Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Some Idol thoughts

I came home late and have to get up early, and I'd rather sleep than blog. So once again an very brief comment on tonight's show.

I did enjoy Kara's heckler tonight (the one who yelled "broken record")--apparently the rest of the country is just as tired of her as I am.

The judges have always talked about song choice, but this whole thing of suggesting songs people should have sung is getting ridiculous. When you hear Danny this week talk about how last week's song was his fifth choice, and Scott say he loses "hat picks" for songs, how can you just say, "Oh, Megan, you should have sung that Adele song." Maybe it didn't get cleared, maybe someone else wanted to sing it, whatever.... This show is so frustrating sometimes.

If Kara says something about wanting to hear what your first single is going to be on your album one more time, I might punch a hole in my wall.

Randy said Scott was one of the best of the night four or five times, even though he was just the fifth person to perform. Is that really that much of a compliment?

Scott's performance was probably his best of the competition. But "Just the Way You Are" is a pretty piano-heavy song to begin with. To say, like Paula or Kara or somebody said, that he "stripped it down" is really giving him way too much credit.

Poor Matt Giraud. They keep saying that they want the singers to show what kind of artist they want to be. Matt wants to be a modern rock artist. But the judges keep telling him he's wrong and he should be an R&B artist. Judges, if this show is really about "showing who you are as an artist" -- even though it used to be about singing and performing -- then let him show who he is an an artist?

Matt, if you wanted to do a Fray song, you should have done "How to Save A Life." Better song. And don't ever do that cheesy "I'll stand up at the keyboard and have all these people standing around me." That was just wrong and much worse than your performance.

By the way, never a good idea for people on Idol to do current songs--meaning songs that are still being played regularly on the radio or have been released in the last six months or so. They haven't stood the test of time and are too fresh--it's hard to do anything with them.

Megan has reached that point for me--the female contestant who I like having on the show because she's really attractive but whose singing is poor enough that I feel really guilty about rooting for her to stay. But I didn't vote, so don't worry.

Lil, whatever problem you're having on American Idol, the answer should never be to sing a second-tier Celine Dion song. That was not that good.

I didn't really like the shrieking, but at least Adam Lambert is interesting. Funny, after last year when everyone rearranged every song to fit their personal style (and it got really boring after a while), this year hardly anyone does anything different.

The only other guy to switch things up a little is Kris, and he was good again tonight. If you had said three weeks ago that he would finish in the top three in Idol, I would have said you were crazy, but I think he's got to be one of the favorites right now.

Bottom three: Anoop (not as bad as the judges thought, but he went early in the show and wasn't particularly memorable), Megan (just not good) and Matt Giraud, because he was there last week and I don't know who else to put there. Maybe Lil, but I think she's not in danger yet.

And Megan will be eliminated.

Fingerhut out.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Very quick thoughts

Was out after work and didn't get home until late, so I don't have time to blog after watching a two-hour Idol for the sixth week in a row or whatever.

Quickly, Adam was great, Kris was too, and Anoop was pretty good as well.

Bottom three: Michael Sarver, Megan Joy (who gets better looking every week but kind of sucked tonight) and Scott. And it appears that the judges have finally figured out that Scott and Michael really aren't that great. Simon, Michael couldn't have won the competition when you urged the country to vote him into the top 12 last month--nothing happened to change that. It was always that way.
Sarver will go home.

And overall, the judges were generally pretty good tonight (and is anyone else sensing that Paula, by some of the faces she made tonight, really doesn't care for Kara), but Kara was totally wrong when she said the competition isn't about singing, but about "artistry" and what you can do to change up the melody. Kara, it is about singing well--since there's a few people left who don't sing that well--and you don't have to change the melody to be unique. Adam didn't really change the melody in any significant way (and he shouldn't have, since Tracks of My Tears is one of the great pop songs of all time), but he stripped it down and reinvented it by staying true to the song.

Fingerhut out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What was going on with that group sing?

First of all, what are they doing lip syncing the group sing? Not only could you tell from watching them sing, but the sound mix was way too good to be live. Look, those group sings are usually pretty horrible, but if you're going to pre-record the singing, why are you bothering? It's a live show. It's continually amazing how dumb the producers of this show are.

