Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Dreams, Rainbows and Inside Heaven

I had a dream last night. I dreamed that I was watching one of the most brilliant installments of American Idol, one in which each performance grabbed me and held me hostage until it was over, and left me in awe of the talent and the beauty I had just witnessed.

Then I woke up. And I realized that was last week's show.

And the tape awaiting me in my VCR was from the finale.


Critics everywhere are panning last night's finish to season four. And they're acting as though it's some big surprise. Anyone who is surprised that last night, overall, was mediocre at best, hasn't been watching Idol very long.

The finale never lives up to the hype.

Perhaps the reason is because we, as viewers, have built up the anticipation to a point that even the most wonderful of episodes would be a letdown of sorts. Perhaps. But the real reason is the fact that Idol producers have refused, year after year, to spend a decent amount of time and money to find original music that is actually fit to be performed.

Last night was no exception.

It's pretty clear that, if this is the drivel they intend to dish out to whichever wins this thing, then they have somewhat of an idea where they plan to take either Carrie or Bo. And it's also clear they know what to do with Carrie, but they have no clue where to take Bo. There are already screams of manipulation, considering the original songs were far better suited to Carrie. That was obvious, but I'm not ready to use the "conspiracy" word. I think they just don't know what to do with a rocker.

If I had to rank last night on the list of finales, and I've thought about this, I would rank this one last of the last four years. When the highlight of watching the show is scanning the audience, looking for a glimpse of Constantine, or wondering who that guy was sitting next to Nadia, and the music is merely the background noise to my crowd scoping, it's a boring show.

Finales are boring though. But each of the others have had at least one bright, shining moment that made us sit up and take notice. There was the sheer magic of Kelly. Then there was a Bridge over Troubled Water that saved the mess of the season two finish. Then there was Fantasia, turning I Believe into a masterpiece, which showed that even the most deplorable song, put into the right hands, can be beautiful. But there was no such moment last night, except for the retrospective reel. Neither of them slapped me into attention. Bo seemed off the entire night, even showing up late to his third song, and Carrie's volume button got stuck on high. So I call it a draw.

But because I've learned not to expect brilliance, I was neither surprised, nor even disappointed. Bored, perhaps, is the better word.

The winner really is a toss-up. Bo seems to be leading in most of the online polls, although, if those online polls were indicative of voting trends, Scott would have been booted before Jessica, and Constantine would have been on stage rather than in the audience.

The performances on Tuesday make no difference in the voting patterns of the Bice Squad and the CareBears. But it likely could make all the difference to the displaced Fanzells who might base a decision solely on what they saw and heard on that stage, as opposed to what they've witnessed all season.

And so, because I think Vonzell fans are more likely to support the rocker Bo over the country girl Carrie, and Simon essentially lit a fire under a voting bloc, telling Bo what a pleasure it's been to have him in the game, kinda like saying goodbye and then telling Carrie she had done enough to win, almost exactly what he told Clay in season two, I predict that Bo will get to sing the last song again tonight.

But it's nice that, for once, I'm not going to be unhappy either way. Except that it's all over until January.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

FINALE: Initial Impressions

Lots of hoopla. Lots of flourish. Lots of people. Lots of Idols. How great is it to see the gang all back together. But someone stole my Anwar and replaced him with some bald guy. Oh well, I'll deal with that later. And I loved the retrospective. Got to see my boy Leroy!

Biggest complaint of the evening? Judges who criticize the song choices of contestants who try to sing songs they had no say in choosing. I say when 19E gets some half-decent songwriters, then complain. Otherwise, no sniping from the judges about how atrocious a house-written song is, and no whining when no one buys it. Perhaps one day, when they start putting money behind their Idols, maybe those Idols' rookie singles will be met with a bit more respect.

Nonetheless, there's plenty of time to argue management decisions. Now it's time to quickly jot my initial impressions of tonight's six performances, reserving my right to readjust and realign, and as always, from worst to first.

Bo Bice (Long, Long Road) -- Good Lord, who the hell picked this song? One of Bo's biggest assets is his connection with both the performance and the audience. He phoned this one in, and who could blame him? It was a dreadful song, and his ambivalence toward it was painfully obvious.

Carrie Underwood (Inside Your Heaven) -- Carrie missed more notes in the front part of this song than she hit, and, while Simon was right that it was better than Bo's first outing, the nerves really seemed to show.

Carrie Underwood (Independence Day) -- Simon was right that this performance was a bit strident, but, except for one bad note at the end it was on point, in tune and as well performed as it was the first time.

Bo Bice (Vehicle) -- Bo seemed a bit more reserved with this performance than I remember from the 70s show, but, coming after that dreadful first outing, it was strong, it was fun, it was vintage Bo. I still don't understand why this wasn't chosen as the compilation CD offering.

This is a TIE:

Bo Bice (Inside Your Heaven) -- The only way I will buy this CD is if his name is on the label. Bo has that unique ability to take a mundane, somewhat boring song, and flip his Bo switch and transform it into magic. He did what Carrie just failed to do with the same song, he made this song magical.

Carrie Underwood (Angels Brought Me Here) -- I knew when I heard this song by Guy Sebastian that Carrie could turn it into something great. And she did. If I have one complaint, that is easier in the studio than on a live stage in front of millions in the last performance of season four of American Idol, is that this song is so much more effective less urgently presented. But it was beautiful. And I will buy it.

So that's it. Who will win? Don't have a clue. Don't really care, actually. Both of them are terrific. They've proven that since January. All I do know is that, if the rumors surrounding the Wednesday finale reveal are true, it's going to be fun.

See you then.

The attack of the original song

So, we have the song list for tonight. How generous of Nigel to give us a sneak peek at what we're going to hear. But, of course, even with the song titles, we still don't know two-thirds of what we're going to hear, because, instead of letting Carrie and Bo perform a couple of familiar tunes, two of the three they'll sing are brand new and customized.

Each of them will reach back into their vaults of proven performances for one reprise. Bo has selected to pull out Vehicle, and Carrie has chosen Independence Day. Vehicle is not really any surprise; it received rave reviews as a breath of fresh air in a night of disco disasters. But one wonders why, of all the songs she has performed this season, Carrie would choose the single currently in the stores as the lead-off song on the compilation CD, when, clearly, the overwhelming fan favorite was her rendition of Alone, which she sang on Billboard #1 night. (Maybe she's just fearing the creativity of the hair staff, although I adored her big 80s hair!)

But after those familiar tunes, it's the revenge of the original songs!

Each of them will perform a number entitled Inside Your Heaven, written specifically for the crowned Idol's first single. Undoubtedly it will be the traditional Tonight is the Night I'm Flying Without Wings cause I Believe I'm having A Moment Like This with dreams and rainbows and puppies and cream-colored ponies and crisp apple streudel song.

I'm getting all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it. Or maybe that's nausea.

But, as if one original song written by the crack writing staff (or is that writing staff on crack) of 19 Entertainment weren't enough, each of them will then present us with either the flip side of the winner's CD or the runner-up's simultaneous single.

Carrie's second original song will be something called Angels Brought Me Here. (And if they fly her down to the stage in some sort of Greek tragedy contraption, I'm gonna take a potty break.)

Bo's selection is entitled Long, Long Road. (Oh, I can just see him approaching the stage from the back of the theatre, adding an actual long walk down the aisle to enhance the symbolism of the lyrics. Oy.)

