Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I want what she's having

Top ten, eh? If they say so. Top four maybe.

What is the deal here? First night of finals I can accept and even overlook nerves, which translate into somewhat weak performances. Week two of finals, there is only one disaster of a performance, and she got the hook. What happened? Did Mikalah suck the life out of this group as the door hit her in the backside?

I know I have an inherent bias here. I neither like nor appreciate most of the so-called music that creeped out of the 1990s. So, admittedly, I am going to turn a much more critical ear to the music I really don't like to begin with.

But really!! I needed some of whatever it was Paula was consuming to get through last night. Then I needed some more to get through my taped replay today.

This season is different than the others in that, since all ten have at least the potential of blowing the doors out of the studio, one slip, one flat note, one forgotten lyric can send that kid packing the next day, because, now that we're rid of Mikalah, there are none of "those," the ones who everyone knows will be worse. But when there are multitudes of flat notes and poor performances, it's anyone's guess who will be picking up plane tickets.

Who's safe?

Carrie. She's been the most consistent, and seems to have legions of fans who will keep her in the game throughout April. It remains to be seen if Simon's overt coronation of her as the heir apparent will negatively affect her. I tend to think it will ultimately, which is why I don't think she will win, but as long as she keeps playing the game the way she's been playing, she really is not in any danger of leaving the sofa.

Bo. Many people are imagining a Bo/Carrie finale -- the rocker versus the country girl. Might be the best finale so far. Even a lesser performance will not put Bo anywhere near the seal tonight or in the foreseeable future. His fans will lose their dialing fingers before they allow that to happen.

Constantine. Constantine entered this competition with the biggest fan base of all the contestants, and the gradual shedding of his rocker skin has kept the faithful dialing as well as bringing in new members to the flock. So it certainly won't hurt that he had the best performance of the guys last night. Pencil him in through mid- to late-April. At least.

Who's somewhat safe?

Vonzell. Two spectacular performances in a row have upped this girl's stock considerably. Obviously she took Simon's advice to become memorable to heart. I used to have to struggle to remember which name I kept forgetting. I don't forget or overlook or underestimate Vonzell anymore. Anyone who could make me want to listen to a Whitney song deserves kudos.

Who's at risk?

Nikko. The judges are heaping on the praise for the comeback kid, but he still is fighting the "Mario backlash" of fans who, for some insane reason, blame Nikko for their contestant's resignation. I think he's safe for the time being, but once the field thins out a bit, one slip on stage will mean a pink slip for Ozzie's son.

Scott. For as long as he is in the game, Scott will battle the image problem and those fans who are just so turned off by his physical appearance and less-than-smooth stage persona that they will refuse to dial his number. On the plus side, many people will see him as the "underdawg" he is, tend to gravitate to the downtrodden and will fly to the phones to save him when his vocals have failed him. Like last night.

Anwar. Oh Anwar, who began the competition as one of the overwhelming favorites, can only ride that adoration so far before people find themselves aligning with one of the other contestants, like Vonzell. He has turned in three disappointing performances in a row. If he's not in the bottom three tonight, and he performs at the same level next week, I don't see Anwar sticking around to make it to the halfway point.

Nadia. Nadia found herself in the bottom two after Billboard week, and it may have just sent her and her fans an important message. She rebounded this week, and turned in one of the better stage performances, but many people noticed her Jennifer Hudsonesque attitude last week as she stood next to Mikalah. And it has turned many of once-fans into former fans. Jennifer Hudson never fully recovered from her diva'tude last year. I don't expect Nadia to either.

Jessica. Simon said it. I knew there was just something about Jessica, but I couldn't define it. She's not innately likeable. Her wardrobe, her styleand her attitude have screamed toughened bar chick. So she does have to work on the likeability factor, moreso than most of the others. And if she wants to stay away from the seal, she's going to have to choose stronger, bolder songs, like she did last week. She needs to distance herself from Carrie, rather than following behind in her footsteps like an insecure puppy.

Anthony. Anthony is the most at risk here. He is the sugar-free vanilla in a house of 33 flavors. He's ridden the cute Ukrainian trach-boy Clay Aiken-wannabe horse a little too long. The horse is gettin' tired. The horse needs a break.

In one way, predicting tonights bottom group is easy. In another respect, it's the most difficult prediction yet.

Should be bottom three:
Anthony, Scott, Anwar.

Will be bottom three:
Anthony, Jessica, Scott.

Bottom two:
Anthony and Jessica. Anthony goes home.

What was that disaster?

When you don't know, or recognize, a great deal of music from any one decade, it's tough to judge if you like, or dislike, the song or the performer. That was my difficulty tonight. But, overall, the show was, for the best top 10 they've ever fielded, a disappointment.

These are the early observations, without benefit of listening without watching or watching without notetaking, as always, from worst to first.

Anthony. Could you have chosen a blander song that "The Way You Look Tonight?" It seems that no matter what decade you're stuck in, all of your songs sound alike. Bottom three last week was deserved. I see you performing that song again, sooner than what you expected.