So one of the early favorites is gone. I thought Alexis didn't deserve the lashing she got from the judges last night, but probably didn't deserve all the praise she got in the semifinals. Still, I'd think I'd put her in the top half of the performers, and certainly better than Michael Sarver. But that's American Idol. I did think the judges might save her, and after not using it tonight I'm going to predict that if they use it, it won't happen until the last week possible--unless Gokey or Lambert somehow end up eliminated.

Oh, and President Obama--do you have to schedule a press conference for Tuesday night? You couldn't have postponed it a day? It messes up the usual rhythm of the week to have the Idol performance show on Wednesday night...Eh, I think I'll probably survive.

Fingerhut out.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How can I get Kara to stop appearing on my TV?

I'm tired, I'm still underwhelmed by the show, but I figured I'd at least show up to blog tonight just so I could mention that I actually met Randy Travis a couple years ago. I was at the D.C. Jewish community's Israel solidarity rally back in the summer of 2006 during the Lebanon war, and John Hagee, a popular evangelical minister in Texas, was having the annual meeting of his group Christians United for Israel in Washington that week. Randy Travis is a friend of Hagee and a supporter of Israel, so he came with Hagee and came on stage with him when Hagee spoke at the rally. I walked behind the stage after his appearance to ask him why he was there and what he thought about Israel--he said he was a big supporter (I can't find my article on line to give you all a quote) and seemed like he was about to say something really interesting when some woman walked over and told him he had to leave so he could get to the airport. And that's my brush with Randy Travis. Yeah, not very exciting. Anyway, the funniest part was a few minutes later, when the PR person from the federation walked over to me and said "Did you see Travis Tritt?" Oh, and Randy Travis was a really boring mentor.

So I'm really tired of having two-hour shows--I believe this was the fifth in a row, and there's a sixth next Tuesday--and to have a two-hour show on my least favorite night of the year, country night, probably made it seem a little longer. Having said that, I will say that no one was flat-out bad tonight. My sister said last week that my opinion that this is the worst group of finalists is wrong because there aren't any really bad singers--like there have been in past years (although Jasmine wasn't exactly good.) She has a point. But just as there aren't any bad singers, there aren't that many singers that truly stand out either. There were some good performances tonight, but I don't think there was anything that anyone will remember a couple weeks from now. That's more my problem with the season--a sameness to everything. And that is directly attributable to the judges, who don't want to see singers develop and try new things, they want to keep them in the box or lane that they're supposed to be in--and if they try to leave that lane or get out of that box, they'll be slapped down and told never to do it again. We had Alexis Grace tonight saying "I promise to be dirty next week," and Lil Rounds promising she wouldn't deviate from R&B ever again. God forbid they should try to grow as an artist and try new things. Why are the judges forcing them to do this? Why do they have to decide their place in the "industry" now, two weeks into the finals? Kara is the most annoying about it, but all the judges are doing it, and it's killing the show. But I'll stop going on about this for now because I did it last week too, and probably will every week. Brief summaries coming up:

Michael Sarver--Garth Brooks doesn't have the most powerful voice in the world but is a great singer and showman, so he can sell this song--which doesn't even involve much singing but more a lot of fast talking. Michael doesn't have the singing ability or the showmanship, so it wasn't that great. Kara lauded him for remembering a lot of words. You suck, Kara. And why is he talking back to the judges already? Awfully cocky.

Allison Iraheta --She's good, I liked it and so far looks like a 16 year old that can handle the pressure.

Kris Brown--Thought it was nice but kind of boring. The guy has a nice voice, but nothing really unique or interesting about it.

Lil Rounds--Simon, Lil is short for little, but it's also short for Lillian. Do you really think she was actually named Little? As for the song, I want to applaud Lil for actually trying to do a country song in a country song, instead of picking the most non-country song you could find or changing a country song into an R&B song. At least you were trying to stay true to the theme, even if they don't want you to do that any more. And I thought it was better than the judges thought it was--restrained, solid. And Kara, did you really suggest that she should have done "I Will Always Love You"? Hasn't that song been done enough? Although I'll give Kara a little break here, because "Independence Day" has been done far too much by Idol singers too. But Kara, I still can't stand you.

