a much better one.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

This show won't be going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Remember when this show used to be entertaining, even if the singing wasn't that great? I'm trying to, after once again watching a lackluster hour of American Idol. Yeah, it wasn't as badly produced as it was last week (any worse would be impossible), but the singing was once again mediocre and unexciting, even if they were singing some legendary songs. This season can't end soon enough.

David Cook ("Hungry Like the Wolf")-- I'm presuming that this song is considered one of the 500 most influential rock songs of all time as much, if not more, for its video than the song itself. It was one of the first music videos I ever saw--since in Montgomery County, Maryland we weren't wired for cable until I went to college and this video was shown early on the first ever broadcast of NBC's "Friday Night Videos" in 1983, I think. I believe it was the winner, over David Bowie's "Let's Dance," in the first phone-in vote. Ok, sorry for the flashback. I guess I was just delaying because I really don't know what to say about this performance except that it was kind of blah and boring. David has a really good voice, but this isn't a song that shows that off because it really doesn't go anywhere special vocally. And what was all that about Paula and David giving her an appetite? That was sort of disturbing and perhaps inappropriate.

Syesha Mercado ("Proud Mary")--Syesha has stepped it up in the last few weeks, but I didn't think this was anything special at all. It wasn't bad, it was just perfunctory. She sang it OK, but just like in the past, it just didn't draw me in. I was shocked when Paula used the the word "magnetic" to describe her performance, but actually happy, since it gave me the word to describe what was missing. The performance just didn't have any magnetism. Those dance steps she did during the tempo change summed it up--she did the right thing, but she looked totally unnatural, like she was thinking about it the whole time so she would do it correctly. It was done correctly, but it was anything but magnetic.

Jason Castro ("I Shot the Sherriff")--At least you can say that Jason looked like he was trying on this song, unlike that "September Morn" mess last week. It wasn't all that good, but I take exception to Simon's statement that the "only similarity" between Jason now and Jason earlier in the competition is "the hair." No, Jason is pretty much doing the same thing he was doing back in March, but his act got sort of tired. Other than "Hallelujah," he's never done any heavy lifting in the vocal department. As for Jason Castro singing Bob Marley, well, that joke is just too obvious to even bother doing.

David Archuleta ("Stand By Me")--For the commenter--I believe it was "Cookie"--who believes that David is taking some sort of medication, I think you might be on to something. Whenever I watch him stand there waiting for the judges' comments, it looks like he's being held hostage. Something's not quite right. And it's probably his crazy father, judging by the article in Entertainment Weekly this week about song selection before the Neil Diamond show. While David was rehearsing "America," he was saying stuff to the musical director like "the beginning needs to have a U2 vibe" (no, I don't know what he was talking about) and "There's too many 'Today's." The reporter did say, though, that he occasionally compliments his son, and then had David saying "My dad is like my translator" and "I have issues explaining what I want." It also said that David eliminates any song on the song list with "inappropriate lyrics" and that he doesn't want to sing anything about "partying all night with a woman." Make of that what you will, but it all comes off a little weird in my book. As for the song, does anyone above the age of about 20 want to see David Archuleta win American Idol? Especially if he's never going to sing any songs about "partying all night with a woman"? Actually, the reason I don't want to see David Archuleta win American Idol is because while he's a perfectly solid singer, every single song is exactly the same thing, no matter the song. You could see it tonight--in both his first and second song, he does a vocal run and goes for a higher note a few lines in, and then holds a note at the same point in the chorus each time. Am I crazy, or is there like a template that he fits every song into each week? Yeah, Randy keeps yelling "that was hot." If I was there, I'd yell, "That was ... the same!"

David Cook ("Baba O'Reily")--When David said he'd be singing this song, I thought, "Hmm, this could be interesting." And it was better than his first song, but I still thought it was a disappointment. Part of the problem was that the song is just too long to fit into the 90 seconds or so that you have on Idol to sing. Part of the song is the build to the "teenage wasteland" part of the song, and that pretty much got chopped out of the song. And so we saw him sing a decent section of the first verse, and then repeat the words "teenage wasteland" about ten times and that was pretty much it. Three years ago, Constantine was somehow able to fit Bohemian Rhapsody into a minute and a half and do it justice. David wasn't able to do that tonight. And he didn't even do a Roger Daltrey microphone twirl either. (By the way, I can't recommend highly enough the Youtube video I just watched of The Who performing this song live from sometime in the 1970s. I challenge you to not get out of your chair at some point during the song and pump your fist. And it's not completely fair, but it will make you realize how unimpressive David Cook's performance was.)

I promised a few weeks ago I'd tell my "You Got a Friend" story if people wanted to hear it, and I think I got a request or two. I'm reminded of it tonight, for reasons you'll soon realize. It was senior year in high school, and a meeting of the entire senior class was called. One of the topics: Picking our senior class song. The officers had selected three finalists: a song I can't remember but hardly anyone had heard of, "I've Had the Time of My Life" from "Dirty Dancing," and "You've Got A Friend." At the announcement of these choices, particularly the "Dirty Dancing" song, a riot nearly broke out before the class president said, "If you don't like the choices, you can nominate another one... but nothing negative like Teenage Wasteland. Someone then yelled out, "It's called 'Baba O'Reily." Anyway, I always thought that was funny, and "You've Got a Friend" was the class song because no guy was going to vote for a song from "Dirty Dancing."