I'm still holding out hope for a Tuesday duet, although I think that's going to wait until Wednesday. There are so many possibilities out there that would be perfect for these two. Of course, the easiest would be that awful Donny and Marie song about being a little bit country and rock and roll, but I'm hoping for maybe one of those Jennifer Warnes movie duets -- Up Where We Belong (after all, I've wanted Bo to sing Joe Cocker all season, so this might make up for it) or I've Had the Time of My Life, the one from Dirty Dancing, with Bill Medley. But I would be okay with one of the few country songs I actually know and like: You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma.

Wednesday night, the final twelve, it's been announced, will do a super medley. (Let's just hope that this year they do NOT dress in Brady Bunch color-coordinated outfits. Or, if they're going to, Constantine still owes me a burgundy velvet vest with open-collared frilly shirt, so I will count that as payback.) What they're going to medley is a mystery though, considering the themes (or lack, thereof) of this season. Perhaps they will blend #1 hits by Gamble and Huff, which were replaced by Leiber and Stoller country songs from musicals of the 1980s. Or something.

And then, it seems, as if to flip a metaphorical finger at the negative trashy press the show and its people have been given this season, they're planning a scathing skit. (Gee I wonder which of the kids will play Corey...Anthony in Nadia's hair, perhaps!)

It's been a long season. But it's still sad to see it end.

12 hours and counting...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!

I want tonight to be the biggest shocker in the history of American Idol. I do. That's what I want.

I want a tie.

That way next week we can have a repeat of last night, but without the silly judges picks. (Speaking of which, I couldn't help but snort at Randy telling Carrie what a great song selection that was. Geesh. It was his selection, for heaven's sake. What else is he gonna say? "It was the wrong song, dude!"? And what was up with Simon criticizing Bo's song choice, as if Bo had a say in Satisfaction?)

I have sensed a changing of the "Carrie will win this thing and sell more CDs than any person ever since Thomas Edison invented the phonograph" tide. But could it have been more obvious last night? The women, it seemed, couldn't catch a break. Oh sure, they got their fair share of hyperbole - Vonzell, that was the best vocal in recorded history! Oh Carrie, why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near? - but it seemed at every turn, for Carrie especially, she had to hear the name of Bo during each critique. "Round one to Bo!" Simon tells her after possibly her best performance this season. Then, "musta been tough following Bo," they tell her during the second circuit. I swear I think I'd rather hear them tell me how bad I was rather than how great the other guy was.

Carrie has just been renamed Jan Brady. It's all about Marcia-Bo. Bo! Bo! Bo!

Clive knows he and Bo will make beautiful music together. Randy whips out his dawgpound septer and anoints him Dawgpounder Emeritus. Simon invites him to play at his wedding. (And don't you just want to go to one of those weddings Simon attends?) Paula...well, Paula pants, and stuffs her cellphone back into her purse where it belongs.

Some things just never change with this show.

So who's going to hit the pavement and start rehearsals for the Brady Bunch group number the final twelve will sing next week? And who's going to start trying to come up with three more songs to sing -- alone, with or without big band -- for the last time?

Common sense says it's gonna be Vonzell, considering Carrie has never seen the bottom of anything and Bo is the chosen one. Were the Vonz to leapfrog over Carrie into the finale and throw a five-inch heeled wrench into the master plan, the judges are likely to be merciless in their wrath next week. And in all fairness, assessing the women, side by side, last night, Vonzell had the weaker outing -- by a note.

But I wouldn't be surprised, much less shocked, if the Fanzells, aided by some errant Anthony and Scott fans and some Bo fans worried about his main competitor for the crown, took to the phone lines like fleas to a dog, and, by some miracle or muscle, outdial the Carebears to oust Miss Oklahoma. I highly doubt that the Carrie voters, after hearing less than glowing remarks for their girl at the same time watching the lovefest with Bo, are going to relax their efforts to keep Carrie in the game, though.

Which begs the question: is this really a singing competition? Or is this an endurance dialing one?

Which brings us to Bo. Bo was great. Bo was perfect. Bo was brave. Bo was Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! He's in. Shoo-in in. So maybe I'll throw a few votes in for the Vonz. Or go out for pizza. Or watch House. Nothing breeds complacency and confidence like a good performance. Might it be possible that the Bo fans laid off the phone lines enough to allow both women to sneak past him tonight. Possible, of course. But probable?

Anything can happen. And sometimes does. This is why I want a tie.

Should be bottom three: Vonzell, Carrie, Bo.
(And I will be right. Mark my words.)

Should be singing over the credits: Vonzell.
Will be singing two notes before being rudely and abruptly cut off: Vonzell.

RANT: Enough with the BS filler on results night. What we want, and what they deserve is to be able to sing one entire song before the credits roll. They've given up weeks of their lives to this program, and they are saying goodbye to their friends on the stage and their fans in the audience. It's not too much to ask that Ryan not preen to the judges and waste valuable swan song time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Clive Davis show -- starring Bo!

I'm sitting here trying to decide if that was the single best episode of American Idol I've ever seen. If it wasn't, it's pretty darn close.

What a treat to have nine performances without too much loss of blood. There were the requisite weak spots, but no trainwrecks, no forgotten lyrics, that I could detect, and no clear loser.

That's what a final three should be.

Clive Davis was there to lend his expert "golden ear." Three things are clear: he loves Bo, he doesn't love Vonzell, and he needs to find a new phrase to replace "you nailed it."

And my George was in the audience. That would make even the worst show wonderful.

I haven't had the chance to do whatever the hell I do before deciding anything, and if you've been reading for awhile, you know what that is, so, while reserving the right to realign, here they are, as always, from worst to first.

Vonzell ( I'll Never Love This Way Again) -- Finally someone called her out on the incessant happiness. I love happy. I love happy people. I love the Vonz. But not every song is a happy song, and to smile and be happy through a song about heartache is wrong. Just wrong. Plus she was just under pitch thoughout the entire middle of the song, although she finished well.

Carrie (Man! I Feel Like a Woman) -- Carrie does not have a strong lower register, and this song forced her to try to use it. She tried. She failed. The song seemed forced, as if she were trying to squeeze what irreverence she could out of her body.

Bo (Satisfaction) -- I don't know if I'm judging this song on the basis of Bo's first two performances or the fact that I abhor this song, but it just didn't work. (But it's a Paula pick, so who is surprised?) He did the best he could with it, but, coming third after his first two performances, it was disappointing.

Carrie (Making Love Out of Nothing At All) -- It's been a long time since I heard Air Supply, and, as I usually do, I ended up humming it all evening but noticed the Air Supply song morphing into another song. Finally I recognized Total Eclipse of the Heart! I'm thinking Air Supply and humming Eclipse. But no matter. Carrie rushed this song to the point of screaming, and I would have preferred a stand-still performance to the double-butt wiggle ooooo I gotta pee dance that she's perfected this year.

Vonzell (On the Radio) -- I enjoyed this performance, especially coming after the lackluster opening number. But I still wonder how she stays upright on those heels. Perhaps she can release an Homage to Disco album, and send us back 30 years.

Carrie (Crying) -- I don't know what fool arranged this. The trademark of this song is its end, and to cut it so abruptly, robbing Carrie of the glory notes she could have registered was absurd. But on the flip side, whoever did arrange it did it in such a way as to help Carrie avoid the lower notes of this song, with which she continually struggles. She failed to tap into the depth of emotion necessary to completely sell this song, and the judges were right to point that out, but vocally it was top notch.

