Tuesday, February 28, 2006

and then there were ten...

After an unimpressive start, the remaining 10 women have a ways to go to convince us that, as a group, they're more entertaining than the guys.

They didn't. But we are treated to a return to the vintage Paula and a round of musical chairs. That itself was semi-amusing and somewhat worth the 90-minute investment.

And so here they are, my early impressions, subject to rewind, review and rearrangement, and as always, from worst to first:

Kinnik Sky is saluting country because she wants to remind (inform?) everyone that she's from the South and everybody knows Idols only come from the South. So she sings some song I've never heard about only being There for the Party that Randy mentions is by somebody named Gretchen. I generally worry about critiquing country music because, well, I hate it, so I feel relieved when the judges pretty much chop her at the knees, just above the cowboy boots. In a word, that was awful.

Brenna Gethers promises to "own" Donna Summer's Last Dance, but trashes it instead. And in her quest to further destruct, crosses the line from playful to arrogant, ensuring her ouster or a rush to the phones to keep her in. People tend to vote for the one whom Simon announces needs to pack her bags, but I have a hunch this time those voters may be too busy applauding to dial.

Heather Cox, the Idol stalker, explains that she's going to put us through a Mariah moment because "Hero has never ever been performed on this show." Earth to Heather: there's a reason for that. Paula tells her she looks nice, Randy agrees. She looks nice. Simon tells her the entire performance is pointless if she's not as good as Mariah and merely going to karaoke the song. I think she looked very nice.

Since it is a FCC regulation that no American Idol episode may be aired without a Stevie Wonder song, Katharine McPhee treats us to All in Love is Fair after explaining that she and Kellie love each other and like spending time in bed. Great. Scandal! Randy says bad song. Paula takes another sip of her cocktail, and Simon says after three performances, Katharine's will be forgotten. I dozed halfway through her performance, so I'll just tend to agree.

I heard on great authority (that authority being a 12-year-old girl) that Lisa Tucker is not high on the favorite list of the hot-dialing tweens. And I doubt that she did much to help her cause, taking on yet another ballad, this time the Jackson 5's Who's Loving You. Technically she was adequate, but the judges were right that a 16-year-old trying to show off how old she can be is not going to advance her very far.

Ayla Brown takes on Celine Dion. She's thrilled to have discovered cosmetics during her Idol run. (Note to self: buy stock in Max Factor.) The judges remark how she's surprising them time after time. She is surprising me too. As much as I try not to like this girl, I can't.

We get a little glimpse of when Mayberry met Hollywood with Kellie Pickler explaining her food adventures. Somehow, somewhere in my gut, something just doesn't ring true about this girl. Either that or I'm just sick of the "look how dumb I am" routine. But she does good work with Something to Talk About. Paula gives her a squish moment, Randy orders the dawgpound to bark and Simon announces that, if we haven't already, America will fall in love with this genuinely loveable girl. Speak for yourself, Simon.

Paris Bennett, the teenager with the tween vote, according to my reliable sourse, decides to rapidly age with Wind Beneath my Wings. Oh Paris, please do not do this again until a theme night forces you to. Will somebody please banish that song from the AI catalog. Please. Except for a few flat places, she was the Paris we've come to expect, I just hate that song. Her grandmother is pleased though, and she tells Ryan she sang it because it's her great-Aunt's favorite, to which Simon replies case closed.

Mandisa gets the sweet spot, wrapping up the performances with Cry a Little. Does she know that that's a microphone in front of her? It's a crappy song, but a decent performance. I just wish she would just go totally wild and just once not try to out-amplify the amplifiers. Simon and Randy are less than impressed but they agree with me that if and when Mandisa finds just the right tune, it's going to be a performance to remember.

Having already established the fact that I am not a country music fan, I found myself tapping a foot or two to Melissa McGhee's Why Haven't I Heard from You. After what I considered a bland performance last week, she was fun, energetic and, in an overall weak night, she was a bright spot. And hers was my favorite of the night.

Tomorrow the dawgs. (Is anyone else kinda sick of the dawgpound routine?) And if Paula insists on turning the girls into poodles again, I hope someone has her spayed.

tag: american idol

one last try...

Tuesdays are not Tuesdays and won't be until the end of May. The day after Monday is Idol night.

So happy Idol night. Day.

So we've plucked four stragglers out of the mix, got ourselves down to 20 kids, half of whom will hit the eyeball tonight in hopes of surviving another week. The ones with facial hair (or who will have it once puberty hits) will get their chance tomorrow.

Seems they're not giving us live performances. Guess I must have missed the absence of the "LIVE" notice last week. I'm hearing that the women taped yesterday; the men have or will tape today.

No matter, even though knowing it's live does add to the enormous appeal of the show. This week's performance episodes are slotted for 90 minutes, according to the FOX website, with Thursday's results show still planned for an hour. (Obviously they're plotting another enormous group sing, undoubtedly one which will give the women more lyrics than the "Oooooo" and "Easy" burden they had to carry last time.)

Some of the kids simply have to show up, not fall down and stay somewhere near pitch to stay in the game. I find it impossible to imagine that Katharine, Paris or Mandisa will be leaving anytime soon. Ditto Chris, Ace and Taylor. Others are in relatively safe standing, which leaves a few of them needing to pull out a Whipping Post to stay with us.

So, in keeping with the tradition of predicting the doomed before they've even opened their mouths, who's going to stay and, more importantly, who's gonna bite the big one?

The most endangered females this week are Brenna, Melissa, Kinnik and Heather, none of whom, with the possible exception of Melissa, made any sort of huge impression in the first go-round. Aside from Brenna and her memorable antics, the other three are the most forgettable of the women, and all three need a break-out performance to compensate for their lack of pimpage and many of the others' excessive airtime. It hurts, after all, when the viewer/voter can recite the status/whereabouts of Kellie's parents but has to struggle to remember Heather Cox's name.