Syesha Mercado ("A Change is Gonna Come")--I had a hard time paying attention to Syesha's song after Syesha compared her situation on American Idol to the civil rights movement. Huh? She even brought it up again while she was crying and I still don't understand the connection. But I guess Syesha thinks very highly of herself. Wow--"The civil rights movement ... was a pivotal time in history" and "this is a pivotal time in my life." What I did pay attention to I didn't particularly care for. She oversung the song. Sam Cooke, as Randy mentioned, didn't need to hold the final note of the song for 15 seconds, and Syesha didn't need to either. She made the song her own, but it wasn't a song I wanted to hear. As for that crying jag, I have no idea what was going on--but I guess if you think about yourself as akin to the civil rights movement, then the praise she garnered for her performance must have made her feel like she had given her "I have a dream" speech.

Jason Castro ("Mr. Tambourine Man")--What more is there to say? Pretty much like the last song he did, except it was probably a little better vocally but cancelled out by that botched lyric. Now if he had started over, would the judges have praied him?
As for "It didn't blow us away, but you blow us away"--even Paula couldn't come up with a decent compliment, huh?

David Archuleta ("Love Me Tender")--David Archuleta finally sings a love song, and it sounds just like every other song. Probably the best performance of the night objectively, but American Idol isn't about being objective. So it annoyed me, for the reasons outlined above.

Who's going home? I hope it's Jason Castro, but he's got his fans out there--when EW printed a quote from its story on its Website in which Jason basically said that he was ready to go home, an amazing number of people (more than two) left angry comments accusing the magazine of making the quote up. Kind of scary. But I still think he'll go home. Fingerhut out.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Washington Post still doesn't cover hockey

For two Saturdays in a row, the Washington Post's "Free for All" letters section has carried missives complaining of the Washington Post's poor coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs since the Washington Capitals were eliminated in the first round. It was quite fitting that a letter appeared this past Saturday, because that was the day that the Post's hockey coverage reached an unbelievable nadir that will likely be impossible to surpass. I picked up Saturday's sports section, and wasn't surprised that it didn't have the results from the Friday night Stars-Sharks game, since it didn't start until 10 p.m. and went into overtime. But I realized I had never seen the final score of Thursday night's Wings-Avalanche game four, and the Post did have a brief article and box score for the Wings-Avs under a headline that said "Thursday's game." Amazingly, although the last time I checked that game on Thursday night, it had been 7-1 Detroit, the Post had a summary and box score that had the Wings winning 4-3. What a crazy third period that must have been, huh? No, actually the final score of game four was listed in the agate type as 8-2. The Post, under the headline of "Thurday's game," had actually printed a few paragraphs and the box score from Tuesday's game three. Yes, the Washington Post printed the box score from a game that had occurred four days before.

Now I work at a newspaper, and I know that at deadline mistakes honest mistakes can be made (although you'd like to think there'd be someone who was following hockey enough in the Post newsroom to catch this one). But even if the mistake was just the case of hitting the wrong button on the computer, it sure is a fitting symbol of the Post's coverage of the NHL since the Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs. I wrote a blog post back in January about how while the Post does a good job of covering the Caps, the newspaper has essentially given up on covering the league as a whole. The outdoor game on New Year's Day, which got lots of coverage in just about every major sports outlet, got a photo and a few sentences in the Post. But after the Caps's great run at the end of the season, and the remarkable interest it generated, the Post has apparently judged that there will be no greater interest in hockey now than there was in last year's hockey postseason, when it also got no staff coverage.

In fact, I think this year the coverage is actually worse. At least three times in the past week or so, I leafed through the sports section looking for the hockey box scores and they were so buried I didn't even see them the first time through. One time they were nestled under the girls high school lacrosse results, and today the 10 sentences and box score on the clinching game in the Flyers-Habs series was so buried in the bottom right corner of the final page of the sports section that I had to point it out to my dad--who had assumed the Post just didn't print anything on the game.

One might think that with this year's Eastern Conference finals matching two teams that are probably, historically, the Caps' biggest rivals--the Penguins and Flyers--there might be some interest in Washington in the series. But don't expect any coverage beyond those wire service articles in the Post. According to a posting by Caps beat writer Tarik El-Bashir on his blog (in answer to a question I posted), the paper apparently needs to save its hockey budget to cover the draft and awards ceremony, and thus only if the finals "feature a big market matchup, or some other juicy storyline, my editors may decide to dig deep. But that's not my call."

I'm glad to hear that El-Bashir will be at the draft and awards ceremony, but amazed that the paper's sports section--which, judging from the attention it gives to events like the Olympics and the way some of its columnists opine more on national issues than local teams, obviously considers itself a player in the national scene-- is skipping the NHL playoffs. (They didn't even print previews of the second round series, after taking almost a whole page with a preview of the first round.) So why absolutely no interest in a national sports league that by all accounts (TV ratings, buzz, hugely increased interest in the local team, column on the NHL by ESPN Sports Guy Bill Simmons, even) is on an upswing? I have no idea. (Even the Washington Times had a staff-written article on Jaromir Jagr the other day. Hey, there's another local angle that's now gone.) But they're begging me to go elsewhere to read about the NHL playoffs. I guess I will.

More on this issue coming up in another post.

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