Vonzell (Chain of Fools) -- It was dangerous to take on the song Fantasia performed so effortlessly perfect last season, but Vonzell put her own spin on it, even though she bubbled throughout a bubble-less song. Paula was way off to suggest it was the best version ever performed on American Idol, but it was certainly better than most.

Bo (Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me) -- The first thing I thought when I heard this was Clive's edict was Clay. No one can improve upon Clay's season two rendition of this song. And to take Bo out of his rock box? Is that wise? Not only was it wise, it was brilliant. So was Bo. Stunning performance.

Bo (Within a Dream) -- I have never heard this before, and the a cappella version, a first for Idol, had me perplexed. So I let my fingers do the walking, only to discover that the original version is performed in the same way. What a brave thing to do, strip away the orchestra. The silence in the audience was deafening. The lighting was perfect, complete with blank big screen. This is a performance that will go down as one of the best, most unique, most inspiring performances in the history of this show.

The quality of the performances certainly outweighed the shortcomings, though. The judging panel made it quite clear that they want a Bo and Carrie show next week, and, while Vonzell certainly performed well enough to merit a finale appearance, I fear her only finale appearance will be during the group song.

And I did get in a few votes tonight. What a cute thing! Dialtheir number, and they talk to you. They do, not some weird guy just thanking you for voting for contestant 5, or whatever. And there were no graphic mistakes. That I could detect.

Whew I'm tired.

Did I mention that George was there?

Clive's throwing hardballs

Clive Davis is apparently going to put the kids through serious some musical paces this evening.

The judges picks have been confirmed for days. But ETonline is now reporting that he has chosen the following selections:

For Carrie, the rumors were correct. She will be singing Roy Orbison's (or kd lang's) Crying.

Vonzell will be handed Dionne Warwick's I'll Never Love This Way Again, a song performed earlier this season by Anwar. (Uh oh...shades of Jasmine, except it wasn't performed quite as magnificently, so Vonzell really doesn't have a mountain, just a repeat.)

Bo will be kicked out of his rock zone and perform Elton John's (or Clay's if you remember the season two wildcard round) Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me.

This is gonna be good.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Sing that funky music

Carrie, Bo and Vonzell are back in Los Angeles, preparing for Tuesday's final three performances.

If you're new to American Idol this year, the final three show is often called "free choice." There will be no theme.

Each of the contestants will sing three songs. Normally the first is the song of the contestant's choice. The second song is traditionally the judges' choice -- each judge selects one song for one contestant. And the third song will be hand-picked by record executive Clive Davis, who will undoubtedly be part of the panel to offer his critique of each performance. (If you don't know who Clive Davis is, find out here.)

It's always interesting to see what songs are pulled from the different hats. But some of the suspense was (gratefully) ended Friday when the kids hit the friendly skies and landed in their even-friendlier hometowns.

Simon is choosing for Vonzell, and has selected the Donna Summer hit On The Radio. Good selection for Vonzell, who has proven that she was born 30 years too late. Disco suits her style perfectly, and she has, more than once, channeled the queen of disco.

Randy gets to pick for Carrie. And they must have pulled out the big checkbook to land the rights to a Shania Twain song, after years of adamant refusals. Randy's choice? Man! I Feel Like A Woman. This will either really allow Carrie to prove that she can sell a song, because it's the perfect vehicle to perform, not just sing. Or it won't. But it will be interesting to watch.

Well, that leaves Paula, of course. Paula has been known to pull some interesting song choices for the most interesting reasons. Remember, she is the judge who told Clay she chose his song so he could prove once and for all that he was not merely a lounge-type singer. And then she chose the ultimate lounge singer song, Mack the Knife. Ah well. She was in pain. Or with Corey. Whatever.

But it seems Paula has selected for Bo one of the ultimate rocker songs, The Rolling Stones' (Can't Get No) Satisfaction.

No word yet on Davis' choices or the kids' own picks, but if I find out, and can verify or personally feel confident in the information, I'll pass it along.

Seems the kids had grand times having days proclaimed for them. (But, think about it, if there was one day proclaimed in your name, would you really want it to be a Friday the 13th? If that's a curse, though, it's gonna curse all three of them, which could cause all of us to curse Tuesday.)

Carrie was dodging questions about her relationship with Anthony Fedorov after her tearfest on Wednesday, Vonzell was evading questions about her waterworks display on Tuesday, and Bo wiped his own tears after being cheered by over 300 city employees at City Hall.

Carrie sang the national anthem and signed autographs at the local high school. Vonzell sang two of the songs she's performed on the show and got to take over DJ duties at the local radio station. Bo sang Sweet Home Alabama with Lynyrd Skynyrd and then sang over the loudspeaker at the Wal-Mart. Gee, when I'm at the Wal-Mart, the only thing I hear is a bunch of people in the ladies underwear section spelling out the word WAL-MART. Bummer.

Remember Tuesday is the sale date of the CD. But, if you don't want the entire CD, it will be available for individual song download. Where? You guessed it!! (And you thought they all just got in their FORDS, drinking their COKES and went to the Wal-Mart for the fun of it.)

It's all about the endorsements!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

SIMULBLOG: I Land in the Stream

Next week it's nine songs -- three from each of the remaining contestants. So three will spend the next week memorizing, practicing, preening and traveling home to be the hometown star.

Which of these four are we spared from next week?

Ryan, looking exceptionally Republican introduces the less than giddy kids and probably says the most obvious line in Idol history. "They know who they like," he says, while pointing to the judges. Well, no kidding, Dick Tracy.

Oh good. We get to relive the country, soul, death and destruction from the evening before. And yay! It's time for the group sing. Is four a group? I mean, ten is a group. Four is like a quartet. And a quartet is not a group.

Oh they're stringing out this country salute to Carrie, by forcing them to become little Kenny Rogerses and little Dolly Partons. It's an Island in the Stream, filled with partner swapping, hand holding and the Bo stage, which, by the way, has become quite a lonely place recently. Not a bad effort, though.

And it's the FORD spot! My favorite part! Squirrelly hair spot! I'm nauseous. But I liked the commercial.

With only a quartet (which is not a group) we obviously have a whole group of minutes to waste. So, what better way to waste them than to do an Idol flashback to the kids' auditions. Gee was that really five months ago? Feels like five years.

The Vonz is first. Oh! I had forgotten the different colored shoes. She sang Chain of Fools. Very colorfully. Next is Anthony, who sang a song about angels. Oh, I remember LL Cool J! He was a great judge, giving out hugs all around.

We get to see Carrie, fresh from the farm, again. And then, it's Bo's turn. His is the one audition no one has ever seen. And he sang Whipping Post, something we didn't know until tonight. And they called him Harold. That's right. He's Harold.

Ryan starts the big tease, showing the kids and everyone else, the VIP card which will carry three of them, in private jets, to their hometowns tomorrow so that their mayors can get all dressed up and the homefolk can give them banners, balloons and keys to the city. Or to the town. Or the farm. Whatever. Then, of course, he waves the single one-way lower class ticket to wherever is furthest from Hollywood.

Time for the execution. Bo is sent to safety. Grandmom is jumping out of her bloomers. Carrie is sent to join him on the couch. She shows more personality than she ever has on stage, as she jumps triumphantly into Harold's arms.