Scott. Randy was right. You were pitchy throughout the song. Again, I'm still unsure if it was you I was not liking, or the song, but it was your worst performance to date.

Anwar. At least I recognized this song, but Anwar, if you haven't realized by now that when you begin a song in your lower register that you are all over the place, you need to watch yourself on tape. I hate agreeing with Randy and Simon, but your ending, and that money note, was the only thing that saved this song.

Bo. I can't believe I'm putting my guys all at the bottom, but they deserve to be there. Bo, I love when you're rocking, but that song was terrible. I liked the innovation of walking across the judges' table, though, considering that your walk across the catwalk has been already so overused. And sucking up to Paula is not necessary, because she's going to drool whether or not you give her your hat.

Nikko. I didn't know the song, so I have little to judge it by except for the fact that the judges say it was terrific. I, personally, didn't like it, but I did like it better than many of the others.

Jessica. Who stole Jessica. Somebody swiped her and replaced her with a half black-haired lookalike, because that song was possibly the most boring I've ever heard on the Idol stage. You sang it well, or as well as one can sing a lullabye, but, somebody put out an Amber Alert, because the real Jessica really needs to be returned to the show. Pronto.

Nadia. I don't know why Simon thought Melissa Etheridge would turn people off. It's a great song, and, while you did miss a few notes here and there, your presentation more than made up for the lack of vocals. And your hair is much improved over last week.

Carrie. Okay, so I recognize Independence Day. And I know that Simon is drooling all over you. And yes, your vocals were pure asusual. And your stage presence is improving, but Simon's "it" factor and mine are obviously a lot different.

Constantine. How cool was it that, one week after paying homage to the Partridge Family, you decide to take on a song traditionally performed by female artists. I love it when you slow it down, you don't scream, you don't jump around like your butt is on fire. You really do have a decent voice. You need to let it come through.

Vonzell! I hate Whitney Houston songs performed by anyone not named Whitney. But in a night where disappointment was the word du jour, your show ending performance really was worthy of a number one placement. And, even if you had hacked throughout your song, your hair was enough for me.

I never ever want another 90s night. Ever. The 70s were far preferable.

Friday, March 25, 2005

This is what we call a competition

I had a dream last night that it was American Idol season, and the final ten didn't have a single note-murderer among them. There were no Camiles, no Nikkis, no Leahs, no John Stevenses, and no Carmens.

Then I awoke.

And it's true. We're going to have a season where one performance can make or break a contestant because, even though we can rank the final ten in terms of the weaker v. the stronger, each of them has a breakout performance inside, just waiting to be released.

And it's all thanks to the goodbye we said last night to Mikalah, a cute girl with an amusing personality, who just was out of her league from the moment she stepped upon the stage. Her only save was the fact that Lindsey was just more boring, which enabled Mikalah to make it as far as she did.

People everywhere are expressing absolute shock at the bottom three, though. I wasn't shocked that Nadia ended up on the seal, though. (Anthony was not surprising, and those who say his walk from the couch was unexpected haven't been paying attention.) But Nadia?

Tuesday (and, I suppose Wednesday, if we're being technical) was a disaster, from the pitchiness of the performance to that thing she called a hairstyle. So, if we're voting (as they say we should) based on a single night's performance, she should have been standing on that stage. If, however, we are voting based on the body of work thus far, she should have remained seated on the sofa. After all, sitting there were performers who have given us, over the past few weeks, performances more disappointing.

Perhaps Nadia's walk to the seal is the best thing that could have happened for her. When a player is told one week that's she's a steak in Burger King land, complacency is always a risk. She now knows she's not immune. And her fans know that too, much like Ruben's fans got a wake-up call during season two, and Fantasia's were given a kick in the pants during season three.

Have we learned nothing from Tamyra?

Mikalah handled her ejection with the poise and class of a pro. So long to her. And good luck. We'll see her in the finale, but not on the tour.

Group sing? Yikes. I didn't think it would be possible to like last week's better than anything, but the kids' rather strident rendition of He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother, one of the softest ballads ever, just left me cold.

But it's always a good night when the commercial makes me smile. Hey! Finally a fun commercial, well-produced and sufficiently amusing.

No word yet on next week's theme, although I have seen rumors circulating, speculating anywhere from club/dance hits (ouch) to one-hit-wonder night (YAY!).

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

On a night when country does rock, rockers chew bubble gum and votes are thrown away like eyeglasses

What an odd, alternative-universe-y night on American Idol, where country went rock and the rockers went all soft and gooey. Of course, we're gonna do it all over again tonight, but according to the, official website, the performances will be encore presentations, and, probably, the only "live" material will be Ryan trying to explain why on earth we're being forced to sit through it all over again. And, with any luck, we will have the public beheading of the person behind the telephone number graphic wheel. That will be fun.

I tried a simulblog of last night. I haven't done that for a performance episode since last year's finale. Makes it hard to really watch and listen while I'm still trying to make sure my fingers are on the right keys. So, while I was busy erasing the word "redial" from my phone last night, I watched the episode again. Makes it easier to judge. Overall the show was far more entertaining than the one which preceded it.

