Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No Idol post tonight...

because I was at the Caps game, and it was spectacular.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nothing has changed

Passover is over, and thus after getting home late tonight, I don't have the time to do a full blogging rundown of tonight's Idol. But my quick summary would be that absolutely nothing surprising happened tonight that changes the competition in any way. Adam was the best, Lil brought up the rear and everyone else pretty much fit tonight where they basically are in the general scheme of things--Kris and Allison near the top, Danny getting great judges' reviews even though I didn't think he was that great, Matt making me wish he hasn't gotten saved last week, etc. I guess Anoop was kind of disappointing, considering he'd been getting better the last few weeks. Tonight, I thought he was bland and off-tune.

A few more quick notes:

Back in season four, they changed the theme name from "Disco Night" to "70s Dance Night" because they didn't want to lose Bo Bice--who had a rough week the night before and was likely to not be comfortable doing a disco song. It allowed him to do "Vehicle," he survived and he ended up going to the finals. That seems so long ago--now, contestants just take a disco song and revamp it as an acoustic guitar-based, Santana-like song (like Kris), or a ballad (like Adam) or a jazzy mess (like Matt). When the show started tonight, this annoyed me--after all, disco isn't about a certain type of song, it's about a certain beat. By the end of the show, I was just resigned to the fact that American Idol has changed and this is the way it is now--and I liked both Kris and Adam's performance, so it wasn't that bad. It still feels not quite right, though.

Also, I said this last week, but it was even more of an issue tonight--When will the judges stop lying to Lil? This week, Kara again went with the "you didn't show us the kind of artist you are" crap. Please, Kara, stop with that and just tell her she sang the song poorly. Simon managed to say it, why does everyone else keep telling her this nonsense?

Amazing what getting rid of the taped pieces did for the time issue, huh? They were pretty much right on schedule tonight. By the way, there was an article this week in which one of the AI producers said they were happy with four judges and weren't thinking of going back to three judges. Gosh, I hope this was just "well, what else can we say during the season" kind of stuff, because I don't think America will be able to take another year of this.

Now, I'm going to go to bed while trying to get those frightening vocal runs from Matt Giraud's "Staying Alive" out of my head. I think he and Lil and Anoop will be the bottom three, and Matt and Lil will go home--although if someone like Allison or Kris or Danny ends up going home and they can't use the judges' save, I'll laugh and enjoy what the judges' stupidity last week will have wrought. Yeah, we all find enjoyment in strange places.

Fingerhut out.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Making history?

While Lil should have gone home, Matt wasn't very good last night and it was pretty much about the right time for him to go home. Simon was absolutely right--he has no chance to win the competition. So why was the judges save used tonight? Maybe Simon didn't want to have to listen to Kara and Paula any more? Who knows. (And geez, I know Paula has always danced to the singing of the Idols, but she's so wacky it seemed sort of genuine. Kara's exaggerated posing and singing-along is just annoying and a cry for attention.)

I can't wait for someone that might have deserved the save, or someone that the producers would much rather have in the competition (like a Danny Gokey or something), to end up in the bottom two next week and he'll be forced to go home because they wasted it on Matt Giraud. Oh well, it might make things more interesting next week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What a mess

When American Idol first began, I marveled every week what an enjoyable, entertaining show it was. Now, I tune in every week and I marvel at what a mess the show has become. I once wrote in this blog that the producers of American Idol don't seem to know why this show is successful, but American Idol was such a simple yet great concept for a show that even they can't screw it up. But maybe they can. Tonight's decision to only have two judges give remarks on each contestant was really a disgrace. That's the only way they could figure out fitting the show into an hour? Really? They couldn't have cut some of the Ryan introducing the judges crap, and the Tarantino intro, and the other junk that led to no one singing until seven minutes into the show and only one person singing in the first 16 minutes of the show? They couldn't have cut those Coca-Cola sponsored interviews? We really had to hear about Danny Gokey buying a guitar? They couldn't have sold a couple less commercials? They couldn't have just forced the judges to say less? And they didn't think of this before adding a fourth judge?