That leaves Anthony and the Vonz. Ryan lets Baby V twist in the wind, in his newly-favorite "I want the loser to think it's you before I kick him in the stomach" act, lets Vonz off the hook and sticks it squarely into Anthony's back. Then sticks the plane ticket in his pocket.

We see the funeral footage, and we see Carrie checking the camera to cry on cue, the band totally messes up Anthony's swan song, but what does he care? He ain't competing no more.

Nice run Anthony.

Until next week.

Simulblog out!

Time for a Tamyra...

Idol final fours have, except for the season of perfection, known as season two, provided a huge tremor in the contest, so much so that we still speak of them today. Season one, of course, gave us the new verb: to be Tamyra'd, when Tamyra Gray, who had turned in a spectacular season, was inexplicably dumped in favor of Nikki McKibben. Season two was a justified ouster as the singing Marine, Josh Gracin, was the only conceivable reject to leave the perfect trio of Klayben. Then there was last year, when LaToya London fell victim to the tears of Hawaii.

I have a strong hunch tonight somebody's getting Tamyra'd.

All of the elements are in place, sort of like the atmospheric conditions surrounding my home that are threatening me with a thunderstorm.

First we have the Vonz. Of those who watched last season, who can forget Jasmine's tears after one of Simon's most severe verbal beatings? At this stage, the kids are tired, and it was clear that Jasmine had reached the end of her endurance. But a pretty girl with tears streaming down her face? Who doesn't want to kiss her and make it better?

Vonzell's tears were genuine, I fully believe, despite the rumblings of pandering for sympathy. Her performance was a wreck. She knew that. But something else is going on with Vonzell. The rumors, that are inevitable when Idol keeps its trap shut, are ranging anywhere from homesickness to illness in the family, to death in the family, to death of her dog to her being forced to switch songs on a minute's notice. But combine tears on a young pretty face, and especially one that has turned in excellence, performance after performance, with a second song that had the potential to wipe out memories of the original, and you've got new voters added to her fanbase, which should, after Simon's blatant pro-anyone-but-Vonz bashing after her second song, vote until their fingers bleed.

Most people are assuming they'll see Vonzell on the line tonight. I don't think so.

Then there's Anthony, the poster child for the VFTW this week. When the finals began, I expected Anthony to be one of the first of the guys to get the boot. After all,he deserved it. His performances in the semis were nothing extraordinary, and he was lucky that there were less vocally talented guys standing alongside. But Anthony, of all of the contestants, has been the one transformed from geeky kid, known mostly for his childhood and his trach scar, to polished performer. His performances last night were solid. They were good. He went lyric-for-lyric with Carrie and won hands down. He has the tenacious support of the Bratz crowd, and he may have just picked up some of the idle Scott fans and still-bitter Constantine crowd.

Anthony's only problem, ironically, might be that of all four of them, he was the only one to turn in two good performances. Disasters bring people out of their homes to help. Good times keep them inside watching Oprah. But he was last in the lineup. No contestant in four seasons, who has gone last in the lineup, has ever been booted the following night. (The only exception would be, of course, Clay Aiken, who performed the last song of the season two finale and did not win the title.)

That leaves, of course, Simon's chosen finalists: Bo and Carrie.

Bo is safe. No question. He has given the American Idol stage a much-needed break from the blah of the pop and the meh of the country. Many criticise Bo for playing it safe and predictably. Perhaps. But he knows his strong suit, and Bo's "safe" performances would be anyone else's challenge of a lifetime.

He's not going anywhere. He's been on the seal, and his fans remember how it felt to see him there.

What has Carrie done? While Anthony has risen beyond his expectations, Carrie has fallen from her perch. Her version of Sin Wagon was not nearly as good as Amy's last year, and, while she did throw herself into the performance more than before, it did seem a little awkward for the word "sin" to come out of Barbie's mouth. Her second selection? Wretched.

Two straight weeks of unmemorable performances might send the less-emotionally-invested to reward Anthony, to give a high-five to Bo or to wipe Vonzell's tears. Her primary fan base, which has kept her safe thus far, may just have become a little too self-confident that their girl is in no danger.

I see a Tamyra coming on.

Based on last night's performances alone:
Should be bottom two: Vonzell and Carrie.

Based on last night, all season, and past seasons:
Will be bottom two: Anthony and Carrie.

Did anyone else find it ironic that Jasmine Trias was in the audience last night, seated very closely to LaToya London? I found it both ironic and prophetic. And I'm either gonna be ingenious or an idiot.

Carrie is going home.

Just when we thought it was safe...

Just when one would presume that the highest-rated show on television, a competition that has endured more than its share of controversy, one in which there are screams of foul and fix and conspiracy, would have hired a gazillion techie and literate people to cross its "t's" and dot its "i's", then proofread again just to be certain. It has happened again. Not on the same scale, this time, at least, but nonetheless inexcusable.

Reality TV Magazine is reporting that it's another phone number foul-up.

Four contestants, four numbers. This is not brain surgery. Each contestant gets a unique phone number.

Last time they screwed up the numbers, it affected six of the eleven.

Last night it was all of them. Except one. And, it affected all of the closed captioning. And it's bound to affect, even more, the reliability of the show's voting procedure.

The order of performance was: Carrie, Bo, Vonzell, Anthony. But during the recap, where Ryan plays good cop to the judges bad cop routine and gives out the numbers, each contestant was given the same phone number: Carrie's.

Now, obviously, this error is not on the same grand scale as the one earlier this season, and one might wonder why anyone needing closed captioning would be watching a singing show (even though that's a ridiculous argument), this show cannot afford to give its audience any more fodder for attack.

There are already enough grumblings of phone line irregularities (ask any Constantine fan). There are already those who know that Carrie was annointed Idol long before the crappy auditions began. So you would think that somewhere this show, which brings in the big bucks, could afford someone with white gloves.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Initial impressions...

It may have been the final four, but it was old home week on American Idol. Seated in the audience were Mikalah Gordon, Jasmine Trias, John Stevens and LaToya London. The kids were reprising memorable numbers from seasons past, and two of them decided to pull an anniversary homage to the Clay/Josh identical song trick from two years ago. There were flip flops with suits, tears, well-wishes, love and kisses and grandmoms poised to totally kick ass.


Round one ran the kids through the country wringer. Round two sent them to Philly to salute the classic duo of Gamble and Huff, who were also among the spectators.

I haven't had the opportunity to listen without watching, which can always highlight flaws a good performance can mask, or to watch them go through their paces again, so, reserving my right of rearrangement, here are my initial impressions, as always from worst to first.

Vonzell (How Do I Live?) -- This performance was doomed from the second note, and, despite her best efforts, just couldn't recover. Without question, it was Vonzell's worst performance of the finals. The tears following, and Paula's comments, were indicative that the least of Vonzell's problems were what happened, though, on that stage.

Carrie (If You Don't Know Me By Now) -- Simon called it a mess, Randy said it didn't work, and -- the kiss of death -- Paula dissed it too. Ouch Carrie! If Vonzell hadn't melted down fifteen minutes prior, you would have earned worst spot. (But, in all fairness, the arrangement, exactly as Simon said, was what ruined this song.) How does one make this song unrecognizable?

Bo. (Great Day to Be Alive [thanks for the assist!]) There really was nothing technically wrong with this performance, except for the fact that it was so snoozy I slept through it.

Anthony. (I'm Already There) I laughed when Simon, the only person more ignorant of country than I am, described this as both "syrupy" and "gooey." It's a country song. It's supposed to be sticky. Again, nothing technically horrible. And it allowed me to continue my nap.