Adam Lambert--The less said about that mess, the better. Amazingly, Kara actually summed it up best by saying, "That was just weird." Don't ruin a great Johnny Cash song like that, Adam. And Kara, just because I agreed with you doesn't mean that I still wouldn't support returning to three judges on Idol as soon as possible.

Scott Macintyre--Everything Scott sings sounds like a mid-1980s soft rock song. I feel like I'm 14 and in the car with my dad while he's listening to W-Lite, the old light rock station when I was growing up in the D.C. area. This isn't necessarily a compliment. I couldn't believe Randy said something about wanted to hear some "hot, crazy" vocals from Scott. When have we ever heard "hot, crazy" vocals from Scott? He plays the piano and is a mediocre singer. But you guys praised him like he was Ray Charles for some reason. And Kara, just because I'm ripping on Randy doesn't mean I've forgotten about you. (OK, this Kara bit is getting kind of old. I'll try to stop.)

Alexis Grace--I thought this was fine, but it wasn't "dirty" enough for Kara and company and they made her promise to get dirty or whatever in the future. Hey Kara, didn't you tell Lil a few singers before that staying "true to yourself" is part of being an artist? (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

Danny Gokey--This was very good, one of the better performances of the night. While Danny doesn't have the most powerful voice, his raspy, bluesy tone is at least sort of different and interesting. And speaking of Kara, this was actually her low point of the night, when she seemed to say that Danny should only sing the chorus because he doesn't sound as good on the verses. Um, Kara, you have to build up to something, as Simon said, not scream the whole song. Even Paula was mocking her, which is punishment enough for Kara.

Anoop--I thought this was OK, but was sort of stunned with all the praise the judges gave it. I like Anoop though--he picks interesting, if not always appropriate, songs, so I hope he stays around.

Megan--I like the sound of Megan's voice, but I'm starting to think she's kind of a one-trick pony--cool-sounding voice but can't really do a lot with it. This was fine, but I'd like to see her open it up and stretch a little more. I think the way her dress showed off two of her assets tonight will keep her around another week, no matter what people thought of her vocals. And is Megan the first singer to ever perform sick or does Kara just think so because she's never been a judge before? I'm pretty sure that happens to a couple people every year, Kara. And what did you expect Megan to do? Not perform at all and get eliminated?

Matt Giraud--Pretty good, even if it did become a soul song instead of a country song. I'll leave Kara alone on this one.

Bottom three: Sarver, Megan and Scott. Michael Sarver goes home. And I'm going to bed. Fingerhut out.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A decent start, but a bad change

So I predicted that Jasmine would go, so I'm not disappointed. I am a little surprised by Jorge getting cut, not because he was such a good singer--although the beating he took from the judges Tuesday night was a little excessive--but because unlike the four wildcards, he did get enough votes to advance on his own. I would have thought he'd have enough support out there to carry him through the first week at least. But he had no chance to win, so it's no big deal

What is a big deal is this new one-time judges' veto power that was announced. Look, we've watched American Idol for seven years. Part of the deal is that occasionally people go home when they shouldn't. No one likes it, but it's the way it is. It's part of having the fans vote. Why exactly is there a burning need to change that? Especially when the judges now seem to be way more concerned with being "current" and "where you fit in the industry" than how well someone sings. And it also makes the whole process of getting voted out even tougher--you hear you've been voted out and then Ryan says, "Does he get to stay?" and they say "No, sorry." The singers are told they suck twice. Kind of harsh.

And of course, Idol couldn't introduce this new twist without being dishonest. Ryan said the veto power had to be used before the final 5. And yet, when they introduced it, they mentioned how this veto might have saved Tamyra Gray or Chris Daughtry (along with Jennifer Hudson and somebody I can't remember.) But since both Tamyra and Chris were eliminated during the final 4 round, it wouldn't have had any effect on either of their eliminations. Come on, Idol producers, how dumb do you think we are out here? It's like they're trying to make me mad.