Look, I'm not bothered (and I can't imagine anyone else will be bothered) to not hear Randy or Kara critique Allison or Adam or Danny. But I am bothered to not hear Simon critique Anoop or Matt or Kris. As much as Simon seems sort of bored and mailing it in this year, he's still the only judge who really matters. He's the voice that's closest to the people. If he likes someone, they get votes. If he pans someone, they lose votes. His bluntness and honesty was the reason people started watching this show in the first place. Hearing his opinions is one of the reasons we tune in every week. It's stunning that the producers don't seem to be aware of this.

Last year, Paula got a lot of attention for giving her critique of Jason Castro's second song before Jason actually performed his second song. It was weird, but odd things always happen with Paula. To me, the big scandal that night was that the judges had been told to hold their critiques until the second performance. What amused me was that the only reason they ended up giving rushed critiques at the end of everyone's first performance was because the head of reality programs at Fox was watching at home and called in to the producer to tell them to get the judges to give some critiques before the second performance. So the network head watching the show was home going, "What are they doing?" Well, at least someone at Fox knows what's going on.

The most amazing thing: They still went four minutes past 9:00 tonight. Unbelievable.

Enough ranting. Quickly, though, let me weigh in on last week's departure of Scott. He handled his elimination with grace and good humor; it's just unfortunate that the judges had to patronize him to the very end by pretending they might save him. Depressing.

After last week's good theme, we get a poor theme--movie songs. It's terrible because it has nothing to do with music--it's just a random, artificial distinction whether a song happened to be in a film or not and has nothing to do with the song.
As for Tarantino, he is someone who is both a fan of Idol and a big fan of music and how it fits into movies--I read somewhere that he said he wouldn't have made the movie Pulp Fiction if he hadn't been able to get the right to use "Son of a Preacher Man." On the other hand, the contestants weren't singing in movies or singing over video--they were performing on a stage. I guess he was OK though--he approached it from a performance aspect instead of totally a vocal aspect, so it did give us something a little different.

Let's get to the singers.

Allison--I thought this was fine, but nothing special. She came on well at the end, but I've heard this song sung a lot by various people, and it didn't strike me as anything particularly memorable. Simon seems to come around on her, though. By the way, I think Allison needs to stop closing her eyes and turning to the side when singing the big notes--she looks like she's trying too hard instead of just performing.

Anoop--Anoop is getting better--I really enjoyed this. He gave it just enough of his own spin to "make it his own" without changing it up too much, and vocally it was just really nice. This is an example of what I meant early in the season when I complained about Kara requiring that someone's single song choice in the semifinal round define them as an artist for the rest of the competition. Anoop has a good voice, but needed a few weeks to figure out what he's good at and what he shouldn't do--and that's always been part of the fun of American Idol, seeing contestants develop and get better and not be a "package artist" from the very beginning. Did Kara watch this show before she started judging it? Maybe, but she obviously didn't get it.

Adam--Obviously not as good as last week--but that was a very high bar to clear--but I liked it. It was interesting and his voice sounded good and he wasn't screechy, as he'd been on some earlier up tempo songs. He really sounds like Axl Rose when he starts wailing, so in case you're reading, Adam, I'd love to see you do "Sweet Child O'Mine" before the end of the season.

Matt Giraud--Chris Daughtry was able to do something good with it a few years ago, but I've never been a real fan of this song---I always found it a little boring. And Matt didn't really change that. The first part was kind of boring, and when he changed up the melody in the second half, it was a little more exciting but the vocals weren't exactly memorable. Matt seems very limited and not particularly versatile to me--if he sings a piano-based soul song, he's fine, but if he does anything else it's not that great. Might be his time to go next week.

Danny Gokey--Danny has a nice voice, seems like a nice guy, but is he really anything more than that? This was fine, but I've already pretty much forgotten it a couple hours after I watched it. Just seems like other singers on the show are a lot more interesting performers and singers than Danny is. I will defend Danny on one thing, though. Simon noted that Danny didn't do anything new with the song like David Cook did with the Lionel Ritchie song "Hello" last year. What's funny about that is that Chris Sligh totally revamped this song two years ago, making it into a Coldplay song and I believe Simon and others told him that with such a classic song, he should have just sung the melody. Granted, Chris's version was terrible, and that one could conceivably change up the song without ruining it as badly, but it's still sort of ironic.