Anthony. (If You Don't Know Me By Now) No...that's nota typo. Anthony performed a much improved version of the song Carrie sang two contestants earlier, in the same way Josh sang what Clay sang, ending with two very different versions. Where Carrie's was unrecognizable, Anthony stayed pretty much close to the original, even attempting to interject heartache at breaking up a happy home. It was a noble effort.

Carrie (Sin Wagon) -- What a difference a year makes. Last year, when Amy Adams put her brand on this song, the producers prohibited her from singing the original lyrics and forced her to change the term "mattress dancing" to "crazy dancing" or other such nonsense. Carrie got to sing the whole suggestive lyric, and, while not as clearly as was done last year, was energetic and even fun, when she could be heard over the always-too-loud-for-the-opening-singer band.

Vonzell. (Don't Leave Me This Way) With her cheering in the audience, the Vonz reprised LaToya's song from the final four one year ago, but, and I never thought I would say this, put Miss London to shame. She was, evidentially, able to shake off the emotion of the day, put the disaster of her first song behind her, and belted this Thelma Houston song over the fence. I would actually buy that record. Just like I would buy...

Bo. (For the Love of Money) I cannot believe that my ultimate wish -- that Bo would choose this song -- actually happened. And, even though I shouldn't be surprised, he was able to turn this very recognizable song (thanks to the Donald) into a new, fresh version that was a pleasure to watch. But Simon was wrong -- the style is terrific. It's Bo-riffic.

Final two? Don't count out a shocker. It's the final four. Anything can happen.

And usually does.

Welcome to Fantasy Idol: Headed for Philly

UPDATE: They will be splitting the themes. Along with the Philly sound will be, uhhh, the sound of, uhhh, Nashville. Also known as: Let's bury Anthony and beatify Carrie in the same hour!

That sofa just keeps getting bigger and bigger as the field gets smaller. And it's gonna get even smaller after tonight.

After a week of Paula/Corey wisecracks, the final four and the speculation about possible themes took a back seat. Of course, there were the normal whisperings that the theme would be tailored to favor the annointed contestants (country) or to throw an assist to the preferred third-placer (Motown).

Two years ago this week, we were treated to a night of BeeGees music, as Josh Gracin decided to go lyric-for-lyric with Clay Aiken and bought a ticket home. One year ago this week, the full-female-foursome performed in front of Donna Summer as they Boogie Oogied to the beat of disco, now known as 70s dance tunes. And, of course, in one of the infamous Idol incidents, LaToya got Tamyra-ed.

This year it seems the kids will be flashing back to the 60s and the heyday of the Philly sound, cruising to the tunes of Leon Huff and Kenneth Gamble. You may not recognize their names, you may not know their faces, but, again, just like last week, if you're over a certain age, you will know the music that came from their company and their vision.

So, it's time to scour the songbook, find some clips and play Fantasy Idol -- Final Four edition.

The kids will select two songs, and there is no indication (as there was last week) that the theme will be split. So, I'm going on the assumption that each of them will perform two Gamble/Huff songs, as there are more than enough to go around the block four times.

This could prove to be the toughest night thus far, for everyone but the Vonz. It's bound to be entertaining to watch Anthony and Carrie search for their inner soul. So, if this is indeed the theme, we shall call it "get rid of Anthony" night.

Baby V just hit the lottery. These songs are tailor-made for her vocal strength and her style. A bad evening for her will be inexcusable, and, considering she might be most at risk, she should not have song selection or icky theme as any excuse.

If Vonzell has to choose two Huff/Gamble songs, she might consider a ballad to begin and a dance number to end.
If You Don't Know Me By Now would be an excellent selection for the slower, and I Love Music, for the uptempo. But she could go for the lesser known Old Friend, by the brilliant Phyllis Hyman. And, since the Vonz brought the house down earlier this season, covering Deniece Williams, she might be wise to put her money on It's Gonna Take a Miracle.

Some might expect Bo to struggle with Philly's musical alternative to Detroit, but, if he chooses the right songs, and does not simply pull a couple of titles from the hat as he did for the musicals disaster, he has the potential of assuring his place in the finale. I suggest Bo consider
Only The Strong Survive and Me and Mrs. Jones. But, if he's not real fond of those selections, he should carry the mic stand around to the tune of one of my faves, Back Stabbers and Livin' For The Weekend. But, of course, if he wants to mix up those pairings, I won't complain. But if he were to pull out a performance of For the Love of Money, I will dial his number for two hours.

Carrie's recommendations were a pain. There are many lesser known songs that came out of the Huff/Gamble studios, and she will quite likely choose one of those. But, if I were counseling her, I would urge her to stick with the well-known
Betcha By Golly Wow. And she also should consider Kiss and Say Goodbye, but I think a definite winner would be Didn't I (Just Blow Your Mind This Time), if, for no other reason, the money note she could deliver.

Anthony could choose any of the Carrie recommendations and be safe with them, but he needs to stay far far away from the sleepy songs. He's very impressive with power ballads, and he's memorable with an uptempo song, when he's in key. He should attempt
Cowboys To Girls. Yes. He should. But if not, there's always Drowning In The Sea of Love. I would applaud him if he were to try Expressway to Your Heart, but I'm not holding my breath. But the song I really want to hear him sing is She Used Da Be My Girl.

The pressure is mostly on Anthony, having been in the bottom two each of the last two weeks, being saved by a hair, and now being served a theme that might cause him some trouble. But, before anyone starts deciding he's toast, it's important to remember harsh comments equal record voting. A good performance tends to equal complacency. So another poor Anthony showing, coupled with a fine Vonzell performance could land Baby V on the Ellen show.

Bo cannot show the contempt (however sweetly masked it might be) for this theme that he showed for the Broadway/Musicals/whatever we decided to call it theme. His numbers are strong, but he needs to continue leaving everything on the stage if he wants to land in the finale.

Carrie needs not to fall off the stage.

It's Idol Night!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Damn you Marlea Stroman

It's still not over.

Until this year, season two held the distinction of being the most controversial, scandalous season of the show's brief history.

This season just shot that one to hell.

The whole Paula-gave-Corey-cough-syrup-cellphones-clothes-and-condoms mess is the peak of what has been a one-scandal-after-another season, and has caused many viewers to pack their viewing bags and leave, while forcing others to use far too many hyphens.

When did it start?

It's all Marlea Stroman's fault.

I'll ignore the crappy auditions. The downslide of season four began when Marlea Stroman, who should have been a lock as a final twelve female, "suddenly" exited stage right in the midst of sobs because she "missed her baby after only two days in Hollywood." Much production centered around the first resignation of an Idol wannabe.

Little did anyone know.

Maybe it wasn't a scandal, but the first semi-final execution brought bunches of screams of "foul" when Ryan, after insinuating that Judd was "safe" and spending far too much time filling an hour of bloodletting, suddenly swerved and shot the poor little guy right between the eyes, taking Judd by obvious surprise and sending the critics into overtype.

And we mustn't forget little Melinda's "Cry for me Argentina, cause I didn't get any airtime" diatribe, before falling to pieces on stage in front of a live television audience.

Then came Mario, who flirted himself into a final twelve spot, only to bail just hours before the first "live-which-was-really-taped" finals performance episode. Nikko's out, Scott's in, Mario's out, Nikko's back. Swoosh.