On the guys' side, the ones at the end of the plank are Gedeon and his smile, Sway, Bucky and one of the vote-splitting teens, most probably David. Gedeon, David and Sway simply must rebound from performances last week that were widely panned. Bucky's first effort seemed to get mixed reviews, probably because, while it wasn't close to the best one, it was far from the Copacabana. Gedeon and David need to lay off the cheese. Sway needs to use his real voice. Bucky needs to show us that "tone" the judges keep saying exists but no one but them has ever heard. With five guys building bigger fan bases with every note and one just so adorably cute he gets votes just for being, a poor performance on top of a poor performance is going to equal a plane ticket home.

My guesses?

Barring unexpected cleavage, tight leather pants, waterworks or Ace-like loving the camera, I predict we say goodbye to Heather, Kinnik, Gedeon and David.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

idol mutterings...

When I'm muttering, I'm basically just talking to myself, so y'all can just ignore me. Or, better yet, y'all can mutter with me. Thanks for all the comments and the messages on the tagboard. Idol fans are the best people!

Sandie was wishing for a return to the Wildcard episode, the one thing that they ripped away with the new girl/boy format. She's right. The wildcard episode was always the most fun of all of the semi-final rounds, bringing back rejected contestants for one last chance, giving viewers one selection and each of the judges one pick. Some of those picks were really crappy and obviously meant for commerical appeal (Simon=Carmen) or just because one judge was on crack (Paula=Leah) or because one fab contestant had the misfortune to be stuck in a group with two other fab contestants (voters=Clay).

Generally speaking, I much prefer the current semi-final format, as we get to know the kids before they get down to the finals, and it does prevent the problem of only getting to choose two performers from a great group, like season two which, in one group had Ruben, Kimberley and Clay, and the opposite nightmare of being forced to deal with two from one monumentally crappy group, like group two from season three where the best we had was Camile. [I promise you, this is the very first time I have ever written the words best and Camile in the same sentence. I plan never to again. I must now wash my hands.]

I'm still smarting over losing Patrick Hall. To be honest, he never once even entered my radar as a possible ejection, even though his was certainly not one of the best performances Wednesday night. Patrick faced a lot of problems, namely being first up in a two-hour show of new contestants. By the time it came to vote, many people (myself included) had forgotten he even sang, much less what and how well or poorly. I never had any illusions that he would make final 12, but his was not one of the two worst performances. Again, lack of airtime cost another one.

The downside to the six guys/six gals quota system is that, of course, there may be seven great men and five great women. Why must we be saddled with a Mikalah when there's a Travis? I'd like to see them consider adding two more weeks (note to Santa: I want fewer audition episodes, please) to the voting performances, cutting the final 24 to eight, instead of 12 then adding a wildcard episode, still giving each judge one pick, which was always fun even when it was a bad choice, and the audience another look at the ones they let slip away.

Again, I'm just talking to myself.

But if you want to talk to yourself, I'd love to know what you think.

tag: american idol

Thursday, February 23, 2006

the first massacre: a simulblog...

Warning to those in the West. This will contain spoilers. Once a wannabe is executed, I will publish. If they hold the killings until the end of the show, then I'll hold until that happens. But I am typing as I'm watching, so there will be typos, missplaced commas and uncensored thoughts.

Just so you know. If you want to be surprised, don't stop by until later. But thanks for stopping by!! See you soon.


It's time to start losing the dead wood. Hopefully the green stuff will be left, but sometimes the green goes into the trash pile with the crappy stuff.

It's the first elimination episode of American Idol, Season Five. And it's been a long wait since May, through dancing shows, Apprentices, Survivors, holidays, auditions and Crazy Dave to get to this moment.

They look scared all standing there on the stage with Ryan. But they all look adorably cute posed up and down the staircase, Brady Bunch style. Maybe they don't know yet that we're gonna kill four of them before the hour's up. Or maybe they learned Brenna, who obviously lost a bet with one of the hair stylists, got the crap beat out of her by Kevin. Who knows.

It's an hour of results tonight, like we need an hour to eliminate four people. Fifteen minutes tops is all that's necessary. But we must crush little women figure skaters and B celebrity dancers, so an hour it is. Therefore, to fill time, we are treated to Simon/Paula banter, followed by Simon/Ryan banter, followed by even more analysis of what happened over the last two nights. We know what happened. We were there.

Oh geesh. It's a group number. Why in the holy hell are they starting the group numbers this early? That stage isn't big enough for little Kevin, much less 23 others. That's why the kids are on the balcony, sitting on the edge of the stage, lined up and down the stairs and generally hanging from the rafters. They're begging us to Take it Easy. Easy for them to sing. Actually, quality not withstanding, they look like they're having fun. Well, I suppose that's something. And it is their funeral, after all.


Ryan warns us that time for segregation is upon us, BUT!! first we must remember who sang what when via video flashbacks. Oh please take some of those people off my television! But they end with "smouldering looks," so it's all good.

It's time to knock off two of the girls!! Finally, the bloodletting has begun. Ryan re-introduces us to all fo the ladies and gives Brenna a few more minutes. She talks ducks. Paris talks dreams about confetti. Heather talks breakfast. Becky raises her hand and says PICK ME! She's nervous. She's told to think like a duck.

Ryan is doing the whole back row/front row thing again, giving Mandisa, Kellie, Ayla, Lisa, Katharine and Paris a stay of execution. Dead women sitting on the bottom row, obviously as the safe ones whoop and holler. Ryan reminds them what they sang, just in case they forgot.

Heather, Stevie and Melissa are given the "you're safe" assurance (well that shot my predictions straight to hell) as Brenna, Becky and Kinnik are commanded to the center of the eyeball. And they are formally introduced to Ryan Seacrest and American Idol as they're told to wait until after the break.

I hate when he does that. Jeff Probst doesn't do that.

We're back and Ryan reminds the three rejects what the judges said about their performances, just in case they forgot. Kinnik is told to go back to the good people and Ryan delivers the death blow to Becky, who refuses a hug from Brenna. Paula's crying again. Paula's going to be a basket case this season if she's bawling with the first killing. Simon says that as a singer, she will make a great model. Randy says the song she picked was too big for her. So in true American Idol tradition, they let her sing it again, as if we deserve that kind of punishment for not calling the right number.