And so, therefore, without further BS, here they are, as always from worst to first.

Mikalah. I'm going to try to find something very positive to say about Mikalah.


I give up.

Nikko. Now in all fairness, I have never heard that song. And I hated the song. So I hope that my assessment of Nikko is based on his performance, and not on my pure dislike of the song. But I didn't like it. I don't understand why, when Nikko did such a fine job on Georgia during the semis, that the judges would call this his best. His vocals were choppy (but again, perhaps that's the way the song is supposed to be) and he definitely suffered some pitch problems.

Nadia. Oh my stars, this was awful from your mohawk (oh, those banana clips!) to your botox smile, to your presentation, to your vocals. That was a trainwreck. But you have enough fans and enough stored in the bank of past performances to see you through that.

Anwar. Something is terribly wrong when I put Anwar in the bottom half for two straight weeks. But this was a night of what's left is really right and what's up isn't really up, but down. Again, I hate that song, but I love you, so I am more than willing to forget, for 90 seconds, my dislike for the music. But you looked so stiff, so ill at ease, so not like you. But you did give me a glory note to hold and kiss, and for that, I thank you. And I'm not losing any sleep worrying about you being ejected.

Anthony. They tell you to get off the ballads and mix it up, so you do, and they tell you to get back to the ballads. Your performance was the best I've heard from you, but I don't think you have a strong enough voice to pull off what you tried. You suffered through several flat notes. You need to stop trying to be Clay Lite and start trying to be yourself.

Vonzell. Simon told you that you were finally memorable. I find it odd that I can remember him saying that, yet I can't remember what you sang. So I had to look it up. Ah yes. That song. Not bad. It didn't make me want to applaud, or even smile, and, to be honest, midway through the show I was so sick of everyone doing the Bo-on-the-catwalk-behind-the-judges-thing, I just kind of quit listening.

Constantine. I cannot begin to scream how much I loved your choice of song. Who would ever have thought that the New York rocker would pull a Partridge out of his hat? What a brilliant move! You could have warbled it and coughed all the way through it, and I would still have jumped up and applauded, for nothing else, your guts to wink at us early 70s teenyboppers, who thought that song was the greatest song ever recorded. I really didn't care about the lukewarm reception given by the judges, and I don't think you did either, considering the fans you already have and the ones (like me) you just bought. (I was, however, a bit bummed not to see you in a ruffled white shirt under a burgundy velvet vest, though. But I'll get over it.)

Jessica. My only complaint with Jessica's performance, aside from the wardrobe, which, while considerably more modest than past disasters, really really needs improvement to rank any higher on my scale, was the lack of emotion with this song. This is Bonnie Tyler. This is a gruff, edgy, broken song, and, while you performed it technically well, was lacking in the edginess I was looking for in your voice. But I think you definitely saved yourself a trip to the seal this week.

Bo. Of all of the songs delivered last night, this was the only song that I begged for in my fantasy. Jim Croce is sacred to me, as is this song. It brings back a flood of memories to me, mostly good ones, so I knew I would be overly critical of whoever sang it, if someone chose to. And, of all the ones, you never crossed my mind, which is why I jumped up and down with happiness, because I knew you wouldn't destroy it. (Even though, I admit, I was disappointed not to get a Doobie Brothers or Guess Who performance from my favorite rocker.) Bo, you proved you are not a one-genre performer. Your vocals were right on, and your performance, with the single guitar, was spotless. Loved it.

Carrie. Loved, loved, loved the hair, no matter what anyone says. Loved the flashback to the big hair 80s. And I enjoyed the shift. I had come to believe that you would never break out of the country box they've put you in, but to choose Heart, of all performers, was really quite surprising. Your vocals were perfection, but your weakness is the same weakness you've suffered from all season, which is why I think Simon is wrong. Unless you start "performing" instead of just standing there "singing" you aren't going to be in the finale, much less sell more singles than Fantasia, Clay, Ruben or Kelly. And it didn't help you any that Simon just may have ticked off the fans of those Idols to the point of driving them away from you. You fall number two here, only on the basis of your vocal ability. Performance-wise, Anthony ranks above you.

Scott. I didn't think I would put Scott number one after finding out that he was going to sing the most oversung, overdone and overused song in Idol history. (Will someone please please retire Against All Odds?!) I really thought I would watch this performance with such a prejudiced ear that no matter the quality, I would pick it apart. After all, my George performed it last year, and, as much as I loved George, I left the room. But Scott, vocally you are one of the superior players in this game, so that's not why I put you here. You have evolved into a comfortable stage persona. The raw emotion I saw in your face, as you tore off the hat and the glasses (although tossing them was a bit over the top) as you cried the lyrics was almost heartbreaking. And that's what performing is. And that's why you got all of my votes that don't count now.

So who deserves to stay seated on the couch, and who needs to take a little walk to the seal?

Should be bottom three: Mikalah, Nikko, Anthony.
Will be bottom three: Mikalah, Vonzell, Nikko.

Going home: uhhhhh, Mikalah.

Oops, sorry, wrong number!