Two more observations: The group sings are actually interesting this year, because how can you take your eyes off Scott? Is he going to bump into someone? Are they going to have him stand off to the side on anything too complicated? And actually, tonight he seemed to be participating in everything. Actually, I think his participation in the medleys is much more remarkable than his singing...

Finally, great to see Kelly Clarkson. And she was great.

Fingerhut out.

Backstory Idol

My feelings for this season of Idol haven't changed. I think this is the worst group of finalists since at least season two. I think there are about eight singers who would be somewhere around ninth-place finishers in most previous years. I think that the show is no longer a singing competition, but has become mostly a "Who's got the better backstory" or "who is more commercial or can be packaged" competition. (This is the change I really don't understand--sure, it's never been totally a singing competition, but the whole focus on singing seemed to work for the show for the last seven years...) I don't like how the producers are manipulating the show so obviously. And of course, I still can't stand Kara and feel like the value of my Duke University degree is declining each week she sits at the judges' table. But I've decided to do a quick Idol wrapup tonight because it was the first week of the finals. But only a couple sentences for each competitor. And to sum up now, my problem with the singers is that most have decent voices, but they aren't particularly interesting singers or performers, or have anything particularly special about their vocal talents. So most of tonight's performances kind of made me shrug my shoulders and say, "Eh, that was alright, but I won't remember it tomorrow."

Oh, and what's the twist tomorrow (which if you didn't set your DVR to record a few minutes past 10 you may not have heard mentioned)? The way they described it, I think it's going to be some sort of judges' veto on the person voted out. I really hope it isn't, but from the way they described it, it seemed very possible ("change the face of the show," etc.) If it is, considering all the other manipulation of the show already, it's a very bad sign for the future of Idol.

Lil Rounds -- I found it kind of shouty, and I barely remember it now a couple hours later.

Scott MacIntyre-- Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder are blind and play the piano. They're also great singers, two of the best popular music singers of the last 50 years. So I don't understand the big deal about Scott MacIntyre being blind and playing the piano--because he's not a great singer (although he does seem pretty good on the ivories.) Can we stop acting like he is a good singer? As for whatever judge said it was very safe (Randy, I think), every time we've seen Scott sing it's been just like that. Did he do a Guns and Roses cover in Hollywood we didn't see or something? What did you think you were getting? He's a pleasant singer but nothing else.

Danny Gokey -- The overemphasis on Danny's family tragedy (which thankfully wasn't mentioned tonight) may have blinded me to an important fact about Danny--that guy can sing. He's even got a somewhat distinctive, bluesy/raspy voice. Yes, Simon was right, the dancing was horrible, but the singing was actually memorable.

Michael Sarver -- As for singing that wasn't particularly memorable, we have Michael the oil rig guy. Kind of like Scott--pleasant but nothing special. Oh, and Simon's strange advocacy for Michael reached a new low tonight when his critique was "you gave it 110 percent." Simon, what is wrong with you? After eight years, you can get a good comment from you just by trying hard? You're embarrassing yourself. Or maybe this is just him trying to say that this year's finalists are so bad, as long as you try hard you can make the top 5.

Jasmine Murray -- Why exactly did she get a wild card over like 12 better singers? I'm including people who didn't even sing in the wild card round, because there were plenty who showed more than she did. I guess they like to pick teens to attract the kids, but other than Jordin Sparks, don't they know that every teen singer usually peters out by the top 6 at the latest because they're just too young to deal with the pressure? Jasmine won't make it anywhere near that point. She was flat on the chorus--and for some reason only Paula was willing to point that out.

Kris Allen--Seems like a nice guy, good voice, but nothing special about him. I will say, though, with the guitar and everything, he at least gave an exciting performance.

Allison Iraheta -- With all the blandness, her "rocker chick" thing makes her stand out in a way the rocker chicks may not have stood out in past years. I didn't think she was as great as the judges thought she was--I thought she had a lot more power in her voice in her semifinal performance.

Anoop Desai -- I like Anoop, but this was a horrible song choice. Of all the songs from Thriller, Beat It is probably the song that sounds the most dated and of its era. Plus, it doesn't really go anywhere vocally. This makes two out of three poor song choices for Anoop. Having said that, what he did sing wasn't bad--and sounded a lot more exciting vocally than some other contestants.