Why did he leave? It was personal. Was he gay? Was he mad? (That would have made him not-gay.) Did he have a better offer? Did he run out of hats?

Rumors swirled. Tongues wagged.

Then he was forgotten.

But at least these scandals were contestant-driven. The show was still above board, beyond reproach.

Until. Those numbers. Those mixed up numbers that gave Anwar's to Scott and Mikalah's (remember her?) to Nadia, or some such thing. Do Over time! The FOX programmers had to scramble to fit in another hour of Idol, and I missed The Apprentice, all because somebody somewhere put an intern in charge of graphics. But Mikalah left anyway, so it was all good.

Guns were smoking and a small band of idiots was plotting the destruction of Idol as we know it. Problem was, nobody knew it.

Nadia has a baby! She's a single mom. Never been married. The hussy.

Scott has a son! He wasn't married to the boy's mother. Oh how sweet.


Oh my heavens, Anwar is gay! And he's peddling himself on a dating website, looking for...

Poor Anwar. He didn't even get his 15 seconds of scandal, because where there's smoke there's a website and people who actually enjoy rummaging through moldy court records.

Scott! You didn't marry your son's mom, but you threw a phone at her? And you got arrested for domestic violence (a misdeameanor). You thug! You jerk! You Communist! You should leave. Leave now! Get out! This is not what Idols are made of!

But he doesn't leave, and he's not forced to go, because, according to producers, he spilled his arrested guts to the big wigs long before the competition began. So he was safe. But he won't be safe for long, America screams.

But the bad guys have other plans.

Bad guys? There are bad guys?

What else do you call a small group of organized dialers, hell bent on voting for the "worst" candidate, with the single goal of making a mockery of the process. Okay, so maybe they were successful in November, but will they carry their chosen candidate through to the final two?

It didn't work with Constantine. And, as soon as these genuises realized Constantine would not have been considered an unpopular contestant, they refocused their attention on Mikalah. That didn't last long. Eleventh won't alter the outcome. So Scott became their man, even though Scott was not, by far, the worst of the vocalists.

And so they dialed. Scott lived another week. They applauded themselves, patted themselves on the back for a job well done.

Arrogance will get you nowhere, and that's exactly where the "worst website" is now.

But, in an annual shocking twist of fate, Constantine, the smouldering, pouting, Partridge Family-singing, Greek heartthrob (?) is sent packing, earning no better than a sixth-place finish. And waving bye-bye to the popular-but-now-exiled contestant are the "less talented" duo of Anthony and Scott.

That's it. Viewers swear off the show. There are cries of broken phone lines, broken hearts and producer manipulation. After all, Constantine's band, Pray for the Soul of Betty, had just signed a record deal days prior. Constantine, of course, cannot, under conditions of his contract, profit from the sale of the CD, but his image can certainly prominently adorn its cover.

Were the producers angry over this? Did they alter the numbers to force him out? Tongues wagged. Conspiracy theorists argued. Others simply applauded.

More smoke. It's Bo. Bo knows smoke. And coke. It seems. Felony cocaine and marijuana possession charges surface. Seems Bo spent some time in a drug diversion program about a year ago. Is this what an Idol should be made of?

And now Paula. Did she sleep with a season two contestant and offer him advice and counsel, and then order a massive coverup? Or are these the claims of a bitter, out-for-revenge Idol reject, just looking for book and CD publicity?

After a season saturated with scandal, who cares?

And it's not over! There are still three weeks left in the competition, and Carrie, Vonzell and Anthony have yet to have their dirty linens hung out to dry.

Could it be that Vonzell actually did glance through Mrs. Baker's Playgirl magazine before she shoved it in the slot? Did Anthony really smuggle a pear into Arizona? And, as unlikely as it seems, did Carrie really not floss for a whole week?

Stay tuned. Or tuned out.

And to think some people consider skydiving to be exciting.

Damn you Marlea Stroman.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

SIMULBLOG: we're not as heavy now, brother

It's hanging day! Yay! Time to cut some more of the fat from the show. The problem with trimming fat, though, is that to get it all, you gotta cut into the meat. Last week, we cut too much of the meat.

Ryan reminds us that the finale is just three weeks from now as he introduces the kids, and assures us that the judges do not know the results of the voting. Then, as usual, we are forced to relive the events of the night preceding. And then more pimping of the website.

Uh oh. It's the group song and they're gonna mess with Clay's signature song Bridge Over Troubled Water. Bo really needs to lose the sunglasses, but this starting out to be the best group song yet. (Not that that is saying much. Wouldn't take much.) Ang Carrie sings above all the others, as normal. Do they just turn up her mic or is it her? Haven't figured that one out. They're giving this one to Bo and Scott, it seems, and they're doing a decent job of it. Scratch that. Time for the overscreaming. Why must they feel it's a contest to see who can outscreech? Why?

But they save themselves by present floral bouquets to their judges. (Musta wanted to tell Paula everything's gonna come up roses [or daisies] later tonight and couldn't show any preference else face charges of pollenating with only certain judges next time ABC wants to generate some ratings. Smart kids.

But, in the grand scheme of group songs, it was pretty good.

How many commercials can you fit in a half-hour show anyway? But, I'll be honest, I hope Fantasia beats the crap outta Lisa Simpson.

Adorably cute Ford spot, using, creatively, another Leiber and Stoller song. I love the Ruby song.

Happy Birthday to Anthony!! Everyone cheers. Ooo. 20. Tough year to live through. Anthony is sent to the sofa, but no one says he's safe.

The Vonz gets her reviews and......she is told to stay put. Ooooo.

Scott rehears his critiques and....he's sent to the couch with Anthony. Doesn't look good for the couch.

Bo is next, and .... and.... and.... Bo is told to FREEZE. As is Carrie.

Couch is bad. Obviously.

If Anthony outlasts Scott at this point, I'm never ever going to watch this show again. Actually I'm just joking, but I never got to say that last week when everyone else was taking vows of AI chastity, and I so hate being left out.

Ryan says both Scott and Anthony, the couch potatoes, are gonna sing. If Anthony sings Poison Ivy, I'm gonna poison his little ivys, I swear. I don't care if it IS his birthday. I think the band can handle playing whatever the condemned wants to sing, so they both should be able to choose what they want.

Scott is first and he does NOT choose his best song from last night. Again with the sleepy song that I've never heard of. Well, I guess I've heard it now. Too many times. Hey! He said "damn" and "homeys". What interesting lyrics. I didn't hear them last night. I had fallen asleep by that point, apparently.

Oooo. That was, well, bad.

Anthony is choosing wisely. He's singing the boy band song. Backstreet Boys? Are they still alive? I thought they were hanging out in Boy Band Hell with the guys from 'N Sync. Obviously I was wrong. But, if they can credit On Broadway to George Benson instead of The Drifters, I can assume they were rewinding musical history. What can I say? I'm old.

Anthony is about as good as he was last night. And that ain't saying much. Again.

I think Scott is toast. I just had a vision of thousands of Bratz phones with receivers NOT on their cradles. Bratz phones do not call for Scott.

And so it happens. Ryan tells Anthony the bad news is that they didn't get him a card and instructs Scott to watch his funeral tape. He doesn't go crazy, he doesn't throw a phone. He's a gentleman, and accompanies the credits with one of the best songs from last night.

He says he just wants to be remembered as the guy everyone loved. Too bad so many people felt it necessary to hate him. Who are they going to hate now?