I choose not to be punished. I choose to potty.

Bad song. Two hours of commercials....

Ryan has the guys all lined up on the two-tiered sofa of death. Elliott talks about improvement. Kevin tells the women next time to kiss his cheeks instead of pinching them. Ryan is jealous of Kevin's smoothness, and Ace takes notes.

Ryan pulls up the front row after giving the back row a reprieve. Ace and Elliott are told to sit back down. So are Kevin and Chris, leaving Bobby and Sway as dead men standing. [Holy God, does this mean I'm going to have to hear Copacabana again? Should have held that pee.]

Ryan spares us the after the break crap and assassinates Bobby, who is very gracious in his gratitude to have gotten this far. I like this guy. I would be sad if he hadn't been so terrible. Paula is not crying.

But I am, cause, you guessed it: he's singing it again.

Potty break...

The women are back and Ryan says he's looking for the second lowest vote getter. The same six that were save last time are safe again. So is Brenna, and no one applauds. Kinnik is safe. Melissa is safe and Stevie looks pissed. Stevie and Heather get reminded what they sang and Stevie gets the ax. She says she was sick when she sang. Paula, Simon and Randy tell her she sang the wrong song so she gets to sing the wrong song all over.

I don't get this logic. But I have to pee again. I'll figure it out sometime in June.

13 hours of commercials...

And, you guessed it, the guys are all lined up for the firing squad. Ryan pulls up the back row of David, Bucky, Taylor, Patrick, Gedeon and Will. They're all reminded what they sang and what was said about them. Will and Taylor are sent back to their seats, as are Gedeon and David, leaving Patrick and Bucky. Patrick gets the bad news. The judges give him the "keep your head up" pep talk, and he gets to sing the song that killed him. I am sad, because I think Patrick could have brought something special to the competition. Now we'll never know.

Ryan lectures us, yet again, of the need to vote America, then tells us to stick around for Skating with Celebrities, but doesn't explain why.

See you next time. Same Idol time. Same Idol channel.

tag: american idol

it's execution night...

Well it took a few hours, but I've finally recovered from boy's night. Last season I yawned through "girls night," spending most of those episodes thinking about the guys. I have a feeling this season is going to be no different. I hope the women give me something to look forward to, but after this week, it's going to have to be good stuff.

The judges can harp all they want about how wonderful the women were. There were a few bright spots, but in comparison with the guys, as a group, they just didn't deliver the goods this round.

My early estimation that the final six ladies will be Paris, Katharine, Mandisa, Lisa, Kellie and a sixth one to be named later stays. I cannot see any of those five not making the cut, even though Kellie was less than stellar in her opening performance. Nerves always take center stage in the first live performance, so I always cut them a little slack, unless they were so pitiful that slack would simply hang them.

On the men's side, my trio of Taylor, Ace and Chris is even more firmly verified, with the addition now of Elliott. So I see a battle for the two remaining slots to be fought in the next two weeks.

So who stays tonight and who books a plane ticket? It's really up in the air. I would never have chosen, for instance, Judd Harris to be a casualty last year and sure enough, it was Judd who got shot straight between the eyes after being made to feel safe. I do hope that the producers learned a lesson from last seasons outcry over the first execution episode: as much as we love blood and guts, we don't want to see a contestant get blindsided and we really don't need or want to watch them fight back tears as they reprise the song that got their butts kicked out of the competition.

On the female side, one can make the case that Stevie should be the first punted from the show. After all, she did turn in the worst performance from either gender, despite the fact that she brags of her classical training. However, I hope that others, like me, see the possibilities of Stevie, give her points for nerves and one more chance in the process. If she survives tonight, though, she needs to realize that one more chance can be one last chance. A repeat of Tuesday, and she's a goner.

It's not fair that Heather and Melissa were given far less airtime than the others, but that's the nature of the beast. It's not like this is a new show or anything. They are probably the most vulnerable, simply because they've been hidden in the closet the past month. Brenna is the wildcard. People will either find her annoying or find her funny, and she is getting the Vote for the Worst support that, at this stage of the game when votes are being split from here to next year, can make a difference.

Becky probably should be shown the door, but, as past seasons have proven, beauty can equal votes. Ayla had momentum before her Boston audition even aired, and she did give an adequate performance, worthy of sticking around for at least another episode.

Unless their fans were sitting on their hands, Katharine, Paris, Lisa, Mandisa and Kellie aren't going anywhere, even though I am sending out a plea to one of them to cut out the poor, poor pitiful me script. We know. We got it. Continue to beat us over the head with it, and we just might forget your phone number. And I'll leave that at that.

The guys are giving me fits. If either Chris, Taylor, Ace or Elliott bite the dust tonight, I'm going to stop watching. That's how certain I am of their futures. (Plus, I wouldn't quit watching even if I swore to, but it sounds good.)

So with four secure, that leaves eight, and it's anybody's guess which two came up short on the dial-o-meter.

Bobby Bennett was, without question, the weakest performer of the night, even though he's possibly the most personable. (And, like Brenna, he's the VFTW poster boy, so it's anybody's guess how much that might advance him.)

The Rat Pack boys didn't meet expectations, but dayum, they're all just too cute to kick to the curb. Hell, even Simon apologized in advance before tearing into little Kevin Covais. All three will, undoubtedly, appeal to the teens and tweens and, as we all know, those voters can dial circles around many of the rest of us.

I am really hoping Patrick gets another chance to get it right. I still hear his Hollywood rendition of "If" in my head. Poor song selection has been known to sink contestants in the past; I hope that, if he survives tonight, he takes the judges' advice and pulls out a ballad next week. Bucky seems to be a wildcard; people either loved or hated him.

So it's just a really tough call. But I have to try, because not trying is no fun. So here goes:


Who I Want (Women): Brenna and Becky
Who Should (Women): Becky and Heather
Who Will (Women): Heather and Stevie

Who I want (Men): Bobby and Sway
Who should (Men): Bobby and David
Who Will (Men): Bobby and Bucky

Remember the one-hour results show starts at 8 p.m.

tag: american idol

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

opening night for the guys...