Jorge Nunez -- I didn't think this was as bad as the judges thought it was--but I didn't like this guy that much in the semifinal round. Another, "Eh, I won't remember it in the morning?" performance.

Megan Joy Corkery -- Megan is very attractive (except for those tattoos). Unfortunately, she also made a bad song choice in picking the very repetitive and vocally unchallenging "Rockin Robin." I have no idea what she was thinking and hope she survives. I did like her bird call or whatever it was at the end.

Adam Lambert -- I said a couple weeks ago that Adam had a good voice but that I wasn't crazy about his "over the top" performances. Well, I'm a convert. He was great tonight. Simon was right--no one else was even close. Could he become tiring a couple months from now? Sure, but he kicked butt tonight.

Matt Giraud -- The piano livened it up, but otherwise another unexciting peformance.

Alexis Grace -- Another bad song choice (I've never really like the song, but putting aside my feelings, Dirty Diana is kind of repetitive) and I wasn't a big fan of the performance. I was a fan of that skirt that barely covered her crotch, though. Wow, Kara and company really dirtied her up--she'll be naked by April. Oh, and I'm now a fan of Alexis--anyone who teaches their baby to say "Seacrest out" is awesome.

Who's going home? Jasmine for sure, and unfortunately, perhaps Megan. I hope the teenage boy audience turns out for her tonight.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Some Idol thoughts

So it does finally appear that Nick Mitchell/Norman Gentle is done--although I'm still a little stunned that he was there tonight in the mix for wild-card consideration. But I'm still not sure I want to go back to full Idol blogging, because the show this year is a complete mess.

I have many times criticized the producers of this show, particularly Nigel Lythgoe, for not really knowing what they were doing. But I now apologize to Nigel--he may have been evil, but he knew how to run the show better than the people he left behind. Has it ever been so obvious who the producers wanted to advance to the top 12 than this year, when the people who received the most attention in the earlier rounds also got the pimp, or 12th singing spot in the first three rounds? Even more puzzling is why those three people are getting pimped so hard. OK, Danny Gokey is a good human interest story because of his dead wife, but that's already getting old. And let's be honest--so far, he seems to me to be a good singer, but certainly nothing unique or special. Adam Lambert? I'll admit he's got a very good voice--but he's not everyone's cup of tea. Personally, I prefer my singers a little less over the top. As for Lil Rounds, she seems like a nice person, but is she really much different from the various belters we've had on the show over the years--from LaToya to LaKisha to Jennifer Hudson?

Even worse is that the first three-quarters of the final 12 appear to have been picked to satisfy some kind of diversity/interesting backstory requirement, with no regard for actually singing talent. We've got a blind guy, a blue-collar guy, a Puerto Rican, a single mom, a gay guy...And most of them have voices that are not unique or particularly interesting or memorable. Come on, let's be honest--Scott McIntyre is still around because he's blind. I love Bruce Hornsby and was glad Scott picked one of his song to sing. And Scott has a very pleasant voice. But every wild card they picked tonight has a better voice than he does--and probably almost all are better singers too.

In fact, that group of eight picked for wild cards is a really good group--if they were the first eight of the final group, I'd be really happy. They're a much more interesting group than the actual first nine finalists. You've got some really good, interesting male voices in Anoop and Ricky. You've got some really interesting female voices in Megan and Jesse. Tatiana is only there because she's completely insane--but she does have a good voice. I thought Von was surprisingly good last night. Even Jasmin and Matt seemed to have some good potential in Hollywood and the audition rounds.

So we're going to lose four or five singers Thursday night and keep a bunch of mediocre singers. Wow, how exciting. And we'll get to hear Kara say stupid stuff like "that song didn't tell me what it's like to go shopping with you." Since when did this become all about "what kind of artist" you are in the first week? Can't we figure out who is a good singer--because the judges sure aren't doing a good job of it? Kara, please don't give Duke University a bad name by continuing this ridiculous focus on personality over, um, talent. This show is just making me angry. Hopefully I can make it through tomorrow night.

Fingerhut out.