Kris Allen--Great song choice, great song, and he sung it well, with emotion. Unfortunately, we didn't get to hear what Simon thought about it--did he love it as much as Kara? If he did, that would have really helped Kris. But I guess we'll never know. (And to be fair, if he didn't like it, it might have hurt Kris, but that's the way the show works.) Oh, and Kara--can you really call a song that won an Academy Award an "obscure" song?

Lil Rounds--This was just not good. I have no idea how she got the pimp spot. The first half of the song was off-key and the second half, when she gave it the gospel tinge, was a little better but still kind of flat. You know you're bad when Paula doesn't even mention your performance but talks about what great lyrics the song has. As for the Simon-Lil confrontation, I feel bad for Lil because she's doing what the judges say they want--but the judges haven't been honest with her all through the competition. They keep telling her she's picking the wrong songs, she's not being enough of an artist, blah, blah, and if she picks the right song she'll be fine. But that's not Lil's problem. Lil's problem is that whatever song she picks, she doesn't sing it very well. She's not that good a singer. She probably shouldn't have been so pimped by the show and the judges in the first place. Randy has often said, at his most lucid, that whatever song you pick, sing it well. Lil only did that once, and that was her problem--not the fact that she never picked a Keyshia Cole or Mary J. Blige song. It's a shame the judges never got around to saying that with their ridiculous focus on artistry this year. At least Simon sort of came close to saying it tonight, but not as blunt as it should have been, when he said "You're not the artist I thought you were."

Bottom three: Matt, Lil, Danny, with Lil going home. And the judges hopefully won't even waste time pretending to use the save.

Fingerhut out.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

It's Lambert's to lose

For the first time in a few weeks, I'm back in full blogging mode tonight--I get out of work early tomorrow for Passover, so I can come home and take a nap if I'm tired. So let's break tonight's show down, which was a fairly entertaining one for this season, singer by singer.

But first, a word about the theme. I like the birth year theme, because it gives the singers enough songs that they should be able to find something good to choose from, but does limit them enough so that they can't pick just anything. (Of course, some people still cheat, which we'll get to momentarily.)The birth year theme also gave us one of my favorite Idol performances of all time, Constantine's "Bohemian Rhapsody," which in some ways changed the way Idol contestants envisioned what they could do, not always in a good way (like that Michael Johns doing "Day in the Life" montrosity last year.) Tonight, the one problem with the theme was that there were so many singers born in the mid-1980s that the flashbacks I was getting to junior high school were giving me the shakes. Even so, it was nice to see some fresh songs that I don't think have been done on Idol before. Some weren't particularly good choices for the singers, but we'll get to that.

Also, the producers of this show--and the judges for that matter--should be embarrassed at how long the show ran over tonight (my DVR was set to go seven minutes past nine and it still cut off during the recap) and how Adam didn't even get a full critique (and Matt got three words from everyone). How did they get that far behind and not appear to know it until 8:55? They only had eight singers tonight. They've done 10 singers in an hour before and they can't fit it eight now?
I know it has a lot to do with having four judges, which everyone knows by now is a mistake. But why can't the judges in the early part of the show learn to speak concisely--both Paula and Kara just go on and on and on, and tonight often said similar things, although Kara is much more annoying at it. At least they skipped that ridiculous intro where the judges walked out tonight. They got through seven years with Ryan introducing the judges--we really didn't need that weirdness this year to add to all the other horrors we've had to sit through. On to the singers.

Danny Gokey--Anyone who's ever read this blog knows what I'm going to say about the song selection here. Mickey Gilley's "Stand by Me"? I know this has happened before, but isn't this kind of cheating? I have no idea if Mickey Gilley's cover of "Stand By Me" was popular or not (I listened to it on Youtube, and it's basically a country version of the song, not the weird jazzy thing that Danny did), but this isn't a song from 1980, it's a song from the early 60s. Here's a question: The movie "Stand by Me" came out in 1986, and the song (the Ben E. King version, of course) became a radio hit that summer again, if I recall correctly. Could someone born in 1986 sing that song for the birth year theme? Anyway, Danny's peformance was actually pretty good, even with the strange arrangement of the song. He's got a nice, gravelly tone to his voice, but he still doesn't strike me as that special or remarkable. Others seem to disagree, though.