After a snoozefest provided by the final 12 women, we're getting treated to what the final 12 guys have to offer.

I'm typing as I'm watching, thinking as I'm listening, so forgive the typos, ignore the poor punctuation and bear in mind that I always reserve the right to rewind, rewatch, reconsider and rearrange everything. But usually I don't. I'm stubborn that way.

The girls are, of course, sitting next to the stage in what I will now call the dollpound. We are given, as were we last night, a retrospective of the guys' journey to the eyeball stage. (Have you looked at that thing?) Well of course we are. They have two hours to fill up since they're determined to crush the poor little USA curling team in the ratings and have enough time to fit twelve performances in between advertisements.


But here they are, as always from worst to first:

Bobby Bennett sings Copacabana for his grandma who made him promise. He's a very affable guy, in the Rickey Smith mode, and obviously enjoys performing for the audience, but his vocals don't quite measure up to the performance. Simon says it's a disaster and fears that Barry Manilow has just leapt from a Las Vegas hotel window.

David Radford smiles through Crazy Little Thing Called Love. And he wiggles. And he wiggles some more. His mom is smiling too. And she's screaming. I swear if she throws her panties I am so watching curling. Randy says he was terrible. The kid looks like his poodle just died. Paula anoints the women the kitty pound and gives him the Paula putdown. And Simon is probably the most diplomatic I've ever seen him. David is fortunate he has cash in the bank in the form of airtime.

Sway Penala, who has obviously been taking wardrobe hints from Vonzell's father, sings Earth, Wind and Fire, complete with white pants, shoes and hat. His falsetto is turned on overdrive, so much so that I don't recognize a single lyric beyond "oh yeahhhhh." I've not been impressed with Sway throughout the series and this performance just verifies. Randy and Paula ooooohs and ahhhhs and, just about the time I'm about to hurl, Simon calls it "pimpish" and "third rate." I call it ghastly.

Young Will Makar says he's having a great time and is going to sing I Want You Back because he thinks the normal Michael Jackson and he have the same voice. I'm not so sure. Randy says he's cute and the performance was pleasant. Paula compares him to Bobby Brady and warns Will that high school girls all over the planet are panting. Simon says he's cute but the performance was horribly average. I simply call it forgettable.

Patrick Hall admits he's nervous, that it's tough to be first and is clear that he wants the Clay Aiken comparisons to end even though he's wearing Clay's hair. He performs Come to my Window with the enthusiasm of a kid waiting for a vaccine. He tries hard, but he's not selling it, even though vocally he's very acceptable. The judges give him the eh, eh treatment and, for once, I agree with Paula that he needs to recognize and remember his niche. And that performance wasn't it.

Kevin Covais says age is nothing but a number and brags of his "special" relationship with Paula. (Please God, not again...) He wants people to see a different side of him, so he's going to sing One Last Cry. I think the only things more adorable than his lisp are probably his SAT scores. I simply adore this kid, but the song is more flat than on point, even though he obviously feels every word, which is more than I can say for many of the men.

Bucky Covington is going to do Skynryd's Simple Man, and it's the only time I can understand anything that he's saying. He seems nice enough, and the performance is not painful, but nothing memorable either. Randy says he should sing so hard. Bucky says he wanted to come out hard on the first song. Considering he may not have a second song, perhaps that wasn't a good move.

Gedeon McKinney, the IT boy, the one with the 1,000-watt smile is going to Shout, because he says it's a song he can not just sing, but really, really perform. And he really, really does. On a night of less than stellar performances, he shines, even though the lyrics aren't especially challenging. Randy and Paula gush; Simon calls him a Chippendale with a bothersome smile. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

I knew we couldn't get through a performance night without at least one Stevie Wonder song. Elliott Yamin is the guilty one with If You Really Love Me. I fully expect Idol contestants to destroy Stevie Wonder songs, but Elliott leaves the song intact with little damage. In fact, he's as good as I had hoped after the Hollywood rounds. Randy calls him da bomb, Paula does what Paula does, and Simon pisses off thousands of Claymates by telling Elliott he has the potential to become the greatest male contestant in the history of male contestants.

Ace Young says he's never performed George Michael's Father Figure, but has always loved the song. Ace has a really cute brother. Ace is a really cute guy. Randy celebrates the fact that Ace plays to the camera and can sing. Paula drools. Simon says Ace is an X, as in factor. Me? I'm trying to catch my breath.

Chris Daughtry says he hopes America will be singing with him as he performs Wanted Dead or Alive. And he is forced to sing it in front of the Burger King flame background or, I suppose, the dead in Hell background. He delivers, without equal thus far, the best, most intense, most confident performance of the evening. Simon says he has potential. I say any more potential and he won't need American Idol.

Taylor Hicks gets the sweet anchor spot and sings Elton John as well as Elton John, but without a harmonica. His joy in performing is contagious. And he leaves everyone else in the dust. Randy gushes. Paula gushes. Simon says he was wrong to doubt him. Me? I'm in love.

Thursday is execution night. Four bodies will be thrown in the heap. And all the fun starts at 8 p.m.

let's hear it for the boys...

It's a couple hours before the men take the little stage, and all I can think of is "they've gotta be better than the women were." After all, as a group, they can't be much worse.

Okay, I know they can be. But I can hope, can't I?

I think it's clear that the women have separated themselves into "will go" "won't go" and "might go" groups. Lisa Tucker erased any doubt I had about her advancement last night. Listening to her audio simply verified my assessment of her performance. So it looks like we've got a group of four (Mandisa, Lisa, Paris, Katharine) with a spot open for the six who will be left after tomorrow to mud wrestle for.

But there will be time to consider the women.

Let's get to the men already!!

Aside from Sway, who I just cannot get a liking for and Bucky and Bobby, who I just haven't heard, or if I have, I can't remember having done so, it's a good group of guys. I have to admit, I am suffering a mother-type of love for the youngsters, Will and Kevin. I so want both of them to do well. I don't care that much if they advance beyond tonight; I just want them not to freeze in the headlights, the way promising David Brown did last season.