And this just in, just as I'm replacing my misplaced comma. Drats.

Need more than two days of Idol? Well you're gonna get it.

Tuesday was such fun, we're just gonna do it all over again!!

Seems there was a foul! A Boo-Boo! (And, yes, the conspiracy theories are running rampant...)

Tonight we will be treated to another one-hour half-live/half-taped performance episode, identical to last night except, perhaps, the intern in charge of phone number graphics will have been FIRED.

Yep, that's right. As anyone who has last night's performance episode taped, or has been haunting the message boards aready knows the last three phone numbers during the end-of-the-show recap were totally screwed up. Mikalah was given Anthony's number; Anwar had Carrie's and Jessica got Scott's.

RANT: This would be semi-understandable for a live, public access show about the local animal shelter's adopt-a-pet program. This is American Idol. I don't wanna hear no "technical glitch" "personal reason" excuse here. What the hell happened?

The bottom line on this mess is that they have invalidated the votes from last night, and now, all of our VCRs, TiVos, and watching schedules get totally thrown out of whack.

Performance do-over is 9-10 tonight, with two hours of voting. Results show is 9 p.m. Thursday.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

It's fantasy Idol time

Tuesday is Billboard #1 Hits theme night, and the kids will have a long list of songs, artists and genres to choose from, as long as the song made it to the top of the Billboard chart for at least one week.

The top listings began in the 1950s, so the available songs are from that era forward. It is important to remember, though, that Idol does not have license to allow every song to be available. For instance, unless things have changed since last season, the Idol contestants are prohibited from performing any song recorded by the Beatles, as the owner of the Beatles catalog (last I knew it was Michael Jackson) refuses to give clearance.

So, of course, there are likely other songs on the "do not sing" list, but, I have my own wish list of #1 hits I'd like to hear. And since I am most familiar with music from 1980 and before, I'm sticking to only those three decades.

Anthony seems to be most comfortable with the slower-tempo numbers, so, as long as he promises not to destroy them, my wish is for Anthony to sing one of the following three songs.

Time In a Bottle, a #1 hit for Jim Croce in 1973. Croce is sacred to me, though, so I'm a little iffy about this. If he were to butcher it, I would not only not vote his number, but I'd shoot him. So, Anthony, you might want to take a safer route and select My Eyes Adored You, which reached #1 in 1975 by Frankie Valli, but might be considered too safe by the judges. Make it With You, a #1 hit in 1976 for Bread, is a thought, though another chancy selection.

Anwar needs to take a break from the ballads eventually, but he's one of the safest contestants, so he can wait until disco night to let loose. This is my fantasy, so I get to call the shots.

I want Anwar to sing The Platters' Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, a chart topper in 1959. I will have extra panties on hand.

But if he doesn't choose that, my wish is to hear him perform Soul and Inspiration by the Righteous Brothers, which reached #1 in 1966, or he can select You Send Me, by Sam Cooke,a #1 hit in 1957. No one does the classic songs like this man, and this theme allows him to reach back into the heart of beautiful music.

I had the most difficult time narrowing my list to three for Bo. He could sing the Alphabet Song, and I would be happy. There are so many selections for him, but because I'm trying to keep it at three, it was tough, but here are my choices:
Black Water by the Doobie Brothers, a #1 hit in 1975. If you thought he rocked before, just wait. Or there's You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, a top hit for Bachman Turner Overdrive in 1974, and Three Dog Night is always good. How about Mama Told Me (Not to Come), which topped the Billboard chart in 1970.

Note to self: buy extra panties.

Since Carrie seems to be lost in the country, I tried to find three songs that might serve as a sort of crossover. And since she needs to show a bit more personality, I would like to hear her sing I Want to Be Wanted, one of, if not my favorite Brenda Lee tune from 1960. But she might do well sticking with Linda Rondstadt's You're No Good, a 1975 hit.

And there is always Delta Dawn, which Tanya Tucker recorded on the country charts, but hit #1 on Billboard by Helen Reddy in 1973. But I hope not.

And for Constantine, who made such a good showing last week with a less-rock-y selection, I am choosing American Woman, a 1970 chart topper by The Guess Who.

But, he could also get hearts pounding with a cover of Rod Stewart's Maggie May, which hit #1 in 1971. And there's never anything wrong with going to Chicago. How about If You Leave Me Now, a 1976 #1 hit. Lots of money notes there, and he's proven he can hit them with the best.

Jessica, find some attractive clothes that actually fit you, and keep yourself out of the bottom three this week.

How about The Supremes? Love Child was a #1 Billboard hit for them in 1968. No? Reach back to 1957 and surprise people with The Crickets' That'll Be The Day. (Everybody loves Buddy Holly!)

No again? Then choose Will It Go Round in Circles?, a chart topper in 1973 by Billy Preston. Yeah. That's the ticket.

Oh dear, Mikalah. You have a target the size of Connecticut on your back. You are the most likely to sing solo on Wednesday, so, the only way I can assure you of NOT leaving is to choose something unique, which will highlight your voice.