I'll miss you Scott.

Till next week.

Simulblog out...

Five minus one is four!

I knew that math class would come in handy. Eventually.

It's execution night once again on American Idol. One young wannabe will be one-a-gone, joining the pile of bodies that got a lot taller last week.

After the double dip of performances last night, are any of them safe, though? Aside from two Bo songs, one Carrie number and one from Scott, the performances were worthy of little more than a grunt.

They're calling it another "shocker." Well, of course they are. They know they're leading into the other "shocker" on the other network. What else are they gonna call it? Predictable? Boring? Not worth our time to watch?

What's going to be the "shocker?" Carrie goes home? Bo gets booted? Paula resigns? The group song is actually good?

With only five kids left standing, Ryan should pull down the bottom two tonight. Bo is probably the safest of the five. His fans haven't forgotten his trip to the seal a few weeks ago, and both of his performances solidified his ticket to the finale. The only thing that's going to put him in any danger at this point would be additional arrest records. Or denting the skull of a first row spectator with the mic stand. Or sleeping with Paula. (Using cocaine is a bad choice. Sleeping with Paula? Well, that's a whole different story...)

Last night, Carrie finally heard Simon utter the word the rest of the country has been screaming for months. We knew she was an android. Perhaps ABC should have followed that lead instead of some tawdry between-the-sheets bombshell between an aging former pop star and a seedy Michael Jackson imitator. Could Carrie be in danger of seeing the seal up close and personally tonight. Sure. She's the only one left who hasn't, so it's a possibility. That would qualify as a shocker. But I doubt it will happen. Unfortunately. (Cause after the drama that was Constantine, anything less is gonna be a letdown.)

So the top five end up being divvied thusly: There's Bo, there's Carrie, and then, kinda like Mary Ann and the Professor, there's the rest.

Scott should make it through to the final four, not only because of the tenacity of his fans, the sporadic (quit giving them the credit they don't deserve) efforts of the VFTW movement (whose site has mysteriously disappeared!), and the quality of last night's outing. I've thought from the beginning that he would/could make it to the top four -- I didn't account for a Constantine ouster. My bad. If someone held a gun to my head and forced me to say, I would predict Scott as one of the final three. He gets the Jasmine spot. Doesn't deserve it, certainly, but, for whatever reasons, he's gonna get it.

That leaves Anthony and the Vonz dangling in the wind. I picture the two of them, standing center stage, holding hands, smiling graciously and laughing anxiously as Ryan drags out their agony through 38 commercials. But the huge question looms, of course: will the reject get to sing the entire song?

And who will the reject be?

Surprisingly, this is one of the toughest I've tried to call all season. Anthony is past due. But he made some surprising strides mid-competition. Vonzell doesn't deserve to even be there, but if Constantine were still there instead of Scott, she would. Anthony had a disasterous outing, prompting me to wonder if his Poison Ivy was, indeed, the single worst AI performance ever. (Then I remembered Leah LaBelle, and decided not to think about it anymore.) Vonzell had a disappointing night. She butchered an Elvis tune and took a pass by singing the Tsunami Tsingle. (I didn't forget that little breach, and I doubt that the voters last night did either.)

Anthony was soundly and roundly dissed by the judges. Vonzell got a split decision, but Simon did send up the flare to her fans that her tenure on the stage might be coming to an end. Those flares can work sometimes. Notice no flares sent to the Anthony or Scott fans. Sometimes the best way to light a fire under the fingers of the voters is to shoot a gun at them. Figuratively speaking, of course. Please!!! No more scandals. Not tonight anyway, cause I have to get over the is Paula more stupid than we thought one first.

Can you tell I'm hedging.

Okay here goes.

Anthony should have exited stage left about four contestants ago, but Baby V will bid Daddy goodbye. One last time.

Oh I hope not, though. Cause that means we'd have to listen to that wretched Tsingle AGAIN.

This show is driving me to drink.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Initial impressions...

And so they gave us the annual double dose of five wannabes, plucking songs from the 50s/60s, written by the great Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller then fast forwarding half a century, give or take, and choosing anything lucky enough to find itself on the Billboard charts this week.

Talk about musical whiplash. Talk about boredom.

But they came, we saw, they sang. And, as usual, without benefit of an audio-only file or the chance to rewind and rewatch, here are the initial impressions, as always, from worst to first.

Anthony Fedorov (Poison Ivy) -- And to think I suggested this song for you. I slapped myself midway through. What a horrible idea. What a horrible rendition. This is a novelty song, and Anthony turned it into a standard boy band tune, complete with flats, sharps and blunt objects thrown in for bad measure. Holy insipidness. And to think Constantine was sacrificed for this.

Vonzell Solomon (Treat Me Nice) -- Regardless of Randy and Paula's glowing reviews, this (somewhat) well-known Elvis song had more flat notes than good ones, and the messy arrangement made it virtually unrecognizable.

Anthony Fedorov (Incomplete) -- To be honest, I do not know this song, but Anthony seemed to have lost the strength in his vocals that made him shine last week. His showing was beyond disappointing for a top five episode.

Scott Savol (Everytime You Go Away) -- Again, it's not a familiar song to me, and, while it was somewhat enjoyable, and miles better than either of Anthony's, it smacked of his Luther boringness and left me half asleep.

Carrie Underwood (God Bless The Broken Road) -- I've not kept any secret of the fact that I abhor country music, so I admit I'm a bit biased, but I am still wondering where Carrie keeps her batteries. I think Simon called it robotic. Yeah. Good word. No matter how beautifully performed, a vapid performance remains a vapid performance.

Vonzell Solomon (When You Tell Me That You Love Me) -- Vonzell loses points automatically for choosing this albatross of a tune, because, considering how many variations the kids have put it through, the lyrics were no challenge for Vonzell. But she did prove that she should have gotten way more of the single's spotlight than she was handed.

Carrie Underwood (Trouble) -- Okay, I give. That was a sassy, personable performanceof a lyrically unchallenging tune. I liked the nod to the boys with the carrying of the mic stand, but I liked even more the kicking of it into the pit. Too bad it was her first performance, because after the snoozer of a finisher, I've forgotten all about it.

Scott Savol (On Broadway) -- Yay Scott! You did my song!! And you infused your energy and passion into it and told a story, just like I had hoped you would. And the message to Simon proved that you're not the thuggish sourpuss you come across to be. You need to have fun more. You need to laugh more. You need to smile more. And, in this 90-second performance, you did all that.

Bo Bice (Heaven) -- I fought with myself, one-half of me arguing to the other half not to put both of Bo's performances in the first/first spots, but the one half convinced the other half that there was no other alternative. This is a song I've heard only briefly, but, as usual, Bo was so naturally relaxed with a mic stand in his hand. This would have been the best performance of the evening, except ...

Bo Bice (Stand By Me) -- This song has been oversung, overused, and overdone. It's been performed, it's been destroyed. But when Bo internalized this Leiber and Stoller tune, it became a Bo song. They are foolish if they don't make this song the "flip side" to Whipping Post for Bo's first single. I was, in a word, mesmerized.

Who's the bottom two? Don't know yet. Tune in tomorrow.

Welcome to Fantasy Idol!

I told you it was a fantasy!

Clay Aiken notwithstanding, we are down to our first Idol performance AC -- after Constantine. And, regardless of your feelings about our Greek pouter, love him or hate him, think he's gorgeous or greasy, you must admit, the show just won't be the same.