And I admit, I have a not-so-motherly crush on Taylor Hicks. And on Chris Daughtry. And on Ace Young. They are pretty boys, and I like pretty boys. I just want them to sing pretty too, or else I'll turn on them in a way that would make Lorena Bobbitt blush. And I don't want to have to do that. (I'm still suffering from last season's memory of love turning to unlove for Anwar, after having thrown panties at the TV and everything.)

So, in order to make myself feel better, I will consider Tuesday an appetizer to tonight's main course. I still think this year is the year of the boy.

Please gentlemen (and Kevin and Will), don't let me down. And don't sing any Stevie Wonder songs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

girls night one: early observations...

After hours and hours of auditions, bad group numbers and overall boringness, it's time to hit the stage live. And as Ryan tells us, it's ladies first. Of course.

But, of course, the guys are huddled on the nearest bleachers. They will soon be dubbed the "dawg pound" no doubt.

Of course they're going two hours, since, well, figure skating is on on another channel and, since Idol is winning the ratings medal race, they simply must rub it into Sasha Cohen's face. So with two hours, there's more filler than lyrics, so we're treated to a review of how all of the girls got the news that they were moving on to next rounds.

But they are dressed. They are rehearsed, or so they say. And they sing. And here they are, as always, from worst to first, reserving my right to rewind, rewatch and rearrange:

Stevie Scott makes sure we understand that she has studied opera since, like, the beginning of her life. So she says she's going to sing Josh Groban. Perhaps she shouldn't have. She misses more notes than she hits, disappointing me because I thought she would do better. Simon calls it a complete mess. He's being kind.

Becky O'Donahue tells everyone she's going to sing Because the Night because it holds special sister-type memories. She sounds better than she has through the audition/Hollywood episodes, which isn't saying much because I'm still wondering why she made it this far.

Heather Cox explains that the reason nobody heard her in the Hollywood episodes is because she didn't have a voice. And she also admits to being an Idol stalker. Her too? So, because she's such a big fan, she's going to show season four how to sing When You Tell Me That You Love Me. Randy and Paula tell her that the song was boring. No kidding. We said that last year. But they're right; she is average, even boring, but not the worst tonight. I still, though, think she's toast.

Brenna Gathers dedicates You are the Sunshine of my Life to her mom, and tells the story of her life in three minutes. She's not bad; she's not great. She's just there. The judges blast her for playing it too safe, but she is Brenna in her full glory, actually slowly becoming more charming with time. And each pose.

Kinnik Sky wanders into "should be banned song" territory to dredge up Get Here. She's not bad. She's not great. She's a six, says Randy. She's being overshadowed by the toddlers, says Simon. When you haven't had any airtime to speak of, you must be unforgettable. She's not.

Melissa McGhee revels in the fact that Simon went from hate to love during the process, then proceeds to burn her employment bridges but performs When the Lights Go Down with the same stridency that bothered me from Kellie. It may be her; it may be the song. I'm not sure, but I am not entertained, nor am I annoyed. Ambivalence, perhaps. She does get her pitch in, though, that she's not been seen yet on the how, and for that I give her bonus points.

Kellie Pickler says since she doesn't have a love life, she's going to be thinking of her dad when she tries How Far by Martina McBride. Now forgive me, but I detest country, and I about got fed up with Martina McBride songs last season. But Kellie pushes the song so hard that my muscles start hurting. But she's so danged lovable, that a lukewarm performance is quickly forgotten. And I'm glad that Clyde, her grandfather, is getting dates. Really. I am.

Ayla Brown says she's going to sing Reflections from Mulan because she wants respect. She surprises me. Or I surprise me. I'm not sure which. But I liked it. And I liked her.

Mandisa tackles Heart and is, of course, reminded that Carrie Underwood did too. "Sisters can rock too," she announces. And she can. And she does. Simon tells her she's going to the finals. She tells the world that she and Simon are "kinda" dating. Oh geesh. Here we go again. I thought they had a new fraternization policy.

Lisa Tucker tears up Jennifer Holliday's I am Changing. Finally the girl seems to understand that there's more to performing than singing. Randy gives her the eh, eh, okay dude treatment, but Simon, of all people, assures her that she's the real thing.

Paris Bennett decides to take on Gladys Knight and try Midnight Train to Georgia. She all but touches every single member of the dawgpound and the audience. She's pretty and she's perky and she takes no prisoners.

As we've come to expect, the last performer is who the producers think is the best on that given day. And they were right. Katharine McPhee's version of Since I Fell for You is one of the most comfortable, relaxed performances I've ever seen on the semi-final stage. And while the competition is tight in the first five spots, she just edges the others out. By an eyelash.

Tomorrow night: the guys. Eight o'clock. FOX.

tag: american idol

Sunday, February 19, 2006

ponderances and predictions...

So we have our remaining 24 contestants, some of whom we've met, some of whom we've heard and, as is customary, some of whom we've never seen before ever in our entire lives. And, beginning Tuesday, they're gonna be in our homes, singing their little hearts out, wanting us to fall in love with them, their stories and their personalities.

It's the start of another wonderful relationship!

I've been cruising the Idol blogs and message boards, trying to get an sense of who my friends and fellow Idol junkies think are gonna be the first casualties Thursday night. That's part of the appeal of this show - trying to predict what's going to happen before the first note has been sung, because, even though Randy will remind us countless times that this is a singing competition, it's not. Not entirely. It's a study in manipulation, in behavior and the intangibles that take it beyond a mere talent show.

And we love it.

For those new to the show, the final 12 females will take to a (relatively) barren stage and sing the song of their choice before an intimate audience. Two of those twelve will get the boot on Thursday. On Wednesday, the males will do the same, with two of them being told to hit the road during Thursday's one-hour (?) results show. This process will continue until both genders are pared to six, giving us our final 12 contestants.


First let's dispense with the locks to continue, not only to next week, but to the final stage.