Hmm. This took some thought. And it is my fantasy, after all. So I select Rise, by Herb Alpert in 1979. Or, how about The Hustle, a 1975 #1 hit by Van McCoy. Or A Fifth of Beethoven, which hit #1 in 1976 by Walter Murphy and The Big Apple Band. I cannot imagine even you screwing those songs up.

No? (Or for those of you who just didn't get that brilliant advice.) Okay. I'll be serious. How can anyone seriously choose a song for this girl? Please, please do not choose The Way We Were or Evergreen, even though both are eligible. Why not try He's a Rebel, a Crystals' #1 hit in 1962. Or Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made For Walking, which hit #1 in 1966. Or play it for fun with Winchester Cathedral, a chart topper by the New Vaudeville Band in 1966. Okay, that's a corny song, but it's also fun. And it is my fantasy.

Oh Nadia. The world is your oyster. So many songs. And only one can be chosen. But I get to pick three.

You made it pretty clear last week that you're not planning to get stuck in ballad-land. Good for you. Rock on girl. How about a little Janis Joplin (for real, this time! No cheap imitations.) Me and Bobby McGee was a #1 hit in 1971!

But you could rock the house with a little Sly and the Family Stone. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf) hit the top of the chart in 1970. And Billy Preston is always good. Nothing From Nothing is a great song, and it made it to the top in 1974.

You go girl.

Nikko, Nikko, Nikko. You got raves for your Marvin Gaye and you got boos for your Jackson 5. Back to the ballads for you.

Me and Mrs. Jones has your name on it. And it qualifies because it was a #1 hit in 1972 by Billy Paul. (I would also suggest you listen to George Huff's version too.)

Don't like that one? There's always Johnny Nash, and his recording of I Can See Clearly Now hit the top in 1972. And if you want to jazz it up more, how about the Bellamy Brothers' Let Your Love Flow, a 1976 chart topper.

I am a proud UnderDawg! So Scott, no dancing and no going into the audience, until you're sure that it won't wind you. You're not the panties-thrown-at-the-television kind of singer, but you can be the jump-up-and-cheer-at-the-television kind if you rely more on your voice than on performing.

The song for you is Oh, Pretty Woman, a #1 by Roy Orbison in 1964. You are an Orbison kind of guy and the song is the tale of longing for what you think you can't get. Perfect for you!!

Okay, you don't like that one? How about Tears of a Clown, by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, a #1 in 1970? Or even Lean On Me, a 1972 hit by Bill Withers. Whatever you choose, you need to store up a string of memorable performances for use in the next month or so.

Vonzell, because I'm a fan of self-deprication, in my fantasy I want to watch you sing Please Mr. Postman, dressed in your mail carrier uniform. That would be a hoot. You could do either the 1961 version by The Marvelettes or the Carpenters one in 1975. Both hit the top of the Billboard chart.

But I don't think you'll go for that idea. So, why not try Touch Me In TheMorning, a 1973 #1 hit forDiana Ross. You can do Diana! Want to bring it up a notch? Stay with Diana Ross. Upside Down hit #1 in 1980. No? Reach back and nudge the memories of the older folks. Try I Will Follow Him, a #1 by Little Peggy March in 1963. (Yeah, Little Peggy.)

Remember it's my fantasy. So, in my fantasy, along with the songs I've chosen for the contestants, I would like to see a Thursday special, with each of them singing a novelty song that hit #1 on the Billboard chart. My selections:

Anthony: Witch Doctor by Dave Seville in 1958.
Anwar: The Streak by Ray Stevens in 1974. (Please wear appropriate attire. Yowzer!)
Bo: Kung Fu Fighting, by Carl Douglas in 1974.
Carrie: Harper Valley PTA, by Jeannie C. Riley in 1968.
Constantine: Convoy, by C.W. McCall in 1976. (10-4 good buddy.)
Jessica: Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, by Bryan Hyland in 1968. (Wear normal attire.)
Mikalah: Disco Duck, by Rick Dees and his Cast of Idiots.
Nadia: The Chipmunk Song, by (who else?) The Chipmunks in 1958.
Nikko: Purple People Eater, by Sheb Wooley in 1958.
Scott: (can't help this...) My Ding-a-Ling, by Chuck Berry in 1972.
Vonzell: Please Vonzell -- Please Mr. Postman!!!

Want to have your own fantasy episode?
Here's the list of Billboard #1 hits.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

my comment policy...

I love comments. Readers love comments. Why else have a blog? I often tell people the best stuff here can be found not in the main script, but in the comment threads that accompany it, because some of the smartest, savviest people stop by here during the season.

My comment policy is loose and, fortunately, doesn't get broken often because, well, the people that hang out here are FAB!

Here are the rules:

I am a benevolent and patient moderator, and I allow all opinions here, even the ones that don't seem to fit the mainstream mode of thought by other readers. If I have a favorite, I'll tell you, out of a sense of fairness, because when I am in lurve with one particular contestant, sometimes it's tough to be unbiased. But you will know that going in.