But the show must go on, and go on it shall.

Ryan is staying mum on tonight's theme, except to verify what we already knew -- tonight the Idols will sing two selections, as is customary when the field is cut to five.

So rumors abound about the theme. Personally I was expecting it to be another one of those constrictive themes that have been so common this year, like, say, songs recorded and played at least once since Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. But I editorialize.

If the rumors are to be believed, and since this is a fantasy, I'll just do that, we will be hearing country, songs from movies or country songs from movies. Okay, I'm kidding. The most prevalent theme rumor is a combo night, a mixture of two themes, the first one, recent Top 40 hits, is still too inconclusive to call, but the second has a lot of backing. Therefore the second becomes my Fantasy Idol focus.

It's Fantasy Idol time -- Leiber and Stoller edition!

You may not recognize the names Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, but if you're over 30, you'll recognize the songs they wrote for such artists as The Coasters (Charlie Brown, Along Came Jones, etc.), Elvis, and The Drifters. So I've perused their songbook and found a few gems that our Idols may want to select tonight.

The great thing about Leiber and Stoller is that they wrote across the spectrum. So Carrie should be happy to find a Reba McEntire hit among the titles. Carrie might be wise to stick with the country theme and try Reba's version of
I'm a Woman. The tune is catchy, the song is familiar, and the lyrics are easy, but it does require spelling. If she doesn't like that idea, why not pull off something unexpected and perform Elvis' Hound Dog? No one would expect it, and no one can go wrong with Elvis, as long as the song isn't desecrated. Carrie can handle that.

But, if she doesn't like any of those suggestions, there's always Baby I Don't Care (cause) You're So Square.

Vonzell knows her head is quite possibly on the next chopping block, considering her appearance in last week's bottom three and watching who left the building, so my suggestion for Vonzell is
There Goes My Baby, originally recorded by The Drifters (a great version), but also a hit for Donna Summer. I suggest she choose the Donna one. If she's not up for Donna, maybe she might consider Spanish Harlem, another take-them-by-surprise selection. (Hey, if Anthony can sing Celine, Baby V can sing Ben E. King.)

No? Well Vonzell can always go postal and choose Write to Me.

Anthony is another contender for the seal, so he needs to follow up on his fine performance last week, but maybe bring up the tempo just a notch. My recommendation?
Only in America. Absolutely. It fits him, both vocally and personally, and, as long as he hits every note and has a good time, could pick him up a lot of the Constantine voters who have idle hands. (At least the ones who aren't watching the Weather Channel instead.) Or perhaps he wants to go novelty, and Leiber and Stoller were the kings of the novelty song. How about Poison Ivy?

If he doesn't like my ideas, he could always unbutton that shirt collar and belt out One Bad Stud, either in recognition of his bad self or in honor of Constantine. Whichever.

Scott needs to shut up the people who say he can't sing, by forgetting that he's in the final five and going for broke. He really has nothing to lose at this point, and last week he performed far below par. Lucky for him, so did everyone else. I think Scott should sing
On Broadway. It would fit his voice well, and it's one of those power songs which would allow Scott to prove once and for all that he deserves to be exactly where he is. But, if he doesn't like that idea, there's always the much-sung Stand By Me. That would also fit him well.

Terrible choices? Well he could always sing Riot in Cell Block #8. That is if Bo's not choosing it.

Which brings us to Bo. Here's the deal Bo. You got arrested on felony cocaine charges. Some people are vowing not to vote for you because of that revelation. Your true fans will be burning phone lines no matter what, in light of what happened to Constantine last week. What you should do is simple. Dress conservatively. Not Republican suit and tie conservative, but no wild shirts and, above all else, no glasses. Do not carry the mic stand all over the place. Stand there. And sing. And sing
Love Me. If you do that, with the emotion and the power and the angst of Elvis, it's all over. Game, set, match. It's yours. The whole shebang. But if you want to drag out the suspense a little longer, and you're just in the jog-around-the-stage-carrying-the-mic-stand kinda mood, why not consider Love Potion #9. That would be memorable.

No? Don't like those ideas, and Scott stole the Riot song? How about Ten Days in Jail?

It's just a thought.

Monday, May 02, 2005


If controversy is the heart of American Idol, the people there have got to be pleased this week.

Seems ABCNews is throwing out bread crumbs about its planned Wednesday night Primetime Live "expose" which, they say, will blow the lid off American Idol. And rumors are circulating that the explosion may result in at least one casualty.

After promising to respond to specific questions by the end of business Friday, executives at FOX have now, it seems, officially refused to respond to allegations that there was a personal, physical relationship between judge Paula Abdul and a male contestant, presumably Corey Clark, during the height of season two competition. Clark also alledges that Abdul promised "personal coaching," including song selection and tips on how best to endure the rigors of the competition.

Drudge is reporting that ABCNews, after being threatened with a lawsuit, has in its possession voice mail/answering machine messages, apparently recorded by Abdul and, between the audio evidence and the video evidence, has enough to easily pass court scrutiny. Juicenewsdaily is reporting that she may resign, as early as this week, her seat in the middle of the judging panel.

I do not know what behind-the-scene conditions are put upon the four primary on-screen Idol personalities, the three "judges," who, all cynical commentary aside, do nothing more than offer on-the-spot critiques of the contestants' performances, in an attempt to enlighten the voting public, and Ryan Seacrest, who offers a shoulder to lean on and a tie to cry into, but otherwise merely carries out the wishes of the writers and producers. It's widely known that the judges and the contestants interact off camera, and that Paula is, of the three, the most contestant-friendly, offering each one of them a trinket and a snippet of encouragement before each show.

Now, if there is a non-fraternization policy within their contracts, and these allegations are true, Paula's gotten herself in a boatload of trouble. But is it enough of a bombshell to, in one hour, cause the longtime viewer to jump ship? It's a breach of contract issuebetween the network, the show and the cheerleader. And Gladys Knight would be a terrific replacement.

However, if there is no such clause, and the allegations, even if proven, are contained to a sexual relationship with the promise of professional assistance, can it bring down the top-rated show?

Maybe I'm just not getting this, but, of the three "judges," Paula is, without a doubt, the least influential. She rarely strays from her "you were the best ever" script, regardless of the disaster she just witnessed. The only time her critique merits any attention is when the disaster was so immense that even she feels the need to turn her thumbs down. One Paula "it was boring" remark can be louder than fifteen Simon "hideous" ones.

So what if she offered him $2 million to build his career. It's her money. And, if we're talking her providing off-screen advice, what gives? This is Paula Abdul. This is not Madonna, for goodness sake. This is Britney Spears before there was a Britney Spears It's doubtful that music moguls interrupt their lunches to take her call. Now, if this had been Simon in the same, ahem, position, I would be predicting the imminent cancellation of the show, and selling all of my FOX stock. But it's not Simon.

I'm not even concerned about Corey Clark's believability at this point. My opinion of him has been documented, and his allegations have been put into question by other season two contestants. I don't care if what he says is true. I just don't understand why ABCNews is devoting an hour of primetime just to delve into trash that used to be the exclusive domain of Jerry Springer and the tabloids, in an obvious and single-minded attempt to put a dent into the money machine that ABC refused to even consider five years ago.

What happened to the era where the networks kept themselves out of the gutter?

The whole thing reeks of vengeance. It reeks like
The Globe.

Thanks Rob for the awesome image!