We've been given enough time to get to know that Kellie Pickler lives in a trailer with her grandparents because her mom left her when she was an infant and her daddy spends more time in jail than out of it. She's a given to continue on that backstory alone, but her Carrie Underwood-like looks and talent have already built her a fanbase that will carry her to the final 12.

Yes, we know Paris Bennett and her new hairstyle, referred to by some
as the cocker spaniel look, is the granddaughter of Grammy-winning singer Ann Nesby. And, thanks to extended air time, we know she can sing, even though she did butcher pretty much everything she sang during the Hollywood rounds. The memory of her audition will sustain her, even though a disappointing performance. She also has a reservation to the final round. And probably the final four.

Katharine McPhee is still remembered as the girl with the stagemom/vocal coach, but seemed to separate herself from mama during the Hollywood episodes. Her voice distinguished her during her audition, but her personality - sticking up for ejected contestants and kissing each of the judges on the lips after being put through - probably endeared her to even more voters. It did me. Only a meltdown of Janay Castine proportion will keep her from advancing.

And then there's Mandisa "Just Mandisa" Hundley. Mandisa has proven she possesses a voice as big as the beloved and somewhat martyred Frenchie Davis and, while Simon's snarky weight insult was beyond rude, it just may work to her advantage, already giving her the platform to show the grace that she did in addressing the hurt it caused. She'll benefit from the sympathy vote at first, but so far she's shown the talent to back it up.

That leaves two slots in the final six and a field of eight from which to choose them. Some of them have the pre-performance advantage of considerable airtime. The others, well, have a rougher row to hoe.

Lisa Tucker is a favorite to advance, but I'm not as absolutely certain. While she's very pretty and has extensive stage experience, I can't find an emotional connection with this girl. She's going to have to develop a stage persona that strikes a chord in her audience beyond just hitting all the right notes. We'll call this the DeGarmo syndrome.

Everybody knows that Ayla Brown doesn't need American Idol, because she has a basketball scholarship to Boston College. And she has a father who's a state senator. And a mother who's a news anchor. She's going to have to prove to the viewers that, while she doesn't need Idol, she wants it. After all, if she doesn't really need it, why not give it to somebody else? It may be thoroughly unfair, but she's tough to identify with. We'll call this the Nadia syndrome.

Becky O'Donahue is pretty. She is half of a twin set. She posed for Maxim. Some may say she's hawt. Okay, I'll agree. But I've not heard one ounce of real vocal talent from her. She'll make it through the first few voting rounds, though. But, unless she pulls out a trick from her vocal bag of tricks, I doubt she'll see the big stage. We'll call this the Amanda Avila factor.

Who is Heather Cox? Have we seen her? Have we heard her? She's pretty. She's this year's Celena Rae.

Who is Melissa McGhee? Have we seen her? Have we heard her? Did I blink or something? She's this season's Melinda Lira.

Stephanie (now known as Stevie) Scott is one of my favorite women, just on the basis of her few seconds we were given during group and chair night. She has the potential to emerge from the lack of exposure to secure a spot in the finals if she can pull off at least two memorable performances. She's this year's Jessica Sierra.

Kinnik Sky is another of the women who was given a few moments of air time during group night, but enough to leave a mega-impression on me. I have a hunch she's going to come out of the shadows and blow everybody away. At least once. She's this year's Aloha, who could be this year's Latoya, coming out of absolutely nowhere to stun the nation and leave everybody asking "where's she been?"

So that leaves Brenna Gethers. I don't think there's any question that she's this year's Mikalah. We've not heard a lot from Brenna, but we've been given an earful of personality. Whether the personality is endearing (as was Mikalah's) or grating is yet to be seen. I recall writing at this point last season that "a little Mikalah will go a long, long way." And she went a lot further than I thought she should have. I have a hunch I'm going to think the same this time around.

First to get kicked to the curb? Voice unheard? Barring extraordinary and unexpected vocal performances: Melissa and Heather, because we just don't know who they are.

The MEN ~

First, let's dispense with the ones sure to make the final cut.

Chris Daughtry has been this year's Constantine, front and center
throughout the series, from the moment we met him and his wife. Each aired performance has earned him more and more fans, and there's not a chance he's not going to advance. I think we'll be hearing from Chris well into May.

Even Paula was invoking the name of Ace Young before the first audition episode. His looks and personality will carry him through the semi-finals as the first Justin Guarini since, well, Justin Guarini.

American Idol has never before had a Taylor Hicks
, and that uniqueness is what is endearing him to many people. And it doesn't hurt that he seemingly is not Simon's pet, although neither was Bo Bice at this stage last year. Hicks has shown moments of Joe Cocker brilliance, but his stage mannerisms are a put-off to some.

The women are an easier call than the guys, so I'm going to stick with those three as locks and open the rest of the field to a free-for-all.

Of the Rat Pack, Will Makar is my best bet to advance of the three remaining. His youthful cute looks will appeal to a wide variety of voters, and in the performances that we've seen, he's inched his way into my heart as possibly my favorite of the guys so far.

The other crooners, David Radford and Kevin C
ovais, each have a legitimate shot at the big stage. We've been treated to extensive coverage of both. Each has built a fan base and has the potential of adding to that voting base. Both, as well as Makar, need to prove during the semi-finals that their styles can range beyond the standards to dispel any thought that any of them is inflicted with a terminal case of John Stevensitis, or the inability to adapt to the inevitable theme nights, because, as John Stevens proved, one simply cannot croon a 70s dance tune.

Who is Gedeon McKinney? And is he really as annoyingly cocky as he was portrayed to be?

Patrick Hall hasn't had a lot of air time, beyond his glorious rendition of Bread's "If" during the Hollywood episodes. He says he's not as pretty as Ace, but so far, for me, he's far more vocally talented. Seems he's expected to be one of the first depart. I don't think so, if he sticks with the David Gates-like ballads. After all, there are many of us over-40 voters out there.

Bobby Bennett is kind of coming out of nowhere too, but in one brief instance,
he was able to establish himself as a funny, likeable sort of guy, so, presuming he has a decent introduction, his self-effacing personality will be a refreshing change, reminiscent of George Huff and Rickey Smith.