I don't edit or remove comments because somebody may have gotten his or her feelings hurt. However, I WILL permanently remove comments that:

1. Criticize or attack other posters. You can counter another poster's opinion without attacking the person who wrote it. There is a difference. (Going after me is the exception. I write this thing. I am fair game.)

2. Leave links to sites that are not AI related, and that includes in your signature. I have all of the free Viagra I need. I don't want to meet Russian girls. And all of my porn is bookmarked. I don't need your links, and I don't want them. Go spam somebody's else's blog.

3. Are vulgar. Hey, this ain't a church social or anything, but even I have my limits on the use of language. If they can't say it on network television, don't use the word. Besides, the true test of effective ranting is if you can do it without using profanity.

That's pretty much it. Got questions? Leave them in the comment thread and check back for the answers.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

You don't have to make me very happy with your spinning wheel

I convinced myself that last night's beginning of the final round was not as bad as I had remembered. I decided that it was not their fault, but mine. I went into the show full of expectations of glory notes and foot-tapping tunes. After all, we've just come off two weeks of terrific male performances, and I've been harping that this is the most talented field of 12 we've had thus far. So with expectations that high, I was bound to be disappointed, and my complaints of last night were merely a knee-jerk reaction to being let down.

So I decided to start clean. Watch the show again. Listen to the mp3 files, to hear the vocals without distraction. Give the kids a second chance, from here on known gettin' Nikkoed.

Show stunk.

There were some great performances. There were some stinkers. And then there were the rest.

What a letdown.

Stinkers: Lindsey, Anthony, Jessica, Mikalah, Anwar.

Stinking great: Bo, Nadia, Constantine.

And the rest: Scott, Carrie, Vonzell, Nikko.

Who's safe tonight? The stinking great ones. It's gonna take dynamite to get any one of those three off the couch for the first half of the competition. Bo and Nadia have the most consistency and have, essentially, FINALE metaphorically tattooed on their foreheads. Constantine needs to keep choosing songs like he did this week, and sprinkle an occasional rock performance among them to earn the respect he seems not to have for his vocal ability. He can cough through his next several songs and still proceed, just on the support of the "Constanteam", but he just may have earned a few new fans last night. He's winning me over. Slowly. But it's going to take more than one impressive performance to get me to dial his number. That's why his is the screenshot. You may never see that again, but you can bet you'll see Bo and Nadia.

Also safe are the usual suspects: Anwar, despite selecting a song that curls my toes and then taking it in fifteen different directions all at the same time, you're not going anywhere anytime soon. Anwar, I love you my husband, but I would have preferred puppies. Vonzell may have bought herself some time. Simon was right. She's like Jan Brady. You know she's there, and she's not a disaster. But she's not Nadia. She's just, well, Jan. And Jan tends to find herself regularly in the bottom three, until she buys that wig and makes herself noticed. (Sorry, I'm channeling Kim Locke right now.)

Everyone else is at risk at this point. So, having put half of the field in harm's way, here are my fearless predictions for this evening:

Bottom three: Jessica, Vonzell and Lindsey.
And we will bid a fond, enthusiastic and overdue farewell to: Lindsey. (But of course, that means she'll be knocking on wood all over again. Alas. It's the price we pay.)

And, in honor of this week's 1960s theme, I am officially proposing that tonight's group number be: A Cowsills Retrospective!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Early observations

Well, the show ended much better than it began, but considering tonight, that's not saying a whole lot. Maybe it was the glitzy stage or the huge audience. Maybe they're missing Mario or they were feeling the nerves, but either I want things to get better or I want to go back to the semi-finals.

Nonetheless, they came, they sang, I rant. It's a Tuesday tradition.

Here, without benefit of listening without watching, or watching without taking notes, are my early observations, as always, from worst to first. (And it's going to be tough to pick one worst...)
Lindsey Cardinale. Ewww. Was that a song? Fantasia Knocked On Wood last year and knocked everyone else out. Lindsey, sweetheart, I hope you've enjoyed your stay. It's been nice knowing you.

Anthony Fedorov. Neil Sedaka is rolling in his grave. Oh. Wait a minute. Neil Sedaka isn't dead. He might be now, though. You just put a new spin on the word "yikes."

Jessica Sierra. That's a boring song. And you didn't make it any less so. And get yourself to a stylist pronto. I don't judge on appearance, unless it's an appearance you can change. Like your clothes. Jessica, get to a stylist. Now.

Nikko Smith. I liked that he went against type and attempted something besides a ballad. But the Jackson 5? We have to give him a break, considering the unexpected re-entry into the competition and the short amount of time he had to prepare, but the entire song was just a note under pitch. Nikko, stick to the ballads. Please. For me.

Mikalah Gordon. Will someone please take Son of a Preacher Man OUT of the songbook. It has been overused, overdone and oversung. This was better than her last two outings, but only because she's getting closer to the tune. By April she should find it. But that outfit was FAB!

Anwar Robinson. Oh this kills me, my husband soon to be. I hate that song with the strength of a million suns. I've only heard one person who made me want to listen to it. And it wasn't you. It was Tamyra in season one. This is another song which should be retired. Once it's been done to perfection, no one else should be allowed to attempt it, not even someone as exquisite as you, Anwar. Get off the ballads, babe. Knock us over next week. Please. For me.