Kris Allen -- First of all, Kris, that whole surrounded by fans thing didn't work for Matt last week. I have no idea why you decided to do that, but don't do it again--it just makes you look lame and we couldn't even see you that well. Then the choice of song--why would you pick a song that pretty much stays with the same limited notes/melody the whole way through? Adding a little jazziness didn't really change that. Simon was right, it was boring--and seemed like you've been reading your good reviews.

Lil--Actually, unlike the judges, I thought this was a pretty good song choice for Lil, until she started to sing it and I thought, before the judges said it, that this does sound kind of karaoke. Of course, the problem with this kind of critique of Lil--the karaoke critique--is that, as Randy unwittingly pointed out during his judges critique, they keep telling Lil to be somebody else ("Oh, you should sing Mary J. Blige, oh, you should sing Keisha Cole, etc.") So she was just trying to be somebody else by doig a karaoke performance, just not the right person as far as the judges are concerned. Here's the other problem with Lil, as Michael Slezak at has frequently pointed out in recent weeks--the judges keep talking about how talented Lil is, but we really haven't seen much evidence of it. Whenever they showed her in Hollywood, she was shouting and oversinging, and other than her very good semifinal performance, she hasn't had one really good performance in the finals. What exactly did she do to be talked about as "mad, mad talented" by Randy every week? Sorry, don't see it.

Anoop--OK, I'll grudgingly congratulate Anoop and the rest of the University of North Carolina for their victory last night. They deserved it--they were the best team this year. I just wish that the championship game would have been a litle more interesting--having it basically wrapped up by the first TV timeout was pretty boring. Then again, I was able to get 24 instead of wasting my time waiting for a hopeless Michigan State comeback. Wow, I can't believe UNC has won two titles since the last time Duke was in the Final Four. Oh, Anoop's singing. I thought he was great--gave it his own spin, confident and assured, good song. If he does that a couple more weeks in a row, he has top four potential--which didn't seem likely a few weeks ago.

Scott--Tonight may have been the best example of the judges patronizing Scott because of his blindness. If anyone else had been that bad and botched that many notes, would they have gotten the "Well, bad song choice, and boring performance, but it wasn't that bad" critique that he got. Simon said he picked a bad song--the song was fine, he just didn't sing it well. Please America, haven't we had enough?

Allison--She was really good, because she took a song that's often sung on Idol in a very quiet, safe way, and put some vocal power behind it. I think it was one of her best performances of the season. Having said that, please stop comparing her to Kelly Clarkson, judges. It's not fair to her, and while I see the comparison somewhat vocally, there is a huge gap in personality--as the judges sort of acknowledged. Allison seems to have plenty of personality in the video clips, in interviews with Ryan on stage, etc. But she doesn't have much personality when she's singing--something Kelly Clarkson always had a lot of. It may just be an age thing that she'll develop, though. Oh, and I can't believe there's a contestant on American Idol that was born two weeks before I graduated college.

Matt Giraud--"Part-time Lover"--the song that was forever soiled on the Idol stage by the version that Kevin Covais gave us. Matt was much better than that, but I wasn't loving it as much as the judges. Too much growling and vocal runs and scat singing, and not enough just pure singing for me. But it should get him to next week.

Adam Lambert--When this show started, I was a little skeptical of Adam and all his flamboyance and theatrics. (By the way, loved when his dad said he was never interested in sports.) But I'm firmly on the Adam Lambert bandwagon now. Another really great, mostly restrained performance. The guy can sing, and he's interesting. I know there are a lot of Danny Gokey fans out there, including one of my family members, but come on--Adam is kicking his butt every week. Has Simon ever given a standing ovation to any contestant before?

Bottom three: Scott, Lil and let's say Matt because he seems to be there a lot.
Going home: Let's hope it's Scott.


Happy Passover, happy Easter and Fingerhut out.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The only good thing about the Idol results show....

is that Kara doesn't talk much. Otherwise, it's just a mess. The latest addition --the lip-synching of the group sings for no particular reason (this is a singing contest and they're fake singing!). Oh, well, David Cook was good--although the way they kept showing his mom was very strange.

Megan's gone, and that's good--very attractive, except for that sleeve-like tattoo, but out of her league the last few weeks. Anyway, if you want to read something funny about my least favorite judge, and some apparent tensions between her, Paula and Simon (which was noticeable last week when Paula made a face after Kara gave a rough critique of someone), here's a link to an US Magazine article.

Fingerhut to bed.