Who is Bucky Covington? Where did he come from? And does he always wear that hat?

Elliott Yamin is going to be this year's enigma, not terribly handsome, but ripe for a makeover. And everyone knows
how much the voters love a good makeover! Plus, from what we've heard so far, the boy can sing! And, while some people prefer what's easier on the eyes, when my ears are hurting, my eyes tend to water.

Sway Penala, who was much-hyped pre-season, needs to deliver a Hail Mary pass to prove to me why he's even in the final 24. So far, I'm not impressed, but still, I'm basing all of this on the crumbs that they've tossed to us. I was the one, after all, who predicted Bo Bice wouldn't even make the semi-final cut. Shows what I know.

Who's getting punted Thursday? Barring shockers, meltdowns and tight leather pants: Gedeon and Bucky, for the same reason as the girls.

But then again, what do I know?

I do know that this time last season I had my clear favorites (even though they changed throughout), and there were several that I disliked. Strongly. This year I don't have a favorite, although I am leaning in several directions and, for the first time going into the first semi-final, there is no one in this field that, vocally anyway, I detest.

I don't know if that's good or bad. Yet.

I love this show.

Got a favorite yet?

tag: american idol

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

the top 24...

The final 24, in order of elevator rides:

Katharine McPhee
Ace Young
Robert (Bobby) Bennett
Mandisa Hundley
Melissa McGhee
Lisa Tucker
David Radford
Sway Penala
Elliott Yamin
Brenna Gethers
Gedeon McKinney
Stephanie Scott
Ayla Brown
Chris Daughtry
Becky O'Donohue
Heather Cox
Bucky Covington
Patrick Hall
Kevin Covais
Paris Bennett
Kellie Pickler
Taylor Hicks
Kinnik Sky
William Makar

Hollywood: my spirit has been broken...

How I love group night. There's nothing better than the whining and complaining, moaning and groaning, hissy and pissy outbursts, punctuated by forgotten lyrics, hideous dancing and, if we're lucky, a complete breakdown. Or two.

The 99 were reduced to the 44 who will sit in the chair tonight and be sentenced to expulsion or the wrath of the voters.

While we are treated to the familiar faces (translate: Paris, Ayla and her mom, Katharine, Mandisa) we are given the opportunity throughout the evening to meet some new ones.

The GOOD ~

Stephanie Scott, even though Simon made a point of informing her she snuck through on a split decision, she was really the only bright spot in the Paris Bennet trio that butchered "Emotion".

The entire
Rat Pack, Josh Jordan, David Radford, Kevin Covais and William Makar, the young ones who made "Fly Me to the Moon" sound fresh even to me.

Elliott Yamin, one of the sleepy dudes. Where has he been? If nothing else, he and Sway Penala deserve a pass just for not murdering Terrell.

Kinnik Sky, who we haven't seen or heard throughout the young season, will, I am certain, blow us away next week.

The BAD ~

The Barrettsmith sisters, Brooke and Leah, the cornfield girls that producers gave so much air time to during the Chicaco auditions, probably wouldn't remember the lyrics to Happy Birthday, in or out of a bathroom stall. We said goodbye to Leah; we will say goodbye to Brooke.

Tyra Swartz, who didn't like one group so quits. Doesn't like the second group, so quits. Goes back to first group. Why she was passed through is a mystery. But she'll not be around much longer.

Brenna Gathers, this year's annoying Mikalah imitator, with about as much talent and less likability.

Brokenote Mountain. Cowboy Garet's novelty has officially worn off.


Derrell and Terrell. Would somebody please just drop a house on these two. I've never been grateful for criminals, but I am thankful that these two idiots landed in jail, because producers seemed to love the drama so much, their incarceration probably saved all of us weeks of slimy television screens.

Tonight, the wait. The elevator. The chair.

And at least one meltdown.

tag: american idol

Thursday, February 09, 2006

It's Hollywood, Baby! Round one...

There are always a few things we can count on in the Hollywood "Hell Week" episodes: we will see catfights, we will see attitudes, we will see crappy group numbers and we will see who's being groomed for the final festivities.

On opening day, the kids are given a list of songs and given full use of the stage. Groups come next. One hundred seventy-five got whittled to 99 on the way to 44 on the way to the 24 who will begin live competition on Feb. 21.

And if Wednesday night is any indication, we have a pretty good idea who will take several of those 24 spots.


Kellie Pickler, whose daddy is in jail, is shellshocked by the enormity of it all, but is Hopelessly Devoted to her performance. Lisa Tucker, the former Star Search kiddo, is also Hopelessly Devoted and I am officially hopelessly sick of all songs from Grease. Paris Bennett is lovely, as expected, and Mandisa "Just Mandisa" Hundley is hanging on.

We get our first look and listen to
Patrick Hall. I'm not sure, but I think I'm in love again. Chris Daughtry ignites The First Cut is the Deepest well enough to all but secure the rocker slot. And if Taylor Hicks doesn't wind up on live television, somebody's going to get hurt.

And then there was Garret "The Cowboy" Johnson. Well, okay, he didn't sing all that well, but his sheer joy at everything made for some of the best television in a long time.


Every now and then the bad is good, especially when it comes at the expense of two arrogant jerks. Watching RJ "I'm too sexy for this show" Norman break down in tears and Steven "I'm sexier than RJ" David being told "congratulations, you're now finished" was one of the brightest moments I've ever spent on American Idol.

Thank you.

And the excuses for sounding like nails on a chalkboard were priceless. It's sinuses, it's a vocal cord, it's the microphone, it's the pianist, it's global warming. Well, at least nobody's grandma died.


The Brittenum twits. Luckily I know these two middle school rejects won't be on much longer, considering they're expected on a judicial stage rather than on the musical one. To think they had the gall to diss on Carrie Underwood. Look here, Tom and Jerry, you have no right to do that. That's our job.

We have seen the last of Crazy Dave Hoover, the human cyclone, who proved that not all comic relief is, in fact, comedic.

Next week: group numbers! Who will fight? Who will collapse? Who will remember song lyrics?

american idol

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

auditions: simulblogging boston...