Vonzell Solomon. Was that you up there!!?? You Vonzell? The one who wore those boots and hat? You were stunning, and if you had played with the camera any more, we would have had to rent a room for you. It wasn't the best vocal performance of the night, but it was your best so far.

Carrie Underwood. God help me, but Paula was right. That was possibly the safest choice in a decade of music. You performed it well, but with the wealth of country music from the 1960s, the world could have been yours. And you settled.

Constantine Maroulis. I cannot believe that in my lifetime I would put you ahead of my husband, Anwar. But you surprised me tonight. I love Blood, Sweat and Tears, and I love that song. You weren't overly flirty with the camera tonight, and you didn't tug at your jacket. You let the vocals tell the story, and still your charisma shone through. (Did I just type that?)

Scott Savol. You are looking better and better, and you're becoming more and more comfortable on stage. Your vocals were right on. I wish you had performed a less-used song, though. After all, George sang this last season, and I'm very protective of my George, but you're a close second.

Bo Bice and Nadia Turner. I'm fighting with myself over who to put here, so myself and I came to a compromise. We love you both. You both rock. But eventually people are going to think that I'm on a personal crusade for Bo, considering he lands here virtually every week. No agenda. Bo is just wonderful. And Nadia is just terrific.

And in a world full of hamburger, they're steak.

Thanks Simon. That was a great line.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Oh, how the fallout continues

And the rumors run rampant on message boards everywhere. Why on earth, when he was at the top of everyone's potential winners' lists, did Mario Vazquez opt out at the last minute.

Is it true that he did porn? Or did he just look at porn? Could he even spell porn?

It is true, you know, that he worked with Michael Jackson. (Still haven't figured that one out yet.) Maybe he is involved with Michael Jackson. (Something is screaming "don't think so" to me.) He is having Michael Jackson's baby. (Well, okay, this is more plausible.)

Ford commercials.

He has a contract with another recording company. He's getting a contract with another recording company. He's buying his own recording company. Can he spell recording company?

He didn't like rooming with Scott. He didn't like rooming with Anwar. He didn't like rooming with Constantine. He didn't like rooming with Bo. He didn't like rooming with Anthony. He didn't like rooming with Mikalah. Okay, I buy that. Who would like rooming with Mikalah?

He found out Tuesday's theme night was Gloria Estefan night. I just quit too.

He got his girlfriend pregnant, and he's going home to be with her through the pregnancy. And it's not Michael Jackson.

He has admitted to posing topless for an adult website. Big deal. Been there, done that.

Clairol Herbal Essence commercials.

He has admitted to an arrest for domestic violence, shoplifting and drunk driving. C'mon, a little originality here, please.

He ran out of hats. (Good one!)

Brady Bunch theme night.

He finally realized that this is American Idol, and once a finalist is committed, said finalist has sold his soul to Satan and/or Simon Fuller and will not be legally permitted to breathe independently for a period of the next seven years, to which he responded, ewwwwwwwwwwwww.

He just got the lead in the Broadway musical "Rent," and Constantine threatened to kick his ass.

He missed his mommy. (Awwwwwwwww.)

My personal favorite: He actually believed his own hype, then realized he would actually have to work for the next several months, so by leaving early and receiving all of the attention and publicity that he would get by quitting, well...

And by the way, Tuesday's theme will be "In Memory of Mario."

Vonzell will sing "Since U Been Gone."
Bo will perform "So Long."
Constantine plans "Runaway."
Nadia will be singing "Missing You."
Lindsey will be singing "Leaving on a Jet Plane."
Scott will perform "Bus Stop."
Anwar is planning "Chattanooga Choo-Choo."
Jessica is singing "Hitchin' A Ride."
Anthony will sing "Never Can Say Goodbye."
Mikalah will select something by Barbra Steisand.
Carrie will choose "Take this Job and Shove It."
And Nikko will sing "Let's Hear It For the Boy."

Should be good.

Now the what-ifs will begin

As sad as it is that Mario's early exit will break the hearts of fans nationwide, his withdrawal will, unfortunately, forever cast a pall on this season's competition. It's not that Nikko is any less deserving of a top 12 spot. Remember George? He was a last-minute insertion into the top 32 last year and quickly endeared himself to the judges and the voters, finishing fifth, albeit in a less-talanted field.

Season four will always have the shadow of what might have been, identically to the speculation still cast upon season two -- the year of Frenchie.Season two was arguably the best of the previous three competitions, the game in which the top three truly deserved their spots, unlike season one and three, where there was one clear victor. No one seriously doubted that Kelly would emerge the winner over Justin and Nikki, just as everyone knew Fantasia would outvote both Jasmine and Diana. And in both seasons there was a woman who should have been -- Tamyra in season one, and Latoya in season three. And there were lingering questions of what would have been, had either of the two been standing on the finale stage.

But in season two, the three finalists -- Ruben, Clay and Kimberley -- earned the right to call themselves the finalists. None of them had reached that level by default. And, when it was time to reveal the eventual winner, the air of uncertainty was real, because either Ruben or Clay would have been a deserving champion, as would have Kim.

But, as exciting and as memorable as season two played out, we still ask what would have been, had Frenchie Davis not been booted before the semi-finals. We do not know that she would have reached the top three. In all likelihood she would have, but the same was said for Tamyra and Latoya. So we have been left with the speculation. And while that speculation doesn't dimish the extraordinary talents of Ruben, Clay and Kim, it does, and will always, color the season two commentary.

The Mario what ifs will follow season four in the same way. The one thing this season has that the others have not, at least the indications are thus far, is a depth of talent like none of the others. All of the other seasons' top 12 contained a handful of true contenders and then, the rest of the field, some of whom would not have passed a talent test at Six Flags Over Akron. This year, for the large part, the game is anyone's to win. Or to lose.

But that depth has taken a huge hit with the loss of Mario. And it's not that he's being substituted with a poor man's leftovers, but that, no matter who comes out victorious, the what-might-have-beens will always haunt the outcome.

And that's the shame.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The twists start before the music begins

No explanations are coming from the producers yet. It's being announced in a quiet way, with just a shift of photographs, but Mario Vazquez, favored by many to win the competition has withdrawn, effective today.

Nikko Smith, voted off in last week's semi-final, will take his slot when final 12 competition begins Tuesday night.

We seem to have at least one of these every season.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

who's choosing whom?

While we still have all twelve, it's interesting to see who the early favorite is this season. But, of course, as we all know, often the early favorite makes an early exit. (Remember Tamyra? Latoya?)

Carrie picks Mario, as do many of the others. Anwar chooses Mikalah. Mikalah selects Nadia and Constantine thinks Bo, according to the New York Post. But, of course, they couldn't choose themselves.

The bettors are putting their money behind Anwar.

I have a hunch this year that the true winner will be us.

Friday, March 11, 2005

this was not a shocker

There seem to be shockwaves running throughout Idol fandom over the elimination of Nikko Smith over Scott Savol and Constantine Maroulis as the top twelve was announced.

I don't understand the outrage.

We knew going into last night that one of three guys who, in any other season would have been a no-brainer top-five finalist was going to be cut. That's the biggest drawback to this year's semi-final format. Neither Scott nor Constantine "stole" Nikko's spot. Each of them fought to advance and, while this year's elimination system was skewed against a very talented field of guys, the game is still the same.

In this competition it's not as much about pure talent as it is about "the package."

Constantine grabbed the hearts of fans everywhere on day one. Of course, one can complain that his exposure was orchestrated by producers, giving him an unfair advantage in building a early and solid fan base, and that might have some validity. However, his following seemed to grow, not shrink, as the semi-finals continued, despite being outsung and outperformed by the other "rocker" at every turn. Fans will dial until their fingers bleed for their guy. And when he is less than perfect, they'll dial two phones with both hands to keep him in the game. So, as John Stevens proved to us last year, sometimes a poor performance will put a contestant in the top three.

Fair? Maybe not. But it's part of the game.

Scott also has an advantage that Nikko just didn't have. He let us into his life. He is this year's underdog, the unlikeliest of Idol contestants, and some people naturally gravitate toward supporting the last kid picked for the team. If Scott sang on par with Janay, that would be one thing. But he's a vocal dreamboat, even if he's not as easy on the eyes as Anwar and as comfortable on the stage as Mario.

Nikko was always distant, aloof and reserved. He was this year's Latoya -- talented vocally, but detached emotionally. And so, while he did have fans, he didn't seem to be able to light the fire under them that needs to be lighted, especially when everything is on the line.

I predicted Nikko would leave. I am not surprised in the least.

I really feared the pity votes to save the child would be enough to put Janay through to the finals. Thankfully none of us will have to listen to her attempts at performance, and, even more gratefully, we will not have to watch her crumble on the big stage, being decimated by the now-coed competition. Thank you America for sparing us. And for sparing her.

For the first time in four seasons, we have a talent-packed final twelve. We have no Jim Verraros or Corey Clark to cringe over. There is no Leah LaBelle or Carmen Rasmussen to humiliate. All of our finalists have the ability, so the mechanics of the game need to be fully understood. It's a relatively level playing field, so there are fan bases to contend with. And there are still the uncommitted voters, just waiting for one contestant or one performance to throw their heart and their votes to. There are Nikko, Travis and Amanda fans out there for the taking.

And there is one very sad person out there too, obviously with super-human dialing ability, so Lindsey, if you're smart, you might want to wear an I [heart] Janay shirt next week.

You did good America.

Let the game begin

This is more of an experiment than anything. I maintain an American Idol blog on AOL Journals, but, because it's rather restrictive for universal commenting, I've decided to essentially simulblog between the two, to hopefully, allow for more participation.

So I hope if you find me, you'll sit back, relax, grit your teeth and scream at the television right along with me, as we suffer through the fourth season of American Idol.

Thanks Rob for the awesome image!