We have finally reached the end of the audition road. We're battered. We're bruised. We've had our senses assaulted. And our ears. And they're promising that the best talent yet will come out of Beantown.

That's what they say.

One hundred seventy five people are going to Hollywood. We'll get the chance to hear a batch of them tonight. Others will remain unheard, unseen until we see them in a horrid group number. Or the chair. The first of the three Hollywood episodes airs tomorrow. Finally. This show is on the road.

Once we get through this episode.

[Just a reminder - this is live blogging. There will be typos. Links will be added tomorrow or if and as soon as they become available.]

Boston is the proudest city on the audition tour, we're told. We get the expected tea party references and we know we're in trouble when the first one up calls himself a Ghost and raps his way to a rejection.

But it's finally time to hear from much-touted Ayla Brown, the 17-year-old daughter of a state senator and a newscaster who plays basketball. She's very pretty, but automated. She gets through on a split decision after promising to absorb the constructive criticism and work on her "stage presence." Her parents decree that Paula, whose vote advances young Ayla, is the goddess of Maryland and Paula Abdul Day is declared in her honor.

Okay, so I'm joking. They just decide to buy her records. Same difference.

Oh good. We're treated to the parade of the crappy people, complete with butchered melodies, destroyed lyrics, tears to mama and little tiny American Idol icons covering up the potty mouths.

It's the war with the British again, says Ryan. How did I know that line was going to come up somewhere?

More twins! But, unlike the others, they're not going to audition together, because one has a bad vocal cord. Becky O'Donahue performs Black Magic with sis crouching in the corner, performing vicariously. Becky looks terrific, sounds really crappy, but Randy and Paula see promise and put her through.

Tatiana Ward only wants her grandma to be proud, sucks up to Randy's taste in sweaters, does Stevie Wonder and is told she resembles a poodle. She starts a string of female yellow ticket holders, none of which we get to hear, because we have to save time to see montages of people working and listen to Cher, masquerading as somebody named Kenneth keep her his dignity.

Did I mention that tonight is the last audition episode? Did I mention how happy I am about that?

But there is a bright spot in the darkness, embodied in an unexpected 16-year-old Kevin Covais, who touches my heart with "You Raise Me Up." Of course he doesn't look like an American Idol and will undoubtedly impress the over-80 crowd, but, aside from my cowboy Garret, he's the first of the guys that has made me smile. I like him. He gets through. I am happy. Makeover people: code blue.

Tonight's promo overkill is, apparently, the love child of Clay Aiken and Pee Wee Herman, who is not a crappy singer, he assures us, he just is nervous. And forgot his Depends. And in the scripted drama segment of the evening rushes to the little boy's room, doesn't forget to wash his hands, returns to the stage and is summarily sent to the door.

We get a retrospective of the auditions, as if we needed salt in our wound, and we're given a glimpse of hell week as the kids form groups, learn to play well with others, scratch each others eyes out and other such assorted good things.

Finally. Things are gonna start getting good.

Good riddance auditions. Game on.

tag: american idol

Thursday, February 02, 2006

just wait till the competition starts!...

We're not even through the audition episodes yet and two brothers have been axed. Now allegations are surfacing that Jose "Sway" Penala, who received his golden ticket in San Francisco after a stirring rendition of "Superstar" may be ineligible.

Evidentially Penala's group, 6th Day, held a record deal at the time of the auditions,
FOX News is reporting, which is against the rules regarding current management contracts.

No word, as yet, from the show.

Who knows what we'll learn about whom once the field is narrowed to 24.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

auditions: simulblogging austin...

It's another simulblog, since the auditions thrill me almost as much as a root canal. And, as always, live blogging means typos, etc. And any pictures, links to videos, or anything else will be added later, as they become available.

This is American Idol. Or so says Ryan Seacrest. And we don't mess with Texas. Where we found Kelly Clarkson. And it's hot.

I hate it when cute guys named Julian do great splits, show great personality and have voices more sour than lemons. Go away Julian. Follow your dreams.

We get weird, follow by strange, followed by demented. And then we get fashion maven Paula Goodspeed, with a mouth of metal who destroys Tina Turner and is given free reign to get bleeped through her diatribe.

Could this show be more predictable?

Oh, lucky us. It's a black and white "Curse of the Co-eds" segment. Oh goody.

But hey! The undead is really dead when funeral director Jason Horn raises them up half nicely. Major embalming jokes ensue as he is handed his ticket to the next round.

Jazzy Cierra Johnson, who says she's seen it all earns the wrath of the Angels by destroying all illusions of Christmas carols. She's followed by tears and anger and tiny AI icons. And nobody cares.

Do people actually enjoy these episodes?

Allison Schoening proves that she's suffering a lack of oxygen, leftover from a rugged plane trip and is given a 30-minute reprieve to get her act together. We get treated to a bunch of goofy guys, struggling to eek out a couple of spoken syllables before Ricky Hayes actually sings in tune and gets a ticket.

Ashley Jackson, the "fit" model, is obviously a little too full of herself but impresses Randy by singing without opening her mouth. Well, whatever it takes, I suppose. RJ will be no doubt be finding the hot tub with Ashley if, that is, there is room for both of them and the world's largest ego. With any luck, both of them will hop on the bus going the opposite direction and save us from a return visit.

Get me out of audition hell!! Whew I feel better.

Allison is back! And she's sticking with "what she does best." Ouch. William Makar fills the quota for 16-year-old boys, getting thumbs up from Randy and Simon, who gives him the same sort of "I kinda like you" speech he gave crooner John Stevens two seasons ago. Something about that scares me.

And, once again, we're threatened by Tessie Mae Reid in another case of Idol Overkill the Promos. And once again I do not care if she's horrific. I do not care if she almost rips the door off the hotel room.

But she is. And she does.

Twelve people survive Austin, but at least we're given a glimpse of the light at the end of this audition tunnel, as auditions end Tuesday with the promise of the best talent in the country and our first stop in Hollywood.

Soon our long national nightmare will be over. And just beginning.

tag: american idol

Thanks Rob for the awesome image!